This month's issue of OFF-ROAD features a recovery equipment buyer's guide as well as two features on winches. Since we've always advocated going off-road with a friend so if anything happens everyone will get home again, why would a winch matter? First, your friend or friends might get stuck (we know you would never get stuck because you read Off-Road) and your winch and other recovery equipment would help get them out. Second, you might, in your backcountry forays, run across someone else who's in trouble and could use your help to extricate their vehicle from a bind. Third, if you're a member of the fire department or search and rescue in your area, this equipment can save lives.
There's another reason to have a winch and recovery equipment. As I just said, we've always advocated going off-road with someone else for safety. Sometimes, though, you end up in the outback alone. I originally got interested in going into the backcountry by going to the school library during the week and researching where ghost towns were, then finding them on Friday night and Saturday. I always relished the solitude and beauty of these places. While I sometimes took a friend along in my '61 Chevrolet truck, there was NEVER another vehicle with us. Since I had rebuilt the old, beat-up Chevy myself, we always had plenty of opportunity to perform trail repairs as something was always failing - usually way out in the backcountry. Since I'm writing this almost 40 years later, we obviously made it back every time, but there were a few times when I wondered if we were going to make it (have you ever tried snow chains in deep sand?)
Obviously, there is safety in numbers. The trouble is, our sport has changed to the point that many today think they can only go off-road at an event where thousands of people are participating, with a large club or group, or at an area like Glamis where over a hundred thousand people descend most weekends and holidays. One annoying thing about being around so many people when off-roading is the Big Talkers. You know the Big Talkers: They're the ones who know everything about building vehicles and driving them. They get progressively more knowledgeable, loud, boisterous, and blustery as they imbibe more and more alcohol. The Big Talkers have always been annoying, but our sport used to have a safety feature built into it. I called it the "big talk stops when the hubs get locked!" safety feature. The louder they were, the harder they fell once the Big Talkers put their wheels in the dirt. You've noticed that too, haven't you? The Big Talkers are always the least competent drivers. Our sport used to be a self-policing one.
Today, it seems that it no longer matters if you make it from point A to point B. All you need to do is get your vehicle in the dirt and roll it over for everyone to yell, "That was SWEET! Do it AGAIN!" At which point the person who just performed the rollover wipes the blood from his or her alcohol-sodden features, flashes a lopsided grin at everyone, and proceeds to do just that. The Big Talkers don't have to have any measure of ability: Rolling over, breaking an axle, or hoisting a can of beer takes no skill at all. If this is your idea of fun, have at it. I'm not here to make judgments on who is having fun the correct way, I just personally don't think that it's much fun. Plus, I don't like listening to Big Talkers, whether they're sober or inebriated. Even if an event is put on by a responsible organization and the event's a lot of fun, if I wanted to sit in traffic, I could go to the city during rush hour to do that.
So, there are times that I find I like to go off-road by myself or with just a few friends, so we can enjoy the beauty, quiet, and solitude of the backcountry. If there happens to be a high-speed dirt road or challenging trail obstacles on the way, so much the better, but I wouldn't like to be out there by myself without a winch or recovery equipment. I certainly wouldn't be tackling challenging obstacles, washed-out roads, or bouldery washes (arroyos, canyons, etc.), without the proper equipment. That's why recovery equipment is so important today and why we've included our buyer's guide and winch features in this issue. So get equipped and get out there, even if you might be by yourself sometimes.
Lastly, if you're a regular reader of Off-Road, you'll remember our Great White Dodge Ram project and Big Red, Greg Boardman of Desert Racing Concepts' truck. Desert Racing Concepts built both of these superb trucks that worked unbelievably well in the dirt and great on the pavement too. Greg was in an accident not long after we shipped the Big Red issue to the printer and passed away shortly after. He had built Desert Racing Concepts into one of the premier shops for Dodge Ram performance and was beginning to branch out into Jeep, Ford, and Chevrolet building. He was also a very nice person who would do anything he could for someone in need. He will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him. Vaya con Dios, Greg.