Wheel­ing Bucket List— Do You Have One?

Four Wheeler - - Firing Order - —KEN BRUBAKER KEN.BRUBAKER@FOURWHEELER.COM PHOTO: KEN BRUBAKER

I’m 54 years old as I’m tap­ping this into a com­puter, and there are so many places I’ve yet to ex­plore in a 4x4. Places I want to ex­plore.

My first 4x4 mag­a­zine gig was in 1989, so as of 2018 I’ve had the priv­i­lege of “wheel­ing for a liv­ing” for al­most three decades. By de­fault, I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to dam­age 4x4s in just about ev­ery dis­ci­pline of off-road­ing, and along the way I’ve ex­plored trails in just about ev­ery state in the U.S. I’ve been off-road on sand in Michi­gan, North Carolina, and Ore­gon; in the woods of Maine, Iowa, and Wis­con­sin; in the hills of Arkansas and Missouri; on the rocks of Cal­i­for­nia and New Mex­ico; in the mud of Florida and Michi­gan; on the rocky trails of Texas, Utah, and Ari­zona; in the snow of Idaho and Wis­con­sin; and just about ev­ery­where in be­tween. You’d think that would about cover it, but alas, ’tis not so.

I’ve al­ways had the urge to ex­plore off-road. My wife and I got mar­ried in 1983 and trav­eled from our home in Illi­nois to spend our hon­ey­moon in Colorado. Once there I sim­ply could not drive by a trail­head with­out point­ing my ve­hi­cle up the trail. This was not ideal be­cause my ve­hi­cle at the time was an ’80 Chevy Ci­ta­tion. I guess the V-6, man­ual trans­mis­sion, man­ual-crank win­dows, and vinyl seats had the young me con­vinced it was a truck. And yes, many of those trail for­ays be­hind the wheel of the Ci­ta­tion did not end well. Dam­age ranged from an in­jured transaxle to rock-scuffed white­wall tires.

But even af­ter all these years there are still so many trails I haven’t done. Ad­mit­tedly, I find my­self boomerang­ing back to trails I re­ally like when I could be ex­plor­ing new ones. I’m a sucker for the more re­mote parts of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and just about any high-al­ti­tude trail in the San Juan Moun­tains of Colorado. But now it seems that the older I get the more I’m think­ing I bet­ter get to some of those new places I haven’t been.

One day, while sit­ting in my of­fice pre­tend­ing to work, I used the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s on­line Life Ex­pectancy Cal­cu­la­tor to, well, you know. At my present age it said that I had an ad­di­tional life ex­pectancy of 27.8 years. This was good news! I as­sume the Life Ex­pectancy Cal­cu­la­tor knows that my body aches from two past mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dents? Or that an off-road 4x4 crash caused my head and wind­shield to vi­o­lently con­nect leav­ing me with a scalp that looks like the Grand Canyon? Or that I rou­tinely eat ba­con? Maybe the Life Ex­pectancy Cal­cu­la­tor gave me bonus years for sur­viv­ing thus far, es­pe­cially when fac­tor­ing in the re­ally stupid stuff I did in my younger years.

Whether or not I see an­other 27.8 years I plan to get to that off-road­ing I’ve been want­ing to do. I’m go­ing to make a list, I guess it would be called a bucket list, of my top three wheel­ing spots that I’ve never done. I want to chalk ’em up. Any­where in Alaska is tops on the list. Been there, but didn’t have the chance to re­ally ex­plore the in­cred­i­ble back­coun­try. Hop­ing to do that trip in the sum­mer of 2018. Also on the list is the 72,000-acre Win­drock Park in Oliver Springs, Tennessee. I spend quite a bit of time in that re­gion of the U.S., but strangely have never been to Win­drock. Fi­nally, I want to spend a week or so wheel­ing Ne­braska, over­land-style. I like the wide-open ter­rain and I think there’s more there than meets the eye.

I know I’m not alone in my de­sire to wheel new ar­eas. Ev­ery wheeler, young and old, has a few trails or ar­eas they re­ally want to do. What are yours? Send your top three, and why they ap­peal to you, to the email ad­dress be­low.

Photo: Ali Mansour

|>We all have places we want to wheel but haven’t yet. My top choice is Alaska. I’ve been there, but never had the chance to ex­plore the in­cred­i­ble back­coun­try. It’s on my list for the sum­mer of 2018.

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