Another sense that gets used on the trail is the sense of hearing. In addition to the thunk and screech mentioned earlier, I am always listening for clues. The thwap, thwap, thwap sound is the lugs on the edge of my tire tread hitting a leaf spring (or fender flare) in a hard left turn…nothing to be concerned about. The ticking sound of a hot motor is fine, as long as I hear the whine of the electric fan kick in at the pre-determined temperature. Sometimes I hear a strange noise and I immediately try to determine if it a rotational sound (speeds up as my speed increases) or a steady sound (indicating something not directly related to the driveline). Whatever hints my ears give me, I am already considering the possibilities and trying to determine the severity of the sound. The sweetest sound (and one I rarely get to enjoy) is my wife saying. “you drove that section of trail really well…let’s do that again.”
The sense of smell is a critical Jeep driving skill. Can you identify the subtle nuances between burning oil and hot transmission fluid? How about the sweet scent of anti-freeze? Some days I can smell fear in my customers when they watch my Jeep disappear over the edge of the hill, and they know they are next to descend. Using all our senses to know what is happening around us is a skill our caveman ancestors perfected. They just never imagined how the species would evolve. Nevertheless, I still argue that we have to use all our senses to be in a “Zen-like” state…at one with the Jeep…able to hear, see, smell, and feel everything the Jeep feels to make our driving experience as close as possible to “be” one with the Jeep (or let the Jeep “be” one with you).
At this point you probably guessed the last sense was the sense of taste, and that couldn’t possibly play too big a role in Jeeping (unless you had to follow a Jeep with a set of chrome “testicles” hanging off the hitch). I will take a little writer’s liberty here and declare that the final (and perhaps most important) sense in Jeeping is: Common Sense.
It is a sense that is not as common as you might think. People do silly and stupid things, and after watching too many dangerous situations develop, I started Iron Range Offroad specifically to address safety issues and environmental concerns. Keeping your hands, feet and head inside the vehicle at all times…wearing your seatbelt and NOT drinking and driving…taking pictures and giving advice from a safe distance…these are simple and straightforward concepts that (too often) get overlooked in the excitement of a day on the trail. Keep in mind that it’s NEVER acceptable for someone to get hurt on the trail, and getting LUCKY is just another way of saying my habits are sloppy and I need to step back and reconsider what I am doing. Remember that you have the power to influence the people around you, and by just saying, “wait a second…I have a question”, you might be able to stop someone from acting out a bad decision. Take a moment and think the situation through. When talking the scene out with others, a lot of good concerns can be raised, considered, and ultimately addressed. “Be” the one with common sense in your group. Everyone around you will be glad you are!
Iron Range Offroad is Minnesota’s only offroad driving school. The classroom setting is the spectacular Iron Range OHV Park, 3 hours north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The classes are geared toward entry level Jeepers, stressing safety and environmental responsibility. Trail riding is broken up with class modules that cover trip preparation, vehicle maintenance and repair, driving skills for different terrain, extraction techniques, vehicle upgrades, and much more. Customers who register for classes also receive a copy of Jim Allen’s book, Four Wheeler’s Bible, Second Edition, an amazingly complete and detailed volume that incidentally features some fine photography of the Iron Range OHV Park and one of the offroad driving classes. To sign up for a trip or request additional information, visit www.ironrangeoffroad.com.
Related – It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.