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Spotting 101: Good spotting makes a difference

Spotter guides a vehicle up Wheeler Ridge

A friend sent me a quick note asking if there are universal hand signals for the spotters. Every spotter may have a slight variation, but below is a sample of the most commonly used signals.

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10 axioms of four-wheeling

High desert landscapeFour wheeling, like any other activity, has its rules and principles. During my 40-plus years in this sport, I have seen and experienced a lot. The following axioms flow from all the wisdom I have picked up from others I respect. My list is actually longer, but I trimmed it to some of the better ones.

  1. Your instincts are wrong off-road, and you have to learn the correct ways. For example, if you’re going down the hill and the vehicle is sliding, the natural tendency is to step on the brakes. That just locks ‘em up and you slide more. If it’s wet and muddy, you will slide in the direction of off-camber. If you’re driving on a shelf road, you’ll go right off the edge. Learn the proper steps to take, and commit those to memory.
  2. Clearance and traction are basic tenets for dirt and rocks. You can get these by applying the correct driving technique and by mechanical means. The Technique comes from your driving skills, as well as your ability to read lines and chart the proper course. Mechanical means includes bigger tires and suspension to lift the body up. Traction is gained through better tires, lockers in the axels, and by airing down. Learn to drive without upgrading the vehicle with mechanical aids. You will develop better technical skills and improve your ability to pick lines.

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Geocaching: Something new to try

Geocaching is a great way to get off the beaten path

If you'd like to add some variety and adventure to your next 4x4 run, consider Geocaching along the trail. Geocaches are placed along trails to encourage others to visit the area, and often direct the searcher to something of interest that they might not have otherwise known about.

For those unfamiliar with Geocaching, it's an activity that uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches," anywhere in the world. A smartphone can also be used as a search tool, and there are Geocaching apps available for both iOS and Android devices.

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Clean up, clear out for new year

This is a good time to review the gear and equipment in your rig.January is a time for resolutions: lose weight, eliminate bad habits, be a better person. Perhaps you made a list for this year (and are already finding it difficult to follow). This is also a good time to review the gear and equipment used in off road driving. Does any need replacing or repair? Are any pieces missing? Perhaps you need to brush up on some skills.

A favorite author, since childhood, is Horace Kephart. He was a writer for Field & Stream magazine from 1904 to 1906. In 1917 he published Camping and Woodcraft. I have a MacMillian Company 1968 reprint. It would be difficult to purchase this book today (more outdoor books). Kephart was a master wordsmith and could capture the heart of the outdoors mentality perfectly. Here is a quote from Chapter II - Outfitting that sums up the theme of this article.

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Been "out yonder" looking for our "whereabouts"

The “guide” made only one promise, which was “we will get lost several times.” Although, there was a hint of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not real gold that started the “gold rush,” but the lure of adventure, exploration, four wheeling, historical relics and the like. It was very apparent from the beginning that the guide was handicapped (his license plate). His vision is poor and he needed a six-inch magnifying glass to read a map. His hearing is bad and his first response is “What” no matter how loud you talk. But, he is a walking encyclopedia about emigrant trails and the Pony Express. He is also good at “multi-tasking” up to a point. At times he had difficulty driving while also eating, talking on the CB, listening to the ham radio and country western music, while also simultaneously reading a map and looking for the proper road. Ah, but you might also wonder about the people that would follow such a guide!

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Cal4Wheel: The land of opportunity

The sand drags at Maidenform Flats in Pismo in the early 1980sMy earliest memories usually involve some form of dirt: digging holes, shoveling sand, or riding in the back of the Jeep, happily getting dust in every pore.

As I got older, even though I still enjoyed getting completely covered in dirt on the trail, catching marshmallows on fire around the campfire was pretty good too.

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