Las Vegas might be best known as a place where adults can indulge in virtually every form of escapism, but just outside the city borders lies a different kind of adventure. There, one will find the Spring Mountains Recreational Area, which delivers beautiful views, the occasional burro, snake, or wild horse, and a downright epic off-roading trail by the name of Wheeler Pass. It was there that we recently partook in the Trail Trek Tour, hosted by Philip Van Der Vossen of men’s lifestyle site Gunaxin, in partnership with Toyota USA and MGM Resorts International. With the new 2019 Toyota TRD Pro Series (consisting of the Tundra, Tacoma, and 4Runner) at our disposal, we plowed through the rocky hills, kicking up dust in formidable style. Needless to say, it was an experience to truly remember.
A Night in Vegas
Before our off-road journey began, we and our fellow men’s lifestyle journalists embarked on a range of similarly memorable adventures, most of which went down within the MGM ecosystem. For those who don’t know, MGM owns and operates a sizable chunk of real estate on the Vegas strip. In turn, the company has created a boundless amusement park of entertainment, extravagance, indulgence, and diversification. For more information on the dizzying array of experiences offered by MGM, check out our separate article. To summarise: MGM Resorts International–and Las Vegas by extension–leaves no legal desire unattended.
2018 SEMA Show
A day after eating well, drinking well, and gazing upon Cirque du Soleil dancers in the Michael Jackson ONE show, we headed over to SEMA, where brands big and small exhibit a range of specialty products and aftermarket creations. It was here that we first came face to face with some of Toyota USA’s latest and greatest, including the TRD Pro Series, along with a concept race car, some custom Corollas, the new Corolla Hatchback, a Baja race truck, actor Kevin Costner’s own custom Tundra, and a hydrogen fuel-cell powered pizza making truck. That’s right, we said a hydrogen fuel-cell powered pizza making truck. If you want to read more about what Toyota was up to at the event, be sure to scope our previous write-up.
In preparation for our upcoming off-road trip, we headed over to the BFGoodrich Tires tent, which was located outdoors. Here, we scoped the new BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 tire, a certifiable beast that’s ready for any adventure you can throw its way. Afterward, four-time Baja 1000 champion Rob MacCachren regaled us with stories of victory and defeat alike (though mostly victory). Needless to say, the man is an off-road wizard and a fearless one at that.
Before we bid adieu, a BFGoodrich Tires rep dispensed with some essential off-roading pointers. Specifically, he suggested the following:
- Locate a central focal point on the hood (such as a hood latch), which can help you figure out where your tires are positioned at all times (the insides of the tires, in particular). This will allow for a point of reference during your trip, since you can’t physically see the tires.
- If your truck has an automatic transmission, you’re encouraged to use both feet while driving. More to the point, you should use your left foot to brake to cut down on reaction times.
- Don’t “bounce in” to obstacles. Instead, use the brake pedal and gas pedal to your advantage.
- Drive with your whole body and be aware of the entire car, including the rear tires.
- Position your tires carefully, and remember that 80% of tire failure occurs on the side, when the tire scrapes up against a rock or protrusion.
- Avoid object fixation, i.e. don’t get distracted by objects that aren’t directly pertinent to the task at hand.
- Maintain low range speed.
- Don’t overdo brakes or RPMs.
As if it’s not yet obvious, BFGoodrich Tires definitely came through in the clutch (no pun intended). Meanwhile, they have even more advice to dispense, which can be found here.
Baja 1000 Qualifying Event
That same night, we headed out to a Baja 1000 qualifying event. A quick refresher: the Baja 1000 is an annual race where a slew of off-roading vehicles travel hundreds of miles through the rugged terrains of the Baja California Peninsula. It’s easily one of the most popular and prestigious off-road events in the world, and one that’s not only spawned a range of legendary custom vehicles, but furthermore given birth to a bevy of automotive technologies that would later appear in the mainstream. Additionally, the Baja 1000 is to where the Toyota TRD Pro Series traces its own DNA, as the brand used to submit nimble and powerful trucks into the competition.
On this somewhat chilly night, we witnessed a range of Mad Max-style trucks as they soared around a dusty track, occasionally leaping into the air, and consistently kicking up clouds of dust. Meanwhile, each respective truck was being timed, and that time would determine the truck’s place in line at the Baja 1000. The adrenaline was palpable, to say the least.
By 11 AM the next day, we were armed with a fleet of Toyota TRD Pro Series trucks, each one dressed in an eye-catching shade of Voodoo Blue (black and white variations are also available). Swapping drivers every half hour, we ventured through Wheeler Pass in the Spring Mountains Recreational Area. For the toughest parts of the trip, we shifted into the 4-Low setting, thereby surmounting large rocks at slow speeds. Lurching over obstacles, we maintained a firm sense of control, and could feel the contours of the terrain in our bones. At no point was the experience anything short of thrilling.
A little more on the TRD Pro Series. First introduced in 2014, the series makes good on its own racing heritage by way of three trucks–the Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner–which are sufficiently smooth on pavement, but nevertheless built for the off-road experience. With every passing year, each truck in the line-up continues to improve. To that end, the Tacoma TRD Pro now offers an optional desert air intake and a 1″ wider track, the 4Runner TRD Pro includes a new roof rack, and the Tundra TRD Pro now comes equipped with rigid fog lights and BBS wheels.
All three models, meanwhile, tout new 2.5″ TRD Pro-exclusive Fox Internal Bypass shocks, and red Toyota lettering on the skid plates. That’s all joined by a legion of helpful technologies, including a host of safety specs as well as features like crawl control (think of it as cruise control for off-roading). Add everything up and you have yourself some truly formidable off-roading trucks, which come in striking colours, and cost far less than say a Land Rover.
Among the new trucks, the Tundra is the biggest, and arguably the most unwieldy when out among the narrow pathways. That said, it still handles like a beast–just ask Kevin Costner. On the other side of the spectrum is the Tacoma, which delivers a thoroughly buoyant ride, and grows on you the more you drive it. Striking a brilliant balance between the two is the 4Runner. It straddles the best of all worlds and performs as well on the road as it does on the off-road.
For over four hours, we navigated the rocky terrain, steering our TRD Pro Series trucks through water, over rocks, up hills, and down them. At the peak, we stopped for pictures, taking in the chilly desert winds and the majestic views. Las Vegas seemed like a distant memory by this point. Out here, it was just the rocks, cacti, rolling hills, wild animals (which only some of us saw), shining sun, endless horizons, and occasional bodies of water. It was everything we were hoping it would be, and more.
Late that afternoon, we journeyed back into Vegas with its outsized buildings and omnipresent billboards. By nightfall, we were enjoying one of the best dinners in recent memory, at Bavette’s Steakhouse in the Park MGM. Sipping on quality whisky, we stuffed ourselves with jumbo shrimp, crab cake, truffle mac and cheese, and classic ribeye. Given our previous adventures from earlier in the day, it was a meal well-earned. Thanks for the memories, Toyota (and MGM, and Phil).
Man of Many travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of MGM Resorts International and Toyota USA.