Photo: YouTube/Off-Road Türkiye (screengrabs)

This may surprise you, but I wasn’t always the slick-hair, leather-jacket wearing cool guy you see today. No, believe it or not, I didn’t go out much in college. Instead, on Friday and Saturday nights, I sat in my dorm and watched off-road videos for hours. I couldn’t help it.

Why I’m telling you this, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because I feel guilty, and am hoping some of you nutty Jalops might understand.

“Come out to Fiji tonight, Dave! We’re having a huge party!” my friends dressed in pastel shorts, seersucker shirts and sunglasses hooked to Croakies would say.

“Well, I’ve got to watch this Toyota Land Cruiser try to beast-mode sandy hillclimbs in Australia. And then there’s this other video of a HMMWV in Ohio trying to climb a completely vertical cement barrier, can you believe that?! And also, check out this mud bog in Russia pitting a Jeep Grand Cherokee against a UAZ.”

“So I’m not sure I’m going to make it,” I continued, turning away from my giant old HP laptop, only to see that my friends had gotten bored and left already. This was a fairly typical Friday night for me in the old dorms at the University of Virginia.

Obviously, since I was an engineering student, I couldn’t have gone out that often anyway. But while others took their precious little free time to relieve stress at the bars, I was dreaming of thick mud in Eastern Europe, rocky trails in the American southwest, and crowded rain forests in South America.

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And can you really blame me? Just look at that madman in the video above sit in what looks like a mostly stock Jeep Cherokee XJ trying to make it up basically the Alabama version of Mount Everest. And check out a TJ Wrangler, a Mercedes G-Wagon, and a Lada Niva try to power through the muck in Azerbaijan:

Based on my extensive research, the best mudding videos come from Eastern Europe. Watch these Turks in a pair of Land Rover Discoveries, a Nissan Patrol, a Toyota FJ, and a Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ tear through some thick diarrhea-ish gew:

I’m especially fond of comparison-style videos that show a bunch of vehicles trying to traverse the same obstacles. Are they scientific? No—the vehicles almost always have different tires, and some are more modified than others—but man are they fun to watch, especially if you have a favorite in the bunch. You get to cheer for the vehicle that you want to outclass the others, and watch in anticipation as it tries to make it through the deep pit, or up the slick rocks or whatever. To me, it’s as exhilarating as watching the most riveting sports matches.

And then, of course, there are those videos in which everything goes wrong, like this one shot in southern California:

The reason why I call off-road videos my Kryptonite is because the number of hours I’ve wasted going on virtual adventures with random often-non-English-speaking YouTubers in rural parts of the globe is staggering. I’ve given up trying to fight it, even if it has definitely eaten into my productivity and maybe also my social life.

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But I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with a severe weakness when it comes to car videos (surely some people are obsessed with watching crash footage—what about demolition derbies?). So feel free to make me feel better by telling me your automotive YouTube guilty pleasure.