For the last 5 years my husband Owen and I have been living on the road full time. In that time we’ve had the pleasure of living and working from a number of vehicles. In order, we’ve traveled in a 2004 Honda Element with a hand-me down tent, a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia, a 1985 4×4 Toyota Sunrader, a 2008 4×4 Toyota Tacoma with a simple bed cap and homemade bed platform, and for the last two years we’ve been living in 2019 4×4 Toyota Tundra with a Flatbed Four Wheel Camper.
Those five vehicles have covered the full spectrum, from incredibly minimal to comfortable and spacious. Each one of those vehicle supported adventure rigs has served us well for where we were in our life and travels. All of our overland rigs have given us an appreciation for all types of vehicles for living on the road.
Back in 2019 when we were starting the process of buying our current FWC rig we thought long and hard about whether we could make a slide in camper work for us. Ultimately, we decided that the flat bed was better for accommodating our life, but also our work. However, we were always left wondering…
Towards the end of 2020 our friends over at FWC asked if we’d be interested in taking out a slide-in camper and the new Project M for a little road trip. Not ones to turn down such a fun offer, we called up our friends Chase and Aimee @tightloopsfly, who live in a VW Vanagon, and asked if they wanted to come along for the ride. It took less than 30 seconds to convince them to jump into our little caravan!
In late March we came rolling into the FWC headquarters ready to swap out our rigs for two new FWC’s unlike anything either of us have. Chase and Aimee hopped into the Granby Slide-in, and Owen and I took up residence in the Hawk, Project M.
Heading towards Death Valley:
As soon as all our gear was loaded, we pointed ourselves east towards Death Valley National Park. Not fifteen minutes down the road our radio came to life with Aimee’s voice. “This truck is essentially a spaceship compared to our van” Pause…….
“YOU GUYS! The steering wheel is heated?!” Needless to say we were in for the trip of a lifetime.
Fatigued from a full day of driving, we came over the pass near Mammoth Lakes, CA in a driving snowstorm. Visibility was awful and camp couldn’t come soon enough. We finally rolled into camp well after dark with a takeout pizza in hand.
The following day we spent outside of Bishop, climbing some local rocks called the Happy Boulders. Thankfully our overland camp was nearby and we were able to walk from the FWC rigs to the climbing area. Being able to return to camp, exhausted from a day of pebble wrestling, and have it already set up was quite a treat!
The morning came early as we packed up to spend the next week off-roading in Death Valley National Park. Our first stop, Eureka Dunes, are the tallest (wind dependent) sand dunes in California. The road to the dunes is notorious for being heavily washboarded, and it was, but the rigs made traveling the distressed roads painless.
Owen and I, being that we live out of a rig that has cabinets, had to toss all of our gear into the FWC Project M without much of an organization or storage system in place. When we arrived after the miles of washboards, opened the back and found our stuff scattered all over the truck bed. Note to self: If traveling in a project M… Bring bins to store gear in!
Once we arrived and settled into camp we set out into the dunes in hopes of being on top for sunset. Atop the highest peak we had a jaw dropping vantage point of the valley below. From our perch we enjoyed the view until the sun retreated behind the opposing hills. Under the cover of stars we made our way back to our waiting camp.
As the sun crept high into the sky, we wished we could stay for longer. However, the time had come for us to venture further into Death Valley. Our sights were set on another remote section of the park in the Funeral Mountain Range. Being that Chase and Aimee’s van is two wheel drive, we wanted to be sure we found a trail for them to try they’re hand at driving the camper up a 4×4 road.
Chloride City Mine:
Once we made it across the park to the base of the Funeral Range, we took a discreet road up the Chloride City Trail. Chloride City was an old mining operation that is no longer active and very little of the actual mining site is left, however as we climbed we realized that the view was very much still intact.
The road featured tight hairpin turns and a few rock step sections but once again, the rigs didn’t bat an eye at anything we threw at them.
Once we made it to the top and the site of old Chloride City, we found ourselves a spot perched on the edge of the mountain overlooking Death Valley and the dunes down below just in time for sunset.
Shortly after we settled into camp and cracked open a bottle of wine, it was like someone flipped a switch. What was once a calm evening, a new and hellatous wind came out of nowhere. Not wanting our snacks to get sandy we moved our little party inside and began to ride out a windstorm, that we later learned pushed 60+ MPH sustained winds for nearly two days.
The valley below looked to have fog rolling in, but we eventually realized it was actually sand being swept away by the wind over the Mesquite Dunes. It was one of the most unique views of a natural occurrence we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.
That night, on the cliff edge, we were completely exposed to the wind. The loud gusts rocked the trucks making it hard to sleep a wink. We were all impressed that we remained upright and that the canvases were unscathed from the beating they took.
At first light we relocated to a small gully down below our peak and finally got the respite we were all desperate for.
After a quiet morning we went out on foot to explore the area and network of old mining roads that meander through the mountain range. Some of the roads could be driven, others have long since deteriorated past the point of drivability but provided trail access to our hearts content.
The following day, the winds finally receded and we plotted our move towards the racetrack.
Once we made it back down into the valley, we stopped at one of the park’s public bathrooms and found them filled with mini sand dunes. From the looks of things, no one was safe from the wind storm.
The road into The Racetrack is another road infamous for it’s relentless washboards. After just a few miles we were passed by a road grader headed in the opposite direction. We took that as a sign that the road had just received a manicuring, and low and behold! It was in the best condition we’ve ever seen it in!
After spending some time wandering around the playa we made our way to the Dry Camp behind the racetrack where we settled in and immediately started making dinner on the tailgate.
We REALLY miss having a tailgate. With a flatbed that was one of the things that we had to give up for our camper. When we lived out of our Tacoma, meal prep and tailgate hangs were among our favorite pastimes. Spending a few weeks living out of the Project M gave us a much needed taste of life with a tailgate again!
Not wanting to see a new stretch of road we took the scenic route out of the racetrack using Hunter Mountain Road via Teakettle Junction.
If you’re not familiar, Teakettle Junction is the famous intersection of Hunter Mountain Road and Racetrack Valley Road. The sign that marks the intersection is decorated by tea kettles that are decorated and left behind by travelers that come from all over the world. Owen and I have been to the junction before but were unable to find a kettle before we made our way out to the Playa.
This time we made sure we came prepared.
We stopped at the junction to ceremoniously tie our kettle in with the many others that were making a sweet clanging sound as they swung in the gentle breeze. Now, months later as I write this, I love knowing that a little piece of us resides there. Teakettle Junction is a special place that carries a lot of meaning for us. To have visited without dear friends, Chase and Aimee, and to have left a little momento fills me with a whole lotta joy.
With our kettle neatly placed into its new home. We set off down Hunter Mountain Road towards an obstacle that we always look forward to.
The moon dust pit.
That is just the name we use to refer to a section of the road that is home to some of the deepest moon dust we’ve ever come across in our five years of traveling. With our heavy vehicles, the dust isn’t much of a challenge, but it does put on a show when you drive through it!
Not long after the grand moon dust crossing, we found our way to camp and settled in for the night because wanting to wake up and catch the sunrise before we headed out of Death Valley.
Back to the Sierra:
Slowly we made our way out to Lone Pine, CA where we found a quiet spot away from the crowds. After nearly a week of hiking, driving, and exploring we were all in need for a little down time. It’s amazing how exhausting so much fun can be. In the shadow of Mount Whitney we made a fire and watched the light from a full moon sweep across the valley.
Feeling refreshed from the night in Lone Pine we headed to the Mammoth Lake area for one last stop before heading back to Sacramento.
Chase and Aimee are avid fly fishers and have since gotten Owen and I into fishing. After seeing how beautiful the mountains were on our way out a week earlier, we knew that we wanted to spend a day on the water soaking in the views and hopefully catching a fish or two.
When we arrived the mountains were just as incredible as they had been but the wind, once again, put a damper on our plans. The conditions made fishing a challenge but we were able to get a few casts in before the sun set. Sadly, no fish were caught, but with a view like this, none of us felt let down by the way we chose to spend our last day in our FWC’s.
Thank you so much to Four Wheel Campers for giving us the opportunity to take out and test drive two different models. As owners of a FWC, it was a wonderful experience to try out something new and make some incredible memories along the way. While we were out we made a tour & review video of each rig that you can check out below.
Shortly, we’ll be releasing a mini series documenting our travels in the Four Wheel Campers over on our YouTube channel. Subscribe so you can keep your eyes peeled for it!
Chase and Aimee: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm3b5diwVZdfS13g7CNGkXg
Flatbed tour: https://youtu.be/id_RagvsFV8
Slide in tour: https://youtu.be/6UbR9NmuDek
Project M tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOeloodPM1Q
Check out TAP’s Ultimate Resource Guide to Vehicle Supported Adventure and Overlanding HERE