Unicorn: a mythical, magical creature believed to be responsible for all things awesome. More elusive than Sasquatch in board shorts and a Hawaiian t-shirt chewing on beef jerky, Unicorns are the rarest and most exquisite creatures ever to grace our planet. After months of searching, we located ours, and as it turns out, it was hiding in our backyard.
Earlier this year, we rolled our Toyota FJ Cruiser outside Ontario, Oregon (rollover article). Soon after that, the search for a replacement rig began. We narrowed the list down to a few vehicles within the Toyota family (FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Tacoma, Land Cruiser, GX460, and GX470). We did not want to rush buying and building our next off-road vehicle, so we took our time, weighed the options, and got feedback from people within the community.
Early on we were leaning towards a Lexus GX470, more specifically, a 2005 model. Reason being, they have more cargo space than our previous FJ Cruiser, larger engine (V8), higher towing capacity, and the average price for a used GX470 is typically much less than other Toyota options. Buying used meant spending less on the vehicle and allowing for money spent on the build versus modifying a brand new vehicle as we did with the FJ.
Even though we were reasonably confident we would go with a GX, we kept our options open and did more research (drinking cold beer while searching the internet) on all the vehicles on our list, including the GX470. While digging a little deeper into each one, we quickly learned the optional in-dash navigation system with integrated climate controls is prone to failure in earlier GX470 models. Also, if you want to upgrade the head unit, and maintain some of the auxiliary controls, it can be very difficult to do since everything is built into the stock display.
We narrowed a target year down for the GX470 we wanted. The 2005 had the highest producing horsepower engine available for the 470 models. We were also leaning towards the grayish (Ash Blue Mica) color with gray interior. A Sport variant was released that year too. Although the same basic vehicle, it did have some subtle differences, to include: smoked bezel headlamps, and black bird's eye maple wood trim pieces on the interior.
Now, here is the Unicorn part of this puzzle. Finding a gray (exterior/interior) 2005 GX470 can be somewhat difficult. Finding one without navigation can be even more difficult. Finding it in a Sport model, well, that would be a Unicorn!
In terms of a Lexus GX470, we knew what we wanted, but we were not entirely sold on the fact that this was the right adventure rig for us. We had a few questions that were completely subjective and could not be answered in a simple drive down the road in someone else's GX. Comfort on long trips, sleeping in the vehicle, and drivability after being built were some of the questions we had.
Those questions, plus some were all answered when Metal Tech 4x4 tossed us the keys to their 2005 Lexus GX470 and told us to drive it from the Portland, OR area to Asheville, NC for Overland Expo East (road trip Itinerary). Even better, they wanted us to take it off-road and see what life was like living out of it for about 15 days during the BA / MT Coast-2-Coast Road Trip (article coming soon).
Ashlie was not able to join me on this adventure, but my good buddy and professional photographer, Jonathan DeRise (Jon DeRise Photography) did. Here is what I learned from this epic road trip and in-depth, hands-on test drive. The GX470 is the perfect platform for our next adventure vehicle build. Not only was it comfortable and performed great on and off the road, but if two, middle age, bearded fat guys can be comfortable living out of it, I know my petite wife and I will be too.
Here is the when and where part of this story. While driving the Metal Tech 4x4 GX470 from Texas to Louisiana for another meetup during our road trip, we discovered there was a Unicorn sitting on the lot of a small dealership just outside of Lafayette, Louisiana (our home). The date was September 23, 2017, and it was late in the afternoon when we saw it online. Too late as a matter of fact to call them and ask questions about it.
Following our meet with members of the Bayou State Land Cruiser Association on Sunday the 24th, DeRise and I stopped by the dealership before heading out to Alabama. Because of the day and time, the dealership was closed, but that didn't mean I couldn't at least look at it. After some heavy breathing and creepy touching we left, but before doing so, in my best Terminator voice, I whispered to the GX, "I'll be back."
In my absence, another good friend of mine, Cory Landry (Cory Landry Music), test drove the GX for me. The next day, Ashlie went to the dealership and completed all the paperwork. This particular Lexus GX470 is a grayish 2005 Sport, non-nav with approximately 174,000 miles and one owner. Out the door with tax, title, and license we paid nearly $9,500 for it.
After waiting several months, and with the help of friends, Ashlie and I captured our Unicorn! LET THE MAGIC BEGIN!
Thank you to Jon DeRise Photography for providing some of the pictures and other media used within this article.
To learn more about Metal Tech 4x4, click here: Facebook / Website
GX470 Promo Video
It has been almost a year since we rolled our Toyota FJ Cruiser in Ontario, Oregon. Just enough time has passed where people are starting to trust our driving again. Hooray for us!
That said, we are excited to announce that our friends at Metal Tech 4x4 (MetalTech4x4.com) are giving us the keys to their Lexus GX470! Not because they want us to clean it or add a bunch of stickers to it (although that will probably happen #SorryNotSorry), but because they want us to drive it from Portland, Oregon to Ashevillle, North Carolina to attend Overland Expo East.
If you are not familiar with Metal Tech 4x4, they are a Toyota/Lexus specific off road company. They have been in business for over 17 years and specialize in designing, fabricating, and producing some of the industry's highest quality bumpers, sliders and other components, which are designed to outlast your adventures.
We ran their products on our Toyota FJ Cruiser. Without a doubt, we tested their quality, performance, and durability during the time we had our vehicle. From 10,000 plus mile long road trips in ever changing environments to bouncing off/over obstacles on trails and even a roll over, they all held up to the challenges.
The main purpose of the Bourn Adventure, Metal Tech Coast-2-Coast Road Trip is to personally interact with the Toyota/Lexus off road community along with education on the comfort, performance, and capabilities of the Lexus GX platform through hands on experience.
My good friend and professional photographer, Jonathan DeRise (Jon DeRise Photography) will accompany us on the road trip. Both he and I are hairy, homeless looking individuals from south Louisiana. We are sure to get some interesting looks from people when we step out of the Lexus. We'll be the fanciest hobos around!
We can't thank Mark and the rest of the Metal Tech 4x4 crew enough for this opportunity. We have scheduled several stops, M&G's (Meet and Greets), and off road events planned across our route. If we are passing through your area and you're able to attend one of these events, please come out!
Most of our itinerary is complete, but we are still working on the details. Some of the locations, dates, groups/clubs, meets, and events are tentative at this time. As we lock in more specifics, we will update this article with the most current information, so please check back periodically.
The majority of these meets are geared towards the Toyota/Lexus off road communities but are open to anyone. If you, your family or friends do not own a Toyota/Lexus off road vehicle, but are interested in learning more about them, you are more than welcome to join us. Or, if you own something other than Toyota/Lexus, but are an off road enthusiast or just want to show your support, come on out! We would love to have you there and are more than happy to answer your questions.
The best way to join in on the adventure and watch as we Explore America is through our social media pages. Typically, different content is dispersed across our various social media platforms, so be sure to follow each one individually. Also, feel free to leave any questions/comments in the comment section at the bottom of this article.
We look forward to the adventure and hope to see you soon!
Metal Tech 4x4
Zero Day: Thursday, September 14
1: Portland, OR (fall in on GX)
* Facebook Event Page
Day 1: Thursday, September 14
1: Seaside, OR (see the Pacific Ocean)
2: Meet & Greet in Hillsboro, OR
* Facebook Event Page
Day 2: Friday, September 15
1: Medford, OR (meet with Team Overland “MORNING”) 345m/8h
2: Turlock, CA (meet with Team Vegabond “AFTERNOON”) 397m/8.5h
3: Corona, CA (drive to ****** “NIGHT”) 343m/7h
Day 3: Saturday, September 16
1: Meet at ****** (“MORNING”)
2: San Diego, CA (Meet with SoCal FJ Cruisers “AFTERNOON”) 96m/2h
3: Phoenix, AZ (drive “NIGHT”) 355m/8h
Day 4: Sunday, September 17
1: Phoenix, AZ (meet with AZFJ/AZ4R “MORNING”)
2: Hoover Dam (pictures “AFTERNOON”) 279m/6h
3: Las Vegas, NV (meet with Vegas FJ Cruiser “late AFTERNOON) 34m/1h
* Facebook Event Page
4: Zion National Park, UT (drive “NIGHT”) 160m/4h
Day 5: Monday, September 18
1: Zion National Park, UT (pictures/videos “MORNING/AFTERNOON”)
2: Moab, UT (drive “NIGHT”) 346m/7h
Day 6: Tuesday, September 19
1: Moab, UT (meet up/top of the world/pictures/videos “MORNING”)
2: Ouray, CO (drive “late MORNING”) 150m/4h
3: Ouray, CO into Telluride (Imogene Pass “AFTERNOON”) 20m/4h
4: Grand Junction, CO (meet up “NIGHT”) 127m/3h
5: Boulder, CO (“NIGHT”) 256m/7h
Day 7: Wednesday, September 20
1: Boulder, CO area (meet up Venture Overland “MORNING/AFTERNOON”)
* Facebook Event Page
2: Oakley, KS (Monument Rocks “NIGHT”) 274m/6h
Day 8: Thursday, September 21
1: Oakley, KS (Monument Rocks/pictures/videos “MORNING”)
2: Austin, TX (the Chive “MORNING/NIGHT”) 812m/15h
Day 9: Friday, September 22
1: Austin, TX (the Chive pictures/videos “MORNING/AFTERNOON”)
2: Dallas, TX (meet up “AFTERNOON/NIGHT”) 196m/5h
3: Barnwell Mountain Recreational Area (drive “NIGHT”) 132m/3h
Day 10: Saturday, September 23
1: BMRA (meet up/wheeling “MORNING/AFTERNOON”)
* Facebook Event Page
2: Lafayette, LA (meet up “NIGHT”) 288m/6h
Day 11: Sunday, September 24
1: Lafayette, LA (meet BSLCA/LLK “AFTERNOON”)
* Facebook Event Page
2: Gulf Shores, AL (see the Gulf of Mexico “AFTERNOON/NIGHT”) 300m/6h
3: Atlanta, GA (drive “NIGHT”) 346m/8h
Day 12: Monday, September 25
1: Atlanta, GA (meet up with ATL 4R/Georgia FJ “AFTERNOON/NIGHT”)
* Facebook Event Page
2: Charleston, SC (drive “NIGHT”) 301m/8h
Day 13: Tuesday, September 26
1: Charleston, SC (see the Atlantic Ocean/pictures/video “MORNING”)
2: Raleigh, NC (meet with NC FJ Cruisers “AFTERNOON/NIGHT”) 280m/7h
3: Asheville, NC (Expo “NIGHT”) 247m/6h
Day 14: Wednesday, September 27
1: Prep for Overland Expo East
Day 15: Thursday, September 28
1: Prep for Overland Expo East
Days 16 - 18: Friday, September 29 - Sunday, October 1
1: Overland Expo East
* Facebook Event Page
Explore America Flag Vinyl Decals
As many of you know, our 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser saw adventure from coast to coast. We hit all lower 48 states, parts of Canada and traveled about 70,000 plus miles in road trips. We attended events all over America and had the pleasure of meeting thousands of people along the way. We even started a small business (Bakes FJ, now Bourn Adventure) all because of the FJ. It's safe to say; we had a lifetime's worth of experiences because of her.
For those who might not know, we rolled our FJ on January 4, 2017, while crossing through Ontario, OR. This happened when we encountered a freak snowstorm while traveling on I 84 east. Due to the extent of damage, it was totaled.
After rolling the FJ, we knew our story wasn't over yet. In fact, it gave us the opportunity to start writing a new chapter. This chapter would be titled Bourn Adventure and would allow us to revisit previous destinations, see new places, meet new people, and use different vehicles to Explore America.
Although we knew life would continue for us, we feared that was not the case for the FJ. We thought the roll over was the final chapter for her. Period, end of story, book closed! As fate would have it, she too is writing another chapter!
On February 7th, 2017 a gentleman named Mahmoud Awada found the FJ on Copart, which is an online auto auction site. Not knowing much about the FJ, other than it was a 2012 with approximately 86,000 miles on it, he bought it. Mahmoud is the owner of Awada Motors Group in AL Janub in Lebanon and frequently buys vehicles from the United States and other countries. Once he purchases these vehicles, he has them shipped to his shop with the intent to rebuild/repair and resell.
A few days later, a customer of his asked if he had any FJ Cruisers coming in. Mahmoud sent him a picture of the one he just bought. It just so happened, that customer followed Bakes FJ and recognized it from various social media posts.
After doing some research, Mahmoud reached out to me to inform me that he purchased the FJ. He said the journey would take about one month and ten days before it would reach her new home there in Lebanon.
Mahmoud and I have stayed in contact over the last few months. He was kind enough to send pictures of the progress he made with the FJ. By no means has the rebuild been easy. The FJ had significant damage to the A-pillars, roof, and body. I had also removed the majority of the aftermarket parts, which meant he needed new replacement OEM or aftermarket parts. If that was not enough, some of the suspension components and other parts damaged from the roll over stayed on the vehicle, leading him to deal with that headache too. The stock seats were there, but in pieces, because I used parts from them for the aftermarket seats. On top of all that, it can be difficult and/or costly to find replacement parts or aftermarket parts there in Lebanon.
In just a few short months, he has repaired all of the damage and added some new modifications. Mahmoud has done a fantastic job overcoming the obstacles he faced with this rebuild. The attention to detail is amazing. He even managed to get the red LED interior lighting and outside rock lighting back in working condition. Mahmoud was kind enough to leave all the stickers on the FJ too!
The FJ is now on the road and in the process of writing its next chapter. The FJ has come a long way from laying upside down in a snow covered ditch to Exploring a new part of the world.
From the time the FJ made her maiden voyage, till now, she has been a part of some epic adventures. Although we miss her, we look forward to following along on the adventures the FJ and Mahmoud (or new owner) experience together. We also have an open invitation to visit the FJ there in Lebanon at some point, which we would love to do!
To read the roll over article, please click HERE
To read the JCW MINI Cooper article, please click HERE
All of our remaining BakesFJ.com products are on sale. To get yours, click HERE
This was my third year attending the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree (Jambo). For those who are not familiar with this event, it is held at Barnwell Mountain Recreational Area (BMRA) in Gilmer, TX. With a turnout of a little over 400 vehicles this year, it is one of the largest (if not the largest) Toyota gatherings in the nation.
This was the first off-road event I have attended since the rollover and loss of the FJ earlier this year. It was an odd feeling not having my own rig there. There were times I found myself reaching into my pocket for keys and looking around to see where I parked. As my eyes searched for the FJ, and panic started to set in because I could not find it, I heard my buddies voice say, "If you're looking for the FJ, it's not parked anywhere, but the GX is right there."
My friend Derise was right; the FJ was not there...in its entirety, but some of it was (bumpers, sliders, seats, skid plates, suspension, light bars, etc). The day before he and I left for Jambo, we loaded his Lexus GX 470 with parts from the FJ. Though the FJ itself was not present, nor did it run trails under its own power, some of it did see dirt while there, so by proxy, we wheeled the FJ!
You might be asking yourself, "Why did he bring a quarter of the FJ with him to Jambo?" Well, we sold some of the parts, but we also decided to auction off our Scheel-mann aftermarket seats and Chitown PAX mount with fuel cans. All proceeds from said auction went to Team Overland, a non profit organization dedicated to helping veterans.
The event staff was kind enough to assist in the process and give us space in the main pavilion to display the auctioned items. With the help of the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree off road event and several supporting vendors in the off road community, along with the individuals who purchased the items, we raised $1,250. To make math easier, Bourn Adventure contributed another $250 for a total donation of $1,500 to Team Overland.
To learn more about this donation, Team Overland and others involved, please read our article: Team Overland Donation
I had a unique perspective of Jambo this year. One of the main reasons I attended was to help with media and lend a hand wherever they needed it. I now have a greater appreciation of the hard work, dedication, planning, and coordination that goes into an event like this. It is not only the event staff and volunteers who contribute, but also the vendors. Without them, it would not be the same.
I had the chance to watch Blind Mans Bluff, Lone Star Rock Crawl, and Lone Star Stampede. This was a first for me because, in years past, I was out running trails while these events were going on. Out of those three, I would have to say Blind Mans Bluff was the most entertaining to watch.
In the Blind Mans Bluff event, the driver is blindfolded and has to rely on verbal directions from the passenger/spotter. They have to successfully navigate the obstacle course without hitting any of the cones, backing up, passenger/spotter getting out of the vehicle, or anything else that could penalize their run. Without fail, you see passengers flailing limbs, hear raised voices, and a few choice words as they attempt to steer their partner in the right direction.
This is a great test for any couple who is dating or married. Administrative note, Jambo staff recommends couples who participate in Blind Mans Bluff leave knives and other sharp objects in their tents for obvious reasons.
Jambo also has a great nightlife. With live bands, bonfires, and food, it provides a fun atmosphere for people to share stories and drinks. It does not take long for friendships to start and once made, they last a lifetime. Every year I look forward to meeting up with old friends from past events.
On top of the good food and fun times, there are educational classes and amazing raffles. If you have not made it out to the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree, I highly recommend you do. I hope to see you there next year!
Lone Star Toyota Jamboree: Website
Lone Star Toyota Jamboree: Facebook
Our modified Toyota FJ Cruiser was totaled earlier this year after a roll over during a freak snow storm in Oregon. We managed to take off some of the aftermarket parts before handing her over to the insurance company. Some of those parts that we removed, we decided to auction off, with all proceeds going to Team Overland. We wanted to give back to those who have given so much for us.
If you are not familiar with Team Overland, they are a nonprofit organization that is committed to helping veterans. They have provided an outlet for past and present American soldiers suffering from PTSD and other challenges caused by combat. Through the use of the great American outdoors, they take veterans out on overland style trips, allowing them to see and experience the beauty and freedom they have fought so hard to protect. Team Overland is an organization built by veterans for veterans.
To learn more about Team Overland, visit their website here: Team Overland
To follow Team Overland on Facebook, click here: Social Media
In support of Team Overland, with the assistance of the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree off road event and several supporting vendors in the off road community, we posted our Scheel-mann after market seats and our PAX Mount system for auction.
At the completion of the auction, Colin paid $1,000 for the seats and Kym paid $250 for the PAX Mount and accessories. Because of their support and the effort of several vendors, I am exited to announce, we raised $1,250 for charity. We're not a fan of odd, uneven numbers like that, so we have decided to throw another $250 on top of that for a total donation of $1,500 to Team Overland!
Thank you to all the brave men and women who have served past, present, and future and thank you to all the organizations who help them. To those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, may you rest easy knowing you will not be forgotten.
picture courtesy of Jon DeRise Photography
Thank you to everyone who made this donation possible.
- Colin Finigan and Kmy Yamaguchi for the support.
- Scheel-mann USA, Metal-tech 4X4, and Chi-Town4x4 for helping with product.
- Lone Star Toyota Jamboree staff for supporting the auction
- Demello Off-road for transporting the seats.
Most importantly, thank you to Team Overland and the veterans they help.
Team Overland website: http://www.teamoverland.org
To follow Team Overland on Facebook, click here: Social Media
The event started on a cool, crisp Saturday morning at a gas station in Hampden, Maine where we meet up with Matt and Brian from MINI's of Maine. The temperature hovered around 37° for the majority of the day with continuous drizzle. The roads also had residual sand and gravel from the winter months. We were warned to be careful of these conditions, as well as 16 pound wild turkeys that have a tendency to play chicken in hairpin turns.
We swung through a Dunkin' Donuts for some tasty treats, then we were on our way. We knew we would have an hour and a half trip to Wiscasset, Maine to meet up with several other MINI's and their owners, but were unprepared for what Matt and Brian had in store for us. What started as a sedate drive through the country quickly turned into a backwoods rally. Tightly tucked between a 2012 Hardtop S (R56) and a 2014 Countryman S (R60) we raced through the hills, our little JCW's Bluetooth exhaust popping and growling in the silence. Matt made us work for it. His tailpipe exhaled white smoke as he gassed it while downshifting out of a sharp corner. Brian's Countryman was no slouch either. Clifford, "The Big Red Bus" had no trouble keeping pace. Huge grins were plastered to our faces, except for Ashlie's... her's was kinda green.
We met up with the rest of the crew at an Irving gas station in Wiscasset, ME. Our group was very diverse with people attending from Massachusetts, Canada, Maine, and Louisiana. We all became close friends within minutes. Ashlie keeps telling me that just because I speak to someone, it doesn't mean they are my friend, but there isn't a person alive who would say otherwise....
Soon we were away. Our group of eight kept a tight formation. Even with the poor road conditions, we were still able to dip in and out of turns at 60 - 80 mph. Zipping through the steep, winding turns allowed us to become more intimate with the heart of Maine. Ashlie had never visited Maine before, and my experience had been limited to the coastal regions. Our journey was broken up into three legs. The first took us from Harris to Wiscasset, which was approximately 100 miles. The second and third legs were more of a coastal route and totaled approximately 160 miles. Some of the inland towns were nestled in the hills and gave it old time feel. Brightly colored houses and big red barns littered the countryside. As we cruised through some of the small towns we encountered people outside who would give us a friendly wave and a smile.
The weather worn roads kept us on our toes and allowed us to test the agility of the MINI. Having the automatic gearbox in manual mode and using the paddle shifters made it easy to deploy quick, decisive countermeasures while avoiding potholes and bumps, this also allowed for more controlled braking and better management of RPM's. The combination of power, weight, and torque showcased the MINI's intuitive handling.
We stopped off at New Castle Publick House for lunch. It was a restaurant in a very old building in New Castle, ME, which isn't saying much. Most of their buildings seem old. We sat around laughing and sharing stories like we had known each other for years. The food was the expected local fare: crab cakes, seafood chowder, and local brews. After filling our bellies, we hopped in the MINI's and drove off into the New England mist.
The last leg of our adventure would take us down a peninsula which provided exceptional views of Muscongus and Johns Bay. Initially, the sights were similar to others we had experienced, but as we came out of a sweeping turn, the tree line faded giving us a breathtaking view of the coast. The overcast sky melded into the misty waters. The waves crashed into the rocky coast with old picturesque houses on hills. Seagulls cried overhead as we rounded the bend and lost sight of this mesmerizing view.
We both were slack-jawed and were stumbling over words that failed to come close to describing its beauty. We were trying to find a way to duck out of the line of MINI's to go back to take pictures when the tree line started to fade again, allowing the coast to peek through. We both started scrambling for GoPros and cameras. I am sure the MINI's behind us were wondering what we were doing. We were swerving all over the road trying to find our equipment to get the shot while trying to keep up with the group. Thankfully they pulled over at a viewpoint shortly afterward.
The tide was out and revealed many rocks of all sizes. We walked down a short way and enjoyed an uninterrupted view of the coast. Some of the group said we needed to come back one day when the tide is in to hear the many small rocks tumbling with the tide, reminiscent of a giant rain stick. After everyone had their fill of the view we headed out for our final destination.
We ended the trip at King Eider's Pub. A bar in the heart of Damariscotta, ME with loads of local flair. We had one last beer before hitting the road. With much sadness, we parted ways with promises to visit soon. As the last MINI drove away, we took a breath and smiled. Now that was an adventure!
To learn more about MINI's of Maine, visit their Facebook page here: MINI's of Maine
Authors: Baker and Ashlie
The cat is out of the bag. We bought a 2017 John Cooper Works MINI, in Moonwalk grey! Before we go any further with this article, let me clarify. The MINI is not the direct replacement for the FJ. We have no intentions of leaving the Toyota community. We are still getting something within the Toyota family to use as our off-road adventure vehicle. We hope to decide on a vehicle soon. In the meantime, we plan on doing some fun adventures in the Cooper, and we hope you will continue to follow along.
As I have stated in previous articles, the FJ gave us a sense of adventure and freedom that we had not experienced before. It allowed us to become part of an amazing community of Toyota owners and off-road enthusiasts. The long road trips we took in the FJ across this beautiful and amazing country of ours led us to discover our desire to Explore America.
As much as Ashlie and I loved driving the FJ all over the country, our bank account felt differently. The FJ averaged about 12 MPG (miles per gallon). On average, we would make three long road trips a year, and sometimes they would go over 10,000 miles. Fuel easily became one of our biggest expenses on those trips, especially during the summer months when gas prices typically went up.
Our new MINI Cooper started as an idea in December of 2015. Ashlie and I were talking about getting a second vehicle that is more fuel efficient to use on summer road trips. The thought behind this was, the FJ would remain our winter road trip/off road event vehicle and the new one for longer road trips.
As she and I shared car ideas, I brought up a MINI Cooper. She gave me a confused look at first, but then I reminded her I used to own a one many years ago and I loved it!
Excuse me while I travel down memory lane for a few seconds. At the time (2006/2007), I lived in Atlanta and then moved up to St. Louis. The MINI and I traveled all over the southern part of the United Sates together and then when I moved up north, all over the Midwest.
All those miles and I probably only put five dollars worth of gas in her. She was a fuel efficient, eye-catching, street legal go-kart. Those of you that knew me then, or rode with me, can tell you I drove that car hard. I was much younger at the time and did not do a good job taking care of the MINI (or anything else for that matter), but she took care of me.
I had an 18 wheeler blow a tire right next to me that caused body damage when the tread flew off and slammed into the front end. Another time, a deer decided to hit me on the passenger side of the MINI while I was driving on the highway. Yes, you read that right the deer hit me, not the other way around. It apparently chose the MINI because of how small it was and decided it could win. It darted out from behind a sign and ran into the side of the car causing more body damage and my passenger (6'4", 230ish man) to scream like a little girl. The deer stood up, ran off and I'm sure, became a legend among his friends for his actions that day.
I would often drive it in places or across terrain where I'm sure the MINI engineers did not intend for it to go. I did not do proper maintenance on it, and at on point, I'm sure I missed an oil change or three by several thousand miles. I even lost first gear (manual). It's a long story, but just know, I never found it again.
All that wear and tear and constant abuse I put the MINI through, and she never gave me any issues, except for that time I got it stuck on a small tree. That's another story. My point is, she was a reliable vehicle, and one that I could count on to get me from point A to B. Any issues I had were caused by yours truly and were not noticeable when I turned the music louder.
Let's get back to discussing how Ashlie and I decided on the MINI Cooper as our next road trip vehicle. As I said, better fuel efficiency was important to us. The MINI gets about 25 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. In theory, this will reduce our fuel expense by two-thirds on road trips, giving us more money for Slurpees, candy, and other snacks.
The MINI is also a head turner, similar to how the FJ was. By no means is she modest looking. Her flashy colors and curvy body lines make her stand out in a crowd. Its unique, compact design allows it to be very nimble and carve up turns like a hot knife through butter.
The original MINI was meant to have a simple, ordinary life as a cheap economy car. She was born out of necessity for a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle that was within the financial grasp of just about everyone at the time and still capable of transporting a family. To meet these strict demands engineers had to get creative.
Due to their "outside the box" thinking, they achieved their goal and gave the world the MINI in 1959. Soon after its release, it captured the minds and imaginations of many people. From then till now, she has continued to entertain the masses. Her iconic history has become embedded in the motoring world. MINI has done a fantastic job at paying attention to the small details to make this car even more distinctive and fun to drive.
Much like the Toyota community, MINI owners are very passionate about their hobby. To some, the MINI is not a vehicle, it's a way of life, and that lifestyle is about adventure. Several MINI sponsored/organized events across the country bring owners together.
Some of these events draw owners, passengers, and spectators in by the thousands. You'll see base model stock MINI's to modified, track style MINI's and everything in between. I even accidently stumbled across one of these events in August of 2015 while up in Michigan. It was called "MINI On The Mac" where more than 1,300 MINIs were in attendance to attempt a new world record of Largest-ever MINI Cooper Parade, which is currently held by the English. Unfortunately, they missed their goal that day, but I'm sure the comradery and friendships made there far surpass any record.
If you're interested in reading more about this, please click the link: MINI On The Mac
Although different, the Toyota and MINI communities are very similar. They both care deeply about their vehicles and share the desire for adventure, togetherness and telling their story. The most notable difference is, one group loves the off-road while the other loves the road. Both roads lead to freedom, adventure and the outdoors. In the end, they find themselves at the same destination.
As fate would have it, I totaled the FJ in January 2017 after putting her belly up in Oregon. We did not want to rush the selection process of the replacement rig, but we needed a second vehicle. We decided to move on the MINI idea now. By doing this, it allowed more time to find the off-road rig that is right for us. We also figured, if we get the MINI now, we can start taking road trips and attending events in it.
Initially, our plan was to keep Ashlie's 2014 Cadillac CTS-V (her dream car) and get the MINI as a second vehicle for me. Once we decided on the replacement rig and were ready to buy it, we would sell her CTS-V, and the MINI would become her daily driver. The more we thought it about it, the more it made sense to sell her CTS-V now and only have one vehicle. There are advantages and disadvantages to only having one car, but for us, the pros outweigh the cons.
Sure, we could have waited on the MINI and taken the CTS-V on the road for now, but we would be in a similar fuel predicament what we were in with the FJ. The CTS-V is a high-horsepower beast who's Super Charged engine guzzles fuel at a rate of "oh damn!" On paper, the CTS-V gets 14 MPG city and 19 MPG highway. In reality, the fuel economy is more like Scotty from Star Trek, "I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!" which equates to an average of 15 MPG.
In February 2017 we ordered our MINI, and on March 15, 2017, it arrived at the dealership. March 24, 2017, Ashlie took her final drive in the CTS-V as she made her way to the Brian Harris MINI dealership in Baton Rouge, LA. It was a day of mixed emotions. We said good-bye to the V and hello to the MINI.
Although our new MINI does not have the blood pumping power plant the CTS-V did, she still has a healthy heart beat. With 228 horsepower flowing from her turbocharged engine and the Dynamic Damper Controlled suspension, she zips around the city and winding mountain roads without effort.
Combined with the John Cooper Works Pro Bluetooth Exhaust, she goes from quiet, innocent Sunday morning to loud, rowdy Friday night. With a push of a button, the exhaust re-routes, bypassing the restrictive catalytic converter and unleashes a growl that commands attention and respect.
Her name says it all, MINI. She is used to being the underdog and picked on by the larger motors, but if given a chance, she will surprise even the strongest competitor. What she lacks in raw power she makes up for in stamina and agility.
The Cooper might be MINI, but she packs a punch! Like boxing, the motorsports world is full of eager fighters in all shapes and sizes. The MINI might not be in the main event, but she is still a competitor none the less. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." is a quote by boxing legend Muhammad Ali which I feel best describes the MINI attitude.
Fuel efficiency is what lead us to look for a second vehicle, but the community and MINI heritage is what made us decide on which vehicle that would be. We are proud to be part of this new family and look forward to experiencing everything it has to offer.
Here's to the MINI!
In September 2012, we bought a new Toyota FJ Cruiser. It was an Iceberg White, 2012 with a rear e-locker (electronic locker), A-TRAC (Active Traction Control), 115v/400-watt AC power outlet and a nice sounding stock JBL stereo system with subwoofer. The FJ was the first new vehicle I ever bought.
Before owning the FJ, I had a 2005 Yamaha R1 motorcycle which was my only mode of transportation at the time. I loved that R1 very much, and she was my everything. We had a great time together and logged a lot of miles on the road, but I was missing something. Growing up in Washington state, I spent a lot of time camping in the mountains and hitting trails with old friends. I wanted to get back to the outdoor life. As much fun as it might be taking the R1 off road, I knew my insurance company would not approve. The search began for a 4x4 vehicle that would allow Ashlie and me to find adventure.
There are several great options to choose from when looking for a capable off road vehicle. Since we would be driving long distances, I knew it needed to be reliable on and off road, have a decent amount of storage space for gear, could be easily modified (vendor availability) and look awesome.
After doing a bit of research and several test drives, the Toyota FJ Cruiser was the vehicle of choice. Not only did it meet and exceed my initial expectations, but it also came with a great community of fellow Toyota owners and enthusiasts. Having belonged to motorcycle groups/clubs in the past, having that type of network again was important to me.
I decided to sell the R1 and use the money as a down payment on an FJ. It was a bittersweet moment for me. After the tears had subsided, I took that money directly to a Toyota dealership and gave it to a sales representative.
I originally wanted an Army Green TT (Trail Team) FJ Cruiser, but soon learned it might be easier to find a Unicorn and teach it to ride a Unicycle while whistling "My Achy Breaky Heart." Upon receiving that soul-crushing news, I decided to go with the IceBerg White FJ.
One of my good friends also owned an FJ cruiser, which was modified. He had replaced the suspension, bumpers and a few other things. I examined his rig carefully to get some ideas. After lots of creepy staring and touching on my part, I decided I needed to start modifying my FJ.
The original plan was simple modifications. Tires, suspension and maybe bumpers. Stock, the FJ is a capable rig. No doubt, it could get me where I wanted to go without any issues, but, where is the fun in keeping it stock. #ModtheYota
My same friend introduced me to a Toyota club in the area which he had a membership with. After that, he recommended some Toyota social media pages to follow. If that wasn't enough, he suggested a few vendors and websites where I could buy parts.
Having all this information thrown at me by my buddy and new Toyota friends, I had no choice but to go full potato with the FJ. I would wake up early in the morning and stay up late at night looking at social media pages, forums and window-shopping online. I compiled several lists of modifications, which seemed to change daily based on what new shiny products I found.
What was supposed to be simple modifications approved by The Boss (my wife), soon turned into massive changes. Some of those changes may have shocked her. Like that time she came home, and the interior of the FJ was laying outside, on the ground. I knew I had been caught doing something naughty because the first words out of my mouth were, "this isn't what it looks like."
At times, she did not agree with some of the modifications, especially since cutting into the vehicle was necessary and I had only made a few payments on it at that time. One such modification was the snorkel. Put simply; she was not thrilled that I spend money on and cut into the FJ for such a "silly" add on.
Little did she know, the modification Gods were satisfied with my sacrifice and smiling down upon me. Shortly after installing the snorkel, we had a massive storm come through our area which led to flash flooding. She could not drive to work because the roads around our house had about three feet of water on them. She asked if I could drive her to work. I asked, "why do you think I can do that?" Her response was, "because you have a freaking snorkel, now take me to work!"
From that point forward, she allowed me to accessorize the FJ as I saw fit, as long as I "needed it" or it was "practical." I quickly found a way to justify every modification and chose my words wisely when articulating the "why." If that failed, I switched to plan B which was reminding her of that time we used the FJ as an Ark so she could get to work. In the words of Hannibal, "I love when a plan comes together."
Over the years, the FJ's physical features changed drastically and it was hardly recognizable as the vehicle I bought in 2012. As time went on, she developed her own personality and drew people closer to look at her. There were times I would walk outside from a public place and find people taking a picture of it, with it or reading all the stickers that littered the exterior.
Without hesitation, I would start a conversation with these curious onlookers. They were even more intrigued when I showed them the patch collection on the headliner. Each sticker and patch told a story, and they found it fascinating. The FJ was a travel diary on wheels.
When we left home for an off road event or a long road trip, it was about the adventure. If we saw a place we wanted to go, we went. If we wanted to get dirty, we did. If we wanted to stop and explore, it happened. The only limitation to our journey was the ability to forget about everything and enjoy the moment.
The FJ gave us more than we could have ever imagined. Because of her, we traveled to all lower 48 states and parts of Canada, attended several off-road events, met thousands of people, and started a small business (BakesFJ.com, now Bourn Adventure).
I never completely understood the impact of a vehicle, until owning the FJ. Every year, millions of people are brought together because of cars. Whether it is a car show, motorsports event, club or an event like SEMA. Owners, enthusiasts, and vendors all assemble because of cars.
Just like so many of you, I have witnessed that first hand. When I first bought the FJ, I thought I was giving her a new life. I later discovered she gave me a new life in the form of memories, friends and a desire to seek adventure.
Unfortunately, she met her demise on a cold, snowy highway in Ontario, OR in January of 2017. That day, she gave her life so we could keep ours. The FJ, like most Toyotas, is very well built and allowed Ashlie and me to walk away from the roll over without injury.
Though the FJ is gone now, her memory lives on, and she continues to encourage us to Explore America. Even though the name of our business and social media pages has changed, the adventure remains the same.
The road trip torch has been passed on to our other vehicles now, and they will each become a legend in their own right all because the FJ paved the path for them and us.
Here's to the FJ! May you rest easy in Valhalla.
Pictures from our road trips when we had a chance to stop at the "welcome to" state signs. When you cross them lines, gotta get a photo! One thing we have learned though, not all states make it easy to access their sign. Sometimes you have to get creative and it might turn into an adventure all on its own!
In April 2015, we picked up a 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, which just happened to be Ashlie's dream car. I must admit, I too shared the same dream. From the first time we laid eyes on her; we were in love. To the unknowing person, she is just another car. To us, she is much more, and we knew what she was capable of doing.
The 2014 CTS-V comes from the factory with over 550 HP (horsepower). With a few bolt-ons, tweaks and turns you can quickly surpass that. The vehicle specs are impressive but fail to deliver the driving experience and my perception of her. To ultimately appreciate her body lines and on demand power, you need to experience it in person. Physics prevent us from doing that in this article.
Like my man Bob Ross, please allow me the opportunity to paint you a picture of the happy little CTS-V rather than continue to spout performance numbers.
Don't let the title fool you; she is no ordinary Cadillac. The CTS is a fast mover on her own, but the V designation at the end makes it Alpha in the Cadillac line-up.
Performance wise, it was built to put other cars in their place and have their owner's question what just happened. Her bloodline has traces of Vette in it, and her heart is healthy with American muscle. The sleek design and placement of the classy Cadillac emblems lure unsuspecting prey into its' high horsepower jaws. Once the prey is within grasp of its torque filled claws, the supercharged heart beat begins to pulse, and she lets out a soothing roar from her exhaust as she elegantly devours her prey.
Within seconds the fight is over. The once ambitious rival soon becomes just another tasteless meal. She doesn't go looking for her next snack. She knows that soon enough the next eager contestant will thoughtlessly challenge her strength.
Although very sneaky and discreetly cloaked, she is easy to track. All one has to do to find her is to follow the trail of carcasses left along the path. Be warned; she might lash out if provoked. If so, it is to prove a point, and she will go straight for the jugular.
Not all cars fall victim to her seductive methods. Just like many venomous predators, she has brightly colored markings to help level the playing field. Strategically placed across her body are the V badges, which serve as a warning to curious owners who might challenge her. If ignored, this could prove to be a fatal bite.
The pavement is her territory, and she rules it with authority. Like the animal kingdom, the motorsports world is a large place filled with potential rivals in all shapes and sizes. There are a few beasts who wander these lands that can indeed give her a run for her money.
When confronted by another true Alpha, rest assured, a battle is soon to follow. Without warning, the sound of sensual, mechanical perfection fills the air, and the release of raw power causes the ground to tremble. Onlookers are hypnotized by the sounds and sights.
When majestic machines such as these face off, there isn't much blood lost. More times than not, when the fight is over, they respectfully recognize the power and might of one another and walk away with their honor. Normally, these types of encounters are not about dominance; it's a playful show of power between Kings and Queens of the streets.
Baker and Ashlie are the owners of Bourn Adventure. They enjoy traveling and meeting new people. Each of them has a different and unique background, which helps to shape their articles.