Offroading looks boring from the outside, unless you’ve done it. Photo credit: Ron Kroetz, Flickr.
Answer: Watching other people enjoying offroading is as exciting as watching someone else play a video game. In other words, it doesn’t work as a spectator sport.
But once you get behind the wheel, it is a ton of fun. It is the most fun you can have going 5 mph behind the wheel of a car. You can take a good offroading vehicle across boulders, into giant puddles, up curbs, over logs, through ravines, and pretty much anyplace you want to go.
Some people get their kicks going super fast. Other people get a thrill slaloming through orange cones set up for autocross races. Some folks like to slam into other cars a la demolition derbies. I was once one of those people who scratched her head wondering what exactly was the appeal of driving slow over a bunch of rocks.
And then I spent two days at the Land Rover Experience Driving School at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. In less than a half hour, I was in love. The driving was slow. Methodical. Thoughtful. Disorienting. It got my heart racing and made me smile, and I was in love.
The first thing you get is a sense of amazement that you’re heading into the woods, in a car. Well, a truck really. But still. The view from behind the wheel is wild, because your brain knows you really shouldn’t be driving where you are driving. It’s the same kind of thrill you get sneaking into your neighbor’s pool when they’re not home (not that I know what that’s like.) You feel like you’re getting away with something awesome.
How does that not look awesome? Driving a Jeep Wrangler on Chrysler’s proving grounds in Chelsea, Mich. Photo credit: Sharon Carty.
And the view changes radically depending on what you’re doing. Heading up a steep slope or a boulder? Well, it’s pure blue skies filling up your windscreen. Heading down the other side of the slope or boulder? You could be staring straight down at the ground wondering if you’ll slam into the Earth or if you’ll manage to pull this crazy stunt off.
There is a major sense of achievement that comes from successfully pulling off a crazy stunt. You learn the full capabilities of your vehicle. You learn your own capabilities. For me, it was easier to learn about driving dynamics experiencing the world of understeer while navigating a thick slope of mud than it was when I’d felt the same forces when driving a car fast around a racetrack.
Of course, everyone has their own idea of what’s fun. But offroading is one of those things you just can’t judge simply by watching. If you really want to know what the appeal is, find a friend with a Jeep and give it a whirl. You might end up with a new (expensive) hobby.
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