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So I wouldn’t really call this an Expedition, more of a road trip…. But still. Took this a little while back, but I’ve been busy with work.

Plan:

Drive from Phoenix to LA, then along the coast to Seattle, and returning on a slightly different path (why drive the same way twice?). Trying to get away from the heat that is the Devils Butthole, AKA Phoenix. No phone, no GPS, no interwebs. Just roadmaps, and waking up that morning deciding where to go. My job affords me the ability to have up to 6 months a year off, so there was also no set time frame. I was however breaking a 2 and 4 year old into both road trips and camping, so there was that.

Purchases:

Smittybilt Overlander XL RTT
Jerry can holder for rear
FJ1001 HU (GPS card had to be replaced, so no GPS for the trip)
Corresponding backup camera
Jerry can holder for the rear

Execution:

So my wife was not happy with the idea of having no definitive plan, merely an idea of a route. She had her phone, and asked where we were going every morning so she could see how long it would take. I wasn’t overly thrilled with it, but if it made the trip easier on her then so be it.

My wife had to be back by a certain date, so we had booked her a flight from Seattle to Phoenix to get back on time. We had been looking into getting a RTT for some time, and while I would love to buy one of the $5,000 hardtops, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I checked out a place near my house which was pretty sweet, an up and coming overlanding themed online store with a storefront. They had a Smittybilt Overlander XL already set up that we could check out. I had my reservations, it being so cheap compared to its peers, but all in all I have zero complaints. My wife would still prefer a CVT or something akin to that, as she said “for the name”.

So I bought the RTT, the owner delivered it himself for free the following morning, granted it was only about 5 miles, but still. Once I opened it all up (the trash filled two of my curbside recycle bins) and took a look at it, my kids loved it. Sadly it took me several hours to get everything mounted. I don’t work very fast.



After the trip, I have nothing but good things to say about the RTT as a whole. Would I love another maker or type more? Perhaps, but I have no real regrets about this one.

I had recently finished redoing my rear cargo storage.



Once packed up, with all our gear and such for 5 people, it didn’t take up too much space. This was the cargo area after about 10 days, and it looked all haggard and messy.



-The bottom pelican case held all our non-perishable food stuffs, spices, etc.
-The top pelican case was all our kids stuff.
-To the left of that was a table bungied to the internal wall, with the flood light, lantern, and chairs.
-Behind that pelican is the 40mm ammo can, with all our cooking supplies, dishes, etc.
-The grill was bungied on top, obviously, and I was drying a towel on it when I took the pic. The griddle is right below it.
-The drawer had all my stuff, as well as my wifes.
In between the two car seats in the back I sandwiched a milk crate with a bunch of toys and books for the kids.

We still had a ton of room left over in the cargo area for bags, if we wanted, and our water was in the jerry can on the back.



The FJ, looking nice and clean… And no the RTT was not bent in the middle, but it sure looks like it is in this pic.

We took our time heading out. We decided to camp in Santa Cruz. Finding a spot wasn’t too terribly difficult, and there were some bugs to work out with setting up camp, etc. We flew through AZ towards the coast, since we’ve seen and done that a lot, and it was hot. Everyone raves about the southern portion of the PCH, but it was probably my least favorite section of the trip, save for AZ.
San Francisco was warm and sunny, as my heat curse seemed to be following us.



It was however, packed. Summer time, go figure.

The coast was nice, and it wasn’t nearly as packed as I figured it was going to be. There was a fair bit of traffic however, which also caused us to have to take a rather large pain in the butt detour.



We stopped for a day and paid a visit to my in laws just outside of San Francisco. After SF we stopped by Ft. Bragg, after we took a wrong turn at Leggett and wasted the better part of a day. So we stayed at a small campground around there. It was a nice little place, but nothing to write home about.

The next day we drove through the redwoods, and without finding a reservation, it was a pain finding a place to stay for the night, but we eventually did, not too terribly far from Crescent City. We also stopped by Orick to check out the big ol Paul Bunyan.





The next day we decided to take a hike through the redwoods, to relive all my childhood Star Wars fantasies….



It was pretty cool, and I could have stayed there for a lot longer. But I figured it was a big coastline and there was a lot to see, and I may take the trip again some time. So onwards we went.
As soon as we crossed into Oregon, the terrain and just about everything else changed, like almost immediately.






We went to Haceda Head Lighthouse, and both the B&B and the campground were sold out, so we continued on for a while and stayed at some little campground.





We had gotten more proficient at setting up camp, and even the kids were starting to help out.



The next day required a motel stay, as traffic made it to where we weren’t able to get to any campgrounds early enough in the day when they had openings. The next night was a hotel in Seattle with my Airmiles footing the bill.

My wife flew home the next morning, and the kids and I took off shortly after. It took us 6 hours to go from Seattle to Portland. At one point we had gone 45 miles in 3 hours. I hated Seattle, lol.
The plan was to head inland a bit, since we had seen the coast. However, inland was hot, Seattle was 91*F the day prior, and inland temps hovered around the high 80s. So we went back to the coast for a bit, but Seattle traffic screwed us, and we couldn’t get back to the coast until well after 9pm and we were forced to pay $175 for a crappy motel that had the only room left in the entire town. Oh well.

Inland Oregon was another place that I could have spent a ton of time in, I loved it there, never having been to the region before.



The next day I decided to hit up Mt. Shasta, so the kids and I drove that way and stayed at a KOA. Not the type of camping I like to do, I prefer unimproved campgrounds, but the kids had been doing well enough in the car, and they needed a place to run around and blow off steam on swings, etc.



After the KOA the kids and I made our way through Sacramento to pay a friend a visit, then off to Sequoia National Park and Kings. That was by far the best part of the whole trip. I guess I just expected the trees to be wider in RNF, sure they were taller, which was impressive, but I expected wider as well. To me the wider tree was more impressive. Although it wasn’t nearly as lush as RNF, We loved SNP and Kings. We will most certainly be heading back there as soon as we can.





And one reason I love the RTT over tent camping, lots of blankets.



The rest of the way was uneventful, save for the 5 hours it took us to get from LA to San Bernardino thanks to traffic…. That turned our drive into a 14 hour day to get home. Oh, and someone threw a rock off the overpass onto my window. It sucked watching it fly towards you with nowhere to go, but I since got it replaced for free.



All told the entire trip last about 14 days I think. I can’t remember exactly. It was fun, but I have some upgrades I want, such as a lift kit, obviously. 33s with no lift works, but not a whole lot of flex, or room left for even a foot on top of the tire. A dual battery setup is next on the list, lower profile roof rack with a quick release for the RTT, etc.…
When I do the next trip, it will likely just be a couple of weeks spent in Sequoia and Kings.
 

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Looks like you had a great trip.
thanks for sharing with us!
 

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Sounds like an awesome trip and the type of trip that, in my mind, I would love to do. However, I'm just not wired to "wing it". A man has to know his limitations.

Kudos to your wife also. A RTT road trip with a 2 and 4 year old!?!?
 

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Great pictures and right up. My wife and I do this (coast trip) every so often. We love it you can`t be in a hurry its just a great drive. We stop everywhere. When we are done we usually get on interstate 5 and just haul the mail back to home. :)
 

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Cool trip & pictures!

I can tell you how to capture another 20 cubic feet of cargo space if you'd like.
Sell your RTT for $1500. Now your entire roof is free for storage.
Buy a 6 person GTT(ground top tent) tent that you can stand up in, for $300 from REI. I saw everyone of you camp spots had room on the ground for any tent.
Buy a roof top cargo box that holds 21 cubic feet of gear for $300 from REI.
Think of all your gear that you don't need inside the FJ that can comfortably go up inside the cargo box.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
@Adrift, the trip could have been done with a plan, i.e. booking campgrounds, but all the good spots being reserved 6 months in advance negated that, and I still wanted to do the trip. And the kids did just fine, they still talk about the trip literally every night.
@cliffy, actually it wasn't a time out. She was just playing with the RTT tiedown. The kids were awesome, not one issue the entire time.
@Sanderhawk, that's awesome you do that trip frequently. You may be seeing us along the way, as my wife wants to start making it an annual thing, although perhaps with reservations along the way. I pictured in my minds eye more unimproved camping, and I'm sure there are a ton of spots just none that we came across. The initial plan was to go all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, but that will likely be another trip.
@fjeffnutah, I have a 4 person tent, and I use that when hunting, hiking, etc. We wanted something different for this trip, and sure there were spots for tents, etc. But we had more than enough room remaining inside the cargo area. Ground tents have their place, I have certainly done my fair share of tenting in the last 3 decades or so, but for a road trip with camping, we won't be going back to ground tents. And we got a decent enough deal on the tent, somewhere around $900.
 

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t.
@cliffy, actually it wasn't a time out. She was just playing with the RTT tiedown. The kids were awesome, not one issue the entire time.
]


Bahaha, I didn't really think she was in trouble.. I was just foolin'...:wink
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Where did you get the jerry can holder? How do you like it?
https://www.refinedcycle.com/JM1-Jerry-Gas-Can-Mount-for-Toyota-FJ-Cruiser-all-years-JM1.htm

I like it a lot. It was cheap, and it didn't add weight to the spare tire, etc. Also if I ever wanted to go another route down the line with a rear bumper, etc. the cost wouldn't have hurt too much.

I had zero issues or complaints, and it was super easy to install, and the instructions were easy to follow, clear and concise.
 

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Nice write up and nice trip pics. This is what it's all about. As your kids get older, memories from these types of trips will last their entire lives.
 
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