The ZEFYR

After enjoying a great Thanksgiving with our family I now wait in a dark corner of Southern California for the black friday shopping blitz to end. So to pass the time I have decided to write a short post about our current home on wheels, the Zefyr (short for Zephyr)

First lets start off with a little ancient history. Denise and I have spent a good part of our lives living in many different types and sizes of vehicles. From VW vans to converted school buses we have spent many a night sleeping on rubber tires while traveling cross-country, in third world countries and while living stationary for months at a time.

It all started in the late 1960’s living the nomadic life while surfing and mountaineering. The freedom to follow the best weather and to sleep wherever you wanted was very important to me. On any given weekend you could find us bouldering in Joshua Tree (before it was a NP) or climbing at 13,000 ft. in the High Sierra or riding the curls at Mondo’s in Ventura County. It was a very affordable lifestyle with gas at 35 cents per gallon.

Late 60's Baja Surf Safari
Late 60’s Baja Surf Safari

Maybe the unspoken reason for this unsettled nomadic wanderlust was because we really didn’t want this lifestyle to end. None of us wanted to follow the traditional American way of life and settle down. We were having way too much fun and staying mobile delayed the inevitable. If there had been such a thing as vanity plates in the late 60’s mine would have read “FUNHOG”

During the summer of love in 1969 a good friend and I drove over 20,000 miles circumnavigating the USA and Canada (narrowly missing Woodstock) in a yellow 1957 VW van with a 1954 Porsche engine. We had some amazing adventures, met all sorts of great people and visited some unbelievable cities and parks. It was a trip of a life time and a wild time to say the least…….

Departure For Around America Tour 1969
Departure For Around America Tour 1969

I firmly believe young folks today should take the the opportunity to experience this type of freedom and make the time to wander across this great country before settling down with wives, children, mortgages and full time jobs. Traveling with only whats on your back and no responsibilities may be the purist form of freedom.

This kind of traveling is usually not something you get to take advantage of later in life. 

I know that the summer of 1969 certainly changed me. It gave me the clarity to better understand and appreciate the opportunities we have in this country and the reasons for the diversity of its populations.

2009 inside cover

So that was over 45 years ago and since then we have gotten a little older and our needs and wants have evolved. As you can imagine we have upgraded our mobile living arrangements somewhat.

A couple of years before our retirement we started the process of motorhome evaluation. Our decision to purchase a mid sized class C motorhome was based on many things. Important factors were indoor plumbing, its ability to travel on narrower roads, use smaller campsites, tow a small car, carry two big dogs and get moderate fuel mileage. 

The sprinter based motorhome met all these requirements.

1958 Bus Towing 1958 VW Van 1976
Motorhome and Tow Vehicle in Yosemite Valley 1976

After many hours of online research we decided the Mercedes Sprinter based Forest River Solera 24R was the vehicle for us. Because of its two slide outs, its massive under storage areas and its good milage we felt we had found our perfect rig.

After Denise found a great deal in Michigan we traveled back east by train (riding the Amtrak California Zephyr from Sacramento to Chicago… hence the name) to pick it up. We then immediately drove it back to Alaska as a break-in run.

xmas scans 2006 133
Camping in Baja 1980’s

Once back in Alaska we set to work modifying the Solera so it suited our way of life even better. Below is a list of some of our modifications. We are still in the process of changing things as we see the need or a better way.

Chassis:
Upsized sway bar
Sumo bump stops
Koni shocks
Tire valve extensions
Tire pressure monitors

Exterior:
GoPower flexible solar panels and 30 amp controller
Wilson Truckers cell antenna
WiFiRanger Mobile Ti with marine antenna
Teltec outside temp gauge
HD TV antenna
Strobe LED brake lights
Magma BBQ and exterior quick disconnect propane line with storage compartment
Clip points for X-Pen fencing to contain the big dogs

Interior:
Wilson Sleek 4G booster
Additional USB and 12 volt plugs in dash and in living area
Master 12 volt shut off
Upgraded to group 29 deep cycle batteries
Oxygenics shower head
Sirius radio
Additional Garmin GPS
Assorted hooks and shelves

Tow Vehicle:
1969 VW bug (see “Meet The Cabose’ post)

IMG_0576

UPDATE:

So there you have it. Since leaving Alaska this fall we have traveled about 6000 miles with zero problems and are very happy with our Solera. We get a consistent 14-15 MPG with a high of 16.5 while towing. Cross winds don’t seem to bother us much. The turbo diesel V6 provides excellent power while climbing hills. It is very easy to maneuver especially in parking lots and along narrow gravel campground roads.

We can get into smaller out of the way campsites which are usually more private. We have driven many miles of gravel roads especially while in the Sierra’s and other than dragging the rear stabilizers a few times it provides a very smooth ride. Because of its size it makes a great boon docking rig.

Our next destination has yet to be determined due to rain in the forecast (this is very good news for Southern Californians) but…. our departure is always imminent …..keep you posted!

IMG_6059

6 thoughts on “The ZEFYR

  1. Thanks so much for stopping by today in DHS! And amazing.. our bus conversion is also named Zephyr, because we took the California Zephry (Chicago -> San Francisco) to find her!

    Hope to cross paths again with you this winter.. seems there are many tales to share!

    Like

    1. It was great to meet you also, thats amazing we named our rigs for the same reason!
      We have been big followers of your blog and you have really have helped us set up our Zefyr for the mobile lifestyle.
      I am sure we will see you on the road at some point, Happy Holidays to you both!

      Like

    1. Thanks for your nice comments. We are having a great time and the dogs are having a blast as you can see in the photos though the jumping cholla are a problem with long haired dogs. Have a great christmas!

      Like

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