Originally published October 7, 2015 on autoTRADER.ca
There are two options for the drive on this, the final leg of the Ford Explorer 25-year Anniversary “Explore More” tour. One loop of some 250 km north to the Rio Del Grande Norte National Monument, with a few spots earmarked on the way, and one smaller loop that cuts through the Los Alamos National Park and is packed with additional touristy things. Both end back at our hotel in Tamaya, New Mexico.
My poor co-driver didn’t know what hit him.
“We’re doing the big loop,” I told him. “Nobody else will, and besides, I like driving.”
“Okay, but we’ll miss Los Alamos,” he pointed out.
“No we won’t.”
I had a plan fuelled by my own memories of childhood road trips. For our family they always fit the same pattern: distance, ambition and value were key components – we had to go as far as we could, as quickly as we could, usually with the goal of seeing something that was cooler in guide books than it was in real life. Then we’d pile into the car again and head home, hoping to make up for the inevitable disappointment of whatever funny-shaped rock we’d gone to look at along the way.
We would leave at 7 am – the earliest they’d let us. We were going to go big. I was going to test my co-driver’s patience as my Dad had tested mine. And dagnammit he was going to damn well enjoy it! This is the sort of adventure I imagine families still go on, and the sort they take cars exactly like this to do it in.
The occasion, as I mentioned was the 25th anniversary of the Ford Explorer. Some seven million of these SUVs have been sold worldwide in that time and to celebrate Ford had organized an epic, six-leg, six-week adventure complete with its own hashtag #ExploreMore (because Twitter). It was also an opportune time for Ford to introduce the new highest trim level for their stalwart SUV – the Platinum trim.
But mostly, this was a rare opportunity to be turned loose in a press car. No pre-marked route in the GPS, no road book to follow, just a big map with a few suggested things for us to visit and an entire day in a fully loaded Explorer.
Having ascertained that the route south to Albuquerque was basically just a city highway run with traffic and little else, we plotted a course straight north through Madrid, Santa Fe, around the outside of the San Juan National Forest and up to Taos, before branching out on a limb to the Rio Del Grande Norte National Monument.
I toyed with the idea of going the long way through Las Vegas – but decided that was folly on a number of levels.
On the way back from the Rio Norte I would try to take us through Los Alamos, the national park famous for being the home of the atomic bomb project. Why? Because it made the trip longer. And because the tour guide bloke who gave our presentation said we wouldn’t be able to in the time given. Challenge: Accepted.