Let me just start off by telling you how happy I am to have a vehicle that I Love and don't foresee a trade in the near future. If you've seen any of the photos of what I drive via Instagram or the album on my page titled "The Runner," you're sure know that I drive a Toyota 4Runner. To be a bit more specific, a 4th Gen, 2003 Sport Edition 4WD 4.0 V-6. It's been a while since I've felt comfortable enough with a vehicle to not even look at the newer ones with a wishful thought of being behind the wheel. Nope, I'm happy right where I'm at. I've often been told I could and should be a salesman, but I'm so awful with numbers that I'm much more of a promoter. When I get excited about something, I want to share that excitement and let other people have a chance at experiencing their own. I know, it's just a vehicle, but for those who get it, you simply get it. There's just something about certain vehicles that are an extension of your personality, that perhaps say a bit about what you like to do, where you like to go, and how you like to get there.
So, what's the milestone you ask? Well, my girl just hit the 100K mile mark this morning. I'm sure that may not seem like a big deal to many, and "It's a Toyota, 100K miles nothing!" That's precisely what inspired this post, as I'm not sure if there are many 4th Gens (02-09) left out there that are just now hitting that mark. This is easily considered the break in period for a Runner, as I've personally seen three with over 400K miles. Think about that, nearly 1/2 a MILLION MILES. I'm not sure if I'll ever make it that far, but I'd love to at least see 2 or 3 for the first number on that odometer before I move on to a relationship with another vehicle. Great...I'm getting sappy just thinking about it. I would rather have no other chariot for my Bella girl to continue to explore this beautiful earth during her last months on Terra Firma.
So, what is it that I Love so much about this Yota? Well, she can take me pretty much anywhere that I need to go. She's rugged, yet extremely comfortable. She's got some power, yet not a total gas guzzler. She can lay her seats down and make a perfect bed in the back for me and the mutt. I must admit, she also looks pretty damned sexy, inside and out. Yet...most importantly, she's reliable. As long as you keep up with regular maintenance on these, they are truly built to last. I've driven her nearly from Coast to Coast, and will have actually done so in a few days. It's nearly impossible to put a price tag on reliability and this is why Toyotas hold their value so well. They simply have a proven track record of dependability and durability. I'm looking forward to many more trips and hope to keep her in good enough shape to last as long as I'm able to keep going. Like I said, it's been a while since I've had the connection with a vehicle that is more than just a thing I sit in that has wheels and takes me places. She's literally been like a second home to me and the Bella girl, and it's one of her favorite places to be, and the seats are rarely ever folded up. The back window rolls down folks....why hasn't anyone else caught on to this!? Seriously, just an all around great vehicle and you just need to get in one and explore to see for yourself. I'm already attached enough that I actually took video of the odometer rolling over. I'm a sentimental fella, and even planned the trip to happen somewhere worthy, and this happened on a scenic byway in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Not sure if I caught it on camera or not, but I jokingly said: "The break in period is over." Many more to come.
Now I'm about to get a slight bit nerdy and talk what could be saved more a 4Runner forum, so if you're not into that, you've already read the "story" portion. Thanks for reading and no hard feelings if you part ways now. If you like vehicles and want to continue, then come along for the ride.
Now that I finally have off-road worthy tires on her, I'm hoping to get the opportunity to get a little dirty and climb over a few mountain passes. However, I need to get a leveling kit put in as soon as I get the chance because I hopped up one size from 265/65/17 to 275/65/17 which has enough clearance on the road, but stuffing the tire over some rugged terrain causes rubbing in the wheel well. I've been wanting to level out the stance since day one, because the 4th Gen is the only gen to sit low in the front. All the others sit nice and level from the factory, and I'm told that the early 2000's SUVs were succumbed to safety guidelines that required a lower stance on SUVS. Ugh...that's a few hundred greenbacks that I don't have right now. I could afford the part, it's the labor that's killing me, especially because it's not that difficult, just time consuming. Also, the decision of how high has been a thought as well....2 1/2 front only? 3 front 1 rear? I'm hoping to stop into an off-road shop sometime and have someone who really knows 4Runners to just say: "This is the best set up." Of course, then he might be selling me on aftermarket suspension kits for thousands rather than the simple spacers for hundreds. Unless I were able to get someone to sponsor such a thing, it's going to need to be the latter.
I should shout out to Adam Holland from Baxter Toyota for finding this gem for me: "This is the one! Only 70k, a real diamond!" Of course that sounds like a regular salesman's schtick, but he wasn't kidding. There was nothing else in my price range that had such low miles or was taken such good care of. I wasn't sold on the Grey Trim, but a little plasti-dip fixed that and can be peeled off if I ever do decide to trade her in. The service at Baxter (formerly Performance Toyota) has been phenomenal. The shop is cleaner than most restaurants I've ever been to, and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. The best part about the service department is that I've never once felt up-sold to a service that I didn't I didn't really need at the time. They take pride in knowing their vehicles and making sure they keep running like new. Thanks for bringing that knowledge to the table Quimby, you've been awesome. He hooked me up with the body shop from Dodge nextdoor after Adam noticed a small scuff on the door. This resulted in a couple return trips before we finally got the paint on the door to cooperate, but they didn't give up and weren't going to let a less than perfect job slide. The last trip in, they even pulled a dent from my lift gate that was unrelated to the door, and didn't charge me. Talk about a happy customer. Now, if we could just track down that owner's manual. (Yeah, I'll never let that one go)
Also, it's worth mentioning that Discount Tire did a fantastic job as well. I'm not trying to sell anyone anything here, but I am trying to share good information. I decided to go with Hankook Dynapro ATM's and was seriously struggling between them and the Cooper At3's. I remembered how well the Dynapro's performed in the snow on my '99 Silverado and how much tread they had left years and 30K miles later. I decided to stick with them and then when I was making the purchase, they offered a deal on wheels that I couldn't refuse, though I probably should have. Sure it's not financially responsible, but damn it...I Love to put that signature on my vehicle to "make it mine." If any of you reading this are car guys/gals, you get it. The best part about Discount Tire is that they are located all across the country. This played a major role in why I went with them. I try not to shop many "Big Box" places and keep money local when I can, but I travel so often and such great distances that "Earl's Tire" just doesn't offer the dependability that Discount Tire can, let alone the pricing. I was 3 states away from home and was overdue for the re-torquing of my new wheels and stopped into the nearest Discount Tire, not only did they help very quickly and hassle free, they also sent me on my way with a new key-socket to have on my travels, free of charge, as the I apparently left mine in my garage back in Nebraska.
As far as the performance of the Hankook's, like I said earlier, they were amazing in the snow on my Silverado, and so far they've handled great in the little that they've seen this winter. Grip is apparent while road noise is minimum, which is what I wanted a good balance of. I lost about 1.5mpg, but that's expected with a little bigger tire and actual tread thats grabbing the road vs the slick Dunlop GranTreks I had on before. The ride is smooth and sturdy, and the look makes the Runner feel as if she's actually meant to be taken off-road, which is exactly what I was looking for.
So, for my sales pitch of the day: "4Runners are awesome. I Love mine, you will, too. See Adam at Baxter Toyota of Lincoln for a test drive to see for yourself. Check out Discount tire for the best deals and protection plans on new shoes. The Hankooks are a great addition for a more aggressive look and off-road handling without breaking the bank or howling down the road." There, that wasn't to salesy, was it?
Without further adieu, what you most likely came to see....more photos. I often take photos of Ruthie the Runner out and about as if she were the star of her own outdoor or off-road magazine. Perhaps I should let you in on a secret....that I would Love to do just that. Click "here" and watch this commercial....I'm basically living it....but without getting paid. So if you're reading this and have some connections, connect away. The adventures could use a little funding. ;)
Thanks again for joining in and tagging along our adventures. For those who follow mainly to check on the Bella girl, she's doing great and Loving every minute of our journey. Her ability and eagerness to run and hike inspire me every day. We're currently in Lake Placid, New York, and working our way over to Green Mountain National Park in Vermont. This area has been extremely beautiful and I'm hoping that everyone is able to enjoy the photos that I've been posting on Instagram and Facebook, as well as the stories I've been sharing on here. I'm a bit behind on sharing, as I've been busy doing and capturing. However, I posted up in an AirBnB rental which, though a bit over budget, it's nice to have some solitude with a shower, kitchen, bed, and wifi to get some images processed and stories told.
Until next time,
-Rob and Bella