I love taking the factory doors off to let the outside in. Metal Tech 4×4’s tube doors give great visibility and put you close to everything, but just like leaving the top of your Jeep at home, you have to accept, you’re committed to living a lifestyle.
That lifestyle includes breathing in trail dust that covers everything, and I do mean everything. Giving up the AC when the mercury screams 100+. In the case of rain… well wear a wet suit.
Adventures are not meant to be easy. If you want to be comfortable stay on the couch. Adventures get uncomfortable sometimes but it rewards those who have the desire to push past it and discover what is around the next corner.
Take an idea, flip it on it’s ear and tell a story. After all we have to do something with the hundreds of hours of off-road adventure video we have in vault.
For us telling a story with video is harder than it looks. We’ve had a You Tube and Vimeo LGRT channel for six plus years and put out 90 some videos. In our own opinion our off-road adventure videos seem to lack entertainment value. But there is hope.
“The Grocery Getty” was two years in the making. Watching tutorials, reading scripts, taking notes and considering how to apply their story telling lessons.
For a long time I thought a better camera, better technique or better software would help. Unfortunately no amount of “better” could make up for the lack of a story. And while The Grocery Getty is only 36 seconds (not including all the credits and disclaimers) it has a beginning, middle and end along with tension and a twist.
It’s not going to win any awards but it gives us hope that we can start to break the mold and tell better off-road adventure stories.
Whether you call it an off-road adventure, car camping, or overlanding, making camp and sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors is a big part of the experience.
There was a time when I longed for a luxurious Shangri La roof top tent, retractable awning, stainless steel four burner propane camp chef stove, 82 quart portable fridge freezer combo, weathered sail cloth and teak hardwood folding camp chairs with matching distressed teak dining and end tables. I imagined a camp right out of the pages of Glamping Journal. A cross between pampered British upper crust and lone rugged American cowboy with a hint of African Serengeti safari and a touch of Everest base camp. I dreamed of eating fine meals, stopping for afternoon tea and ending the day with single malt in crystal tumblers by the fire as twinkling stars filled the darkness.
As appealing as this marketing driven outdoor dream was to me, at some point I realized it wasn’t my own.
Over the last few years I’ve taken a step back to transform my idea of and off-road adventure camp. Drawing from my backpacking and mountaineering background I mixed in a few childhood car camping memories and now have my own unique style of camp when I stop for the night.
First let me say there is nothing wrong with roof top tents and teak furniture, it’s just not me. Truth be told sometimes I wish it was.
These days I’ve dialed camp back to a minimalistic mindset. A Noa tarp to keep the dew off, provide shade from the sun and keep a spot dry if the rains encroach. The tarp is versatile, light weight and can be configured dozens of ways from trees, my truck or a poles. The real weather protection comes from the bivy sack I throw my sleeping bag into. My simple shelter protects without blocking out the nature I came to commune with. At night I can lay there with an unobstructed view up as the stars overtake the darkness.
A pair of African mingle mats lets me sit on the dirt or wet grass without tracking it everywhere.
Although I’ve pared back, I haven’t given up on a good night’s sleep. A whisper light, super compact cot creates a cushion of love that cradles me through the night for an incredible rest.
The gourmet chef shove has been replaced by a small bullet proof mountaineering blast furnace with two settings: off and full blast. This little white gas single burner stove will boil water or weld a spoon to the bottom of the pot in minutes but simmer is not in its vocabulary. Simmer, grill and toast occurs over an open campfire. A light weight, compact backpacking cook set, little french press and a spoon that doubles as stove wrench round out the kitchen. A compact aluminum table and three legged stool provides all the camp function and fireside comfort I need to call the woods home.
Had I stopped here it would be a nice spartan camp… But I had to make it mine. Prayer flags make me smile. Brilliant colors and prayer script blowing in the wind. Peace and loving kindness sent out into the universe. Belief in Karma is not required to know that what goes around comes around.
And then there is the alter where I hedge my bets. A spin on the Internet will tell you that every belief places certain reverence on protecting travelers. Ganesha the Hindu deity revered as the remover of obstacles and protector of travelers. St. Christopher the patron saint of travelers. A Catholic rosary offers universal protection. Seven day candles carry prayers to the heavens. Mayan worry doll, sitting Buddha, Indian incense, sacred sandalwood, dried chicken foot, Tibetan tin prayer bells and a New Orleans voodoo doll, all offer protection and draw positive energy into camp. Bruddah Ed, Hula Betty’s jolly grass skirted cousin, makes me laugh and that is good too.
This mix of minimalism, eclectic talismans and eccentric showmanship is definitely more reflective of my style than my original vision of camp.
I’m not camping in the lap of luxury. I’m not pampered while the Sherpa tend and clean up. Setting up camp is my meditation. I eat well, sleep soundly and enjoy a fine cigar around the fire as the Milky Way pours over me. I am living the dream.
It’s 6:00 am. The Bainbidge Island ferry terminal is lined with people waiting to board the ferry. A small crowd of people walk in the opposite direction of this line. It’s a hallway full of tired eyes, footsteps, and soft chatter.
This was my life for four years. It remain such a vivid memory that when I close my eyes I can still see and hear every detail..
Listen to Hula Betty’s audio story as she tells you what it is really like to commute on the Washington state ferry.
As a ferry commuter, my life was different than so many of my peers. It was an experience that shaped my future.
Habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.
A prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure.
A set of customary and often mechanically performed procedures or activities.
A usual or regular method of procedure, esp one that is unvarying.
I have a love/hate relationship with the routine of my comfort zone.
I like to know what to expect every day and I like to know what I am doing next. After a while, however, I get bored with my strict schedule that allows little room for adventure. I’m sure many of you feel the same way I do about routine.
But is it our fault that we are stuck in a cycle of predictability? We are raised to adhere to a routine, sometimes created by us and sometimes forced upon us by institutions. From the time we are 5 to 22, (most of) our lives are dictated by class times and slots outside of school to do homework. From then on, we are given a work schedule that we form our lives around. There isn’t much freedom when it comes to determining how you will take advantage of your day (or for all of you Oregon Duck fans, “win the day”).
This may seem ironic, but to take a break from routine, we must plan time for adventure.
Back when Paul started his Last Great Road Trip that we like to call his mid-life crisis, he worked hard to get out of the rut. A lot of planning went into his trip to the Arctic Circle adventure but the experiences they had on that off-road adventure were far from predicable.
I have determined that it is nearly impossible to maintain a life without having some sort of daily schedule but it is also impossible to be happy, find love, experience real friendship and joy without going outside of your comfort zone. But escaping the safety of a routine is not without peril… you must face real danger and over come fear in order to attain a true adventure in life.
So the next time you are feeling trapped in the never ending cycle of routine, when you struggle to find motivation, when the fun is long gone, and the only reason to continue is because bills need paying… set aside time to explore, get lost and escape the confines of your comfort zone.
Get in your car, play some music loud, and just drive. Or go on a long road trip, write about it, and have everyone follow your crazy adventure… sound like anybody you know… haha.
A car is more than just a mode of transportation. It is your sanctuary, your vehicle to escape the outside world. I have a greater relationship with my car than I might like to admit.
I came to this conclusion recently while running errands. Before I had a car, who I call Petey, I felt trapped. I hated not having the freedom to just get up and go somewhere, whenever I wanted. I didn’t like relying on other people to take me places.
Besides the rewarding independence owning a car gives us, I think it’s the things we do inside our automobiles that really says something about our connection to them. For example, I love singing when I’m alone. But this is difficult to do when you’re living in a dorm or a sorority house. Now that I have Petey at college, I make sure to listen to my “Sing Along” playlist every single time I’m in my car because I know it might be a week until I have that alone time again. A fifteen minute drive to the grocery store where I have my own little private concert is a simple pleasure that often gets taken for granted, but when gone without, leaves a huge hole in my life.
Cars are our little safety blankets where we can truly be ourselves without the outside world seeing. We can pretend to be Adele, explore our deepest thoughts, practice what we’re going to say to the person we’re driving to meet.
Once we get to our destination, it’s back to the real world. So never take for granted the time you spend in your car.
There are a lot of factors that make a road trip worthy of being called great. There’s the people you travel with, the people you meet along the way, the planned stops, the unplanned stops, etc.
I was thinking about the road trips I have been on- what my favorite ones were and why- and I have come to the conclusion that all great road trips have valuable life lessons.
When my friends and I drove to Portland for a spring break in high school, I learned that I naturally step into a leadership role when needed. I also learned that it’s okay to be irresponsible now and then.
When I went to Whistler with my sorority sisters, I learned that texting while driving is a real issue and that my friend is a terrible driver. That same trip, I learned how to drive in the snow and how to convert kilometers to miles.
My most recent road trip was with a big group of my friends to The Gorge. We fit eight of us into my friend’s camper. I realized that I can handle way more than I thought I could (camping, smelly sleeping bags and gross bathrooms… ). Most importantly, I learned that I have the best group of friends I could’ve asked for.
I believe that if you don’t take away a new insight from a road trip, it’s just another long car ride.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” -Greg Anderson
I don’t know who Greg Anderson is but he could not be more wrong.
When I’m moving at 5mph on I-5 North through Portland, just ten miles away from the bridge that will get me to my home state, there is absolutely no joy in focusing on the journey. There is road rage, but not joy.
Maybe I don’t like focusing on the journey because it is too predictable. I know the drive from the University of Oregon campus to my house in Poulsbo, Washington like the back of my hand. I know how long it should take me to get to certain landmarks along the way, I know the top speeds I can get away with driving at, & I know that the destination of home is much better than this 5 hour journey.
I’ve done this same back and forth drive up and down I-5 for three years now and it doesn’t get better. The most pleasure I get out of it is when I break a personal record in the amount of time it takes me to get from school to home or vice versa.
(I’ve made it in five hours flat, my goal is to shave twenty minutes off of that time.)
Another game I like to play is testing how successful I am at weaving through traffic, changing lanes at the right time to pass a certain car/truck I’ve picked out of the crowd. This is my entertainment, my distraction from thinking about the journey.
I know this blog is about road trips- great ones, last ones- so me bitching about least favorite ones seems a little pointless, right? I am not writing this to deter you from taking future road trips. I am writing this to encourage your automotive travels. Even though I hate the drive from college to home to college, I still do it as often as I can.
Why put myself through this? Because the destination is worth it, and much better than the journey.
Road trips can be a lot of fun and you can learn a lot from them. But the next time you are stuck in traffic, angry at the world, remember this: Focus on the destination, not the journey. It’s worth the cramped legs and expensive gas prices.
Those who follow us know that every once in awhile I can go off on one of my self-discovery narratives contemplating life, the length scale of quantum gravity or the zen art of tire rotation. Well I’m overdue.
Driving is my meditation. Lately I’m laying down 150 miles on my daily commute which provides a truck load of time to consider my life… or at least how I’ve rewritten the history my life.
When I look back 20 years, I see a life seemingly foreign to me now. A rock-n-roll, party your ass off, hard drinking life style. And when I say hard drinking, I don’t mean a calendar full of red solo cup, beer binging weekenders. I mean years of scotch all night, every night black outs with tequila and nicotine for breakfast just to put me right, life style.
Like many twenty somethings, I lived as if there were no tomorrows and I paid no attention to the past. I had all the answers. At least the answers to all the questions I cared to ask. Bashfulness and insecurity hidden behind outrageousness and arrogance. To me, my life made perfect sense: lust and adventure, my liver hanging by a thread and one foot over the ledge.
I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life in two words: “It Changes!”
These days I don’t drink. Unraveling the insecurities I worked so hard to hide, has lead me to a deeper sense of understanding. Lust has been redirected into love and an appreciation of the joy and sorrow that accompanies it. Through the past twenty some years of travel, friendships have anchored me in the present without having to give up the stories of my past. I no longer believe I have all the answers, because I now ask better questions.
I understand adversity. I know failure. I still stumble but it does not define me.
My sense of adventure has matured like a fine single malt (I said I don’t drink… I didn’t say it was easy). I retained the courage to step outside of my comfort zone to explore what is different and unknown. I’ve been richly rewarded on these journeys.
Everyone needs to have their wild years. We all live in change. I am a the result of what I bring forward from my past. It shapes how I approach the future. I’m living in the now, recalling the past and looking to the future.
The adventures I’ve had and those in front of me continue to drive my lust of life and a quest for answers that can never be found, only searched for.
I never could have imagined my current life and who knows what this chapter will look like in the rear view, twenty years from now. All I know is objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
Flying into Telluride on a cloudy day is an experience best describe as 45 minutes of complete boredom followed by 60 seconds of shear terror. The small plane which had to leave two passengers and six bags behind because of weight restrictions seem to fall from the sky as it descended from cruising altitude to landing strip in less time than it takes to say a quick Hail Mary and beg forgiveness for all the sins of my past. As the saying goes: “Any landing you walk away from is a good landing”.
You would expect to see lots of FJ Cruiser photos and descriptions of wheeling trails like Black Bear or Corkscrew here. After all this is the 5th annual FJ Summit with some 500 folks gathering to drive the high mountain passes, compare rigs and talk wheeling. But today was more important than that.
Today was about meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Metal Tech sponsors a party at one of the local watering holes where the beer comes in their famous MT Pint Glasses (green this year if your collecting the set). If you don’t know about their pint glasses check on ebay… you can probably find someone willing to part with theirs for the right amount. Of course you may have to sell a kidney to afford one on ebay. Metal Tech doesn’t sell their pint glasses, instead they hand them out free at lots Land Cruiser events as their way of giving back to the wheeling community across the country.
Mingling through the crowd, I found myself in a sea of new faces. There is a strong community bond among this sport and I quickly found everyone extending a hand and inviting me into their circle of friends Some were here with friends, others with their wives or girlfriends and a few father bonding with their sons.
Walking through the bar, filled with hundreds of unfamiliar faces, one suddenly stood out. I have a strong bond with Frank… We wheeled The Rubicon Trail together. The bond that formed on that off-road adventure is hard to explain but it will last a lifetime. In no time the years melted away and we were sharing stories of our kids, work and life. Frank is one of the good guys that I’m fortunate to call my friend.
Parties have two phases. Phase one is filed with folks talking, sharing stories, and exploring the ties that bond us all together. When the sun goes down and crowds thin out… Phase 2 takes over. I wont name, names or go into details, but when Metal Tech throws a party, debauchery, mayhem, tramp stamp competitions and nudity are a real possibility.
In the morning, I’ll be wheeling as a guest of Metal Tech and have an opportunity to try out their new FJ Cruiser rear long travel I’ve been eying for a while now. What Hula Betty doesn’t know… That Metal Tech long travel is a done deal… its just working out the timing now.
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