Call us crazy, but our idea of a great road trip involves something other than spending our nights in overcrowded campgrounds and our days elbowing through busloads of tourists just to get a prepackaged glimpse of America's natural beauty.

While we'd freely admit that any day on the road is a good day, our best travel experiences have always come when we've managed to get ourselves well off the beaten path. That, combined with a desire to travel in comfort, was what led to our Ultimate Adventure Vehicle project.

A Plan Is Born
Our initial goal was simple: Turn a screaming yellow one-ton Ford cargo van into a rolling base camp. It would comfortably support friends and family on extended rambles through those places on the map where signs of civilization are blessedly few and far between.

To help us turn that vision into reality, we sought help from the folks at Sportsmobile West in Fresno, California. The company has been building camper vans since the 1960s, equipping them with aftermarket four-wheel-drive systems for more than a decade.

The crew at Sportsmobile grafted on an impressive new four-wheel-drive system of their own design. They filled the interior with all the amenities you'd find inside a full-size motorhome. Finally, they shoehorned in a long list of aftermarket accessories ranging from fun (a trick in-motion satellite-TV system) to functional (a 12,000-pound winch) to create a truck that would allow us to get out of town with previously unknown levels of comfort and convenience.

To see how well our completed rig lived up to its Ultimate Adventure Vehicle billing, we planned an epic road trip. The loose itinerary we laid out would put the concept to the test in three remote locales, covering several thousand miles on everything from crowded urban Interstates to remote boulder-strewn trails.

More than anything else, however, our plan was designed to squeeze more starry skies, spectacular landscapes, and memorable adventures into two weeks' time than most folks could pack into an entire year.