by Dulcy Rojas
These are the words I chanted to myself as I drove the moving van across the country from Central Florida to Tucson, Arizona back in 2013. I had sold my house, packed up my stuff, loaded my animals and put my Subaru on a tow trailer behind the Budget rent a truck. We headed across the country, ready for adventure.
I have always craved adventure - living in England for 2 months when I was 17, traveling across the country on my Harley for a month when I was 25, racing bicycles in my 30’s - just to name a few. Then at the age of 43, I decided to move 2500 miles away from all my friends and family to Arizona, where I knew only one person. It was exciting and scary at the same time but I was ready for it. I had spent 23 years in “flat” Florida and finally came to terms that it was time for a terrain change.
My first three months in Tucson were challenging - missing friends and family and having to quickly find a different place to live (long side story, HA!). I finally got settled and began to explore. There were so many great hiking trails around the Tucson area and getting to some of these is where I began to dip my toes into “off-roading”. I was a “Subaru Girl”, on my second Subaru and figured – hey, it’s only dirt and rocks and I need to go down this to get to the trailhead. I explored many forest roads all over southern Arizona and even took one trip down to El Golfo Mexico to camp on the beach – 10 miles of driving in deep sand was definitely not my favorite but the end location was beautiful and worth all the fishtailing and tire spinning.
Early 2014 is where I had my first, “oh my goodness” offroad experience. I was traveling up to Flagstaff for a weekend of hiking with the dogs with my friend Alayna. The highway had been shut down due to a motorcycle accident. Luckily, we had cell service, and I was close enough to an on ramp to do a slight maneuver and get off the highway (I won’t go into detail, LOL!). Alayna found what we thought was a detour road – on Google maps – which quickly became a “yeah I don’t think so” route. So we tried the other side of the highway on the power line access road. We bumped along that for a bit, slowly climbing a particularly steep hill. The pucker butt came as we crested and I realized how steep and rocky the descent was on the other side. There was a point my Subaru was catty wampus with only 3 wheels on the ground but we made it down. There had been a Jeep following me that ended up applauding me for doing that in a Subaru, lol, and guided us back to the highway, which we were now far enough North to be past the back up.
It was on that Flagstaff trip that I discovered Prescott and immediately decided I needed to live there. Within 2 months I had a rental in Prescott and packed the moving van with everything and my animals and my Subaru, again on the tow trailer behind the Budget rental truck. Prescott opened up to more offroad adventures – Crown King, Jerome, Perkinsville, Sedona – and a change in Subaru to my “dream car”, a black top of the line Subaru Outback (“Dream car” title to later be handed to another, but we aren’t there yet)
In 2015 I decided to buy a house and ended up in Payson, Arizona. The Mogollon Rim was now my backyard playground for offroad and hiking adventures. And by the way, if you haven’t heard of or been to “the Rim” in Arizona, I highly suggest you go. It really is a beautiful place - sooooo many forest roads and trails to explore and tons of acres of dispersed camping.
In 2016 I decided to buy an offroad gear trailer to keep the back of the Subaru completely for the dogs. I found a Space trailer and then purchased a CVT roof top tent to put on it. The dogs and I explored and camped all over Arizona in 2016 and 2017 – as well as California, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
It was August of 2017 when I finally realized that I had outgrown the Subaru’s All Wheel Drive. I ended up on a particularly difficult road in Happy Jack as it was closer to the highway on the map than the 25 mile backtrack I would have to do. There were drops, boulders, ledges, mud, sand – you name it, it was on this damn road. It was only about 5.5 miles and it took me I think about one hour and 15 stressful minutes – all while racing the setting sun. It made me realize two things – one: my Subaru was actually tougher than I gave it credit for, BUT two: I seriously needed true 4WD.
About a year or so earlier on a kayak trip to Knoll Lake on the Rim, I had seen a white, lifted 5th gen 4Runner that had me salivating and thinking, hmmm, one day. So fast forward to the week after that experience on the “horror road” as I lovingly described it, and I was searching for used 4WD 4Runners. I ended up buying the first one I went to look at – it was a stock 2014 black SR5 with low miles (I am fairly partial to black – it’s the former “goth girl” in me, lol). I strictly limited myself to NOTHING over $30K so the Trail and Pro models were out PLUS I knew I’d be changing everything on it anyway – tires, wheels, suspension, roof rack, front bumper etc.
August of 2019 will be my 2 year 4Runner anniversary and I can honestly say this is my most favorite out of the 15 vehicles I have owned in my life – the new “Dream Car” title holder. I absolutely LOVE my 4Runner and the places it allows me to go and all the new friends I have met because of it. The dogs I think love it as much as me as they benefit highly from the fact that I love to drive it and take them on all my offroad adventures. The dogs and I have been all over Arizona and have also explored 12 other states, Colorado and Utah being our favorites. My 4Runner is always covered in forest road dirt and dust - inside and out as well as dog hair and slobber, and the Arizona “pinstripes” are many, but it’s well loved and gets me to so many places I probably would not have attempted to go before. What’s on the future bucket list for this “Toyota Girl”?? Well just about anywhere that has dirt roads & trails that the dogs and I have yet to adventure on!
Posted by: Dulcy Rojas