This past week was the trial run of outfitting the truck to support an extended stay away from home for me, the wife, the kid, and the dog. All four ecosystems and the accompanying...'stuff'... needed to be accommodated by the truck over the course of a full work week spent away from home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
As always, I was not afforded nearly sufficient opportunity to test fit and dry run any of the arrangements prior to departure. So the trip itself became a shakedown run after I hurriedly through together the components as best I could the night before while Junior was sleeping and during the two hours or so once my wife returned home from work that morning prior to leaving.
This is how it all went down:
The truck was arranged as such:
My wife bought more bags than I ever could have imagined. I was able to get most of them into the back under the cap. The kid's stuff was largely tucked in what became his own personal row. He had like 4 bags despite being only like 25 lbs. Although Maddy had to share the rear bed area with some baggage, she got her own ventilated section that I carved out using her crate and a fan that I wired up that morning from West Marine. The side windows opened to vent and provide fresh air. And anytime we were stopped or travelling less than 25 mph, I opened the rear hatch. For the first leg down, we stopped every hour to make sure it wasn't getting too hot despite the fan and the open rear windows. Maddy got treated to ice cubes and ice water on each of those breaks.
Daddy got a small duffel bag and a backpack for my computer and camera gear. Woe is the lowly Daddy.
|This is the land of the lifted truck|
|We stopped here really just because this is my father-in-law's name.|
|I just thought this slogan was funny|
The area is renown for its lighthouses. I decided we would travel to the areas lighthouses if the weather was inclement, and if we got a break in the weather, we could carve out some beach time. It was also an opportunity to test out how long the harmony of wife, baby, dog would last at any given length of time needed to make these short day trips.
I used my tripod to setup this shot.
I got some video of us encountering some hapless Jersey-ans in a Land Rover who believed that the recommendation to air down did not apply to them...unless they got stuck. Well they got stuck, and as we happened upon them, they were like, "We might not need any help. Just gonna air down and see."
I kindly advised that their truck would not suddenly float out of the ruts they had created, and that I didn't mind winching them back to more firmly packed sand so they make another go at the exit ramp with properly deflated tires.
(It was so foggy/misty that a lot of the lens was obscured by condensation that had accumulated; so, it isn't particularly good video.)
We decided that we should make a series of checklists depending on the type of excursion to make sure we have the items we intend to bring with us accounted for. Like a pre-flight checklist. It was actually the wife's idea and I instantly gravitated to it. It is a very basic consideration, but as it turned out, the mental exercise of planning for 3 other beings was more than what I have been able to do in the back of my head while prepping for an offroad weekend. I keep a lot of that stuff in the truck anyway, and there are only a few more items that I add just prior to leaving. I need to take a more formal approach for the family outings.
We did get to spend a little time on the beach when we got back to our hotel that evening. The dog hates the water. The baby is fearless and has a propensity for getting copious amounts of sand near his eyes and mouth, which pretty much made us decide to end the beach time. But it was really cute seeing him crawl around and try to interact with Maddy on the beach.
We set out to get to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse which was like 40 miles from us and then continue to Ocracoke Lighthouse which was another 30 miles, plus a ferry, and maybe 13 more miles from the landing point. Along the way, we stopped in the OHV Management trailer, I watched the video, paid the $50, and obtained my weekly permit in the event we had the chance to get out on the sand again. (In Hatteras and Ocracoke, one needs a permit. In Corolla, there is no permit requirement).
I had tried to get a fan with a cage, but the $22 one was so cheaply made that I returned it on my first opportunity that morning before we departed to obtain a similar unshielded model the same as the one I have mounted in the cab that previously circulated air up there for Maddy. The next best shielded fan was upwards of $90. So I got the $50 one again. We actually had both fans going since we were required to shut the engine after parking.
You can see my wife in the truck looking visibly bored with the sand driving at this point. I told her when I got back in the truck, "Try not to look so unenthused."
"Oh, you could see me in the picture?"
The answer, dear, is "Yes". Ha ha.
Because of the seasonal closures of many of the sections, it ended up being a little bit of hopscotch of where you could enter and then had to exit the beach line. We first took ramp 72 and had to exit around ramp 70. Then maybe 68 was open, but you couldn't continue northward, you had to backtrack southward. As we were trying to reach the ferry before dusk, we didn't venture very far back southward. I negotiated for one more quick jaunt at whatever proved to be the next open ramp. That was ramp 59. It too was a short section.
Still, it was worth the expense for the experience and to have had the opportunity to do so. The truck performed very well as was expected. I explained to my wife that much of the painstaking time I spend either tweaking things on the truck or reading things on forums is so that I know that the truck will perform predictably when needed when my family is onboard.
It is not enough to buy a fancy nameplate and assume that a brand's street cred will be enough to keep your vehicle and your family moving when you get off pavement. The occupants of the earlier Land Rover and another Jeep Cherokee we later encountered probably learned that lesson. The issue in both instances was clearly driver error as I know that both platforms, when operated by a knowledgeable driver, would have no such issues ordinarily.
The MANIMAL permit. Still good for another 2 days. Who wants to go?! :)
The other addition was the fan, which I did write about earlier. I had intended to mount it to the fiberglass, but I found that there was not enough clearance behind the fan to allow me to operate the switch. As a hasty compromise, I temporarily mounted it to the box lid. In practice, this was not good because it limited my comfort with being able to fully pack this side of the bed for fear that cargo might shift and interfere with the blade rotation, cause the motor to overheat, and then start a fire. I will need to look into an alternate location.
Familiar blue hue, right? I got a $218 speeding ticket coming back from Ocracoke. Quite the bummer on the last full day of vacation, right?
I think I was doing 62 (which is legally speeding, I know) but the officer stated he had me at 68 in a 55.
I have always driven between 5-10mph over any posted speed limit just to lessen the differential between my rate of travel and those who I think are the real offenders that blow past me even at that elevated speed.
I think it really is all a gimmick for generating revenue though. Not sure why else there is the constant shifting up and down from 25-35-45-55, especially when we do not appear to be slowing down for a congested or residential section of the road. But oh well. I will have to pack some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a few weeks to offset this contribution to the local economy.
We got back home without incident.
Somewhere in Virginia, my wife remarks to me that she'd like to see the old playset behind our house demolished. She further incentivized me with the offer of $100 if it rose to the top of my to-do list. When we got back Friday afternoon, I unpacked the truck, then went into the backyard and ripped the swing portion and monkey bars down with three mighty heaves. With one concerted deadlift, I hoisted the base tower and sliding board off of their supports and toppled that structure before striding confidently into the house. I was advised that the fee was only payable once the full structure had been removed from the premises. So that was my Saturday breaking it down and hauling it away.