Category Archives: Rants, Raves and the Zen Art of Road Trip Management

Anything can show up here… life gets a little crazy but we manage to get through it. These are the stories of when the SHTF or something just pisses us off or just stuff we think is high on cool factor.

voodoo blue and metal tech 4x4 orange fj cruisers on rubicon trail

Sharing The Off-Road Adventure

Efj cruiser coming up rubicon trailvery phone is a camera… every Instagram user an artist… and every adventure is an opportunity to share a unique experience with the world.

The tools available through Instagram, GIMP (our personal favorite), Photoshop and others lets anyone take their digital images and craft them into a shower of color that brings out the true magic of their off-road adventure.

Some may say that these altered images are fake. We disagree! We’re not recording history here. We’re telling stories and the images shared on this site help tell the story, conveying the emotional experience of individuals who took the pictures on their adventure.

fj cruisers on rubicon trailThe off-road adventures we go on, put us in places of amazing beauty. These are often locations with rugged landscapes that can be extremely difficult to reach and only a lucky few will ever see.  Our website’s goal is to share these experiences and inspire others to embark on their own adventures in hopes that they will in turn share their stories and images encouraging even more people to step out of their comfort zone.

The images here that Mike captured of the Rubicon Trail scream adventure.  Mike gives everyone a peak into the emotional experience and raw energy of the trail.  Through Mike’s images the description of calm green serenity fills the  mind.  Other times its the expansive blues that reminds us all how small we are in the universe.

fj cruisers lined up on rubicon trailEach of us will see something different in the images we view.  The feelings that an image evokes depends on our own experiences and where we are in our own journey.

For me these images speak of camaraderie and the friendships found in a shared struggle as you overcome adversity together in order to achieve a goal that alone is unattainable. On this off-road adventure that shared struggle was the Rubicon Trail.

fj cruiser commuting washington state ferry

My Life As A Commuter

hula betty looking outIt’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.

two men ultimate fj cruiser on trailer

It Takes a Garage To Make An Adventure

As you know I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve, the night before an off road adventure.  Sure there is the anticipation of the adventure and the excitement of what’s to come…  But there is always more.

Sitting outside a Starbucks (got to grab the WiFi where you can on an adventure) in the Biggest Little City in the World, I am struck by, of all things, community.  You see six years ago when we started all this we didn’t really know much about what we were getting into…  What we found were good people and a community that cares.

We mention Metal Tech 4×4 often and sure they make some of the best off road products in the world but they are more than that… in the last few weeks I spent a lot of time in their shop getting the Blue Bunny ready for Rubicon.  I mentioned my concerns about not having time to really shake down our rig after all the mods (Ultimate FJ Cruiser), the 2,000 miles we’d be driving and the real possibility that we’ll break something on the trail (after all this is The Con).  Without a second thought, Mark offered us their truck and trailer to haul our baby down and back.  Mark and LT have done so much for us and their generosity seems to have no end!

The tie-rods on the early Toyota FJ Cruisers have a weak point that will give when you apply enough force from larger tires, re-gearing and granite rock.  Running down spare parts we gave Auburn Car Repair & Offroad a call.  Without thinking twice, John gave us a couple he had picked up for their race truck, offered us tips he’d learned from his FJC desert racing experience and double check a few things on the rig for us.

This type of  help goes on and on… guys like Beau Jaramillo, Kevin C… go out of their way for us.  The NWFJC, NW Overlanding Society, TLCA are filled with great folks who will help turn a wrench or offer a hand when you need it.

Six years ago we thought we were individuals going out to get away from it all.  Instead we have found a strong rich, community of people who have our back and are willing to go out of their way to help.  We may venture out by ourselves.  But we are never alone.

FJ80 repair rubicon trail

Don’t Be Cheap!

father son wrenchingFriends will tell you we’re cheap…  hold onto a nickel until the buffalo squeals cheap… after all it is difficult to part with hard earned money. However that does not mean we’re not willing to pay for value and there are somethings you just can’t put a price on.

The internet is a great resource.  You can find cheap parts, how to instructions and lots of opinions on what ever widget you have to have for your rig.  You can find it all but that doesn’t mean you’ll get everything you need.

So what constitutes value?  For us it is a shop that takes the time to work with us, explain options, spend the time needed to educate us and do what it takes to make sure we can make an informed decision.  And if things don’t go as planned the shop works to make it right.   Usually these shops are run by and filled with guys (gender neutral non-specific use of the term guy) who are real wheelers and car guys.  If you listen, they will impart wisdom to you that you can’t buy.  Whether you’re headed to Rubicon, the Baja or a road trip to Key West, they want to make sure your experience behind the wheel is one you wont forget.

When you find a shop that delivers great value don’t squander the opportunity.  Develop that relationship…  and that relationship goes both ways! When you find a shop that provides personal support, impeccable service and great value for the price be loyal.  — Rant time: and by loyal we mean, don’t work a shop by asking for a lot of how to help or expert advice and then cruise the Internet for cheap parts that the shop sells.  Yes talking with customers and helping them with advice, recommendations and insights from years of experience is good for business but don’t forget it is customer service so be a good customer if you take them up on the service.

sumter automotive

photo by bskolb

We’ve been extremely lucky…  we have found two great shops. You know that Metal Tech 4×4 are our go to guys when it comes to our rig.  Metal Tech produces and sells top quality aftermarket protection parts for your Toyota rig.  They will spend the time to make sure you get the information you need to pick the right protection and suspension components for your style of wheeling.  They will install the parts or help you understand how to install them yourself.  In fact it was Mark, one of the owners who helped us get into wheeling and has been instrumental in developing our skills…  He has probably forgotten more about wheeling Toyota’s than we’ll ever know.  A big part of us taking on Baja was based on the skills Mark and LT taught us when they let us tag along with them on the Rubicon a few years back.

More recently, we picked up a used commuter car while the Blue Bunny goes through its latest incarnation over at Metal Tech 4×4.  I can promise you, any 24 year old car needs a little love to stay in top form and our “new to us” commuter car was no exception.  Sure we enjoy working on cars, just check out or videos, but there is a lot to be said for having a shop that you trust who will take care of your car like its their own. Especially when your daily commute is 150 mile round trip every day.

When it came to finding a repair shop for this car we called a couple, then made an appoint for them to look at the car and provide a recommendation for its care and feeding.  Sure it was their chance to checkout the car but it was also our opportunity to see what they would find (we already knew a couple things they should find), how they would present a prioritized work list and see how they keep the shop looking (especially at the end of a busy day). The shop that stood out for us was Silverdale Autoworks. They found what we expected and a little more.  They gave us estimates for the different work and ranked the work according to priority based on what we told them was important to us.  Now with some 25,000 more miles on the car and a few trips to the their shop to repair an oil leak, refresh the cooling system and change more oil than we thought one motor could hold, Silverdale Autoworks has proven their value and earned our loyalty.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes. Take the time to find a shop that will provide you with great value and reward that shop with your loyalty.  If you work with the shop, your car guy will do his best to make sure your car or rig can take you on the adventure of a life time.

go farther explore the road less traveled

Off-Road Adventure New Year’s Resolution

explore the new yearWe at Last Great Road Trip are big fans of the New Year holiday and everything it stands for. Letting go of the past can be very therapeutic. As off-road adventure lovers, it is the hopes and dreams for the future year that excites us most. But before we completely forget about this year, I would like to reflect on the accomplishments of LGRT.

  • The Utah Backcountry Discovery Route turned out to be way more than we bargained for, almost loosing one of our team members.
  • Hula Betty started writing for the website giving it a new voice and proving I’m more than an iconic bobble doll.
  • The guys enjoyed wheeling deep into the night a couple of times including the Tillamook State Forest trails with the Northwest FJ Cruiser Club.
  • Got back to our road tripping roots with a Road Tip to Suttle Lake.
  • Turned over the Blue Bunny to the guys at Metal Tech 4×4 for a major suspension mod that still has our rig on the lift.

New Year’s Eve is a time to look back on the past, no matter how good or bad it was, and learn from it. But when the ball drops at midnight, our slates are wiped clean and we mustn’t dwell on another year gone.

off road adventure rulesOne of my favorite parts of the New Year is coming up with resolutions. We have high hopes for 2013, mainly because the Mayans didn’t believe we would make it this far, so our goals reflect that invincible attitude. Here are some of LGRT’s resolutions:

  • Tell better stories. Lets face it our videos are campy… they are fun and we enjoy them but they don’t tell the epic story we’d like them too.
  • Complete the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route off-road adventure. We have two legs under our belt (one of them twice) but there are still two more to go.
  • Decide on this years big adventure.  The Blue Bunny will be more then ready soon.
  • Do something different… REALLY different… on an off-road adventure.

So here’s to another great year of adventure, diversity, understanding, and learning, and may the best of last year be the worst of next year.

landrover defendor D90 utah backcountry discovery route

You May Be Addicted

baja_dirt_roadIf you’re off-road more than in your own bed at home you may be an off-road adventure junky…  But if you’re still in denial about your addiction to adventure and no amount of family interventions can prevent you from purchasing one more mod for you your rig, we have a test to help you face the truth head on.

  1. Are you more comfortable boiling water from a lake to fill water bottles than using the tap?
  2. Did you fail to completely unpacked from the last off-road adventure and can be ready to go on the next one in less than ten minutes?
  3. Do you spend hours at work planning your next off-road adventure despite the fact your boss might walk by?
  4.  Can you find a fully-functioning toilet behind every tree?
  5. arctic circle signWithout an adventure in your future do you start to get antsy and stammer about the house mumbling incoherently.?
  6. Can you sleep pretty much anywhere – on the ground, in your rig, under a bridge…
  7. Can you brew coffee in at least five different ways over a camp stove (one of which may or may not involve a sock)?
  8. Do you religiously check off-road adventure websites (hopefully ours) every morning?
  9. Do you prefer sleeping under the stars, even in the rain, rather than having a solid roof over your head?
  10. Does the majority of your paycheck goes towards funding your next off-road adventure?driving two-track trail
  11. When you talk to your friends about your last adventure do they added it to their bucket list?

If you answered yes to any of these you have an off-road adventure addition…  and you are the luckiest guy (non-specific gender neutral use of the term) around!

outside the comfort zone

Win The Day


  1. Habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.
  2. A prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure.
  3. A set of customary and often mechanically performed procedures or activities.
  4. 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.

inconvenienceI 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.

three college friends in car road trip

Petey, The Other “Man” In My Life.

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.

shool black board

Never Stop Learning…

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.

Driving by cars on Intersate 5 to seattle

Hula Betty vs. I5

night traffic“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.