Toyota Senior Analyst, father to two, fiancé to one, and newbie off-roader, Jason Kazee headed to Ouray, Colorado for the first time ever. In an act of sheer bravery, he took his leased 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium alongside his family to experience the thrill of the trail.
"The FJ Summit was amazing and terrifying all at the same time," said Jason. "We got in on Monday and took in the town, it's wedged among mountain peaks, one road in and one road out. And with the number of people there, you'd expect that there'd be no parking and the restaurants would be jammed, but that wasn't the case—there were never any long lines. During registration process, we had options for the days and we said we wanted to do a trail run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We picked the California Pass because the Poughkeepsie Gulch trail is over boulders and we didn't want to be anywhere near that. Driving these trails really opened our eyes to what the 4Runner can and can't do, and I've never done anything like that before in my life."
"It was a lot of fun. In the morning, you drive to your starting point in town and your trail leader gives you an idea of what you're going to do that day and describes how it's going to be. We made it very clear that, 'We've never done this before… we're in a stock vehicle…' and everyone was so very helpful. On the trail, if you needed help, you just get on the CB and ask for 'sighting'—then they tell you that you need to go to the driver's side… or the passenger's side… or straight ahead… or you need to gun it… or go really slow. It never felt like an inconvenience and there was no embarrassment about admitting to not knowing what the heck we were doing. That made it that much more rewarding and exciting because we were doing things that we would not normally do. In fact, I would say there's no way on Earth I would do that, but Brandi and Gabe would say, 'let's go do that!'"
"We drove our 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium, the only accessories were the TRD Skid Plate and TRD Wheels—it does not have off-road tires. The 4Runner was just brilliant. Before the FJ Summit, I had no desire to ever go off-roading2 in my life; now, we're planning vacations that include trail driving. The most astonishing thing I witnessed was when I was riding with Seth Kovanic, one of the Directors of the FJ Summit, he drives a 2014 4Runner TRD Pro. On the trail, he asked me, 'Does your car have crawl control?' I said, 'Yeah.' We get to this drop—it's a steep descent with big rocks. He goes, 'Okay' and reaches up to the same control panel we have in ours and he turns Crawl Control to high, then basically lets go of the steering wheel, lets go of the gas—no foot on the brake pedal, or on the gas—and the 4Runner just starts to go. You hear lots of clicking and then one tire at a time seems to be releasing and the 4Runner crawls down the rock. This is all the anti-lock braking system taking you down to lower ground. It was amazing!"
Over the years, the FJ Summit directors noticed that more and more women were driving, so two years ago, they added a 2-day Women's Navigation Seminar, organized by Rebelle U and taught by Emily Miller and Toyota race driver, Nicole Pitell-Vaughan. Jason said, "My fiancée, Brandi, was glad that Rebelle U was not full, so she got to hang out with Nicole and nine other women for two days. The first day was real basic—navigating via compass and a map… and on the second day, they took them out and showed them what happens when you do certain things with your car. Brandi got to have Nicole ride with her, and she'd say, 'Go up and do this… and slam on the brakes,' so she really got a better sense of how your car behaves in certain situations. Brandi really appreciated the opportunity to meet more like-minded people and she is anxious for her next off-road adventure."
Jason added, "I have always driven on paved roads… nothing like this. When you feel like you're more vertically inclined, with the hood pitched up because you're crawling over a rock and all you see is sky, then you take everything on faith that nothing in front of you is going to break you, then you come back down from that pitch and it's all good—that's a very interesting feeling… a feeling that we made it! While that was outside of my comfort zone, we definitely want to go back to the FJ Summit next year, and we're looking forward and making plans for additional off roading!" The FJ Summit—it's all about bringing people together to enjoy the drive!
Heading off-road? Your first addition should be a TRD Skid Plate. These skid plates not only look tough, they are tough—they're ¼-in. thick and help protect the underbody from damage that can result from driving over dirt trails and debris thrown up from the road.
Jason said, "We were glad we had the TRD Skid Plate as we came back with a few nicks and dings, but that was it." So, if you're planning on an off-road adventure, add a TRD Skid Plate for added rock protection.
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1. The views and opinions expressed herein by the individuals are their own opinions. This represents an actual Toyota owner's experience and Toyota does not warrant its accuracy. Performance results are unique; similar performance is not guaranteed.
2. The 2018 Toyota 4Runner is designed to meet most off-road driving requirements, but off-roading is inherently dangerous and may result in vehicle damage. Toyota encourages responsible operation to help protect you, your vehicle and the environment. Seatbelts should be worn at all times. Do not allow passengers to ride in cargo area.