TEMPTED BY THE 'OTHER WOMEN' - Chief nearly makes a wrong turn following one of his passions

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Charles Meyer
  • AETC Safety Functional Manager
Her classic looks quickly caught my eye. Then, the more I got to know her, my desire grew. Sometimes the "other woman" can be an irresistible temptress. My "mistress"? ... A 1972 Ford Bronco.

Early in my Air Force career, I developed an appreciation and passion for the Ford Bronco produced between 1966 and 1977. The look and power of these little rigs drew my attention, and I knew I had to have one. Over the past 25 years, I have owned three of them. Over the past six years, my 6-year-old son, Noah, and I worked to restore my '72 model. My wife, Stacey, often refers to it as my "other woman"; and although it does occupy a lot of my time, effort and money, she appreciates the fact I have found something to keep me out of trouble.

Well, almost ...

April 29 through May 1, I had the pleasure of attending the Lonestar Early Bronco Club 12th Annual Spring Roundup in Mason, Texas. This three-day event hosted more than 80 early Ford Broncos and nearly 200 people from across the United States. Right off the bat, I noticed there was virtually no alcohol in camp and none allowed on the trail. This impressed me and gave me immediate respect for those who ran the event and the park itself.

The roundup was held for the first time at Katemcy 2, a rock crawler's paradise, sporting some of the most challenging trails a four-wheel fanatic could imagine. We were in heaven as we walked among the fellow Bronco enthusiasts and talked about the various modifications they had done to their rigs.

I tend to think of myself as a manly man; however, my son and I have become quite fond of our Bronco and had no intentions of doing any sort of rock crawling that might dent or scrape her Army green finish. On the first day we fell in line with the other stock Broncos to hit the Level 1 and 2 trails. Our guide, Shane, an attorney from the local area, assured us these trails were designed for folks like us -- those who wished to come back with our rigs in the same shape in which they left.

The ride started out as planned, with an easy run through an old creek bed. Nothing exciting, but fun nonetheless.

Then an hour into the ride, we turned onto a steep trail, and my years as a safety professional and advocate of risk management quickly came into play.

The trail leader, driving a Jeep CJ5 ­-- decked out with 35-inch tires, a four-link suspension and skid plates throughout the undercarriage -- turned up a steep embankment and crawled slowly across some large boulders.

I watched in amazement as the two Broncos in front of me followed.

I initially started to follow too, but that little voice in my head said, "No." Not only that, my 6-year-old piped in, "Dad, if you're going up that, can I get out?"

Funny that even a small child can apply risk management and knows when potential danger exists; yet we, as adults, sometimes have a hard time with this. Luckily, common sense prevailed, and I made the decision to bypass this obstacle. All I could picture was my prized possession tumbling down this rock face with Noah and I caught somewhere in the wreckage. I knew my Bronco was not properly equipped, and we only had three-point seat belts to keep us in place.

Bronco owners can be relentless, and they offered their fair share of banter and "encouragement." But the well-being of my son and I was more important.

Not only that, but as I turned off the trail, several more rigs followed close behind me. I even heard one old man say, "Not in this lifetime."

Over the next few days we did our fair share of climbing -- within our vehicle's limits -- and even managed to inflict some damage to our Bronco. But mostly we watched as others drove up and across rock faces you couldn't even imagine.

Wide-eyed, Noah told me he thought they were all crazy; but the reality was they came prepared for the obstacles they were attempting. I am happy to report no one was injured, and only minor damage occurred to any vehicle. Luckily we had the opportunity to ride with some of the more experienced drivers in vehicles made for this type of stuff. I have a new appreciation for five-point safety harnesses and have them on my list of must-have upgrades.

I can't say I have always applied the common sense factor in my decision making; but as I get older, I've come to realize having fun doesn't have to equate to being reckless. Although I'm sure there are many more rock crawling days in my future, I am confident I will make the right decisions when necessary.

Be safe out there, and we'll see you on the rocks!