Ramble On – Road Trip!
Cruising the American Southwest
One of the many, many perks of this job is the opportunity it gives to travel. Between the two of us, TT Editor Gonderman and I are out of the office on an assignment at least three weeks every month. Most frequently, those trips are one-night affairs bookended on either end by airport security lines, cramped seats back in coach, and a small amount of jetlag.
But every so often, the miles we acquire are of the road, not airline, variety.
So it was for me recently, as I had two separate road trips through the Southwest. The first was a pretty cool press trip sponsored by Volkswagen that had us starting in Flagstaff, Arizona, and ending in the Navajo Nation township of Kayenta. Since Volkswagen tossed us the keys to a ’18 Tiguan SEL and told us to have fun, my driving partner (Javier Mota, editor-in-chief of Autoproyecto) and I decided to take the very, very long way there.
Our route took us through some of Arizona’s most picturesque terrain, skirting along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We jumped out at every hiking opportunity, and I relished every breath of fresh, late-fall air. A quick dip into Cameron’s Trading Post had my backpack full of souvenirs and my belly stuffed with Navajo tacos.
The next morning, we departed Kayenta in a ’18 Volkswagen Atlas SE, immediately noticing the extra space it boasts over the smaller, sportier Tiguan. Our drive time would have to be a bit quicker this day, but an early start gave us a chance to visit the incredible Monument Valley, a Navajo-run park found right on the Arizona-Utah border. There, we admired the views and learned a bit about the Navajo Nation’s cultural and religious traditions. And from Monument Valley, it was a quick jog up to the Four Corners Monument, allowing me to say a quick hello to my home state of Colorado.
All the while, it was a delight and a pleasure to experience some of Arizona and Utah’s most beautiful and legendary sights from behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s newest SUVs. Both the 2.0L turbocharged I-4 found in the Tiguan and the 3.6L V-6 under the hood of the Atlas gave ample power for the open road, as well as some of the twisty two-lane highways found at Flagstaff’s 7,000-plus foot altitudes. Both offered impressive ride smoothness and low levels of cabin noise, and there were enough creature comforts to keep us occupied in the rare event we didn’t have anything to look at through the windows. What’s more, each SUV offered a different take on VW’s Teutonic vehicle formula—the Tiguan, a playful, approachable compact SUV, and the Atlas, a spacious, smooth, and solid family-road-trip machine.
Almost as soon as I arrived home from that trip, it was time to head out on another. While my trip in the Volkswagens was marked by a stop-when-we-feel-like-it lazy pace, my next road trip was an exercise in rapid travel. I had just over a day to get from my home in Los Angeles to a vacation spot in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with a necessary detour to pick up family members in Utah. For this trip, I needed top-notch comfort and seating for seven, and luckily, Nissan had an Armada Platinum in the fleet that would do nicely, thank you very much.
This trip was no less scenic, but the need to make haste meant we had to enjoy it through the Armada’s windows. Eventually, on the behest of my niece, we pulled over to enjoy a particularly picturesque sunset over Strawberry Reservoir, near Heber City, Utah. And on the return trip, a lazier pace allowed us to stop in Dinosaur, Colorado, to visit the city’s namesake sculptures.
For the entire 2,200-mile journey, the Armada offered relentless comfort for those of us in the first two rows. And the smaller passengers in the third row made their portions of the trip with nary a complaint. Its king-of-the-world seating position, powerful V-8, surprising fuel efficiency, and softly sprung suspension made it an eager road-trip companion.
With spring and summer looming ahead, I hope everyone has the chance to take a long weekend and acquaint themselves with the open road. Whether y’all pick the slower scenic route or the hotshoe interstate, there’s nothing like getting to your destination in something with wheels instead of wings.