Monday, July 9, 2007

Hillbilly Off-Roaders

This term above is actually a mental state, not a geographic location. Although you are more likely to find these guys on the back roads in rural regions. CB radios & all.

Exactly one week ago, at sundown I was calmly working online & watering flowers. Then HE called. The sexy boy, who I cannot say no to. "Where's my car?" I asked. "It's fine, it's in my driveway at home". Your stuck, stranded, wheeling where? Off Miller, shit! After I pinpointed their location on my Los Padres topo atlas, I am now in the process of rescuing some local off-roader pals - in my AWD Saab?

How many rednecks in town can you get to do this right now?
(Can't you call some male friends to help?)

Hint: These are not the same 4x4 dudes that showed for the Quatal Canyon CleanUp.

NO, go pick up the Amigo in Frazier & here's the long list of supplies. Since I haven't been on a 4WD rescue in 3 years, I jump at the chance to see the Sespe at night in the summer. Okay, break into his house in the back door. Open garage, find keys. Load 35" tires into the back of my lil SUV (w/ the help of the neighbor), the high lift jack, tools, saws, lights, tarps & oh yeah, a pizza & gasoline. This is the kinda adventure I live for. Six hours & one full moon later I am second guessing even knowing these dudes.

These idiots were stranded on OHV Trail Yellow Jacket, on the single track 'motorcycles only' section. Where the bikes & maybe quads can go. No knowledge of that canyon, no backup plan. No maps, no GPS, no clue of what that trail was like, and late in the day. Wheelin alone. The entry sign was burnt toast vinyl from the recent Los Padres Day Fire, so they proceeded onward. The narrow paths & whoopty-woos should have been a good sign, but they proceeded, new tires & rims. No problem. Two tire blow outs later & they're on the ridges with their cell phones to anyone who can help. A call to DanaMite was obvious. I've heard this Taurian song before.

When I arrived in my Amigo full of gear on forest road #7N03, it was dark. They hiked to meet me 4 miles - at the main dirt road intersection, not near the campground. A large animal was making breathy moans from the dark, as we ate the pizza at the roadside. The boys had a rough hike out, a lot of uphill & difficult terrain. But the stranded the vehicle is not coming out that way. Too hairy. We had to reach the newer white Ford 4x4 pickup (with popped tires, new rims, & nice sound system), from the opposite end of the trail. Way back to Lockwood Road & around. May as well go back to town then & grab a more capable 4WD vehicle, the big steel tank. An International Harvester. "We race farm equipment" is a slogan. A major gas guzler V8, weighs maybe 4 tons - with bald crusty tires. Unsafe to transport small children up steep paved roads or drive across the hot desert, but stout enough to wheel the hairiest 4x4 trail in SoCal, at night. This should do the trick for the Miller Jeep Trail run at midnight. Alone. At least we have maps, cell phones & my CB.

Goodness knows my 2WD Isuzu would NOT get past Lockwood Creek. I followed them to the trail head in the new freshly washed Saabaru... within hiking distance - was my main concern. Being outside in the middle of nowhere with these freaks, with that eerie burnt pinyon pine forest surrounding us, the big blue moon light, was something outta a Tim Burton movie. While the tattooed boys argued & cursed behind me, I gaze over the valley lights below. Lockwood Valley at night is a sight. Major side wall damage, cheap new tires, sharp rocks & some small trees. They should have turned back a mile before. But I wasn't driving that sunny afternoon; neither was the owner of the truck. He was just along for the ride, trusting his dare devil new buddy. Until all hell breaks loose & then somebody's gonna loose an eye.

We punctured the other 2 new tires on the way back to pavement. The fact that we got outta there at night surprised me. Barely got to bed before dawn on Tuesday, exhausted, but well loved.

RULE #1 - ALWAYS BRING A MAP .... a real hard copy map, paper, plastic, polypropylene, printed, waterproof, tear proof. A back-up map to your digital one.

If the trail is a single track, motorcycles only, no Jeeps or full sized vehicles should pass. There are reasons for the ratings. If you are cutting across meadows marked with a Wilderness marker, you are not on a trail, nor are you making a new bypass.

What about the high clearance? Locker may be needed in some spots. Are your tires sufficient? Body damage is okay!? Do you really wanna break something today?

Solo Joe will have to hike it & hope for the best. Wheeling alone? Tell someone when & where, at bare minimum. Driving dirt roads maybe, but no serious shit. No rock crawling at night, no sorta maybe decisions, no unfamiliar trails at sundown. Nope, save all that for a 4x4 club run.

Join a 4x4 off-road club. Learn something, meet friends, clean the forest, volunteer, become a responsible human being & have fun, all at the same time.

Standing in the gentle wind enjoying the fresh carbon air at 6000'. The meadows were incredibly gorgeous in the bright moon beams, although we had to drive thru small portions of them. Mountain meadows should be protected. The phrase "Hey look, there are tracks thru here already. Other people are doing it. It must be fine for me". Or the other "I don't believe in boundaries crap". Sure, let's just off-road the hell outta all of the West-freaking-Coast. OHV unite. Quads for everyone! Let all the blue frogs die from our Lucas Oil & exhaust. Bold colors, logos, & caffeine drinks rule. Look cool, have great stuff & go out to break it, so you can fix it. Drink lotsa & losta beer. And litter. Over & over.

This isn't my mentality on wheelin' or eco-friendly preaching, it's just a story I am telling. It's just what I am seeing & hearing in my SoCal mountain town. Although the local Hummers & Jeep Cherokees rarely touch dirt, the uneducated red necks with their beaters is the crowd I am referring to. The Sierra Club chapter is mostly senior citizens, the off-roaders are clueless, the shooters trash the forest & the local party kids just wanna place to hang.

If I break it, I'll fix it dude, I swear!