Day 5: Show Low, AZ to Los Angeles, CA
Our intent was to make the Grand Canyon West the climax of our trip, to walk out over the crevice on the Sky Walk and do silly things, like jumping jacks. We set north, planning to catch Interstate 40 to Kingman, but nature has other plans. The snowfall builds as the elevation rises and the ground passing by our side windows turns white. The BMW beeps its low temperature warning, telling us to watch for ice. We receive a similar message from a wrecked semi truck on the side of the freeway, resting on its side.

As we reach Flagstaff, a sign above the freeway reads "I-40 closed." A clerk at a gas station confirms the message, and a call to Arizona's Department of Transportation informs us that a large wreck has shut down all lanes on the freeway just outside of the town. No alternative route we could find would get us to the Sky Walk without adding another day, and we promised we'd be back in the office tomorrow.

Shaffer and I sit in a parking lot, dejected and angry at the entire state of Arizona. Without I-40, our recourse is reaching L.A. via Phoenix, a 120-mile straight shot south followed by a 370-mile drive west. The ride is quiet, its highlight a late lunch at an In-N-Out Burger, the first one we've seen in days.

After turning west, for the last time, in Phoenix, the eternal crawl along Interstate 10 gives us ample time to reflect on our trip. What's most surprising is how easy it was to make. We've essentially crossed the USA in five days, without feeling rushed.

Trips like this are important. They give an understanding of the deeper characteristics of a car and an appreciation of the different facets of our nation. You understand how, given the space and time, different cultures within our borders grow and develop. Shaffer always wondered how the Ford F-Series and Chevy 1500s are continually the bestselling vehicles in the U.S. After this trip, he realized why: Everyone in Texas owns one or the other.

They'd be keen to check out this X3. After getting home, the red SUV will join our long-term garage for 12 months. I'm eager to drive it for that period. It's been an excellent travel partner, no worse from the wear from our 3000-mile road trip, save for one windshield chip.

We fill the tank one last time in Redlands and find that our trip average is 23.7 mpg. Pulling back on the freeway, we enter Los Angeles and point towards the ocean. As we meander through traffic, the sun sets on the taillights and the city.