The Art Of Dreaming Big

Lulu and Tuks Enjoy a Walk Along the Denali Hwy. Summer 2019

In case you have been wondering where the heck those Alaskan Big Dogs have been, here is an update.

For the past 13 months we have been at home in Alaska constructing our new adventure vehicle. Read about our project here

Nothing like a summer hike in the Alaskan High Country

The summer months were glorious with fantastic warmer then usual weather in June and July then thankfully wet weather in August to reduce the fire danger.

My mantra has always been to remain flexible or adaptable when it comes to living life, I believe it is paramount to living a stress free life, I am not perfect at it but that’s always my goal.

We had hoped to depart Alaska for the lower 48 this fall but that inevitable bump in the road always seems to come along at just the wrong moment even when you have…. the best laid plans.

One of the few BBQ’s we had this summer, it’s always a blast to party with our friends.

It has been 12 months since we last posted which is way too long but when one is dedicated to a goal it is good to remain focused.

Team Members of Triple Lakes Trail Expedition

There are a couple of reasons we missed our southbound departure date this fall.

In July we hit the 90’s in Denali Breaking Records and Forcing Us to Stay in the Shade

The main reason for the delay is because on one of our fall dog walks, Lulu spotted a grouse and took off at high speed chasing the bird and proceeded to tear her cruciate ligament in her left knee.

Basecamp Backyard

This is a serious injury that typically requires surgery and several months of recovery.  Not wanting to put her through this very invasive and painful surgery and risk the possible associated complications we instead elected to forgo surgery and treat her with conservative management and procured a custom fit knee brace.  This method also means many months of recovery.

With the July heat wave Denise’s flowers and garden went crazy

It immediately became obvious that the first months of her recovery would be best spent at home and not on the road.

Lulu Tries On Her New Leg Brace

After her injury our construction project became secondary and slowed substantially while we struggled to decide what was best for Lulu.  We had to readjust our life centered around her recovery.

Denise and the pups pick blue berries at our new secret spot

The change in plans also meant that instead of winterizing the house for our departure we had to ready it for winter use.  This involved installing winter tires, hauling heating oil and fixing the snow blower.

Build Update:  As of early Nov we are not too far off schedule, below is a loose timeline of what we have accomplished so far and what needs to be completed.

I completed welding the frame during last winter and in May I drove the truck down to Anchorage  where we had an aluminum delivery type box mounted onto of the frame. Then I had the interior sprayed with high density foam which really insulated and soundproofed the interior.

The Lazy Man’s Method of Overhead Welding, Frame Fabrication in April
Finished Aluminum Decking May

During the summer months we had the truck parked out in front of the shop covered with traps to protect our work area from the intense summer sun and August showers.

Lowering the New Aluminum Box Onto My Frame, Anchorage late May

Projects during the summer included installing windows, cargo doors and skylights, cutting a pass through into the cab, attaching under bed storage boxes, attaching solar panels to the roof, installing exterior lighting, running and tail lights, mud flaps etc.

IMG_4371
Application of Spray foam
2″ of fresh high density spray foam applied in Palmer

The plan was to get as much done outside the shop leaveing room in the shop for operating tools for wood working.  In late September when temps fell below freezing we moved the rig inside the shop to finish the interior.

Denise paints many sheets of wall paneling early June

The many hours we spent designing, measuring and mocking up last winter all paid off when in September the rig slid into the shop with one inch to spare.  Denise’s superior attention to detail is the reason it all worked.

Installation of windows, storage hatches and lighting June

Interior work included finishing the bedroom, fitting the kitchen cabinets and finishing the electrical and heating systems.  Denise spent hundreds of hours and many days online ordering everything we needed to complete the build (thank goodness for Amazon Prime), now it is just a matter of fitting it all together.

Installation of solar panels, skylights and ventilation fans June

Our current schedule is to have it completed before the new year but….. we are not overly excited about driving it south mid-winter.  We have driven the Alaskan Hwy several times in the darkest coldest months and if there are any weaknesses in your rig they will immediately become apparent.

New Aluminum Underbed Storage Boxes Installed

Vehicles driving the Alaskan Hwy. mid winter need to be fully prepared for extreme weather and extreme road conditions.  At a moments notice sub zero temps can and will find any irregularities or faults the system may have.  We speak from experience.

Tight Fit in the Shop

When we finally back the Farther out of the shop it will be ready to travel but will be unproven.  The best plan would be to take a two week drive around Alaska field testing all systems before relying on them at -30 in January.

Denise Changes A Tire
Testing New Spare Tire Mount, Spare Weighs 300 lbs.

We have not given up on the idea of driving south this winter.  Climate change has certainly changed the typical Alaskan winter and the long range forecast shows it may be milder but wetter. We will continue to monitor the forecast and maybe there will be an opportunity, a window of moderate weather where we can escape to the south.

The Bedroom Takes Shape

Since we are not following any specfic plans we typically design and build using past experiences while living and traveling in many different types of vehicles through the years.

Almost daily we spend time together in the interior dreaming, discussing and designing what needs to  fit where are why. We don’t alway agree but usually we come up with a plan that is well thought out, functional and ours.

FARTHER Drivers

In the mean time life is good, Lulu’s knee is slowly improving, the Farther is in a heated garage equiped with Sirius radio and huge 1970’s Klipsch speakers.  We now have everything we need to finish the project onsite and we are motivated.

At this point our departure plans remain unknown but rest assured we will be leaving at some point in the future.

Carrot Harvesting

We can’t wait to hit the road in our new camper and explore the backroads that await us.  Thanks for following the Big Dogs and we will keep you posted!!

 

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “The Art Of Dreaming Big

    1. Hi Charles, Glad you found us to, our box is 18′ ft long and 8′ wide inside. As we age we don’t like climbing over each other when getting up the middle of night so we have constructed two single beds that run the length of the box with a narrow walkway in the middle. If you have any other build questions email us any time. Thanks for following the big dogs!

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      1. Thank you very much, we are looking to build on the exact same size box.
        We are intrigued about your stories and your beautiful pictures.
        Really wanted to reach out to ask more questions, we are researching for the trucks and found a 7400 4×4, at this stage we don’t know if we should go with a military FMTV M1088 A1 or an International 7400/7300. We love the idea that we won’t have to do much work in the cabin as opposite of the military truck, however we have concerns like the cabover seems to make it much shorter. You guys have much more experience than we do as this will be our first vehicle. Really wondering if even considered the military truck or you found the truck and decided to build on it?

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  1. It’s so cool to see what you two have accomplished! That is one sturdy and awesome looking rig. I trust you’ll be posting photos of the completed interior. I’m impressed by your skills. Is there anything you two can’t do? Heck, you even grow good-looking carrots, LOL!
    So sorry to hear about Lulu’s injury, glad to know she’s healing.

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    1. Thanks Laurel your too kind! yes there will be finished photos and our blog will continue once we hit the road again although it may be in a different format. Denise is in charge of growing things and it was banner year for her! thanks for following the big dogs! Keep you posted…

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    1. Thanks Gary, as you know not living near a hardware store has made it a challenge, the trans has a PTO port and I plan on adding winch sometime in the future. Have a great time in Asia…. send photos!

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  2. So great to hear about your progress and updates! Sorry to hear about Lulu but sure sounds like she is on the mends! You both are an amazing couple! Happy to have met your family in Grand Marais, MI! If you ever come this way again, please let me know, would love to see you! All the best with your travels this winter!

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  3. Wonderful story with great pics. So sorry about Lulu and hope all healed. We sure had some exciting fires but there is an Egyptian exhibit at the Regan Library and I guess they were really stressed about their antiquities. Take care. Love Chidgeys.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Unbelievable, what a great job you two. That is one awesome machine I hope to see in our driveway or river camp one day. Kirby & Dana (We are planning a Northern lights trip in late Feb and a road trip in mid May) ________________________________

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    1. Thanks Kirby, Big machine = big amount of work but I am enjoying every minute of it. Thanks for the offer we would love to visit you guys some day. Where are you going to see the lights? if its in Alaska your welcome to stay at our basecamp anytime.

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  5. Tim and Denise, you two are amazing!! Keep up the fantastic job on FARTHER! Looks wonderful and hopefully you will be driving out sooner then later. Hope the pup is healing.
    We have settled in UP State New York. Maybe we will see you someday. Happy Trails Cousin.

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    1. Thanks Chris and Dan, Wow UP State New York we would love to visit you guys at some point, We are considering shipping the FURTHER to Europe via Halifax someday and that maybe the time to visit you guys. LuLu is slowly improving and should be able to travel soon. Denise sends her love!

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  6. Welcome back! It’s so cool to see all the progress you’ve made on the new truck. Even with the slower than expected schedule, it’s really coming along!

    I’m glad to hear Lulu is on the mend. I didn’t know a brace was an option for a torn ACL. Do you expect the ACL itself to heal or will it just remain torn, but, eventually, she won’t need it? Kevin tore his ACL twice and didn’t have it repaired the second time, so he just has to be careful about side to side movement (ie: no skiing or basketball), but otherwise, it doesn’t impact him. I’m curious to know if it’s the same thing for dogs. Anyway, I hope she continues to improve.

    Stay warm!!

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    1. Thanks, Its great to posting again! its been a big project but one that I am enjoying.
      Denise says- Veterinarians will usually tell you that surgery is the only option. There are other options, we are treating her with conservative management and the brace from Posh Ortho. Scar tissue will build and give the knee stability. The Posh brace will give the injured leg support and stability and will not allow the knee to have lateral movement. A soft or neoprene type brace will allow lateral movement which can further injure the knee. It is a long healing process, she will wear the brace for 8 weeks at least, probably longer. She moves much better and puts more weight on the injured leg which relieves stress on the good leg. Dogs knees are always in a bent position, very different from a human knee.
      We are looking forward to hitting the road again, the dogs can’t wait! Enjoy your travels!

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  7. I’m so pleased to see so many photos. You have surpassed anything I might have imagined while waiting to see the result of your labor. Wishing you wonderful surprises on the road and off…no negative ones…Annabelle…

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  8. You guys have made tremendous progress on the FARTHER and it looks like it is coming along just perfect. Well thought out modifications…solid and snug for sure and those “tank” genes will enable your rig to climb trees. We know about hiccups to best laid plans (we barreled down the Oregon Coast to look after fire stricken parents), but we know “Stay Fluid” are your middle names. I was just talking about you two last night…the Big Dogs are the tribe members I miss seeing the most. But when it comes to our 4 legged kids, we know our priorities. Time is not of the essence now, as we all will be rewarded with even more joy and celebration when you hit the road and we have a “charAcow” reunion. If we all thought like Tuks and Lulu, we would only know live in the moment, there is no such concept of tomorrow, next week or future 😎 We will stay in touch!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words…The hardest part of the decision to delay our fall departure was realizing that we wouldn’t be meeting up with you guys anytime soon, you are right Lulu’s recovery is our highest priority right now but to be honest her situation has reduced the stress of finishing the build this fall. We were ready to hit the road regardless of its completion status but now we have the time to bring it together .

      Glad to hear your families survived the fires, what an unbelievable fire season for Calif. As climate change impacts the earth it would seem one of the big benefits of living on wheels is the ability to seasonaly relocate to a more favorable environment and out of harms way. Enjoy your travels!
      We can’t wait to “charAcow” with you guys…not long now!

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  9. Awesome hearing from you and getting an update on the build. Great name ‘Farther’ – fits perfectly. Hope Lulu’s knee continues healing and you’ll be back on the road … eventually. Love your yard and gardens! Sounds like you had a lovely summer.

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    1. Thanks Ingrid, yes it was great summer but its been an interesting challenge trying to build something like this while living in remote Alaska, I don’t recommend it. Lulu continues to improve but it will take awhile so we will bide our time walking in the woods and enjoying our warm home in the woods. We have been enjoying your travel series in the great lakes, you certainly have knack for finding the charm in places wherever you go. Travel safe!

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      1. I can relate to the difficulties in finding building materials. We did a small kitchen remodel for Al’s sister this summer which lead to me taking the 2 hour drive to Duluth frequently. Even then, the selection was limiting. So I know it’s extremely challenging for you with the build.
        We’ll be returning to WI in 2020 and without a bunch of DIY projects to tackle, we’re hoping to get into the UP and return to places we haven’t seen since the 80’s.

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  10. Not sure if my previous reply went through or not. We are happy to hear from you again. However, Blanics have kept us informed of your delay in travel. Glad Lulu is getting better and hope we do meet you in the lower 48 at some point.

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    1. Thanks Dick and Melinda! Cant wait for the day we will actually get together and party with you guys. Lulu is slowly improving and we plan on leaving as soon as we can but it become harder as the daylight disappears and the days become colder. As this point climate change may become our friend! keep you posted….

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