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Trails and Tents Tour 2006 Offroad Adventure - Day 4

Day Four: Thursday, Dec 7, 2006
Flagstaff, AZ to Needles, CA

Total Miles Traveled: 1332
National Treasures Visited: 1
Degrees Last Night: 15
Problems with Hummer H3: 0
This Week's Top Chef Loser: Frank (What a rip!)

Senior Editor Ken Brubaker

Today's notes:

1. Roads stink. We left Flagstaff and pointed our heavily-laden Hummer toward the Grand Canyon, but we quickly lost interest in the paved road and succumbed to the call of the trail. We abandoned the highway about 30 miles south of The Canyon and amused ourselves by simply exploring forest roads for the next few hours. During this time we saw some fascinating scenery, abandoned ranches, and hundreds of free range cattle. Best of all, we saw no other vehicles whatsoever. Nada. None. As a bonus, there was a bit of snow, so Holman could bust freestyle.

2. Monday we explored Rattlesnake Road. Tuesday we came to an area in the Coconino National Forest that was closed because it was a "Rattlesnake Quiet Area" (whatever that is), and today we passed Rattlesnake Creek. We're noticing a pattern.

3. If you are going to the Grand Canyon, plan on stopping at the Planes of Fame Air Museum south of the park. Not only is it inexpensive, they have a German Messerschmitt and a crashed Japanese fighter that was found in New Guinea.

4. Tonight we're at the Needles KOA campground, and it's darn nice. It has a big screen television in the Club House so we didn't have to miss and episode of Top Chef.

5. Holman announced that even with significant trail driving and our heavy gear, the H3 returned over 18 mpg. Not bad.

Tech Editor Sean P. Holman

Last night was 15-degrees. Cracker Barrel breakfast warmed me up. There is a reason we like the heated leather seats in the H3.

Once on the road (and with an early start), we wanted to head to Grand Canyon National Park. On the way to the Grand Canyon we became distracted by some spectacular forest roads leading to snow covered meadows. We were drawn off the highway like a Prius to a tax credit. After reviewing the map book, we determined with a high probability that we could make it from Highway 180 to Highway 64 - all on dirt.

With it still early in the day and a nearly full tank of fuel keeping Ken's sensibilities content, we decided to go exploring in the backcountry and see where it took us. We found ourselves trudging through forest and meadows before settling on an AT&T transcontinental cable road, which dropped down in to prairies and ranch land. We tried a few cherry stem roads, but were turned away as each of those roads abruptly ended in either Private Property or No Trespassing signs. Going for the known variable, we rejoined the cable road, and eventually arrived at Highway 64.

Back on course for the Grand Canyon, we were once again distracted - this time by a vintage Lockheed C-121A Connie in front of the Planes of Fame aircraft museum in Valle, AZ. With the Connie and a Navy Blue Angels out front, we just had to drop in to check out their varied collection of aviation relics. It was a nice detour from the monotony of pavement travel and gave us a change to stretch our legs. We figured in case anyone asks, we would explain that they are important to the story because they are the ultimate off-roaders and one had four wheels, we think.

The Canyon was only a hop, skip and a jump away and after several minutes of Ken spitting off the edge and me yelling "ECHO-O-O-o-o-o", we took some pictures and headed back south. Our original plan was to take dirt roads to Kingman, AZ, but the map looked like it could be a bit of a hit or miss affair, so we headed down the highway, arriving in Kingman ahead of schedule.

We couldn't help but discuss how the H3 was a perfect tool for this type of adventure, and wondered aloud if we weren't using it exactly as designed. It is a perfectly capable machine for someone who needs a daily driver that can easily double as his or her vehicle of choice for backcountry explorations. While it isn't the best vehicle for each of those missions, it is a damned fine one when your needs dictate that you combine the two - especially with today's fuel economy of over 18mpg, and that included a quarter tank of wheeling!

With daylight on our side (and Kingman not quite to our liking), we kept driving west to Needles, Ca where the weather was warmer and set up camp at the local KOA. With this blog finished, it is time for dinner and in the morning we'll be fighting our way back to the LA office (Things to do: Clean Hummer, Unpack Bags, Expense Report, Finally See Loved Ones). See you on the freeway.

Blogs away....


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