Cognitive Dissonance and Dirt

I wouldnʼt be happy again until I stabled this pony or I accepted my current financial
restrictions and suffered back to the consonance of, and really the gratitude for what
dripped a bit of oil on my driveway.

Weʼve all been there, some more regular than others, that cognitive dissonance that
keeps us akimbo until weʼve reconciled with reality. We do it with suspension and lift
kits, lockers and synthetic winch lines, RTTs and BFGs. And we know what it looks like
when the cognitive dissonance wins; that lifted, powerstroking, mud-crawler with nary a
desert pin stripe.

Itʼs persistent. Itʼs the noise in your head when sheʼs talking during commercial breaks.
Itʼs tucked in the pages of that off-road magazine resting on the toilet tank. Itʼs even
inundated the bookmarks on your browser. Taller, wider, stronger, higher, faster; the
very desires that make us want to gear up germinate more in ego than in that place
where natural germination happens – dirt.

The day will come when my rig is lifted and shod with rubber rivaling a back hoe, and
though Iʼll admit thereʼs a bit of ego to be satisfied in their installation, the more
important reason for the build is the not-so terra firma of Southern Utah.

In our latest traverse of the Grand Staircase, from Escalante to the Romana Mesa
overlooking Lake Powell, we navigated 245 million years of geology from lava fields to
limestone. Thatʼs about 32.9 million years per gallon of fossil fuel. And we did it stock,
save for a plus-one tire size and a set of spacers to push them out to the corners.

Now, itʼs sandstone, mudstone, and basalt. Itʼs gypsum and siltstone and nothing to do
with the idea of stone in the wakes of sand veining their way through the Staircase.
This, at least for us southerners, is the reason for our dissonance, the foundation of our
exploration, the cognitive state of curiosity of what lies ahead of the next mesa.

The consonance for which, the harmony, is found in that relationship between gear and
ground, a synthesis of technology and tectonics. Having explored and perilously
reached the mechanical limits of our rig, this synthesis of mods is prioritized by
clearance, traction and recovery, the focus being on the expedition rather than the

The Mustang doesnʼt matter any more. The page has turned to sunrises and vistas, the
plateaus, cliffs, flats and terraces of the Paunsaugunt, the Skutumpah, the Shinarump,
and the Kaibab. Weʼll see you out there.

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Posted in Southern Utah