Tag Archives: road of life

What is “Last Great Road Trip”

Whenever someone sees the truck, I enviably get the question “What is Last Great Road Trip”.  And that is tougher than I thought.

Sure I could say “oh it’s a website about overland travel and off road adventures” but usually I smile and fumble around an answer like “Just a website”,  because it’s embarrassing and that doesn’t really cover it.  Be sides there is our YouTube channel and all the social media I try to keep up with as well as meeting people who have touched my life.

So for 2018 I sat down and tried to figure out what is Last Great Road Trip.  What do you think?

Last Great Road Trip is about overland travel, performing your own routine maintenance and truck modifications.

We produce write-ups and videos that show you how to perform many of the basic maintenance activities on your FJ Cruiser and GX470 (we’ve been keeping her a secret). We also put together content to help you repair your Toyota truck when things break or you want to modify your truck and take it to the next level.

Overlanding is about remote destinations, unique experiences, self-reliance and the journey.  Our goal to encourage you to create your own adventure and I invite you to come along on our journey and share the experience.  

Too much market spam….  What do YOU think we are about?  How would you answer the question? As I look to 2018 and plan our next overland adventure I want to know.  Seriously…  Let me know!

If you hang on YouTube this is what you get:

fried eggs in skillet

Overland Chef… Huevos Ranchero

One of my favorite times during a overland adventure is early morning.  Sun rising over camp, quiet in the air, warm coffee and anything is possible.  And I get to cook breakfast!  I love to cook.

My all time go to favorite camp breakfast, huevos ranchero. Hearty, probably not that healthy but oh so very tasty.  Let face it, really anything with chorizo and eggs is going to come out good and can’t really be screwed up…  although there was the “chorizo surprise” debacle a few years back.

The secret to this breakfast delight is in the chorizo…  It can’t be that farmstead, grass-fed, dry-aged, loin-based, hand-rubbed, hipster chorizo.  No, this has to be the chorizo of my people, true Mexican chorizo, made from grinding up pork salivary glands, lymph nodes and fat with spices that cooks down to delicious, spicy, coagulated, crimson oily paste.

huevos ranchero ingredientsIf you’re looking for an exact recipe, give Betty Crocker a call.  I roll pretty loose… This is it:

  • Get the stove going… and keep the heat on the low side as you cook down the chorizo in a heavy skillet.  Keep it moving, don’t let it burn.
  • After a few minutes, add a handful of chopped onions and continue to cook (and stir) until the onions take on a translucent state.
  • Next add a minced garlic clove, giving a few more stirs.
  • Toss in a bunch of chopped cilantro and mix it in.
  • Pull the mix to the sides of the skillet making room to cook the eggs. (fry or scramble the way you like)
  • When the eggs are ready, remove from the heat and sprinkle everything with grated cheese.  Any good Cheddar, Jack, Queso Fresco, Queso Anejo, Cotija, Oaxaca, Panela, Asadero will do. Cheese is its own food group in my mind.

Serve on a plate, wrapped in a flower tortilla, over a corn tostada shell and drizzle a little hot sauce over everything.

This is really just the base.  You can add in fried potatoes, poblano or anaheim peppers, or diced tomatoes to make the huevos rancheros your own.

mountain tree view from car

Tube Door Lifestyle

tube door sunshineI 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.

Life gets messy…  I want to enjoy it fully!

fisherman in river

Bamboo vs. Steel

It’s said a “bad day fishing is still better than a good day of work”.  These days I seem to spend a lot more time in the office than out on the river, but it does make those trips that much more special.

I grew up chasing steelhead across Oregon with Kevin, one of my best friends from college.  We where never all that successful but it didn’t seem to matter; we were skipping class, out on the water and enjoying each others company.  Roll the calendar forward…  a lot, and nothing much has changed.toyota tacoma water crossing

We still don’t have a lot of success but we do drive better trucks that get us to more secluded fishing spots.  Fiberglass poles have been replace by hand made bamboo spay rods that Kevin builds in his shop from canes he brought over from china.  And we still enjoy each others company on a river casting a fly.

A bad fishing, is only bad if you can’t remember why you go out on the water in the first place.  And for me…  it not about the fish!

It’s All Grey

Watching “50 shades of Gay”, I am in awe of IO Tillett Wright’s compassion for others.

Boxes, patterns, profiles… the human brain is hard wired to quickly assess things against a template and make judgements.

This ability to assess and react served us well on the Serengeti when we would scan the grassland and see a golden mane, thrashing tail, whiskers…  lion, run!! We judged things as either predator or pry.  We reacted with fight or flight.

Unfortunately, we continue to use patters to appraise situations and often apply judgements across a wide group of people.

I’m pretty sure you don’t fit neatly into any prefabbed box.  I can promise you I don’t fit into whatever pattern you think I might.  I’m a jock, a princess, a brainiac and the dumbest guy in the room.  I celebrate life with the straight, gay, black, white and brown.  I travel the high moral ground and drive right down into the low places that you don’t speak of in polite society.

We are all the same…  and we are nothing alike.  We are individuals.  We need to celebrate diversity, exercise compassion and avoid putting others in boxes because it is easy.  We need to get comfortable with the shades of grey we are all painted in.

(original cover photo by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution, Share Alike)

truck brand haters

Don’t Be A H8er

There is nothing wrong with proudly repping your favorite 4×4 truck or off-road adventure vehicle. It’s another thing to be hating on someone else’s. You’ve seen the stickers, a boy pissing on some other brand’s badge or other derogatory remarks on display. This says nothing positive about your rig. In fact what it says about you is not good.

Out on the trails we all count on each other if there is a breakdown or an emergency. If someone needs mechanical help or is stuck and needs recovery assistance the last thing they need is someone telling them how they should of bought a rig like theirs. They’re already having a bad day. You don’t hate on the brand of their rig, you don’t point out why they should have a rig like yours. You ask how you can help.

Because someday you will be the guy stuck or broken down on the trail and Karma is a bitch.

jessi combs selfie sema 2014

To Live And Die In Sema

comeup winch toyota fj cruiser sema 2014Automotive nirvana by day, debauchery and broken dreams by night.  This is SEMA.

By all accounts SEMA is the premier automotive specialty products trade event, period.  It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The SEMA Show attracts more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries covering the automotive, truck, SUV, powersports, and RV markets.  Adding to its mystic, SEMA is not open to the public.  Like a chichi Boho model gliding past the velvet rope of New York’s Up&Down club, at SEMA you have to be an insider to gain access.ford truck sema 2014

The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC, apparently everything is Vegas simply goes by its initials now) has some 3,000,000 square feet of exhibition space and SEMA seemed to fill it all.  The show even managed to spill into most of the parking lots, muscle cars burning rubber around a makeshift track, Baja trophy trucksIronman4x4 toyota hj61 sema 2014 fresh from their Nevada desert runs are poised in the loft ready for the upcoming Baja 1000 and tons of exotic builds filling every open space on the asphalt.

While outside SEMA is smoking hot fun, inside is all business.  Manufactures and distributors do whatever they can to attract dealers and buyers to their booth where they can show off new product lines, discuss their M.A.P. skyjacker ford bronco sema 2014policies and tout seductive quantity discounts.

And in order to draw the tens of thousands of SEMA buyers into the booth:

  • chichi models strutting around in stripper heels
  • outrageously over-built and flamboyantly wrapped cars, trucks, 4x4s and SUVsbaja 1000 trophy trucks sema 2014
  • TV celebs, racers and motor sport legends signing posters
  • flashing lights, mega booths and lots of highly polished bling
  • tons of swag
  • and anything else that will entice a buyer to stop in their tracks

ford bronco sema 2014We spent four days wondering through SEMA and still didn’t manage to see everything.  We didn’t have time for booths showing off their tire balancing lead weights and lug nut wrenches.  Spent most of our 4 days checking out the off-road manufacturers hall.

ford mustang sema 2014Jeep is he market leader when it comes to shear numbers so manufactures heavily target the brand.  With Toyota calling it quits on the FJ Cruiser and no real successor named yet, the 2014 SEMA show was dominated by Jeeps and full size pickups on display.  There was the occasional Land Rover, 4Runner, Tacoma and one or two FJ Cruisers.redline land cruiser FJ-UTE sema 2014

Redline Land Cruiser’s new FJ-UTE was the only completely new to the market 4×4 on display.  Their production run will only be in the dozens or so each year and they have deposits covering builds for the next 18 months. Justin Robbins the designer and builder behind the FJ-UTE shared with us his favorite thing about their new truck.  Turns out he geek-ed out when it came to the CAD created CNC replica nobs.  No one had ever done it before and he knew it would be one of those things that no one notices but adds big to the overall FJ heritage experience.bestop roughrider sema 2014

Our big scores at SEMA this year…  How about a chance to chat with Jessi Combs, the fastest woman on four wheels.  We discussed how to encourage more young women to become involved in off-road and the business side of motor sports.  Ben from COMEUP winch gave us a glimpse of their new Gen2 product line coming out soon.  Over at BesTop we were impressed with their RoughRider spare tire organizer solution which is great for keeping recovery gear handy.

toyota 4runner sema 2014The truth about SEMA, or any other trade show, is that for everyone working the floor, covering the event or maintaining the facilities…   it is a lot of hard work!  By Friday even the chichi models were a little less bouncy and a lot less excited about those platform heels.  I’ve worked all side of these types of events.  I love them and I always end up working my ass off.  I’m not complaining.  It’s SEMA. It’s Vegas. It’s automotive nirvana and I’ve already booked my ticket for SEMA2015!

looking out the tent

The Over Night in Overland

sunrise prayer flagsWhether 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, landrover roof top tent overland campweathered 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.sunrise minimalist primitive camping paryer flags

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.cooking over open fire

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.sunrise camp prayer flags minimalist primitive camping

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.

camping stove pot and table minimalist primitive campingThe 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.voodoo travler alter minimalist primitive camping

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.hindu buddha voodoo hoodoo alter 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.

sleeping under a tarp minimalist primitive camping

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.

fj cruiser broken tail light

Dented My Dream

fj cruiser dented fron fenderNever set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. And laugh a lot – it’s good for you! ~ Paula Radcliffe

You spent forty, fifty, even sixty thousand dollars on a new truck and its modifications. You want to take it off-road to explore the 4×4 trails you’ve read about in search of solitude in the great outdoors. You just can’t seem to reconcile the idea of denting up a perfectly good truck in the name of getting away from it all.

If you take your truck off highway you will get some damage. That damage could be as little as paint chips from gravel kicked up on a forest road to full-on body damage caused by flopping your truck on the Rubicon Trail trying to navigate Little Sluice or Cadillac Hill. I say “you will” because eventually it happens. Maybe not on your first outing or your second but if you wheel long enough you will see damage on your truck.

There is something incredibly rewarding about driving a trail more difficult than the last and applying what you have learned in order to make it through the challenge unscathed. But as the saying goes; you learn more from your mistakes than you do from all your successes. In this case, an off-road fail can be a bit expensive. I recently learned a hard lesson. After driving thousands of miles of dirt roads and two tracks, the Baja 1000’s route to Cobo, The Rubicon Trail… TWICE and lots of 4×4 trails relatively unmarked, I got careless.

On a 4×4 trail I’ve driven several times before, I was working an easy stretch when another group of trucks approached from the opposite direction. I made a poor choice of places to pull out, miss judged the stability of a rock and before I knew it, my front fender and rear taillight were trying to occupy the same space as a fallen log which seemed to operate at a quantum level. I didn’t hear a bang or feel a big jolt. It was more of a soft kiss as the two came together leaving me with the sensation that something wasn’t right.

I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t hurt. For eight years I’ve kept my FJ Cruiser free of dents and dings. Sure a bit of pin striping but no body damage. This felt as if I’d somehow failed my truck, a broken promise to keep it out of harms way in return for it’s continued reliability and the assurance it would get me home. I’d screwed up. I was over confident in my ability and all the trucks fancy mods so I had tried to wedge the truck into a small crease instead of taking the time to look for a more appropriate turn out, and forced a bad choice. This mistake can be fixed. I will replace the taillight myself. The fender, well, it will get a little professional love after a few more off-road adventures we have lined up for the summer.

Now, before you give up on the dream of exploring the road less traveled in your new truck let me talk you off the ledge. I’m not telling you this story of carnage to scare you. Rather, I tell this tale so you will know there are much worse things than accidentally banging up your truck. The sting is temporary. It hardly even compares to the rewards you receive for exploring the fringes of your ability and discovering you have pushed out the boundaries that once held you back. This is the zen that eludes those who fail to try. These rewards are not given to the careless who thrash their junk against the rocks but is reserved for the thoughtful who attempt to live life without limitations and refuse to let setbacks stop their progress.

But the fact of the matter is: Sheet metal is repairable. Chicks dig dents. And the United States of America has the best body-shop to off-road-adventurer ratio in the world!