Monday, March 6, 2017

Getting there

A rig like his is not necessary for where I go and what I do

I got a message the other day via Bob Wells' Cheap RV Living forum. The owner of a Toyota Rav4 Hybrid wrote:
The pictures you post seem to be of those picturesque spots I long to visit. Do you have a locking differential? Is it "required" for your type of travel? Could I get along with 7 inches of ground clearance and a poor AWD system?
Many people—usually those who have never experienced the world outside cities and suburbs—assume all the really cool places are hard to get to. Yes, there are some spots (and some people) that require four-wheel drive, but there's a crap ton of places that don't. The location of the photo in my masthead? Piece o' cake. You could drive a limo to that spot.

Only one place I've featured on this blog required four-wheel drive—the Jeep trip up Imogene Pass in Colorado. But I was just a passenger. Every other location was accessed via pavement or decent dirt roads. Some were kind of rough, but all I needed was the Rolling Steel Tent's two-wheel drive without a locking differential. It was just a matter of picking my line and taking it easy. I would guess about 90 percent of the places in my photos could be accessed in an ordinary small car. There are many people doing that.

Some writers for an off-road website were covering an overlander gathering near Flagstaff. A bunch of expensive, tricked-out SUVs. They came across the guy in the photo above who was living and exploring the West in his Geo Metro. He was mired in the region's awful mud and knew not to fight it. He was cool with staying put until the ground dried. The thing is, he got there, and many other places, in nothing special. In fact, he was driving what some people would consider the exact wrong vehicle. Front wheel drive? Hardly any ground clearance? Impossible!

But I see it all the time. For example, a couple of years ago I was looking for a boondocking spot down a rocky, potholed track. I was doubting the wisdom of going that way when I saw a Honda, a Buick and a Camero. Well, if they could do it...

True, I've been badly stuck twice. Once in sand that looked firmer than it turned out to be, and once in mud that was deeper and slicker than I had judged. Those were cases of wrong decisions, not wrong vehicles.

If you want to experience the mountains, the prairies, the forests, the deserts, the beaches, the beauty and amazing vistas of North America, you can do plenty of it in whatever vehicle you have. Just don't be stupid about it.


  1. I'm glad you blogged on this subject. It's good to see experienced folks like yourself encouraging others to venture out and see the sights and breathe the fresh air even if they can't afford what others say they have to have in order to not fail.
    Many smart people have had years of enjoyment with very little cash outlay.

  2. I read an article a few years ago that said you don't need an off-road vehicle if you want to enjoy the boonies. Just get a sufficiently dependable beater car. I agree.

  3. I thought of a Detroit locker but driving that far for something that smells like dirty socks is stupid.

  4. I follow a forum on a travel website. There are many people that plan trips to Utah that think they have to rent a 4WD to get around on the freeways and two lane highways. After all, they will be driving in the mountains, right? And there may be snow on those roads., right? They are often told by local folks that if the roads are so bad to require 4WD, they shouldn't be out on them.