We began by going down the road and turning right onto the course. On the left side was a little hill. Jim said, “This is your warm up. Go all the way to the left and go up the hill.” The rig angled and we went up and down. “Okay, I can do this,” I thought.
Up in front of me was the truck camper paparazzi. Gordon was there with his video camera, Andy and Matt Ward from Hallmark were at different places on the course taking pictures, and about a dozen TCM readers followed.
As we were getting close to our first real obstacle Jim said, “I want your left foot on the brake and your right foot on the accelerator. That way you have more control when you need to stop and go.” Driving with both feet was somewhat natural to me as we have a manual transmission car at home.
The first big hill with the Power Wagon and Hallmark was an amazing experience. All of a sudden I couldn’t see a thing but the top of the Dodge’s hood and the blue Arizona sky. I didn’t know when the truck was going to hit the top of the hill or whether or not I was going to go too far to the left or the right. Lucky for me, Fred was there to signal me forward. That moment taught me the importance of having a spotter while you’re traveling in unfamiliar off-road territory.
As we were going down hill, Jim had me put the truck into first gear. He said, “You are going to keep your foot on the brake as you go down because neither one of us wants to drive into that lake.” It all worked out beautifully. Having Jim there giving me instructions and Fred checking the rig and where it was going, I felt totally at ease.
When Jim said, “Tap left or tap right”, I just moved the steering wheel a little left or right and the truck followed the course. Everything was a small movement of the steering wheel, a slight acceleration, or slight braking. No rash movements. It’s just like loading a truck camper. You start moving your wheel too much and it throws you off course.
In the middle of the course, Gordon spotted Larry Wittman in his Phoenix pop-up camper running a different part of the course. He started the course around the same time the Hallmark started, so Gordon ran over to Larry’s rig to get some video. Gordon literally had two video productions going on at the same time.
When Gordon was capturing Larry’s experience, we waited a few minutes to let some Land Rovers pass us on the course and then we continued.
The last thrill was when the Power Wagon’s wheels lifted off the ground. I literally felt like I was on a teeter totter back in elementary school. The whole rig was swaying back and forth in the air. What an incredible course!
2013 Four Wheel Camper Fleet and 2012 Toyota Tacoma
To watch the above video in HD, press play, click on the quality “gear” symbol in the lower right corner, and select 720p or 1080p. HD video takes longer to load and play. Click on the box in the lower right corner to view the video full screen.
As soon as we completed the course with the Power Wagon and Hallmark, I jumped out and got into the Tacoma and Fleet rig and buckled up. One thing I noticed right away was that the Four Wheel Camper rig was a lot lower to the ground.
Jim and Fred switched places. Fred was in the cab with me and Jim was outside giving me directions. Fred was ready to go and started by showing me where four wheel drive low was located in the Tacoma.
With the Tacoma being lower, I could see more of the course as I approached it.
One thing that sticks out with the Toyota Tacoma and Four Wheel Camper course run was the first really hard turn. I made a U-turn all in one shot. The Tacoma has a great turning radius.