We at Jalopnik get a lot done at our home base deep underground, beneath an artificial mountain somewhere in New Zealand. But there are certain stories we can’t get without hitting the road. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Here are our wildest trips of the year. (The ones that we wrote about, at least.)
This was the one that just about everyone on staff was like......................are you sure about that?
Our own David Tracy bought a Jeep Grand Wagoneer for $800 with the intention of driving it 1,700 miles to Moab while trailering his Willys farm Jeep and then going offroading.
At least some of that happened!
If he could do it, so can you! Probably. Don’t quote me on that.
The ‘Learning How To Drive Stick’ Trial By Fire
This was one of my favorite freelance stories of the year. This guy didn’t know how to drive stick, so he bought a very teal 1990s BMW 3 Series and figured it out on the way home.
The catch was the way home was almost halfway across the country, crossing from Texas into Southern California.
If he can do it, so can you! Probably. Don’t quote me on that.
Bavaria Vs. America
One thing I find entertaining about old cars is that there are times when you can’t make it around the block or out of your neighborhood without breaking down, and there are other times when you can drive pretty much flat out for five days straight, cutting across the entire country without any problems whatsoever.
Taking the northern route in a 1970 BMW 2500 we had never seen before touching down in Seattle was maybe not the wisest plan, but it worked out and only gave my boss Patrick and I roughly fourteen stress headaches through the trip.
If we could do it, so can you! Probably. Maybe not. You know what, let’s start dialing this back.
Breaking Down In KITT
This is in here just to prove my earlier point about how you can’t necessarily judge how an old car road trip is going to go. David Tracy and Andrew Collins, the pair that pulled off the Project Redwood affair, took on a more simple job of going from SoCal to NorCal in a KITT replica off Turo.
It didn’t go great.
In A Straight-Piped Hearse
This one would’ve made it onto the list on the power of the vehicle alone. I got to see this proud steed with my own two eyes when friend of Jalopnik Steve Harrell swung by our office before collecting Stef Schrader for the LeMons Rally in the ultimate longroof.
It was a vehicle of great practicality, as we noted at the time:
The hearse had been recently retired from the funeral home Steve’s family owns. It had seen a few Massachusetts winters in its time, so the muffler had rusted off. His solution—thanks in part to how good the 4.6-liter Ford modular V8 under the hood sounds—was to simply straight pipe the hearse instead.
Again, the notion is all about practicality. Even the most mundane, work-oriented vehicle around you can be transformed into something extraordinary and wonderful, if you have the right attitude, a good long route planned out, and maybe a sawzall.
In Search Of Japan’s Greatest Driving Road
Ken Saito did one of the classic drives in Japan this year, retracing the route of Initial D, but it was his drives in search of less known roads that had a really relatable sense of adventure.
You’re stuck in Tokyo, you get the itch to drive, and you just go out hunting for squiggles on your map.
His photos from the Venus Line in particular captured the spirit of this kind of driving.
Into One’s Self In A Miata
The thing about road trips that can be hard to communicate is everything between where you stop, not what you see, not what you hear or eat. The time you all in the car spend in this state of almost static motion, of limbo, time to reassess and grow.
It’s missing in a lot of adventure writing, but we got it here.
To The Top Of The Americas
Over the summer I played the role of shuttle driver for a friend of mine’s rafting trip that dumped out into the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. This meant hauling a homebuilt trailer up the Dempster Highway solo, several days of driving with no lane lines, no pavement, and only one halfway point stop for gas.
I need to finish my full story on how this trip played out, mostly involving that trailer that survived the trip. Mostly.
To The Bottom Of The Americas
Our own Jason Torchinsky drove to the bottom of South America in some Minis, and in some ways it was a very straightforward drive. For the most part it was just going down some fairly normal roads, roads that happened to be very far south.
But the feeling of that end-of-the-world quality came out when Jason took a stop at what is probably the southernmost junkyard on Earth, something that only comes from driving not flying, from taking things in at a scale you don’t get on anything but a road trip.
That’s sort of all we can hope to explain here on Jalopnik—that there’s worth to taking to the road like this, for what you see and how you see it, what it shows you is possible and what it changes about you entirely.