2015 Chevrolet Colorado: Wyoming Road Trip Part Four - Off-Road Attempt to Avoid Traffic
August 20, 2015
Find yourself stuck in enough traffic on a long road trip and you begin to search for creative solutions. After multiple rounds with road construction across Wyoming and Utah, I'd had enough. So when it came to the last leg of the trip across the Mojave Desert in California in our 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, I couldn't take the delays anymore.
Unfortunately, this piece of freeway is also the most crowded of the entire trip. And on this particular July day, it was packed. There was no construction, but the freeway was overburdened to the extent that slowing was happening on and off for the entire Vegas-to-Los Angeles run.
I began to look for alternatives.
About 20 minutes south of Baker, Google told me that we'd slow down for a huge stretch. There was an alternate route through the desert on a road Google called Arrowhead Trail. The satellite view in Google Maps made it look passable if we were willing to endure some dirt roads. I like dirt. I didn't have think about it twice.
Traffic mandated that we exit Interstate 15 South at Basin Road and use Cronese Lake Road to parallel the freeway for a few miles before heading north to hook up with Arrowhead Trail where we would again parallel the freeway. A careful look at the satellite view revealed that Cronese Lake Road was washed out and that we'd need to cross the sandy wash to continue. Sounded like a good reason to use four-wheel drive to me. The photo above is what that wash looked like from the ground. The freeway is to the left. A few miles downstream, it came to a standstill.
I switched the Colorado into four-low, told the kids to hold on, and punched it.
No problem. The truck charged across the sand without issue. However, just as the front tires hit the soft stuff, all the ways this could go wrong began to flash through my mind. I had my kids and wife in the truck. It was more than 100 degrees outside. We had no recovery equipment, no real off-road experience and the cost - in both time and money - of this adventure going south was substantial.
Still, the Colorado initially seemed indifferent. I know just enough about driving in sand to know that speed is usually your friend and who doesn't like speed? I kept this in mind as we returned to the pavement for a few hundred yards. The hard stuff dwindled shortly thereafter, though, and we were faced with this:
At this point my conscience was beginning to speak to me. As was the Colorado. It was doing OK blasting down the wash, but that dwindled rapidly, too. Even turning back was risky as slowing down meant risking stopping, and stopping meant risking getting stuck. As we slowed necessarily for turns or bumps I could feel the truck was less willing to stay afloat. It made me nervous.
Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore. Without warning, I turned the Colorado through a wide arc in the desert and cut back 180 degrees toward Cronese Lake Road. My wife's silence was filled with stoic relief. Even the four-year-old seemed happier. We're such wimps.
But we're not wimps that get stuck in the dessert.
As we headed back we passed two guys in a giant Chevy Silverado Brodozer who clearly had the appropriate enthusiasm. They said they were going for it and I figured they could make it. And if they didn't there probably wouldn't be any meltdowns, at least not of the four-year-old variety. Then, just past the wash, came a couple in an Audi Q5. They circled back immediately.
Turns out, the slowing wasn't as bad as I thought. We endured maybe 30 minutes of 20-mph travel. It wasn't fun, but it was faster than a successful trip through the desert would have been anyway. What's more, from the freeway, we witnessed the Brodozer boys throw in the towel too, which I figured says something about the Colorado's abilities as a stock truck driven by a family man.
The real hassle came as we began the descent into the Inland Empire:
The Cajon Pass was under construction and we endured miserable traffic for another hour or more. In total, what's normally a four-hour trip from Vegas or Orange County turned into 6.5 hours. Not fun, but more fun than needing a tow truck in the middle of the Mojave.
Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor