Cross-country road trips have a tendency to get monotonous. Freeways, fast food, and hotels make the trip easy on paper, but also predictable. When I was tasked with guiding our Four Seasons 2016 Nissan Maxima SR to our Los Angeles HQ, I did things a little differently. My then-girlfriend (now fiancée) Ellie joined me for the trip and we challenged ourselves to find unique places for us to stay during our westward drive.
We only have a small cooler, but we’re able to plan and pack our own meals for each day of the journey along with basic utensils. Not only is it easy to pile everything into the Maxima’s wide trunk opening, there’s more than enough room for all of our junk in the 14.3-cu-ft cargo space. The storage area is both tall and deep, and there was no need to fold down the rear seats.
The long and straight stretches of freeway on the way out of Illinois offer views of nothing but acres of corn in all directions, causing the mind to wander. This is where the Maxima is at its finest. The little knobs in front of the center console make it easy to switch between heated and cooled seats as conditions dictate, the 11-speaker Bose stereo makes our book-on-tape narrator feel like he’s in the car with us, and the adaptive cruise control system lets us loosen our grip and relax our legs as the big Nissan eats mile after mile.
Ellie uses the nav system to find a cornfield-free place to pull off and make lunch. The screen’s graphics are a little fuzzy and the control dial is slightly clunky to use, but it’s not long before we locate a picnic site at a boat launch alongside the Mississippi River. Definitely beats fluorescent lights and plastic booths at Subway.
Sandwiches consumed, we cross the river and make our way into Nebraska, where the Maxima’s navigation takes us off the interstate and down smaller and smaller roads deep into the country as we head toward tonight’s stop, the Slattery Vintage Estates.
We follow handcrafted wooden signs around the side of a house to check in. Our host, Barbara, welcomes us and introduces us to the other guests before we locate our tent for the evening and settle in with a bucket of beer. The approach of a distant chill and the rumbling of thunder interrupts our second round of brew and board games, causing us to contemplate seeking shelter in the Maxima’s soft leather back seat. Fortunately, come 2:30 in the morning, the storm is no longer directly above us the wind persists, though, and our tent is illuminated by lightning streaking across the sky.
We awake the next morning and trek across the wet grass to retrieve the Maxima and resume our journey. The corn eventually gives way to rolling grassland and by the time we reach Lyons, Colorado, we can start to actually use the Maxima’s fat, flat-bottomed steering wheel in earnest. On the edge of town, we turn off onto a winding dirt road, spotting our own private little treehouse perched atop a small hill.
Our host, Leam, excitedly comes down to greet us. He built this wonderful little house in the tree himself and gives us the brief history behind it while showing off its intricacies. From the outdoor heated shower that also waters the tree house built on to the fold out Murphy bed and lofted reading space, no detail was overlooked. Before settling in for the night, we decide to head back to Oskar Blues Brewery in town to stock up on some beer for the next few evenings. As the sun begins to set, we return to a quiet evening in the tree, the orange light bathing the Maxima’s pearl blue paint in a rich glow.
We awake the following morning well rested and ready for another long day on the road gassing up once more for yet another 400-mile stretch. Being the proud holder of an annual National Park Pass, I make my best effort to put it to use and take a detour to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is just 20 minutes outside Lyons. With its sporty SR-specific suspension and aggressive all-season tires, the Maxima is hunkered down through the road’s flowing bends. We stick to route 34, which winds its way through the park and leaves us in awe as we look out of the broad windshield at gorgeous 12,000-foot peaks.
California is still many hours away, but that’s just enough time for me to reflect back on what’s been a memorable trip. With its brave looks and sporty ambitions Maxima SR isn’t the conventional choice for most, but that seems fitting for how this trip has gone. I’ll take style, fun, and comfort over the straight and narrow any day.
Our 2016 Nissan Maxima SR
|MILES TO DATE||19,349|
|ENGINE||3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/300 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 261 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||22/30 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||192.8 x 73.2 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||135 mph|