Lone Star Land Cruiser Roundup

 

Deep in the Texas hills where rural communities flaunt rustic décor and pickup trucks are the primary means of transportation, the 12th annual Lone Star Land Cruiser Round Up entertained 163 people during four days of sunny spring weather. A jaunt around the campground reveals a truck variety spanning crawlers, expedition rigs, and low-tech Land Cruisers. Despite taking place at an off-road park, some attendees choose the path of Land Cruiser preservation over a dirt path. As an open event, other Toyota 4WD trucks are in the mix, but Land Cruisers account for the majority.

ARB drawer system

From day one, safety was a primary factor in the build of our 100 series. Having been indirectly involved in several roll-overs or flops, I’m all too familiar with the effects of a small object becoming a projectile. From tools to recovery gear to phones and tablets, all of these can become dangerous to vehicle occupants. With long distance travel a primary application, I knew that I would be traveling with a lot of gear. My search for a more useful replacement to the cramped third row had begun. Initially, I looked at simple, removable storage solutions such as action packers, aluminum boxes and the always handy, milk crates. While these options provide a fair amount of utility, they are often hard to secure. In one rear end collision, the driver doing the rear ending experienced an impact hard enough to move a “well secured” spare tire into the middle row of seats hard enough to break the mounting brackets and bend the seats forward. Had a passenger been in the middle row, this impact could have injured an occupant.

The search for a more permanent, secure, and useful alternative was on. The first consideration was material. Wood, offers some warmth, often lower cost, ease of repair and the potential to self-build. Unfortunately, every wooden drawer system I had experienced to date had fitment issues due to swelling and shrinking and were very heavy. Not being a woodworker meant that building my own system, even a simple one, was out. Polycarbonate systems were not available in my application, so this option was dismissed. Poly is also known to suffer from strength to weight issues making systems very heavy.

I had heard rumblings in 2010 that ARB would be bringing the Outback Solutions line of drawers to the US market along with several vehicle specific fit kits. Having used ARB products in the past, I knew that this wasn’t something that they would skimp on. I immediately gave them a call to discuss options. Wanting a level platform in the back, I purchased two medium depth (RD1045US) drawers along with the 100 series fit kit (100AIRFKUS). I found out that I had ordered one of the first sets of drawers to be imported and no one had any experience with the install. Installation was initially accomplished by Safari-Ltd in Grand Junction and was fairly straight forward. Instructions included several photos but at times some guessing had to be done. I’d estimate it took the guys two hours to do the install.

The construction of the drawers is top notch. Made of galvanized steel with integrated slide rails, the drawers are rated to hold a hefty 220lbs each!  The frames are also steel and feature integrated rollers that slide smoothly. The drawers feature the best handles in the industry. They are large, easy to operate and can be operated with the heaviest of gloves or mittens. The ability to lock them also adds some peace of mind. The fit kit is one of my favorite features. With dozens of vehicles to choose from, a clean, professional and custom solution can be implemented. The fit kit features removable storage panels and handy locations to mount accessories. I’ve mounted a BlueSea battery disconnect, USB and 12V power outlets, fuse block and inverter.

The drawers aren’t without a couple of negatives. First, the drawers only extend approximately 80% when open. This hasn’t been a major concern but could make larger objects a little harder to install. Second, and the biggest frustration I have had with the system are the locks that hold the drawer open. While convenient, they are designed with a miniscule plastic tab to hold things open. This part (RDSTP) has failed four times in four years. Removal of a drawer to replace is acquired and time consuming. Thankfully, ARB has provided these replacements at no cost but a better solution needs to be implemented.

My initial configuration was two like sized drawers and the fit kit. For my refrigerator, I’ve been struggling with a love hate relationship with the Tembo Tusk drop slide. If you have seen this device, you will understand. On a personal level, I love the drop slide. The engineering, the build quality and the customer support of Tembo Tusk are exceptional. In practice, the slide is imperfect. When the fridge is filled to the perfect level, the slide can operate with one hand. When full, it’s tough for me, impossible for my wife. Therein lies the problem, and my wife is buff so it’s not a brute strength issue. To counteract this, I decided to change things up a bit. I ditched the Drop Slide and purchased the short roller drawer (affectionately called the map drawer) with the roller top (RF1045). The roller top is stable, will easily facilitate an 80lb, fully loaded fridge (if fact, it’s rated to hold 165lbs!), and is only moderately annoying in that I now have to reach an extra 4-6” for a beverage. Overall, it’s been a great change with more storage space and more convenience. I will note that the top drawer now touches the middle row seat. Over time this could potentially wear through the leather, so use this configuration at your own risk. The safety, reliability and utility of a drawer system has made it one of, if not my favorite upgrades to the 100 series.

Outback Solutions Drawer Systems (Prices Vary)

http://store.arbusa.com/Storage-Solutions-C75.aspx

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    Cotrolling dust

    We struggled, for years, with dust entering into the 4Runner through the rear vent. We would vacuum out the rear of the truck after each trip to the desert. Finally I had enough and decided tear into the truck to diagnose the problem.

    I removed the driver-side portion of the rear bumper and was amazed to find the vent flap assembly, which allows the air pressure to equalize between the vehicle interior and the exterior, was missing. With this gone, there was a straight shot for dust to enter into the vehicle.

    I ran down to our local home improvement store and purchased two types of filter media to make my own two-stage filter assembly. I used the finer mesh register filters to create the inner portion of the filter and placed it against the interior body panel. I then used the coarser mesh furnace filter to completely fill the void between the inner and outer panels.

    After installing the filter material, I reattached the driver-side portion of the rear bumper and took the truck for a test run. Thanks to our two-stage filter, we no longer have dust billowing into the back of our 4Runner! The mod took less than 30 min from start to finish and only cost us around $10. I really wish I had taken the time to determine the source of dust earlier.

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    Rokmen Offroad

    To some of you, Rokmen Offroad may seem like a new name, however, these guys are anything but new to the off-road industry.  Dave and Jeff have nearly 30 years of combined off-road industry experience and bring with them over a decade of high quality fabrication and knowledge to the Toyota market.

    Over the years Rokmen has made a name for themselves in the Jeep market by providing high quality, high performance suspension components, armor and many other aftermarket products over a wide variety of Jeep platforms.  Looking to spread their attention to detail and pursuit of providing high quality products for competitive pricing, Rokmen has begun to spread their reach into the Toyota, Dodge and Ford markets.

    I had a chance recently to meet up with Dave and Jeff who are the master minds behind Rokmen Offroad to dig a bit deeper into what makes Rokmen stand out among the ever increasing crowd of aftermarket manufacturers.

    Around the same time Dave’s chocolate Lab was brought into this world, Dave and Jeff gave life to Rokmen Offroad.  What started with an engine swap back in 2002, Dave and Jeff have been building their business to become a successful Colorado based fab shop and nation-wide manufacturer of high quality products for a variety of vehicle manufacturers in the off-road market.

    When asked why Dave and Jeff decided to make the move from their well-established place in the Jeep industry, they mentioned that the overall goal is to provide high quality products to the “average Joe,” for reasonable prices.  They want to make sure that their customer, no matter the make or purpose of their vehicle, has the components necessary to build a functional and reliable rig.

    Forged in Colorado, Rokmen uses 7075 aluminum, which has nearly double the tensile strength of the more common 6061 aluminum, and in turn, brings added strength to their ever expanding product line.  CNC machined with quality hand polished finishes, Rokmen ensures their products don’t just look good, but also meet their high standards set after set, for every product offered.  For their suspension components, Rokmen has teamed up with Currie and are utilizing Johnny Joints in their links for Jeep, FJ Cruiser and 4Runner platforms.

    What sets Rokmen apart from the rest of the crowd?  “Our passion is in our products.”  Dave and Jeff are able to pay close attention to the details that distinguish a good product from a high quality product.  “It’s the little things” Dave mentioned, that keeps him continually looking to better their products, picking apart their own products, always looking for ways in which to make them better.  Their quality control allows them to offer the same high quality, time and time again, giving the customers a product they can rely on for years to come.

    Even though Rokmen has been expanding greatly into the manufacturing side of the industry, they still haven’t left their roots behind.  Each time I go back to their shop, they always have a full bay full of customer rigs looking to get the Rokmen touch.  Dave is the mastermind behind many of the CNC productions, while Jeff works his magic on the many build projects that come in and out of the shop.

    What can we expect next to come out of the Rokmen team?  With the help of key partnerships around the industry like Toytec Lifts, they will continue to push themselves to provide high quality products for your next project; helping you build a functional and reliable vehicle for both on and off-road domination.  With no need at this time to expand vastly, Rokmen plans to remain a small Colorado fab shop while leaving a large footprint on the market, offering high quality manufacturing for their industry partners.  With their eye on creating their own shock component line, A-arms and link joints for a variety of Toyota platforms, keep an eye on these guys as they’ll be bringing some magic to the market that we’ll all want to get our hands on.

    Follow Rokmen’s journey on Facebook and check out more on their company and products atwww.rokmen.com.  Rokmen’s craftsmanship can also found onwww.toyteclifts.com and Toytec’s ever growing product base for our Toyota Cruisers and Trucks.

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    Fossil Springs hiking

    The Hike

    Distance  to the Old Fossil Creek Dam via Flume Trail: 8 miles

    Elevation change: 1280 feet

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Time: Allow 2-3 hours each way  time to swim and explore the falls.

    Water: No potable water available.  Water can be filtered from the creek.

     

    The Drive

    From Phoenix: 

    Travel north on 1-17 to Camp Verde.  Head east on AZ Highway 260 for about 7 miles to a well-marked sign for Fossil Springs Road (FS road 708).  Proceed 16 miles on rough dirt road to the Irving Flume 

    Vehicle: 

    High clearance vehicle recommended.  Road may be impassable during wet weather. Car possible when conditions are dry.  

     

    Seasons

    Spring, Summer and Fall

     

    Camping

    Camping is free.  The sites are mostly pullouts along the road.  Dispersed camping along the FS road 708 

     

    Camping is allowed downstream of Fossil Creek Bridge if your camp is at least 100 feet from the edge of the creek.  Camping is also allowed upstream of the Old Fossil Creek Dam 

     

    Camping is prohibited within a quarter mile either side of Fossil Creek from the Old Fossil Creek Dam downstream to Fossil Creek Bridge

     

    Map of area and current regulations from USDA.gov:

    http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5426007.pdf

     

    Why this hike?

    Fossil Creek marks the true definition of what an asis is meant to be.  This dazzling riparian springfed creek is made possible by a group of springs that pump 72degree crystal clear water to the surface at a rate of 20,000 gallons per minute.  

     

    This wide and steep canyon produces paradise at the edge of the Colorado Plateau 

    near the Mogollon Rim.  This is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the state of Arizona.  The native desert shrubs and cacti are joined by more than 30 species of trees and serve as a retreat for abundant wildlife.  

    The area hosts many recreational activities including hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, star gazing and of course the ever important solitude.

     

    Themade this oasis one of the most unique and possibly the most abundant spring systems in the state of Arizona.

     

    On The Trail

    I arrived  my campsite  hours before the sun rested for the evening over the shoulders of the mountains in the Coconino National Forest.  It left enough time to explore the surrounding creeks under the Fossil Springs Bridge and  view  the cotton candy skies that make Arizona one of the best places in the world to view a sunset.

    A night of rest in the five billion star hotel that hosted some brilliant star gazing opportunities allowed for a leisurely start to the morning before heading out on the Flume trail.

    Nine a.m. was a perfect time to begin the trek to the Old Fossil Creek Dam.  The flume trail begins with an immediate crossing of the creek to the west side of the water.  It continues up a slope along the rocky old flume road.  You keep trekking along this arid high desert trail that  panoramic views from 600 feet above the canyon.  This route faces south and with temperatures in the summer reaching above 90 degrees it is ideal to visit in the spring or fall.  The summer months bring massive amounts of people and can cause closures due to the crowds.  With the water at 72 degrees it is perfectly slated for a springtime adventure.

     

    There are several opportunities to take refuge in the shade offered by the wise old sycamores and box elders.  The sun is warm enough to keep you constantly thinking about the pools this riparian oasis has to offer below.  When you have that last mile to trek and you begin to constantly wipe the sweat from your brow you get a glorious glimpse of the gem below waiting for you as a bounty.  

     

    Once you drop down onto the shaded shoulders of the creek there are small travertine dams and falls all along the creek babbling and encouraging you to take a dip into the mineral laden water.  

     

    chools of chub swimming in the ponds along with the endangered Chiricahua leopard frogs and canyon tree frogs leaping into the water  an example of how it should be done. 

     

    Once you arrive at the Old Fossil Creek Dam you can spend all afternoon jumping into the many pools marveling at the butterflies, damselflies and birds relaxing in the sun on a slab of rock swimming or enjoying the soothing sounds of the many 

    falls that  all along the creek.  

    At some point you have to leave this oasis to its permanent inhabitants and thank them for allowing you to visit then tackle the task of the four-mile hike back to the bumpy road that leads to the hot asphalt streets of civilization.  

    Keep in mind during this dirt filled and reality stricken trek back that there is one last chance to splash around in this terrific sanctuary at the creek crossing where you began this tour.

     

    There are many other incredible sights and trails in this wilderness  he maximum camping allowed is 14 days.  Take some time and visit the area for a day or a week just be sure you leave no trace when you do.

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    Cooper Discoverer STT

    28,000 miles and countless memories later, I finally have a time to look back at my time with the Cooper Discoverer STT.  With 170,000 miles now on the clock, I’ve had some great journeys with my Tacoma and have had a handful of different tires on the rig throughout that time.  Not trying to sound bias on my opinion, but so far these Coopers have worked their way to the top of my list of tires.

    From the factory Rugged Trail to BFG AT, then to Duratracs and finally MT/R before making the move to these STTs, I’ve had a variety of tires on the Tacoma over the years.  Coming from the Duratracs and their outstanding winter handing, they had a high bar set for comparison in the winter time.  The Goodyear MT/R made a great name for itself in the dirt, rocks and mud in the time I had them installed and also set a high standard in those categories.  These tires, however, still had their drawbacks and kept me looking for a better overall tire to hold its own in a variety of categories and not just excelling in a few aspects.

    Enter the STT into our lives.  We’ve taken these tires from the streets of Denver, to the high alpine roads in the San Juans of Colorado and on many back roads throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.  In every condition, I’ve seen favorable outcomes with the STT.  Take that statement with a grain of salt as mentioned before, previous tires set high standards in winter and off-road conditions in my opinion.  

    When it comes to winter conditions, were the STTs the best?  No.  When it comes to off-road handling and durability?  Almost.  How about tread life and wear?  Not really.  That being said, they are nowhere near bottom of the list, far from it.  In those categories, the STTs are a close 2nd in the list of tires I’ve tried on my 2006 Toyota Tacoma.  With the needs I demand of my truck, I’ve been very pleased with the overall performance of these mud-terrains.  

    Through the rocky terrain of Colorado, their sidewall has proven their worth time and time again. They did show their mortality on a tough climb on Grizzly Lake. Angling my truck up a tough ledge, the wet rocks didn’t provide enough traction and I slid my sidewall into a nasty rock that pinched my sidewall between my FN Wheel and the rock.  The tear wasn’t significant, but it did enough damage to warrant swapping out and later replacing the tire.  Besides that, the STT airs down great and they still feel plenty sturdy even at 12-15psi where I typically run them.  They aren’t the stickiest tire out there, but they hooked up great on a variety of off-road conditions and through all the abuse, they did not show any major signs of chunking.

    Last fall, we took the truck into the backcountry of the San Rafael Swell and we saw some muddy conditions in areas near Fuller Bottom, but it didn’t take much to get the STTs and us over muddy river banks and push us effortlessly through muddy washes.  On long trips like those through backcountry areas where a reliance on your equipment is crucial, I began to appreciate the comfort my STTs gave me over an assortment of terrain and weather conditions.

    Having a winter under my belt with the STT, I can also say they hold their own on a variety of winter conditions.  Again, are they the best?  No, but they really do kick some serious butt for a mud-terrain.  I’m sure if I had the tires siped, their performance on icy/hard pack would improve, but I never felt that uncomfortable with them to warrant that step.

    Tread life and wear are a couple categories that I was surprised and pleased with.  Coming from the MT/R right before the STT, I did not see favorable tread life in the short time I had the MT/Rs.  They were great when they were off the pavement, but I daily drive my truck and see a lot of highway miles on some of our journeys.  This is where the full package of the STT really comes into light.  The STT comes new with 20/32nds tread depth and so far I’m still showing 11/32nds with over 28,000 miles on them.  Longevity coupled with great (given not the best, but a close 2nd) off-road and all around handling, the STT has made its way to the top of my list on an overall tire standpoint.

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    Big Bend National Park

    One of the more scenic overland destinations in Texas is located within Big Bend National Park in the Texas mountains and basin region. By stitching together a route from the network of 4x4 park roads, a sightseeing overland trip with multiple nights of backcountry camping without ever leaving the park can be formulated. Because I was chasing a comet, BBNP was an ideal destination as it hosts some of the darkest skies in the Lone Star state.

    At the beginning of 2015, Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) was at its brightest as it passed earth and headed toward the sun. To photograph the comet meant hauling photography and astronomy equipment. This didn’t leave much room for camping gear in my 2007 4Runner. Thankfully, an opportunity arose for me to try the roomy XVenture XV2 off-road trailer, equipped with a James Baroud hardshell roof top tent. The XV2 cargo space is triple that of a typical bucket trailer. A review of this very capable trailer will appear in the next issue.

    It was mid-January and the Moon was safely tucked away, ensuring my dark sky pursuit. A spectacular forecast of clear skies, Spring-like temperatures during the day, and high 30s at night added to my excitement. My planned overland route was to start at the northern end of Old Ore Road, a 26 mile 4x4 trail. As I approached the BBNP Persimmon Gap entrance, the Chisos Mountains emerged into view. Within the park’s 801,163 acres, BBNP contains an entire mountain range. At 7,825 ft., Emory Peak towers as the highest point. 

    Upon arriving at the visitor center, I learned I had to identify and reserve all of my backcountry campsites right then. Not familiar with the 4x4 roads, I abruptly plotted a rather ambitious route that involved 13 miles on Old Ore Road to my first campsite, and then another 33 miles the next day across 3 different 4x4 roads. Fourteen miles lay between the visitor center and the Old Ore Road entrance, and with only 4 hours until sundown, I wasn’t worried because I was fairly sure Old Ore was simply a dirt road.

    The XV2 trailer is very rugged. I discovered this when I encountered the difficult terrain on the northern half of Old Ore Road. A simple dirt road, it was not. Twists and turns accompanied the many elevation changes. It was never a dull moment as I crawled over the many large steps and rocks, affirming my decision to air down at the start. The trailer rolled over the obstacles with ease thanks to the 32-inch trail tires and multi-directional hitch system. Much of the terrain kept my speed below 10 mph. There are no bypass routes on Old Ore, and park rules are explicit:  do not go off the trail. The vehicle must be able to conquer each crux. While I was enjoying my legitimate off-road adventure, I was growing concerned about reaching the campsite before dark. While I blamed the terrain, the real culprit was me stopping at least 20 times to shoot photos along the way. 

    The park is sprawling with geological wonders. Every mile brings about new visual treats and intrigue as the landscape changes frequently. It was January, yet yellow flowers and rainbow cacti in full bloom decorated the roadside. Large valleys in the foreground shadowed by distant peaks and the winding road ahead all laid out a captivating scene. As the sun positioned itself to cast light and shadows, I had to stop to take it all in. I knew my photos were taken in vain. There was no way to absorb the moment into a digital image.

    I arrived at Telephone Canyon campground just as the sun was setting. The amber glow sufficed for setting up camp and grabbing some photos. To the southeast, a large walled rock formation changed colors rapidly as the sun presented its final light. Setting up the tent was easy:  release 4 latches and watch the tent rise. I attached the folding metal counter to the side of the trailer, hooked up the stove for a quick dinner. As darkness crept in, so did the clouds, dashing my hopes of capturing the comet. 

    Tent camping alone in a desolate wilderness area presents discernment challenges for the senses. Did that growl come from my belly, or outside the tent? More sounds soon followed, only because my brain and ears were now on alert. I tried to reassure myself that it doesn’t matter what fierce critter might be trouncing about because I’m in a tent 6-feet off the ground.

    The next day I experienced the tamer southern half of Old Ore. The road did wind and change elevation, but gradually and with a broader span. Off-road clearance was still a vehicle necessity for certain spots. 

    I finished out the trail and arrived at the busy Rio Grande Village where a Wi-Fi equipped store offered gasoline, showers, and laundry facilities. My one regret was not being able to cross the border, via a 

    small ferry a few miles away, into the little Mexican village for some shopping and dining. After 9/11, the border crossing was closed. It reopened in April 2013, and now requires a passport. While I had my passport, I was unaware the border crossing is open only on certain days of the week, and it was not one of those days. 

    Gassed up and emails updated, I headed to my next route, which involved taking the River Road East dirt trail 9.6 miles and turning onto the Glenn Springs 4x4 road for another 10 miles to my reserved campsite. While Glenn Springs Road was rather tame, technical hurdles were plentiful. In the distant west, the Chisos Mountains provided a beautiful scene in the mid-day light. 

    The Chisos view remained prevalent at the Rice Tanks campsite, but a hill in my immediate background blocked eastward views. The surrounding hills would block out wind, providing me with a stabilized telescope for imaging, but I suspected I was missing something scenic in the east. I cooked a quick meal and set up the telescope.

    With the sun setting, I decided to drive out north to see what I was missing. As I went up in elevation, I was able to view the multi-mile long cliff wall to the east just as the sun painted it in pinkish colors. Note to self:  get the Chilicotal campground next time, as that site sits high on a hill with a perfect view of the scenery in all directions.

    As daylight departed, clear night skies permitted me to capture the bright green comet. As the images appeared on my laptop screen, I knew the chase was complete. The next morning I continued north on Glenn Springs until it intersected with Pine Canyon Road, and headed east back to pavement where my 51 mile route of 4x4 roads came to an end. I plan to return to conquer the other 4x4 roads, hike some of the many designated hiking trails, and relive the existential moments generated by the beauty of Big Bend.

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    2015 Tundra CrewMax

    Our Toyota Journey took the next step on a cold, snowy February day. I received a call from Bill Stahelin, the General Manager of Larry H. Miller Toyota Scion of Colorado Springs. The long wait for our 2015 CrewMax Tundra was finally over, the transport truck had just dropped her off at the dealership.

    Ready for a surprise? This was the first Toyota vehicle we bought from a Toyota dealership, and the first brand-new Toyota our family has ever purchased. The truck had less than 50 miles on the clock when we signed that day, brand new in every way. The team at LHM took great care of our entire family, and we were in & out of the dealership in record time (less than 2 hours). 

    Our goal from the beginning was to spend some quality time in the Radiant Red beauty in stock form, so I could get a feel for how a fresh off the lot Tundra performed prior to starting any modifications. Of course I couldn’t NOT do anything to her, so the first mod was a new startup screen for the Entune entertainment system. 

    We started small in terms of spending time in the truck: A quick trip to the cabin in the mountains (about two hours each way), lumber hauling, and general around-town duties. I did take her up into the woods after some snow to test the traction control and ABS functionality. Everything performed flawlessly and it’s easy to see how many people would choose to keep their rig stock.

    Less than two weeks after bringing the Tundra home, we got a little antsy for a road trip. Two quick phone calls later and plans were place to visit friends and family in New Mexico for a long weekend. We loaded up a few bags & the kids in the Tundra and headed south.

    The trip to Clovis Friday, then to Carlsbad on Saturday went completely without incident. The Tundra feels at home on the interstate as well as two lane highways. The CrewMax spaciousness combined with the limited trim makes for very comfortable travel, it’s almost like rolling down the highway in your living room. Other than the overabundance of chrome on the truck, there was nothing about this part of the trip that wasn’t perfect.

    We spent Saturday afternoon and evening watching the grandkids play and catching up with my family. Sunday morning was more of the same, Brenden & Alana had so much fun playing on the farm. Finally though, it was time to pack up and head north. The seven hour drive from Carlsbad to Colorado Springs is not difficult, but can be a bit boring. So we planned to stop & spend a little time at a few places along the way.

    There’s a neat state park outside Roswell, NM with a cool playground so we made our way out there for a pitstop before heading north. Spending this time meant we’d hit the Colorado border after dark, but we didn’t expect any issues. A little after dinner time, we arrived in Las Vegas NM for a quick bite before getting the kids ready to pass out in the truck. Angie checked Facebook real quick and learned the news: It was snowing at home in Colorado Springs and the out-of-nowhere storm was headed south.

    Our sense of urgency to get home safely quickly escalated, and we got loaded up and hit the highway. Weather and road condition checks now became a minute-by-minute affair, and we pushed the speed limit in an attempt to make it to Colorado before it got…bad.

    As we made our way up Raton Pass, the snow started coming down in heaps, with wind blowing massive snow into the truck. Visibility dropped to less than 50ft in the span of a few hundred yards, and I remarked that I would turn around if I could find a safe place to do so. We were on the road with about 15 other vehicles, all now crawling up the pass at less than 30mph.

    I can honestly say this is the most dangerous driving I’ve done on an interstate. In the dark, in a new truck, whiteout conditions, and still driving up a pass. Of course I switched to 4WD, but the Tundra still had stock wheels & tires, and I wasn’t sure how she would handle climbing in these conditions.

    Luckily the pure whiteout only lasted a few miles, and once we reached the top of Raton Pass visibility was back up to about ¼ mile. We continued following taillights and taking our time, no need to hurry and be unsafe at this point. On the down side of Raton Pass toward Trinidad, I-25 becomes fairly curvy and while it’s not steep, in a snowstorm extreme caution has to be taken. I downshifted the Tundra using manual mode and was able to keep 100% control of the truck all the way down. 

    We took the first exit, found the first hotel we could, and got checked in. The only photo I was able to snap during this ordeal was after everyone was unloaded and she was parked, snug in the snow after a job well done.

    To recap our first 2,000 miles in the Tundra:

    • Mountain trip
    • Kid hauling
    • Lumber duty
    • Trailer towing to the Yotas on the Beach event
    • Road Trip to NM
    • Dangerous mountain pass in a snowstorm

    Needless to say, we’re sold on the CrewMax. In completely stock form, she performed perfectly and quite surprisingly in some very dangerous conditions. This truck has more features, comfort, power, and utility than any of our previous Toyota trucks. While she will never handle difficult trails like the FJC, and may not fit on some of our favorite exploration spots in Colorado, as an all-around multi-purpose vehicle, I don’t see how it can get any better.

    At this point you may be wondering what’s next for the Tundra? Well, at just over 2,000 miles on the odometer, the modifications have begun. We’re working with the following vendors to create a one-of-a-kind Tundra, and you’ll see plenty more of her in future issues and at events around the country.

    2015 CrewMax Tundra Supporting Vendors:

    • Toyota Racing Development / TRD
    • Toytec Lifts
    • Larry H. Miller Dealerships
    • Discount Tire Direct
    • Ken’s Colors of Colorado Springs
    • Rock Slide Engineering
    • Bully Dog
    • Icon Vehicle Dynamics
    • Demello Off Road

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    Additional photos by Bob Holliday

     

    2 way Air Toyota Trucks Magazine

     

    After a beautiful day on the trail with the Las Vegas FJ Club the Sunday before SEMA 2014, I am looking around the parking lot and everyone is hunched over airing up and checking their PSI. That is, except one person. I looked at him having an adult beverage and still socializing with his hood up and these hoses attached to all of his tires. I immediately stopped what I was doing and went to investigate. Well, his air compressor is running, he is not hunched over watching each individual tire, and he still has a smile on his face. What is wrong with this picture?

     

    He starts to tell me about the 2Way Air system that he came across at a local 4x4 meet and greet in Vegas, purchased, and installed. It seemed simple enough and after explaining how it works, I was a more than a little intrigued. It is a manifold system that runs to a “whip” connector near each wheel. You connect each whip to each tire valve stem, turn on your compressor (in his case), and sit back and watch one gauge controlling all four tires. You can even install a pop off valve in the system so when you reach your preset inflation level, the valve pops and you are done.

     

    2 way air

     

    When he was done inflating his tires we looked around and just about everyone with us still had one if not two tires left to air up. Running through my head was the fact that he was done faster than almost everyone there but he was also not complaining about a sore back or achy knees. He just walked around his FJ and disconnected his whips and put them in a nice little storage bag, closed up his hood and asked where everyone wanted to go for dinner. I think somebody might be on to something here. When we were about to leave he gave me the company info from 2Way Air and told me that they would have a booth at SEMA that week.

     

    Just about every product ever created or any new way of doing something stems from someone getting frustrated with the way things “have always been done”. With that being said, one of the biggest frustrations that come with off roading is the time and pain that come with airing up and airing down. Pat Hickman shares that frustration, well he used to.

     

    Pat was tired of running around his Toyota Rock Buggy and deflating each tire, one at a time, and then inflating them in the same fashion when it was time call it a day. So instead of just gritting his teeth and doing this routine over and over again, he decided he would come up with a real solution to this annoyance. You see, Pat is the founder and engineer behind Rock Smasher Engineering (a rock buggy suspension company). Pat came up with his “whip & manifold” system to create a way for us to deflate and inflate all of our tires equally and efficiently.  

     

    The 2Way Air system features flexible, easy installation along with durable and reliable materials. The polyurethane tubing in the kit (3/8” for the manifold and ¼” for the whips) are chosen for being more flexible and durable than a nylon or rubber tubing. “Push to Connect” fittings make assembly simple and straight forward. Where Teflon is needed, they come already wrapped. The fittings for the whips are a quick connector to make connecting the Shrader Valve for the tires to the brass inflation valves clean and simple. The kit works great with every possible way to air up. You can use onboard or non-fixed air compressors, as well as CO2. The 2Way Air Kit can be ordered by number of axels on your vehicle; 2 wheels for a trailer, 4 wheels for a car or truck, all the way up to 10 tires on an RV or Semi Tractor and Trailer. Installation is even flexible; you can mount all of the pieces where they work best for you whether in the cabin, under the hood, or in a trailer.  

     

    2Way Air was created not only for the off road community, but is used with RV’s and 18-Wheeler’s just the same. Though the users may vary, the usability is equally simple and straight forward.  

    This is one of those products that once you see it in use, you must own a kit yourself and once you use it you will ask yourself what took you so long to install it!

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    Photos provided by James Hart

    Home on the highway part 2 - Toyota Trucks Magazine

    In 2011, James Hart and Lauren Neel took off from San Francisco and headed south of the border seeking adventure in their 1st generation 4Runner. TCT Magazine interviewed them about their fantastic journey. This is the 2nd of a 2-part series. See the January 2015 issue for Part 1.

    What were your most dangerous moments?

    While in Colombia, we read about a tough mountainous track. This mud road, the width of a large truck, is carved out of the side of a jungle-covered mountain. Adorned by waterfalls and rivers, the road is frequented by rain and fog. Everyone told us to avoid this route, so it was obvious we had to check it out. The steep and winding road was slick with mud and the edge was a 700-foot sheer drop with no guardrails.

    Adding to the challenge, it is a primary logging route for illegal wood harvesting. Expect to encounter a huge semi-truck barreling down the mountain loaded to the brim with illegal timber. Might-makes-right on this mountain and since there is not enough room for two trucks, it becomes a scramble to find some way to allow the bigger truck to pass. At times we were reversing down a slippery mud mountain road hugging the cliff edge. Occasionally we could see below a truck shattered into a pieces with cargo flung across the jungle canopy.

    It was during one of these maneuvers we experienced the most dangerous time of our entire trip. We were coming around a bend when we saw a huge truck barreling down on us. It was approaching quickly and we did not have time to back-up or hunt for a new spot. I quickly jerked us over to the side of the road, yelling for Lauren to stick her head out the window and tell me how much room I had. She said she could not see any road! In this instant the truck passed within 2-inches of hitting our front bumper. It actually clipped my side-mirror as it roared past, not slowing even a bit. Had that truck been any closer, there is no doubt we would have been knocked off that cliff. I would love to drive that road again…it was epic.

    We also traveled on the infamous Bolivian Death Road, where we spotted many memorial crosses. Traffic is lessened since a new highway was recently built. Despite lack of traffic, it was still pretty sketchy with the fog so thick, I could not see past the hood.

    Did the 4Runner cause you any moments of panic?

    While in the beautiful San Guillermo National Park in Argentina, we made it across a deep river crossing, but the truck stalled on the other side. Water got in the airbox. Fearing hydrolock, I removed the intake, filter, and MAF and let everything dry out. After about 30 minutes, I reinstalled everything and it started right up. Have we mentioned we love this truck? It never lets us down. We camped out in the park for a few days, never seeing another soul. Park rangers informed us the park only gets about 7 visitors per month!

    In a remote park along the ridge of the Andes called Paque Lauca, Chile, we saw alpaca, flamingos, and hot springs while we bounced along because we lost a shock mount bolt somewhere on this trail. It was a week before we found a replacement.

    Another incident was while driving on the beach in Brazil. We got stuck in the sand and the tide was coming up. We could see where it breaks on the sandbar. Ended up cutting to the left and mashing it, the sandbar broke way and I fell down that berm. Eventually we made it above the tide line.

    How many other overland adventurers have you come across?

    We have met many fellow adventurers from around the world:  Germany, France, Switzerland, South Africa, Czech Republic, Australia, Holland, Argentina, Mexico, United States, Canada, Japan, Brazil, and others. The Pan-American Highway has popular campsites everyone goes to and it is easy to spot other overland vehicles on the road. Meeting up with other folks who share similar interests, mindsets, and lifestyle is always a welcome social engagement. It can be difficult to explain to someone back home the intricacies and quirks of extended living inside of a small truck, or the nuances of how to deal with an officer looking for a bribe, but fellow overland folk can relate.

    From a cultural awareness standpoint, have your interactions with the various people you’ve met along the way been beneficial?

    In America we are constantly blasted by the media, friends, and family that anywhere south of the border is a dangerous, desolate, wasteland—full of wild criminals wanting to kidnap, torture, and execute us. We were a bit apprehensive at first. My research from dozens of other overland travelers assured us we were going to be fine. Yet, we were still scared. How could the mindset in the U.S. be so inaccurate about a place that is right next door?

    We crossed the border fully expecting chaos and mayhem. What we found was a polite guard who assisted us and happily welcomed us to his country. Within the first week in Mexico, we had made new friends, visited beautiful places, and eaten delicious foods. We found the people to be so warm, friendly, and giving. We saw no signs of the malicious violence we believed pervaded the entire country. This continued on and on. Danger and violence is out there; however, we have found that if you do not seek trouble, you’ll be okay. Perhaps it is a bit of hippy philosophy, but we found that people are mostly good. Sure, we encountered some who made us wary, but for the most part, the people have been great.

    As far as cultural awareness, before this trip I couldn’t spot Ecuador on a map. Now I know the entire history of Ecuador, the current situation involving development of their rainforest, regional dialects and accents, geography, and the best place to get a cocktail in Quito.

    What destinations are next?

    We are considering an East Coast trip to Canada, then Alaska, and back to California—thus completing the entire Pan-American Highway. After that, make some more money and start planning the next big trip. Australia, South East Asia, Africa? Who knows? It’s a big world out there and we plan to drive the whole damn thing!

     

  •  

    To get your copy of the

    April 2015 issue:

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    Toyota Cruisers & TrucksWe're excited to announce major changes to the staff here at Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine.

    In an effort to continue to bring you the best Toyota, off road, 4x4, and outdoor news and information - we've just named Beau Johnston as our Editor in Chief. Krista will continue to serve as our Outdoor Life Editor while all of our Overland coverage will be handled by our crack-team of managing editors and contributors.

    The weather was....not perfect, yet the Toyota Cruisers & Trucks crew managed to capture amazing coverage of Overland Expo West 2015!

    Camp TCT - Toyota Magazine Overland Expo 2015

    Despite rain, snow, wind, and mud...plenty of mud, we met friends new and old, shared stories around propane campfires, socilized during happy hours, attended classes, and had one heck of a time gathering amazing Overland information for our readers.

     Cruise Moab 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

    Daniel is currently attending his 13th TLCA Cruise Moab event, but first as our Land Cruiser editor. He's been sending a steady stream of photos to the TCT Crew Desk, so check them out below!

    More Cruise Moab coming from Toyota Cruisers & Trucks, Subscribe Free!

    {flickr set=72157651846301687}

    You’ve seen the 2016 Tacoma, but what about the international Toyota Truck – the Hilux?

    HiluxLeaked1

    The Hilux has been an icon in the international Toyota community for over 45 years with its humble beginnings as the short wheelbase RN10. It’s been driven to volcanos, to the arctic circle, and is a workhorse for hundreds of thousands of users around the globe.

    %PM, %22 %877 %2015 %14:%Apr

    Toyota 4Runner Keep It Wild Videos

    Written by

    Keep it Wild Toyota 4Runner videos

    Toyota USA​ released a new series of videos for their #4runner #keepitwild series. Photographers and athletes sit around a campfire telling stories of adventure. Watch all the videos (even the commercial) below.

    Tell us in the comments...where will your #toyota adventure take you?

    CampTCT OverlandExpo

    Bringing your Toyota rig to Overland Expo next month? Join the Toyota Cruisers & Trucks crew in the Camp TCT area! It'll be great to kick back, relax, and share stories of our adventures. Our designated camping area will be well marked and all vehicles are welcome :)
    Please signup using this very short form so we know how many people & rigs to expect. We have to give our numbers to the Overland Expo Camping coordinator before the event, so please sign up before May 1st.

    Direct link to the form: http://goo.gl/forms/xSrMBoc6FJ


    Land Cruiser Roundup, Comet Chasing 4Runner, National Parks, 2015 CrewMax Tundra, Rear FJC LED lights Toyota MagazineGet Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App Store

    It's here, so make some time to read this amazing issue of Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine cover to cover!

    Our team has gathered some of the best articles you'll see this year for our April 2015 issue, including:

    • Land Cruiser Roundup
    • Comet Chasing in a 4Runner
    • National Parks
    • 2015 CrewMax Tundra
    • Rear FJC LED light mod
    • 5th Gen 4Runner Snorkel
    • Long Term Cooper Tire Review
    • Overland Baja California
    • Hiking Survival
    • 2Way Air System
    • Rokmen Off Road

    You can also get TCT delivered straight to your iPad or iPhone via the TCT Magazine app. At just $2.99 per issue, or $9.99 for an annual subscription, it's the best way to experience Toyota Cruisers, Trucks, and SUVs. We include videos & slideshows for many articles, and everything is fully interactive!

    We're also excited to welcome a new sponsor for this issue: Give a warm welcome to XVenture Trailers!

    To get your copy of the

    April 2015 issue:

    Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App Store
    download_now
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    ToyotaTrucksVolcanos

    Recently Toyota USA released a video showing how a 2015 TRD Pro Tundra tackled a volcano in Chile (in addition to winning their class at the 2014 Baja 1000). Have a look:

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    TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax

    Written by

    In late 2014 Angie & I made the decision to build a 2015 CrewMax Tundra as the flagship truck for Toyota Cruisers & Trucks magazine. This would be our sixth Toyota vehicle and the plan is to keep her for many years to come.

    Read about our First 2000 Miles on the Tundra

    TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    The TCT Explorer was unveiled at the 2015 Overland Expo West event in Mormon Lake, AZ.

    TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    The TCT Explorer tackled Imogene Pass at FJ Summit #9!

    2015 Toyota Tundra CrewMax on Imogene Pass - Ouray Colorado

     TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    Build Details

    Larry H. Miller Toyota of Colorado Springs was extremely helpful in our quest to find the perfect vehicle. While we initially looked in to a TRD Pro Tundra, due to a few key features (i.e. leather seats since we have small children), we opted to go with a Limited CrewMax. Also, Radiant Red is not available in the TRD Pro or Platinum editions, so Limited was the perfect choice.

    TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    Since we really love the styling of the TRD Pro, we got in touch with the experts at Toyota Racing Development so we could start work on transforming our Limited into the TCT Explorer. TRD Modifications include:

    • TRD Pro grille – Custom painted Radiant Red with white TOYOTA letters courtesy of Ken’s Colors of Colorado Springs, CO
    • TRD Dual Exhaust – Installed at TCT World HQ by Jim Akers & myself
    • TRD Pro Wheels – provide the tough look we like and at 17” will perform much better off-pavement than the original 20” wheels
    • TRD Pro style badges – The Tundra and 5.7L Badges
    • Color-matched mirrors – Custom painted Radiant Red by Ken’s Colors

    TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    Of course the TRD modifications only get us so far. We added additional features to the truck to help keep her daily driver manners while providing enhanced performance and utility both on and off pavement.

    The Toytec Lifts Tundra BOSS Lift Kit provides approximately 3.5” lift in the front and 3” in the rear, and allows the larger 285/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler G2 tires from Discount Tire Direct to function without rubbing. Icon Vehicle Dynamics added their Tundra Tubular UCAs to help keep the truck aligned and provide extra strength for our off-pavement fun.

    Toytec BOSS Lift Kit TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    Truck Covers USA sent over their Roll Cover and American Work Cover Jr. toolbox for the bed. This is one of the best mods you can add to a multi-use truck. It provides enough extra storage for recovery gear and tie-downs, and helps keep gear in the bed safe and secure.

    For a front bumper, we wanted something that matched the lines of the truck well, wasn’t too heavy, and includes a winch mount. The aluminum Tundra front bumper from Rock Slide Engineering fit each these criteria perfectly, and looks amazing on the truck.

    RSE Front Bumper TCT Explorer 2015 Tundra CrewMax Toyota Truck

    COMEUP Winch sent their new Seal Gen 2 12.5 winch to fit into the bumper, it’s a monster of a winch and will ensure we can self-recover from just about anything, or provide a quick pull to help Jeeps get out of a rut.

    Coming soon: A full set of skid plates from Budbuilt.

    The graphics on the truck are courtesy of AFM Graphics. Get in touch with Andy if you need any custom graphics for your truck. The price is right and self-install could not be easier.

     

     

    You've seen the Total Chaos Moab Expedition video, right?
    Go ahead & watch...we'll wait

    Well, recently TRD featured the TC Long Travel Tacoma on their website. In the article, TRD points out that Tacoma Trucks make the perfect starting platform to build your dream rig, whether you're planning to create an epic rock crawler or a reliable overland rig ready to take on the world. Key upgrades on this 2014 Tacoma include a TRD Supercharger, Total Chaos long travel suspesnion + all the goodies, and custom TC front & rear bumpers.

    Head over to the TRD site for more information & photos.

    Total Chaos TRD Tacoma in Moab

    Expedition Overland Season 2 - Central AmericaToday Expedition Overland announced their upcoming second full season of amazing overland adventure. This year they’re headed down to Central America with three fully equipped Toyota vehicles: The original XO 2013 TRD Supercharged Tacoma and two all-new 2015 Trail Premium 4Runner trucks provided by their newest sponsor, Toyota USA.

    The journey south begins in Baja California on April 15th, and will take the XO crew through eight central American countries this spring. The full 12 episode season will be available via the Expedition Overland YouTube channel this July, we’re hoping to enjoy some of this season during the 9th Annual FJ Summit in Ouray.

    Along with sampling the best Central America has to offer, the XO team will cover portions of the Baja 1000 track. Following Baja, the team will continue south until the end of this season at the Darien Gap in Panama. General Tire is once again sponsoring the expedition with Grabber AT2 tires for all vehicles. Other key sponsors include Equipt Expedition Outfitters, Triple Aught Design, and MAXTRAX.

    We can’t wait to see the new season of Expedition Overland, and you can bet we’ll be following along at http://xoverland.com

    Today Expedition Overland announced their upcoming second full season of amazing overland adventure. This year they’re headed down to Central America with three fully equipped Toyota vehicles: The original XO 2013 TRD Supercharged Tacoma and two all-new 2015 Trail Premium 4Runner trucks provided by their newest sponsor, Toyota USA.

    The journey south begins in Baja California on April 15th, and will take the XO crew through eight central American countries this spring. The full 12 episode season will be available via the Expedition Overland YouTube channel this July, we’re hoping to enjoy some of this season during the 9th Annual FJ Summit in Ouray.

    Along with sampling the best Central America has to offer, the XO team will cover portions of the Baja 1000 track. Following Baja, the team will continue south until the end of this season at the Darien Gap in Panama. General Tire is once again sponsoring the expedition with Grabber AT2 tires for all vehicles. Other key sponsors include Equipt Expedition Outfitters, Triple Aught Design, and MAXTRAX.

    We can’t wait to see the new season of Expedition Overland, and you can bet we’ll be following along at http://xoverland.com

    Page 10 of 34

    Fall 2017 Toyota Cruisers & Trucks

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