Is there a 4Runner wave? You know, like anyone who drives a Subaru (WRXeses mostly). It is the obligation to wave at any other person driving a 4Runner that you pass in this place we call Earth? If there is, I haven’t noticed or tried to start the trend. What I did notice is that 10% of the vehicles on my Sierra Nevada High Lakes drive were 4Runners... and a couple of daredevils.
Today marks one week since taking possession of my 2011 Toyota 4Runner with 159-thousand miles on it. My previous post I reiterated my thoughts about how I think I found a good one and that it was a ‘deal’. After this road trip to the Nevada County, Calif, high lakes area, I am not so sure I’ve got my work cut out for me.
It isn’t that I think this Toyota has problems but it is lacking some crucial mods and it has some quirks (PARTY MODE?!). Or the fact that the ECO dash light is absolutely driving me nuts. Every time I see it flash on/off I have to look at the dash. It is becoming an OCD/ADD type tic of mine.
First off this 4Runner really doesn’t feel that solidified on the road. It wallows through curves. It rolls, sways, and jiggles. It doesn’t feel as planted as the 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe I drive for work. It actually feels quite a bit more like my former 2007 Tahoe. That older Tahoe felt like a marshmallow duct taped to a frame made of narrow-gauge train tracks at any speed over 35 mph. It just doesn’t inspire any confidence. But confidence on road is different than that off?
Regardless of my immediate worries about a wild animal caused roll event, RSCA button on of course, I decided to take it on a trip. One that ventures semi-deep off Highway 20 in Northern California. On a highway that has been marked with several fatalities (notably 3-double fatal collisions). Inspired as I was about this trip, I was not about the 4Runner on the highway. But life is about taking risks! Let’s bring the whole family! If the plane is going down I don’t want to limp away from this piece of S&!^.
At exactly half past eleven o’clock, we left with all the daily necessities a family of four with two small children would need. We sadly left the dog at home. She has a nasty skin rash from the last time she swam in a high lake... not the first time, surely not the last.
Upon arriving on Forest Road 18 the 4Runner began to shine. It feels great over bumps. Especially compared to my previous 2006 Ford F-250. The big Ford had 35" tires on 20" wheels. It hit ever pot hole like a shopping cart full of logs. The 4Runner feels excellent, except for the more wash-boardy type surface at any speed over 25 mph. I would boil it down to the soft and un-confident suspension with the tall tires.
These roads are well traveled. I would say that I am revealing a secret but it has been out for many years. If it was truly a secret I wouldn’t be revealing it. Who knows what you people will do with my beloved secret places!
What is revealing is that anyone, and I mean anyone, will try to bring they’re non-off road vehicle up to these lakes. The roads are gravel, dirt, and granite boulder composed. There are deep ruts and slick grades. I wouldn’t attempt any with a car. I have SEENT done with a Saturn SL2, but who cares about one of those?! The owner was laughing the whole time it slapped every granite rock underneath. I know for a fact because it was a friend of mine. Pretty sure he ended up parking that thing at a junkyard. I’m sure they charged him to dispose of it!
The above picture was taken approximately 1/4 mile from the camp ground. Right after this the road goes right up hill on loose rock. Far worse than prior to this point. I couldn’t believe the owner of this Mazda came so far. Even the Lexus GX460 decided to park before the hill!
I did however feel that my intuition about the 4Runner needing an Old Man Emu suspension system were right. I wanted to go faster. The faster I went, the more unsettled the truck became. It began to feel Ford-ish... nay, it just felt like a truck going too fast for the suspension to keep up.
I have been lucky to go up these same roads at 40 mph in a Dodge Ram 3500 with a full Carli Suspension. It broke me. I am ruined for going off road at speed. I want my 4Runner to be similar to the Dodge. I want to be able to go nearly as fast as safely possible without feeling like the truck is about to fall apart.
Shortly before reaching the lake I began to listen. I had difficulty hearing it but the whisper was audible. I turned off the radio, A/C, and rolled down the windows (the great outdoor are best experienced by air con). There is definitely a squeak coming from one of the control arm bushings. It is difficult to exactly pin down but it sounds like the driver’s side. I can’t be sure until I inspect further. Bummer. I hate nuisance noises.
Sadly, upon reaching the lake there were far too many people for my liking. It reminded me of my first (and only) time climbing Glacier Point at Yosemite. A great amount of expended energy to find a road that goes to the top with fat people eating ice cream everywhere. It felt so disappointing. I thought we were going somewhere to get away from people. All we found was more people. The road couldn’t show the tally of cars. The parking areas before the lake were nearly bare. There was no way to know but go and find out.
We decided to take a hike (literally) and round the lake to get away from the people and the sound of the squeak still reverberating in my mind. I don’t exactly enjoy buying a vehicle and then having to do maintenance. Hopefully I think I can live with it for a while, unless it gets worse and rears its ugly head on pavement.
On the way out I pondered my choice of vehicle. I began to think about the money I’d need to spend to get it up to snuff for my personal tastes and aspiration for off-road trips. I ran into these two and felt a lot better about my choice. These gentlemen chose poorly in their Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. I made it down the hill with no issues about 10 minutes before these guys with (assumed) less under carriage damage. These two looked to be slapping every rock on the road.
I need to get some more seat time under this 4Runner. I do enjoy it and the issues it has are minimal. In the next couple of months I plan on doing more of this and maybe a camp out or two. The real test will be a road trip and camp week in Wyoming. I need to plan that. Soon.
Until next time...