You know that saying “between a rock and hard place?”
Of course you do. Everyone says it. Everyone’s lived it. We’ve all had those moments when we’re backed up against a wall and our next move, physically, metaphorically, or both is a crucial and delicate one. It’s a reactive moment when all our senses are at their peak, our entire nervous system relying on a combination of muscle memory and calculated decision-making.
In a matter of mere seconds, the brain’s frontal lobe shifts into high gear, redlining the RPMs of our neurons and synapses, preparing us for what’s next.
In life, I’ve had many metaphoric moments of being between a rock and a hard place. But, this past Halloween, in the mountains northwest of Las Vegas, I found out what it means to be physically between a rock and a hard place.
On a cool autumn day in the high desert, myself and a group of lifestyle bloggers headed 40 miles outside Las Vegas into the Spring Mountain National Recreation area. After the previous day’s sensory overload at the annual SEMA convention, the day’s agenda was simple, on paper: Climb up a trail up the Wheeler Pass to 7,700 feet in an armada of brand new, Voodoo Blue 2019 Toyota TRD Pro trucks.
The goal was to conquer a trail as any outdoor hobbyist would, experiencing the enhanced off-road features in the 2019 Toyota Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner TRD Pro. An added bonus: Roaming far into the desert mountains out of cell phone range, filling the lungs with a couple big gulps of fresh air, refreshing the soul for a couple hours amongst the silent trees.
Maybe dirty up a pair of Stan Smiths while I was at it, too.
The outing was organized by Gunaxin‘s Philip Van der Vossen, as part of group known as Trail Trek Tour. Trail Trek Tour is group of men’s lifestyle bloggers and publishers that feel right at home driving trucks where the pavement ends and the dirt begins, all in the sacred name of digital content. A bunch of dudes like myself who spend far too much time staring at screens and not nearly enough time getting our elbows dirty. On a previous adventure, they rambled around Joshua Tree, testing signature off-roading features like crawl control and multi-terrain select around rugged Gram Parson country.
I was happy they invited me for their Vegas trail trek into the mountains. So happy, I even let my Grizzly Adam beard grow out in full mountainman glory and threw on my prized Save The Bros t-shirt for the occasion.
I love experiencing the engineering might of a great off-road vehicle. It’s a chance to drive like you’d never drive anywhere else, testing your patience and skill on a trail climb and descent. As long as your equipment can handle remote locations where AAA isn’t going to fix a flat from a particularly jagged rock, it provides an exhilarating sense of accomplishment, much like a great hike.
You couldn’t ask for a more perfect Halloween day for off-roading: Soft desert sun, a delicate mountain wind, barely a cloud in the sky. Truly the first day of hoodie season.
The Toyota Tundra and Tacoma TRD Pro are engineered with the explicit purpose of getting outdoorsmen to wherever they need to be so they can do whatever the love the most: Hunting, fishing, surfing, camping under a sky filled with stars. Anything where you need to get off the grid with your stuff, whether it’s tents or kayaks.
You want a truck that can take you here, without a soul in sight:
Features in the TRD Pros include the aforementioned crawl control – which automatically modulate throttle and brakes on five different settings – and Hill Start Assist Control – which prevents backwards skids – all so adrenaline junkies can navigate up to where the wind don’t blow so strange.
On the climb up Wheeler Pass, I could feel features like the Toyota Tacoma’s electronically controlled locking rear differential kick in on loose, sandy spots between rocks. Both rear wheels continue to spin, providing more grip in situations where the traction is dicey at best. Read: Snow and sand.
The Fox shock system standard on TRD Pro off-road packages got put to the test, offering a velvety smooth ride on rocky terrain that looked like this…
Handled it like butter, as the 2019 Tundra, Tacoma, and 4Runner TRD Pros were designed to do.
These days, the ascent up the Wheeler Pass is used mostly by off-roading hobbyist looking to get their trucks dirty (or, snowy, depending on the season). But back in Nevada’s frontier years of silver mining and prospecting, it was a necessary climb leading to charcoal kilns up, used to process silver lead ore from the Tecopa mines across the mountains in California. There’s a plethora of great spots for a picnic, which is exactly what we did before a double-back descent to the trailhead around Cold Spring, Nevada:
I felt the most at home in the TRD Pro Tacoma and 4Runner. The 2019 TRD Pro Tacoma has a number of really cool new features for desert rats like myself: A TRD Pro Desert Air intake to draw in cool, fresh air “above the dust line” so your engine doesn’t get dirtier than it needs to. There’s also the standard TRD Pro skid plate, giving all your vitals under the front end a bulletproof vest. Tacoma owners are a passionate breed and Toyota knows and listens to what they have to say.
The wider, longer Toyota Tundra is a powerful V8 beast and has a truly cavernous back cab for around-town and back-at-the-ranch driving, though it was a touch out of my novice comfort range on such a narrow trail.
The Tundra is thiccc like that and I wouldn’t have it any other way for my work truck.
Which leads us back to the beginning: Being between a rock and a hard place.
It’s exhilarating feeling for many-a off-roader: You navigate a rock and, the next thing you know, your truck is steep on a bank from a crawl you didn’t expect. So the next move is a bit like figuring out where a puzzle-piece fits in a puzzle. When you’re all-the-way out there in rough, scrappy trail, one wrong slip and you faceplant into rock.
Yeah. You don’t want to do that.
So you delicately switch the transmission into reverse to course correct, preventing any catastrophe. The rest is just muscle memory, instinct, and precision engineering might.
In the instance of the TRD Pros, on the descent, all of this accomplished with pair of stock tires on.
And on the other-side of all that off-roading adrenaline?
A serenity like no other.
Nothing beats a day off the beaten path with friends, kicking tires and cracking each other up without a single bar of service on your cell phone.
At the end of the day, what’s the purpose in owning an off-roading powerhouse like a TRD Pro Tacoma or Tundra if you can’t go all of the places with your buddies?
Here’s a little recap of the day from my main Phil at Gunaxin.