Thorsten and I decided to take a long road trip from Joburg to the Eastern Cape, down through the Free State to the Sunshine Coast and back. We were super excited and had everything planned. But we had a vehicle problem. Our driving options were: 1) My beloved but tiny hatchback with bagel-sized wheels; or 2) Thorsten’s single-cab bakkie (bakkie is South African for pickup) without a radio or air conditioning.

We could have made it work with one of those vehicles. But luckily we didn’t have to. A blogging miracle occurred and we received a brand-new Ford Ranger FX4 pickup, which was literally just released in South Africa, to test-drive during the trip.

The FX4 came equipped with FordPass, a high-tech connectivity system that allowed us to manage many aspects of driving the car through an app on my phone. (I could start the car, even when I wasn’t inside, by pressing a button on my iPhone screen.) When I connected to the app using a QR code on the windshield, my phone asked me to provide a “nickname” for the FX4.

“What should we call it?” I asked Thorsten.

“Phyllis,” Thorsten said, without hesitation.

FX4 in Bathurst
Phyllis on top of a hill near Bathurst, Eastern Cape.

We needed our own nickname, too. So we decided to call ourselves the Blogitects since our traveling duo is half blogger, half architect.

The Blogitects
The Blogitects. See that smile on Thorsten’s face? That’s how he looked whenever he drove Phyllis, which was most of the time because he requested to drive for more or less the entire trip. I loved driving Phyllis but also enjoyed being a passenger and managing our music/podcast playlist, which sounded great on Phyllis’ stereo system.

Thus, the Blogitects and Phyllis embarked on a nine-day adventure across South Africa.

Map of our route.

Our road trip was exciting and wonderful for many reasons, which I will elaborate upon in future posts. But this post is dedicated to Phyllis and the joy she brought us during every kilometer of our journey.

Phyllis in front of a roadhouse we discovered in Vanderbiljpark, just south of Joburg, when we had to take an unexpected detour to replace a punctured tire. (The puncture was not Phyllis’ fault — she was forced to drive over a bunch of jagged broken tiles that had spilled across the highway.)
Phyllis the Ford Ranger FX4 on a bridge over the Orange River
Phyllis on the D.H. Steyn Bridge, which crosses the Orange River and separates the Free State from the Eastern Cape.
FX4 in front of the Big Pineapple
Phyllis in front of the Big Pineapple. I don’t want to say too much about the Big Pineapple yet — visiting it was actually our main motivation for taking this trip and I’m so happy we got to do it with Phyllis.

I don’t really “speak car” (thanks to my journalist friend Carla for introducing me to that phrase), but I can tell you this: Phyllis practically drove herself. She navigated dirt roads, gravel roads, potholed roads, and off-roads with ease, and we barely felt it. Phyllis drove us to many places we never could have driven without her, and looked damn good doing it.

Thorsten and FX4 at Water's Meeting, Eastern Cape
Thorsten and Phyllis at the bottom of a rough dirt road in the Waters Meeting Nature Reserve.
Phyllis the FX4 is Kasouga, Eastern Cape
Phyllis at Oribi Haven in Kasouga, Eastern Cape. We took a beautiful drive around this farm that wouldn’t have been possible in a “normal” car.
Phyllis in the Free State
Phyllis on a lonely road in the eastern Free State, near the Lesotho border.
Heather and Phyllis in the cosmos
Phyllis drove us through some amazing cosmos fields. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

Suffice it to say, Thorsten and I were very sad to say goodbye to Phyllis yesterday. I hope her next drivers appreciate her as much as the Blogitects did.

Phyllis at the petrol station
We miss you, Phyllis.

Expect several more Blogitect Road Trip posts in the near future.

My Ford Ranger FX4 test drive was courtesy of Ford South Africa. Opinions expressed are mine.

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