Never set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. And laugh a lot – it’s good for you! ~ Paula Radcliffe
You spent forty, fifty, even sixty thousand dollars on a new truck and its modifications. You want to take it off-road to explore the 4×4 trails you’ve read about in search of solitude in the great outdoors. You just can’t seem to reconcile the idea of denting up a perfectly good truck in the name of getting away from it all.
If you take your truck off highway you will get some damage. That damage could be as little as paint chips from gravel kicked up on a forest road to full-on body damage caused by flopping your truck on the Rubicon Trail trying to navigate Little Sluice or Cadillac Hill. I say “you will” because eventually it happens. Maybe not on your first outing or your second but if you wheel long enough you will see damage on your truck.
There is something incredibly rewarding about driving a trail more difficult than the last and applying what you have learned in order to make it through the challenge unscathed. But as the saying goes; you learn more from your mistakes than you do from all your successes. In this case, an off-road fail can be a bit expensive. I recently learned a hard lesson. After driving thousands of miles of dirt roads and two tracks, the Baja 1000’s route to Cobo, The Rubicon Trail… TWICE and lots of 4×4 trails relatively unmarked, I got careless.
On a 4×4 trail I’ve driven several times before, I was working an easy stretch when another group of trucks approached from the opposite direction. I made a poor choice of places to pull out, miss judged the stability of a rock and before I knew it, my front fender and rear taillight were trying to occupy the same space as a fallen log which seemed to operate at a quantum level. I didn’t hear a bang or feel a big jolt. It was more of a soft kiss as the two came together leaving me with the sensation that something wasn’t right.
I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t hurt. For eight years I’ve kept my FJ Cruiser free of dents and dings. Sure a bit of pin striping but no body damage. This felt as if I’d somehow failed my truck, a broken promise to keep it out of harms way in return for it’s continued reliability and the assurance it would get me home. I’d screwed up. I was over confident in my ability and all the trucks fancy mods so I had tried to wedge the truck into a small crease instead of taking the time to look for a more appropriate turn out, and forced a bad choice. This mistake can be fixed. I will replace the taillight myself. The fender, well, it will get a little professional love after a few more off-road adventures we have lined up for the summer.
Now, before you give up on the dream of exploring the road less traveled in your new truck let me talk you off the ledge. I’m not telling you this story of carnage to scare you. Rather, I tell this tale so you will know there are much worse things than accidentally banging up your truck. The sting is temporary. It hardly even compares to the rewards you receive for exploring the fringes of your ability and discovering you have pushed out the boundaries that once held you back. This is the zen that eludes those who fail to try. These rewards are not given to the careless who thrash their junk against the rocks but is reserved for the thoughtful who attempt to live life without limitations and refuse to let setbacks stop their progress.
But the fact of the matter is: Sheet metal is repairable. Chicks dig dents. And the United States of America has the best body-shop to off-road-adventurer ratio in the world!