Pretty ordinary Wednesday. Made the kids breakfast, got them ready for the day, and started work. Started thinking about weekend plans and what might be open and fun for 2 toddlers in Michigan in October.
My wife is a Nurse Midwife, incredibly gifted at her work, and extremely dedicated to her family. Typically, we like to find some wild (relative to a 1 and 3 year old) adventure to embark on as a family during the weekend. But every so often she has to work on the weekend and I get the little ones all to myself. This would be one of those weekends.
"Do you want to meet me in Cincinnati Friday morning and drive a truck back to LA with me?" That text came through from Jon at 10:24pm as I was about ready to get some sleep.
Hmmm... Drive 30 hours across the country just to take a 5 hour flight and 2 hour drive back home? Ordinarily, and if most people asked me that, the answer would be, "um what? No." However, this wasn't ordinarily, and it was Jon, so I thought... "How can I make this happen?"
Well, I talked it over with my wife and it looked like it probably wouldn't work out. We'd have to find someone to watch the kids, it would be a whirlwind trip shortly before the holidays, and I felt a little guilty galavanting across the country as my wife literally spent the weekend saving lives.
"I'm in Cincy now, probably try to get to Oklahoma tonight." That was Friday morning.
"When you're at the end of your life and you're 90, are you really going to look back and think, man I wish I had done a little more homework." That was a famous saying from Jon during college that a group of us still say to each other to this day. Ironically, I'm pretty sure Jon never got anything less than an A+ in any class he ever took and he graduated early.
Then my wife asked, "if it was you asking him to do this with you, would he do it?" Well that settled it, I called Jon up and told him to meet me in Michigan and I'd drive with him to LA.
It was a brand new Ford Raptor.
That's what we were driving across the country. You'd be hard pressed to find a more comfortable ride, and there isn't any vehicle that makes men feel like men more than a Raptor. The cab is the size of my living room, it has the power of all the horses that ever lived, and it looks like AMERICA. I've never driven a tank (at least not yet), but I'd imagine that experience would be fairly similar to driving a Raptor, except maybe a bit slower.
We started the journey West on Saturday morning after a night of kayaking, pizza, and a movie in Michigan. We made it to Chicago to drop off the kids with their Grandparents around noon, and that's where I learned a valuable lesson: never forget to leave the keys to your van you are leaving for your family to use to carry your children they have so generously agreed to watch while you go on a road trip across the country with your college buddy. Yes, I did make it all the way to Lincoln Nebraska before realizing the keys to my van, (back in Chicago with Grandma and Grandpa), were in my jacket pocket.
Thankfully, the van was left unlocked, so it was not a total disaster, but lesson learned and I felt like a moron.
We drove all day and made it through the misery of Nebraska with a quick stop at a fantastic barbecue place just outside Omaha. We pulled into Denver pretty late that night, thankfully we had the time zone shift working to our advantage as we headed West.
Sunday morning we grabbed some breakfast and got back on the road as early as possible while still making sure we got enough rest. We knew we had another long day of driving and didn't want drowsiness to become a problem.
This marked the fifth time I have taken this route across the country and it confirmed what I decided on the first trip I made in 2006 with my Dad and brother. The only way to see America and truly get to know what this country looks like, is to drive across it. You gain a true understanding of just how vast this country is and how empty it can feel when you make the drive. And more importantly, you get to see how unbelievably beautiful and different it is in so many different places. Michigan feels like a different planet compared to Utah, and the mountains of Colorado are worth a lifetime of your time. Makes me wish I was one of the first to see it, before the roads and civilizations were built.
I could write a book about Utah. I've spent some serious time there, Angels Landing, snowboarding Brian Head and Park City, driving, hiking, and mountain biking. Suffice it to say, our drive through Utah was glorious. And no, Burning Man by Dierks Bentley does not get old on a tricked out stereo in a Raptor. The eleventh time I may have turned it down one notch, but still, Dierks is the man.
Toward the border of Nevada, Jon was getting eager to try out some off roading. So we pulled off at a rest stop and Jon was ready to drive down a hill (very loose gravel) that ended in about a 300 foot drop off to a river. I wasn't sure this was the best plan, but not wanting to dampen his spirit of adventure I obviously told him to go for it. And I got ready in the perfect spot to record the demise of my friend on my phone.
Wisely, Jon decided to keep looking for another off road spot. We found one, about 50 miles from Nevada. No idea who owned the land, but we pulled off at an exit, and that road just ended and there we were with nothing in front of us but black dirt hills and not a soul in sight.
Slowly, Jon began pulling his new prized possession forward into the wild. As he got more used to the bumps and feel for how the truck handled, he took some more chances and drove up some bigger ravines. Having spent the past 20 hours in a truck together going 80 miles per hour on average, this was a welcome and spectacular change of pace.
The Raptor was a monster, didn't even consider getting stuck once. It may have been able to handle that 300 foot drop off after all.
We stayed for about an hour, and then knew we had to continue westward if we were to get to LA at a reasonable hour.
The rest of the trip was as good as the start. We made it through Vegas, stopped for some dinner, and then braved some LA traffic until we finally made it to our final destination. In all, it was about 32 hours on the road and about 42 hours total from start to finish. The truck got about 15mpg, and has a 5,000 gallon tank, so Jon should be due for a fill-up in 2023.
Side note: LA traffic lanes are narrower than most lanes in America, a Raptor is substantially wider than most vehicles in America. So that part of the voyage was noticeably tighter than the rest.
In short, if you ever get a call to go drive across the country in a Ford Raptor, take it.
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