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
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.
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.
There are a couple of reasons we missed our southbound departure date this fall.
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.
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.
It immediately became obvious that the first months of her recovery would be best spent at home and not on the road.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!