Reader: I'm new to off-roading and love your magazine. Your articles are well written and the photos are excellent, but I have a small gripe. I'm no tree hugger but I noticed a few photos (Jan. '09) that I'm sure the Sierra Club would love to use to shut down more trails. The first photo is of the S-10 axle swap on page 64. That's an awesome truck (really!) posing on crushed grasses and wildflowers covering the beautiful hillside. I thought responsible wheelers stuck to the trail. The next photo is the super-cool Commando on page 74 with its front tire planted squarely on a desert plant. I expected the caption to say "Got it!" Surely the spotter/dude holding the camera could have guided the yellow 4x4 around this. Finally (had I not seen the first two photos, I wouldn't have paid attention to this one), Fred Williams' "Alternate Adventure" shows a photo of him power-washing "the inch-thick coating of grease, oil, and dirt" off the tranny he plucked out of the old Chevy. I can't see little blue dolphin prints around it, so maybe the drain he has the transmission sitting on captures all the grease and oil and doesn't lead to a local spring, creek, or river. But I have my doubts.
I've seen enough nimrods on the trails doing plenty to give our passion a black eye. I hope that 4-Wheel & Off-Road will continue to lead by example in keeping trails open and our environment safe.
Editor: Good point. The fact of the matter is that both photos are OK, as they were taken on private land and had as much potential for damage as mowing the lawn. But you make a good point for us all to think about how we act, drive, and care for our environment.
As for the blue dolphin prints around the drain, those are a California program that identifies drains that lead to the ocean. Williams was pressure-washing the gunk off in South Dakota, into an approved grease and oil trap for later recovery.
Final 4x4 Of The Year Rant
Reader: Boy oh boy, where do I start? Your 4x4 of the Year test would be first, I guess. I have driven almost all of your trucks in the 4x4 of Year test. The H3 has no use for me, so I didn't drive it, but I did drive the rest of them. I'm shocked how far down the F150 scored, but what really blew me away was how the Ram was beat by a rebadged Nissan. I did not think it was even close. The Nissan (Suzuki) was not a bad truck but felt like a rebadged small truck. The Ram to me was so much more comfortable with power, steering, and mostly the ride. Not to mention the interiors, though Ford's was top-notch. After reading your review it just made me feel better that I had canceled my subscription to your magazine. Good luck when future 4x4 contributions come from China, or maybe Mars? I'm sure you'll have no problem explaining that too.
Editor: Well, where do I start? You said you had driven all of the vehicles except the H3, so you did drive the H3T? What did you think of that? Just wait until we have the Mahindra diesel pickup from India. You'll think we've lost our minds when we receive that one. Oh wait, you won't be able to read about it because you canceled your subscription. Sorry, Brad, we can't please everyone.
How To Start A Club
Reader: Greetings! I am the recently "new" owner of an '84 Chevy K30 four-door 1-ton. The reason for the email is actually not for the truck. I need some tips and advice on starting a 4x4 club in my area. The closest one to where I live is two hours away. I advertised last summer for taking people on off-road excursions, and with over 1,200 views the good majority of responses that I received went something like, "Where do you go wheeling?" or "Can you tell me where the trails are?" I can't really tell them where the trails are without actually showing them. That's where the idea for the club comes from. We've already had an "arterial" trail closed last summer, and I want to help stop that from happening again, organize the wheelers here, and do what you guys are doing down there. Any help will definitely be appreciated.
Kingston and area 4x4 club (hopefully)
P.S. If this club flies, you guys are the first to get an invite to our first event. Imagine, Canadian Shield rocks!
Editor: We forwarded this letter to our associate in wheeling Del Albright for a response: Hi Rick, and thanks for writing 4-Wheel & Off-Road about starting a club. I'll be happy to help. First off, it's always a good idea to double-check local listings and any regional listings on the Internet to make sure there are no other clubs in your area. Then we begin the fairly simple process of starting a new club.
Start by collecting the emails of your friends and local wheelers. Compile a simple email list of potential club members.
Next, hold some simple runs organized by email that include a meet-and-greet breakfast gathering. Meet someplace you can have coffee and exchange quick howdies, and then go on a good run. Tell everyone to bring a friend. Don't worry about formalities or club names and stuff like that yet. Just get something going. All that stuff can come later.
Make some simple business cards with a contact email and phone. Have all your "current members" pass them out, put them on 4x4 windshields found in the local area, and build your list of potential members that way.
Build a simple website so folks can find you (have a good contact page) and, of course, link to good 4x4 sites like 4wheeloffroad.com.
I have an entire section of my website devoted to this. Check it out and get back to me with your questions: www.delalbright.com/articles/club.htm.
Question Of The Month
Which do you like better: rockcrawling, trailriding, or MUD wheeling?
Responses to our last Question: Is an automatic or manual transmission better for four-wheeling and why?
Reader: I have owned more 4x4s with automatics. Besides, as you get older and your joints start protesting the constant movement, you find that you tend to start picking automatics.
John Moore, Buffalo, MO
Editor: This was the first response we received to our last question about which is better, auto or stick trannys. We had so many responses that we have to give the letters their own section next month, after we get done organizing them! We'll tally the votes as well as go into the reasoning behind your votes, which, as this response shows, can be quite enlightening!