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Adventure Magazine

Adventure Main | E-mail the Editors | Adventure Customer Service | Subscribe August 2004

Dirt Driver's Ed
Don't try this on the interstate. By Mark Kirby

The unmarked roads, narrow lanes, jagged rocks, and muddy sinkholes of backcountry driving routes require a special skill set.

Brake for climbers. Vehicles traveling uphill have the right of way—it's easier to get started again when driving downhill.

Use your feet. If you can't see over your hood, get out and scout, or have your passenger step out and direct you.

Aim high. When driving irregular roads, steer your tires high. Tracking rubber over the tallest objects will protect your underside from scrapes and bangs.

Be prepared. Bring a shovel, tow straps, an all-terrain spare, tire sealant, a jerry can full of gas, engine oil, a foldable saw, and a basic tool kit (with extra hose clamps and other parts that could rattle off). Pack plenty of water and a ready-to-go backpack for an emergency hike out.

Get a grip. To prevent jerk-induced sprains, keep your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel.

Master route-finding. Detailed topo maps and a GPS unit are must-haves on any long off-road trip. To piece together their border-to-border odyssey, Charles Graeber and Bree Fitzgerald used DeLorme topographical maps, a Garmin GPS V ($375; www.garmin.com), and, most important, charts and GPS coordinates provided by avid dual-sport motorcyclists Jerry Counts and Dave Hutchens. The two bikers have spent more than a decade exploring Western roads to pioneer their all-dirt border-to-border route. Each spring and summer, they lead organized trips for motorcyclists along its length (www.mex2can.com).

• Want to learn more? Check out Bill Burke's 4-Wheeling America Driving School ($345 for a two-day course, vehicle not included; www.bb4wa.com) or Overland Experts ($700 for one day, including vehicle; www.overlandexperts.com).

Additional Excerpts
From the print edition, August 2004

Wild Roads Special: The Best of the Backcountry
- Dirt Driver's Ed: Back-roading tips
Stomping Grounds: The clash of man and elephant in northeast India
The Vanishing World of Lonnie Thompson: How glacial ice cores are unlocking the mysteries of global warming
Pelton's World: Dealing with a medical emergency overseas

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August 2004

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