Traveling the Trans-America Trail with Jonathan Gallegos

IMG_8246Jonathan Gallegos encompasses a diverse and technical skill set. When not found working as a tax accountant for a “Big Four” firm, he enjoys moonlighting as a writer and photographer for various publications, poring over automotive news, and traveling with his wife. This summer Jonathan was able to hitch a ride with Land Rover along the Trans-American Trail and travel off-road through the heartland of America. For Jonathan, Filson became a trusted travel companion. Be sure to check out his full length story on Gear Patrol.

In 2012, Land Rover hatched the idea to travel across the continental U.S. completely off-road. Several suggestions surfaced on how to do this; some were too risky, others too paved. After late nights and long conversations it was decided that the Trans-America Trail would be the right answer.

This 5,000-mile, cross country motorcycle route was originally scouted by Sam Corerro in 1999. Since we were traveling on four wheels (instead of two), we had to reroute some of the portions of the trip, but overall the route remained unchanged. So, like pioneers, we headed west. The month-long trip started at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and continued through the muggy South, across the short-grass plains, over the snow-capped Rockies, along the salt flats of Utah and finally ending up on the golden coast.IMG_7714This expedition was divided into multiple sections, allowing various media and thrill seeking journalists to tag along. My particular leg of the trip was through the heartland – Bartlesville, Oklahoma to Salida, Colorado. We drove Land Rover LR4s because of their storage capability, ground clearance and legendary ruggedness.

A man sees many things when traveling off the interstate. It’s good for him. I remember forging flooded creeks in Kansas, whistling to Willie’s Roadhouse through Oklahoma, inching our way down the canyons in New Mexico and winding through the Aspen-lined forests of Colorado.

IMG_7754The most memorable part of the trip was going through a particularly rural section of Kansas. It was kind of a blur, really. We made good time there because of the pancake-flat terrain; it’s amazing how few barriers stand in the way of industrial progress. At any rate, we found ourselves driving down an unpaved county road. Fields to the left, fields to the right. I remember seeing a house appear in the distance, almost like a mirage. As we approached the house, I imagined someone watching the dust cloud billowing behind us, growing rapidly in volume before slowly settling back down to the ground. Not unlike a bed sheet floating down to a mattress after being tossed towards the ceiling. In front of the house appeared a young boy, he couldn’t have been older than six or seven. He sat atop a riding lawn mower and stared, transfixed by the four, fully loaded, European SUVs passing right before him. He didn’t move a muscle, save for his neck which slowly swiveled with a mechanical poise.

IMG_7786I’m not sure why, but when I think about this trip, I think about that young boy’s face. I’ll never know him, we’ll never meet, but in that moment, it’s my hope that he was inspired. Living miles from civilization, he’d probably never seen anything like that. Hell, most people haven’t. And yet, he watched.

I think that moment poetically captured what this expedition was all about. With childlike wonder, we, too, watched. We, too, were inspired. Not only by that young boy, but by America the beautiful. At all she had to offer. Across the fruited plain. From sea to shining sea.