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No Pics, But It Definitely Happened

Warning: This story contains some very real experiences

and some very unreal imagery.

It’s a funny time to be alive. Everyone on Earth is carrying a high-end, easy-to-use camera in their pocket at all times. But also, many of us remember what life was like before that reality, and often look back at it with nostalgia. It was a simpler time and we can’t help but wonder: was it maybe a better time?

Our thoughts on the matter, like our relationships to all the other trappings that come with the smartphone age, vary greatly from person to person and from day to day. We’re decidedly indecisive about it. On one hand, we celebrate scenes where there’s “Not a cell phone in sight. Just people living in the moment.” (Remember the Michelob Ultra guy?) On the other hand, we love to troll each other online by saying:

“Pics or it didn’t happen.”

Part joke, part provocation, “pics or it didn’t happen” begs the all-important question: if a smartphone wasn’t there to capture the moment, did it really happen? In many ways, it’s the question of our times. One that’s even further complicated by all of the recent developments in AI-image generation which, for better and worse, are also here to stay.

In an attempt to use the powers of modern technology for good, this summer, we asked around for epic road and trail stories that feel a touch unbelievable, especially because they weren’t photographed. Then, after hearing the tales, we ran them through the AI image generator Midjourney to see the photos that could have been.

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“One Last Fishing Trip with the Boys”

A Story from J.J. Gustafson

North Texas, Spring of 2019


Luke was J.J.’s best friend’s little brother, which made him J.J.’s honorary little brother. During his late teens and early twenties, Luke got sick with a rare form of leukemia. He was a tough and healthy kid, and he beat cancer. But then, it came back. And when it did, the diagnosis was terminal. There’s no knowing everything that goes through a young man’s mind after he’s told his time is up. But we know one thing that went through Luke’s. It was a simple request. He called up his honorary big brother and said “Let’s go fishing.”

J.J.’s truck was in the shop, so they borrowed his dad’s Suburban. It was a small, tight group. They all took off work on a Friday and headed out of town mid-morning. They had a well-connected friend with a ranch they were cleared to use, and it was peppered with good bass fishing ponds. With five or so boys piled up in the back of his family’s Suburban, J.J. hopped on TX-75 and headed north, stopping at Bucee’s for snacks on the way. It was the summer of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and the song got queued up by Luke and belted out by the group a few times. In its subtle way, it set the tone for the trip, which was not about saying goodbye but having a great time.

The dusty red clay roads at Graff Ranch painted rosy clouds on the white truck and its BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires as they pulled through the gate that afternoon. After a quick stop in a bunkhouse for some cooler ice, the group wasted no time getting their lines wet. They were here for the big fish, so they headed right for the biggest pond. Hours went by without a bite. The group was growing weary in the hot sun. As dinnertime rolled around and the sun began to set, someone suggested they call it a day. But Luke was determined to end the day on a high note. He convinces the group to head to a smaller lake adjacent to the big one, and maybe two casts in, he locks in on something. Something strong.

Luke’s pole doubles over as he fights with it. J.J. grabs a net, and the rest of the crew watches the splashy contest, whooping and hollering like fans at the end of a nail-biter football game. It was a moment no one thought to capture on their phone — they were all too busy living it. Golden hour sun sparkled across the emerald scales of what they’d soon realize wasn’t just the biggest fish of that trip — but the biggest fish of Luke’s life.

A prize second only by the memories he made while getting it.

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“The Logging Trail Trial”

A Story from Toby Royce

British Columbia, Summer of 2016


Toby learned the true value of a great tire while visiting a cousin who lived in Canada. They were traveling down a dirt logging road that runs along the edges of Lillooet Lake, about 175 kilometers northeast of Vancouver. Cradled on all sides by pine-forested mountains, the road offers some jaw-dropping views. It’s totally beautiful, totally remote, and unfortunately, it's also pretty darn rugged.

About halfway along the 180-kilometer pass, they blew a tire (not a BFGoodrich Tire) and realized they forgot to pack a spare. Without other options, they start limping along, as slowly as possible, down the trail. A few kilometers in, they saw a sign for a tire shop, just one kilometer away! Out here in the middle of nowhere? It was almost too coincidental to believe. But a win’s a win. They limped their way up the road.

A tiny mountain town appeared, maybe ten houses total, a small Native Reservation. The tire shop was closed, as the owner was out for a few days on a supply run. Toby and his cousin were out of luck again but started talking to a neighbor, who had some spare BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 tires and a generous heart. Their truck — a 1994 Dodge Ram — was running 35-inch tires, and these spares were 37s. So they swapped out the back two tires, put the truck in rear-wheel drive, and rode to safety at a goofy, Mad Max-worthy angle. The next town was maybe an hour and a half away. Their generous benefactor didn’t even ask for collateral.

When they got into town, Toby’s cousin bought himself some new 35’s. They drove the 37s back to the reservation, allowing themselves to once again enjoy the view. The whole ordeal ended up being a six-hour detour, a good campfire story, and a hard-earned lesson in the priceless value of a quality off-road tire.

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“Trouble on the Turnpike”

A Story from Kyle Tucker

Northeast Pennsylvania, Autumn of 2014


With their big wins, close losses, and exciting photo finishes, racing teams are full of great stories. This one happened to Kyle Tucker and his race team in October of 2014, miles away from the track. They were in Pennsylvania for an autocross event at Pocono Raceway. The event started on a Friday, and on Saturday evening, Kyle and his team decided to head a few towns over to grab some dinner. Across from the restaurant was an indoor go-kart track, which after many bets and goading around the table, they had to check out after their meal.

It was nearly 10 PM when they finally peeled themselves away from the karts. They hit a nearby gas station for fuel, then piled back into Kyle’s 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle to head back to Pocono. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was quiet at that hour. With custom suspension and large wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force COMP-2 tires, the muscle car was a delightful driver. One of Kyle’s colleagues even fell asleep in the back seat. He was awakened abruptly around 11 PM when a loud screeching noise came from the car. In the rear-view mirror, all Kyle could see was a wall of hot orange sparks.

Muffler issue? Exhaust? Kyle — who built this car and knew it inside and out — ran through the possibilities as he pulled onto the shoulder. The group, now wide awake, rushed out of the vehicle to inspect it. The muffler was fine. Tailpipe was, too. The car softly rumbled in front of them, still running. No noise. They looked at one another, puzzled.

“Gas.” Someone pointed to the empty spot where the vehicle’s gas tank should have been. In slow motion, the group turned behind them to see a dark hump of metal on the road, maybe a quarter mile back. Just then, a Ford Econoline van came around a bend, headed right for the tank, recently filled, that they’d just left in the center of its lane. It might as well have been a land mine.

Time slowed as this new, potentially deadly, reality sank in. The men waved their hands, praying the driver might see them and stop. But it was nearly midnight and quite dark in the mountains. They braced for impact as the van hit the tank. Again, it dragged along the pavement, showering the highway in sparks and fuel. But someone, somewhere had heard their prayers. Against all odds, none of those sparks lit. The driver, hearing the screeching noise, pulled over ahead of them, put his van in reverse, saw a lump of metal was the issue, and drove off into the night. None the wiser.

The Chevy sputtered into silence as its fuel line ran dry, snapping the group back to the present. Their collective sighs of relief were white wisps in the brisk October air. They laughed, dumb-struck by their own luck. After the due celebration, they turned toward their new problem: getting a middle-of-the-night tow on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. While waiting for the truck (which showed up hours later) they inspected the mangled gas tank. It had been installed on the Chevelle rather recently. They concluded that a failed strap was the culprit. And, again, they thanked the stars above that it had taken no victims.

Kyle thanks them again, for good measure, every time he fills up his tank.

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