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.

dirty fj cruiser leaving haul road

Road Trip Junkie… 12 Step Program

You won’t find Road Trip Addiction Disorder (RTAD) in any medical journal but more and more folks are finding it harder and harder to stay away from the tarmac.

A few experts have tossed around numbers like 30 million suffer from RTAD – just a handful of the 196,165,667 drivers in the USA. But if you have a road trip monkey on your back you know the pain and suffering that comes with this debilitating addition.

Ok, at this point you might be saying to yourself; “these guys are looney!” “I enjoy road trips. I don’t have a problem.” If that’s the case take the following quiz and see if you might be certifiable — like we are.

  1. Do you take the long way on your commute avoiding short cuts and looking for new routes?
  2. When sitting in your office cube, do you find yourself fantasizing about driving to destinations halfway across the country?
  3. Do you long to see: The world’s largest frying pan, the biggest ball of twine, or the dinosaur fossil and petrified forest museum?
  4. Have you driven your vehicle through a tunnel carved out of a giant tree?
  5. Does the perfect date involve a drive-in?  Is an old A&W with car hops the ultimate date destination?
  6. Have you re-financed you home to ensure you have gas money for that planned drive down A1A?
  7. You know what a TripTik® is.
  8. To fall asleep you picture passing white highway lines, instead of counting sheep ?
  9. Have you ever crazy glued your eyelids open to keep from falling asleep so you could drive to the beach at night and be back to work by morning?
  10. After a fight with your significant other do take a victory lap in the car rather than having makeup sex?

If you answered “yes” to any of these question you may have RTAD. If you answered “yes” to more than half the questions you are hopelessly addicted.  If you answered “yes” to #10…  we’re sorry.  But fear not!  There are many high functioning RTAD people in the world, many right in your neighborhood.  If you feed your addition properly using all your vacation time, long weekends and commute you should be able to satisfy that monkey and maintain some assemblance of an ordinary, less fulfilled, boring life.

woman tattoo artist at work

The Continuing Adventures Of Hula Betty

hula betty looking outYes, every woman in this website is referred to as Hula Betty…  She is an independent spirit.  A woman who knows what she wants and has the drive to reach out and take it.  Hula Betty is a way of life that embraces adventure.  More than a name, more than a pretty face, Hula Betty is a way of life and a sense of self.  Which brings us to this adventure.

Leaving your parents’ home and going out on your own is the ultimate adventure.  Its the big adventure every parent looks forward to watching with pride and dreads with all their heart.  You hope that when they leave, they take with them the knowledge you’ve tried to impart, a strong identity of who they are and a compass in their soul that will always guide them home if needed.seattle street

Hula Betty has that and more.  And she wanted to make sure she never forgets her roots.  Her idea was to combine flesh and ink to create a permanent reminder of all those temporary feelings of her youth.

We set out for the city on a day painted with sunshine as the ferry boat pulled out into the sound.  Leaving the sleepy little poulsbo behind, the Seattle skyline grew closer as we talked about things to come and what led Hula Betty to her decision.  Two adults discussing rack

One thing about the ferry schedule…  you are either an hour early…  or hour late…  the boat never seems to line up with the time you planed.  But an early arrival gave us time to walk around, taking in the sites and the smells of Pikes Place.  We stopped to enjoy a little people watching from the calm of a barista’s paradise, and even managed to explore the world from the pages of a map as we chatted about the places that remained to be explored.  Today’s destination was a little closer…  but no less exotic.

seattle sky line tattooMadam Lazong’s was where I first had my adventures etched into flesh and I was proud to be asked to accompany Hula Betty as she marked her adventure.  She had spent considerable time contemplating designs, placement, and the emotions this marking would evoke for her.  She was ready but Steph was running late and you could tell Hula Betty was getting a little nervous as the realities of the needles sunk in.  But she is nothing, if not strong in her convictions, she knew the butterflies would pass.

Some times its the little things that have the most meaning in our lives.  For me it as a day spent with Hula Betty.  For her it was the elegant simplicity of the Seattle skyline to reminder of home.

man sleeping camp chair morning sun

River of Change

man fly fishing riverThe second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. Life is like a river flowing, ever-changing. It flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth and gentle in some places, it snags on rock crops out of nowhere. As soon as you think you are safe, something unexpected happens.

Pain finds men no matter where they are, no matter how good they are, how hard they try. Struggling to make ends meet, make relationships connect, make life work out. Men live on a piece of rock that makes us sitting by camp fire

Some, find a friend, a brother, to lean on. A brother in arms to help in the struggle, to stand shoulder to shoulder in the battle for life. A brother who, without question will lay down his life for another. A man who will walk the road of hell because someone is needed to point to the light, calm trembling eyes and show the way out.

These are not just words rolling out to the world. These are echoes of hope heard among the trees, on the river, soaring among the stars in the night. Men struggle at birth, through sickness, with old age and death. The world changes, life flows.

Thank you Lord for another day. Help my brother along his way, please; bring peace, to the soul. Grant us all peace, serenity and the courage to change.

west texas dog days

A Picture’s Worth A 1,000 Words

silver fj cruiser flexed out black bear ouray coloradoThose of you who have read through our stories here know that pictures are a big part of the last great road trip. And like boho chic runway models you will find one or two of our images that are better than average. But most of the time I rely on point shoot… shoot a lot and hope something interesting comes out.

But when I see someone with an eye for composition and an editing flare I realize I just hack at it…

You know who they are. Artist who tell their stories with a single image. William Shafer (Raggler on Flickr) is one of those guys who tells his stories with pixels. Stories that convey moods and transmits an energy without ever writing a single word. When I look at these images my soul changes.

white sand desert blue skyFor me there are hundreds of stories in each of these images. I don’t necessarily see only Raggler’s story… I see mine. I look into these images and I feel my past adventures and I imagine adventures still to come, I take his story and make it my own.

When I first came across Raggler’s images I felt the need to travel… around the block, around the world, it didn’t matter I just needed to travel. I see these images and sense the energy of the road, I hear the road calling to me, I feel its pull on my life.

silver fj cruiser sandy desert roadMy life has been dragged across blacktop and dirt around the world. I’ve encircled the globe four times, seen 17,504 sun rises and loved deeply.  I’ve driven to places I shouldn’t have and met people who surprised me in so many wonderful ways. My life stories are spread across the Internet and tattooed in flesh. But it is images like these that humble me. I see these images and know I have to keep moving.

Until the other day I didn’t know Raggler but now he’s inspired me to create better stories in life, words and images.

fj cruiser bikini woman…Ok this photo, just screams Hula Betty to me! What do you think?

Off road adventures and sharing the experience through the lens of a camera is something we all reach for but only a few like Raggler will grasp.

Thank you Raggler for sharing your images and allowing us to post them here.

olympic peninsula map

Getting Back In The Saddle

olympic peninsula trail map2009 was incredible for off-road adventures… Tahuya OVR ParkBill Burke training, Tillamook State Forest and of course the Rubicon Trail off-road adventure.   It wasn’t so good for economic adventures.  Without much work we had lots of time to hit the 4×4 trails…  A little too much time.  Fast forward to today, 2010 and economic times have improved.  Good news for business…  not so good news for wheeling.  Over the last six months we’ve racked up more air miles than trail hours, flying back and forth to Texas, Montana, Oregon, and around Washington.   But all that is about to change…  at least a little.

The good thing about nights on the road and working out of hotel rooms is you have lots of time to Google trails and research you next off-road adventure.  This time we were looking for a multi-day solo run to wash off the stress and airport grunge.

Turns out the Olympic Mountain Range is the wettest place in the lower 48 states…  If you live in northwest you may think your back yard is the wettest place on earth this year but really the Olympics are it.

It also turns out that there are forest and old logging road encircling the majority of the mountain range.  While not the gnarly boulder filled “roads” of Rubicon, the back roads of the Olympics offer seclusion in one of the most beautiful places in the northwest.

At just under 8,000 feet high, Mount Olympus is the big boy in the range which includes Mt. Deception, Constance, The Brothers, Warrior, Eleanor and a host of others.  The range is filled with rain forest, beach, alpine meadows, rain shadows, clear cuts and some of the world’s largest trees.

This off-road adventure is not going to be about raising our testosterone level with gnarly terrain or testing the limits of our suspension.  This adventure is about getting back in the saddle, connecting with the soul of the open road and freeing the demons in our head through quiet reflection alone in the middle of nowhere.

We’ve printed the maps and loaded 500 miles of GPS way points.  Now to finish up a little rig maintenance and wait for the sun to warm up the trail…  or at least the rain to stop for a bit.  We haven’t figured it all out but looks like we have a plan…  And a good plan today is better than a perfect plan a year from now.

holly names prom girls

Hula Betty Goes To Prom

holly names prom dates fj cruiserI’ll be the first to admit…  We are not high on the cool scale of 18 year old seniors. But when prom rolls around…  the laws of physics and high school insecurities are suspended.

Turns out that even the lines of limos didn’t draw as many looks or photo ops as our FJ Cruiser.  Of course after you’ve seen 10 stretch hummers…  you’ve seen them all…  But the Blue Bunny… There is only ONE.

So to all the kings and queens of the prom we hope you have a great time and stay safe.  As you graduate and venture out into the world, heading for college, work or military service remember…  The world is yours and it will become what you make it.  We hope you make it better than you found it and your life is filled with adventures just as special as Prom.

durango drifters

1 Truck, 4 Freinds and 9,500 Miles

Sound familiar…

Four college students, The Durango Drifters: Amy, Billy, Tricia, and Kristina are readying for their cross country adventure.  On May, 26th 2010 the friends plan on piling into a Dodge Durango for 37 days to drive from from one end of the country to the other and back again. Along the way they will cover 19 state, camp in nine national parks, shoot rapids, scale mountains and attend a couple of big league games. At least that is their plan.

Anyone who has taken a major road trip knows these guys are in for the time of their lives. Sure they will see the country… but the epic side of this journey will come from the experiences they have, the people they meet and finding out more about themselves.  You know you really can’t help but uncover  little truths about yourself when you are ass to elbows in a truck for weeks on end and no one is bathing on a regular basis.

But if everything goes as planned, these guys from the east coast will have experiences to last a lifetime.  They will cruise below sea level across Death Valley, sore over Pikes Peak, cross the great divide and maybe  find the worlds largest ball of twine.  They also plan on sharing their adventure with friends and family by posting their journey on their website The Durango Drifters so that everyone can participate in their joy ride.

Life is pretty simple, you do some stuff that works and some stuff that doesn’t.  The trick is to find what stuff works that is different than what everyone else does.  Helen Keller said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”   These guys definitely have the Hula Betty spirit and we hope they have a daring adventure of a life time…  Be sure to stop by their site and wish them well.

toyota fj80 and fj cruiser rubicon trail

And They Call It Vendor Love…

thanks for the off road adventuresWith all the mods on the rig we’ve had to work with a number of 4×4 off-road shops and after market vendors. And as you know, some of them are better than others. So what makes one vendor better than another?

Certainly some vendors produce higher quality gear than others, but not everyone wants or needs the top of the line equipment. Some shops have lower prices than others. But what is it that really separates the great vendors for the not so good and down right awful.

For us, its service. There are all kinds of ways to define service but ultimately we break it down into two categories:

  • Service before and after the sale
  • Service when things go bad

But working with a good shop or vendor is a two way street.  We have responsibility in all this as well:

  • Support a good shop with your loyalty
  • Don’t expect something for nothing

Any time someone asks me a question my usual response is “It depends”.  A good shop will happily talk to you about your project, get to know your needs and what type of wheeling you enjoy so they can give you the right information and help you make good choices.  Good shops and vendors know a well informed customer will make better choices, be much happier with any purchase and hopefully will become a loyal customer.  Don’t take advantage of this by asking for truck loads of information, advice or install support only to turn around and surf the Internet for the lowest price on all the parts they have helped you select for your project.

No matter how tight the quality controls, once in awhile a bad supply of raw materials sneaks in and a bad product gets out the door. Whats important is how the vendor or shop deals with it.  Good vendors and shops want to make it right.  Sometimes it means replacing or fixing a part.  Sometimes it means working with you to try other options.  Work with your vendor honestly when things go sideways and be open to options.  Good shops want to make it right and you have to work with them so they can.

Most of the really great shops and vendors I know are small business owned by individuals who have a real love for what they do and believe in their product.  They are small enough to know each of their good customers (good doesn’t mean spends a lot) personally.  They care about their business’ reputation and want to do what is right for their customers.  But they don’t have deep pockets and can’t give away the store.  These are folks trying to put out a good product or service at a fair price.

So why am I feeling the love for vendors?  The last couple of weeks I been trying to run down parts for a project I started and I turned to Baja Designs, Fourtreks and Plus 1 Accessories for help.   They all were great! They worked with me to understand what I needed and did what they could to help.

Luke over at Fourtreks had a few custom parts made up so that my original designs would still work.  This, while he was trying to get his house, family and business packed up to move.  I’ve moved… a lot!  And Helping others during that time was not my first priority.  I could take a lesson there…  the man deserves a medal.

Plus 1 Accessories found some raw tubing they could send my way that is going to work out and Baja Designs didn’t hesitate to toss in some extra clips, connectors and light buckets I needed.

We’ve all dealt with bad vendors (lord knows I’ve had my share) and the hassles they cause you can feel like nails on a blackboard.  But I’ve been lucky to work with a number of good ones too.  These days when I need help I know I have a good base to turn too.  Even when they can not help, they usually know who can and send me to someone they trust and that says a lot.

hula bettys man

Reflecting On The Detours…

dashboard hula bobble dollI can’t believe another year has passed on this wild off-road adventure.  Thanks to all of you, the Last Great Road Trip continues to be the web site destination for those who take the wheel and driver rather than letting life pass them by.

Looking back over the three years, I have to smile when I think about the adventures Hula Betty and I have taken.  Sure the Arctic Off-Road Adventure was amazing… and driving the Rubicon Trail was filled with great ass puckering moments… but the time spent with family and friends on the trails is undeniably the most rewarding part of the adventure for us.  Who can forget spending time at the swimming hole with Boy…  the friendships made on the all girls 4×4 trail run in the Tahuya Forest…  or the look on a friend’s face as we introduced her to off-road adventures in Tillamook State Forest.

146,000 visitors last year can’t be wrong so we hope you continue to enjoy reading the stories and watching the videos (Vimeo Off-Road Adventure Channel) we post. But what does next year hold?  We’re currently researching a solo loop around the Olympic Mountains, looking at a couple of the Oregon Back Country Discovery Routes with a buddy and with any luck we’ll make another Rubicon or Moab trip.   Of course we still have Twin Lakes on the list and there will be a number of weekend outing with the 4×4 clubs throughout the northwest.

When it is all said and done the mile markers fade, scratches buff out and chicks dig dents, but the road less traveled will always call to the soul of adventurers looking to see what is around the bend.  Where are you going to explore in new near?

lgrt king of the hammers

If You Race The Hammer You See Nails Everywhere

Every once in awhile, ordinary guys (gender neutral, non-specific term use) get an extraordinary off-road adventure opportunity.

King Of The Hammers is an off-road race that balances speed, rock crawling and drivers skills against some of the most difficult trails anywhere.  This year the driver of Camo’s Buggy #4407 is up for grabs   The 5 driver finalists were selected from ordinary guys and now the members of Pirate 4×4 are going to make the final selection.  This means you (yes you) can participate in that selection.

So other than another interesting audience participation selection gimmick what makes this note worthy?  Well for starters, the finalists have contributed a lot to the off-road community, each in their own way.  Belly Doc is one of those who has given significant time helping others with FJ Cruiser problems, lending a hand on the trail and taking every opportunity to promote wheeling in support of keeping our trails open.  Belly Doc knows that educating the public on how responsible wheelers are working to restore the environment is the key to keeping trails open.  He sees King Of The Hammers as his opportunity to continue that education in the media that will surely follow an ordinary Dr. (really you didn’t put Doc / Dr together)  wheeling a race of a life time.

It is not everyday ordinary guys get a chance…  and this is our chance to help give one of them an extraordinary opportunity.  Just hop over to Pirate 4×4 and vote.