Conversations with Big Rich

Madagascar, Egypt, and tech on Episode 83 with Verne Simons

November 04, 2021 Guest Verne Simons Season 2 Episode 83
Conversations with Big Rich
Madagascar, Egypt, and tech on Episode 83 with Verne Simons
Show Notes Transcript

Saharan desert driver to tech editor, the path Verne Simons took along the way. There is science involved in episode 83 of Conversations with Big Rich.

1:52 – we’re all kind of married to this thing called off-road

8:52 – I stayed in a Bedouin tent as kid in the middle of the desert

12:49 – the ladies are in charge (we’re talking about lemurs here!)

19:32 – you don’t get pulled over in the Sahara desert for driving without a license

31:30 – it was like a lightbulb went off!

42:50 – it was sort of the heyday of magazines!

51:46 – we eloped and got married in Moab 

56:47 – I like the sound of tech editor better than senior editor

1:07:41 – I hate to be a total nerd, but I am a total nerd

We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine. 

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


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[00:00:01.090] - Big Rich Klein

Welcome to The Big Rich Show. This podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the four wheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing you may know the name, you may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast. So now is the time to sit back, grab a cold one, and enjoy our conversation.


[00:00:29.570] - Speaker 2

Whether you're crawling the red rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability four wheels or two Maxxis tires are the choice of Champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis Tires deliver. Choose Maxxis, tread Victoriously.


[00:00:56.190] - Big Rich Klein

Why should you read 4low magazine? Because 4Low magazine is about your lifestyle, the four wheel drive adventure lifestyle that we all enjoy, rock crawling, trail riding, event coverage, vehicle build and do-it-yourself tech, all in a beautifully presented package. You won't find 4Low on the newsstand rack. So subscribe today and have it delivered to you.


[00:01:20.430] - Big Rich Klein

On today's episode of Conversations With Big Rich. We have Verne Simons. Verne is well, he's been in the magazine industry for a little over 20 years. Verne will be the first guest on the show that I have not known or had lengthy conversations with beforehand.


[00:01:41.130] - Big Rich Klein

We just talked a little bit about five minutes or so here on the phone before we got started with the interview. But, Verne, thank you for coming on board and sharing your life history with us.


[00:01:52.710] - Verne Simons

Yeah. Thank you. I'm very honored to be able to come on here. I feel like I kind of invited myself on, but hopefully I have some listening to your podcast. There's a lot of parallels between my life and a lot of things that are very different with a lot of the other people that you've talked to. And I just find it fascinating to get to hear people's back stories just because we're all kind of married as it were through this love of going off road. But we all have different experiences, and it's really fun and interesting to learn about different people, including yourself, which I don't know.


[00:02:33.450] - Verne Simons

Like we said before, we've both been in this about, well, we've both been four wheeling longer than we've been in the industry, but we both been in it for about 20 years, and somehow we've missed each other. And that happens every now and again. Like, I think, a few years ago, I met Eric Filar for the first time, and I was with my buddy Trent McGee, and we were like, Man, how is it that we didn't know this guy? It's just bizarre. He's one of those guys that once you meet him


[00:03:07.650] - Big Rich Klein

It's almost like an STD it's really hard to get rid of once you've met Eric.


[00:03:15.150] - Verne Simons

That's fairly accurate


[00:03:18.070] - Big Rich Klein

But he'll enjoy that reference.


[00:03:20.290] - Verne Simons

Yes, he will.


[00:03:22.210] - Big Rich Klein

So let's jump right into the meat and potatoes of it. I know that you have listed that Durham, North Carolina, was home. Is that where you were born as well?


[00:03:32.770] - Verne Simons

Well. So I was actually born in New Haven, Connecticut.


[00:03:36.310] - Big Rich Klein

Well, that's a little ways away from Durham.


[00:03:38.470] - Verne Simons

Yeah. So my back story is very tied in with my parents and who they were. They were both academics. My mom's a biologist and my dad is an anthropologist or a paleontologist. So anthropologists are the people that study humans and paleontologists are the people that study fossil animals, extinct animals. Right. So they're both academics. I kind of like to poke fun on myself and say, I'm the black sheep of the family. We're very accomplished in academia. I did okay in school, and I have some accolades or some higher degrees, but nothing quite like they do.


[00:04:26.750] - Verne Simons

They both made careers out of science, and it was a really interesting it was really interesting to grow up with them as my parents, they were good parents, great parents. But just all the things that I got to do are really unique. And honestly, I was kind of excited to come on here and talk about that because I don't think a lot of people have heard some of the crazy stories that are part of my life, which even I don't believe sometimes let's go right into that.


[00:04:59.390] - Big Rich Klein

When you said that your parents were in the Sciences, biological anthropology and paleontology, that made me understand better your background, where your schooling is at and what you did because I was going to go, how did you get from biological anthropology at Duke to being a writer for the Enthusiast Network or whatever the myriad of names that have owned the companies.


[00:05:34.230] - Verne Simons

Yeah. Well, now we're Motor Trend, which I think people are, like, excited to hear that. But they're also confused because I don't work for Motor Trend magazine, but I work for Four Wheeler Magazine, right. But yeah, I guess we're getting kind of out of sequence, but that's okay. So my dad worked at Yale, which is in New Haven, Connecticut, and that's where I was born. And pretty shortly I was born in 1976 and in 1977, he got a job at Duke University, which is in Durham, North Carolina, which is almost the geometric center of North Carolina, or real close to it.


[00:06:17.490] - Verne Simons

And it's a great place to grow up. And when people ask me where I'm from, I say I'm from North Carolina because I have no memory of that first year. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Me neither. I feel like I'm Southern. When I talk to my friends that I grew up, I get a little bit of a Southern drawl. I've lived all over the place, so it's sort of gone away. But I think there's maybe some of it still at all times. But who knows?


[00:06:51.190] - Big Rich Klein

Everybody picks it up occasionally with certain phrases or words. You'll go back into that accent that you heard all the time as you were growing up. I like to say that the sweeter the tea, the deeper the accent and slower the speech pattern.


[00:07:12.010] - Verne Simons

That's right.


[00:07:12.910] - Big Rich Klein

And it all has to do with the humidity in where you grew up.


[00:07:16.090] - Verne Simons

That's right. Yeah. I like sweet tea. I don't drink it much anymore just because I don't need the calories. But usually when I get talking to my buddies from high school or whatever, I'll come back and my wife's, like, who are you talking to? What do you mean, talking to my buddy Nelson from North Carolina. I'm laying it on a bit thick, but I don't know, I like being from the south. So I grew up in Durham, which was a great place to grow up. And I grew up in this kind of weird family with my parents were really social, and my dad was a very amazing guy.


[00:08:06.650] - Verne Simons

He had lots of students, and there were constantly students around, and he liked parties. So there were constantly parties. It was just a really interesting place to grow up. And then he was constantly traveling. He did field work in Wyoming, and he dragged us along to Wyoming a bunch of times. And then he also had established a field program in Egypt, in the Sahara, in Northern Egypt, not too far from where the pyramids are. And he'd been working out there, I believe, since the 60s, collecting fossils out there.


[00:08:52.110] - Verne Simons

So he dragged us along to and I say drug like, we didn't want to go, but we went willingly. The whole family went out to this field locality, which was in the Sahara Desert. And so I stayed in a Bedouin tent as a kid in the middle of the desert. And during the day we'd go and look for fossils. And I'm thinking, you can probably imagine that that involved four wheeling, even though that was not the main reason to be out there. Right.


[00:09:24.930] - Big Rich Klein

Toyotas and Land Rovers.


[00:09:27.150] - Verne Simons

Yeah. There was one Toyota FJ 55 that he had actually bought in the States and shipped over to Egypt. And then there were a couple of FJ 45. So the pickup trucks, right. And those I love those trucks. But, I mean, they're pretty rare in the US. Otherwise, I'd probably own a passel of them. But, yeah, it was sort of a charmed and amazing childhood because I got the I mean, I think I was eight years old the first time I was in Egypt nice. And like I said, we were staying in a tent in the desert, and it was sort of surreal to think about.


[00:10:16.150] - Verne Simons

It's not something that a lot of other people have experienced. And we did it for usually about a month at a time. He was over there sometimes for two months, but usually or when we went, we weren't there quite that long. I mean, it was kind of tough. You get really dirty. And my mom wasn't ecstatic about not getting to bath for multiple weeks at the time as an eight year old or a nine year old, I'm pretty sure I didn't care.


[00:10:47.530] - Big Rich Klein

I would imagine not. But it prepped you for life now on the trail.


[00:10:52.390] - Verne Simons

That's right. Yeah. People are like, you know, about camping, and it's like, yeah, I got that. I got it. And he also did field work in Madagascar. So Madagascar is a really interesting island. Biologically. It's fascinating. We all know it well, most Americans know it because of the movie Madagascar and all those cute little animals. And there are a bunch of cute little animals, but they're all relatively fascinating from a scientific standpoint. So he was doing field work in Madagascar, and we went there as a family the first time.


[00:11:35.770] - Verne Simons

And then subsequent to that, I went back with him throughout high school and even into College. I would go with him and do field work in Madagascar and in Egypt. But I was in Madagascar, probably more. And Madagascar was like it was like living the Safari life, like we drive around the island, which is about 1000 miles long and 500 miles across. So it's a huge island, and it has all of these really interesting micro environments. I think it was through his job at Duke that he kind of got started going to Madagascar, but he worked at what was at the time called the Duke Primate Center, which is now called the Lemur Center, which is one of the largest collections of living lemurs outside of Madagascar.


[00:12:37.610] - Verne Simons

And it's there in the pine forest of Durham, North Carolina.


[00:12:45.410] - Big Rich Klein

I got to ask this question, do lemurs dance and do all that kind of stuff.


[00:12:49.430] - Verne Simons

Like, show the movie? No, they don't. Sadly, lemurs are pretty lovable. They're cute. They're not terribly smart. I don't mean that as like, I love them dearly, but they're just kind of happy to sit up in trees and eat fruit. Occasionally they get into squabbles. They're kind of funny socially because almost all species of lemurs are female dominant. So the ladies are in charge, and the ladies let the boys know and they've gotten out of line. If one of the males does something wrong, the ladies will kind of give them a backhand and give them a whack in the face.


[00:13:38.930] - Verne Simons

And they're like, they have to sit in the corner and look sad for a little while.


[00:13:42.410] - Big Rich Klein

So it is kind of like being married in America.


[00:13:47.390] - Verne Simons

It could be. Yeah. Well, happy wife. Happy life is. Yes. Exactly.


[00:13:54.390] - Big Rich Klein

And people I joke.


[00:13:55.650] - Verne Simons

Okay. Yes. I haven't gotten back handed, but I have gotten some pretty dirty looks for my wife.


[00:14:04.830] - Big Rich Klein

We all have gone through those phases.


[00:14:06.990] - Verne Simons

Trust me, it's a totally charmed life. I can't express how bizarre it was at times and scary and fun. But then when I was back in North Carolina, at least part of the time, I was at this Lemur Center primate center. And so it was kind of like growing up at a Zoo. There were animals all over the place. And if one of them was sick or if one of them had a baby and then sometimes the lemurs will have a baby and just don't want, like, if it's the first time mother, they don't know what to do.


[00:14:43.950] - Verne Simons

They don't want to have anything to do with the baby. And then, unfortunately, you have to hand raise them, which isn't necessarily good for any of the animals. But it's kind of fun if you get to hold this really cute little critter and pet it and feed it, hopefully not ruin its life.


[00:15:05.290] - Big Rich Klein

So hanging out in the primate center got you ready for your life and media.


[00:15:12.550] - Verne Simons

It may have. I never thought about that, but yeah, it prepared me for talking or interacting with lots of other primates, if you will. Awesome. So like I said, as I hinted at, this was all filled with driving around, and the roads in Madagascar got awful as a rule. And there aren't a lot of roads in the Northern Sahara. So we were constantly going four wheeling. And as I may have hinted that my dad wasn't really. I think he liked four wheeling, but that, of course, was not the reason he was doing any of this, and he was surprisingly Unmechanical.


[00:15:56.470] - Verne Simons

I don't even know if he could tell the difference between a Jeep and like, a Toyota FJ 40. He'd just be like, it's a field vehicle. That's what it was to him. Right. And he could drive. He needed to know how to drive. My mom is German. She has a whole other list of fascinating stories. She was a very young child at the tail end of World War Two and has some pretty crazy stories, but she's much more mechanical. I don't know whether it's because she's because of that innate Germaness or whatever.


[00:16:40.290] - Verne Simons

So I was always fascinated and obsessed with cars and off road cars, mostly even as a kid. And I think she kind of was like, yeah, this is fun. Well, she lived a life in Europe before she came to the US, and she had, like, Vespas and the little scooter Vespas. Right. And she had lots of stories about an Austin Healey Sprite. I guess it's a little British sports car that she ran around Switzerland in this thing and had all kinds of adventures. So it was kind of funny because my mom was the more mechanical individual in the family and kind of helped me when I started showing this interest in mechanics.


[00:17:39.470] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome. So mom had the toolbox.


[00:17:42.770] - Verne Simons

Yeah. She was definitely more mechanically inclined, and she really enjoyed driving. So when I was learning how to drive, she made sure that myself and my sister knew how to drive manual transmissions. And she taught me how to double clutch when I'm down shifting. And there was definitely much more of a focus on things that are mechanical, which I was naturally drawn to, for whatever reason. I mean, my dad and I are very similar in many ways, but that was one thing that was very different. He was totally obsessed with all kinds of animals and knew all kinds of things about animals.


[00:18:27.830] - Verne Simons

There's pictures of me when I could barely talk, and all I had was a Tonka truck in my hand. And I was just always obsessed with trucks and cars. So like I said, we got to go four wheeling, and when something went wrong, if something broke, I was always there with my head under the hood or underneath the car, trying to figure out what was going on alongside of the other people that were there that knew a bit more about mechanical things that my dad did.


[00:19:04.410] - Verne Simons

And later on in that I would fix the cars. I think one morning we were in Egypt when I was probably in my teens, and those FJ four or five wouldn't start, and I don't even know what I did, but I got them started somehow and kind of saved the day because otherwise we're just all stuck in camp.


[00:19:30.750] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome.


[00:19:32.130] - Verne Simons

So I don't know. It kind of was symbiotic because he knew what we were doing out there, and I was doing what I could to help make things work and doing as much driving as I could, even when I was maybe not licensed to be driving. But, hey, you don't get pulled over in the Sahara Desert for driving. You don't see anybody if the guy's got his lights on and he's chasing you down.


[00:20:00.090] - Big Rich Klein

You know, for a long ways.


[00:20:04.750] - Verne Simons

Yeah. I think only one time we were out there and we came around like a Bluff, and this guy popped out and it was like, Whoa, where did this guy come from? And there were people who would go out there and catch Falcons for falconry. Okay. I don't know that's big in that sort of Middle Eastern community, I guess, but, yeah, it was fascinating to get to grow up and get to see all these places and get to see how different people lived and extreme poverty. And it always reminded me how lucky.


[00:20:42.430] - Verne Simons

Even though Americans like to complain about things, we're all incredibly lucky to be where we're at True. And I think that was very humbling as a kid and kind of helped make me, I don't know, more understanding towards people in all walks of life. My dad was also big into that. I mean, I think he would talk and listen to anybody who would talk to him, and he knew that you can learn things from anyone, even if you're completely uneducated. There's probably something that, you know better than almost anybody else on Earth.


[00:21:22.270] - Verne Simons



[00:21:23.110] - Big Rich Klein

Very true. Is that why you went to College for the things that you did then?


[00:21:29.650] - Verne Simons

Well, I was a lost soul. I didn't know what to do with myself.


[00:21:36.710] - Big Rich Klein

I know that feeling.


[00:21:38.270] - Verne Simons

It's kind of funny because it's like I ended up working at a car magazine, and when I applied for my first job doing that, I was like, oh, yeah. This is totally obvious. Why didn't I think of it? Well, I didn't think of it until after I went through four years of College. Like, not knowing what to do with myself, right? I would say I was kind of an unguided missile, I guess, is what I like to say. I don't know that I'm dangerous, like a missile, but I kind of like the analogy.


[00:22:09.590] - Verne Simons

I just didn't know what to do with myself. So I was like, maybe I should do what my dad does or what my mom does. But I was also really social and kind of lazy, so I didn't really want to work too terribly hard at school. Right.


[00:22:33.390] - Big Rich Klein

We do a magazine. That's not necessarily the case.


[00:22:36.930] - Verne Simons

No. When your priorities change, your life changes. I found, too, but definitely when I was in College, I was probably a little bit people age at different rates, and I was more immature than a lot of the other kids that were there. I don't think I totally wasted it. I did really well in high school, and I was admitted to Duke, so that's not an easy task. Duke is a hard school to get into, and I struggled, especially the first year, just kind of because I came from a public school in North Carolina to Duke.


[00:23:22.290] - Verne Simons

I really had to turn it up in order to do well. In the first couple of years, I struggled, but I think once I'd kind of gotten some of the social, I don't know, activities out of the way, I was able to focus more on school work, and so I did better in my last two years at Duke than I did in my first two years, for sure. But the whole time, I didn't know what to do with what I was doing. I was studying anthropology.


[00:23:53.910] - Verne Simons

I took some geology classes that were really fascinating. I actually decided when I was a second semester junior that I would minor in geology. And I think if I would have found geology a bit earlier, I probably would have done more with that. My roommate was a mechanical engineer, and I was fascinated by what he was doing. But like I said, I was just kind of lazy. I didn't want to force myself to do all that math that I knew was necessary to do mechanical engineering.


[00:24:29.470] - Verne Simons

So I don't know, I'm certainly not perfect. And I certainly wasn't back then, but I had a lot of fun.


[00:24:38.950] - Big Rich Klein

That'S important training for the future.


[00:24:41.590] - Verne Simons

Yeah. I definitely learned a lot.


[00:24:43.570] - Big Rich Klein

Especially in the magazine industry.


[00:24:46.510] - Verne Simons

Yeah, definitely. After College, I was still sort of lost. I actually worked for about I think it was six or eight months. I went back to Madagascar and worked in a National Park in Madagascar as sort of a glorified tour guide. And I lived in a tent that pretty much the whole time. And that was a lot of fun, too. And like I was running around in the rainforest in Madagascar, helping people find lemurs and other animals. I love animals. I love offroading, too. But I don't do it because I want to go out and destroy stuff.


[00:25:33.850] - Verne Simons

I go out and I want to go out and see things. I want to go see places that I wouldn't want to walk to or can't hike to. And I'm always enamored when I see some sort of animal out on the trail. But that was another really fun experience. It didn't pay very well. I think it was basically just paid enough so that I didn't lose money. But I didn't really make any money while doing that job. But like I said, it was fun. I'm selfish and want to do things that I enjoy.


[00:26:13.270] - Verne Simons



[00:26:13.510] - Big Rich Klein

Madagascar does not have any large predators.


[00:26:18.070] - Verne Simons

Correct. Yes. That is correct. That's very good.


[00:26:22.390] - Big Rich Klein

You're in a tent. You're safe.


[00:26:25.510] - Verne Simons

Yeah. You're pretty safe. The biggest carnivores there are probably the size of a house, not a large dog, like a medium sized dog, I should say. And they are also fascinating animals. They're called the Fusa, or the cryptoproctoperox is their scientific name, right? Yeah. That could have changed in the past 25 years, but they're pretty amazing animals. They kind of look like a cross between a cat and a dog. They're kind of like a little Panther. And they'll run right up a tree and snatch a lemur out of the tree and be quite happy eating a lemur.


[00:27:14.490] - Verne Simons

Yeah. So lemurs don't have a lot to worry about other than the foosa. And yes, as a kid from North Carolina in a tent, it's not all that dangerous. There are no venomous snakes that are known to science. I know a few people like, I know one person that I worked with subsequently who was bitten by something at her tent, like some carnivore, ran up and bit her finger as she was zipping up the tent and she had to get rabies shots. But that was sort of just mostly precautionary.


[00:27:58.570] - Verne Simons

Interesting. There are crocodiles in Madagascar, but they're not too many of them. So usually the most dangerous thing in Madagascar is riding in a car down the road and other people and because the roads are so bad and other people, right. Yeah. Other people are the ones that are dangerous. Typically, none of the animals are. Yeah.


[00:28:25.790] - Big Rich Klein



[00:28:28.250] - Verne Simons



[00:28:29.510] - Big Rich Klein

I asked that because my wife went to.


[00:28:37.670] - Verne Simons

Zambia. Yeah.


[00:28:38.390] - Big Rich Klein

Zambia and a couple of other countries and did a Safari type thing for a couple of three weeks.


[00:28:46.970] - Verne Simons



[00:28:49.970] - Big Rich Klein

One of the people that she was with was so deathly afraid because they were sleeping in tents that something was going to come in the tent and eat her. So she had a flashlight with her the whole time. And she would turn that flashlight on any noise at all. And I probably didn't sleep much while she was in the tent, right?


[00:29:09.050] - Verne Simons

Yeah. My mom had some stories like that. She did some field work in Kenya. I think it was. And she had a story that one of the first nights she was there, she was in a tent, and a lion came along. A male lion who was calling came along and kind of laid down right next to her tent. And the lion's body kind of pushed down the side of the tent that she was in. And so there's this, whatever they weigh, six or 700 LB hungry Carnival outside, making some God awful noises in the middle of the night.


[00:29:43.910] - Verne Simons

But for whatever reason, if you're in a tent, a lion doesn't realize that you're edible, so they don't mess with unless you stand at the door and start throwing rocks out or something. Yeah.


[00:29:56.150] - Big Rich Klein

I would be as quiet as possible and probably under the cot or bed or whatever, right?


[00:30:01.610] - Verne Simons



[00:30:02.330] - Big Rich Klein

Figure out to get as small as possible.


[00:30:04.670] - Verne Simons

Soiling myself under the cot. Yeah. So then that was kind of in 98 99. I think I was in Madagascar as a glorified tour guide, and it was great. It was a good time, no complaints at all. Not much. Four wheeling, because I didn't have any wheels to get around, but that's okay.


[00:30:32.670] - Big Rich Klein

So you go from Madagascar in the late 90s and then you get started in the magazine industry around 2000. So there's not a whole lot of gap between those. How did that transaction work?


[00:30:49.650] - Verne Simons

I came back from Madagascar, and I must have been in, like, the tail end of 99, and I moved back in with my parents because I didn't know what I was doing. I was in pathetic lost soul living in the basement. Right. And I'd always been obsessed with offroading and mostly looking at magazines. I spent a lot of time looking at all of the magazines. There was JP was one of them for sure. Peterson's, four wheel and off road. What was it? Four wheel drive and sport utility off road, four Wheeler.


[00:31:30.990] - Verne Simons

Of course, I had all of those. And we didn't have the Internet. So when I wasn't doing school or something, I'd be sitting around and looking at magazines. And finally, right after that trip, I picked one up, and I think it was an editorial by I think it was Cole Quinnell, and it said, So you think you want a job. And it was like if you're comfortable eating gas station food and sleeping on the hood of a car in the desert, and it was like a light bulb just absolutely exploded in my head.


[00:32:13.870] - Verne Simons

And I was like, this is a career like you could do that, and they'll pay you. And I don't think I'm probably not much smarter than average, but I don't think I'm really that dumb. But for whatever reason, I just never even thought that that wasn't something that could be an option before that. So I responded to that editorial with I sent in a resume of some sort. I don't even remember what it was, and I didn't hear anything for a little while. And then I think it might have been Rick Pewe called me, and I was totally blown away because, of course, I knew who Rick Pewe was.


[00:32:58.690] - Verne Simons

Like, I knew who Rick Pewe was. And Tory tell him. Although I have to admit that I didn't realize that Tory tell him was a lady until I met her. I thought it was a guy named Tory, but I'd heard the name Trent McGee and John Kappa and Christian Hazel and Cole Quenel, of course. And David Fryberger. And these are all names that I'd recognize from bylines. And I remember talking to Rick and just being like, kind of starstruck and not really knowing what was going on.


[00:33:34.190] - Big Rich Klein

Well, being an anthropologist, he probably wanted you to do some background on him.


[00:33:41.270] - Verne Simons

Yeah. Sorry. Rick. Rick and I have a lot of parallels because his dad was a geologist, and he spent a lot of time doing field work with his dad, I think growing up. And so he and I have a lot of parallels like that. My dad was a geologist and a biologist as much as anything. So I don't know, we hit it off over the phone and he was like, I need you to send in some pictures or some photography and writing sample. And I was like, okay, so I think at the time I had clearly, I kind of came from a Toyota family, mostly just because we've been doing stuff overseas, and I hate to say it Jeep people, but Toyota's are global, and there aren't a whole lot of Jeeps running around in Africa, and that's probably just because they weren't shipped there.


[00:34:35.310] - Verne Simons

But just the way it is, I actually owned a Jeep at the time. I had a. 97 Cherokee, and so I just took it out and flexed it out and took some pictures of it. And I don't know what. I wrote some kind of fake feature on it or something. I mean, there was nothing to write about on that car, but that's all I had sort of at hand. So it was a pretty good example for me in my brain. That's what Rick told me to do.


[00:35:08.770] - Verne Simons

I don't remember exactly how it works. And then I didn't hear from them. It was like, three weeks, and I was like, Well, that was kind of cool. I got to talk to Rick Pewe, and it was interesting. What the hell should I do with myself? I just figured it didn't pan out. I wasn't one of the people that they wanted to continue with. And then I get a call. I went with my parents out to Wyoming, which is as I mentioned earlier, that was another place that we did field work.


[00:35:42.170] - Verne Simons

Right. So Wyoming has always been very has a big place in my heart. I should say Wyoming in the summertime because I've never really been there in the dead of winter. And I hear it's awful well.


[00:35:54.950] - Big Rich Klein

You know, Wyoming is Native American, for the window always blows.


[00:36:02.810] - Verne Simons

I could believe that. So I was out there. There was sort of a 4 July celebration that some paleontologists, if you're a paleontologist and you've done fieldwork in Wyoming, you've been to this 4 July celebration. It's at the farm. It's called the Churchill Farm. Some people who lived in one of the valleys or the Valley where Powell, Wyoming, which probably nobody knows where Powell is for a couple of hundred years. And somehow they got intertwined with paleontologists and have a 4 July party that a bunch of paleontologists show up to every year.


[00:36:44.610] - Verne Simons

So I think we've gone out there for that. And of course, we did some four wheeling. My dad was always good at kind of taking the road less traveled. I can't recreate it, but we had a rental car that we picked up in Denver and drove on back roads through part of Colorado and into Wyoming and then other back roads across Wyoming. He always liked to take the two track or the back road, as opposed to the highway, if possible, unless we had to be somewhere in a hurry, of course.


[00:37:20.550] - Verne Simons

Yeah. But he knew that area, like the back of his hand. Like I said, I wish I could recreate some of those because there would be equivalent to over landing nowadays. I guess we didn't camp out necessarily because we'd flown in, but we ended it in towns where we could stay in a hotel. But there's definitely lots of backcountry work and more exploration, which was one of the things that he and I definitely shared. We would get four wheel fever where you want to see what's around the Next corner and not be able to stop.


[00:37:58.770] - Verne Simons

So when I came back from Wyoming from that trip and I think there was a letter or something like that, or I got a phone call and they were like, we want you to come out for an interview. I was like, oh, great. I'd never been to Los Angeles. I got on a plane, stayed in some funny little hotel relatively close to the Wilshire Boulevard offices, which is where that company with EMAP USA. I think it had just changed from being Peterson Publishing.


[00:38:33.270] - Big Rich Klein



[00:38:34.950] - Verne Simons

Yes. I don't know what oh, EMAP was a British company that had come in and bought it or bought part of it or something like that. And I don't remember what EMAP stands for. I probably should. But the interview was great. I felt like it was like I interviewed with Cole Quenel, I believe, and Rick Pewe and John Kappa, and it was like hanging out with friends I don't know. It just felt great. It wasn't scary or awkward or weird, much like you would fear an interview to be when you're whatever.


[00:39:19.890] - Verne Simons

I was 23 or 22 or whatever. Right. Like I said, that went really well, moved back to North Carolina again. A week went by, and I was like, Well, I guess it didn't pan out. And that's apparently the story of my life. I apparently didn't have the wherewithal to call and tester them. And then all of a sudden I got a call from HR and it was like, Can you be here? I think they wanted me to start, like, the next week, and I was like, no, I can't do that.


[00:39:57.090] - Verne Simons

I live in North Carolina. The commute is a bit of a bitch. Yeah.


[00:40:02.490] - Big Rich Klein

I'm going to need an extra day so I can pack and then drive there.


[00:40:06.990] - Verne Simons

Yeah. Right. And I'm pretty sure you can't drive from North Carolina to Los Angeles and under, like, what, three days if you're really pushing it. Yeah. So I was all in and I loaded up that same Cherokee, and I had a dog at the time. He was my dog. And so he was coming with me. And I think my mom rode with me to kind of help share the driving duties and help me get settled. When I got out there. And the next two years, I lived in Westchester, which is what near it's between Culver City and is it Huntington Beach?


[00:40:51.690] - Verne Simons

Now? I've forgotten it's been a while since I've been there. Forgive me. It's relatively close to where the main office is now in El Segundo, and it was a cute little neighborhood at the time, but the Vern doesn't really get along with Los Angeles terribly. Well, I felt really claustrophobic in there. I'm a really social guy, but I don't really like bars and like nightclubs and stuff like that, right? That's not really my scene. So I was kind of socially. I just didn't do much when I lived in Los Angeles, and I think that probably was part of its doom for me.


[00:41:39.390] - Verne Simons

I worked at JP magazine. I started at JP at that time. Rick had moved over from JP to be the editor of Peterson's Four on off Road, and they had interviewed and chosen three people. One of them was myself. And then the other one was David Kennedy, who I think you may have heard of. He then later went on to be the editor of Diesel Power and kind of created that book. He's a fascinating guy, too. And then a Gal from I think she was from Salt Lake City.


[00:42:13.230] - Verne Simons

She's from Utah, whose name is Wendy Fraser, who worked for Peterson's for a couple of years. But we all got hired within, like, a few days of each other. David Kennedy started first. He got an office, and he started, like, on a Friday, and I started the next Monday, and I got a cubicle. And I remember that was always something that he was like, he's a good guy. He's a good friend of mine. I was just talking to him the other day, but it was like, I'll be in my office and I was like, oh, well, I'll be in my cubicle.


[00:42:50.750] - Verne Simons

Damn it. He somehow got there faster than I did. It was a lot of fun. It was sort of the heyday of one of the times that could be seen as the heyday of magazines. We had budget. There were lots of things going on there. We rock crawling events there. We rock crawling competitions, I should say. And there were lots of enthusiast events that we would go to. And we did new vehicle testing, which was great. And I learned a lot. The first article that I wrote was a feature on a CJ three bayhood Willys.


[00:43:41.710] - Verne Simons

They're from the 50s. And John Kappa had shot the feature, and he gave me the text sheet and the pictures, and I wrote it. And I don't know, I was just kind of like, I was a pig and a pig. Then I was having a great time other than the sort of lack of social life. And I don't know, Los Angeles is kind of a difficult place to live. If you're not, like, the next time Cruise or think you're going to be the next time, Cruz.


[00:44:16.030] - Verne Simons

I don't know if that's hard to explain, but I kind of think that's the truth. Like, I had no plans, no interest in becoming the next Tom Cruise. I wanted to play with Jeeps trucks. Yeah.


[00:44:30.610] - Big Rich Klein

I get it.


[00:44:31.990] - Verne Simons

And, like, the one or two times that I went to a nightclub or something, I got turned away at the door because I wasn't dressed well enough. And I was like, I got cash in my pocket, my money's green, but I wasn't fancy enough for the scene or whatever. I don't need that in my life.


[00:44:54.310] - Big Rich Klein

Heck, I got treated that way in Moab one time.


[00:44:57.850] - Verne Simons

Really? Yeah.


[00:44:58.870] - Big Rich Klein

The Moab Bistro. It's on the street behind Zach. My wife and I. We got off the trail. I don't remember where we were at, but we thought, Well, let's go in here. We've never eaten there. And there's only, like, two or three cars in the parking lot. So we pulled in, walked in, and as the lady walks up to us, she's sizing us up, and I look and there's like, nobody in the place. I can see two tables that have two people either.


[00:45:30.610] - Verne Simons

Oh, my.


[00:45:32.950] - Big Rich Klein

It's going to be an hour and a half when she goes, do you have a reservations? And I'm like, no, I need one. And I was like, okay, well, guess what?


[00:45:44.230] - Verne Simons

I suddenly don't want to eat here.


[00:45:47.050] - Big Rich Klein

Thank you for making that choice for us, because you're going to lose all of my friends now because I'm going to let everybody know.


[00:45:55.030] - Verne Simons

Yeah, let's talk about it on a podcast.


[00:45:57.550] - Big Rich Klein

I probably had more time. That's pretty pocket than she made all year.


[00:46:03.430] - Verne Simons

Well, that's where I was at. Like I said, I was living by myself and I wasn't rich, but I had plenty of money, but I apparently didn't have the right collared shirt on or something.


[00:46:14.350] - Big Rich Klein

The right logo on the pocket.


[00:46:16.510] - Verne Simons

Right. It was not something that I was interested in participating in. So I was in Los Angeles for two years, and I think it was Cole Quenelle, and he was like, at some point, the sort of Los Angeles rat race lifestyle is probably going to get to you. And he said, when it's not funny anymore, it's probably time to leave. And that was about two years. That's about what it took. And I feel like I was working for John Tapper, and John is a friend of mine.


[00:46:52.090] - Verne Simons

He wasn't always the easiest person to work for, but he taught me a lot, and it was all positive. And at one point afterwards, he was like, you left because of me, didn't you? And I was like, no, it really didn't have anything to do with him. It wasn't necessarily the job. It was trying to do the job from Los Angeles, which I still don't really understand how they think that's going to work. It's just such an expensive place. And if you need to go out and test off road tires, you got to drive 2 hours.


[00:47:30.590] - Verne Simons

And then, of course, you're in the fall hall of off road, but still right. It's a lot of work now. I live next to the desert. If I need a picture 15 minutes from now, I can make it happen.


[00:47:49.370] - Big Rich Klein

I think that a lot of people, especially after the last year and a half, that you don't need. Everybody's learned that you don't need to be in an office.


[00:48:00.830] - Verne Simons



[00:48:02.330] - Big Rich Klein

Unless you're doing retail sales, you don't need to be in a building.


[00:48:08.510] - Verne Simons

Yeah, definitely. I feel like the editorial jobs have been portable for a long time. I've been doing this remotely for most of my career, but at the time, I was just ready to get out of Los Angeles.


[00:48:27.950] - Big Rich Klein

See, I would have told Kappa. Yeah, you're the reason.


[00:48:31.250] - Verne Simons

Well, I'll do that to him. He probably won't listen to the podcast, so I'll do that to him. They also didn't give me a pay raise, which is really not relevant other than the fact that I kind of use it as like I was trying to use it as a leverage. I was like, you guys need to pay me more or I'm leaving. And they said, oh, here's a bonus. We'll give you a bonus this year. It's like a bonus. And like I said, I didn't always make the world's best decisions, but I knew that a bonus that I wasn't necessarily getting it next year.


[00:49:10.710] - Verne Simons

And so I said, no, thank you. And I went back to school. I went back to North Carolina, and tried to get myself into a graduate program again, thinking maybe I would become an academic. And I got connected with some people who are doing paleontological field work in Tanzania. And I've done field work with them in Madagascar and in Egypt on one of my dad's expeditions. So I was always pretty good at finding fossils and relatively good at identifying what they were. And it's like what I was Ray is doing.


[00:49:59.970] - Verne Simons

We didn't go to Disney World. We went out to Wyoming and collected fossils, so it was just sort of second nature. Well, in hindsight, yes. At the time, I wanted to go to Disneyland.


[00:50:14.310] - Big Rich Klein

But Mickey.


[00:50:16.890] - Verne Simons

Right. So I went back to school and I got into the graduate program at Ohio University. And I was doing fieldwork in the summers in Tanzania. Like I said, which was a lot of fun. I met my wife in graduate school. She's amazing. She's beautiful, and she's a wonderful person. And she now tolerates my behavior in the magazine world, which is, well, I'll just put it this way. She makes a lot more money than I do. And she allows me to do this job instead of insisting that I go get a real job.


[00:51:00.210] - Big Rich Klein

You're in the magazine industry. I think everybody knows that.


[00:51:05.910] - Verne Simons

Right. So I got the sugar Mama out of the deal. And I found out that I didn't want to get a PhD. I was in a biology program, and I just kind of was like, yeah, I don't love this enough to put myself through this. It was a program where I started out in the master's program and kind of decided that I would try to transition into the PhD program and then kind of was like, yeah, no, I'm going to take the master's degree and go move on to whatever's next.


[00:51:46.530] - Verne Simons

Well, my wife, who we met, like said, in graduate school there I was there for it was between 2003. That was 2003 to I guess I left there in 2008. Okay. I was in school for about three years, three or four years, and she was in a PhD program. So she needed to be there for four years. So the last year that I was there, we'd already gotten married. We actually decided to Elope. Her sister had gotten married, and we just went to a very small wedding with her sister and all of her family.


[00:52:33.430] - Verne Simons

And it was very small, like I said. But it was still stressful enough that we were like, We're just going to Elope. We don't need to do anything like this. We wanted to go somewhere out west, some sort of little mountain town.


[00:52:49.270] - Big Rich Klein

You took her to Wyoming, right?


[00:52:51.430] - Verne Simons

You know what? She was looking around. And she was like, there's this place in Colorado, and it's like a ghost town, and it's like, the houses have been fixed up and you can stay in one of the houses. And then she was like, oh, and then there's this Moab place and you've talked about Moab. You've been to Moab, right? And I was like, oh, yeah. Let's go to Moab. Yeah. Let's go get married in Moab. We got on a plane and flew to I think we flew right into Moab, and we were a graduate student, so we didn't have much money.


[00:53:21.970] - Verne Simons

So I don't know how we afforded that. And it was December, and we stayed at the Sorrel River Ranch, which was inexpensive because it's off season. And we went into town and we got one of the photographers from I think it was called Action Shots. Okay. They're like, the guys that are taking pictures of you and you're out there in your Jeep on the trail. Right. And I was just like, yeah, we just want to have some pictures. We just loped here and you're going to get dressed up and you take some pictures of us and they're like, okay, $200.


[00:53:54.050] - Verne Simons

And you're like, okay, great. So we got, like, one of the guys that is used to doing what I do now taking pictures of offroad cars and went to the town hall and got married by I think it was Mayor Dave at the time. I couldn't tell you what Mayor Dave's last name was. And a couple of the people who worked in the office were what's it called a simple word that I just can't come up with courthouse. Yeah. Yeah. At the courthouse. Just saying that they were there for our wedding or whatever.


[00:54:28.510] - Verne Simons

Okay. So we were there for about a week. I think we rented a Jeep for a few days, and my wife determined that she does not like, Hell's revenge, which I'm still sad about. But that's okay. I think we got out on it. It was a little bit icy.


[00:54:51.750] - Big Rich Klein

Tells revenge, and ice or snow can be very dicey.


[00:54:56.250] - Verne Simons

Yes. I do not blame her at all for thinking it was frightening and she doesn't have to like everything I do. So that's okay.


[00:55:06.090] - Big Rich Klein

So what is she doing now with her PhD?


[00:55:09.150] - Verne Simons

Well, yeah. So she was in roughly the same program was through the medical school at Ohio University, which is an Osteopathic medical school. So we both did a bunch of Tan anatomy classes in and learned a lot of anatomy. And she teaches anatomy at Midwestern University, which is here in Glendale, Arizona. Okay. So we moved out here in 20, 08, 20, 08 or nine somewhere right in there and been here ever since. About seven years ago. We had twins, which is a lot of fun. Boy girl twins.


[00:55:56.550] - Verne Simons

They'll be seven. And they're Christmas babies that are born December the 23rd. Wow. So life's good. I don't know. I'm a kept man. I get to play with trucks, and I have these two kids that are a lot of fun at this point. They may get become terrible later on.


[00:56:14.430] - Big Rich Klein

Are you freelancing now or are you?


[00:56:17.790] - Verne Simons

No, I'm a full time staff. I'm the tech editor for the Four Wheeler Network. For one of the tech Editors, I think at one point they offered to change my name to senior editor, and I was like, I don't feel like I'm old enough to be the senior editor of anything.


[00:56:38.670] - Big Rich Klein

Plus, they get too big a title. You're the first one on the block.


[00:56:42.630] - Verne Simons

You're right.


[00:56:43.230] - Big Rich Klein

Cutting block. Well, let's see. We'll just get rid of them.


[00:56:47.850] - Verne Simons

I like the Sound of Tech Editor better than I like the Sound of Senior Editor. Maybe I'm a fool, but the pay was the same. So what's the point in changing names?


[00:57:00.330] - Big Rich Klein

We bought Four Low and took it over and started doing it. It's like, okay, what are we going to call ourselves.


[00:57:08.490] - Verne Simons



[00:57:09.930] - Big Rich Klein

Luckily because we don't have any employees, we don't have all those people at the top. When you look at the front page of the magazine, you got all those people, and then you got the three guys at the bottom that are creating content. We just have the content guys.


[00:57:28.170] - Verne Simons

Yeah, I have to be careful and watch what I say. But I was listening to one of your other podcasts, and I think it was the one with Fred. I believe you hit it directly the nail on the head, which is that I do not have an MBA, so therefore not pretend to know how to run a large company. But it does seem to me like there's an awful lot of the business. At least, it may be better now, but it certainly has been at times very top heavy.


[00:57:58.950] - Verne Simons

Yes. And that seems to me to be one of the problems with the magazine world.


[00:58:09.030] - Big Rich Klein

I agree.


[00:58:11.790] - Verne Simons

I don't want to wax poetic too much for the fear of shooting myself in the foot. Right.


[00:58:16.230] - Big Rich Klein

But that's one of the reasons that the smaller magazines like ours or Crawl in our industry, at least, can still be successful, is because we don't have all that overhead. We can do things a lot faster and a lot leaner. So it's kind of nice, right?


[00:58:42.490] - Verne Simons

Yeah. I did do freelance for a while, like when I was in graduate school and after I worked at JP for a couple of years, I did freelance, and it was good. And I'm glad I did it. But I wasn't on it hard enough to make that a career. I'm not good enough at, like, keeping after myself. I'm much better with getting a salary paycheck, even though it's not huge and having Editors who stand over me and say, hey, get your work done, right. Which for me now is Christian Hazel.


[00:59:23.050] - Verne Simons

I love him. He's like a brother. He and I work together. He was at four one off road when I started at JP, and he was sort of the last new guy before David Kennedy and Wendy and I started. So he's always been really good to me. And he's a great person to work for. He's got a really good understanding of the life balance, family, life balance and work. I love Fred and David Fryberger. They're amazing guys, but they're a little bit too married to the job, and it kind of makes it hard for anybody who wants to have a family.


[01:00:08.510] - Verne Simons

Also, right. That makes sense. Absolutely. I don't mean that as a flight, but if you work all the time for Peanuts, then it's like the paradigm has been set and the rest of us have to do the same thing.


[01:00:24.810] - Big Rich Klein

What is next? Do you have any big aspirations without shooting yourself in the foot?


[01:00:32.970] - Verne Simons

Yeah. No. I mean, I don't mind talking about it. I don't know. I'm kind of riding this train as long as I can right now. Honestly, I'm kind of interested to see what happens. I feel like some things have gotten better over the past couple of years, working for the mothership as it were. Things are headed in the right direction. I mean, I feel like it's always been even back when I first started at the magazines. It was kind of tenuous. I feel like it's always been kind of a tenuous position or job.


[01:01:07.830] - Verne Simons

People don't seem to see the value for some reasons in what we do. I think a lot of people do see the value in what we do. But I guess what I'm trying to say is it's really nothing new to be kind of in a position where it's like, Well, is this going to keep going or not? So I'm going to just keep riding the train for now and see what happens. I think we've got something like I said something seemed to be getting better. Toby was weird for everybody.


[01:01:41.790] - Verne Simons

I feel like it was kind of a blessing for me because I work from home and my kids were home a lot more than they would have been if it hadn't happened. So I got to be with my kids a lot more. Maybe I'm just trying to see the sunny side of life.


[01:01:56.850] - Big Rich Klein

But nothing wrong with that.


[01:02:00.630] - Verne Simons

I wouldn't trade it now for much of anything just because I feel like I got to be with these kids more than I would have otherwise. But it's been weird for the industry, right? I mean, it seems like pretty much all the manufacturers seem to be doing really well. I think it was hard if they can get yeah, right. The stuff that they supply chain.


[01:02:27.730] - Big Rich Klein

The supply chain issues are crazy, right?


[01:02:31.210] - Verne Simons

I mean, I thought it was sort of amusing with my company that had sort of made this big deal about doing all these TV shows and Web shows all of a sudden when Kovid came along, all that shut down because they couldn't film anything. And basically the only thing that the company was producing was magazine articles. And I was like, It's sort of interesting to me to be able to say to these people that are higher up. Look, we actually do have value. Look, we can produce stuff during this pandemic.


[01:03:07.190] - Verne Simons

And right, keep this company somewhat relevant, even if we're not making as much money as these TV shows do, it was kind of like a moment. See, we do have some value. Yeah.


[01:03:26.570] - Big Rich Klein

2019 was the last year we did Dirt Riot, and so for a good nine years, we were doing 20 plus events a year and putting on races and rock crawls. And that is really physically taxing. And we got to look at it and said, the numbers of the racers are going down new racers. So our job at Dirt Riot was to train people. We felt our job was to train people, how to race, how to be successful at the next level, which the next level was Ultra Four.


[01:04:02.630] - Big Rich Klein

And I thought we did a really good job of that. When you look at results of King of the Hammers and how many of our drivers started with us would finish those races compared to the guys that just went straight there, that kind of thing. And so we really felt we were doing our job, right. But as no new drivers were coming on after the others would step up to Alter four, we looked at it from a business decision because I just physically couldn't keep up anymore once over 60.


[01:04:34.710] - Big Rich Klein

And it was like, all right, how do we keep this going? Looked at the numbers and said, okay, we're going to just cut Dirt Riot. Well, people were really disappointed to hear that a lot of our racers and even guys that had moved on were like, oh, no, you're going to get rid of. Well, we had to, right?


[01:04:54.350] - Verne Simons



[01:04:54.830] - Big Rich Klein

But we looked really smart doing it because come 2000, all of a sudden, just putting on our rock crawling schedule became such an ordeal. We never would have gotten 21, 22 events in that year had we still been doing Dirt Riot.


[01:05:20.090] - Verne Simons

Right. So then it would have been the decision wouldn't have been made by you. It would have been made for you, correct. Yeah. And I mean, I get that the paradigm is changing. I just think that at the end of the day, I still can go back and look in my closet and pull out magazines that has information that you can't find on the Internet.


[01:05:44.010] - Big Rich Klein



[01:05:45.450] - Verne Simons

And even if you find it on the Internet, you've got to read through. Well, is this person know what they're talking about, or are they on here? Shit posting just to stir the pot?


[01:05:58.890] - Big Rich Klein

Where did they read it? Because they didn't actually do it?


[01:06:01.710] - Verne Simons

Yes. Right. Did they actually do it? Did they actually know how to Tig Weld or they're just talking about it because they read something about it on some other forum.


[01:06:11.070] - Big Rich Klein

Must have a Holiday Inn Express.


[01:06:13.350] - Verne Simons

Yeah. It's like you can't like the legitimacy of sort of the modern paradigm to me. It doesn't have the depth. It's like the difference between and I hate to say this because I really like Wikipedia, but it's kind of the difference between Wikipedia and an encyclopedia. Correct. If the Internet goes down, Wikipedia is useless. If you have one of these big old blue encyclopedias on the bookshelf because still confirmed facts or correct. Like I said, I don't want to pick on Wikipedia because I like Wikipedia. I think it's fascinating and filled with good information.


[01:07:06.810] - Verne Simons

I'm sure there's some bunk in it, but that's the way everything is now these days. Right. Right. Exactly.


[01:07:14.250] - Big Rich Klein

The other thing is off road. I truly believe off road is still about socializing. People may get some of their information from the Internet, but off roaders are hands on. People do it yourself. Even if they don't start off that way, they end up coming that way.


[01:07:41.470] - Verne Simons

Right. I think that's the attraction. I mean, that's one of the major attractions to me is like, there's all this innovation and learning. Like, I hate to be a total nerd. I am a total nerd, but I feel like this job has been wonderful because I'm constantly learning. I'm constantly learning about how things could be different or better or learning stuff about business that I never even wanted to know. Or if I get involved in trying to rebuild something, then I can go down a rabbit hole and dig out information from people who really know what they're doing when they're talking about building lightweight, really strong axles with really high clearance or something like that.


[01:08:29.890] - Verne Simons

That, to me, is just one of the major attractions of Offroad. I mean, there's so much innovations and you see it. It's like other motorsports. You go out and the cars have to be painted differently because otherwise you wouldn't know whose car was who like you go out to King of the Hammers, and people are trying very different things, and it doesn't necessarily work all the time. But sometimes the solid axle car wins. And sometimes the ISS car wins or independent suspension car wins, right. There's just so much of that that it's so freeing.


[01:09:10.450] - Verne Simons

Like, you can have people tell you you're wrong, and that doesn't mean you're wrong. You have to go out and prove that you're not wrong.


[01:09:21.410] - Big Rich Klein

Maybe you may be on the right path. You may not get far enough down the path and somebody else will pick it up, come in and be able to take it to the next level. And that happens a lot in Offroad, right?


[01:09:37.310] - Verne Simons

Yeah. Well, and there's also a lot of individual, even if people don't want to admit it, there's a lot of individual people competing with themselves because we all can go out and one shot an obstacle and then two days later, get out there and something slightly different, or we forgot to lock a hub and sit there and bash and beat and get mad at ourselves and don't understand why it's not working kind of thing. There's a lot of that in this. There's a lot of individual learning and screwing up and doing well.


[01:10:20.750] - Verne Simons

And sometimes I'm sure you've had it where sometimes you drive up something and you're like, wow, I didn't really think that was going to work that well or just the opposite. Yes. Or you get on it and you flop and flail and you're like, Why on Earth can I not drive up this exactly?


[01:10:38.090] - Big Rich Klein

Wolf Caves? One time in Mason, Texas, I was set up for one of our dirt, right races, and there was a formation there that I had the guys racing up, and I'd been up in my Cherokee 30 times up and down, and I got on it, slid off my line, smacked my head. Even though my roll cage is all padded and an interior cage inside the Cherokee, I smacked my head on that and gave myself a slight whiplash. And I was like, didn't knock myself out. But it was close.


[01:11:16.010] - Big Rich Klein

And I was like, how in the hell did that just happen? I'd never slipped off that line, and it happened. I guess I wasn't paying a good enough attention or something, but it always changes.


[01:11:33.630] - Verne Simons

Well, yeah. And like I said, that's the attractions of this world for me. The other thing that I know you've hit on on this podcast, and I think is true, is there's this wonderful family of people? Sure, occasionally there's people who butt heads or get into out and out fights or arguments, but there's a wonderful community of people and offroad it's irreplaceable. It's like having a huge family in many ways. And between that and the fact that you get to go out and see things that you've never seen before, and maybe not a lot of other people have seen either.


[01:12:21.610] - Verne Simons

Between all of these sort of, like innate competitions, even if they're just competitions with yourself, it's really an awesome place to be. Oh, absolutely. There's all these challenges and opportunities to learn and get chances to get to see things and meet wonderful people. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a part of that exactly.


[01:12:48.070] - Big Rich Klein

When we travel if we're not in our semitrucks toy hauler, right?


[01:12:54.910] - Verne Simons

What is it called? That's right.


[01:12:58.210] - Big Rich Klein

If we're not in that and we're driving the Jeep or the Raptor with the Adventure trailer, we try to avoid interstates. So last year, when we left, we got done with the Rebel Rally. We were here in Arizona. There was no SEMA. So we did the Arizona Peace Trail, and then we went to Apache Junction on the way home on the way to Texas.


[01:13:30.550] - Verne Simons



[01:13:31.450] - Big Rich Klein

We went there and then took all dirt roads from there to El Paso.


[01:13:37.930] - Verne Simons

That's awesome.


[01:13:39.070] - Big Rich Klein

There was a little bit of paved roads here and there, but basically it was all dirt roads all the way down to the border and then across the border around as far as we could go to El Paso. And then at that point, it was like, okay, we got to be where we need to be in two days. We just got to get it done.


[01:13:57.130] - Verne Simons



[01:13:57.550] - Big Rich Klein

But we just did the same thing from Minneapolis to Vegas.


[01:14:03.010] - Verne Simons

Wow. That's a real option.


[01:14:05.050] - Big Rich Klein

Well, we didn't go off road per se because we only had six days. We had to go from Minneapolis to Vegas for the beginning of the Rebel, we took all back roads, but they were mostly paved. I mean, we got onto some dirt roads and went to a lot of national parks, monuments, some of the old forts, that kind of thing. And just had a great time. But we didn't hit the interstate until we got to Grand Junction.


[01:14:41.530] - Verne Simons

And then from there.


[01:14:42.490] - Big Rich Klein

We just took the 17, then the 15 and on into Vegas.


[01:14:46.990] - Verne Simons

Well, sure. Nobody wants to drive on back roads through Utah. Yeah, right.


[01:14:51.310] - Big Rich Klein

Well, I've done all those roads before. No, I know before we got the magazine, we did that first dirt and drive with Payway.


[01:14:59.590] - Verne Simons

Oh, yeah. And.


[01:15:02.710] - Big Rich Klein

The only road I hadn't been on was the road coming out of Mesquite up into Utah. That back trail there. But all this stuff across.


[01:15:14.410] - Verne Simons



[01:15:15.970] - Big Rich Klein

What do they call it? That Northern area of Arizona?


[01:15:21.550] - Verne Simons

Yeah. The Arizona Strip. Yeah.


[01:15:23.590] - Big Rich Klein

The Strip. I've done a lot of those roads because I'd lived in Cedar City, and we used to go down there all the time in the 90s, right. I still love that area. We were in a hurry at that point because we take so much time to go the rest of it. But we stopped.


[01:15:39.250] - Verne Simons

I know that small towns and talk to people and try to find the home restaurant that only the locals know because everybody you're driving through some little town and there's a guest or a restaurant, and there's a bunch of, like, farm trucks and other cars parked outside. And, you know, that's the place to eat because it's good. Yeah.


[01:15:59.110] - Big Rich Klein

And you walk in, everybody looks at you like, right.


[01:16:02.170] - Verne Simons

Who are the aliens? The record scratches. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. That's the spice of life. But yeah, I don't know. Like I said, the people are wonderful. I mean, all these events, too, are fascinating. Like the Rebel rally sounds awesome. I've never participated in it in any kind of extent. Like, if you ask what I want to do, what I want to do is go to more of these sort of varied events that I haven't been to different places to go four wheeling. The problem is I also want to keep doing Ultimate Adventure and the Go devil run the thing that Ian started, although Trent and I helped him out with running the route, at least we pre ran it together.


[01:16:53.830] - Verne Simons

I don't remember whether he talked about that and his podcast with you, but Trent and I kind of helped him figure out where a good place to go play would be. But that's one of the best times that I've had with clothes on. That GDR is just amazing. And I don't know why, because, I mean, I love flat. Vendors like little old Jeeps are bad, but they break down constantly, and it's like, it doesn't matter because you know what's going to happen.


[01:17:26.290] - Big Rich Klein

And you're prepared for it.


[01:17:27.970] - Verne Simons

Yeah. And then when you fix one of the five things that goes wrong with them, then you keep going. So one of the other five things breaks. Yeah.


[01:17:36.070] - Big Rich Klein

That's one of the things I want to do. I had a 48 at one time, but I had a little V eight Buick. It's the 215 or the three.


[01:17:48.970] - Verne Simons

Yeah. That famous little Buick V eight. That's a really cool swap.


[01:17:55.030] - Big Rich Klein

It was a screaming little car.


[01:17:57.370] - Verne Simons



[01:17:57.610] - Big Rich Klein

The Sand Dunes and bought it when I was in Cedar City, and we used to take it down to what is now called Sand Hollow Point. There was no Lake out there. There was no homes golf course, none of that. It was all just wild strip area. And we used to go down to the sand dunes there or pink coral. And that little flat Fender with 32 inch, 33 inch BFG offerings would just scream in the sand in no cage, a little Bee pillar hoop. And that was it.


[01:18:30.910] - Verne Simons

Ian gives me a hard time. I put a roll bar in mind because I just about killed myself on an obstacle that I've driven up 15 different 2030 different times. And I realized why roll bars were in those Jeeps. And I know that I totally agree that they don't look as good with a roll bar in there. But I'm not jumping out of a flat Fender when it starts going over. I realized that as I was going over in a flat Fender without a roll bar.


[01:19:00.250] - Big Rich Klein

Me because of where the seat is located and how big the steering wheel is.


[01:19:05.230] - Verne Simons

It's like I'm not in any way. Yeah. I'm not jumping out of that. It's just not happening. And I think a lot of people who think they are may not know what they're talking about exactly, but that's really neither here nor there. I fully support people who put roll bars in their own flat fenders, but I do agree that they do look awfully Rad with the windshield down and no roll bar safety third anyway, right? Yeah. Well, you look a lot cooler on a motorcycle without leathers in the helmet.


[01:19:41.210] - Big Rich Klein

So true.


[01:19:42.590] - Verne Simons

Yeah. So I don't know. Yeah. It's been a charmed life. The last two of your podcasts that I listened to were Pat Grammillian, which I really enjoyed. He did come up to me in Moab a few years ago and say he was talking to me, and he was like, yeah, burn. And I was like, he knows who I am. And I was just like, so even though he was giving himself a hard time for not remembering people's names. I was totally flattered that he knew who the hell I was.


[01:20:17.790] - Big Rich Klein

It's always awesome when that happens. You don't expect it. I never expect it. But it's pretty cool when people come up and how many people now come up and go, oh, yeah. Listen to your podcast, and that's all that they know me from.


[01:20:36.630] - Verne Simons

Yeah, right.


[01:20:37.470] - Big Rich Klein

That's refreshing, because that means I'm reaching new people. So it's cool.


[01:20:42.210] - Verne Simons

Similarly, like, people I'll meet people and they'll be like, I'll tell them what I do and they're like, oh, have you ever heard of Dirt every day? And it's like, yeah, I've heard of Dirt every day. I've been on Dirt every day a couple of times, and then it was like, oh, so you know Fred, it's like, yeah, not only do I know Fred, but I technically started in this industry a little bit before he did. I think maybe not with the same level of success, but that's not really.


[01:21:11.370] - Verne Simons

I wish Fred the most success and luck. He knows what he's doing. He's doing a great job, right? And Dave Chappelle's an absolutely wonderful human being. And I wish him the success with Dirt every day. Those guys are killing it. And they're having fun doing it, too. Like I said, I've been able to play with them on a few other shows.


[01:21:35.250] - Big Rich Klein

If you can't have fun doing what you do, you need.


[01:21:39.330] - Verne Simons

There's something wrong.


[01:21:39.990] - Big Rich Klein

There's nothing else to do that's, right. Well, Verne, I want to say thank you for coming on board and sharing your life. I'm glad that you reached out and said that you had listened to some you were on my list. There's a bunch of media people that are on my list. I started off when I decided to do this. My wife was like, okay, you got it for, like, four years. You got to do a podcast. You got to do a podcast to write your story, a biography, something.


[01:22:15.150] - Big Rich Klein

And I'm like, I don't want to do that. And then finally Kovid came and I was sitting in our hotel that we have in Texas with nobody else in it. And we're like, okay, I got to do something because I'm stuck here now for the next two months, at least. And so that's what we did. I started the podcast and she goes, Well, all right. Write down a list of 50 names, right. And at first it was like, okay, it was kind of hard to do that.


[01:22:43.230] - Big Rich Klein

And now my list is probably 400 names long, right?


[01:22:48.810] - Verne Simons

I can see how that could grow. Yeah.


[01:22:50.430] - Big Rich Klein

I get a lot of emails, a lot of messages, texts and Facebook messages and stuff saying, hey, you should do this or somebody like yourself reaches out and says, hey, I really like what you're doing. And then I look on the list and go, Ha ha.


[01:23:06.450] - Verne Simons

Well, I'm totally preaching to the choir, but I think you're doing an amazing job. It's really like I told you I heard about it, and people that I know and trust were like, you should listen to this. It's really good. But I just didn't get it. And so what I'd like to say now is that people should listen to this podcast, but of course, they're not going to listen to it unless they already do. And then they'll say it right? Exactly. No. But I really thank you for the chance to be on here.


[01:23:38.350] - Verne Simons

I'm flattered it's humbling to have done this. Been in this industry for 20 years. That still blows my mind for more than 20 years now. And I also wanted to say so thank you very much for what you do. I'm sure it's not always easy, and I really appreciate it. It's a lot of fun to get to learn more about people, people that we feel like we know. And I also want to come visit the hotel and Mason, if you still have it.


[01:24:13.390] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, absolutely. That's the one reason you're probably never going to get rid of.


[01:24:18.310] - Verne Simons

Good. Give me a reason to go back to Kentucky's, which is we were just out there for Ultimate Adventure, and I think that's one of my new favorite places on Earth to go forward. That place is Rad. Yeah.


[01:24:28.810] - Big Rich Klein

The Taj Mahalar was parked there.


[01:24:31.330] - Verne Simons

Was it? Yeah, I think I did see it.


[01:24:33.310] - Big Rich Klein

It was on the fence line there in the campground.


[01:24:35.230] - Verne Simons

Yeah. Okay.


[01:24:36.370] - Big Rich Klein

Fred was supposed to put a sticker on it.


[01:24:38.890] - Verne Simons

He probably did. Fred works in mysterious ways.


[01:24:42.250] - Big Rich Klein

I haven't been back to it since we left it, but after the end of the season, but we'll be there after SEMA and be back.


[01:24:51.130] - Verne Simons

I thought of something that would maybe make for a good story you were talking about, like, stories about other people in the industry. I know you wanted to call this to an end, but let me no.


[01:25:05.290] - Big Rich Klein

Love stories.


[01:25:07.690] - Verne Simons

Trent McGee, he's probably my best buddy. He and I didn't really cross paths at the magazine, but I knew who he was when I was there. And then when I moved to Phoenix, I found out that he was in Phoenix, and he's, like, 5 miles down the road. So we're constantly doing things together from, like, helping each other with house projects or whatever, maybe cracking a beer or two in the shop every now and again or building UA vehicles together, which is another fun thing that we get to do.


[01:25:38.170] - Verne Simons

But one night in Moab.


[01:25:41.350] - Big Rich Klein

A lot of stories started that way.


[01:25:43.870] - Verne Simons

Yeah, I don't even know. I think we might have been at the brewery, and we are surely with a bunch of other people. But for some reason, all I remember it was me and him and we were walking back to our hotel, which wasn't the LaQuinta, but the one that's just north from there that's sort of been there longer. I couldn't tell you what the name of it is. And it's probably changed two or three times over the past five years. Anyways, we were walking through the parking lot of the La Quinta and sitting there was Fred Williams FC.


[01:26:23.170] - Verne Simons

Whatever. That blue military FC thing is that he has as a Jeep guy. I should know what the call out is, but I don't know what it is. It's a military FC four door. Okay, it's got some weird, like three cylinder turbo or supercharged diesel. I don't know what it is. It's some really weird engine in it. And it was sitting in the parking lot and shred, and I might have a few beers. I'm not going to tell you any wise. We weren't just drinking iced tea, so it was sitting there.


[01:26:58.790] - Verne Simons

It was safe. Nobody was going to mess with it. But the doors were unlocked and we knew it was Fred. And we knew Fred was staying in a room up there. And we knew Fred went to bed as the sunset because that's sort of what he does often. And so we jumped in there and we're sitting there and pretending to drive it. And I look down and I look at the ignition switch and it's like one of these aftermarket ignition switches. And I have the same one in my CJ three A.


[01:27:29.810] - Verne Simons

And I said that ignition switch once it gets to be a year old. If you have a key that will go in it, it will start it. And I shouldn't be telling people this because it will make it very easy to steal lots of vehicles, although not many vehicles have that ignition switch. If you have a key from a master lock for one of those series of master locks, it'll go right in that ignition switch. And like I said, it doesn't need the key on it.


[01:27:59.730] - Verne Simons

So I stick it in there. I stick this key that I've got that probably was the key to my other flat Fender. And I start the thing up, and we took a video and sent it to Fred that night. So at any rate, it fired right up, and we shot a video of it on our iphones. And then we sent that to Fred as he was asleep in his bed upstairs. And then we got out of that and Ned Bacon's flatbender was there. And it was parking spot and being the continued comedian that we think we are, we popped it in a neutral and pushed it out and turned it around and put it right back in the same parking space, aiming the other direction.


[01:28:43.950] - Verne Simons

Perfect. And apparently Ned was pretty hot when he saw that he was like, who was messing with my car. And I was like, It's okay, Ned, it was us.


[01:28:57.150] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome, though. I love those kind of pranks.


[01:29:00.150] - Verne Simons

I think Fred knew. Yeah, I'm all four pranks, as long as they're relatively harmless as these were awesome. All right.


[01:29:08.430] - Big Rich Klein

Well, I'll make sure that that's in the podcast for sure, right?


[01:29:14.610] - Verne Simons



[01:29:15.450] - Big Rich Klein

No, don't be sorry. We love the stories. So thank you very much for coming on board and we'll talk again for sure. We'll get together.


[01:29:26.790] - Verne Simons

Yeah, sure. Like I said, next time you're in Phoenix, let me know. We'll grab lunch or something like that, and I really appreciate it. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for your work.


[01:29:35.610] - Big Rich Klein

All right, Vernon, take care. Thank you.


[01:29:37.470] - Verne Simons

Take care. Bye. Bye. Bye.


[01:29:40.170] - Big Rich Klein

If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating. Share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end. Hope you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Ridge. Thank you very much.