By Mark Williams for PickupTrucks.com
Mark Williams is road tripping 1,500 miles through the heart of the American Southwest in a custom Suzuki Equator. Follow Mark's driving adventure as he blogs from the highway.
Holy cow! This is my third day of driving and I’m still in Texas. Thankfully, though, the biggest state in the lower 48 has one of the biggest (and most amazing) national parks. Unfortunately, I’ve had to drive quite a bit south to get there. There's not much else near Big Bend National Park, which is located in the deepest part of West Texas along the Rio Grande, but lonely hours on a very (very) straight highway is worth it.
First thing I do is head straight to the visitor’s center and ask, “What’s the hardest 4x4 trail you have near a campsite?” This will be the first real chance I’ve had to see how this ARB Equator will handle a challenging four-wheel drive trail. The park ranger was impressed with my request, but not so much with the Equator. “It looks like it’s trying to brag with all the stickers, and what’s with the backpack (referring to the tent)?,” she said. But that’s what I'm going to find out: Could it handle the rough stuff and was the Thule-mounted pop-up tent worth the trouble?
After finding the right trail (the park has hundreds of miles of backcountry roads) and choosing an isolated campsite (no water, no fires, no bathrooms, no people), I was on my way. After about an hour of driving through the sparse desertscape and confronting my third rugged low-range obstacle, it occurred to me that maybe this wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to be trying all by my lonesome.
To calm myself, I did a quick inventory to make sure I had a tire jack and tools (check). Turns out I also had a matching full-size spare (check), and I brought a gallon of water (check), and I was smart enough to pack my trusty 10-in-one Jeep utility tool (check). That helped.
We’ll go into more detail later about how the Suzuki performed, but for now, we can say we made it through the Black Gap trail, the tent is quite large inside (safely high above noisy and curious coyotes), and the Texas sky was the perfect backdrop to the Geminid meteor shower. I stopped counting at 40 in a span of 45 minutes. Another good day, but I’ve got a few scratches to explain to the Suzuki people.