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Friday, July 22, 2011

A Betty Ford Center For Vehicle Addiction?

Sometimes it comes to this; you must face up to your problem. For some people it’s drugs of some sort that take over their life. Other’s it’s alcohol that won’t let them go. And for some it’s an unfortunate addiction to things that go – vehicles, cars, boats, ATVs – things with motors, engines, noise and vibration.

The difference is that if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol it’s a much more accepted problem. By that I mean it is seen as a problem and because of that there are means and ways for you to get help. There plenty of clinics available and eager to step in and administer to the poor soul that can’t say no to another drink. Unfortunately there is no one waiting to help you with you problem if you are addicted to vehicles.

So I propose a solution.

Like every other addiction, the first thing we have to do is recognize that there is indeed a problem — a problem that you have no control over. In this case it’s the addiction to vehicles. Here, rather than not being able to say no to another drink, it’s not being able to say no to another thing with wheels and an engine. Or just wheels or just an engine. Or sometime neither – but they once had ;-)

To better identify the problem let’s look at what the government says is normal. To apply for any government aid you are allowed only one vehicle. The normal American family has two vehicles. The more involved and less socially acceptable may actually have a three-car garage filled with yet more items sitting outside in the driveway.

There are the telltale signs of vehicle addiction such as justification of purchase. Not to name names, but my son-in-law recently bought an FJ80 with the ‘justification’ that he needed something to seat 7 people. The new registration hadn’t even shown up in his mailbox before he installed a lift kit and mounted bigger, and (much) more aggressive tires on it and headed out to the mountains to go camping.

There are other signs, like the size of a person’s garage – oftentimes referred to as a ‘shop’ thereby giving it less of a classification as a place to park vehicles as to simply ‘justify’ its size by it’s use as a ‘workplace’.

Or how about the shear number of vehicles a person has owned over the span of their lifetime. I recently read a Peter Egan column where he listed that he had owned something like 97 vehicles in his life! Most likely a disgusting number to most people – even those 60 years of age or more.

Now, like the three main questions you must ask yourself to find out if you’re an alcoholic, I guess we now can ask ourselves three questions to find out is you are addicted to vehicles. (Now I may not be absolutely correct in this but I remember these 3 ‘alcoholic’ questions – Do you crave a drink? Do you drink at the same time every day? Have you repeatedly tried to quit drinking?) Maybe we should add that repeatedly tried to quit to our list of vehicle addition questions as I remember that being the clue that I wasn’t an alcoholic – I never tried to quit ;-)

So, let’s be honest with ourselves and answer those questions (That’s the ones referring to vehicle addition and not the alcohol-related questions as after all, alcoholism is pretty much an accepted decease nowadays;-)

I’ll step up first:

1) Have I ever tried to justify the purpose of a vehicle?

The most recent vehicle purchase was a Mazdaspeed Miata modified by Flyin’ Miata to put out in excess of 240 horsepower.

But, it does get better mileage than any other vehicle I own so that’s not really justification right?

2) Do you have a garage that is referred to as a shop because of its size?

Because I test vehicles and work on building ‘project vehicles’, of course my building where my vehicles sit is referred to as a ‘shop’. And 4000 square feet isn’t that big for a shop anyway. Nor is the fact that there’s another 2000 square foot shop in anther state.

3) Have you owned more vehicles than a normal person could justify?

Do I really need to list them?

Motorcycles: (24)
Suzuki 80
Honda Super 90
Honda Scrambler 160
Honda 160 Street
Honda Trail 90
Honda Trail 110
Yamaha RZ 350
Yamaha 100
Yamaha 125
Rickman Hodaka (incredibly fast)
Bultaco Montero
Bultaco Alpina
Bultaco Pursang
Yamaha DT2 250
Husky 360 8-speed (Malcolm Smith’s)
Husky 250 4-speed
Husky 250 (2)
Husky 400 (2)
Husky 450 (3)
Yamaha TT500

ATVs & UTVs: (16)
Honda 185S
’82 Honda 250R
’83 Honda 250R
Honda 350X
Honda 350X 4-wheeler (first 4-wheeler!)
Honda 250X
Yamaha Tri-Z
Yamaha Warrior (super modified for mag article)
Yamaha Moto 80
Honda Odyssey 350
Kawasaki Prairie 700
Suzuki LTZ 400
Suzuki LT80
1999 Polaris Ranger 6x6
Kawasaki V-Force 700
Suzuki King Quad 700
Suzuki King Quad 750 EPS

Cars and Trucks: (54)
65 Blue Meyers Manx (original from Lion Country Safari)
67 Orange Meyers Manx
Yellow Empi Baja Bug
Digger Single-seat VW sand car
Sand Toy 2 Seater
Sandwinder 2-seat racer (Ex Johnny Rutherford car)
65 VW Convert
62 Green VW
70 Orange VW Convert
72 Porsche 914
79 Honda Accord
74 Ford F250 4x4
43 Ford
Datsun 280ZX 10th Anniversary Edition
GMC S-15 4x4
Isuzu Trooper 4dr 4x4
Isuzu Extended Cab 4x4
70 Chevy 2500 4x4 (Service Bed)
68 Chevy 327 pickup
75 Chevy 1-ton flatbed 350
73 Chevy 1-ton flatbed 454
72 Chevy 4x4 pickup (Dave Gay modified 396)
85 Chevy CrewCab Dually 4x4
85 Toyota flatbed dually dump
92 Toyota pickup automatic
84 Buick LA Olympic Edition
52 VW (restored)
74 VW Thing
72 VW Thing (import with reduction gears)
Orange VW Thing (for parts)
70 VW w/ Porsche 356 engine and tranny (EMPI GTV)
67 Blue Manx (Dave Parsons)
70 Meyers Towd
70 Honda 600 (original bought from owner of Reno Honda)
Suzuki Sidekick Convert
52 Chevy truck
46 Willys Pickup
68 yellow VW
66 Ford LTD 390
Yellow Glass Buggy
VW Rabbit Diesel pickup
Suzuki Samurai – Rockcrawler
61 VW – Fontana Grey
76 Toyota FJ40
85 Toyota FJ60
1989 Jeep Cherokee (Scofield)
1993 Ford F350 4x4
1999 BMW M3 Convert
2003 Range Rover
2004 GMC 2500HD Diesel 4x4
2006 Toyota Tundra CrewCab TRD 4x4
1990 Mercedes 300 SEL
1994 Mazda MPV 4wd
1993 Toyota FJZ80
2004 MazdaSpeed FM Miata

Boats: (8)
18’ Sol Cat
18 Horizon 460 Ford Jet
16’ Trihull
440 Jet Ski
300 Jet Ski
Yamaha Waverunner (2)

Airplanes: (4)
100cc Yamaha Weight-shift Quicksilver
440 Cuyuna Quicksilver
440 Pterodactyl
440 Pterodactyl 2-seater

Tractors: (2)
Cat 247B

We don't have to list tools with engines - mowers, generators, wood-splitters, saws, and weed-wackers do we?

Then that's only 107. A couple more than Pete, but does that really mean anything - really? Keep in mind that I got my first vehicle at age 13 and I’m within months of being 60, so considering that’s 47 years of vehicle ownership - when the total number of vehicles is divided by the number of years of possible ownership is only barely more than the national average of 2 vehicles – per year.

4) Have you repeatedly tried to quit buying and owning vehicles?

Fortunately being an automotive journalist there have been many years where I didn’t need to own a vehicle as I had at my disposal multiple test units. Did that answer that?

I’ve learned a lot in writing this. First, I feel I’m fully qualified to judge whether a person can be classified as a vehicle addict. I’ve come to that conclusion based on my ability to answer the above questions openly and honestly.  Although many people may find my answers show all the signs of addiction, I realize that because of the fact that I have not ‘ever’ tried to give up purchasing vehicles that I can not be classified as an addict.

So, with that knowledge I would like to say that I am here for you if you have a problem and would like to get help. It’s a multi-step program. Take the test. Answer the questions. Clear your conscience and clean out your garage.

I can help you with the clean-up process and point you to the nearest Prius dealer.

Make the step. You’ll feel so much better, and so politically correct.

But be prepared as if too many of you face up to your problem I may have to expand my ‘shop’ to hold the spoils – I mean the clean-up process debris.

We’ll walk through the clean-up process in a future blog.

'Till then don't sell a thing -

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Too Extreme For Me!

All my life I’ve lived at the edge of civilization. Living there certainly has had some great advantages for someone whose life revolves around vehicles and the backcountry. I grew up in the southern California desert where I could ride out from my house on my Honda Super 90 and learn how to stay upright on rocky trails and long sand washes.

During my early adult years I lived in several different places in Southern California, and as before, always at the edge of civilization, and as always, able to spend all my extra time out exploring the many trails that lead to only ‘who-knows-where.’ This was at a time when there were so many places to ride and so many areas of sand dunes that you actually had a problem deciding where you wanted to ride!

When my means for earning a living changed from building custom homes to writing about off road vehicles, I continued to live on the edge of the Southern California countryside. While I welcomed the access to the open trails for testing, this was the first time in my life that I witnessed the incredible abuse of the backcountry by off-roaders. I was appalled by their lack of regard for private property and closed trails.

This was the first time in my life that I actually started to question my fellow off roaders ethics, morality, and understanding as to what it is to be part of the human race. I don’t know if those are really the right words or not but I certainly questioned if I wanted to be part of the same group of individuals that showed so little respect for others.

The odd thing here is that these problematic off-roaders were a cross breed of people – some local kids whose parent’s considered an off-road vehicle as the perfect babysitter. The others traveling miles and miles from their homes in the city to the areas they deemed open places to ride.

One time I was actually out working on my tractor doing some irrigation work on my property when a couple of riders (on sport quads with loud exhausts I might add) went around the gate and ‘Private Property’ signs that marked the boundaries between my property and the many, many thousand acres of the Wildland’s Conservancy that my place bordered. They rode around on the hiking and horse trails while I wondered why they thought they had that right. When they returned along the gated trail past my property I stopped them only to be jumped and yelled at, with the much younger, and fully geared rider yelling a great many obscenities that included a few regular words at the tractor operator with something to the effect as to why I would care about this country anyway, as it was nothing worth caring about!

Suddenly I realized that my backyard was nothing to be concerned about if you were an off-road rider. Wow, that’s something I never considered when I was out riding on the trails in my youth. I saw no trespassing signs and personal property as places to stay away from. Hmmm. I was shocked and would be forever changed. Forever changed!

Now I have been well entrenched in the off road industry for many years, and recently moved to the state of Utah, and once again, you guessed it, right at the edge of civilization. This time my place sits at one of the busiest entrances to the incredible Paiute Trail system. My reasoning was that there would be no better place to test ATVs and related products than where I could easily access thousands of miles of ATV trails.

All that proved true. But what I failed to consider was that once again I would be at a place where I would have a front row seat to see the absolute lack of consideration and outright in-your-face abuse of our backcountry by off roaders. And their total lack of respect for others. I was amazed. Actually I’m amazed that I was actually amazed now that I think about it.

Every time I’ve lived where I’ve had a front row seat to the backcountry I’ve witnessed the absolute disregard that many off roaders have to the people around them.

So here I am, sitting out on the patio trying to enjoy a wonderful weekend BBQ only to witness once again the irresponsibility and disrespect that off road users have for the people around them. The next-door-neighbor, visiting for the holiday weekend is enjoying riding back and forth out to the end of their 100 yard driveway with one of his two young sons, one riding a small motorcycle and the other a small ATV. Off in the distance I can so clearly hear and only barely see a loud sport ATV climbing a hill. This hill not only borders thousands of miles of open trails, but has been posted ‘closed’ due to its proximity to town, houses, and people, as well as being, what-do-you-call-it(?), oh yeah, ‘private property’!

So once again I’m left to wonder exactly what it is that I have in common with these people that show so little regard to others.

Perhaps I might understand all this better if I just had a tattoo of a dragon on my arm. Or perhaps had some kind of hair or facial hair design with the sole purpose of drawing attention to me rather than actually making me look more attractive to other people. No, I take that last part back. Let me make that attractive to ‘normal’ people!

Whatever. . .  I just don’t understand this stuff anymore. How little we care about our appearance or even how we ‘appear’ to others is one thing - how little we care about how we affect those around us – now that’s a whole ‘nuther thing altogether!

I guess I’m ‘old school – stuck in the 60s or something. Whatever it is I think I’m done being a part of this new group of off roaders that seem to have no concern for the harm they are doing to the rest of us. Their lack of concern not only hurts us in the eyes of the non-ATVing public, but also will be the driving force in closing off more of our trail systems.

I know what you’re going to say now. You’ll say that it’s only a small percent of the riders that I’m talking about here and don’t let that small percent ruin everything. Sorry, it saddens me to say this (to realize this) but I think we are the small percent now.

So we lose. Just liked I watched the sand dunes change from a bunch of families having a good time to a huge party where all the attendees have more money than sense – or even (good) taste for that matter. It’s a dangerous place filled with extreme.

Extreme. Maybe that’s the word that changes everything now that I think about.

Whatever word we use to identify it - we lose.

Now I wonder, where do we go from here?

And how long will we have ‘till it goes EXTREME!