Truckin' Road Trip - California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia
Sea To Shining Sea 6,000 Miles In 6 Days
In a book I recently read, one of the things recommended to do in your lifetime was to take a road trip. Six-thousand miles in six days was a road trip and then some. In less than a week's time, me and my traveling partner, Associate Editor Harley Camilleri, managed to dip our toes into the Pacific ocean, then the Atlantic ocean, and back to the crashing waves of the West Coast. Together, we raced past the sun and then chased it down again. It was one of those experiences that was every bit an adventure. Luckily, we took this challenge in style behind the wheel of Ford's newest heavy-duty rig, the '08 F-350 Super Duty King Ranch dualie with the all-new 6.4L twin-turbodiesel V-8. Does that sound like a blast? It was.
The journey was simple, tow my S-10 show truck to its new owner, my best friend Allan, who lives in my old hometown in Georgia, and then while in the state of adventure, cruise up to Atlanta and pick up my newest project, a '63 F-100. It sounded simple enough, besides several factors of risk, including towing a trailer that had one horribly bent axle, trailer brakes that worked when they wanted to, and my biggest concern: I still hadn't seen the old Ford pickup that was to be my new ride. Another area of concern was the cardinal sin of not taking a map with us. We were going to rely solely on the Ford's navigation unit to get us from coast to coast. Regardless of the numerous questions we had, on Sunday, May 13th at 9 p.m. we left beautiful Southern California for the wide-open road.
It all sounded glorious, until 28 miles into the trip when we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Super. Talking, telling stories, laughing at each other, drinking water, eating snacks, and the inevitable commenting on bad drivers was to be our next six days. Six was again the magical number as we agreed upon six-hour shifts for driving and sleeping. Driving straight across Interstate 10 through California into Arizona, the only things we couldn't pass were the diesel stations. Making awesome time, we blew through New Mexico and into El Paso, Texas, where the welcome sign was met with an empty stomach and the use of a turn signal into the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. After some good country cookin', we tackled the most demoralizing aspect of the trip, crossing the massive expanse known as the Lone Star State. Our goal was to make it to Houston in the first full day of driving, but after 26 straight hours, we ended up in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Mission accomplished. Sleeping in an actual bed was a priority and after five hours of napping in a hotel, then the streaking white lines were again blazing underneath us.
Our navigation showed only 1,000 miles to go once we reached Mississippi, and what a relief it was seeing triple-digits counting down on the mileage tracker. Crossing over huge bridges was a welcomed sight after having seen the doldrums of Texas for hours on end. During the month of May, fires blazed parts of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia and seeing the resulting haze meant we were getting even closer. The final fill-up at a diesel truck stop gave us an opportunity to hose off the Super Duty and grab some fried chicken; after all, we were now only 46 miles from our coveted destination. Arriving in the big metropolis of Pooler, right outside of Savannah, at 11:49 p.m. on Tuesday night was a huge relief. Let's get the party started, right? Wrong. At midnight in Pooler, the only activity was from cars with blue lights and sirens.
With the adrenaline pumping from arriving to my old hometown, we unloaded and washed the S-10 one last time, cleaned up the Ford Super Duty, and checked into a hotel less than three blocks from the house I grew up in. Early the next morning provided us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My family and friends had no idea I was coming back home for an impromptu visit and the look on my mom's face when she saw her only son standing in front of his pride and joy in her office's parking lot was a sight I will never forget. The surprises continued as I went and saw my friends and family while being able to hand deliver my truck to its proud new owner. Next, Allan and I went over the truck with a fine-tooth comb. After eating some of my mom's fried food, taking a ride in a 9-second street Mustang, and racking up some road kill, the empty trailer was hitched up and we were driving North to Atlanta for another project.
Negotiations on the rusted but running '63 F-100 went quickly, and after cash and keys were exchanged, 44 years of American steel was loaded up and California was in our sights. Another marathon drive saw us pull over in Marshall, Texas, as we made it through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana after taking the I-20 across and down to the I-10. Mile after sleepy mile was kept entertaining by blasting tunes from our iPod, thanks to the auxiliary input in the Ford's head unit. Somewhere in Texas we ran into our only real problem. Air conditioning was a luxury we had taken for granted as the Super Duty, with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer, suddenly began to blow warm air. After saying some expletives, we rolled the windows down and got a blast of fresh desert air. New Mexico gave way to Arizona, which meant crossing the Colorado River was our next landmark. Arriving in Orange County early Sunday morning, we had made it across country and back safely. Thank the Lord. Sunshine and zero humidity never felt so amazing.
Unloading the '63 and driving it to its temporary parking spot was a feeling of relief and excitement. Back in the Super Duty, we gave the dash a little tap and said thanks for the memories. Tired yet elated, Harley and I drove to our separate homes with plenty of stories and new memories that will, in fact, last us a lifetime. Special thanks to Harley for helping me to make this trip a reality.
Filling up the thirsty twin-turbo V-8 was a common occurrence,though with 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque the Power Stroke managed to pull the truck and trailer without a single hiccup. Our '08 Super Duty registered 11.3 mpg on the digital readout. Although, after doing our own calculations over the six days, we really experienced 8.7 mpg while towing the 5,800-pound load. This tester was equipped with 4.30 gears, which made it perfect for moving the truck and load out of the hole, but not exactly a hybrid when being pushed on the freeway. At 70 mph the 6.4L was turning 2,300 rpm. Combine that with open roads and the 38-gallon tank was running low after 330 miles. Diesel prices fluctuated heavily from state to state with the cheapest found in Mississippi at $2.59 a gallon. The most expensive gas was a small middle-of-nowhere fill-up station in Texas, where the price tag hit the holy-cow meter at $3.79 a gallon. We'll do the math for you, that is more than a $100 per fill-up. Total fuel cost for our epic journey was $2,160.89. Whose idea was this again? Our biggest surprise was how well the 13.66-inch disc brakes slowed the overall package. Stopping was smooth and linear and those same words can be used to describe the overall ride and towing feel. Weighing in at 7,270 lb, the 172-inch wheelbase dualie was the perfect road-trip companion. Match the huge size of this truck with a refined interior featuring Ford's King Ranch supple leather and two-tone paint package and you have yourself the ultimate tow rig. Amenities such as touch-screen navigation, sunroof, power-sliding back window, and seat heaters, and we were just as comfortable driving as anyone on the road. Price as equipped was a staggering $57,485. After suffering sticker shock, we added up all of the features and weighed that against the performance of the truck doing what it was designed to do: tow. And after the dust cleared, the price is right in line with its competitors. Given another opportunity, I'd choose the same rig to drive across country.