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Just a little reminder article I found.

Hitting the (off) road
Sport survives venue threats, other challenges

Summer's almost here, and if you just bought a four-wheel-drive vehicle, or owned one already, California's cool mountain backcountry or seaside sand dunes may beckon.
Go to the dunes near Pismo Beach or the Imperial Sand Dunes near Brawley, and you'll probably have company.

Kevin Barber, an executive with the California Off-Road Vehicle Association, typically visits Pismo on the Fourth of July and Brawley over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Pismo can attract up to 30,000 off-road enthusiasts and Brawley up to 200,000, said Barber, who began riding in the dirt at age 6.
"It's probably one of the most popular family sports," he said.

For example, there are about 4,000 members in the statewide association and numerous other clubs scattered around California.
Barber, a big-rig truck driver who lives in Littlerock, owns 12 off-road vehicles, each suited to different terrain.
The sport faces several challenges, including threats to close sanctioned off-road venues.

Then there's the soaring cost of gasoline. One of Barber's trucks uses racing fuel, which currently costs $10 a gallon.
"It's killing me," he said. "The gas price really has quite a bearing on how many times people are off-roading."
But there is more to the sport than just buying a vehicle and heading for the dirt.

Think safety first.

That advice comes from Tom Severin, president of Badlands Off-Road Adventures Inc. in Torrance and a certified driving instructor. He also operates the Web site

He says it's important to familiarize yourself with your vehicle's capabilities before taking it out for a spin in the bush. Taking a class is an excellent idea, too.
He's right about that.

Late last year I spent a day learning the basics at a Land Rover driving school. I felt quite comfortable in that environment at the end of the day, but that comfort zone has now vanished.

Lesson learned: practice, practice and more practice.

One frequent mistake of off-road novices is driving through the backcountry for too long a time, Severin said.

"Most of the situations you get yourself into are in the afternoon - 3:30 or 4 o'clock. You're fatigued. (It requires) such intense concentration that you get tired," he said.
Severin offers one- and two-day sessions starting at $200.

Four-wheel drive vehicles today are packed with a lot of electronic aids that help drivers master a variety of obstacles. But Severin makes sure students know how to navigate off-road without those devices.

"You never know when you might have to switch to your buddy's vehicle and drive it out. Anything can happen," he said.

If you are heading off the pavement this summer, here are some tips from Severin and the Web site

Let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return. This applies to all trips, not just those in challenging areas. People have been known to get lost or stuck in relatively easy terrain.

Always have at least one other vehicle along. This ensures that you will have transportation if your off-road vehicle becomes stuck or damaged and can't be fixed on-site. The extra vehicle also means additional manpower to help with problems.

Pack survival gear. Even a Sunday drive on the beach can turn sour. Pack the proper gear to get you through the night and to handle medical emergencies.

Tie everything down inside. Your gear will go flying if you roll over or lay the vehicle on its side. Loose items become missiles that can injure and kill.

Adopt a relaxed and upright driving position with a loose grip on the steering wheel. Keep your thumbs out of the center section of the wheel so they don't get broken from steering wheel kickback. This is a common problem on vehicles not equipped with power-assisted steering.

Contact between your right foot and the gearbox tunnel will help increase throttle control. The use of a "dead pedal" - a footrest on the left - is also helpful. Don't use the clutch pedal as a dead pedal.

Know your minimum ground clearance. That's the distance between the lowest point of the undercarriage and the ground. This will help prevent getting hung up while driving over obstacles.

So you can negotiate obstacles without damaging your vehicle, know your approach, departure and break-over angles - the slope at which you'll approach and leave an object and at which point your vehicle can tip over. It's also a good idea to use a spotter when approaching an object.

Keep arms and legs inside the vehicle to avoid injury. Bones will probably break before tree limbs.

Make sure everyone wears a seat belt. You and your passengers will get jostled around quite a bit on many of the trails. Plus, the possibility for a rollover or crash exists at any time.
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