Neil Calder was on a dream off-road trip when the unthinkable happened; far from the reaches of civilization, his truck camper literally fell off. If only a dozen off-road experts would just show up and help, right? What the…
I am here in the United States for four-months. I live in Japan. I planned on getting a truck and camper and gently going across America watching birds, sleeping in the camper and going where I want for a couple of years. It was a nice daydream and suddenly all of that fell to pieces like a broken window.
Returning To Cerro Gordo Road
I was on a trip down to Lone Pine in southern California where there are some great backcountry trails. I used to live in Palo Alto and would explore the area in a Range Rover, so I had already done part of the Cerro Gordo Road.
I had never succeeded in completing the road because the Range Rover consistently broke down. I was determined to complete this particular trail with my Toyota Tacoma and Four Wheel Camper.
Above: The campsite at Alabama Hills before setting off
The day before I had completed the Saline Valley Road, which is another beautiful trail near Alabama Hills. In the United States there are so many backcountry places to explore in a truck and camper. I love it!
My truck is a single cab, manual, four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma; about the most basic model I could get. My camper is a Four Wheel Camper Shell model; no shower, refrigerator or sink. I wanted the rig to be as light and maneuverable as possible.
Above: The off-road condition warning at Swansee-Cerro Gordo Road
At the time of the incident, the camper was only three-weeks old. I am not sure if the camper and tie-downs were fully settled. For example, I had already noticed that the top of the left front turnbuckle was consistently loose. The morning of the incident, I tightened it and then off I went to the start of Cerro Gordo Road.
A Punch In the Mouth
I was doing well, gently making my way up the track. It was a very steep and broken road. There were major boulders. I was in low range four-wheel drive the entire time.
I got up to the half way point, which was about eight to nine-miles from the start of the trail. At that point I should have stopped and checked the turnbuckles again because my rig was shaking a lot, but I didn’t. I continued on.
The road got steeper and worse. I had never been that far on that trail because my Range Rover had never made it that far.
I continued slowly up trail. Another five to seven miles up I stopped to get out to get a good look at what was in front of me to see what route to take. I walked up and turned around and looked at my truck. That’s when I realized something wasn’t the same.
It was a punch in the mouth.
The camper wasn’t anywhere in sight. You can imagine the emotion of it all. Where is it? What am I going to do?
I turned the truck around and started easing my way down the trail. Half a mile down the trail there she was in the middle of the trail.