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?

fj cruiser brian woody Swearingen

Rubicon Trail The Ultimate Challenge

If you want to know the emotional turmoil that is the Rubicon Trail…  This is it.  In 2009 and 2013 we made off-road trips down the Rubicon Trail with completely different experiences.

The Rubicon Trail is famous the world around as one of the most challenging off-road adventures.  Every time you drive this “county road” (really it is a county road) it is different.  With snow, ice, wind and rain, Mother nature is constantly moving the boulders, creating new ruts and turning the Rubicon Trail into a completely new challenge.

2013 – The 25th Rubithon celebration brought us back to the Rubicon Trail

2009 – Our first Rubicon Trail off-road adventure joining the Metal Tech 4×4 Invitational.

toyota fj cruisers and toyota fj80 rubicon trail

We’re Big In Japan

Japanese land cruiser magazine indexRemember our Rubicon Trail off-road adventure, the “2009 Metal Tech Invitational”?  I know you do…  Cause I don’t want to hear we do all this for nothing…  Ok maybe not for nothing… We do have a blast!

Well one of the members of the team on that off-road adventure was Yoshi, a photographer and writer for Japanese Land Cruiser Magazine.  Yoshi’s pictures and story hit news stands in Japan and sure enough Hula Betty and the Blue Bunny made the cut.

Turns out Japanese readers love seeing all the great places there are in the USA to drive off-road and reading about the Toyota trucks we build to make take on those off-road adventures.

Now if we only read Japanese…  I hope they spelled Hula Betty correctly.

2007 toyota fj cruiser arb bumper

From A Land Down Under

arb 4x4action summer 2010 coverCan I get a hot shower in the bush…  Who is behind 4WD TV…  How did the “Drive 4 Life” turn out…  Is there a good one woman tent out there…  Can a pig really drink beer… And what else are the crazy Aussies up too…

The new ARB 4x4action newsletter summer 2010 showed up in our in box.  As we’ve told you before, this news letter comes from the Australia head quarters so there is a big down under influence on the articles which give you a new point of view.

This quarters publication offers an opportunity to win an ARB recovery kit as well as an ARB air compressor.  Of course if you don’t win you can still read about the Aussies trekking across Africa.

If you’re not on the ARB list to receive your own free issue, we highly recommend it. Yes it is an on-line infomercial but it is also filled with great off-road adventure information.