In case you're the lazy sort who often gives up halfway through a story, I’ll give you what the kids call the "TL;DR" right now: It’s pretty stupid to go camping in a Lamborghini Huracan Performante.
But it also turns out to be pretty damn awesome.
See, car camping out of any supercar, as anyone with two brain cells to scrape together could sort out, is a pretty foolish endeavor. Nebulous as the definition of a supercar may be, most people can agree on a few traits: they’re fast, they have two doors, and they’re anything but utilitarian. As such, none of the one-percenters who actually have own these sorts of cars are likely to try it; if you’ve got the guap to park a supercar in your garage, you probably also own at least one or two other vehicles that would be better suited to such an expedition by virtue of being anything but a supercar.
Which is where your humble author comes in. One of the job requirements of being a journalist is, to put it simply, to do things most people wouldn't dare. For the braver ones, that means embedding with the Hell's Angels or following soldiers into combat; for the more noble ones, it means spending months in refugee camps or prisons to report on the horrors found there. And for automotive journalists, it means doing things like cramming a 631-horsepower Lamborghini with a $275,000 base price that lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife in six minutes and 52 seconds full of outdoor gear and setting off on a camping trip through some of America's most picturesque national parks.
Like the bird on The Flintstones used to say—hey, it's a living.
Day 1: Meet the Green Meanie
Climbing off the plane at LAX leaves me feeling a bit like John McLane in the first few minutes of Die Hard: A calloused New Yorker shell-shocked by his sudden arrival in a land where nuance is a dirty word. As if a celebrity sighting weren't enough—not only was John Lithgow sitting three rows ahead of me on my flight, there was a driver holding his name up on a sign at arrivals to drive the point home—I find myself literally in the midst of a movie shoot as I wait at the curb for The Drive's West Coast editor Kyle Cheromcha to pick me up, with two actors, a cameraman, and a director circling me. Because foreshadowing is best delivered by the ton, they're filming a scene where the actors climb into, of all the cars out there, a Lamborghini Huracan.
Kyle arrives in his Carbon 65 Edition Corvette Grand Sport to give me a lift the Lamborghini Beverly Hills service center where I'm picking up my Performante. (Anticipating one of my concern, he gleefully points out how the 'Vette has room for all three of my bags and his corpse-sized satchel of laundry before we've even left the airport.) It turns out, I'm informed as I arrive at the pickup point, that there's been a slight change of plans: While I was originally scheduled for a white Huracan Performante, track-day battle damage has taken it out of commission; I'll be driving a green one instead. I don't usually name cars, but this one seems deserving. Henceforth, it shall be known as: The Green Meanie.
The shock of the sight of the Kermit-colored Lamborghini waiting patiently for me quickly fades as I start playing mental Tetris with the interior and my bags. The frunk barely holds my orange Victorinox backpack crammed with six days of clothes, and the passenger’s footwell is barely big enough for my messenger bag; I’m forced to plop my giant plump duffel across the entire passenger’s seat. It’s loaded up to the gunwales, and I haven’t even bought food yet. Nevertheless, feeling a bit like a pimento, I squeeze into the green machine and push off into Los Angeles traffic.
Mastering the Huracan’s eccentricities from a cold open is a bit...awkward. It takes six blocks to realize that the front-axle lifter is on, leaving the prow aloft; that's easily solved with the flip of a dashboard toggle. Less obvious are the blinkers, controlled by what amounts to a sideways-mounted light switch near the left-thumb's spot on the steering wheel. But unlike a light switch, there’s no apparent way to manually turn them off at first blush; pushing them in the opposite direction just turns on the blinker on the other side. I spend several miles of the 405 with the left blinker clicking away, as though the car were prodding me to move into non-existent, ever-faster-moving lanes. (The solution, as it turns out: Push the switch in.)
Still, following Kyle's Corvette onto the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica en route to Malibu's canyons, the Performante prove itself a willing (if high-strung) cruiser. That parenthetical manifests itself most prominently not in the steering ratio or the suspension, but in the short gears; 75 miles per hour sees the engine turning 3,000 rpm in seventh. It makes for one hell of a responsive drive—that naturally-aspirated V-10 makes all its power up high—but it leaves the driver wishing for a gentler overdrive on the open road.
Then Kyle signals a turn onto one of his favorite Malibu roads...and the chase is on.
And it ends about one minute later, when he pulls over and waves me past. From there, it’s not even a competition; the Lambo tears away from the Vette, opening the gap until I slow down for sanity’s sake for the next of a thousand blind curves. This car is…unreal. Saying it handles Malibu’s canyons with ease is like saying Superman doesn’t have trouble opening a jar of pickles. The grip is out of this world; the power builds fast in each gear, escalating smoothly all the way up towards the 8,500-rpm redline. I don’t dare look down to see how fast I’m going—the turns are coming too quickly, they need every ounce of attention I can muster—but I know it’s fast enough to make the Pirelli PZero Corsas squeal. One hour in this car, and it's already clear how special it is, even by supercar standards.
We do another quick lap of Kyle’s favorite canyon loop, then part ways. Now comes the shitty part, the karmic comeuppance for that backroad fun: Google Maps says it’s two hours and 20 minutes to my hotel, most of it slogging through rush-hour traffic. And it’s started to rain—never a good sign for speedy progress in California.
Which is how I discover the Performante is, astoundingly, a pretty good commuter car. The 10-speaker, 390-watt Sensonum audio system plays satellite radio and Spotify alike crisply and clearly, the racetrack-tuned suspension is shockingly smooth, and the dual-clutch gearbox slips from cog to cog without fuss in automatic mode. Hell, it even has Apple CarPlay. My biggest complaint stems from the car’s lack of room for my giant legs, especially with my feet clad in hiking boots. I’m left splaying my legs out at such an angle that the bolsters of the lower seat cushion dig into my quadriceps with a growing numbness that leaves me hypochondriacally thinking of deep-vein thrombosis.
The roads and skies alike clear up going into the valley outside of Palmdale. I booked my hotel months ago, somewhere between that town and nearby Edwards Air Force Base, in ambitious hopes of an easy midnight run outside to catch a glimpse of some secret aircraft taking off. But my reach clearly exceeded my grasp on that one; after an early reveille, a transcontinental flight, the adrenaline spike from canyon carving, and the two-plus hour commute, all I want is a beer, a bite, and a bed for eight or nine hours. My heart soars as I see the signs for Palmdale…then sinks, as Google tells me I still have 15 miles to go. On the map, the two areas looked like adjacent neighborhoods; the scale of real life proves something else entirely.
By the time I pull off at my exit and spot my hotel—sandwiched between the off-ramp and a gas station—my heart’s gone past my stomach and dragged it down to keep my liver company. While it seemed fine on Priceline, in person, it’s the sort of run-down place where you probably would be fine for the night if you kept to yourself and didn’t give any indication you had something worth stealing…or, in other words, if you were doing the exact opposite of parking a bright-green Lamborghini with a giant spoiler outside your room. I whip a U-turn and blast south with the fading sun dipping over the mountains on my right; by the time it’s set, there’s a room at the Residence Inn in Palmdale with my name on it.
Day 2: "Google Maps doesn't work well here"
Repacking the car come morning—after an expeditionary voyage to Target and Trader Joe's for some final provisions—takes several minutes of rummaging around in the hotel parking lot, but by the time I'm done, everything seems locked in tight. My Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad—thick with memory foam, which should be great for sleeping but makes packing a pain—is wedged on the shelf behind the seats, pinned down by the back of the passenger’s side bucket; the loose space in the cargo compartment and the cabin alike is now filled with foodstuffs, tools, and other assorted goodies needed for several days of camping. And hey, there’s still enough room left for...a small dog.
Heading northbound on the highway towards Mojave, I watch giant jets make lazy circles in the sky. An American Airlines 767 makes what could well be its last flight before being put to rest in the boneyard there; it’s low enough that I can make out the pinpricks of windows along the fuselage. I wonder if anyone on board spots the fluorescent Lambo below.
Once through the town, though, there’s…zilch. Just wide open desert and straight, flat, roads. Keeping the Lambo at—okay, near—the speed limit feels torturous, so I set the cruise control—while simultaneously shaking my head that a car that can lap the 'Ring in less than seven minutes has cruise control—and settle into an 80-mph lope.
After an interminable 40 minutes—broken up only by the regular KLUNK of my radar detector falling after separating from the magnetic backing plate for the aftermarket windshield mount I bought after forgetting the original one at home—my turnoff comes: Highway 178, a road chosen this morning after noticing its serpentine shape on the map. If the way before seemed like a chore, this stretch is the reward; mile after mile of turns rising up into the mountains abutting the southern edge of Sequoia National Forest. I crack past one family car after another—at first, only where the dashed center lines mark official passing zones, but soon enough anywhere the coast is clear. It’s too easy, too much fun; click down two or three gears with the left-hand paddle, squeeze on the throttle, and let the engine sing as I blast past one overloaded Subaru after another.
But the fucking radar detector—which is now falling off every 17 seconds or so—gets to be too much. I stop at an eccentric general store in the tiny town of Onyx, where the middle-aged proprietor making sandwiches for a woman and her young son is happy to point me in the direction of some glue. Two dollars, a dollop of superglue, and five minutes of pressure later, the Passport’s grip on its magnetic plate is unbreakable, and it's back on the road. The mountains open up, revealing tiny farm towns nestled between their peaks, then parting farther to reveal the cool blue expanse of Isabella Lake. The fast route to Sequoia National Park leads straight, but the roads around here are too good; I’m not ready to come down from this high. I divert to another route, pushing deeper into the mountains. The Green Meanie and I cruise through a small town, bang a left, and then…
...we're in heaven.
A boundless buffet of sweeping curves, decreasing-radius turns, on- and off-camber twists leading into the national forest—and best of all, it's completely barren of traffic on this Wednesday afternoon. The Huracan screams with glee, exhaust note bouncing off the mountainsides as it pounds the road into submission. Some supercars are cold, clinical things designed for speed above sensation, while others are hot, visceral monsters designed more for showing off than lapping tracks. The Performante, though, is the Goldilocks median. Winding up and down the conifer-lined slopes, it carves through turns with a prefect blend of liveliness and velocity—fast as a Lamborghini should be, but also every bit as nimble and accessible as a Miata. It feels like the ultimate Porsche Cayman, somehow channeling that telepathic connection, those instant reactions, that perfect balance. Maybe it’s the Nurburgring connection; Porsche’s been using that track as its development playground for decades, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this Lambo feels so similar.
But all good roads must come to an end, and so does this one, in a town called Glenville. Google Maps directs me straight past the one-horse town’s high school, where a baseball game comes to an involuntary time-out as the Huracan cruises by; I pop it in neutral and rev the engine to redline a couple times before speeding off, smiling like a moron. The road out of town proves nearly as exciting as the forest, in its own way; it carves a fast, winding course through some of the most gorgeous farmland I’ve ever seen, California’s version of New England’s verdant pastures, tree-lined fields, and cell-coverage-lacking valleys. (Google Maps craps out on me at one point; as a result, I take a 20-minute accidental detour down ever-smaller, increasingly-ragged roads, until I finally come to my senses and turn around.)
Forested farms give way to rolling fields filled with cattle and amber waves of grasses, which in turn fade into endless rows of citrus as I drop into the Central Valley, where the road straightens out and fills with afternoon traffic. I bang a right onto Route 198 at a giant sign in support for congressman Devin Nunez–—guess this is the district he represents when he’s not puckering up to Donald Trump—and start the climb to the evening's destination: Sequoia National Park.
Threatening clouds are rolling over the peaks and the sun is getting low, but there’s still time for a quick pit stop in Three Rivers, the last town before hitting the park, to grab a six-pack of beer and a sandwich for dinner. While waiting for my food at a local deli called Sierra Subs and Salads, a tourist wanders in asking for the best way into the park, claiming his phone is giving him odd directions. “Google Maps doesn’t work well up here,” the dark-haired woman behind the counter says with a knowing smile. I know that tale, lady.
I hit the park at 5:00 p.m. on the dot; while the ranger at the gate doesn't comment on the Huracan, she does ask if I'm an active member of the military, based on the color of my duffel. (Considering how much the average soldier makes and the pricetag of a Lamborghini, it seems safe to assume she's not a car person.) The road to the campground winds even tighter than the ones I was cavorting on earlier, but the strict 25-mph speed limit and the bounty of tourist traffic mean the several miles to the park's Buckeye Flats campground takes longer than I'd like, but by 5:30, the Performante is parked for the night in a spot beside a rushing mountain river.
Unpacking camping equipment from a supercar turns out to be a bigger hassle than packing it in, because a) all the food and toiletries have to be carted straight into the campsite's metal bear-proof lockbox (the omnipresent signs make clear that, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, Sequoia's bears ain't nuthin' to fuck with), and b) I have to set everything up for the night. It's not difficult—muscle memory from childhood camping expeditions make setting up the Big Agnes tent a snap—but it is time-consuming when you have to do it solo. Between the tent, the sleeping pad, the sleeping bag, the quilt, and my bags, unpacking and setting up takes the better part of an hour. Scrounging up firewood from the nearby forest takes another 20 minutes or so, but by twilight, I'm sitting by the fire with a beer, reading The
Wall Street Journal and soaking up the nature.
One of the many marmots scurrying about disappears beneath the Performante; intrigued, I grab my flashlight and cast the beam beneath the car in search of the critter...when is when I spy a chunk of dangling carbon-fiber, positioned above what looks like a fluid patch on the ground. Fuck, my mind screams, as it power-dives to a dark place. Did I rip a hole in this thing? No, no way. I'd have noticed. Must be from before I got the car. Does that mean it's been leaking all this time? What is that stuff?
I pull the car out a few feet, drop to the ground and sniff the stains on the asphalt; they have an odd, petrochemical scent I can't identify. I spin the Lambo 180 degrees and park it the other way, so any further leaks will leave new stains and let me better gauge how fast the mystery fluid is flowing. Frantic plans for worst-case scenarios—if it won't start, I'll have to hitch a ride down to town and call the Lamborghini people, then I can start trying to work out a car for the rest of my trip, but maybe it'll last long enough for me to limp back to L.A. if I have to, I'll make it work, damnit—flit through my brain, until sleep finally grabs me around 9 o'clock.
Day 3: Will Sabel Courtney and the Three Bears
Sleeping outside for the first time in years leaves me tossing and turning all night, waking five or six times to the sound of a ruffling tent and the mental image of a bear on the other side of it. Still, I sleep through until 7:30 a.m., when I pull myself out free of the grogginess that threatens to drag me under once more to find everyone else in the campground packing up or already gone. It takes a full hour to finish waking up, break down the site, and pack it all back into the Lamborghini.
My original plan had been to descend to the welcome center and buy a trail map before braving the heavily-under-construction road up to see the park's eponymous trees—but when I reach the main road, the charm of the path heading to the sequoias proves too strong. It rises fast, dozens of switchbacks per mile as it climbs towards the narrow range of mile-plus altitudes where the mighty trees can grow; every so often, a pullout reveals a new view of the mountains that's almost hypnotic in beauty. The much-ballyhooed construction zone proves little problem—the one-way traffic switches to my direction after less than a minute in line. A few minutes through the construction zone...and it's into the land of titans.
Any cynical thoughts of being prepared—ooooh, I'm gonna see some big trees—burn away at first glimpse of the sequoias in person. There's no true way to be prepared for the scale of them—their trunks stretching far beyond the top of any windshield, their trunks thicker in diameter than Chevy Suburbans are long. Their size defies human perception; the brain isn't used to such a familiar object at such an absurd scale. And they're everywhere—not just peppered about in the midst of a forest of lesser vegetation, but on every side, clogging up the flanks of the mountains. It feels like being on Monster Island from those old Godzilla movies. There's an added majesty in their ubiquity, somehow; this is their realm, and the Lamborghini and I are, like the game pieces squeaking around the jail on the Monopoly board, just visiting.
With the high-altitude visitor's center noticeably busy, I cruise on by to the parking lot near the tree called the "General Sherman," the largest living tree in the world, to fulfill my tourist duty by catching a glimpse of it. It's indeed impressive—though admittedly, not particularly more so than any of the other giants spread out over the nearby miles. But as one of the park's main attractions, the area is chock-full of visitors, many of whom seem less than respectful of the natural surroundings. (One heavyset couple, after taking stock of the sign clearly saying "NO PETS," choose to scoop their weiner dog up in their arms and bring it anyway. I consider warning them any nearby bears will look at their dachshund the way they look at a bratwurst.) A nearby map reveals a better place to commune with nature: another parking lot just up the road, with a trail leading from it through a meadow and into the heart of the park.
One five-minute drive later, and the Lamborghini and I find ourselves in a parking lot on the edge of a treeline almost free of signs of humanity. Indeed, the green Huracan almost has the place to itself; I park between the only two other cars there, three vehicles in an asphalt lake made for hundreds. It takes almost 10 minutes to find the trail head—having never made the turn to buy a real map, I'm forced to depend on the pictures I snapped of the maps at the General Sherman information station—and it takes less than five more to lose the trail again, while still within sight of the parking lot. Considering the circumstances—alone in a national park, with no cell phone service and no one aware of where I am—I'm about to head back to the car when I spy the trail again; two leaps across wide streams later, and I'm finally heading into the woods.
In an area where every building has a posted warning about bears, I think. With no bear spray or bear bells. In May, when they're all waking up and hungry.
So I start to whistle. Show tunes and classic rock, at first, then just generic melodies, bouncing the notes up and down with every swivel of my head. A quarter-mile in, I start to relax a bit. Half a mile along, I'm feeling pretty in tune with my surroundings. The trail opens up along the edge of an alpine meadow—when a blur of brown motion in my peripheral sets off my spider-sense, and I freeze.
Just like the large brown bear grilling me with his eyes from across the clearing does.
Thoughts come avalanching: how to tell grizzlies from lesser bears, the horse-beating speed of a sprinting brown bear, the old joke from Family Guy where Chris learns how to scare off bears from watching Fox: "Shoo! Go away! Stay tuned for a new Ally McBeal!" But through it all cuts one overriding notion: Don't let him think you're prey—or a threat.
So I stand tall, give the bear a big wave, and shout: "Hello, Mister Bear!" He doesn't move. After watching him for a few more seconds, I slowly start to back away, eyes on his face the whole time, watching for movement. He turns, and heads back into the trees on his side of the clearing. I turn and whistle my way back to the Lamborghini tout de goddamn suite.
But the hiking itch still hasn't been truly scratched, so I motor back to the nearby visitor's center—suddenly very aware of the array of tourists snapping away at the car with their phones—to buy a trail map and pick a ranger's brain about the type of bears in the park. ("No grizzlies here, just black bears," she says, adding that they come in several colors in spite of the name.) Picking out a four-and-a-half mile route that says it takes three to four hours—I pledge to do it in two and a half—I follow a gaggle of foreign tourists onto a well-marked trail leading into the forest. The path leads to Moro Rock, an exposed orb of granite jutting out above the valley with a thin, stepped trail rising 400 vertical feet over a quarter-mile carved into it. The Lamborghini hasn't been lacking for power at the altitude here, but scrambling up to the 6,725-foot peak, I briefly wind up wishing I had forced-induction lungs. Regardless, the view from the top—a panorama stretching from 13,000-foot High Sierra peaks to the broad Central Valley—is enough to take the breath away all by itself.
Descending from Moro back into the woods, the other tourists fall far behind, leaving me in the tranquility of the trees. The sequoias are dense here, tawny trunks rising 200 feet and higher all around as the trail snakes along the ridges. Their thick bark, remarkably, is soft to the touch, like natural insulation—an adaptation that helps them survive the regular wildfires that clear out lesser plants and enrich the soil, giving the sequoia cones a clear place to sprout and the young trees a head start on their way to the sky. Touching the trees, it almost feels like you feel their power—noble, old, stretching as far into the past and future as their branches reach high into the sky and their roots grow deep in the earth. Sequoias live 50 times longer than we do; scientists don't know if they ever die of old age. In both lifespan and size, we're just mice to them.
Figuring the wildlife is likely to stay away from the busier trails like this one, I pop in my earbuds and cue up some John Williams as I walk, hoping to tie this memory to a song so I can fly back to it again later. It seems like a grand idea for exactly the five minutes and 28 seconds the song takes to play. The music ends, only to be replaced by a deep scratching sound off to my left. I turn as I pull out my headphones—only to see another bear, this one just 100 feet away, tearing apart a fallen log in search of grubs. Hoping I'm going as unnoticed as it seems, I softly mosey another 50 yards down the trail, then turn back to watch from behind a car-sized tree trunk as the bear is joined by its cub. Which means—considering the bear I saw earlier seemed large enough to be a male—I've tallied up a papa bear, a mama bear, and a baby bear.
The thought stays on my mind all the way back to the parking lot, where the incongruous sight of the bright-green Lambo amidst the trees is enough to snap me out of my reverie. (Reversing out of the spot, I check the ground below where the car had been; it's blessedly free of oil patches.) But my luck with the construction traffic proves limited to mornings; arriving just seconds after the road closes for a spell, the Lamborghini becomes the second car in a growing line of stopped traffic waiting to descend the mountain. The flagger tells everyone it'll be a good 20 minutes before we can move, so—thinking of last night's irritating hunt for firewood—I start scooping up dried branches from the side of the road and cramming them into the passenger's window of the Performante, much to what I presume is the amusement or bemusement of other drivers.
Buckeye Flats campground is largely full once again by the time I return, though I manage to snare a campsite next to the one I'd taken the night before. I make camp—another hour-long process—and crack a beer. It's barely 4:30 p.m., but I'm exhausted, both from the post-bear adrenaline crash and the hours of hiking—the pedometer on my phone logged 9.4 miles of walking—as well as the decision to skip lunch. Still, I force myself to hold off until 6 o'clock before whipping up a fire to cook dinner—a mix of baked beans and canned salmon. The food is percolating in no time on the open flame; I shovel down as much as I can, read a little, check beneath the car one last time—there's no puddle beneath it, leading me to suspect with relief that the first night's fluid was a coincidental spill from a previous vehicle—then climb into my sleeping bag.
Day 4: On the Road Again
Nature wakes me up with an alarm clock of birds at a quarter-past six; bizarrely, packing everything up takes even longer than the day before, a fact I can only attribute to my growing caffeine deficiency after 48 hours without coffee. Still, the Lamborghini and I hit the park exit at 8 a.m. precisely. "What kind of car is that?" the female ranger manning the both asks, in the chipper manner of a genuine morning person. I try my best to not make my reply sound like a groan.
Down in Three Rivers, the coffee shop is abuzz with locals; the sole spot to slot the Performante is right beside the road, in full view of every patron. "You can just run into that green car, it's fine," one local jokingly yells to another person trying to park in the crowded lot while I slurp down iced coffee. There's a long day of driving ahead—it's 356 miles from Sequoia to tonight's campground in the southern end of Joshua Tree National Park, along a route that plows through much of southern California's rugged desert.
But first, it's down through the southern end of the Central Valley. Half the nation's fruits, veggies, and nuts are grown in this flat land between Sacramento and Bakersfield, the latter today's first waypoint. The drive there from Sequoia proves to be a burst of road trip nirvana, a quiet two-lane running around the farm fields of the Calfornia breadbasket. Windows down, the scent of endless orange trees and springtime growth floods the cabin, an intoxicating blast of olfactory ambrosia.
Bakersfield proves itself an unremarkable sprawl of oil refineries and strip malls (though one tuner bro in a Subaru BRZ gives the Huracan an enthusiastic thumbs-up on the highway). From there, it's a hard left east onto Highway 58, back past Mojave and Edwards AFB. Before all that comes a long, long climb out of the valley, flowing upwards as agricultural bounty fades to arid emptiness. The road is dense with trucks—18-wheelers whose drivers spend the climb counting down from 16 with their right hands, heavy-duty Fords, Chevys, and Rams merrily fulfilling their purpose by yanking five-ton horse trailers up the slope at a mile a minute. The Lamborghini flashes past them all.
Shooting past Mojave, the sharkfin tails and pale bodies of dozens upon dozens of retired airliners appear off the highway. Entranced with the idea of nailing the perfect Instagram shot of the living supercar and the dead aircraft, I briefly pull off and prowl along the airfield to see how close the Lambo can crawl to the planes, to no avail—a train yard separates planes and automobile. Back onto the highway, then, where the Green Meanie falls into a fast-moving convoy led by a C5-gen Corvette Z06 and a Pontiac G8 with a front fascia entirely covered in packing tape. We plow south, skirting the western edge of Edwards AFB, where America has honed the tip of its aviation spear for seven decades. The Performante, in a distant-cousin sort of way, can even tie itself to the aircraft world; Lamborghini's work with Boeing on carbon fiber played a role in the development of the "forged composite" that makes up much of its body. And the magic Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (a.k.a. ALA) airflow management that uses active aero to help this Huracan stick to the ground is the sort of feature that, not too long ago, wouldn't have seemed out of place on the likes of the X-planes Chuck Yeager and his brethren pushed to their limits in these very skies.
Thoughts like those keep my mind spinning all the way to Kramer Junction, a one-horse, two-gas station town where the GPS tells me to bang a right onto another road. It's there, though, that the Performante reveals its biggest weakness: road scarring. The old surface of U.S. 395 has been torn up and covered over with thick, uneven patches of pavement that bring to mind scar tissue. It'd be unpleasant in any car, but in the Huracan, with its 'Ring-stiff suspension and shrink-wrapped tires, the roadway feels liable to shake the car to pieces—or tear a Pirelli from its rim.
I'm forced to baby the car most of the 35 miles to Victorville, where the path to Joshua Tree turns east again. As it does, it leads past the Southern California Logistics Airport—an industrial complex built on an old Air Force base that happens to house its own aircraft boneyard. It proves too tempting to resist.
Victorville quickly falls behind, as the state road leads back into the desert mountains. "Deserted" would fit, too; the lands east of Interstate 15 are dry, rocky, and largely empty, save for the occasional ramshackle house littered. A line from a comic book I read as a kid comes back to me: Green Lantern and the Flash have just arrived in the Gobi Desert, and Green Lantern asks if there's a toilet nearby. "I think it's all toilet," Flash retorts.
Still, people do live here—in places with names like Lucerne Valley and Flamingo Heights, or on their outskirts, or in the empty lands between the towns, where the deer and antelope don't so much play as stare at their feet with a sense of ennui. No one sees these places or people anymore, not when the interstates shepherd the better-off from metropolis to metropolis on controlled-access highways. I'm as guilty of it as anyone, which makes it all the most interesting to take the road less traveled through these lands. Especially in a car like this, which seems so anachronistic in these depressed, dried-up places. But people in these towns off the beaten path love supercars just as much as city folks, based on the reactions I've seen—hell, maybe even more. Folks in spots like these probably see more UFOs than they do Huracan Performantes.
Civilization returns one final time before the national park, in the form of the town of Twentynine Palms. Having gone yet again the whole day without food, I pick up food at the finest establishment I can spy in town—hint: it has golden arches—but only after topping off the car. The Performante's hyperactive V-10, oddly enough, is nursing its fuel in un-supercar-like fashion. After a fill-up, the trip computer claims the 21.1-gallon tank is good for more than 400 miles.
The sun doesn't set until after 7 p.m., but the afternoon light is already starting to wane as the Lamborghini rolls through the park entrance a few minutes past 4:30, as I become roughly the 12 millionth person to play the U2 album of the same name while entering Joshua Tree. The dimming light has begun to mellow the desert colors into a panorama of pastel tans and purples, somehow making the landscape seem both alien and familiar. It's not hard to sense why people flock here; there's something magical about the place.
Driving across the park takes the better part of 40 minutes; though the roads are divine—smooth and meandering, with sweeping turns backdropped by Spaceman Spiff vistas—the speed limits sit in residential-area territory. Abusing them, for some reason, seems oddly disrespectful; while the Lambo's carbon-ceramic brakes and ginsu knife-sharp handling mean it could easily dodge desert tortoises at a buck-ten, this place is about natural tranquility, not the scream of an Italian V-10. (Though I can't help but hammer it through a couple particularly juicy turns.)
May is still the height of camping season at Joshua Tree; most of the night's reservation-holders have already set up shop by the time the Performante prowls into Cottonwood Campground, near the park's southern edge. The assembled crowd is, as it turns out, almost exactly as I assumed based on the stripped-down stereotypes I held about Joshua Tree-goers: L.A. hipsters and Orange County dudebros, out for a party weekend. The kish-kish of gravel underfoot reminds me of my childhood playground, which makes me realize that's exactly what this place is—a playground for grown-ups, where people come to indulge in grown-up forms of fun like drinking, screwing, and getting high. Or, in my odd case, camping out of a supercar.
Day 5: "I'm guessing that's your car"
Sunlight lances into the tent by half past six, yanking me out of REM sleep and back into the real world. Dazed and confused, it takes a few moments to place the sounds filtering through the mesh: the crisp two-part sound of footfalls, the murmur of sleepy conversations, the buzzing of a quadcopter drone. It's already hot outside when I climb out of the tent; the sun's bright rays are cutting a course straight past the Performante and into my eyes, the only thing that could render the Green Meanie invisible.
My friend Kathleen is due to join me around noon, so I use the comparative cool of the morning to hike into the hills. Climb up a few hundred feet, and it becomes clear that, for all its solitude and lack of cell reception, Joshua Tree isn't all that remote; in the dry desert air, the thin line of Interstate 10 running latitudinally to the south seems barely over the rise, and the briny expanse of the Salton Sea looks close enough to lob a rock into.
Kathleen rolls up a few minutes past 12, still fresh after the three-hour drive from Arizona. Remarkably, it's only after we hug, wander into the park office to buy her pass, and head back outside that she notices the bright green Lamborghini parked nearby. "I'm guessing that's your car," she says with a chuckle.
Our two-car caravan makes its way back to the camp, where we leave the Huracan parked for the rest of the day, letting it stand guard over my tent while we drive about the park in Kathleen's aging Ford Edge. Delightful as the Lambo is, it's nice to roll about in something a tad roomier for a while. Considering the breathtaking landscapes stretching every which way, the visibility allowed by the crossover's tall windows is even nicer; while the Performante's glass provides a dynamite view of the road ahead, its low roofline leaves me feeling like I'm perpetually wearing a low-brimmed baseball cap behind the wheel.
Day 6: That's the story of the Huracan
Dawn rolls onto the throttle at 6:30 a.m. again, waking me up with a slap of hot light to the face. Kathleen's car camping expertise runs second to none; not only did she stock her cooler with beer and brats for last night's dinner, she also toted bagels and cream cheese from Scottsdale to Joshua Tree for our early-morning breakfast. We're packed and headed out of the park by 8 o'clock, but before we part ways at the interstate on-ramp, I offer her a quick blast in the Green Meanie. Toggling the red switch on the steering wheel to "Corsa" for maximum aggression, I give her a three-count before stomping the gas from a five-mph roll.
Her scream hits an octave usually reserved for bats: "OHMIGOD! OKAY! I'M SCARED! OKAYOKAYOKAY!"
As I drop her off back by her Ford, Kathleen mentions that it felt like we were going faster than we actually were—a thought that boomerangs back to me as I hit the highway back to Los Angeles and find the speedometer repeatedly showing numbers lower than my gut would have guessed. Between the short gears, the racy engine note, and the low-slung seating position that puts the eyes a yard above the pavement, the Performante seems to have a very un-supercar-like knack for preventing its driver from accidentally shattering the speed limit. (Then again, maybe it's just the ghost of Ferruccio, trying to keep his loyal customers from racking up a license-losing number of speeding tickets.)
The trip back to L.A. is a bit more than two hours, and in stark contrast to most of the week, it's commercialized almost the entire way back along Interstate 10. The Inland Empire, as they call this part of California, is basically a bowl of suburbs the size of Connecticut—and while the traffic here flows quickly and the highway keeps gaining lanes as it heads west, the interstate is clogged with cars the whole way back. Still, the closer I get to the City of Angels, the fewer looks the Lamborghini draws—even as it winds its way past neighborhoods where hoopties outnumber luxury cars by overwhelming margins. By the time I pull the Performante into a gas station in the less-than-glamoruous part of Hollywood to vacuum the park crumbs out of the interior before dropping it off, nobody even seems to notice.
Out in the forests and the deserts and the lands where the highways don't go, the Green Meanie is a shocking abberation, a rolling testament to the beauty of incongruity and a moving tribute to the speed, power, and freedom of the automobile. There, naked and proud, the Lamborghini Huracan Performante becomes a symbol of everything we love about cars—of the inherent draw that keeps people like you and me obsessed with them, and will keep us obsessed until they claw the last steering wheel from human hands a hundred years from now. In L.A., though...it's just another supercar dawdling through life.
Supercar Camping in a Lamborghini Huracan Performante: Conclusions
As I said from the get-go, a supercar isn't exactly the best ride to go car camping with. The Huracan Performante, though, seemed like a particularly poor choice, even amongst the ranks of speed machines with six-figure price tags and 200-plus mph top speeds. Again—and I can't stress this enough—this Lamborghini holds the silver medal for production car lap times around the Nordschleife. A car like that should by rights be so stripped-down and uncompromising, a thousand-mile road trip in it ought to qualify you for some sort of survivor's benefits.
And yet...it did a bang-up job. The Green Meanie didn't throw a fuss or a code; it wasn't temperamental, harsh, or uncomfortable. It was mild-mannered, comfortable, and utterly content to deal with any of the crap I threw its way, while being about three million times more fun than any RV or trailer-hauling pickup truck. (Hell, it even had the decency to get about 20 miles per gallon.) The biggest strike against it would be the rather frustrating lack of room—but people go camping out of the packs on their back all the time, and even the tightest supercar has more storage space than a backpack. Plan prudently—well, more so than I did, at least—and you could camp out of a Lamborghini for a month.
So yeah, maybe supercar camping is stupid. But if it is...well, I guess it's my particular flavor of stupid.
Curious about what to pack on your own adventure? Check out our supercar camping gear guide here.