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.
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The world is a large place, and life is short. Together, we can accomplish much more than we ever could alone.
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.