Monday, June 23, 2008

"White Thang" Was One Bitchin' Auto

When Elsevier bought out LLH back in 2001, I-----like many other entrepreneurs who get lucky-----immediately ran out and bought a new car. But my dream car was not a Porsche or BMW. Instead, it was a car that could take me places where other vehicles feared to go. I wound up buying a fully tricked-out Toyota 4Runner that I christened "White Thang."

White Thang was not a SUV used for driving to the office or the golf course. Instead, I used it for its original purpose, namely to travel on roads that would spell doom for any normal 2WD passenger car. Yes, it had 4WD. And a special off-road suspension. And skid plates. And a locking differential. And a heavy duty alternator. And an oil cooler. And. . . . . . you get the picture; it was a tank with four tires instead of two treads. It was roomy. I could fold down the rear seats and had plenty of room for my sleeping bag and foam pad. Yeah, it really drank the gas, but I didn't care. I had places to go and things to see.

Here's a photo of Wild Thang in its natural habitat. It's in Death Valley National Park, at the start of the road to "The Racetrack," and as you can see the warning sign said only 4WD vehicles with high clearance should proceed. White Thang didn't blink for the next 20 miles, and The Racetrack was easily reached:

White Thang was made for Death Valley. Here's a photo of it in Titus Canyon, at the site of the ghost town of Leadfield, California:

Death Valley is surrounded by mountains with much cooler high altitude campgrounds. I often enjoyed camping in such places, and White Thang got me to them. Mahogany Flat was the start of the summit trail to Telescope Peak, the tallest mountain in Death Valley National Park, and White Thang is parked under the sign indicating the elevation. If you're trying to figure out my license plate, "AK6C" was my ham radio call sign when I lived in California; my call sign in Texas is now W5HLH:

Here's one of my "camp sites," namely White Thang parked in isolated open country. This is near the Eureka Sand Dunes in the Saline Valley section of Death Valley National Park, and it can't be reached in your Honda Accord or Toyota Corolla. In places like this, I was dozens of miles from the nearest power line or electric light. It's hard to believe how dark the night sky is from a place like this, and I'll never forget the 2001 Leonids meteor shower from a similar location in Death Valley!

White Thang was also a great vehicle for exploring the mountains. Below is one of my favorite mountain camping places, a location known as "Badger Flat" in the Inyo Mountains along the California/Nevada state line. In the background is the Sierra Nevada range. Sunrises were spectacular here, with the first rays of the sun hitting the peaks of the Sierras while the sky was still dark; the tops of the Sierras would have a ghosty glow against the dark sky, and then the illumination would work its way down the mountains. And, thanks to White Thang's ability to get me to such isolated areas, I would usually have such places and views all to myself. The quiet, peace, and beauty were awe-inspiring, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to enjoy them:

When we bought the Bar Nothing Ranch in 2005, White Thang was traded in on a Toyota Tundra pickup truck------hey, we needed it to haul hay, horse feed, the horse trailer, etc. While White Thang is gone, it will always live on in my memory. I suppose many people only saw a gas-guzzling SUV when they saw it, but to me White Thang was a ticket to places and experiences I otherwise would have missed out on. I really miss that car!