After about four hours of sleep, we hit the road from the 2013 FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado for home early Sunday morning. Our goal for the night was Pendleton, Oregon which would make for a relatively short trip to home in Ellensburg, Washington on Monday.
There wasn’t a lot of highlights other than stopping at In-N-Out in American Fork, Utah for lunch. Except for a few mountain ranges we drove through, it was mostly desert, shrub-steppe and farmlands along the way. The high temperature on the way home, according to the on-board Toyota Tacoma thermometer, was 106 degrees. With temperatures in that range, we didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors.
We basically spent eight days in a new (around 18,000 miles to start the trip) crew-cab Toyota Tacoma with an automatic transmission. The modifications to the truck included an ARB Bull Bar, Warn winch, front and rear air lockers, Old Man Emu suspension, Falken all-terrain tires (2 sizes up from stock), rock sliders, two full-length slide-out drawer systems (loaded with recover gear, catalogs and marketing materials), ARB fridge, a custom tubular-steel bed rack that held an ARB roof top tent, hilift jack, shovel and gas can. Add two people, camera gear and personal items, the truck was at or near its maximum rated gross vehicle weight.
To start the trip, we towed the Xventure off-road trailer from Ellensburg, to Montana, through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. From Wyoming, we pulled the trailer through Utah and finally to Ouray, Colorado. With trailer in tow we averaged about 10 mpg. The trailer towed very nicely. The Tacoma could have used more power for the highway climbs (something I’m very used to in my Land Cruiser) but overall performed well towing the trailer. A gear ratio change would probably make a big difference in the towing ability of the truck.
The next three days we spent driving the mining roads in the San Juan Mountains around Ouray, Telluride and Silverton. Because of the conditions of many of the roads, we spent a lot of time driving in low range. Several of the passes we drove were over 12,000 feet and most days we were above 10,000 feet until we got back to Ouray. I think we averaged about 9 mpg gallon on these days of driving.
On the trip home was much faster. No trailer, and lot of the marketing materials distributed lightened the load. Our mpg jumped up to an average of 14-15 mpg (that included driving through a lot of triple digit temperatures).
From a four wheeling point of view, I was very impressed with the crew-cab Toyota Tacoma. When compared to my 80-series Land Cruiser, the width is about the same, the Tacoma has a longer wheelbase and overall length. I feel that my Land Cruiser has a little better visibility over the front of the hood than the Tacoma (I feel like you’re sitting lower in the Tacoma than my Land Cruiser). The independent front suspension (IFS) is nice on the faster sections of road and trail. It performs well on the more technical trail as well. If you currently drive a 4×4 with a solid front axle, you will need to get used to more wheel lift in spots of high articulation. A front and rear locker helps in these situations.
For a long-wheelbase vehicle, the Tacoma makes nice and tight turns on the trails. Some of the roads in the San Juan Mountains switchback, tightly and steeply down the faces of canyons and the truck performed very well in these situations.
Overall, I would give the Toyota Tacoma high ratings for use as a expedition/overland platform.
Road trips are fun, however it is nice being back in the Pacific Northwest. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend a trip to this area of Colorado.