Like Rain in the Desert: Driving to Palm Desert in the Ford F-150 Raptor
Okay, it was exactly like rain in the desert, because it was raining in the desert.
The sun wasn't even up yet, but I couldn't help peeking through the blinds of my apartment window to see if it was still raining. Yes, it was. In fact, the online forecast indicated there would be heavy rain for the next several days, which meant there wasn't much reason to postpone my drive to Palm Desert for a morning hike. Meanwhile, a Performance Blue Ford F-150 Raptor waited outside in the downpour.
After a light breakfast, I climbed into the Raptor and settled in for a long, wet trip. A more lightly equipped example of Ford's beastliest pickup, this Raptor didn't have pushbutton ignition, so I delighted in turning a key to fire up the engine. That's not to say the truck, which starts at $57,435 in four-door SuperCrew spec, was stripped out. Its $65,510 final sticker included Equipment Group 801A (heated and power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, and a power rear sliding window), as well as a Raptor exterior graphics package, 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, BLIS cross-traffic alert, and LED side-mirror spotlights.
Before getting underway, I engaged Weather mode (one of the six available drive modes), which relaxes throttle response, asks the transmission to shift sooner, puts the all-wheel-drive system in Auto, and puts the traction and stability control on high alert. It was a precaution I was happy to take, but ultimately probably an unnecessary one, as the beefy BF Goodrich A/T tires handled mile after mile of soggy freeway like a boss, with no hint of slip or danger. The Raptor's high seating position not only boosted my ego, it also provided a clear vantage point from which to execute lane changes in the mist being churned up by traffic.
By the time I arrived in Palm Desert, the rain itself was only a light mist. Following my hike on the Randall Henderson Trail, I steered the Raptor toward the scenic overlook at Coachella Valley Vista Point. As the imposing truck gathered speed on the picturesque road of Pines to Palms Highway 74, Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone" played on Spotify. It was the perfect classic-rock accompaniment to such a bad-ass truck, and I cranked it up. Just then—without warning—I ran into a dense wave of fog and heavy rain.
As I slowed and meandered the Raptor through the thick fog, massive raindrops pounded on the windshield and reduced visibility to drive-at-your-own-risk levels. I instinctively moved closer to the steering wheel, as if sitting closer to the windshield would somehow part the fog. Caught in the rainstorm's fury, I pressed on and pointed the massive blue Raptor down a narrow road that pierced the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains.
On the way to Coachella Valley Vista Point, I lost GPS signal on my smartphone (the truck didn't have navigation; for that you need to spend an extra $795 above the $3,105 required for the 801A bundle). I carefully watched out the driver's side window for any sort of signage, eventually stumbling across the scenic overlook. As you might imagine given the weather, I was the only lone visitor at the observation point, but the conditions still made for awe-inspiring views, the blanket of fog creating Claude Monet's version of the desert landscape.
My next stop was a road called Scenic Drive for some off-road action. Once there, I switched into Mud and Sand mode, locking the rear differential, turning off the traction control, and locking the Raptor in 4Hi. I slid and shimmied down the isolated road for a while before noticing the fresh tire tracks that ran with mine; I soon discovered that this neatly maintained dirt road led to some exclusive real estate.
My adventure in Palm Desert at its end, I returned to Los Angeles where sections of some streets were flooded enough to make them impassable for some smaller vehicles. Glad I was in the right rig, I charged through the big pools of water, the rock star of off-road pickups taking to the water like Jimmy Page to the guitar. It really is quite a truck.
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