I think I'm starting to get the hang of this thing. The “travel bug,” as it were. I've learned I love traveling in the western portion of the United States and seeing all it has to offer. It turns out, there seems to be more than I could see in a lifetime. Along with all its scenic beauty and anthropological offerings, there are a number of other lessons I've learned along the way.
In November of 2013, my 2001 Tundra was on its last leg as our family truck. Not that it couldn't have been fixed – transmission issues are common yet painful problems – but the family was also outgrowing it. Maybe not quite as fast as my desire to get a new truck was growing, but don't mention that to Chelsea. The decision was made, approved and finalized by my co-captain. I said hello to our new 2014 Ford F-350 4×4 (four wheel drive, for all you non-off roading peeps).
The idea behind a truck this big was that it's large enough to support our three boys and also capable of driving off road. This was important because I really wanted to take the whole family to remote locations we couldn't get to in the Tundra and definitely couldn't get to in the Hyundai. Another aspect of a large truck, specifically the Ford F-350, is that it has a full-sized cab (called a crew cab) as comfortable as a luxury car but also a full-sized bed long enough to sleep three young boys and two stinky dogs.
On our voyages, I've learned a few key things. Some I wish I learned watching someone else instead of first-hand. One such occasion was during a camping trip near Paso Robles when I became a bit overconfident in my four wheel drive and drove down a steep, sandy decline to a lake shore. I thought I could simply turn around and drive right out. Oh how wrong I was! How deep Chelsea's glare daggers dug into my skull, much like the tires of my 7,500 pound truck into the sand. Fortunately, one passerby happened to have a John Deere tractor at his home not too far off. He retrieved it and pulled me out.
I lived to drive another day. And, luckily, I took away some valuable learnings. One of which was tire inflation and deflation ability. By deflating my tires a bit, I would have gained more traction on the sand. Unfortunately, if I overdid the deflation (especially without a special pressure gauge) I might either find myself stranded on a flat tire or roll my tire right off the wheel. So, I researched and asked the guys at my local Off Road Warehouse for some advice and eventually bought the VIAIR onboard air compressor made for large truck tires. Once installed, I could easily and reliably control the pressure in my tires. What was more, I could also help other stranded drivers. All from my truck.
However, I learned from the fine gentlemen that helped me out of my jam, this was not going to be the only fix for my problem. Especially in a situation with an eroding incline such as the one I had been driving on. The answer to this was a winch. Additionally, with our other travels under my belt, I knew that lighting and rough brush was a serious consideration.
Enter Buckstop Truckware. I knew I liked the idea of an aftermarket bumper ever since Chelsea crashed my Tundra oh so many years before. I'd needed to replace the front end, and I was sold on their toughness and rugged ability to protect the front of the vehicle. Many of the bumpers I had come across looked more like the side of an F-117 stealth fighter and didn't organically fit with the smooth curves of the trucks to which they clung.
I was very happy to find Buckstop, as it was an American-made bumper produced in Prineville, Oregon. The company was aptly named for its ability to protect vehicles from the impact of bucks walking across forest roads (a common danger in the northwest). What was even more pleasing was that it can house a winch and Rigid Industry LED lights.
Match made in heaven.
I contacted Buckstop Truckware. They gave me the “Boss” bumper and I bought a winch to match. The Boss, in my opinion, is understated and rugged and beautiful in the way it seems to integrate right into my truck. A few weeks went by as they made the bumper for my order, and it was delivered to me here in San Diego. After getting a recommendation from Dorian, one of the owners of Buckstop, I asked Rigid Industries to send some E series four-inch spotlights and floodlights to have mounted in the bumper.
I took it to my off road mechanic and had all the parts installed.
The outcome was gorgeous and, as I saw it, pragmatically mean-looking. What's even better, I know now that my family is safer while we voyage across the many states with wildlife and treacherous off road terrain. The bumper is so strong I sometimes get the slightest urge to drive it through our house when I get home. The winch, which is neatly tucked into the front, gives us the ability to pull ourselves out of any sticky situation as well as help others in the same spot. Finally, we no longer have to worry about not being able to see where we are going in the many places we travel that have no street lights. The Rigid Industry lights are so powerful, even at their modest four inch size, we more than quadrupled our visibility.
Most people don't know this, but many vehicles with stock headlights alone are “outrunning their headlights” at speeds above 60 MPH. What this means is that your vehicle is only capable of effectively projecting light far enough to safely react to something in front of you when traveling up to 60mph. Any faster than that, and you might not have time to identify and react to the danger if…say…,a deer were to jump in front of your vehicle. This could be catastrophic for us, if not for the Buckstop bumper and its advanced strength and lighting capabilities.