Two Guys, One Dog, Five States, And A Borrowed Jeep
(Editor's note: In 1990, longtime Four Wheeler contributor Willie Worthy embarked upon a 1,300-mile "Border to Border" run from Canada to Mexico, nearly all of it off-pavement. We wanted to see if such a cross-country trip was still possible 20 years later, so we followed the progress of contributor Chris Collard, along with Del Albright of the Blueribbon Coalition, as they attempted the same four-wheeling feat. And just to make things interesting, they opted to run in the opposite direction-from Mexico to Canada. In the middle of summer, no less. This is the first part of their adventure.)
A light haze drifted like a translucent ochre blanket above the distant western horizon. The afternoon sun, like a retina-burning laser, seared a fiery orange hole through it. Adjusting my visor to the down position, the penetrating rays were just low enough to underscore my blind. Squinting, I sat up straight to ease my eyes. The mid-June air was warm, but not unseasonable. After all, we were crossing a fissured and desiccated lakebed in the middle of the Southern California desert. In the distance, I made out a shape. It began to take form as we approached. I leaned over to my driving buddy Del and commented, "Does that look like two guys sitting under a tarp?" Del laughed, smiled, and looked on. We'd hardly seen anyone for days, since we left the Mexican border; Del probably thought I was seeing a mirage or suffering from heat stroke. With a second glance, his infectious smile turned serious; he flicked off the radio and was all business: "Soldiers."
Startled by our stealth approach, one of them appeared to reach for an M-16 as he leaped from his chair. We slowed, and he approached Del's open window. About 19 years of age, he was wiry, fit, and energetic. Del's smile returned. "Where did you guys come from?" PFC Zach declared in a Texas drawl, "They got live bombing exercises going on-we're supposed to be keeping people outta there."
Flashback, Five Days
I was in Kelowna, British Columbia, shooting the Can-Rocks Rumble on the Rocks event for Four Wheeler (Dec. '09). My flight home hit the tarmac at 0030 hours, I slept for four hours, Del arrived at 0600, and we loaded my truck and headed for L.A. I'd talked Jeep's Brand Manager Scott Brown into loaning me a four-door JK for three weeks, and at 1500 hours, he was handing us the keys.
But this wasn't your average JK. It was one of Mopar's Underground Engineering concept vehicles-a real head-turner. Sporting an ARB roof rack and tent, AEV bumpers, Warn winch, an Equipt gravity-feed water tank, and stack of Expedition One stackable fuel cells, this JK, the Overlander, oozed "outback adventure and world travel" from every angle. The 35-inch BFG KM2s didn't hurt our "we're cool" profile, either.
I'd been daydreaming of creating a major overland trip for some time. And, unlike past adventures like crossing the Kalahari desert or trekking through Morocco, this needed to be an adventure that anyone could do with their own rig-something stateside that didn't require a passport, inoculations, deep-pocket airline tickets and a rented rig. My assignment in Kelowna sparked the idea-a trek to Canada. But where should I start, and what would make this an epic adventure? Logic determined that I should start at the beginning, or in this case, the bottom-Mexico.
As the crow flies, Google Earth pegged my route to be 1,135 miles. Yahoo! Maps put it at 1,530-miles (about 27 hours if you don't stop for fuel, food, or potty breaks). Well, we're not birds, and Yahoo! gives the most direct paved route . . . which is boring-especially when you have a fully kitted JK under your britches. So the question begged: How far would it be if we stuck to the road less traveled, the dirt track, and how long would it take? Is it even possible to avoid the tar road in a world, which is rapidly closing in around us? Enter our Border-To-Border All-Dirt Run.