From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Fall 2018: D&T V

On October 20th, 2018, sixteen men will head into Death Valley with their Jeeps and a map. This is their story.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Of Men and Cars

I don't know a lot about cars.

But it seems to me I used to know a lot more. My first car was a 1965 Studebaker Lark:

That's actually a '63, but pretty identical to my ride. Right down to the "Rose Mist" finish, which, at around 25 years after production, could be pretty easily mistaken for "Brown."

It used to belong to my mom. She got it used from I don't know where, but I took the wheel in the early '90s. It was notorious for overheating and leaking everything everywhere. You couldn't get parts for a Studebaker. If anything broke, it had to be custom machined and my Del Taco paycheck precluded such heroics.

She broke down regularly and I remember popping the hood any number of times. I learned terms like "straight-six," and "cracked head," and, ultimately, "FUBAR."

I probably changed a few belts and hoses, but spent most of my time using a Magic Marker to scrawl incendiary slogans all over the shredded ceiling upholstery.

My next car was a 70s model VW bus.

I paid $650 for the bus. My dad, God rest his soul, sent me a copy of John Muir's "How to Keep your Volkswagen Alive," perhaps the greatest automotive repair manual of all time.

I learned a ton from that book. I changed my oil and replaced the starter and I learned what a solenoid is. I learned about flywheels and clutch plates. My brother and I took off the muffler and replaced it with an extractor and a stinger just to make MORE noise because we were 16 and 17 and that made PERFECT sense.

I loved that bus. I loved the horizontal spin of the steering wheel and that long, long shifter that made you feel like a veteran trucker. I loved the sliding side door that once, while leaving a party hosted by a cheerleader friend, actually slid off the bus entirely and went crashing onto the sidewalk. We picked it up and kind of held it in place until we got home.

Then somebody stole my bus. Right off my driveway.

There were other cars. But perhaps the proudest moment in my automotive life was single-handedly rebuilding the engine of a 70s era Chevy Beauville:

Brother Sam literally brought this thing home from college. It was a good deal and we were in a band and a van made total sense.

But she wasn't running so hot. So I bought me a Chilton's and tore that Chevy small-block down to the last bolt. That was an amazing summer.

But something happened. God as my witness, when I pop the hood of today's automobile, I have no idea what I'm looking at. I haven't changed my own oil in well over a decade. At the first sign of anything, I'm at the dealership sipping crappy coffee and waiting for a man in a blue shirt to mispronounce my name.

I loved the cars of my youth because I knew them. I fiddled with their insides and got dirty. That's how we get to know things. In any good relationship, you have to get hot and greasy before you can feel the wind in your hair.

I don't know anything about the Jeep Wranglers we'll be driving through Death Valley. They're iconic vehicles and I've never been in one. And it's a funny thing about people- we often vilify or lionize what we don't know.

The men of Dust and Tribe have taken out kayaks and llamas. I know and trust these things. They are simple and light on the water and land. But a purpose-built 4x4 off-road vehicle is neither simple nor light.

We're going to have to spend some time getting to know our Wranglers before we meet in October, insha Allah.

If you have the time and inclination, it would be amazing if you shared a little something about your first vehicle in the comments below.

And Dust and Tribe is now on Instagram! That should be fun :)


  1. Ironically, my dream car at 15 years old was a Jeep Wrangler. I mean how cool was Dylan McKay driving around Beverly Hills in one? To my chagrin, my father was beyond practical and saw that I had an interest in a Jeep and instead bought me a salvaged 1991 Suzuki Sidekick. I was 15 and a half at the time, so I can't exactly complain. Living in Rancho Cucamonga in the 90s was somewhat rural and believe me I took that rollerskate of a car on and offroad with and without a license. It was a 4 cylinder tiny thing but it looked badass on any beach trip I took it on in the summers with surfboards strapped to the top with makeshift lashing straps. At the base of the mountain we would launch what we thought was 10 feet in the air full speed on Etiwanda Ave, or as we called it, the Etiwanda jump. Only Allah swt can explain why he saved me from never flipping that car on one of the many jumps I had done in that car with my idiot friends. It could barely go 65mph, the brakes would heat up at times to almost cease working. But man, I would never take back those memories in my white Suzuki Sidekick.

    1. I love this.

      The Samurai was sort of the "I can't get a Wrangler so this will have to do" car. But sounds like you guys got some real use out of that Sidekick. And thank God for idiot friends AND Divine Protection!

      I can absolutely HEAR you guys winding it out on the Etiwanda Jump :)

  2. My first car was a 1989 Honda Prelude Si, 4WS. Why all these letters after it, settle down son I’ll get to that. I was rolling in my dads Oldsmobile Omega prior to that, it was brown and would always overheat. The hood was held together with some rope, nuff said. Onwards to the Prelude, the year was 1996, Tupac and Biggie were still alive and I was a skinny sophomore at UC Irvine. I had purchased it from an Armenian “brother” in Whittier using this high tech tool called Autotrader and the Recycler only available at your local 7-11.

    The Prelude had 4 wheel steering, meaning all 4 wheels turned when you moved the steering wheel. A feature only available on high end Porsche’s at that time. The Prelude was loyal and lasted through many road trips with the fellas, wife riding shotgun and even 1 car seat. Alas, the fairly tale had to end and then the SUV era began.

    1. VTEC? I remember the 1989 Prelude, was a good looking car. Very little back seat room right?

    2. That Oldsmobile would have killed with a set of hydraulics.

  3. First "car" was an '84 Toyota long bed pickup, ish brown - which helped hide the rust. Had a camper and the back was perfect size for twin mattress. It came with a Buddha hood ornament (epoxied on by the hippy I bought it from), but someone really wanted bad karma and stole it while I was parked in HB. Had that Toyota 4-banger that will neer die, though the engine would run and shake for a couple minutes after your key was out of ignition. No radio, AC in theory - but truck would overheat if it was ran. Didn't stop road trips, over 70k miles in 2.5 years, and then sold it for $200 less than I bought it.

    1. Buddha on the front, mattress in the back? Nirvana on wheels, yo.

  4. I learned to drive on my brother's old Nissan, which sometimes had this problem: The steering wheel would lock while driving in Saudi Arabia. In New Orleans, I rode a bicycle to school and work, til I saved enough to buy a '83 Nissan Sentra. I drove it for 120,000 miles over a 13 year period. Which included replacing the engine once. It had no A/C so I had gotten a sunroof installed at Earl Sheib for $99. Later, that roof leaked during rain. But I enjoyed it. It died on the way to Yosemite, on Highway 99. The tow guy would not even give me $100 for it. I had to leave it in his parking lot, in Lost Hills, near Bakersfield

    1. Let me guess. Your current ride is a . . . Nissan?

    2. perhaps the most popular car among south asians...camry. If I could fix cars, then I could venture to more interesting rides