Each of us has places and tales to share! What's four-wheeling or dirt motorcycling if not travel to places that create memories? It's not always the grandiose trip that leaves a lasting impression, either. Sometimes it's the convergence of time and place—in a most unusual way!
I have four-wheeled since the mid-'sixties, and my appreciation for Jeep vehicles began with my folks' 1964 CJ-5, purchased new in the fall of 1964. On a chilly Friday night in the early spring of '65, we headed for Tonopah, Nevada in that four-cylinder CJ. It had the 1/3-2/3 seat, which accommodated all three of us, and we hunched toward the wafting heat from the dealer-installed heater...I drove with a learner's permit, so I was still fifteen years old and not ready to get my driver's license.
The F-head four-banger droned along U.S. 95, and with Nevada's basic speed law, cars and trucks sailed by us at twice our speed, headed to Las Vegas. The Mizpah Hotel, a welcome sight, is a Turn-of-the-Century artifact with a gold town history and the first elevator in the State of Nevada...From Tonopah, we headed to the ghost towns of Belmont and Manhattan, then up the long Smoky Valley to Austin—in those years a hundred miles of dirt road, likely with no other vehicle in sight.
Next was the Rubicon Trail in 1967, an evening campfire at Rubicon Springs with the Diablo Four-Wheelers, the Sluice Boxes, parking at Buck Island Lake to put on swimsuits and dive into the icy water...This was the trip when my folks thought I'd borrowed their CJ-5 for a "camping trip" with some folks I met—and it was—after all, we did camp overnight at the Springs! I drove prudently and did not damage the stock step plates that hung below the door entries—despite the 30-inch diameter tires...Worth noting, the Rubicon Trail was much milder in 1967, although an I-H Scout that passed through our Springs camp at dawn was later found stalled on the Sluice Box rocks, the engine's starter ring gear had been knocked off the flywheel. We towed the Scout to the top of the Sluice Box and freed the trail for traffic.
In the mid-'70s, it was camping with wild horses in the Pine Nut Range after a winter deep freeze furloughed our work crew till spring. We were constructing the I-80 bypass of Winnemucca where the wind blew 30 mph and the temp dropped to minus-8 degrees F on the 10-hour night shifts. Unlike the Alaska Pipeline job, our heavy Cat equipment did not have the benefit of reverse fans, engine cowling and enclosed cabs.
A scheduled two hour maintenance break between shifts one Sunday allowed the freshly spread, wetted and uncompacted fill material to freeze 18-inches deep, and the Nevada Highway Department shut down the job. Back at Carson City, in early January, I found the horse band roaming at 6,500- 7,000 feet elevation. Temperatures dipped well below zero at night. My body was still acclimated to extreme cold from the Winnemucca job—where I had worked night shifts in the open air and slept days in an unheated camp trailer. The SWB 1970 Chevy K-10 4x4 pickup had a canopy, so wind chill was not a factor.
That April, I drove to the Operating Engineers' school over Highway 88 in a blizzard, discovering at Jackson that the road had been officially closed. I had pushed snow with the front axle of the K-10 from Hope Valley to 4,000 feet elevation on the westside, wipers caking with icy snow that required opening the driver's window and slapping the moving blade away from the windshield to dislodge the snow, all the while continuing to forge ahead. Carson Pass summit is 8,600 feet, and late season storms can lay down volumes of snow quickly.
In the late '80s, I once again drove the Rubicon Trail with eight-year-old son Jacob and the Washoe County Search and Rescue group. I wheeled the first FJ40 Land Cruiser project built for OFF-ROAD Magazine. Taking two Geo Trackers on the Rubicon during the mid-'nineties was a deja vu and a successful publicity stunt for Chevrolet...By then I was guiding press launches, working with G.M. 4x4 SUVs and trucks at Moab and going coast to coast with Mercedes Benz for the ML320 debut.
I could go on—in far more detail...You have your stories, too! Plenty of exciting trips to share, sometimes ordeals with a positive ending. That's what four-wheeling and OHV travel is all about, and that's why we do it! Share your experiences, details and insights with a community that can appreciate adventure!—Moses Ludel