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.
This was by far the longest day of the trip, and the Suzuki seems to be handling it all just fine. I, on the other hand, am not doing so well. My back and shoulders are aching.
It was great being out underneath the shooting stars last night and among the curious, howling coyotes but up before the sun with about an hour of four-wheeling to be done before getting to pavement left my body beat up and soar. And I had many, many miles to put behind me before I made it to a special canyon outside Las Cruces, New Mexico, that I wanted to explore.
I probably should have stretched before I started to clean out the roof-tent but I was in a hurry. Although the tent is not difficult at all to break down and repack, coordinating the zipper, tie-downs, and straps does take a bit of muscle and contorting. And all the muscles that warmed up while I was packing had plenty of time to stiffen up on the drive. Still, the tent, depending on the application, costs around $1,300. I suppose it makes sense if you’re deep in the Australian Outback where just about everything that crawls on the ground is poisonous, but not too sure it’s really any better than the REI two-man tent I have in my garage.
I highly recommend putting Big Bend National and State Parks on your short lists of places you need to see before you die--huge, diverse, and all gorgeous. Highway 170, along the Rio Grande, was a highlight. Not having a Nav system or XM radio or iPod was the lowlight. I can’t pin that criticism on Suzuki though. However, I would suggest a little more seat bolster and side-support for the Equator, if they get the chance for the next generation.
A little off-topic for what we’re doing here, but this was part of my day. The drive to El Paso was uneventful, with the exception of listening to some local news on the radio. If you haven’t heard how bad the crime and drug problems are in Juarez (just on the other side of the Mexico/U.S. boarder from El Paso), just listen to the radio for 15 minutes. Something has to be done soon.
Warning: When driving from El Paso to Las Cruces (about 40 miles), be prepared to smell some horrific bovine odors. The highway is lined with cattle ranch after cattle ranch, and it doesn’t matter what way the wind is blowing. P U.
I eventually made it to our Broad Canyon turnoff just 20 miles from downtown Las Cruces. The drive will take you through a series of canyons and hilltops. On this day we had gigantic white puffy clouds. Nothing broken or stuck, but watch out for the riverbeds. I buried the rear tires in some powder-like sand and had to wedge rocks and play with the four-wheel drive system. Too panicked to take a photo. Again, the Equator was a trooper.
More to come; we’re almost home.