October 27, 2019

Tombstone - Middlemarch Road Exploration

As I get healthier my new hip is still "calling the shots" I guess, in more than just one way. I am feeling great and 99% of the time I forget what happened 49 days ago. It's those times that I do something "normal" that the hip is not ready for, when it reminds me that I had a hip replacement. So there is that, some restriction on normal movements. Another thing I had been noticing, following the doctor's protocol in getting in and out of a car, the FJ was the hardest challenge of the three cars. Can you sense yet what happened?

You better grab your favorite beverage, buckle up and hang on because I have one whopping story to tell and 38 pictures for you to scroll through if you don't want to read through my BS. I understand and will not take offense but it's my story and I'm sticking to it. Now where to begin??

I knew from my past 4 Toyota FJ's, they are not the easiest car to get in and out of. I remember back in December 2016 (?) I traded an FJ for my first Mini Cooper Countryman for various reasons but one was a factor the past few days we have been out of the blogging mainstream. Back then I started feeling a little zap of pain in my right hip as I would climb up into the FJ seat. That has nothing to do with my replacement btw but it was a memory to think about.

That's Stella last night while I watched the World Series game and football.

So I had been doing some research all the way back this spring before moving to AZ but decided against the RAV4 Adventure because it was smaller and didn't pull the weight I needed when I moved to Arizona. My friend that has the Adventure model gave me a hands on review ... I would not have thought about it anymore until that Toyota News where they were going to put their TRD Off Road tag on the 2020 RAV4 ... no one in the internet knew when they were coming to your local car lot.

In fact as recently as last week my local Toyota salesman told me he didn't think they would ever get that trim model because they are a small dealership. I was happy with what I had so it was not a big deal. But for long time blog readers you know things can change on this blog out here in the 'Wild West' just as fast as they did for years in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana.

I did take Thursday off like I said I would after the hounds and I went up and over Montezuma Pass (the previous post). But a bored mind is a wandering mind. With the internet I can travel many places, look at many things see different colors and think way too much ... too far out of the box as some say.

Yet I went to bed that Thursday night with no weird thoughts, spontaneous brain cell activity ... it was just a normal early to bed early to rise makes a man wealthy healthy and wise. I beg to differ on that saying because I at times am not wise.

Friday morning ... same routine, only Heidi was making her walk for the 3rd day in a row and not only that, she went with me and Stella. So with two retractable leashes, a new empty poop  bag and two hounds walking at different paces ... we started our day out normal. We had a great walk and the bag remained empty.  :)

Now I do have a tendency to help friends out when they ask or if we are in a discussion they have been known to help me out but in the end I usually follow my gut, intuition, impulse, whatever. At least I don't need food like Stella does all the time.

So a friend of mine has some of the same thought processes I do and in fact we might be clones when it comes to cars and trucks. Are you figuring this out yet??? I'll let you know you better keep reading because you will not believe this story ... it's not normal.  HaHa

She is torn between trading her Tacoma TRD Off Road for better gas mileage yet wants to get her and friends off the grid where they have been going. Like me, she goes back and forth, good and bad points, pros and cons ... but the fact is ... there is not a RAV4 TRD Off Road on any car lot within 500 miles of Phoenix ... and I'm not going to drive that far anyway. Neither was she. But like me, she decided to take a sniff around her local Toyota dealership .... none ... nothing to test drive, look at or drool over. There is not a RAV4 TRD OR anywhere near us.

Case closed.

Or so it seemed.

Friday morning I get a text from her telling me the local Toyota Dealer has ONE on their lot. She mentions she is going to test drive it during her lunch break. Well when you are retired your schedule or plans for the day can change in an instant and for me that is just a fantastic feature to have available. Besides I had no plans and I admit I was enjoying watching someone else go through trials and tribulations of buying a different car or truck.

An hour later she still had not left yet to test drive. So I told her I'd do her a favor and CALL THE DEALERSHIP to see if they even had one on the lot or was that ad on their website listing just a pre-emptive strike before they arrived. I mean what are friends for?? It's just a phone call to check on availability and possibly save her a drive for nothing. I couldn't get hurt by that could I ???

I called and talked to a salesman. Well well well ... It is not only on the lot in fact it is on display right on the Toyota Dealers showroom floor. I let him know that my friend was on her way within MINUTES of coming down to test drive and I'm sure she will buy it if she likes it.

Do any of you remember the old Windows PC's back in the 90's where you could defrag your own hard drive ... then sit at your desk in amazement watching those tiny light blue squares all line up in order after the computer was running everywhere to sort all of your files and put them back in order just like you witnessed before your eyes???? Anyone??

Well it doesn't matter, except to say that when I hung up from the call to the salesman and I just heard that one of those 2020 RAV4 TRD Off Road models was actually in range of my phone, although my location wasn't .... MY BRAIN STARTED DEFRAGGING ITSELF !!!! I didn't pass out or feel light headed but thoughts and research in the past was all being gathered up at a rapid rate .... then put in order .... the 'rush' I was feeling was a familiar one ... one that some of you have read about on this blog.

But wait .... there is only ONE and my friend is buying it after her test drive. Case closed ... forget it.

She sends me a picture of her driving to the dealer ... I am getting excited. Then after a short period of time my phone is making that "zip" sound as each new text arrived ... they were only pictures of the car in question. Right after the FIRST PHOTO it was like I was hit up the side of my head with a "Love it" stick. I even told her BEFORE she left "I hope I don't like this car" ...

Get it ... BEFORe she left I said "I hope I don't like this car"

She liked it, She gave me a brief review from her test drive telling me things that I would never pick up in a car reviews. When I read her review I could not wait for this model to get on the car lot. NOT ONLY would I be able to get off road MY HIP would be close to equal of the HEIGHT of the seat ... so with my back to the door I sit at the same level, not to high not too low and slide in ... swing my feet around. The FJ is way too high where I had to do a reverse push up to get in, the MINI is still a tad too low. With a healthy hip I would still have to climb up into the FJ.

She is talking to the salesman and mentions "I don't like the color, I want the car in a different color" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  WHAT ?????? I'm thinking no not really, that small voice in my head is screaming ... "DON'T DO THIS TO ME .... NOOOOOOO I DON'T NEED THIS"

Once she told me she was not going to buy THAT car I told her or asked if the salesman was still with her. I told her to tell him that I am buying that car and I will call him as soon as she is finished talking to him. I KNEW this car would not be on the lot long ... besides, it was my favorite color for Toyota's ... Metallic Gray just like the 4Runner I bought in May.

Well he calls me and I told him consider it SOLD. Oh by the way, what would you give me for a 2013 Toyota FJ with brand new black OME rims and rock rails??? He said send me the pictures and I am going to get some numbers together for you to look at. While he did that I went to Kelly Blue Book to see what a FJ is worth with 170,000 miles on it, one owner before me.

So I had a ballpark figure what I'd like to get ... but in reality it wasn't going to make any difference ... I WAS trading the FJ for the new RAV4 TRD. My new hip was already yelling from the cheap seats ... YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, GREAT MOVE, I CAN'T WAIT TO SIT IN IT.

So around 3pm I "crawled" up into the FJ driver's seat with a 3 hour, 190 mile road trip in front of me on a Friday afternoon/night through two major cities. No, I didn't want to wait until Saturday morning. Do you think I would want too stay awake all night watching the clock ???  LOL

The FJ drove typically great for any FJ. My hip was okay with the constant sitting, only getting out with 27 miles to go because I was on gas fumes and needed a quick pit stop for fuel and my hip. Long story short ... it was a smooth fast transaction ... that friend that test drove the car took time out of her Friday night to stop by after I had finished signing all the paper work to see me and see the car in my hands.

SIDE NOTE:  During the test drive the salesman told me that from the time our call was over around 2pm, and he put the "Sold" sign on the car ... 7 people want to buy the car without even test driving it.

As I moved the FJ over by the "delivery section" so I could move my stuff into the new car, she had the chance to see me "crawl' into the drivers seat and also sit in an FJ for her first time ever. She could tell it was hard for me to get up into the seat whereas she told me later that I was walking normal everywhere and it didn't look like I had my hip replaced. I was just happy that my two legs are the same length but that was good to hear.  HaHa

I knew by the time I drove back the 200 miles home that night I had made a good decision. Very comfortable, smooth and quiet ... plus it even had a sports mode just like the Mini Cooper does. I spent Saturday watching football and reading all the owners manual, at least about the stuff I would need to know. Those manuals get thicker by the year.

But I had plans for Sunday. I knew exactly where I was going and what I was going to do. I was leaving the hounds home this time which they don't really mind because they were going to sleep the whole time I would be gone after their long walk Sunday morning.

This morning was a little different though. HEIDI did NOT wake up with Stella and I. We waited but she never showed up. With a walk 30 minutes after they eat breakfast now, Stella and I were in a hurry so I went back to wake her up to tell her breakfast was served. After all as soon as we got back from the walk I could take my new car off on gravel and dirt and over rocks to see if it lived up to that tag TRD Off Road.

Of course while I was in back waking Heidi up, Stella was trying to steal the food I had poured out for Heidi. As soon as she heard me, she turned and looked at me as if nothing was going one.

But now that food had been eaten ... "what about our walk?"

"Are we going to walk or not?" .... hmmmmm

We did walk and Heidi made the whole walk with Stella and I ... she was tired at the end but slowly walked inside.

I went out and loaded the RAV with my small backpack with water, the Nikon camera, a jacket just in case and some trekking poles just in case. What a beautiful day to find out what this car can do and can't do.

Take a long look at this detailed car because some of you may cry when you see it again after I return home.

A few miles north of Tombstone, the first right past the river (dry or flowing) is a road called Middlemarch Road. Mountain bikers ride this, as do trucks, ATVs, etc. It runs through the Coronado NF in the direction of the Dragoon Mountains. What you are looking at is a very wide road with hard pack in the center with passable shoulders made of gravel and loose sand.

THIS ... was going to be a LOT of fun.

As a reminder I take all of my photos with the car stopped, pulled over and at times I get out of the car based on what is in front or behind me. As you can see it didn't take long to get the dealership black tire shine spray out of the picture and off my tire.

This car on that wide road was like a Rally car you see in the deserts of Saudi Arabia or the Baja 500 ... basically in some points of the highway we were hauling ass. Then I'd slow down and veer to the shoulders for some loose sand and gravel just to see how those Falken Wildpack tires were going to do.

After about 10 miles I started getting into the narrow roads and I had gained a little elevation but so far the road was really smooth packed dirt and gravel. Believe it or not I saw signs warning me that school buses stop out here.

I was driving in Normal and I turned the knob to "Gravel and Rock" ... their version of 4x4 or All 4. This was not as steep as Montezuma Pass or Carr Canyon Rd, where in a Tacoma TRD Off Road and a 4Runner TRD Off Road I had to go down to LOW 4x4 and move the stick to the the left for the lowest gears 1 & 2. The RAV has that option  but all the way up and over the top I never had to go to the lower gears. The 18" rims, the TRD suspension and the bigger frame was eating this road up with ease.

I did meet oncoming traffic a few times but we each followed the law of years past ... pulling over as far as possible to pass through. Right up at the top of that turn there is no guadrail on the right but not as scary as Carr Canyon Rd.

By this time I had passed around the top of these mountains and didn't want to make the big loop straight ahead. There was a nice large area to turn around so I headed back the way I came. By this time I had driven another 13 miles after the road narrowed.

As I turned around and headed back to Hwy 80 ... beautiful country out here.

Yes, there is road on the other side ...

I had stepped out of my car to take some photos with the Nikon, which had the18-55mm lens on it today and that worked out perfect. I could see a dust trail from where I came and heard a truck so I got back in the car, pulled over straddling the edge of the road to give the big Chevy Silverado room to get by. I followed him all the way back to the highway.

In this wide portion of the highway with no dust trails in front or behind me, I had the whole road to myself. I did a lot of fast driving on the shoulder of the road and once around a curve I had the backend coming around at me just like a dirt race car going around a turn. I knew how to handle that because it felt just like driving in the snow back in Indiana.

This car drove fantastic on the unpaved road.

As I was cutting through 1st street from Hwy 80 to Charleston Rd I barely caught this building with a food trailer outside in the parking lot. Food sounded good as well as a home grown beer ... plus I could add to my t-shirt collection.

Sitting there I thought back to the way the car handled. The interesting thing was, I had forgot all about my hip during that drive except for ONE TIME ... by habit, after taking a photo out in the middle of the road I got back in the car in the 'normal' fashion and almost immediately my leg and hip told me "not yet".

All for Tombstone's tourists.

I hated to get rid of the FJ but I just didn't feel like adding wear and tear on a new hip by climbing up into the seat each time. It WILL BE 100% eventually but why put additional stress on that joint if I don't need to. You might be asking about that red truck we took out on Wednesday ... but that is actually lower than the FJ was based on the data of my Stanley Tape Measure.

I told the young salesman on Friday night that by Sunday afternoon I would have this car going through it's paces off road. I sent him some of the pictures and told him to feel free to pass them to other salesman as a testimonial on what this car can do. He loved all the photos I sent him and he had already forwarded them to others in the Toyota sales department.

Another feature it has that might or will be used in the future ... it's the reason my other friend in Phoenix bought the RAV4 Adventure ... the hatchback floor is low enough to get his 130 lb Mastiff in the back for his trips to the vet and day car. Stella should be able to step up in the back of this with no help from me, shoving and lifting her from the back. The car is very spacious, very smooth and quiet for highway and city driving. The 8-speed transmission shifts smoothly and it's not choppy with that many gears.

I'll be taking friends on this same route again plus I will make another trip and make the full loop around the mountains.

If you read this far ... congratulation, I hope you enjoyed the story.

A real western type of day today in the Wild West.

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