We pulled out of St Louis at the crack of 10. Locked and Loaded for a super fun tour of the West.
The Simple Plan
My aunt was having an 80th birthday in Seattle. The wider Bruce Clan was getting together. I wanted to drive rather than fly, because flying in the Summer 2022 was very risky. It is also Mrs. JonTheBruce’s birthday the next day. Instead, we planned a two week drive covering a bunch of National Parks. some old ground and some new. First stop, Fort Collins, Colorado. A very, very, overly ambitious first day goal for the first big driving vacation in years.
The weather was Missouri gross when we left, humid and 90s. It got Kansas hot at 110 in Hays. It was just a flat out, high speed, thirteen hour run to Fort Collins. No Biggie.
The couple that rides together, dies together.
Mrs. JonTheBruce and I have been together for like 28 years. Our trip didn’t fall apart with name calling and recriminations until we hit the front range of Colorado. A new personal record. Traveling without kids is much less stressful. Twenty years ago everything would have fallen apart in the driveway before we left. It was past dinner time and my co-pilot was using a Rand McNally map from 1970 to find a restaurant that was 40 miles in the wrong direction and closed during the first Bush administration.
We stopped and got gas. Switched seats. Upon careful review, I discovered that the front range of Colorado has no good restaurants and hasn’t since the Reagan era.
Actual storm clouds were on the horizon. The weather was cooling off a bit. A little rain was starting to fall. Mrs. JonTheBruce figured out that Denver has a taco place that we watched on TV six months ago. We went there. It was pretty good.
By the time, we got back on the road to Fort Collins, it was monsoon season in the Colorado Front Range. The temperature has slammed back down into the Rocky Mountain Highs of the mid 60s. We got to the hotel checked in and slept.
Driving Interstate 70 – 3.5 Stars
I have probably spent the most time road tripping on Interstate 70. It’s pretty much my gold standard for Interstates. Apparently, everyone else loves it, too. It was packed with every conceivable, every imaginable version of families on vacation. This was the start of my new favorite road trip game…
Judging Everyone’s Setup
If I had a dollar for every rooftop tent, I would have enough money to strap a rooftop tent on my own truck. But I wouldn’t because they aren’t aerodynamic and most of the time they are overloading the base vehicle or at the very least increasing the tip over risk of your Jeep. This summer’s $2500 roof top tent is this winter’s Craigslist find.
Compact Trailers and Teardrops.
I like compact camping trailers. I like the Off Road Versions even better. Not enough to own one, though. There are several manufacturers turning out cool, small tear drops. There is even an old school version that looks promising. The Scamp. It looks like two fiberglass hot tubs made into a clamshell with a door. The newer, over road/off road, high ground clearance teardrops are also very intriguing. Small, nimble. Expensive, with long lead times. I don’t plan to own a trailer, but this is where I have spent most of my research.
Fifth Wheel Trailers
I don’t like fifth wheels. A fifth wheel trailer is usually attached to a very large pickup truck by a pin that is attached to the bed of the pickup truck. Sure they look homey and luxurious. There is a lot to love. I don’t like registrations, taxes, plates, insurance, or storage lots rentals. I don’t like the fact you need a big ass truck to haul them around. I can’t tell you the number of times some asshole in a fifth wheel has pulled into the left lane towards the top of a steep grade at 20 miles an hour causing me to take evasive maneuvers. About 95% of the people pulling these things are not qualified to drive a mobility shopping cart at Walmart.
I love all Sprinters. A Sprinter is an Amazon Delivery van with camping equipment. The ones that used to be a delivery vans and the $300k custom four wheel drives. Sprinter is a model, but I am going to use it for Mercedes, Chrysler, Nissan, Ford Transits, etc.
Anything that fits in a regular size garage, bonus if it has All Wheel Drive. Capable of seating five.
Anything that would require off-site storage.
The only Sprinter I saw this whole trip that I didn’t love was a full size custom Sprinter with a roof top tent. It was taller than a giraffe in the bed of a monster truck. There are limits. The universe will not reward this kind of excess.
Things have gotten a little better since I got in the back of the “Free Candy” van back in the 1970s. There are still a few VW campers around. Due to market demand from social influencers, they are too expensive to own or god forbid drive. They are relegated to green screen studios where you pay by the minute to take pictures of photoshopped backgrounds while showing off your yoga pant clad butt while drinking conflict free coffee.
Anything modern that fits in a regular garage is Good Sprinter. I don’t think Ford makes a Econoline Van with a body anymore. We did see some traditional van shaped camping vans.
These are the giant tour buses towing a Rav4. Stay out of the third lane, at the top of the incline and we will be fine. These are not cheap.
Truck campers are simple to explain. Rodeo cowboys use them to get from town to town. These are more common north of I-70. They look non-aerodynamic and unwieldy. Luckily, they are usually strapped onto a truck that gets eight miles per gallon on a good day.
Toyota Tacomas for the end times
Toyota Tacomas are everywhere. They are very, very popular. There are a million ways to upgrade them. Toyota Tacomas are so popular that many aftermarket companies don’t even bother making stuff for other vehicles, like mine. They are ready for anything strapped down with tools and gas tanks and outfitted with big tires and car top campers. Mostly, they are driving through Starbucks or parking at the mall. They look like they could be deep in the woods.
Toyotas are not particularly spacious or comfortable or fuel efficient. My dad had one for several years. He upgraded to a Honda Ridgeline. I had a Ridgeline and upgraded to a Ford F-150.