Fireside Chat: Two Paws on the Wheel with Koda’s Tacoma

Jason Turner’s life wouldn’t be the same without his trusty sidekick, Koda. In fact, Jason would never have gotten a 4×4 and kitted it out if it weren’t for him. We had the pleasure to meet the duo behind Koda’s Tacoma to talk adventuring in the outdoors with a four-legged friend, what inspires them, and  more! Read on to see why it’s safe to say their Tacoma is actually Koda’s Tacoma.

Who are the hands (and paws) behind Koda’s Tacoma?

My name is Jason Turner, and I fell in love with the outdoors at an early age. I grew up in the Philippines and Australia. In both places, I spent most of my time outside. I don’t think video games were that huge when i was growing up, at least over there. [laughs] I was also kind of an artsy kid. I was always trying to draw stuff, and was so inspired by the time I spent being in nature. At thirteen, my family moved to the States. I didn’t have many friends at the time. That’s when I really dove into games. But, as soon as I started having my own freedom, like when I got a car, I started going out a lot more. A neighbor of mine got me into the outdoors again by showing me his motorcycles and dirt bikes. I got hooked! After high school, I got into streetbikes.

But, I eventually got really into the outdoors because I got a dog.

How did Koda find his way to you?

Koda is the reason I wanted to spend as much time as I could outdoors. I just wanted to be with him. After I got Koda, that’s when the idea of Koda’s Tacoma bloomed. My interest in art as a kid came back into play when I got a camera to document the time we spent together. I fell in love with photography. 

Koda and I started to camp every weekend. Everything about Koda’s Tacoma fell into place and has grown so much. I never expected to have come this far with our Instagram account. I just wanted to camp, offroad, and hang out with Koda [laughs]. We don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Our adventure together is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

When did you decide to start posting your adventures with Koda?

A friend invited Koda and me to go camping. That trip was my first time living in the States. It was eye-opening! I didn’t realize there was so much awesome stuff here [laughs]. My friend had a camera with him on the trip and he let me borrow it to snap some photos. I kinda really . . . enjoyed it. I didn’t have an Instagram at the time, and my friend said to me, “Hey, you should post these on Instagram!” I was like, “okay.” [laughs]. I made an account and named the page “Koda’s Tacoma” as a joke, because Koda would be in the driver’s seat of the truck everytime I left him in there. It looked hilarious, so I wanted to keep joking around that it was his truck [laughs]. The name stuck.

We want to know more about Koda! What’s his personality like?

Koda [laughs] . . . he’s a little devil. You know, I’ve had him since he was nine weeks old. He’s always been like this insane . . . devil child dog that rips everything up. He’s an escape artist, too. Everything huskies are pretty much known for, he’s that. He had so much energy the first year of his life. Now that he’s turning five, he’s calmed down a whole lot. 

But Koda is so loyal. He sticks around, is great without his leash, and is one of the best dogs I’ve been around for sure. He’s been there for me when I needed him. I could go camping with just Koda, and it would be an awesome time. Dogs really are our best friends. We don’t deserve them [laughs].

How did Koda find his way to you?

Koda was actually a pup that was being given away. I think they knew he was sick, but I didn’t know he was sick. When I got him and took him home, I was like, “Oh, he’s a really calm, lazy husky. That’s rare.” So I was super intrigued. A day or so later, I knew Koda was sick with something. I took him to the vet, which was quite expensive. After he got his health back, Koda started showing his [pauses] devil-like personality [laughs]. We were really lucky. The vet said Koda was having Parvo-like symptoms and only had a 50% chance to live. I had grown so attached to him just in the two days I had him. I’m so happy he pulled through.

Where did you and Koda explore for the first time together?

Joshua Tree. We spent a lot of the time outside. It was the first time I took the truck on a dirt road. I just fell in love. Koda kept looking out the window. I could hear the sound of gravel beneath the tires. It was just awesome.

What’s been you and Koda’s favorite place to explore since then?

Oh . . . I love Utah. That’s been one of the most beautiful places we’ve been for sure. Oregon was gorgeous as well. But, we keep frequenting the Sierra around the 395. Anything up in that area is just perfect. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be anywhere in California. You can see snow, desert, and beach all in the same day.

Why a Tacoma? Why that truck specifically?

One of my friends from high school had one and has always been telling me to get one. I figured that if I was going to try this truck thing out I’d get one that I was familiar with. I did some research and found they weren’t too expensive . . . at least at the time. They are way overpriced now. Tacomas are relatively easy to maintain, too. I guess that’s kinda, like, why they are popular now. They’re small, somewhat inexpensive, and just a great looking truck.

My first truck I had was great, but it wasn’t a 4×4. I wanted to get one, so I looked around at some other trucks and 2nd-gen Tacomas. I ended up with a 1st-gen, because I didn’t want to break the bank. I didn’t want to pull out a loan or spend all my money on just getting the truck that I couldn’t customize the way I wanted it. I’m so glad I found it. I was lucky, because the truck already came with modifications that I would have wanted to put into it. The previous owner also taught me a lot about modding. I’m glad I picked the 1st-gen. I don’t plan on ever selling it.

Is customizing your truck one of your favorite things about offroading?

Coming from having a motorcycle, street bike, or even cars before that, it’s something I’ve always loved. There’s something about modifying something to make it your own. That transfers over to this whole overlanding, off-road truck thing where you always want to make [your truck] work for you. Or to make your truck more appealing to you. I always tell people to do what makes you happy. Don’t worry about making your truck look like someone elses just because everyone likes it. The biggest enjoyment comes from making your truck the way you want it.

What made you decide to put away the motorcycle and go for the Tacoma?

I was in quite a bit of sportbike wrecks. Being into that scene, especially in L.A. where you have the most dense amount of horrible drivers [laughs], a [wreck] is never your fault. Someone is one their phone or just not looking. After having five or six wrecks and losing a couple friends, I started to ride my bike less and less. I had a few bikes, but I stopped riding them. After some life changing events, I just lost interest. Getting Koda, for sure, made it to where I didn’t want to go out riding as much. It was much more fun just having him around.

I did still have to ride my bike to commute to my job I had at the time. But, that’s when I had another wreck that gave me a concussion. I was like “That’s it.” I sold my bikes after that.

You wouldn’t have been able to get this adventurous with a sportbike, right?

Oh, absolutely. As soon as I got the truck, it opened my mind to the outdoors. We could have so much more fun out there where the truck can take us. We just flew with it. Now we want to take the truck out to crazy places as much as we can. A 4×4 allows you to get farther away from people. We want to get away from the crowds and get to campsites you would have to hike all day to in a couple of hours.

What makes Koda the perfect adventure buddy?

Ahhh, I mean . . . he’s crazy [laughs]. He’s the kind of dog that will bring me a toy when he wants to play. He’s very vocal and let’s me know what he wants. It’s really nice to have a pup around that can read me. He understands me, and I understand him. There’s a reason dogs are “man’s best friend.”

What has Koda taught you?

A LOT. There’s been so much I’ve learned about myself that I didn’t know. He put focus on that, for sure. I’ve grown so much since having Koda. I’ve always had family dogs growing up, but that’s a different experience than you taking care of a dog yourself. I would not be the same person without him. I’m super grateful. I might still be stuck riding bikes. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the outdoors as much without him. He played such a huge role in starting Koda’s Tacoma, just from the first time he jumped in the truck. Having his company with me while we’re out in the wild was huge. 

After my concussion, I was so sensitive to light that I had to stay in a dark room all the time. With a concussion, you are disconnected from everything you’re used to doing. You’re not doing anything the same. There were headaches and a pressure I can’t explain inside my skull. But, Koda was right there with me. I would leave the door open so he could go outside, but he wanted to stay with me. Koda pushed me to get better. I wanted to get better so we could get outdoors and spend time together. Because that’s where we have the most fun. Sometimes a little too much fun [laughs]. One time, he chased a sheep for I don’t know how many miles, I lost track of him for a few hours [laughs]. If I didn’t push myself to get better, we would have missed out some incredible experiences.

It seems like there’s nothing that can stop you and Koda.

Absolutely. I made some life changes after meeting Koda. For example, I want to do more work that allows me to be outdoors more. My jobs right now allow me to work mostly remote, so I see us getting out a lot more this year.

What feeling are you and Koda chasing?

That’s a tough one [laughs]. It’s connecting with the outdoors. There’s something about being in all these beautiful places. It makes your problems seem smaller than you think they are. It gives you perspective, especially after spending time with Koda. I’ve just been surrounded by such a great group of people after getting into offroading, compared to the crowd I was in when I was into sportbikes. Koda, the outdoors, and offroading have been a huge step in the right direction for my life.

When I moved to the States, I became more of an introvert. I stayed inside a lot because I didn’t have that many friends. When I rediscovered the outdoors with Koda, it brought the love I had for the outdoors that I found as a kid in the Philippines and Australia.

Keep up with Jason and Koda on their Instagram!