Petaluma, CA - Spring 2002 - Getting to know my Land Rover and finding a hobby to share with my young son
I’m going to use this blog to try and re-construct the build-up and gradual process of getting into offroading… This will be one part tech, one part trip report, and one part remembering the trips my son and I have taken together. The latter is what I remember most fondly.
I originally bought my truck used in 2001 to drive to/from work, for our family to use around town, going hiking, or snowshoeing. This was the second vehicle that I've owned with the nickname "Snoshoe". The first was a 94 Nissan 4x4 pickup that we owned when we lived in Maine. It had the license plate to go with it. As many of you know, I'm not big on naming my vehicles, but that is the license plate I always intended to pickup again for this truck. I just never got around to doing it.
The first big trip we took the Land Rover on was going to be from Petaluma, CA to Missoula, MT in July of 2002. My son was almost 2 at the time and I had some serious concerns whether he’d make it for several FULL days in the truck. So, I packed a lunch, tossed the new Van Morrison CD in the changer, and Soren and I set off on our first father/son Land Rover trip up the coast of California. We drove over some mountains where I had my first opportunity to try out that “Engine Braking” technique I’d read about in the Land Rover manual. We saw some beautiful coastline, lighthouses, drove with the windows down and the sunroof open while he giggled the way only a 1.75 year old can. What a great trip. 14 hours later, Soren was still happy in the back seat and I knew we’d found something we could do together… We’ve been doing it ever since.
A couple of weeks later we were headed to Montana. As we drove through Winnemucca and the desert of Nevada I thought to myself, “My goodness, who would *ever* want to live out here. What a horrible place.” I was sooo thankful for a white truck with good air conditioning. Little did I know that just a few short years later that I’d be running a website where people actually planned vacations to go to the Alvord Desert. What’s wrong with us? Seeing my truck parked in the desert I thought the image looked right somehow, in a way that only a Land Rover looks right in the middle of nowhere.
Exactly what I was looking for in a truck. On the way up, we had lunch in the desert, explored a few forest service roads, and eventually wound up at my sister-in-laws house where I was proudly showing off my truck to my brother-in-law… his only comment, “Who buys a white Land Rover?” I had to agree with him at the time. “I’m not really a fan of white, but I got a great deal on the truck.” I said. Again, little did I know that just a few short years later I’d be happy to have a scratch resistant “Expedition White” truck. :)
A little later in the week and we were headed up to the family cabin in the Rocky mountains. My first chance to put it in 4 Low… Huh, no 4 Low? What does this lever do then anyway? It would be years before I understood how my transfer case really worked. In the mean time, I headed up the hill in AWD with the plan of showing my brother-in-law in his Jeep Grand Cherokee how it’s done. Too much gas, poor rear tire placement and within 50 feet off-pavement I had taken out my first sidewall. Pffft. Hmph, this is new Land Rover sure is comfy, but it isn’t as good in the dirt as my old Nissan Pickup or 88 4Runner. I thought this thing had fancy traction control. "Must be the tires!" I thought. Upon returning home, that flat turned into my first of many google searches which led to my first round of upgrades; a set of 5 255/70/R16 BFG MTs and a warn receiver shackle recovery point based on the advice of the long since departed disco2.com.
I’m getting sidetracked by tech again. This blog is about my truck, but more importantly it’s about the adventures that I’ve been on with my wife, son, and now (2008) dog. It’s about how my son and I have spent hours upon hours traveling together, getting to know each other, and sharing my love of the outdoors with him. The truck is a vehicle that enables these shared experiences and on this trip we still have a few more before heading back to Petaluma.
After visiting family in Missoula, my wife caught a plane back to her job in Petaluma. I was on my own with a 2 yo who was still in diapers, was tired from being on the road for a week, and who would have to spend several days traveling in a Land Rover through the Nevada desert. If that doesn’t put fear into a grown man, I don’t know what will. What would have happened if we broke down? Sometimes it’s better to just not think about it.
On the way home, we planned to do a bit more than just head back as quick as possible. If we were going to have our first Father/son multi-night road trip then we were going to see some stuff. The revised route was Missoula, MT to Petaluma, CA via Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tietons, Jackson Hole Wyoming, then over through southern Idaho, across the Nevada desert, past Lake Tahoe, and on to our home in Sonoma County, CA. The trip had its ups and downs. We spent the first portion of the trip with family which meant we had to follow the group schedule instead of our schedule. Two days into the Yellowstone portion and Soren was melting down… oh-my-goodness, how am I ever going to get him home!? Fortunately, that was right before we split to go our separate direction and from then on out I could distract him with things like a REALLY BIG MOOSE on the side of the road. My kind of kid! He likes to stop and look at the same stuff I like to stop and look at. Who needs gift shops when you’ve got wildlife, landscapes, and good roads to drive.
Settled into our own rhythm the rest of the trip went smooth, and was filled with laughs, music, stops to look at and photograph the world around us, play, and enjoy life together. Our first trip of many, but the last time we’d go off pavement for another two years…
Too be Continued…