At the end of this week a group of us are driving out to the Trinity Site for its twice-per-year opening. This 1600 mile round trip drive presents me with a dilemma: Which car should I drive?

We’re going to be driving separately, as is our custom. Taylor and George are going to be taking their 4x4 cars, hoping to sneak in some overlanding/ offroading on some of the many options New Mexico has to offer. I however, am not so sure. Let me give you some stats:

Trip schedule:

  • Day 1 – Leave after work and drive to Lubbock, Texas, to meet up. 450 miles in about 7 hours. Chances for fun: 0
  • Day 2 – Lubbock to Socorro. 350 miles in about 6 hours. Hitting Roswell at a minimum, but might find some twisty roads too.
  • Day 3 – Trinity Site and Offroading
  • Day 4 – Additional offroading and heading back to our respective homes. 350+ miles
  • Day 5 – Finish Driving. 450 miles

The schedules for days 4 and 5 are still somewhat in flux, but in general they’re going to be spent driving, not dicking around. There is also the slim possibility of doing the whole return drive on Day 5, but no one wants to do that.

So, back to the dilemma. What they see is a half day of a cool historic sight followed by some awesome off-roading. What I see is four days of driving. So while they’re both thinking of taking their 4x4s, I’m thinking of taking a good road car. Here are my options:

2001 Land Rover Discovery – Comfortable in all environments

The obvious choice if I am going to be participating in the off-roading shenanigans. The Landy’s current ailments are pretty minor: ABS/TC fault due to a dirty traction control sensor (confirmed) and an in-op CDL. The former requires the brake rotor to be removed and the sensor cleaned or, worst case, the hub replaced. Neither of these would be difficult. The CDL requires me to tear down the interior of the car and adjust the linkage. No big deal, though I only have a couple of days to do it.

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The benefits of taking the Land Rover are pretty apparent. It is fine on the highway, and great off-road. I’d get to 100% participate in everything the other kids were doing and there would be no logistics problems.

The downsides of taking the Land Rover are also apparent. It is fine on the highway, but it is still a big, heavy, SUV and there are other, better cars to drive around in. Also gas would be a concern. At 15-16 MPG highway, I’d be looking at buying about ~100 gallons of 91 octane gasoline. Not cheap.

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2013 Volvo C30 – Trading off-road performance for on-road everything else

For fun on (paved) backroads, easy dirt and gravel, and mileage munching, the Volvo is the obvious choice. It does not have any current faults and would be a great choice, no questions asked.

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The benefits of taking the Volvo are that I would get better gas mileage and could have more fun on-road during out 1,600 mile round trip. The Volvo pushes 28-30 MPG highway, is very comfortable, and if by chance we hit some twisty roads it is the right car for the job.

That said, 95% of the off-roading we’d encounter would be a no-go. I’m no stranger to taking 2WD cars off-road, but an R-Design Volvo would not be my first choice. (Now I want to watch the Top Gear Africa special….) The nose is low, the tires are low profile, and the underside is delicate. The plan would be to park the Volvo either at the AirBnB or the trailhead and ride along with one of the others. The upshot of doing a ride along is I am free to take pictures, video, and generally dick around… which would be a fun change of pace.

1984 Saab 900 Turbo – The insane choice

“What about a car that is fun to drive and you’d be willing to overland with?” You may ask. Well, dear reader… there is such a car. And it would be a terrible, hilarious choice.

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To be honest, if I’d had more time I would have honestly considered prepping the Dumpster Fire for this trip. In its prime it was fine on the highway and in high school I took it off-roading (yes, actual off-roading) more frequently than my parents need to know about. There are some deep scars in that poor cars skid plates.

That said, the Dumpster Fire is currently in a no-trust state. I do not trust it and it’s travel radius is limited to 100 miles of home base. Furthermore, the AC is inop, the heat is inop, and the radio is a little flakey. Also the Dumpster Fire is still burning through fuel pumps at an alarming rate.

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So yeah.

No.

It would be glorious, but is a hard pass.

Tick Tock

So… with the trip pending I find myself working on getting two cars prepped and ready. That said, want I want to do is take the Volvo, but I want someone to tell me that is what I should do.

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Also I need to quell my FOMO with the offroading…