Life Lessons From Camping and Four Wheel Drives

The last two weekends have made me extremely happy that I bought a Ford Bronco.  Both weekends had torrential down poors, the roads to and within the two camps where nothing but mud pits, and I was not one of the poor souls who got stuck in the mud. I love camping, and I have come to understand that part of being involved in a Boy Scout Troop means that you are going to camp in God forsaken mud pits. So while having four wheel drive might not be needed every day, it is ultimately essential for those one to three weekends a month that the boys go camping.

I have never had my Bronco stuck, it doesn’t have a super off road time a million package on it, it doesn’t have 40 inch mud stompers on it, nor is it power by a fire breathing super charged six liter v8. It is just a run of the mill 302 Ford Bronco (with dual exhaust, thanks to yours truly). I am positive there are plenty of places that my old truck won’t go, and the important thing is I understand that. The Bronco is a very capable off road vehicle, it is short, relatively light, and has a good torque V8. It has nothing to prove, and I don’t need to prove myself by pushing the limits with my truck.

In the last two weeks I have seen two men try to measure their manhood by how nasty of terrain they can take their cars through. Now I will say there is a difference between those who go off roading, and those who go “mudding” to prove their manhood. One is a sport, the other is compensating for a low self esteem. Anyways, a little back story. The camp in which we were staying sits at the bottom of a valley, and as such, it is perpetually muddy. I have seen this camp boggy in the middle of a July drought. It is also important to understand our council does not seem to believe in maintaing the roads, buildings, or anything within the camps. So the roads are covered in dirt rather than gravel. Well on this particular weekend, it had been raining just about all friday. So not only where the roads to camp nasty, but the roads inside of camp where very nasty.

When our convoy pulled into camp, the young men who met us at the gate informed us that one vehicle per troop was all that was permited in the camp. So the adults moved their equipment from the backs of their vehicles and put them on top of the trailer. While this was going on, I could not help but over hear the conversation of a man, whom can best be discribed as a yuppy. He was bragging about his brand new GMC 2500. It was long, black, and had all the chrome accents ou could imagine. He went on and on about how he had every last off road option avaliable, and how he had nothing to worry about he would not be getting stuck.

Once the adults gear was loaded onto the top of the trailer, the boys and most of the adults started back into where our campsite was. Two other adults and myself hoped into the bronco and pulled the trailer into camp.  As was predictable the roads where nothing but slop, and I was thankful for four wheel drive. One of the adults in the truck said “having four wheel drive should be a requirment to be scout master”.  I laughed and we slogged on.  To get to our campsite there was a steep hill with a somewhat tight curve in it.  We stopped at the bottom and let the couple of trucks ahead of us clear out. I put the truck in 2nd gear and we crawled our way up. Without the trailer the hill would have been no problem for the Bronco, however with the added weight weighing down the back end, the front wheels found it hard to get a good bit on the road, so our assent was slow but steady.

We no sooner got to the top, and pulled into our campsite, than I saw the head lights of a car, not just any car, a Dodge Caliber. For those of you who don’t know a Caliber is a tiny little hatch back, the car the replaced the Neon. The first thing that came to mind was the words from the men at the gate “only one car per troop is permitted in camp”. It wasn’t until I heard the engine wind up that I realized there was something far more important than just violating the rules of the camp.  This idiot was actually going to try to bring this tiny little, under powered, low slung, hatchback up a hill that a four wheel drive v8 Bronco had a hard time tackling. I watched in amazement as this little tonka toy gunned its way up the hill. They had almost made it to the crest of the hill, they had almost proven me wrong, when the front wheels slipped, and the next thing the driver of the Caliber knew he was backwards off the side of the road, and stuck. Worse yet he had almost taken out a couple boys when he lost it.  When he was asked about why he thought he could make it, he said “You don’t need four wheel drive, front wheel drive works just fine. Besides I figured if that old truck could make it up there, my car could”.

While we worked on getting “genius” number one out of the mud, the blow hard from the parking lot made his way up the trail. He tackled the hill with ease, and had a giant smile on his face. A few minutes later a very distinct scound rang out a crossed the camp. The mighty roar of a v8, and the painful squeal of tires burning up in the mud. A few of us made our way down the trail in the direction genius number two had gone.  When we arived on the scene we saw that mean looking silver clad ebony goddess sunk up above the difs in the mud. For those of you who do not partake in the hobby of mudding, or own a four wheel drive vehicle, normally when one gets stuck, the vehicle only sinks up to the differentials. It takes a special sort of person to sink one up above the differential. This man’s truck was a powerful tool, and was properly equiped to handle the elements that night, except for one minor flaw. You see while the drive train and suspension was well suited for life off road, the man had chosen to equip street tires on the truck, and those tires allowed him to sink into the soup.

So I learned two things from these two men.

From Genius Number One, I learned that arrogance and ignorance will always lead to your own downfall. People who live their lives in a city, people who never venture into the heart of our great nation, have no idea about what is out there. It drives me nuts to hear these ignorant people say things like “why do you need those big four by fours?”, or better yet “you don’t need four wheel drive”.

From Genius Number Two, I learned that no matter how great the off road vehicle, no matter how much power you have, it does not matter if at the last minute you cheap out and buy cheap street tires. The tires are where the power meets the road, if they aren’t up to the task the truck will fail.  I learned from this man, that if you are going to something, you do it right, and you fallow through.

In the long run genius one and genius two reminded me of something very important. Arrogance and ignorance are a fatal couple. Too many people have gone through life without tasting the bitterness of failure, so they fail to learn their limits. Too many people go through their childhood without consequences, and when they enter the real world they believe that they can do no wrong. It is this babying of our youth that leads to people who think that a dodge caliber can go anywhere a Bronco can go. It is this codling of our youth that leads to people who think that a new gadget, a new doodad can fix the fundamental flaws of life.  Sure you can have locking diffs, or super 4×4 epic off road packages, but if you are rolling around with street tires, it doesn’t make a difference.

  1. mcbery said:

    You have seen two men!? I wonder what that means?Boy Scouts go camping one to three times a month? Wow! I guess I’m full of questions this morning!

  2. virtus1 said:

    Hmmm.  That sounds like a chief executive who has an oval shaped office.  Arrogant, ignorant, and ill equipped for the job.

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