My Race Against COVID-19 to Get Home
It became a race against the clock to get home from Texas to Massachusetts when the COVID-19 picked up its pace and became widespread and dangerous. I certainly didn’t expect to drive 1,750 miles from Texas to Massachusetts with hotels, motels, and restaurants closed. But I did. And I did it in the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek edition.
I test drive cars for a living and participate in long-distance drives in the U.S. — and sometimes around the world. I am also an off-road racer and am good at long days, with little sleep. And I was thrilled to get this seven-seat SUV for a week-long loan while I was working in Texas in mid-March.
Prior to the pandemic closures, my work started with evaluating the updated Nissan 2020 Titan trucks in Texas at TexPlex Motorsports Park in Midlothian. I then traveled north to Vernon, where I participated in automotive flight training. The three-hour drive gave me time to appreciate the smart-looking and rugged-themed interior trim, as well as some of the technology features of this special-edition model; I made a plan to take it off-road for an adventuresome backcountry foray, when time allowed while in the Lone Star State.
I had flown from my New England home to Texas on commercial flights and planned to fly home, as soon as my training was completed. However, my a different type of adventure unfolded, and my life changed with the news from friends that the novel-coronavirus was spreading quickly and that hotels, restaurants, and businesses were closing and east coast states were beginning to impose curfews and quarantines. So rather than to travel on the airlines, I made the decision to drive home in this large Pathfinder that Nissan calls a “base camp.”
I knew it wouldn’t be easy to motor 30 hours alone, but felt fortunate to have a vehicle that I could use to stow my luggage in the back, plus have the bonus of a second-row seat to stretch out across, and also have plenty of elbow room for me along with food, water, and supplies in the front seat. This would allow me to stay almost entirely self-contained and to take short breaks at truck stops.
I was familiar with the stalwart Pathfinder that was first made in 1986 and was a formidable off-road vehicle that achieved some notable rally wins in its early years. Now in its fourth-generation, the crossover has a fan-following, but has lagged a bit behind in the “family-friendly” category that is brimming with new and updated entries.
With the popularity of the special-edition crossover market in mind, Nissan brought its Rock Creek version to market last year and updated the model with front- and second-row USB-C ports and advanced driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is available in four trims — S, SV, SL, and Platinum — with upscale features that include first- and second-row heated leather seats, leather door trim, a heated steering wheel, and heated side mirrors.
Powered by a V-6 engine that gets 284 horsepower, it has a robust towing capacity of 6,000 pounds and gets 20 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. Standard on every Rock Creek model is a trailer hitch and harness, unique 18-inch all-season tires, and splash guards. Pricing for the base S starts at $31,680.
Outside, the Rock Creek package utilizes tidy black trim across the mirrors, badging, roof-rails, door handles, and accents in the front and rear fascia. Stretching from tip to tail are splash guards and overfenders that enunciate the more outdoorsy look. The tasteful application of the exterior themes continues inside, with finishes of premium metallic and high-contrast stitching and two-tone trim colors throughout the cabin. Available on SV and SL models, in either 2WD or 4WD, the package starts at $995.
The Rock Creek Technical package adds another $990 and brings navigation, SiriusXM, and Nissan Connect services as well as a heated steering wheel, front seats, and mirrors. A Rock Creek Premium Package ($2,110) adds to the Technology Package a 13-speaker Bose audio system and the power panoramic roof.
Many buyers will use the Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition for family trips and vacations to locations with skiing, boating, and camping; others will enjoy more adventure-oriented forays into the wilderness, as well as its good solid driving manners, stowage, and amenities for daily life. What mattered to me on my long-distance drive? Safety, security, ample power, good ingress and egress, and the roominess that allowed me to use the third-row seating folded and tucked away for a large, flat load floor to stow my suitcases and gear; the second-row seat that served as a bed; and the well-equipped first-row as a comfortable cockpit during my long journey home in an unexpected adventure in the time of coronavirus.