We recently caught up with Tara Sweeney to hear about her family’s life on the trail after picking up their new EXP Dual Cab they’ve named Artemis in March 2023.
Hi Tara! Tell us a little about your lovely family.
We’re a little family of 3 – two engineers (Tom and Tara) and an awesome 3-year-old (Valkyrie). Well, I guess we’re a family of 4 now if you count our EXP (Artemis). We’ve been living in San Diego for nearly 15 years and we both grew up spending a ton of time outside, so we love the year-round pleasant weather in southern California and the proximity to desert, mountains, and water it provides.
What was your path to an expedition vehicle?
Before Valkryie, Tom and I spent most of our weekends outside climbing, canyoning, diving, packrafting, etc. Many of these activities were best accessible via 4WD and having the time or space to pitch a tent wasn’t always likely. We tried numerous things – sleeping in the back of my CX5, traveling around New Zealand in a van, and renting a Winnebago Solis for a week. Each was an upgrade over the previous, but we quickly got a list of things we really needed/wanted in our ideal vehicle – serious 4WD capability, the ability to take a hot shower inside, and “real” backseats for safely taking small people with us (since by the time we were really looking at options, I was pregnant) were the main ones that seriously narrowed the field of options (though indoor toilet, indoor kitchen, permanent sleeping area, and designated eating area were also on the list).
How did you find out about EarthCruiser?
This is a little bit sad, but I was grasping around with google searches looking for opinions on adventure vehicles and I came across a reddit thread that was talking about the merits of something or other, and one guy started with “Obviously if I had the money I’d buy an EarthCruiser.” And I was like “I gotta see this.” And I fell in love. But it was 2019 and there was no dual cab. After seeing it, nothing else ever compared though and I couldn’t get it out of my head. And then, like EC knew I was out there waiting for it, the dual cab was announced a few months after Valkyrie was born. We finally committed to at least visiting Bend to look at the build process and see one in person in the fall of 2021, and we signed our build contract two weeks later.
What are some of your favorite features?
Being able to shower (with hot water!) is such a game changer for being comfortable, and we love the water spigot in the storage locker for easy fill-ups of water in our backpacks. The size of the storage lockers has also been fabulous – we keep our gear (backpacks, hiking shoes, etc.) in the storage lockers all the time; and we always leave dry goods and extra toiletries in the truck, so all we need to do for a weekend trip is toss some clothes in a bag and grab any refrigerated items we might want. Having Artemis has decreased the effort required to get out in the backcountry for a weekend by probably 90%.
Where have you gone since picking it up?
We took delivery in May and drove her from Bend to San Diego making stop along the way (which was extra exciting with all the snow melt flooding going on in the Eastern Sierras as we were driving through), we’ve taken her short trips within 2 or 3 hours of home most weekends, did a 10-day trip in the North Cascades, and just returned from a week in the Eastern Sierras where we spent a couple of days doing day hikes and then used Artemis as a base for some backpacking trips. Having a comfortable night’s sleep and a hot shower after three days of neither was pretty amazing.
What’s it like to set up camp?
I should time it. It probably takes 5 minutes, if we’re actually going to make dinner and aren’t just stopping to sleep. Stopping to sleep consists of stopping somewhere, crawling through the pass through, popping the top, brushing our teeth, and then collapsing in bed. “Setting up camp” is usually Tom gets Valkyrie out of the back seat and gets her construction trucks out of the storage locker and while she moves 40 pounds of sand (or gravel) with an excavator and dump truck, I pop the top, put the dining table on the stand, refluff our 500 throw pillows (okay there are only 8), pull the stuff out of the sink that we’ve stowed there for traveling, and start making dinner. There’s not much else to do, really. It’s wonderful.
What would you tell someone who’s thinking about living an expedition vehicle lifestyle?
I don’t think it’s for everyone, but if you love being outside and you’re looking for a way to extend the time you spend adventuring (either the length of trips or the frequency) and you’ve been willing to sleep in your car or in tents to make it happen before, getting an expedition vehicle will feel like the ultimate combination of freedom and luxury.
What advice do you have for someone evaluating EarthCruiser?
We looked for a long time and it was really the only option for us. If you want the ideal combination of off-road and on-road travel capability, with everything you really need to be comfortable, this is it. Other options can give you more stuff, or fancier stuff, but at the cost of more weight and more size – which compromises your ability to park, navigate city streets, get through tricky off-road spots, or even find a flat-ish spot to park for the night. If you’re really about adventuring, this is the tool/home you need.
What are your future adventure plans?
At the moment just lots of weekend trips! We’ll probably go out in search of fall colours a couple of times next months, but then winter is the perfect time for getting out in the desert, so we’ll probably squeeze in trips to Joshua Tree and Death Valley over the next couple of months. Also need to get a pair of giant reindeer ears for Artemis so she doesn’t feel left out of the holiday festivities in December.
Any parting words?
If you have a young family and you’re thinking maybe you should wait until your kids are older, don’t feel like you need to! Valkyrie loves taking trips in Artemis and there’s plenty of room for all of us.
We can’t wait to see where Tara, Tom, and Valkyrie take Artemis next. If you’d like to learn more about joining the community of EarthCruiser owners, give us a call at 541-706-9101 or send us an email at [email protected].