Going on an overland adventure across the United States is easier than most people think. Stock four-wheel-drive vehicles are more capable than ever; GPS tracks and maps are available online; automotive roof tents make the nights more comfortable than ever. It makes it so easy, you might even think about taking your whole family along as you attempt a 3,500-mile trip along the Continental Divide from Mexico to Canada. Which is exactly what photographer Olivier de Vaulx did.
The Milky Way seems so close it’s almost unreal. Even the most advanced computer-generated images couldn’t approach the complexity of the starry night above our heads.
We’re in New Mexico, on the first night of our Continental Divide journey, laying down on the comfortable mattress of our roof tents and enjoying a show that no movie theater will ever be able to provide. It’s only been a few hours since we started at the border between the U.S. and Mexico at the Antelope Wells port of entry, but we already feel thousand of miles away from our real lives.
My two teenagers didn’t get any cell service the whole day and never complained. Instead, they drove our two Ford Ranger FX4 pickup trucks through the red dirt of New Mexico’s backcountry, which is more fun than any video game. As the day ended, the adventure already felt like a success. But there were still 3,500 miles to go.
Warming Up in New Mexico
Kevin Glassett, avid motorcyclist and retired Hewlett-Packard engineer, put together a daily driving route for our GPS, with paved and off-road options displayed in different colors on our Trail Tech Voyager Pro. The little arrow proves hypnotic; with no risk of getting lost, we tend to drive as much as we can. (Furthermore, since the temperature outside is well above 85 degrees, nobody minds seating in an air-conditioned vehicle.)
The EcoBoost engines of the two Rangers are sipping fuel as slowly as old British lords sip their tea, giving us enough range to travel more than 250 miles a day. The power delivered by the turbos and the smooth ride provided by the FX4 heavy-duty suspensions sometimes even pushes us to switch into rally mode, speeding across the red dirt like professional WRC racers. But being here as a family instead of with a bunch of friends reminds you quickly that overlanding is more about the distance traveled than the adrenaline rush, and we quickly fall back to a more reasonable pace. (Even if the truck didn’t mind going fast.)
As the sun sets, it’s time to start what will become our daily routine: Finding a free camping spot for the night on BLM land, setting up our Tepui Explorer Kukenam and Autana roof tents and cooking some easy-but-healthy meals. Using two plastic coolers and a gas stove, we whip up recipes with enough proteins, carbs and veggies to call this trip a gastronomic experience. GSI Outdoors cooking kits help us keep everything organized for dinner and breakfast, transforming what would be a duty in the army into a genuine pleasure. Once the dishes are washed (using melted ice from the cooler instead of wasting drinkable water), it’s time for a card game or some night photography of the Milky Way. Hello, vacation mode.