It has been several months since we last posted as life has been very busy. The Zephyr is parked for the summer at Basecamp and we are all enjoying the mild summer weather in our favorite place, Alaska.
Even though the big dogs love to travel, they have been enjoying being at home, racing through the woods, rolling in the green grass, chasing snowshoe hare and watching for moose.
After almost 5 years of traveling around America and Canada in our wonderful Mercedes motorhome we have decided it is time to make a change in our style or method of travel.
The Zefyr And The Cabose
During the last 45 years of wandering around the world together we have crossed paths with dozens of overland travelers, mostly Europeans, all with a fascinating story to tell.
Most times after spending just a few minutes talking with these interesting folks one could immediately sense they were inspired to discover new places and meet new peoples. Later we would often say to each other “we have got to travel like that some day”.
The freedom to travel off the beaten track and find new experiences is a privilege not everyone in this world has or wants.
Recently we realized it was probably time to make the transition from our current style of travel to one where we can venture farther afield.
We dream of crossing vast stretches of deserts, traversing narrow mountain tracks and visiting foreign countries where roads are not suited to the typical motorhome. It is time to switch to a much different type of vehicle.
During our travels we often would see narrow dirt tracks that branch off from the main highway and head off into the unknown.
We have a strong desire to explore the back roads of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments before they are changed, we need to follow the historic trails across the Mojave desert, we need to leave the tourist trail behind.
Our goal is to be completely self sufficient while traveling remotely for extended periods of time wherever the road may take us. We already have a growing list of dream destinations.
This is not new rational for us. For years we have explored remote canyons, followed sandy tracks across the Baja peninsula, driven the back roads in Alaska and Canada and camped on remote ridges overlooking the Pacific.
As we have aged our travel methods have evolved. Sleeping on the ground in the pouring rain while trekking across the New Zealand outback is no longer a desire. Now we enjoy a few of the basic comforts like a warm dry bed and a toilet.
This new strategy will require a completely new type of vehicle, one that meets very specific requirements.
About 6 months ago we actively began searching the web for a bare cab chassis truck where we could then build our own living module on the back.
We plan to combine all of our “lessons learned” from the previous 45 years of living in tents, VW vans, a converted school bus and recently a Mercedes motorhome and combine them into our ultimate expedition vehicle.
We Inspected The $250K Earth Cruiser Factory in Bend Oregon
During the search for this new chassis we learned there are many different types, variations, options and vehicle platforms to choose from.
In Europe there are many new and used overland vehicles for sale and many with some very cool options.
But when one takes into account import duties, the VAT, US emissions standards that must be met upon entering the US and shipping costs it quickly becomes apparent that a Mercedes or Mann truck chassis is out of the question, at least for us
Ultimately our final decision was based on our budget, vehicles that were available in the US, the fuel and emission requirements of the vehicle, the carrying capacity and how long we wanted to be gone.
Recently I traveled to Chicago, Flagstaff and Montana to inspect several different types of vehicles.
In May I attended the Overland Expo in Flagstaff which is where the annual meeting of overland expedition travelers from all over the world takes place.
What started out years ago as a gathering of world travelers sharing stories of adventure from all over the globe is now mostly a trade show for the latest Sprinter van and Jeep accessories.
There is now an amazing amount of cool gear out there for the weekend warrior.
We had set a very strict set of requirements for our new overland vehicle.
- It must be high clearance and 4 wheel drive to allow us to easily maneuver the steeper, rockier, sandier and muddier backroads.
- It must be a pre 2007 vehicle since there is no USLD fuels or Blue DEF available in southern Mexico, South America and beyond.
- It must have the carrying capacity for plenty of water, food, supplies and fuel allowing us to go FARTHER and stay longer.
- It must have single tires on the rear axle that are strong enough to carry the required weight, resist off road punctures and provide ample traction in slippery conditions
- It must be all season capable and have good insulative properties within the living module
- It must have enough space for all four of us to live comfortably.
After several months of searching we finally found the perfect cab chassis that met these requirements, it was located In Glendive Montana.
It is a 2004 International 7300 extended cab 4×4 with a 26,000 lb rear axle. It had a boom/ bucket crane mounted on the back which has been removed.
After much negotiation we purchased the truck and in June I flew to Billings to oversee its inspection, repairs and modifications.
Through several good recommendations we found Interstate Power Systems in Billings.
I must say I have never worked with a more dedicated, professional and capable team of folks.
Once work on the truck has been completed I will drive it from Billings to LA to visit my mom.
While in Southern California we will purchase all the interior appliances, batteries, solar panels and materials needed to construct a comfortable and rugged camper on the back.
Construction of the habitation module will begin this fall in our shop which brings us to the most shocking part of this story…. we may spend this coming winter in Alaska.
(I have to be kidding right?) we will see….
It will most likely take us all this coming winter and all next summer, about a year, to complete the project. We have a heated shop just big enough to fit our new rig, it should be a very enjoyable project and a very busy year.
We hope to make the maiden voyage of FARTHR next fall by driving it up the Dalton Hwy to Prudhoe Bay to road test its capabilities.
Eventually our plan will be to again venture south of the border into Baja, mainland Mexico and South America and possibly even FARTHR.
Our intention is to build a vehicle that will allow us to take the road less traveled, to explore new and unknown territories, to discover out of the way campsites, to experience life outside our normal comfort zone and along the way meet some new friends.
Should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned!
These are the good old days….don’t waste them!
Keep you posted….