2011 LR4 Honeymoon - Day 1

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BigBriDogGuy

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"It was the best of cars, it was the worst of cars." A Tale of Two Cities ~ Charles Dickens (well, kind of).

That's what you get when you try to combine:

One part kid hauling mid-sized SUV;
One part European luxury vehicle;
One part short-bed truck;
One part camper van; and
One part Jeep-style off-road 4x4.

Now that sounds pretty good if you can get the upside of all those different types of vehicles. However, there are some downsides as well.

First, each of those vehicles is uniquely suited for its purpose. For instance, a Dodge Grand Caravan is always going to be a better kid hauler and get far better MPG in the process. If you want a European luxury car why not get a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes? They are going to be more refined. Truck? You have a ton to choose from and they are made to haul and tow stuff. You want a camper van? VW! Off-road 4x4. Jeep is so slotted into that space that people confuse the brand with the vehicle type.

But maybe you don't want to own 4 or 5 different vehicles (or can't afford to) or your needs aren't so great that you require the full capacities that each of those specific use vehicles offers. Maybe you're more than happy with a "Swiss Army Knife" approach that gives you a bit of each. That may work for some people. Simply be aware that you aren't just going to get the upside of each type, but the downsides as well. (If you want the dog, you got to live with the fleas.) For instance, you want a cool kid hauler? How do you feel about the MPG of a truck or the maintenance and repair costs of a European luxury car? Bottom line, if you really only need "X" but think it might be fun or nice to also have "Y" and "Z" that "X, Y, and Z" are always going to come along for the ride. When you just want to go to the grocery store or to pick up the kids from school, you are going to have to drag along the truck, 4x4, and camper van too (and all the costs that are associated with those other types of vehicles and their unique capacities that you aren't using at that moment).

I think it would be interesting to work up a diagram or chart of the different capacities the LR4 has and the percentage of time that each capacity gets used. You might get a better insight into just what you've gotten yourself into. For instance, I couldn't care less about having a European luxury vehicle. I would be perfectly happy with a US domestic or dependable Japanese. Land Rover has a cool history and iconic body style, it's a bit different and that's fun. But I have to admit that a lot of the problems and costs associated with the rig come from the fact that it is considered a European luxury brand. The result is I'm paying a ton of money in premium gas, special oil changes, expensive routine maintenance and repairs, and other things for a feature that I couldn't care less about. I mean I don't see myself in a Volvo wagon either. Something to think about.
 

BigBriDogGuy

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Took the kids and the dog to a fenced field near our house. Parked and opened up the tailgate and one of the cables holding it up came off and retracted to the door frame. I was like, "What the... ?" Got the girls to take the dog to the fenced area while I tried to figure out what had just happened. The threaded bolt that held the cable to the tailgate had worked its way out. Everything was still there and attached to the cable - bolt, washer, and a round head with one of those metal spring clamps over the top of it for holding it in place.

Luckily, I had recently installed a cheap bolt-on trailer hitch and thrown a couple of wrenches into the plastic side compartment in the back of the truck. I pulled one of them out, removed the metal clip, screwed the bolt back into the side of the tailgate, attached the round ball connector at the end of the cable, and secured it with the metal spring clamp. Bob's your uncle.

Never was I so happy to have a couple of simple tools on hand. I tell you what, with these rigs it's almost as mandatory as a lug wrench and a jack to change a flat tire. In fact, maybe more so. How many times have you had to change a flat tire on one of these? How many times did you need to wrench on them in some minor way? Probably more often.

The adventure continues.
 

BigBriDogGuy

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Ordered a Baja standard full-sized roof rack yesterday. It's a major purchase for me, but I got it at a pretty good price, $1,500 including shipping and tax from California. I also was able to source a pair of stock short roof rails for $200 cash on Craigslist from a guy just across the border in Canada. Posted a picture of the Land Rover shipping box with the rails inside. He works at a dealership and it seems to be the real deal. Supposed to meet him this Tuesday at Walmart, about 4 minutes from my house. All in, I'm looking at $1,700, which isn't insignificant, but it's a major addition to the rig and something I've wanted for a while. I figure if I don't pull the trigger, I'll always balk at the price and never get it done. Hey, if nothing else, it's less expensive than most of the comparable roof rack products out there.

I kept on trying to convince myself to go with the Voyager low profile and did everything in my power to get one at a competitive price. From a practical standpoint, it's got a lot of benefits. I like the fact that it bolts directly into the factory inserts for the roof rails and is open in the back to easily slide in cargo. The low profile helps avoid potential problems with the overall height of the rig. It probably conforms better to the styling of the LR4 as well, in the sense that it is more subtle and refined. Having a flat topline was another plus If you wanted to put on a rooftop tent or a kayak or anything that needed a flat surface. The problem is that everything is on the East coast and I am on the West coast (Washington State) and the shipping cost was outrageous.

My biggest hesitation was the way the low profile Voyager rack looked. To my eye, it didn't make a statement. It wasn't "Go big or go home." The flat topline and short side rails with a black rack on my black truck would have made the rack disappear while turning the truck into a Ford Flex on steroids. That wasn't what I was going for, at all.

Now the Baja standard full-length may turn out to be the other side of the coin. If the Voyager low profile disappears, the standard Baja Rack may overwhelm. It's a pretty aggressive looking rack. It's dangerously close to looking like something a contractor might put on a work truck. That said, I liked the look of it from the start and I always seemed to come back to it. Truthfully, I would have gone with the Voyager if I could have gotten it at a decent price and without having to pay an arm and leg for shipping. It would have been a sensible decision and I may have been happy with it over time, but my heart would have felt a little cheated that I didn't go with the Baja. I'm actually a bit relieved that the price point made the decision for me.

I've justified the roof rack to myself as a practical necessity and, in some ways, it is. I have two girls in the middle row and a 36" wire dog crate in the back. That doesn't leave much room for gear if we go on a trip or camping. Without the dog and the wire crate taking up the back, I could pack it to the ceiling and make it work. Even if the dog and crate were to stay behind, my sense is we could always use the extra cargo capacity the roof rack offers. That said, I do think the Baja looks sharp. I like the tone it sets for the rig. I'll get a better idea of whether it's a good practical and style fit once it's installed and I've lived with it for a while.
 
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BigBriDogGuy

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Tried to go camping today and that was disappointing. My youngest daughter has really been looking forward to the experience. Unfortunately, it's not the same world out there as when I was growing up. We first tried going to a state park that had overnight camping on a lake. I had called earlier in the week and they said the best thing to do was come out and see if one of the "first come, first serve" campsites were available. It was only an hour drive from home and I wanted to do a test run to see how it went. When we got there, the place was a zoo. There were so many vehicles they were lining the edges of the dirt road and people were walking all over the place. It looked more like a county fair or a farmers' market, but for campers.

On our first pass around the campgrounds, we didn't see any unoccupied campsites. I headed down to the ranger station to see if they could be of any assistance. The young man behind the counter was pleasant and tried to be helpful. He showed me a map and pointed out a couple of campsites that "might" not be claimed. We took another pass around the campgrounds and confirmed that those prospects were indeed occupied. My 10-year-old daughter said, "This isn't camping. Camping is when you get away from it all. Everybody is already here. This is like the mall parking lot." She wasn't wrong.

Truthfully, when we drove around, I saw a lot of travel trailers that looked like they were there for the long haul. They had clothes hanging up on clothes lines and setups around their camping rigs that looked like they were built for living there, not just a weekend of camping. I strongly suspect that is what people are doing. At 20-some dollars per day for a spot with fresh water and electrical hookups, it's cheaper to live there for a month than to rent an apartment or house in town. I get it, times are tough, but cheap, long-term, housing isn't what these places were intended to be. Plus, it squeezes out real campers, like me and my kids.

Bottom line, I have a more than capable LR4 that's "all dressed up with no place to go". With the roof rack and gear, it's well setup for a camping trip. The problem is there is no place to go camping. Plus, there's a burn ban so you can't even make a s'mores or roast a hotdog over a campfire. Fishing? Okay, yeah, I suppose. But from the looks of it, no fish could escape the onslaught of fishing that hammers that lake on a regular and continual basis. It's like Morphius said in the Matrix movie, "Welcome to the world of the real."
 
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BigBriDogGuy

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Reserved a camping spot in a place called Marcus Island Campground a bit NW of Colville, WA, for this coming weekend. It's a 300 mile drive and over 6 hours, but the scenery should be spectacular. It's mostly secondary roads, including mountain passes through the North Cascades.

It's sad and disappointing that you have to travel so far just to go camping. The problem seems to be two-fold. One, there are too many people competing for the same outdoor recreational resources. Second, Washington State has regulated everything to death, to the point that you can't do anything. As a result, regular folks are squeezed out - especially on the Western side of the state. Otherwise, I would have stayed local.

I'll keep @Rover Range on speed dial and my cell phone fully charged. ;)
 
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BigBriDogGuy

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Okay guys, headed out on our great family adventure - camping trip. Wish me luck. Didn't have a lot of clearance pulling out of the garage fully loaded in access mode. Thinking about inflating the rear tires to 42 lbs. Not only is the roof rack loaded, but so it the back. Want to make sure I have the right tire pressure for the load.
 

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BigBriDogGuy

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Just made it back. Drove through the Grand Coulee Dam region of North Central Washington State. Highly recommend it if you ever get the chance. Beautiful country, like a mini-Grand Canyon, with crystal blue lakes.

LR4 held up fine. Air conditioning was a god send when the temp got up above 100 degrees. Honestly, it was the most comfortable place to be on the entire trip. It carried the load fine as well. I was a little concerned about that, but no problem. I never was able to find a place with a working air pump so I wasn't able to raise the rear tire pressure from 38 to 42 psi. Didn't seem to matter at all. Changed the configuration of the load on the trip back. Put the hard sided cases in the back and all the soft stuff (sea bags full of camping gear, tent, etc. on the roof rack up top then secured it down under a cargo net. Worked real nice.

The amount of bugs splattered on the windshield and front grill is epic

I was one of the slowest vehicles on the road, going out and coming back. The LR4 cruises without effort at 65 mph at 1,800 rpm. At 70 mph the tach reads 2,000 rpm and that's probably fine too, but I feel like I'm starting to push it. I can go 75 or 80 (and probably more) but that doesn't feel like a comfortable cruising speed. It's like I have to force it into that zone. The flow of traffic on the flat open highway through the desert of Eastern Washington was 80-90 mph. Other vehicles were flying past me with ease. That could partly be on me as well. I find it's a "risk/reward" kind of thing. Loaded with gear and traveling far from home, I don't feel comfortable pushing it just to "keep up with the Jones." Hey, I wasn't in a mad rush anyway. The only real harm was to my delicate ego.
 

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ElChuco

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So after two-and-a-half months the honeymoon is officially over. Like the ending of most honeymoons, it wasn't anything big, but a bunch of small things. It happened this evening when I was at the after-hours clinic waiting to get seen because I didn't have time to go during the day. They were slammed and it was a 2-hour wait, so I found a shady spot to park and hung out by the truck waiting for them to call me on my cell phone.

I was getting a little bored, so I decided to try sitting in the back seat. My 8 and 10-year old girls ride there all the time and I wondered what it was like. I climbed in behind the driver's seat and was unpleasantly surprised at how cramped it felt. Instead of a nice view, I was staring right into the back of a big, fat, leather headrest. The leather seats were sturdy to the point of being hard and uncomfortable. They didn't recline, but were permanently set in the fully upright position. I tried folding down the center section thinking that might improve something, or make it different. It was different, but I wouldn't say it was improved. Instead, it took up nearly 1/3rd of the seating space making it seem even more cramped. Plus, it was just a wide, flat, surface between the two halves of the back seat. No cupholder. No tray. No storage compartment. It didn't even make a very good armrest. I unlatched it and lifted it back into the upright position and tried the middle seat. It was too narrow for anything other than a toddler. The passenger's side seemed a bit better. At least you had a view of the steering wheel and instruments. Those looked kind of fancy, gave it a bit of a luxury feel.

I turned around and looked into the back tailgate area where the third row seats were folded down. Through the center section was a 32" wire dog crate that took up most of the space. I got an Irish Setter pup for the girls this Christmas and at 8-months old she can't be trusted not to chew and claw everything to shreds. She's very sweet, but still pretty destructive. Plus, it's not safe to have her loose in the cabin in the event we got into an accident.

So there you have it. A driver's seat for me and a front passenger's seat for the wife. A couple of back seats for the 8 and 10-year old girls. As young girls, I think the back seats are fine, adequate at least. But once they become teenagers, I'm not sure it's going to work - especially on a long trip. Then the dog in the crate in the back. And... and what? Where are you going to put stuff? Any stuff? There is a little room here and there. A bit in the back. Get rid of the dog and the crate and you're golden, but you're not going to get rid of the family dog or leave it behind because the rig doesn't have enough space.

The bottom line is that the LR4 isn't all that big. There is a lot of excess headroom, but what can you do with that? Makes for good visibility and that's about it. Put in a cargo net across the back towards the headliner? I suppose, but then there goes your visibility. Plus, what is all that "moon roof" stuff about if it's covered in a cargo net and packed full of stuff. A roof rack? Maybe that's the answer. Seems like the only option if you want to take anything with you. Then you have to climb up and down and mess with all that. Also, anything up top you have to worry about getting stolen.

I'm thinking after a couple years I'll get something bigger (a Sequoia or Durango or even a Caravan) and keep the LR4 as a hunting rig. It's fine with just me and the dog. A shotgun, some supplies and gear. I could see something like that working out. I have to look at it like a Jeep. If you think of it as a large Jeep then it seems pretty roomy. If you compare it to a full-sized SUV or truck, or even a mini-van, it's not big enough to comfortably and conveniently carry a family of 4 with a large dog and a bunch of stuff. That's a problem.

Still looks cool though.
Maybe just lose the girls, eh? I mean, it's just a thought. Mine is the right size for the two of us plus our two dogs and a week's worth of gear.
 

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