On the Rocks
Of all the modifications made to our E-350 cargo van, none was more intriguing than Sportsmobile West's new four-wheel-drive system. The set-up combines rockcrawler-quality hardware--including a DynaTrac ProRock 60 front axle, ARB air lockers, and Advance Adapters Atlas II gear-driven transfer case--with a suspension design that has more than 24 inches of front-wheel articulation. The result is an incredibly off-road-capable production vehicle, and we were eager to see what this sucker could really do.
To put this all-terrain motorhome through its paces, we headed to Moab, Utah, the unofficial capital of four-wheeling, where we met off-road driving instructor and backcountry guide Bill Burke. This former Camel Trophy competitor has trained everyone from novices to military special-ops types.
We'd already had a fair amount of off-road instruction and experience in other vehicles, so even though our big yellow van hadn't yet so much as dropped a wheel off the pavement, Burke decided to throw us into the deep end of the pool. Over the next three days, we tackled some of the area's best-known trails, encountering everything from serious slickrock obstacles to late-season snowdrifts nearly as deep as the van was tall.
From Elephant Hill Road to the Silver Stairs, our factory-stock Sportsmobile crawled up and down terrain rugged enough to make most Jeep owners think twice. Each time we motored through seemingly insurmountable obstacles with relative ease, we found ourselves shaking our heads in disbelief at what this 9000-pound truck could do.
Hit the Beach
Having sweated Moab's toughest trails, we turned northwest to the cooler San Juan Islands above Seattle.
We took the ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Island and the quaint town of Friday Harbor and spent the night at the island's picture-perfect county park. The next morning, we met Martine Springer, executive director of Sea Quest Kayak Expeditions.