If you haven't already heard, there's another project vehicle floating around the offices—a 2003 Land Rover TReK Discovery—drumroll please...with only 4,000 miles. TReK was an inter-dealer competition held by Land Rover during the late 1990's and early 2000's, with the last competition being held in Colorado in 2003, the event this vehicle was built for. Strangely, this isn't the first time I've crossed paths with this particular TReK, I saw it about a year-and-a-half earlier, where it was sitting disused behind Land Rover North America's headquarters in Mahwah, NJ. At the time I never would have thought that it would become my own project vehicle later down the road.
Photography by Matthew Scott and Bobby Curtis
Four-thousand miles on a nearly ten year old Land Rover can be just as much of a curse as it can be a blessing, it's no secret to enthusiasts that Land Rovers do not like to sit around, luckily the car was given a full going over prior to receiving it by the fine people at Land Rover, but clearly, the truck needed a shakedown run to weed out any possible issues.
The idea for the trip was simple: put some miles on the vehicle, see if there were any issues that arose, and get used to those modern features such as coil springs, power steering, heated seats and air conditioning that a Series IIa (my previous vehicle) lacked.
Maybe it's just the story of my life, but it seems impossible for me to plan these trips anything more than a day in advance. With plans to leave on Friday afternoon, I sent a text message to Bobby Curtis on Thursday the night before...here's the extent of our conversation, and planning:
Matthew: "What are you doing tomorrow and sat"
Matthew: "Wanna go camping in the trek"
Bobby: "Hmmm... Yes."
Matthew: "I got gas and food when can you be up here" (He lives in Phoenix)
Bobby: "I'll try to get some sleep tonight and get off work on time...Maybe 3?"
Bobby: "Where we going?"
Hence why I enjoy traveling with Bobby so much, he plans as little as I do. We packed the truck with the necessary items (recovery kit, basic tools,etc) and headed out to the grocery store to pick up the even more essential items: steak, and beer.
Off to a bit of a late start, our plans were made simple by the fact that the the Senator Highway literally starts about two blocks from my front door in Prescott, Arizona. The road isn't technical, in fact, if its been dry and the ruts aren't too bad you could likely take a Honda Civic down the trail. By the way, it's not really a "highway" as the lovely German family we ran into on the "Highway" thought...they just happened to be traveling around the world in a Mercedes-Benz Van...the people you meet on the trail these days.
The trail, which runs through the Bradshaw Mountains South of Prescott, gets a fair amount of traffic and is easily accessible, which is perfect for a shakedown run with absolutely no planning.
Even though I've run the Senator Highway a few times, I seem to always encounter new things along the way, such as this random little pond of crystal clear water.
The further we drove from Prescott, the more color we started to see from the trees.
Some sections were more vivid than I could ever image from a primarily pine forest in dry, dry Arizona.
With our late departure, we ended up driving into the night a little bit more than I generally like to do, but the sunset was beautiful.
...and we had plenty of lighting thanks to the four Warn dual-beam auxiliary lights mounted on top.
We couldn't help but stop for a while and play photographer. I must say I was pretty impressed with the images that the Pentax K-30 picks up for the price.
After driving for a about an hour in the dark, we became bored and tired, so we ended up ducking into a camp spot about five miles outside of Crown King, here's what it looked like to us.
This is also where I should be showing you some sort of gratuitous shot of me cooking food that would be equally at home on a 5-star menu as it would be in the middle of no-where. After being a bit too ambitious, and completely messing up dinner for the night we ended up with mediocre steak tacos on the incorrect tortillas...but at least I didn't mess up the beer.
Bobby had to play good boyfriend and bring his girlfriend some "famous" fudge and rattlesnake eggs from Crown King...so we stopped.
On a side note, I'm not anti-fudge, but it seems wherever there are tourists, there is the ubiquitous "famous" fudge. Why is it that you can only get fudge in tourist towns? I call shenanigans. This was the topic of discussion for the length of Crown King Road, which led us back to I-17 as we decided to head up to Sedona and camp outside of town so Bobby could see more "colored leaves."
Schnebly Hill has become a bit of a staple for me when I'm camping or checking out a vehicle. Yes, it's filled with numerous Pink Jeep's, rental cars, and tourists, but it's beautiful, and after you've driven it a few times it's a pretty mindless drive, which allows you to look at the scenery.
Once you reach the Schnebly Hill Vista, there's a few technical trails that wander off the main road. It was a great way to moderately test the capability of the TReK. It didn't disappoint, but there's a few minor things that could be done to improve performance.
We found a nice campsite about 5 miles outside of the Vista and set up camp. It was my second night in ARB's SkyDome Swag Bag, it's an awesome setup that is effectively a roof top tent for the ground. It has durable canvas construction, a built-in mattress, and you're able to leave your sleeping bag inside and throw it inside of the truck.
Time for some gratuitous shots of Bobby cooking. By the way, if you're ever camping with us and want some food...he's your man.
Add chicken, olive oil, red and Serrano peppers, and then wrap it in some aluminum foil, throw it in the fire, wait a bit, and then eat. It was a pretty epic, yet simple camp meal.
In the end, everything fared well for the TReK—we had zero issues mechanically, but we did uncover a few things that need some attention.
The car is really capable in stock form, it has sliders, a winch, a factory center locking differential, and a traction control system sufficient for most situations, however, some additional ground clearance definitely wouldn't hurt the car. While being very sexy, the Genuine Land Rover winch mount hurts the cars approach angle, and without a lift, the 57.21 foot overhang of the Discovery II makes it a bit difficult when the going gets rough—especially when you're trying to "preserve" a piece of Land Rover history whilst making sure it is being used and not merely sitting in a garage somewhere.
We'll be sure to keep you updated on the TReK adventures. To follow along "behind the scenes" check out the discussion thread on the Expedition Portal forum. [link]