Friday, September 19, 2014

When times are difficult . . .

The day dawned with a heavy overcast that made the valley below look dismal and gray. That figures, the driver thought as he sat in his Jeep and gazed at the dull panorama that spread before him. It was raining when he left home in the dark to take the Jeep into the mountains. He wanted to get away and try to make sense out of everything that had happened to him. The rain had stopped, but everything was dripping wet and the dark day matched his mood. His hands gripped the steering wheel and muscles knotted as he shouted, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?” His job was gone. His wife couldn’t find work. Would they lose their home? Could they feed the kids? Everything seemed to be falling apart. As he shut his eyes to say a silent prayer, a tear traced a line down his cheek. 

Opening his eyes, he took a deep breath. The rain had made the odors of the forest intense. It smells great up here he thought, as the fresh, damp pine scent filled his nostrils. This was one of his favorite spots. It was private because the trail to it was challenging. All of a sudden, the sun burst through the clouds, lighting the scene below with a heavenly light. The mountains glowed bright orange and the wet trees glistened. Wow! How beautiful. The sun’s appearance had changed his mood as quickly as it had changed the view. An answer came. We’ll sell the car and that will give us some breathing room. We’ll find other work. Nothing can be all bad when we live on a planet as beautiful as this.

While some segments of the economy are experiencing growth, many people are still losing jobs and facing hardship. Owning too many vehicles is an effective way to drain dwindling reserves quickly. There were recessions in the recent past when people used their 4x4s not only as a way to get into the backcountry to escape the cares of day-to-day life, but as daily drivers, too. 

If the 4x4 isn’t our daily driver, could it be? If it’s too extreme to be street legal, some of the more radical parts could be sold to “detune” it to D.O.T. standards. We went off-road for years on 31”, 33”, and 35” tires and many still do. Almost all the hard-core trails in North America were built using lesser vehicles. It’s amazing where we can go with smaller tires. By going smaller, vehicle driveability is usually improved everywhere but in the nastiest rocks.  

We’re in the backcountry in our new/old detuned 4x4. All of a sudden, it’s fun to four-wheel again over smaller obstacles. Forgotten driving skills come back. Most places we like to ‘wheel are still fun. We can actually go more places than before, as our street-legal 4x4s can go into National Parks and forests where a license plate is required. The tow vehicle and trailer can be sold because the 4x4 can be driven to the trailhead.

Now, we've detuned our 4x4s and might need to detune our trail driving mindset. A cheap adventure can turn expensive if a broken axle or transfer case gets thrown into the mix. Friends aren’t friends if they goad us into trying the hardest, most dangerous line that will cost money if the vehicle fails. Driving around an obstacle takes more courage in a group than trying it until something breaks. I’ve always respected the person who sizes up a tough obstacle and then decides to drive around it. Taking the bypass makes sense in tough economic times.

So, you also own an automobile. If a vehicle needs to be sold to pay debt and purchase groceries, why not sell the 4x4 that’s worth more than the car? The answer: a car is a car. It goes on the pavement. It only goes on the pavement. As our friend found, our 4x4s not only take us to work and the store, they do much more. They take us on adventures. They take us away. 

In difficult times when every penny counts, that’s priceless.