By on August 13, 2013


This is part 2, for the part 1 go here

After wading into the Dead Sea, I proceeded south on Jor 65 along the Jordanian side of the water. A few miles past the resort area the road returns to 2 lanes and lazily mirrors the shoreline. It’s a striking drive and the views are worth it.

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10 minutes later is a turnoff for Mt Nebo, the burial site of Moses. From the top of Mt Nebo you can see Jerusalem, the Baptism Site and the Dead Sea.


The long way...

The long way…


Had I done a better job of planning, I would have visited Mt Nebo first, because it required an hour’s worth of backtracking. But the initial climb was freshly paved switchbacks and breathtaking views. By now it was 91 degrees. I was working the Explorer hard, using the auto shifter to hold gears with the AC set on max. The engine temp needle never moved from its midpoint. The all-seasons were clearly not up to the task, but the Explorer held neutral until the limit, then gently under steered. A slight lift of the throttle would rotate the rear a tad and put it back on the line. The size was apparent, especially in some of the villages, but never an issue.




Returning along the same route, I discovered the Fortress of Mukawer, also known as Machaerus. The hike from the parking lot to the fort was gravel and a bit loose, so I elected to walk mostly atop the wall bordering the path.  On my return, I saw the tail of a medium sized snake slithering between the stones. While I managed not to emit my normal squeal, I decided to walk the rest of the way on the path. I was solo and no one could talk me away from my thoughts of spitting cobras. (I have since affirmed spitting cobras do not live in this region, but you can’t be too safe.)


AHHH!! Cobras!

AHHH!! Cobras!

I returned to 65 and kept following the Dead Sea. Away from populated areas, traffic is sparse. There are several passing breaks to keep things flowing, but like most of this region, people drive where they want. I am overtaken on a blind turn by a new Land Cruiser. I keep the metric speedo around 120 KPH without taxing the truck, or spoiling my drive. It’s decent pavement, and the Explorer does a great job of soaking up the thumps and irregularities.

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More sites along the road include the Wadi Mujib Biosphere. 1,350 feet below sea level, this gorge empties into the Dead Sea. According to the literature, the Wadi Mujib is the world’s lowest nature reserve; home to over 300 plant species, 10 species of carnivores as well as unique species of permanent and migratory birds. I took their word for it; it is over 85 square miles, you are only allowed in on foot and I just didn’t have that kind of time.

Also is the Prophets Lut’s cave. He is recognized as a prophet in Islam as well as Lot in Christianity. This cave was his refuge for him and his two daughters after the destruction of Sodom. Wishing to stay out of a religious argument, I’ll let you research and decide what may or may not have happened among the three.


The fertile farmland just at the end of the Red Sea

The fertile farmland at the end of the Dead Sea

By the time I reached Al Mazraa at the end of the Dead Sea, it was late afternoon. The sun was casting long, warm shadows across the landscape. It had been a good day; some of the roads were good enough to have me longing for my Suzuki GSX-R. The traffic was light enough I would have felt safe enough to ride it. The views are truly unique to this part of the world. I had checked several items off my bucket list and even penciled in some new ones.


When you read about explorers, the story that you rarely get is the trip home, probably because they have already told you what happened. My drive home was uneventful and allowed me to take full inventory of the Explorer. Edmunds tells me true market value starts at 7 grand for 2006. Carmax has over 100 in their national inventory at the moment of writing. They start at $11,998 for an XLT with over 100K up to over $20 thousand for low mileage examples. The Explorer’s sheer production numbers ensure that if you wanted one, it could be had in almost any condition from Craigslist. Carmax also offers comparable 4Runners starting at $13,998. Having driven several examples of both, it really comes down to taste.

After a week in traffic and a day exploring, I can’t say I love the Explorer. I will happily say it was a very good companion, capable in every way that matters. Either ignorance or confidence kept me from worrying about any major issues and the Ford never missed a step. When the sun set across the valley I began the climb up the mountains back to Amman. As the temperature cooled, I turned off the AC and dropped the windows. The Black Keys popped up on my iPhone; and I had a moment of connection with the Explorer. However brief, I can honestly say I have never felt that with a Toyota.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and a gift for making Derek and Jack wonder if English is actually his first language.

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15 Comments on “Holy Explorer Part II – a 2006 Ford Explorer Capsule review...”

  • avatar

    THANK YOU ! .

    Interesting travelog , good historical commentary and terrific photos , a nice article all ’round .

    Was it 91* F ? that’s not overly hot .


  • avatar

    I bought one of these brand new in 2004 for $25k (I know, I know… I know). Mine was 4×4 but otherwise bare bones. I kept it three years and put 50k miles on it, replacing only brake pads (terrible on brake pads). It did go back to the dealer for warranty work such as transmission solenoids, broken lock actuator, battery, etc. You are right about it being bad on gas! It was also not good at all in 4×4, easily got stuck (4runner pulled me out one time; might have been better with a limited slip rear end but I doubt it). When I traded it in I got $14k for it, so it had depreciated 44% in three years. It was replaced by another brand new car (Honda Accord), everything since has been used. So yes, I did learn something.

  • avatar

    I’d like someone to compare the ride quality and NVH in a comparably equipped 4Runner and Explorer of this generation. Let’s assume Eddie Bauer/Limited vs. Limited.

    I rode in an 01 4R Limited, and found it very bouncy on in-town roads.

  • avatar

    back in 2005 I really thought an Explorer was myticket. Test drove a few – just couldn’t get the deal needed. I then test drove a 2005 4Runner and knew within 15 seconds that I was buying one. 170,000 miles later I haven’t looked back.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    This was a great story. BTW, there are those of us who keep our cars for ever until the wheels fall off or they’re retired to lighter duty. My last 3 cars have been retired at 263k, 210k and 223k respectively.

    So I don’t mind buying new since I’ll keep it 12-13 years on average.

  • avatar

    “I’d like someone to compare the ride quality and NVH in a comparably equipped 4Runner and Explorer of this generation. Let’s assume Eddie Bauer/Limited vs. Limited.”

    Car and Driver did a comparison of 2005 models including the Explorer and 4Runner. They were all well equipped, so I’d bet it was the Eddie Bauer/Limited matchup you’re looking for. The Explorer finished dead last out of eight, if I recall correctly and the Jeep Grand Cherokee won. That wasn’t the sole reason I bought one, but it didn’t hurt.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe I’ll try and find that. No offense, but considering that gen GC’s interior quality I’d find it hard to believe it won. Unless you were referring to ride quality only.

      • 0 avatar

        Here you go:

        The Jeep GC does win. Largely because the HEMI just annihilated everything else.
        Later on there was a test between the Commander and the Explorer with the uprated V8. The Jeep won that too:×4-vs-jeep-commander-limited-4×4-comparison-tests

        • 0 avatar

          That first one is a very odd comparison.

          The descriptions and the rankings don’t seem to jibe. Just from reading it, you would think the VW would have won; it sounds like it had the best interior, an absurdly well composed ride, even over rough terrain, and an air suspension system that gave it the best clearance of the bunch. Instead, it came in after the Montero, about which they had hardly anything positive to say (indeed, they said it did the worst job keeping all of its wheels on the ground, which seems awfully relevant for the narrow problem domain they were ostensibly testing). The 4Runner was also reportedly very composed over the trail, yet it came in almost DFL. The Explorer, they said, was easy to control on rough terrain and had good visibility (and they said it had the best seats); its faults were a lack of skid plates and a lack of “lust” (does that keep you from getting stuck on a rough trail?).

          The whole conceit of the article is that they’re testing the off-road ability of each grocery-getter, but the Grand Cherokee wins because…it has the best 0-60 time? Despite having the worst ground clearance? It may well be the most capable off-roader of the six, but they certainly didn’t prove it in that comparison. I guess I’m wondering, why even take these vehicles down that particular trail if you’re going to ignore whatever you learn from it? They could’ve done that comparison at the mall parking lot. I guess this is why I don’t read Car and Driver.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Thanks Christian for your wonderful travelogue… Visiting Israel/Palestine is definitively on my bucket list. Your vivid descriptions only enhanced my appetite.

    Since this is an auto blog, I feel there is one bit of info missing: how much gas did you use roundtrip? Did you have to refill anywhere else?
    Those lonely road stretches would appear to have gas stations far between.

    • 0 avatar

      I ended up using around 3/4 of a tank. I did a lot of back tracking trying to find Nebo. Which is the same I put in at the beginning of the trip, so I used 17 gallons or so. The total trip was about 275 miles and was a mix of the level road along the shore (Jordan 65) and climbing up to 15% grades. These are very rough numbers, I should have kept better notes, but that ball parks it in the 16 MPG range overall.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been twice. The roads in the North of Israel are incredible. The West bank is something else.

  • avatar

    I was thinking, if you are going to do some capsule reviews while you are in that area, maybe you could find a Chevy Caprice (either Holden or B-body) or Ford Crown Victoria?

    I hear they are a little different from their US and Australian counterparts.

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