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Adventure

Continental Campaign

Editor’s note: It’s safe to say Dan Grec is living a life of adventure. For the past 9 months, he’s been in Africa, attempting to circumnavigate the continent in a built Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Even before this expedition, Grec already had one overlanding expedition under his belt: a 22-month, 50,000-mile  journey down the Pan American Highway from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina.

But don’t let the circumstances fool you. Grec insists he’s just a regular guy. Here, he tells us about how, what, and why he’s driving around Africa.

 




I'm just a regular guy who decided I wanted more out of life than sitting at a desk for 35 years to pay off a mortgage. A number of years ago, I saw clearly that was the future I was heading towards, so I changed my lifestyle so I could save money. A year later, I quit my job and spent two years driving the Pan American Highway from the top of Alaska to the bottom of Argentina. The trip changed my life, and it taught me a lot about what kind of adventures I wanted to have in the future.

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After that trip, I was dreaming of where I might go next and what kind of vehicle I might take. Everything pointed me towards Africa. It's such an enormous and unexplored place, and I knew I would find the kinds of adventures I am looking for.

I have always been interested in travel: meeting new people and cultures, learning new languages, and trying new food. (Not to mention seeing stunning landscapes and natural beauty.) Taking my own vehicle means I can go absolutely anywhere I want, whenever I want. I am not stuck on the tourist routes, and I am not limited by where public transport will take me. It's the ultimate freedom. Here I am in Ivory Coast, West Africa, and I can drive literally anywhere I want, right now. I love that!

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Taking my own vehicle also brings a lot of responsibilities. I have to navigate, drive safely through insane traffic, maintain the vehicle, and find safe places to park. While those things can sometimes be hard work, I have learned over the years I need that balance to feel like my travels are not just a vacation. I have a purpose, and the trip requires genuine work to be successful.

I drove a little 2-door Jeep from Alaska to Argentina, and it never had a single mechanical issue. When I saw the 4-door Jeep Wrangler, I knew it was perfect for my needs. Ground tents are fun for a week or two, but get seriously old over two years, so I built this Jeep with interior living space and a few creature comforts in mind. I knew the Rubicon already had all the capability I would need.

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Having a large sleeping area up off the ground, a fridge, drinking water tank and filtration setup, and the ability to live inside the vehicle when the weather or bugs are a nightmare helps me keep a level of sanity I need so I can really enjoy—rather than endure—this trip.

Wheel and tire choice to drive 80,000 miles around remote Africa is also an extremely important decision. I expect to drive tens of thousands of miles on extremely rough terrain, and I expect to encounter basically every surface possible, from good highways to sand, mud, rocks, snow, rain and severely broken-up pavement with potholes, nails, and every form of nasty imaginable.

I decided long ago steel wheels are better for a trip of this nature, primarily because they can be beaten back into shape with a sledge hammer in the event of damage. Beadlocks add weight and are not common in Africa, so I choose not to run them. With that in mind I’m running Mopar Winter Steel Wheels in 17”, which have the added benefit of protecting the valve stem by tucking it behind the face of the wheel.

From Alaska to Argentina I had a total of 16 flat tires, which always turned out to be a nail, a piece of steel, or some other object embedded in my admittedly low quality tires. After hundreds of hours of research, I chose the BFGoodrich KO2 All Terrain in 34x10.5R17 size. At that size, they are almost identical in width to the stock Rubicon 255s I’ve been running, and add almost two inches of height, filling the guards nicely.

The Jeep and all the modifications I have made have been fantastic. In fact, everything has worked better than I ever dreamed. With all the modifications I have made, the Jeep is heavy. It tips the scales at 6000lbs, which is 500lbs heavier than I would like, and is really noticeable on the severely potholed roads over here. If I could change one thing about the Jeep, I would "add lightness."

[Editor’s note: For a full list of modifications, see Grec’s article: http://theroadchoseme.com/the-jeep]

Throughout my trip so far, I’ve been surprised by the friendliness of the average person on the street. Africa gets a very bad rap, which in my experience is severely unjustified. People over here frequently invite me into their homes for tea, for dinner, and even to spend the night — something I have rarely experienced elsewhere in the world.

Even in the bigger cities people smile and say "welcome," and even cross the street to shake my hand and ask where I am from. In fact, I have found people here to be much friendlier than in Canada or Europe.

To add to that, people here are also really, really happy. They are not in a rush to get to work, and they are not stressed about their next credit card payment. Again, on the whole, people here are overall happier than I have experienced in Canada or Europe for example.

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Recently, after a massive driving day in Guinea, I was exhausted and looking for somewhere safe to sleep for the night. I eventually found a huge waterfall in basically the middle of nowhere, and was really surprised to see a couple of military men guarding the hydro plant at the waterfall. These men are in full camo clothing and carrying automatic weapons (as are all the police/military here). Not exactly what I wanted to see as dark is quickly approaching.

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Seeing me drive up to the barrier, they came over to chat, and even with my beginner’s command of French, they quickly welcomed me in. After introductions, the men assured me I could camp right there next to the barracks while they stood guard. Quickly hot food was dished out, and we were soon eating with our hands from a big communal bowl of delicious spicy sauce on rice.

On top of that, they gave me a tour of the whole waterfall/hydro plant (including inside the turbine building complete with Chinese workers), and pointed out other cool places in Guinea I needed to see on my map. In the morning, we stood around drinking coffee, and they offered a genuine handshake and well-wishes at my departure. They asked absolutely nothing from me, and were extremely welcoming and hospitable when I needed it most.

That's just one such example of the kind of people I have been meeting, and the kind of experiences I've been having. West Africa is beautiful, and the people are the kindest, friendliest and happiest I have ever met.

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[Editor’s note: Keep up to date with Grec’s journey around Africa here: http://theroadchoseme.com/]

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Build

Wagon Wheelin'

Editor’s note: Don Zimmer and his son have spent years working on this 1955 Willys Wagon. It’s a father/son project that has much deeper meaning than just the finished build.

 




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I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love a Willys Wagon, including my son Kaliph. He’s always wanted one. So he saved up his money, and along with a little help from his mom and me, he bought two of them with hopes of scavenging enough parts to make one good ride. 

Working on this project has been great. I love the fact that my son I have spent so much quality time together working on it. And even though the car belongs to my son, I know that a part of me is in that reborn classic rig, and it will live on for decades to come. This project is something my son will always be able to look back on, and one day he’ll show his kids what he and their grandpa did to rebuild this classic ride. This Willys has a soul! My son appreciates the fact that we are bringing something back to life that’s been sleeping in a weedy field for the past 25 years.

We belong to the Victor Valley 4 Wheelers and we plan to do great deal of desert, mountain, and historical sightseeing runs when the build is complete. We’ve spent three summers working on it and we can’t wait to drive it.

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Adventure

In the Land of Oz

Editor’s note: Madelyn Holmes is an Australian photographer with a knack for exploration. And with a diminutive Suzuki Jimny as her trusty sidekick, she’s discovering and experiencing more of her native land than would be possible without a 4x4 vehicle.

 




A little over 12 months ago, I bought my 2007 Suzuki Jimny secondhand as a blank canvas apart from a 1.5L engine swap. I have been building it slowly since. Growing up in Australia, I have always loved the outdoors and found myself a career as a wedding/portrait photographer, so it was only a matter of time before I outgrew my sedan and started looking at something a little more capable to use for both work and play. The Jimny was a great fit for me, as I wanted something nimble but competent, whilst being a base for me to learn about cars and 4-wheeling.

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To start the modifications, I added a bullbar and transfer case guard for some extra protection out on the tracks. The back seats were also gone within a week and replaced with a rubber false floor for some extra storage space. I then fitted a two-inch lift and larger mud tyres for some extra clearance and capability, and recently a snorkel. There have also been a whole host of smaller additions to make life easier out and about: extra lighting, UHF radio, a folding table on the back door, and a few places to power accessories via a second battery under the bonnet.

Any free weekends I get are usually spent exploring local parks and forests with my partner (and navigator), where we often find ourselves adventuring solo. With such a variety of terrain to negotiate in the region, finding a set of tyres that I could really rely on to get us home was critical.

I did some pretty extensive research and decided on a set of 215/75/15 KM2s, which took me from second-guessing every suspicious puddle I found to hardly noticing the mud, and even recovering other cars on occasion. The Jimny has far exceeded my expectations, and with a few small modifications it has not only kept up with but often outdriven much larger modified cars.

Three months after purchasing the car, my partner's family and I went on a week-long camping trip to Fraser Island. After taking a 45-minute barge trip across from the mainland, the island's magnificent scenery is accessible only to 4WD vehicles. Seeing the diversity of life, from beaches to rainforests and freshwater lakes — all on the world's largest sand island — was an eye-opener and absolute paradise for photography. Lake McKenzie has easily become some of my favourite spots in the world, making Fraser Island a definite highlight of my trips with the Jimny so far.

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As a person always looking to learn and see new things, the Jimny has fed that hunger in more ways than I anticipated, giving me a platform to learn off-road driving, refine my navigation skills, gain mechanical knowledge, and even problem-solving when things don't quite go to plan. The ability to find new, remote, and breathtaking locations by 4WD has ignited a passion to venture further from home, capture more of what nature has to offer in such a vast country and preserve these experiences for many years to come.

Bring on the next adventure.

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Adventure

Kings of the Hammers

Editor's note: Brad and Roger Lovell have loved going off-road ever since their father took them on family camping trips in the Colorado mountains as kids. Since that early introduction, the two brothers have parlayed that love into consistent success in various off-road ventures, from rock crawling championships, to Baja 1000 victories, to their most recent triumph: a second consecutive Every Man Challenge win at King of the Hammers. (Their third victory in four years.) 

Here, they join us for a Q&A about their past, present, and future.

 




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HOW DID YOU GET INTO RACING?

Brad: Back when we were kids, our family would go camping in the mountains. My dad had a Bronco, and he'd go explore some roads with us. I can always remember seeing rocks or a rougher road [that we drove through] and thinking, "God, we got to go up that one, we got to go up that one." It certainly wet our whistles for wanting to explore and challenge ourselves. 

Roger got a Bronco too when he turned 16, and then a few years later I got a Ranger. Between a friend, our cousin, and the two of us, we just went and did all kinds of roads and just began challenging ourselves. We started going to Utah and began working up the food chain.

That was about the time competitive rock crawling was coming to the forefront. I remember going to [Supercrawl in 2002] and thinking, "We can do this. We're easily as good as these guys." We took my daily driver and tore it down, and made a competition vehicle out of it.

Roger: We actually bought parts to do it on the way out of town from that Supercrawl. 

Brad: Yep. I have a poster from Supercrawl also. We bought a front end on the way home to start our own vehicle. Later, we entered a competition. When we pulled up, we had Super Swampers on it. We bought a set of BFG Krawlers in the parking lot right before the first race. We strapped them on, went off, and we won that competition.

Roger: We were competitive right off of the bat, and we did six years of rock crawling. We won a championship every year, and then got involved in rock racing—XRA at the time—and did well there. Roger won a national championship race in '08, and then I won it in ’09.

Brad: In 2010, we started doing short course stuff, and we stayed involved in rock racing and desert racing. It was all that rock crawling that opened up these doors. I always feel grateful, because without rock crawling, there would’ve been no way for us as off-roading enthusiasts to become professional racers.

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WHO’S THE BETTER DRIVER?

Brad: [Laughing] I think I’m the guy who is willing to push further or take the dent in the fender or be the irresponsible guy that goes and blows the junk up so everybody else has to go back home.

Roger: Let's just put it this way: There was one year in Moab where Brad was in search of a way to roll his truck home, if that gives you any idea who is more willing to push the limit. The other part of it is, I still have my original vehicle. [Laughing]

I'm probably a little more conservative and more consistent, and Brad can definitely be more aggressive and willing to take the risks. When it comes to short course, there was really only one choice for who was going to race: Brad. It just fit his driving style and his mentality to a T. You have to be on 100% of the time. 

Brad: I guess the way I look at it is it’s applied in scale. If it's a real short race, I'm going to be more competitive. If there's a really long race, Roger’s the better option. He has patience and consistency, and he's even-keeled. Sometimes it's just hard for me to slow down and go easy on the equipment.



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WHAT’S IT LIKE RACING TOGETHER? 

Brad: We grew up together, so we know what each other is thinking or trying to communicate just by the tone of voice. You can read so much more in somebody when you know them really well, and that's the big advantage we have as a team.

Roger: Back in the rock crawling days, we'd have a headset on between us. Brad was the driver and I was the spotter, but I could always tell when Brad was getting nervous because I could hear heavy breathing on the mic. Once you get to know somebody, you can read those little signals. 

I think that that gives us an advantage over a lot of other people, because we know each other inside and out. We have the ability to do that, whether I'm driving or Brad's driving. As the co-driver, you learn certain signals; he's starting to saw at the wheel; he's getting a little nervous; or something's going on. I think that that gives us an advantage over a lot of other people.

Brad: The way Roger says something, I can kind of interpret what's going on or paint a better picture. When there's a problem, we've been working in the shop together forever, and we're going to sort it out if it's at all possible. There's nobody else I'd rather have there to help me sort it out than Roger.

Roger: When Brad and I race together, I know what he sees. I also know what he might not be seeing. We just have the ability to almost work as one.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IF YOU WANT TO START RACING?

Roger: You've got to have somebody you can work with and someone you can put in the car next to you and trust with your life. I don’t think you can't do it on your own.

Brad: Never give up. You have to have passion for the sport, and you have to want to get in and fight as hard as you can fight. Having that is worth so much, maybe worth more than money and time. It you want it bad enough, you will find the money and the time to make it happen.

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HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF RACING?

Roger: I think it's always a very challenging thing in racing, to ride the highs as long as you can, and try to let the lows go by. Obviously, to be successful in racing, you've got to be winning races and not be making mistakes. I think you just get thicker skin after a while. You start to realize that the highs are real. When you win a race, when you win a championship, that's real. When you get defeated, that's also real, but you can recover from that, and that's all in your head.

For example, when we were racing at King of the Hammers. We were at Wrecking Ball, and we get the call that we're 25 minutes in the lead. Not two minutes later, we hit a rock so hard that it blows the power steering line. Here we are, leading the race, and now we're stopped dead in the water. We're broken, but we’ve got to fix it. Brad and I both jump into action and get it done. Because we don't quit, we're able to still pull in and win the race.

 

WHAT’S NEXT ON THE BUCKET LIST?

Brad: I would like to spend more time in the desert. Maybe, at some point, we have a car that we campaign in the desert.

Roger: I'd say the Sonora Rally is on there because that's a mini Dakar, in essence. I don't know that we could ever make a Dakar, but talk about a crowning achievement.

Brad: We've always strived to just reach as far as we can in off-road and be a part of so many different things. I want to continue to do that, so maybe it's hard to say what the next bucket list thing is.

Roger: I think it's hard to say, too, because we never expected to be where we are. We were just two brothers standing at a rock crawling competition that said we could do that. I never had any idea it would turn into this.

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Adventure

Recap: Overland Expo West 2017

We’ve always known the spirit of adventure was alive, but nowhere was that more apparent than at Overland Expo West, which took place May 12-14 at Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff, AZ.

The campgrounds were filled with vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and vintages, including Toyota FJs, VW Westfalia campers, Sportsmobile van conversions, and Land Rovers. In addition to that, plenty of visitors came and camped via motorcycle.

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In the middle of this explosion of campers, pop-up tents, and camaraderie, BFGoodrich ran an obstacle course — open to the public — for demonstrating KO2 tires. Pit Crew member Charlene Bower and Bart Dixon (a King of the Hammers OG13) were among the co-drivers riding along in BFGoodrich vehicles for the demos.

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International overlander (and Youtube personality) Andrew St. Pierre White of 4xOverland was also on hand at the BFGoodrich trailer to meet fans, share wisdom, and talk shop. (Be on the lookout for a Garage Q&A with the experienced overlander.)

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While there were plenty of vendors showing off the latest and greatest in gear, the theme of the expo was, without a doubt, education and skills building. Just as the BFGoodrich demo course allowed expo attendees to experience some of the KO2s capabilities, the weekend was filled with other seminars, classes, and demos for navigating and surviving off the grid with an overland vehicle.

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Build

Quality Time

Editor’s note: Cody Hall can’t get enough of his 2013 Scion tC. What started out as a lease turned into ownership. Over four years, that ownership has meant a lot of time in the driver’s seat, accumulating a lot of miles.

 




For as long as I can remember, I have loved cars. Whether it was taking apart RC cars to see how they worked, racing video games, or tinkering with my Dad’s Mustang in the garage with him, I feel like it just runs in my blood.

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My tC started as a lease, but as time went on, I fell in love with the car and now own it. The cement color of the car and the aggressive design of the front end is what caught my eye first. I love everything about my tC, but my favorite part has to be the paint color. I've put in countless hours maintaining the paint and keeping it clean and waxed.

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My favorite place to drive my car is Silverado Canyon, CA. I grew up in that area and I know the canyon well. Those roads are fun to drive in any car; there is nothing quite like it.

Over 4 years I've put over 130,000 miles on my tC. My friends think I'm crazy for driving so much, but the thing is I don't drive because I have to, I just genuinely love driving.

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My car is riding on BFGoodrich g-Force Comp-2 A/S tires (size 225/40/18). This is my first set of BFGoodrich tires, and I'm a huge fan. I worked for a wheel and tire shop a few years back, so I've seen my fair share of tires. These Comp-2s are serious business. There is never a lack of traction in any environment, wet or dry, and the aggressive tread pattern and the rubber compound is spot on. I can throw my car into any corner as hard as I want, and these tires are always locked in. I chose these tires because I had heard nothing but good things about them from tire shops and other enthusiasts. Even now that I have worn the tread down halfway, these tires still impress me every day, in every turn.

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I recommend them to my friends and family and will definitely be running these tires from now on. They are just bad ass.

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Adventure

Contest: Calling All Adventurers

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Getting your hands dirty and pushing yourself to the limit has always been central to BFGoodrich Tires. That’s why we challenge you to be #DriverEnough.

But there’s no reason for your adventures to live only in memory. We know bragging rights are part of why you push your vehicles and yourselves, and we’re giving you a chance to do just that at the Garage: brag.

We’re collecting your stories from track days and trail rides to share with the Garage community. We’ll be offering some gear for the users who tell the best stories, including:

  • 1 voucher for a free set of tires for the best story.
  • 1 set of 2 Garage tie-down straps for the next 10 best stories.
  • 5 Garage shops rags and 1 Garage t-shirt OR 1 Garage hat for the next 25 best stories.



To qualify:

  • Sign up for a user account at the Garage.
  • Submit an ADVENTURE story via the online form with a minimum of 300 words and 4 high-resolution photos about an experience, journey, or challenge that involved a vehicle outfitted with BFGoodrich tires.
  • Provide required contact information.



Click here for the full list of prizes, rules, terms,  and conditions. What are you waiting for? Get started! 

 

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Build

Beast Master

Editor’s note: Will Crocitto came upon this stock Jeep Grand Cherokee when he was just sixteen. In the four years since, he’s turned it into a beast.

 




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I got interested in Jeeps when I was sixteen and shopping for my first vehicle. As soon as I got my permit, I started searching for just the right Jeep, and my dad’s friend offered me this Grand Cherokee completely stock. He was going to scrap it and told me I could have it cheap. I jumped at the offer.

After some research I discovered how rare this vehicle is. And I love the fact that I’ve rebuilt it from the ground up: multiple lifts, tires, everything.  It’s my daily driver, but I also love to take it onto the beach here in Long Island. The 33x12.50R15 BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrains look aggressive and have never let me down. Man, I love this Jeep.

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