April 28, 2023.
The big news on this Rig Review is that the Tacoma has been stored in Las Vegas, largely eliminating the long, 20+ hour slog to get from the PNW to the SW before a winter adventure. While this has definitely reduced the wear and tear on the truck - saving something on the order of 2000 miles per trip - it has also introduced other benefits and drawbacks that I didn't really think about when I decided to go this route.
With that in mind, let's get down to it. This Rig Review covers the following trips:
- Left Behind (Jan)
- Not the Rock Art I Was Looking For (Jan)
- Left Behind, Again (Feb)
- Mine Mania - The Dale Mining District (Feb)
- My First Time in Joshua Tree (Feb)
- Rock Art Three Ways (Mar 2023)
- Three Days of R&R (Apr 2023)
I'm Loving the Truck in Las Vegas (ongoing)
TL;DR - having the Tacoma in Las Vegas and flying back and forth for each trip is one of the best things we've done for the setup in a long time from a quality of life perspective. It doesn't save any money though.
At the beginning of January, I arranged to leave the Tacoma in storage down in Las Vegas between trips. The idea is to keep the Tacoma closer to where it's used for its intended purpose - exploring - rather than using it to drive back-and-forth from the Pacific Northwest every time we want to explore a more accessible terrain during the winter.
This isn't some awesome idea that I came up with. It's based largely on the practice of a fellow explorer, Ken @DVExile. He has been doing this for years after he moved to the east coast but wanted to have a way to explore his favorite getaway - Death Valley.
After three months, here's a quick look at the pros and cons of this situation.
The beginnings/ends of trips are so much more pleasant. I didn't ever really mind the long, 20+ hour drives - I'd listen to podcasts, watch the scenery, enjoy some Wendy's, and then arrive in the wee hours of the following morning. Sure, I'd only get a few hours of sleep that first night and I'd be tired the next day, but that would mostly work itself out by the end of the trip. I didn't register at all how much nicer it would be to arrive 1000 miles away fully rested and ready to explore on the same afternoon as I'd left home.
@mrs.turbodb is much happier. Where I didn't mind the long drives, she hated them. Flying - only a few hour operation - is much more acceptable to her, and that's made entire trips more pleasurable for both of us.
Less wear and tear on the Tacoma. Obviously by flying, we're saving ~2,000 miles per trip on the odometer of the Tacoma. Even though my engine oil analysis in the last rig review showed that it's generally in great shape even with all those miles, over time, this should make it last a lot longer, and reduce maintenance costs (tires, timing belts, etc.) Just as a quick comparison, we'd driven 13,583 miles by this time last year (2022) over the course of four trips, and we've driven only 3,883 miles so far this year having completed six trips!
Less stress when getting home at the end of a trip. One of the things we always had to deal with when driving was ensuring that we left enough time to get home. There was always a push-pull between "seeing one more thing" and leaving a little extra padding in case something went wrong along the way. Getting home was important because of @mini.turbodb - like many families these days, she's only with us part of the time, and we always prioritize being home when she is with us.
Cons (and how I'm dealing with them)
Minor maintenance on the Tacoma is harder to take care of. Previously, between trips, I'd perform a lot of minor maintenance - oil changes, tire rotations, installation of a new PCV valve or other component when the Tacoma was sitting in the garage at home. Now, with it so far away, that's impossible. As such, a few minor maintenance issues have piled up. Right now, the list sits at the following:
- I need to top off the gear oil in transmission because of the small leak that I haven't fixed yet.
- The wiring for one of my Diode Dynamics SS5 pods on the bumper needs to be soldered (when I installed them, apparently I only crimped the connections and one jiggled loose).
- I've had a new PCV valve on hand for the last six months or so, and just need to install it (preventative maintenance).
- I've had a LutzAuto speedometer/odometer calibration control box on hand since November and just need to install it.
- My hidden spare key fell off of the truck at some point, so I need to get a new one made. Except that the master key is in Las Vegas at the storage facility.
- I've had a Honda windshield wiper sprayer for the passenger nozzle waiting to be installed for about a year now.
- I got a P0120 code on my last trip to Joshua Tree, and while I cleaned the MAF and intake on the trail, this is something that - in the past - I would have waited to do until I got home.
Likely - or at least, my plan for now - is to drive the Tacoma home at oil change intervals. For me, that's about 7,500 miles, and seems like it'll be about 5-6 months. Then, I'll try to have all the various bits on hand that I need to do a few concentrated days of work, before driving the truck back for the next trip, after which it will once again be stores in Las Vegas.
I don't have a vehicle to drive at home. The Tacoma didn't see a lot of driving at home, but I would use it every now and then to run an errand or pick something up at Lowes Depot. Now that we only have one vehicle at home, @mrs.turbodb and I have to do a bit more juggling.
Ultimately, I'm not dealing with this at all - for the most part, it's fine, but less convenient.
Facts (neither pros nor cons for me, but they might be one or the other for someone else)
Cost is about the same or a little less to store the Tacoma in Las Vegas. At initial glance, it might seem like storing the truck in Las Vegas would save a lot of money, but it really doesn't. Rather than write everything out, here's a tabular breakdown of how the costs compare over the course of an average month and year. Obviously gas prices and flight prices affect this the most.
Costs pretty much the same.
It's statistically safer. This isn't one that I think about all that much, given that I consider myself one of the safer/better drivers out there, but statistically, it's much safer for us to fly than it is to drive (mostly due to other drivers).
I Need New Headlights (ongoing-ish)
TL;DR - my headlight housings are getting foggy again. Given their age - original to the Tacoma - it's time to put in some new ones.
A couple years ago, I went through a saga of trying to figure out the best setup for headlights. First, I installed some LEDs. I liked them but they output a lot of radio frequency interference (RFI) so I went back to halogen, and upgraded my wiring to be able to power brighter bulbs, which has been fantastic, and is the route I would recommend going from the start.
Polishing worked OK, but quickly reverted back to the foggy state.
In combination with polishing the (still original to the Tacoma) headlight housings, the new bulbs worked great for a while, but now they housings are getting foggy again.
This fogginess will happen more and more quickly with each polish, so I'm just going to put in entirely new Toyota OEM headlight housings (left) (right). It's important to get OEM housings for the headlights, as aftermarket do not reflect the light properly, thereby failing to provide more light down the road. They aren't cheap, but they aren't that expensive either, given what they do. Just another thing to add to my minor maintenance list for when the Tacoma finally comes home.
Clear headlight lenses make all the difference when it comes to night driving.
GPS Navigation Software (resolved for now)
TL;DR - After considering a switch to Gaia, I'm (mostly) sticking with Backcountry Navigator for GPS software because it works better for the things I do.
I mentioned in my last rig review that Gaia seemed to have a lot going for it - and that's still true. It does several things better than BCN (Pro or XE):
- Overlays are fabulous
- Downloading map data for offline use is easy and uses (relatively) little storage space
- The browser-based trip planning/mapping is terrific
- Cross-platform (iOS/Android) support is better than BCN (XE only, there's no Pro for iOS)
However, there are two things that are showstoppers for me, and they are things that BCN handles flawlessly:
- When out on the trail, creating a waypoint in Gaia requires you to choose a folder every single time for the waypoint, if you want it to end up with the rest of the data for the same "trip." If you don't, it just goes into the top-level workspace and mixes in with anything else that isn't filed, making it impossible to find later. BCN has the concept of "default folder/trip" and any new waypoints, tracks, etc. are automatically deposited into that folder. This makes them easy to find later, export as a group, etc. Given that I create several dozen tracks and waypoints over the course of a trip, this functionality is super important to me... so without it, I can't make the switch.
- Waypoints and tracks do not have a prefix in Gaia. This might seem like a small issue, but my workflow is one where I mark points of interest as I find them on an adventure and then - when I return home - I manually transfer all of those points back to my master Google Earth file. In BCN, where every waypoint or track is prefixed with the date/time, the ones I added are easy to find (and are stored in chronological order) in the sea of waypoints that already existed for the trip. With Gaia, the new waypoints just get mixed in - alphabetically, since there's no date/time stamp - making it a hunt-and-peck operation to find them all in order to transfer them over.
Lastly - BCN uses less computing power than Gaia, which is a nice benefit for me, on my (admittedly older) tablet. It's just a bit more responsive, which is nice when you just want to have a quick glance at the map and move on.
At any rate, I'll likely continue to use BCN on the trail, but I might start to use Gaia (instead of Google Maps) for pre-trip route planning and track creation.
The ARB Fridge Died (new)
TL;DR - I'm not happy at all that the ARB fridge wouldn't cool on my last trip. I'm going to be reaching out to ARB support to (hopefully) get the issue resolved.
When I showed up in Las Vegas for Three Days of R&R, I followed my usual procedures, picking up the Tacoma from storage, turning on the various systems, and then heading to the grocery store to provision the fridge with a few days' worth of food.
As I was stopped for gas on my way to Utah, I happened to glance at the control panel for the fridge and noticed that it hadn't gotten any cooler than when I'd turned it on a couple hours earlier. No bueno. Thinking that there might just be some electrical glitch, I turned it off for 10 minutes, then turned it back on and continued on my way for another hour. Knowing that I'd need a solution, I pulled over at the last grocery store along my route, and sure enough, the temperature still hadn't dropped. Dang!
My $1000 ARB fridge, now a glorified ice chest.
I don't know exactly what the issue is at this point, but my hope is that it's something simple and that ARB will stand behind their product even though it's out of warranty. It's been an invaluable bit of gear for our adventures, so I'll be getting this issue resolved quickly - one way or another.2023-05 Update: After contacting ARB support - a rather disappointing experience where they were not at all helpful - I've purchased a new fridge. And it's not an ARB.
The Floor of My Tent Has Holes in It (new)
TL;DR - The two spots where the ladder rests on the bottom of the tent have developed holes in the aluminum floor.
My Mt. Shasta Pioneer roof top tent (RTT) from Cascadia Vehicle Tents (CVT) has been fantastic since I ordered and picked it up in 2016. Sure, I've had the standard issue of the zipper on the cover getting stuck and wearing out (which I've covered in several rig reviews), but CVT support was fantastic and got a new cover sent out to me free of charge. Combined with an Exped Megamat (acquisition, 1-year review), I really couldn't be happier with a shelter that's provided more than 1000 nights of sleep for @mrs.turbodb and me.
Not too long ago, Mike @Digiratus picked up a new hard-shell tent, and when I asked why he moved away from his CVT, one of the things he mentioned was that there were holes developing in the bottom where the ladder pressed on the aluminum skin as the tent was leveraged open. I'd never really considered that, but I've been keeping an eye on the same location on my tent since then, and recently I noticed that holes were beginning to form on mine as well.
Repeated use has worn through the aluminum skin of the floor.
I don't think that these holes will cause any real problems - after all, they are on the bottom of the floor, and the aluminum skin isn't structural - but I might as well patch them up just in case. It shouldn't be too hard given that I still have a bit of aluminum hanging around from the roof rack that I built for our family 4Runner.
Seemingly solved from previous Rig Reviews
- GPS Navigation Software - resolved for now - I'm not making a (complete) switch to Gaia as noted above.
Unchanged / Still an issue from previous Rig Reviews
There are some things that have been featured in Rig Reviews that are - as yet - unchanged from when I originally reviewed them. Rather than highlight those things again, I'll simply link to them here.
- The Transmission is Leaking - I still need to replace the seal between the transmission and the transfer case input shaft.
- The Rear Diff is Weeping - this seems to have slowed down even more, and I'll probably just keep an eye on it for now, rather than proactively fix it.
- Skid plate attachment could be better - While I've got the skids working for now, I'm going to need to work out an attachment solution for the front skid at the LCA tab location for them to work longer term.
- My Suspension Squeaks - still squeaky. I'm not all that worried about it, so I'm in no rush to fix it.