Long Island Off Road Event

Rausch Creek Offroad Park
Pine Grove, PA

March 22, 2014

by Tom Hespos

What I Learned On My Winter Vacation by Tom Hespos, noob of the highest order

I can immediately tell whether a new hobby will stick or not. For me, it's all about who is participating with me, and whether they're enthusiastic enough about the hobby to:

1) Be friendly toward someone new to it.

2) Be patient toward said newbie, imparting both wisdom and experience, and

3) Be fun.

No fellow enthusiasts who are willing to help one another and make it a fun time? Then it's not a hobby. Might as well get out now and sell all your stuff on eBay.

From the perspective of a new guy, it looks like I'm in it for the long haul. I had a tremendously fun time, and much of it was due to how well I was treated by the other club members on the trip - Jake, Ted and John. Thanks very much, guys, for your patience and willingness to help.

We actually had a great day, weather- and conditions-wise. While it was a cold morning, it started to get sunny and warm enough later on to shed my jacket and wheel in a hoodie and t-shirt. The snow that had ruined Ted and Greg's February trip was pretty much history. I thought a lot of rigs showed up, but I was told that it was nothing compared to the volume that might be there on a summer weekend.

I appreciated the group taking it easy on me and being mindful of any potential PTSD stemming from the unfortunate incident at AOAA. To be perfectly truthful, there were a couple obstacles I might have tried out prior to the flip, but skipped this time around. Next ride, I should feel a lot more comfortable, especially armed with some of the stuff I learned this time. Namely:

1) I should quit trying to feather-touch the clutch over every boulder and just let the truck creep in 1st gear.

2) The spotters who are coaching you over obstacles are watching out for that tree that looks like it's about to come in through your window. As a driver, you need to ignore that tree, watch the spotter and trust him.

3) Sometimes it feels like your truck is about to go over, but you've got all four wheels on the ground even though it doesn't feel that way.

4) If you do feel like you're going over, turn into the roll so you can power through it.

5) If your steering gets bound up, rock the truck while turning the wheel so that whatever stresses are causing the steering to bind up are relieved and you can turn again.

6) Folks in this hobby tend to start out with a stock truck, get familiar with its capabilities and then figure out what each mod adds. I didn't. I bought a fully-done truck, so I've robbed myself of some valuable experience.

7) Lockers are not for activating once you get stuck. They should be activated in order to keep you from getting stuck in the first place.

8) Trust is key. There were times I stood at the beginning of a trail, looked at the terrain, and said to myself 'There is NO WAY that ANY sort of wheeled vehicle is making it over that.' And yet, a few minutes later my truck was creeping over it.

The breaks we took for lunch and for what I assume is typical LIOR trailside BSing were fun as well. In addition to hearing about some new beers I should try, I heard some interesting stories about what happens when one runs over his own machine gun with a large truck, about what happens when you haul way too much weight with an XJ, and even about an interesting character known as the 'Axle Nazi'.

Oh, and we also saw some interesting rigs coming from other parts of the country, including a white Jeep with pink accents. (I kid you not. Even the beadlock screws and diff cover were pink.) A Durango with an intake made out of 4'' PVC pipe plunged through the hood, and even a Geo Tracker. (Jake was almost successful at getting me to take my truck down into a deep bowl and up the hillclimb on the other side by merely goading me with 'C'mon If a Geo Tracker can do it') My takeaway was that there are people out there who will wheel ANYTHING with 4WD.

All in all, it was a fantastic day - time well spent. And I want to thank Jake, Ted and John again for being so patient with me and for sharing so much of their experience.