Let’s take a trip in the way-back machine to our 2018 Pickup Truck of the Year test. You’ll remember that after a week of grueling testing, the 2018 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali reigned supreme. As you may or may not know, at the end of the test, the winner supplies Truck Trend with a long-term test vehicle so we can continue reporting on the winning pickup for a full year. This time, instead of having the truck shipped to our world headquarters in Los Angeles as we had done in the past, we opted to take delivery in Michigan and embark on an epic 3,000-mile journey back to the West Coast.
Our adventure began in the predawn hours as we boarded a jet at Los Angeles International Airport and headed to Detroit. Five hours later, the truck was waiting for us in long-term parking at DTW, with just 168 miles on the odometer. Not wanting to waste daylight, we pointed the truck east (yes, the wrong direction) and cracked off the first 141 miles of the journey before overnighting in Sandusky, Ohio. The next day was spent at the famous Cedar Point amusement park because, seriously, why not?
| Road Trip 2018 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali
We set off on this journey wanting an adventure and a story to tell, so the most direct route was not what we were after. On day three, we left Sandusky and headed south through Ohio and Kentucky before settling in for the night in Nashville. This day saw 513 miles traveled, and we still hadn’t needed to stop for fuel. The next morning brought a much needed Waffle House visit, as two of our three travelers had never partaken (seriously). After loading up on downhome carbs, we pointed the truck west and traveled until the low-fuel light illuminated, pulling off for fuel at the next exit. This is where things get weird.
The Sierra has a 36-gallon fuel tank, which is worth noting. At the time we exited the highway and pulled into a Shell station, the dash was indicating at least 50 miles until empty. However, when we finished filling the truck, the pump indicated 35.047 gallons. Yeah, that was our reaction as well. From there, we agreed to not trust the fuel gauge and instead fill up early and often. That wasn’t the only oddity at the Shell station. As we were fueling the truck and filling the ice chest, another GMC Sierra pulled up to the pump next to us. It was an exact twin ’18 Sierra 2500HD Denali, right down to the roof lights and tonneau cover. The owner told us he had just purchased it that week and this was his first fuel fill up as well. It’s a small world indeed.
| Road Trip 2018 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali Mansfield
After clicking off another 518 miles, crossing all of Tennessee and Arkansas, we arrived in Branson, Missouri, for the night. The next day was spent taking in the sights and sounds at the Silver Dollar City amusement park in Branson because, again, why not? We left town that night and headed north to Springfield, Missouri, covering just 70 miles. Our biggest regret was not spending more time in Branson proper—we’ll be back.
Day six found us in the plain states, and it was time to cover some ground. We churned through the rest of Missouri, across the width of Oklahoma, and finally settled down for the night in Amarillo, Texas, after a hearty meal at Rudy’s. (Did we not mention this was a food fest as well?) We traversed 570 miles that day, and strong head- and crosswinds knocked our fuel economy down from a best of 18.79 down to just 16.33, which was still pretty decent.
| Road Trip 2018 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali Bearizona
The next day took us 613 miles from Texas, across New Mexico, and finally into Flagstaff, Arizona. This was quite the reminder of just how boring Interstate 40 is crossing New Mexico. At least we took time to check out some of the historic Route 66. Finally, on the eighth day, we put the last 481 miles of pavement behind us and finished the epic journey.
Over the course of 2,906 miles, we had some fun, saw some amazing sights, ate a lot of terrible food, and really got to know the truck that we’ll be spending the rest of the year with. If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to drive across our great nation, we highly recommend it.