ALEX BOUGHT AN ARMY TRUCK: Episode 2

If you read ‘Alex Bought an Army Truck: Episode 1,’ you may remember how I mentioned that I had made the decision to purchase a different DAF that had been restored and actually driven around for a significant amount of time. Unfortunately due to the timing and extra days that the whole process of driving the first truck to and from Kamloops took then driving back to Vermilion, I was behind on work and wouldn’t be able to return to Abbotsford for quite some time. Well, a little over a month later I was finally able to make it back to Abbotsford to hand an additional clump of money to the owner and drive away with my new truck.

This truck, like the first, I didn’t take for a test drive, which admittedly was kind of stupid, but it was immediately apparent as I drove the first few kilometers that the new truck was in far better condition than the previous and would likely make it home. It did.

This is going to be a short post and I’m not going to ramble on too much, but what I will tell you is this. The Leyland DAF is slow, really slow. It took me two and a half days of consistent driving to make it from Abbotsford back to the farm driving at an average of 80kph. Although the truck is really fun to drive and it’s hilarious the looks you get, 75-80kph gets old really quick. It is also very loud inside and I was forced to wear ear plugs for a lot of the drive. I drove to Edgewater, BC the first day to spend the night with Matt at his parents place, then to Red Deer the next day then to the farm on the third day.

The plan for this summer is to get into the guts of the truck and pull the motor and trans and replace it with a North American Cummins 5.9 6BT that is slightly newer and more powerful. The motor will be mated up to a Eaton Fuller 9 speed transmission with an overdrive highway gear which will hopefully get me 100kph while only revving at around 2100rpm. My hopes are that by reducing the rpm’s and increasing the amount of power the motor makes that I should also improve the fuel mileage from approximately 13mpg to 17mpg. The 9speed transmission will also allow me to gear down in smaller increments while traveling downhill, that coupled with an exhaust brake will make the truck significantly safer to drive and will be less wear and tear on the brakes. The 9 speed transmission is a non-synchromesh transmission which you rev match to shift instead of using the clutch which will result in less clutch wear. The truck will also receive an additional fuel tank to improve its range. By summers end I hope to have all this done so that I can begin to build the living area on the back of the truck. Stay tuned for updates.

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MY JOURNEY IN TECHNICOLOR: OLD MAN WINTER AT MY BACK

As many of you know, the past four years I have traveled South for some portion of the winter to escape the winter doldrums. What started out as an experimental month-long trip that turned into 4 months became an annual excursion to the South West states to explore the multitude of different ecosystems that exist South of the Canadian border. Somewhere in the past four years the annual winter excursion became normal, but more importantly it became restorative. What was once no more than a passing thought about travel became something that I always do and something that I now need to do. The summer before Alison and I went down South together for the first time we made a decision to move onto Alison’s parents farm. This was a decision that made a lot of sense financially for us and would enable us to support Alison’s dream of becoming a cyclist. It’s been a long time and I can’t remember if we had planned to take off during the winters, but what I do recall is that it was only supposed to be temporary, maybe two years or so. Well, four years later we’re still here and what was once Alison and I packing up and going back to BC for winter semesters at University has turned into a traveling South. I realize now how important to me having the change of pace is. Usually by summers end I am completely burnt out. The farm is not an easy place for me to be and usually after two to three months of solid work I am in desperate need of life giving activities to restore my mind, body and soul. Having said all that, it was a surprise to me this past fall when I spoke the words telling my employer, father in law, that I would stay on for the winter. Obviously, if you’ve been reading my other blogs, there’s a purpose for that, but nonetheless at the beginning of the winter I was facing months of cold, work and prairie life without any reprieve. What was I thinking? Well, to make a long story short, by late November I was already planning on driving South with Alison. Alison would be flying back to Alberta instead of directly to California and shortly after her arrival we would depart by land to make the drive to San Francisco. The trip would enable me to get a little exploration done (one of my favorite things) and some time away from the farm and cold. I knew from the get-go that it was going to be a short trip and that I was likely to see a lot of seat time, but at the very least I could find some new roads to explore and maybe add a hot spring to the collection. What I experienced on this past trip was a lot of snow and undesirable weather, but what I’ve learned in my travels is that it is all a gift and nostalgia wipes away a lot of the struggle. I’m not going to write any more, I can see you, the reader, just itching for all this to be over so you can get to the visually appealing part, so…enjoy.

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As we prepared for our departure from Abbotsford, BC, I watched the weather for Washington and it was calling for snow. I knew it was imperative that we make it through Seattle before any kind of snow hit the ground. Luck had it that we passed through Seattle about two hours before snowmaggedon hit and the roads and highways became a nightmare. But, don’t think that we wholly avoided the snow. As we approached Oregon we turned off the I-5 and crossed over the Columbia River at Longview as we always do, but this time instead of following the coast around we traveled a little more inland over a few low coastal mountain passes to get to our decided-upon sleeping location for the night. Minutes after we left the 101 and began to climb up on the 47 we found ourselves entering the snowline and from that point we saw nothing but un-plowed roads and falling snow until we reached our spot after dark. We woke to wet snow on the outside of the tent and condensation droplets on the inside of the tent, wet.

A little cold won’t dampen our spirits, we’re camping and camp coffee is a must!

A little cold won’t dampen our spirits, we’re camping and camp coffee is a must!

Pro tip: Jetboil’s are the bomb!

Pro tip: Jetboil’s are the bomb!

Even Willow is wondering what the heck is going on with all this snow…

Even Willow is wondering what the heck is going on with all this snow…

We’d been on the road for a spell and we were getting hungry so I decided to swing a u-turn when we passed this beach-side park.

We’d been on the road for a spell and we were getting hungry so I decided to swing a u-turn when we passed this beach-side park.

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Shortly after our arrival it began to snow again.

Shortly after our arrival it began to snow again.

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This will forever be one of my favorite photos, the snowflake that you see dead center of the photo perfectly and decisively describes our short stop on the beach that day.

This will forever be one of my favorite photos, the snowflake that you see dead center of the photo perfectly and decisively describes our short stop on the beach that day.

Big trees, little truck.

Big trees, little truck.

Sometimes you need to hang your head out the window, other times you need to hang your body out the window.

Sometimes you need to hang your head out the window, other times you need to hang your body out the window.

One of our favorite spots in California to visit every year.

One of our favorite spots in California to visit every year.

Two of my favorites.

Two of my favorites.

Mesmerized by the waves and all their might.

Mesmerized by the waves and all their might.

After being cooped up in the truck all day it was inevitable that Alison stretch her legs a little.

After being cooped up in the truck all day it was inevitable that Alison stretch her legs a little.

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Leave nothing but your tracks.

Leave nothing but your tracks.

Getting recharged by the outdoors.

Getting recharged by the outdoors.

Pro tip: bring an awning with you when truck camping. #lifesaver

Pro tip: bring an awning with you when truck camping. #lifesaver

If only I had been holding my beer and not that lens filter, I may have not looked so awkward. I still really like this photo, Alison got a great capture here.

If only I had been holding my beer and not that lens filter, I may have not looked so awkward. I still really like this photo, Alison got a great capture here.

Camp-happy is what I call it.

Camp-happy is what I call it.

Four years in a row I’ve taken this same picture, always with a different camp set up.

Four years in a row I’ve taken this same picture, always with a different camp set up.

Coastal colors.

Coastal colors.

You know you’re taking a good photo when someone drives up behind you, parks and follows suit.

You know you’re taking a good photo when someone drives up behind you, parks and follows suit.

The looks we got from people as we stood under our awning and munched on sandwiches and sipped hot drinks while the wind blew and it tried to rain on us were fun. One thing that I think I manage with all my builds is something that catches the eye and when you’re spread out like us in a parking lot eating lunch, you catch peoples attention.

The looks we got from people as we stood under our awning and munched on sandwiches and sipped hot drinks while the wind blew and it tried to rain on us were fun. One thing that I think I manage with all my builds is something that catches the eye and when you’re spread out like us in a parking lot eating lunch, you catch peoples attention.

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We found this spot in Gualala used by the local fishers and four wheelers. To get out of the rain we nestled the truck inside a cluster of red woods which provided a good canopy. I struggled to start with the ultra hard wood that we had bought, but eventually was victorious. The next morning our little fire pit was under 4” of water.

We found this spot in Gualala used by the local fishers and four wheelers. To get out of the rain we nestled the truck inside a cluster of red woods which provided a good canopy. I struggled to start with the ultra hard wood that we had bought, but eventually was victorious. The next morning our little fire pit was under 4” of water.

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Our last night together on the road we sat by our little fire while eating greasy spaghetti (any red meat that that we eat that isn’t bison is now considered super greasy) and tried to stay warm. We turned in for the night around 7:00pm because we had burned all our wood, it was beginning to rain and we had little else to do. The next morning we woke, found a puddle under our mattress, packed up and left for the relative warmth and dry of San Francisco. We found out as we drove further South that the night previous had born massive rain fall and many roads were flooded. I had seen a rain fall warning for a 100% chance of 50-75mm of rain that day. After seeing all the closed roads and “flooded” signs, I had no problem believing the warning.

Fast forward a few days and I’m leaving Oakdale after visiting with some good friends of mine. I’ve crossed the Sierra which involved three hours of poor California drivers in a snow storm and now I’m cruising down the 395 to go visit my friend Genevieve in Mono Lake.

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This coating of ice was something new for me. I’d never seen so much ice frozen to my vehicle before, but I guess that’s what happens when sloppy snow is kicked up and then frozen by the colder passing air.

This coating of ice was something new for me. I’d never seen so much ice frozen to my vehicle before, but I guess that’s what happens when sloppy snow is kicked up and then frozen by the colder passing air.

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The initial meet up dog walk.

The initial meet up dog walk.

Approaching Mono Lake from the North.

Approaching Mono Lake from the North.

It’s always interesting when you have no means of communicating with the person following you that you want to stop for a photo. You simply stop in the middle of road and wait communicate in person. I did this quite a lot as we drove from California to Nevada, the scenery was simply stunning.

It’s always interesting when you have no means of communicating with the person following you that you want to stop for a photo. You simply stop in the middle of road and wait communicate in person. I did this quite a lot as we drove from California to Nevada, the scenery was simply stunning.

Mahalo my dude.

Mahalo my dude.

This is my all-time favorite photo right now. So much color, so much landscape, so much Toyota, so much epic!

This is my all-time favorite photo right now. So much color, so much landscape, so much Toyota, so much epic!

The Bandit and Thomas as we roll the gravel road to our hot spring destination.

The Bandit and Thomas as we roll the gravel road to our hot spring destination.

Genevieve and Sailor in Bandit rolling through Nevada.

Genevieve and Sailor in Bandit rolling through Nevada.

Hot spring home for the next two nights.

Hot spring home for the next two nights.

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A couple years back I officially met Genevieve in Yucca Valley when I recognized her camper and went over to say hi. The following year I caught up with her again and we camping outside of Joshua Tree for a couple nights and she showed me some good vanlife hotspots for food, bathing and camping. I made sure to let her know when I was coming South and we were able to do another couple of nights of camping and this time I showed her a new place. I’ve made some pretty great friends while traveling and Genevieve is one of those.

A couple years back I officially met Genevieve in Yucca Valley when I recognized her camper and went over to say hi. The following year I caught up with her again and we camping outside of Joshua Tree for a couple nights and she showed me some good vanlife hotspots for food, bathing and camping. I made sure to let her know when I was coming South and we were able to do another couple of nights of camping and this time I showed her a new place. I’ve made some pretty great friends while traveling and Genevieve is one of those.

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Genevieve and Sailor

Genevieve and Sailor

Willow and Sailor - These two are kind of hot and cold to each other, I don’t think they’ve quite spent enough time around each other to really determine if they’re buds or not. More time will tell.

Willow and Sailor - These two are kind of hot and cold to each other, I don’t think they’ve quite spent enough time around each other to really determine if they’re buds or not. More time will tell.

Genevieve being a boss and making us flatbread pizza’s. I offered her my kitchen to prep food, but she sat cross-legged by the fire instead, I think it had something to do with the warmth…

Genevieve being a boss and making us flatbread pizza’s. I offered her my kitchen to prep food, but she sat cross-legged by the fire instead, I think it had something to do with the warmth…

That fire was a fire to be proud of, it burned hot and it burned long. #firestarter

That fire was a fire to be proud of, it burned hot and it burned long. #firestarter

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I stayed for two nights at the first hot spring which meant when I left I had three days to drive up through Nevada, Oregon and Washington taking the back routes. I have to say, taking the back roads is so much more rewarding than slogging it on the interstates.

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I need a drone, I can only imagine the shots I’m missing out on while not having a drone.

I need a drone, I can only imagine the shots I’m missing out on while not having a drone.

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One of the many things I love about Nevada, the roads.

One of the many things I love about Nevada, the roads.

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I had scoped out a number of different hot springs I wanted to go investigate while on my way North; however, after driving 14 miles out to one and not finding it, essentially wasting an hour, I decided that more hot spring hunting would have to happen later on when I had more time and a better fuel range and travel budget. Instead of traveling all over the place I b-lined it for a hot spring near the border of Nevada and Oregon. I arrived well after sunset, wandered around in the dark for a while before finding my spot, set up camp, ate food then descended into the hot water. I soaked that night by myself out in the desert with a full moon and bright stars overhead, there was no wind and no sound. It was a truly magical night, one I won’t soon forget.

The next morning I woke to ice on my sleeping bag, ice on the walls and 3” of snow on everything else. I packed up quickly and left, no means delaying the inevitable and I don’t like being cold.

The next morning I woke to ice on my sleeping bag, ice on the walls and 3” of snow on everything else. I packed up quickly and left, no means delaying the inevitable and I don’t like being cold.

Hot spring steam kept on fogging my lens so this photo seems a lot foggier than it was.

Hot spring steam kept on fogging my lens so this photo seems a lot foggier than it was.

The first time I’ve ever crossed into Oregon from Nevada.

The first time I’ve ever crossed into Oregon from Nevada.

Driving the 205 along the Steens Mountains, talk about no one around…maybe 10 cars in three hours of driving.

Driving the 205 along the Steens Mountains, talk about no one around…maybe 10 cars in three hours of driving.

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That’s all for now folks, I have another blog following close behind this one laying out the successful trip I made with my new rig, stay tuned for that.

Final thoughts:

  • I am so blessed to able to do what I do and I love what I am able to do. Renewing my mind through travel and exploration is a practice that I am so fortunate to have discovered because, really, there are a lot of people out there who have not yet discovered their special way of relaxing and restoring themselves which means there are a lot of very frustrated people out there. I don’t want to be one of those frustrated people, because frustrated people take joy away from others, and I would rather distribute joy than take it.

  • I take REALLY good photos, I say that not as a brag but as a reassurance to myself that I take good photos; looking over these photos and seeing what I’ve captured and where I went to get them and how my artistic eye has rendered that moment in time reminds me that I’m good at what I do, it’s easy to forget that in the face of the media bombardment that we get every day. I may not get paid to take these photos, but it brings me immense joy to capture a moment in time, bring it home and then share it with you and hopefully pass on a desire to go out and discover what’s out there beyond your boundaries.

  • My truck camp set up needs refinement, it’s not very good at doing winter things. I should probably build something to keep me warm on my adventures…

  • Nevada is my favorite state, exploring is my favorite state of mind.


ALEX BOUGHT AN ARMY TRUCK: Episode 1

I just had an adventure…not one that turned out the way I had wanted it to.

Sheesh, if I don’t stop beginning these blogs off with the latest vehicle I’ve purchased you might think that I’m indecisive or something. Yes, I bought another vehicle and I have yet again changed my plans, but I’ll get to that later. I suppose I should start from the beginning then, so here it is, the beginning of my journey with the Leyland DAF T244.

Roughly two months ago I was in Red Deer, Alberta with Alison. We were driving back to Alison’s sister’s house and as we passed through a roundabout I noticed a military truck sitting in a used car lot. It’s not often that you see ex-military vehicles sitting in used car lots, especially in Canada. I’m like every little boy out there, when I see a military convoy driving down highway I get all excited and start rubber-necking hard, so it was no surprise that I was immediately interested in what I saw in that used car lot. I was so intrigued by the idea of an ex-military vehicle in a used car lot that I immediately went and did a little research when we finished our drive back. It was shortly after that I was reading the used cars lots ad and my eyes were bugging out of my skull.

Perhaps I’ve mentioned in previous blogs my journey of indecision with vehicle options and perhaps you might remember mentioning how I had looked at a Dodge 2500 with a Cummins 5.9L turbo diesel and possibly swapping a 12 valve into a vehicle. I identified fairly early in my search for the perfect mobile living vehicle that I wanted a diesel and 4x4 capability and I had thought extensively about swapping the famed Cummins 12 valve into a variety of different vehicles before doing away with idea because I wasn’t interested in all the work of doing a swap. Having to do away with the Cummins swap idea was kind of too bad because it’s a legendary motor known by many for going well past a million kilometers with little else than basic maintenance. Well, you may have guessed by now why my eyes were so wide while I was reading the ad for the DAF, yes, the old military truck is equipped with a Cummins 12 valve. I drove back to the used car lot with Alison that night to take a closer look at the truck. I was instantly in love. The truck is a cab over flatdeck transport truck with significant ground clearance, four wheel drive, high and low range, locking diffs and big interior space in the cab. We left the truck that night but my brain would not let me not think about it. When I left Red Deer that weekend I stopped by the lot for some more pictures.

With a little digging my friend Matt discovered that this truck was purchased from auction for roughly $3. It is now listed for almost $20k at the used car dealership. It’s amazing what a little elbow grease and paint will do to a vehicle, eh?

With a little digging my friend Matt discovered that this truck was purchased from auction for roughly $3. It is now listed for almost $20k at the used car dealership. It’s amazing what a little elbow grease and paint will do to a vehicle, eh?

Deck space and ground clearance for dayssssss.

Deck space and ground clearance for dayssssss.

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Big open interior, great for stretching out and enjoying a leisurely drive.

Big open interior, great for stretching out and enjoying a leisurely drive.

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Two tan trucks. Had I purchased the DAF in the picture it would have been very tempting to have matching paint jobs and graphics for both trucks.

Two tan trucks. Had I purchased the DAF in the picture it would have been very tempting to have matching paint jobs and graphics for both trucks.

Lets fast forward to two weeks later. I’ve put out some feelers and done a little more research. After going looking for problems with these trucks I have found very few problems and nothing that isn’t easily fixed. The Leyland DAF trucks have been decommissioned by the British military since 2004 (06?) and are now used extensively as expedition trucks in the UK and EU. The British military had brought a hand full of the trucks over to their training facility in Suffield, Alberta and that’s where Canada’s supply of Leyland DAF’s had come from. After looking around I only found two for sale, but when I was contacted by another Canadian DAF owner a new opportunity arose and in my home town of Abbotsford, BC no less. Before driving back to my parents place for an early Christmas I had the opportunity to test drive the DAF in Red Deer which further confirmed that I really really really really wanted one.

I’m going to make a long story short. I met with the owner of not one, but two DAF’s in Abbotsford, BC when I was back there for Christmas. What he had was one restored and one un-restored. I said that if I could sell my van (Norton) that I would buy the un-restored DAF which was considerably less expensive than the one I had found in Red Deer. Due to the fact that the owner wanted to begin stripping down and restoring the DAF that I was interested in he gave me an ultimatum, I had to tell him whether or not I could buy it by Dec 31, 2018. A couple weeks later, Norton went to his new owner on Dec 28, 2018. I called up the DAF owner in BC immediately after and then sent him a deposit.

Another two weeks later and I was flying to BC to go pick up the truck, this is when my little misadventure began. Insurance, registration and payment for the new-to-me 1990 Leyland DAF went well and smooth, and I was driving away from the yard not long after landing in Abbotsford. I had told my parents I would take them for a ride when i arrived at their place. I decided to take my new truck up Sumas mountain for its first little romp under new ownership. After bouncing around for an hour my brother met us at the lower parking lot at the Sumas mtn entrance and I took my brother up for a quick ride as well.

the DAF’s roof is rated to support up to five troops, or so I’ve heard, but it sure can support me!

the DAF’s roof is rated to support up to five troops, or so I’ve heard, but it sure can support me!

Little Brother inspecting the DAF. We determined that we could fit a lot bikes in the back of this truck…great shuttle rig.

Little Brother inspecting the DAF. We determined that we could fit a lot bikes in the back of this truck…great shuttle rig.

When the day grew old and we descended down the mountain I was driving down the road and came around a blind corner to a construction crew working on a telephone pole, I was a little spooked and hit the brakes a little hard and then truck promptly died. We rolled to a stop just short of the work crew and when I went to start the truck up it wouldn’t start, the battery was dead. I called the previous owner and told him what had happened, he had assured me that he wanted me taking home a good vehicle so he was quick to hop in his truck and meet us where we were to assess the problem. Another long story short, the alternator was dead. By the next morning we had a new alternator in the truck and I was on my way. As a drove down the highway towards Hope, BC I had begun to notice large clouds of smoke as I reached higher RPM’s (the truck maxes out a 90km/h and is revving at roughly 2400 rpm at that point). I knew the truck had been sitting for quite some time so I assumed that it was simply burning a little less efficiently as the injectors cleaned.

At the top of the Coquihalla.

At the top of the Coquihalla.

After some further consideration I realized how much of a job it would be to sand blast and paint this truck. With the addition of a spent motor my workload was really piling up, part of the reason I wasn’t so keen on continuing on with this truck.

After some further consideration I realized how much of a job it would be to sand blast and paint this truck. With the addition of a spent motor my workload was really piling up, part of the reason I wasn’t so keen on continuing on with this truck.

When I reached Merritt, BC I met up with my new friend Matt who had been the one who steered me in the direction of my new truck. I parked by Matt’s truck and shut off the truck and went for food. When I returned to the DAF and proceeded to start the truck it again wouldn’t start. Matt being an electrician by trade had his tester with him and we quickly determined that I had another dying/dead alternator. For whatever reason we decided to press on in hopes that we could make it somewhere further down the road before dark. We made it as far as Kamloops, BC before my batteries ran out of juice and I had no lights. We decided to we would stay the night in Kamloops and return to Abbotsford the next day. As we drove through the city of Kamloops to get to the hotel we had chosen I was pulled over by the police and told I had no lights. Luckily I was, at that point, about 50 meters from the hotel parking lot and I was allowed to park for the night without any tickets incurred.

In the morning we charged the DAF’s batteries one by one using Matt’s truck and were off to the races in short order. Unfortunately our success didn’t last long. Although I had been told it wasn’t necessary to pass the weigh stations with this truck because it was a private vehicle I had been passing through scales so that the CVSE could see I had no load on, well, the West-bound Kamloops weight station had their pass-through lane closed off so I had to actually weigh the truck and then I was pulled in for a papers inspection. One thing led to the next and we found out that my batteries were already dead and I had no lights. Although we could charge the batteries with Matt’s truck so that we could drive for up to an hour, I was still given a ticket for having in-operable lights. Great. Luckily we weren’t deemed “out of service” and were allowed to go on our way back to Abbotsford.

An “early morning” charge, it’s a trucks morning coffee.

An “early morning” charge, it’s a trucks morning coffee.

Gotta love the arid landscape of interior British Columbia.

Gotta love the arid landscape of interior British Columbia.

This tale would have ended in short order had it not been for what Matt and I had begun to notice during our drive to Kamloops and back. As my follow driver, Matt had been keeping a close following distance behind me and was subsequently being showered in motor oil. We had noticed this first just outside of Kamloops and it became fairly apparent that it wasn’t normal for the truck to be bleeding this much oil. It’s common for some oil to come out the crank case breather at high rpm on the 12 valves; however, this much oil was a bit of a concern. After repeated windshield cleanings we decided to get an oil catch made up so that Matt could actually see out of his windshield. Despite the its anti-rust properties, the oil on the windshield, headlights and front end of Matt’s truck wasn’t so great. We stopped in again at Merritt and fashioned up an oil catch and then drove back to Abbotsford. When we arrived back at the yard we found the oil catch to be spilling over. The drive from Merritt to Abbotsford is a little over 200km’s. It’s a good thing I had topped up the oil.

In the Canadian Tire parking lot topping up oil, charging the batteries and fashioning the oil catch. Not sure what Matt is doing though, some kind of dance?

In the Canadian Tire parking lot topping up oil, charging the batteries and fashioning the oil catch. Not sure what Matt is doing though, some kind of dance?

This blog sponsored by, Pure Leaf. Not the application they had intended for the bottle no doubt, kind of contradictory based on their logo, “here, catch all this dirty petroleum oil.”

This blog sponsored by, Pure Leaf. Not the application they had intended for the bottle no doubt, kind of contradictory based on their logo, “here, catch all this dirty petroleum oil.”

So, now I am home in Alberta again, sans truck. Matt was a straight up champ and drove me the 1400km back to Vermilion, otherwise I would have spent money I didn’t want to spend on a plane ticket that I didn’t really want to buy. I have made the decision to purchase the other truck that has been restored and driven instead of attempting the restoration of the initial DAF I had purchased. I will hopefully pick up the truck near the end of February when I return from my trip to California. All this was unfortunate, but I had a lot of fun. Driving the DAF is a great experience and I’m still looking forward to many great adventures, hiccups and snags always happen, you just have to roll with it and figure out solutions. As of yet I have no information concerning what is actually wrong with the motor and electrical system of the DAF i drove to Kamloops and back but I’m sure to find out soon enough.

Shit happens, but I’m still having fun!!!

Shit happens, but I’m still having fun!!!

BIG shout out to Matt for all his help this past weekend, I would have been up shit creek without a paddle had he not been around to help out. Huzzah for shared interests and legendary Canadian kindness. Matt, yer a legend mate!

THOMAS: A LEGEND IS BORN

Can you believe it? I’m already into another vehicle/ travel set up, it’s almost as if I can’t make up my mind. I know in my last blog, which was a long time ago, I dropped the first image of my latest project. A lot has happened since then, seriously, that’s no understatement. To catch you up on my vehicle endeavors I’ll give you an overview of what’s happened since I “announced” the purchase of Thomas.

Turns out Thomas had a bent frame, bent motor mounts and a myriad of electrical issues. After I purchased the truck I had it towed to my Disturbed Industries Automotive to have my friend Ryan look over it then shortly after drove home to Alberta to start work. The plan was to have Ryan do whatever work on the truck that was necessary to get it road worthy and legal to drive. I would return from Alberta when the work was done and drive the truck back home. A couple of weeks or so after I returned home I got the bad news about what Ryan had found. I immediately had the truck towed to another friends place so it wasn’t in the way while I figured out what I had to do. After talking with my close friend Duane we decided to poke around Thomas’ insides a little more. After some further diagnostics Duane discovered that Thomas’ motor was not in fact blown (I bought Thomas with the intention to put another used motor in knowing that the motor wasn’t running) but was actually running fairly well. But, the fact that there was a bent frame still remained. While all this truck drama was occurring I was looking into the details of importing a new van to Canada (I had purchased Thomas as a boot-around-the-farm-truck). The process was looking rather daunting and I was becoming less and less certain of my decision to purchase another Hiace. As I put more focus on Thomas I got to recalling all the good times in my 1988 Toyota pickup. I started to realize that I had a really good platform for a mobile living situation right in my lap. A reliable pickup that has a fairly basic motor, suspension and inner workings, plus parts can be located easily anywhere in North and South America and it has a 7.5ft bed, perfect for mounting a camper. All I had to do was figure out the frame problem, which coincidentally wasn’t that difficult because it turns out Ryan had another long bed Toyota pickup sitting in his shop with a perfect frame and rust free cab. Bingo. So yes, I bought a second truck. I had the second truck towed to Duane’s shop and he got started on swapping motors and anything worth saving from Thomas 1.0 to Thomas 2.0. A couple weeks later I flew to BC and spent a weekend slaving away on the truck with Duane to get it driveable so that I could return home. After some 24-30hrs of work over a weekend I started the truck and drove from BC to Alberta without so much as a hiccup from the 31 year old clunker that had just been two trucks.

This here marks the burial place of Thomas 1.0. Naw, actually he went to the scrappers.

This here marks the burial place of Thomas 1.0. Naw, actually he went to the scrappers.

The truck starts, the truck runs, the truck moves under its own power. Time to drive to Alberta! Thanks Duane and Blake!

The truck starts, the truck runs, the truck moves under its own power. Time to drive to Alberta! Thanks Duane and Blake!

What Thomas 1.0 evolved into.

What Thomas 1.0 evolved into.

SO! Fast forward a little, the truck has a new paint job, straightened body panels, new suspension, new front end, new armor and a boat load of other stuff. Phase one of Thomas’ transformation is complete, he’s ready and able to go on short term trips, can carry our camping-based kit and has my Autohome RTT mounted up top for sleeping in. Alison and I hopped into drive back to BC for a month of cycling, exploring, camping and perfect chaos. I’ll keep the summer coverage brief because I intended this blog to be more about building Thomas, but I have been due for a recap blog.

One of my favorite spots along the river near Nordegg.

One of my favorite spots along the river near Nordegg.

Happy camper!

Happy camper!

The new setup with Thomas was mediocre at best, it was difficult to retrieve stuff from the box of the truck with the bike rack on the back, and we had no fridge to keep our food cool, but first steps to something greater aren’t always easy.

The new setup with Thomas was mediocre at best, it was difficult to retrieve stuff from the box of the truck with the bike rack on the back, and we had no fridge to keep our food cool, but first steps to something greater aren’t always easy.

Despite the new-found difficulties of our “back-to-basics” build we were more than stoked to be back in the mountains.

Despite the new-found difficulties of our “back-to-basics” build we were more than stoked to be back in the mountains.

Morning RTT views.

Morning RTT views.

Icefield Parkway views never disappoint.

Icefield Parkway views never disappoint.

I discovered a viewpoint near Oyama in the Okanagan after arriving to a downpour in our previous planned spot.

I discovered a viewpoint near Oyama in the Okanagan after arriving to a downpour in our previous planned spot.

Viewpoint of epicness.

Viewpoint of epicness.

Nowadays it’s a rare occasion to be camping with Alison, so we find ourselves all smiles when we do.

Nowadays it’s a rare occasion to be camping with Alison, so we find ourselves all smiles when we do.

Spot courtesy of iOverlander

Spot courtesy of iOverlander

A very blown-out shot of us with our buddy Thomas about to hit the road again.

A very blown-out shot of us with our buddy Thomas about to hit the road again.

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

My dad being my dad at the New Westminster Criterium

My dad being my dad at the New Westminster Criterium

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

“Byeeeeeee”, Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

“Byeeeeeee”, Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

I have funny parents, never a dull moment.

I have funny parents, never a dull moment.

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Burnaby Criterium, 2018

Burnaby Criterium, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Gas Town Grand Prix, 2018

Burnaby Critierium, 2018

Burnaby Critierium, 2018

Poco Criterium, 2018

Poco Criterium, 2018

Tour de Whiterock, 2018

Tour de Whiterock, 2018

Tour de White Rock, 2018

Tour de White Rock, 2018

Tour de Whiterock, 2018

Tour de Whiterock, 2018

Due to Alison being gone during our 7 year anniversary we decided to celebrate early by escaping to one of our favorite spots.

Due to Alison being gone during our 7 year anniversary we decided to celebrate early by escaping to one of our favorite spots.

The luxury of camping, mid-afternoon naps.

The luxury of camping, mid-afternoon naps.

Camp level, 1000

Camp level, 1000

Riding the stoke…

Riding the stoke…

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I’ll never not miss BC mountains.

I’ll never not miss BC mountains.

Returning to Alberta by myself I decided to take the long way home and managed to make what should have been a two journey into a week of driving. This is overlooking Osoyoos, BC.

Returning to Alberta by myself I decided to take the long way home and managed to make what should have been a two journey into a week of driving. This is overlooking Osoyoos, BC.

Mountain top chill out spots. I discovered that my stove was missing it’s gas attachment, so I ate smoked oyster on crackers for dinner. I’ll be honest, I was a little more worried about bears coming to visit me that night due to the smelly oyster can I had hidden away in the garbage.

Mountain top chill out spots. I discovered that my stove was missing it’s gas attachment, so I ate smoked oyster on crackers for dinner. I’ll be honest, I was a little more worried about bears coming to visit me that night due to the smelly oyster can I had hidden away in the garbage.

Can’t get enough of these sunset colors.

Can’t get enough of these sunset colors.

Morning views.

Morning views.

My compatriots from Southern BC, Jessey and Tommie. These gems were supposed to accompany me on my Alaska/Yukon trip last summer but after a broken ankle a week before departure Jessey had to throw in the towel.

My compatriots from Southern BC, Jessey and Tommie. These gems were supposed to accompany me on my Alaska/Yukon trip last summer but after a broken ankle a week before departure Jessey had to throw in the towel.

After years of meet-up attempts I finally caught up with Travis Perry and camped with him just outside of Nelson, BC.

After years of meet-up attempts I finally caught up with Travis Perry and camped with him just outside of Nelson, BC.

Later the next day we decided to drive up a mountain just outside of Kaslo to peek some peaks and gold mines.

Later the next day we decided to drive up a mountain just outside of Kaslo to peek some peaks and gold mines.

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Dusty ascents: minutes after this shot was taken we were stopped dead in our tracks as the grade became too steep and loose for our truck to climb any further.

Dusty ascents: minutes after this shot was taken we were stopped dead in our tracks as the grade became too steep and loose for our truck to climb any further.

We were forced to back down the steep trail into this little pull out. I assure you, trying the exit the truck was difficult without falling out.

We were forced to back down the steep trail into this little pull out. I assure you, trying the exit the truck was difficult without falling out.

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Can’t beat Kootney views.

Can’t beat Kootney views.

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Sitting damn near 6000ft has it’s perks. Travis managed to make it to 6008ft.

Sitting damn near 6000ft has it’s perks. Travis managed to make it to 6008ft.

Who would have known that Alison’s bike would make it to such heights via 4x4 truck.

Who would have known that Alison’s bike would make it to such heights via 4x4 truck.

Nature cake.

Nature cake.

Thomas looking rather regal in his crowsnest perch.

Thomas looking rather regal in his crowsnest perch.

Pre Kootney lake ferry.

Pre Kootney lake ferry.

Sailing into the sunset. It was a little odd for me to be standing on a fresh water ferry crossing a lake in the middle of a province.

Sailing into the sunset. It was a little odd for me to be standing on a fresh water ferry crossing a lake in the middle of a province.

Before exiting the mountains I met up with my friend Alec and Erin for a little camping and proceeded to travel a large portion of the 40 which is a forestry trunk road paralleling the Rockies as far south as Crowsnest Pass and as far North as Grand Prairie.

Before exiting the mountains I met up with my friend Alec and Erin for a little camping and proceeded to travel a large portion of the 40 which is a forestry trunk road paralleling the Rockies as far south as Crowsnest Pass and as far North as Grand Prairie.

Alec has adopted much of my previous Tacoma parts and now sports a pretty sweet little living space inside the canopy he bought from me.

Alec has adopted much of my previous Tacoma parts and now sports a pretty sweet little living space inside the canopy he bought from me.

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One happy dog.

One happy dog.

Thomas hiding in the foliage.

Thomas hiding in the foliage.

It’s hard to resist a little swamp romping.

It’s hard to resist a little swamp romping.

Hummingbird Falls

Hummingbird Falls

Ram Falls

Ram Falls

Alec and I made the trek down to the rivers edge and then up river to get a swim at the base of Ram Falls.

Alec and I made the trek down to the rivers edge and then up river to get a swim at the base of Ram Falls.

Huzzah, waterfalls!

Huzzah, waterfalls!

In the spirit of camping, boots, hatchet, trucks and tents.

In the spirit of camping, boots, hatchet, trucks and tents.

Peaceful.

Peaceful.

More swamp romping.

More swamp romping.

At this point I had shed the company of friends and forged my own path in the Alberta wilds. Highway 40 did not disappoint and I reckon I’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

At this point I had shed the company of friends and forged my own path in the Alberta wilds. Highway 40 did not disappoint and I reckon I’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

Pepper Lake, along the 40.

Pepper Lake, along the 40.

A little piece of paradise. I stopped early in the this spot, not wanting to drive any more and sat by the fire attempting to play harmonica and eating snacks.

A little piece of paradise. I stopped early in the this spot, not wanting to drive any more and sat by the fire attempting to play harmonica and eating snacks.

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These are my camp colors.

These are my camp colors.

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It’s views like these that drive me to keep exploring.

It’s views like these that drive me to keep exploring.

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Now I’m back on the farm and working yet again. Thomas has undergone a few more upgrades, but more importantly…step one of phase two has begun. I’ve returned to my plans of building an aluminum camper. I had intended to do so using Turbo (my 2013 Toyota Tacoma) as a foundation but Norton happened and that plan was 86’d. Returning to the camper concept I’ve decided to do all the work myself and save money where I can so that when it comes to travel I can go further for longer. Step one of phase two involves ditching the truck box and building a flatbed for the camper to sit on. I had intended to build the camper inside the truck box but ultimately decided against that to avoid complications and loss of space later on down the road in the construction of the camper. I opted to build a ute tray style flatbed, something you don’t see a lot of here in Canada. Construction of phase two has already commenced and I’ve made significant progress. Take a look…

RTT’less with new shoes, Thomas is looking pretty sharp and a whole lot lighter.

RTT’less with new shoes, Thomas is looking pretty sharp and a whole lot lighter.

A glamour shot of Willow soaking up the trucklife

A glamour shot of Willow soaking up the trucklife

Discovering little trails in the prairies of Alberta can actually be pretty fun.

Discovering little trails in the prairies of Alberta can actually be pretty fun.

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This is the last shot I have of Thomas before he lost his truck box.

This is the last shot I have of Thomas before he lost his truck box.

Building begins and structure begins to take form.

Building begins and structure begins to take form.

Truck boxes being fabbed.

Truck boxes being fabbed.

I didn’t manage to take too many photos of the building process so here’s the finished product.

I didn’t manage to take too many photos of the building process so here’s the finished product.

The bed sides and headache rack can be removed easily to allow for the camper to be bolted in place.

The bed sides and headache rack can be removed easily to allow for the camper to be bolted in place.

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It was my decision to stay on the farm for the winter right from the get-go. I knew that I would have to spend a significant amount of time while working to both afford and properly build my next project. I knew that this decision wasn’t going to be a popular one going into the winter. I’m already watching some of my favorite people on instagram traveling around and feeling the pull of the road and the freedom of adventure. But, sometimes you have to sacrifice what you love to do for a time to enable yourself to do that same thing for much longer.

WRAPPING UP & LOOKING BACK: TRANSITIONING BACK TO FARMLIFE

"All good things come to an end," yeah, I suppose that's true, but it doesn't mean that the next thing is inherently bad.  My time on the road has come to a close and I am now transitioning back into life on the farm in Alberta.  Were this me a few years ago I'd be telling you how it's a struggle to come back to the farm and start work after such a long time away, but it's not and a lot has changed since then.  Although I'm turning the page on a chapter of my life that was full of travel and adventure, I am about to start a chapter that, yes, contains a lot of work, but also will contain loads of opportunity to exercise my creativity.  And during those times when I'm in the seat of a tractor, I have a massive collection of photos from my adventures to look back on to remind me why I work those long hours.  Speaking of massive collections of photos, lets take a look back at my recent trip and some of the highlights.

It still amazes me when I look at all the places that I've been in the last three months.  Living out of my van opened up so many unique experiences and allowed me to really open myself up to different environments that I drove through.  My little Toyota Hiace van performed perfectly and never gave me any trouble.  All in all, the trip went off without a hitch.  

It's been interesting coming back to Canada after traveling all the way to the Southern tip of the Baja Peninsula; it's like a fog has lifted and I've realized how many exciting new exploration opportunities exist in my back yard, in my very own country.  You might think I'm crazy for saying this, but I was disinterested in exploring Canada for a little while.  I was so focused on exploring down South that BC forests and Alberta mountains didn't strike me as interesting.  While I was back home at my parents place in Alberta I did my best to get out into the mountains during the brief breaks in the rain.  I found places I had never seen in the 20 years of living in that area and they were just off of side roads I had driven by multiple times.  Now that I'm back on the farm for a large chunk of time I have the opportunity to do some short term trips into the Alberta Rockies to see what I can find there.  I've gained so much from my long term travels, but at the very least, my traveling has put in me a drive to explore local and gain a better understanding of the beauty that is within a few hours reach.

If you're reading this right now, you're one of the few that will be let into a little secret of mine that I've been keeping for the last few months.  I spoke of big plans to come as I prepare to travel for a year and then one day travel south to Patagonia.  Unfortunately Norton is not fit for these journeys as he is a little too small to store all that we need on a year-long trip, so I will be posting him up for sale soon and transitioning into something a little different.  But for now, I've made an exciting new purchase to facilitate my explorations while I work on the farm.  Here's to new adventures and new places.  Everyone...meet, Thomas.

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LIVING IN A VAN: LEAVING BEHIND NORMAL AND LIVING EXTRAORDINARY

"Camera in hand, raw earth beneath my feet and miles of road before me I step out into the great wide open in search of a home on the road." Sounds pretty romantic doesn't it?  I wrote that last year while driving North along the 395 in Southern California.  I had been on the road by myself for about a week at that point and I was just beginning to discover a freedom that I hadn't really known before.  It was at that point that I realized that I was OK with becoming a dirtbag or a desert rat or a van dweller.  In fact, I discovered I was intensely eager to make my life capable of fitting inside a small space.  Learning about the benefits of a smaller more versatile living situation has been a long and fairly slow process for me but I've seen the light and I'm running to catch it now. 

Finding inspirations in straight roads and the organized chaos of the environment around me.

Finding inspirations in straight roads and the organized chaos of the environment around me.

A one burner stove, cooking bacon in the bone chilling wind while attempting to soak up as much of the early morning sunlight as possible.

A one burner stove, cooking bacon in the bone chilling wind while attempting to soak up as much of the early morning sunlight as possible.

Waking up to epic.

Waking up to epic.

I don't think I've written anything about why I want to live in a van so bad and before I start, I assure you it's not because everyone is doing it.  I believe, the reason I want to live in a van is simply because I want to follow my passion(s).  In the past I've had a hard time defining what it was that I'm passionate about. I've often been jealous of those people that do have a passion, especially those that discovered their passion early on.  Throughout high school and the years after I dabbled in A LOT of different disciplines, but never really latched on to anything, it's why I often tell people that I'm a Jack of all trades and master of none; however, as I've thought about it more I've realized a common element in all those things that I have enjoyed in the past, they were all different sorts of creative outlets and always had to do with making something and having a story to tell about it. 

When your exit is just as beautiful as your entrance.

When your exit is just as beautiful as your entrance.

Camping below sea level and experiencing winds so strong you fear your van will tip over.

Camping below sea level and experiencing winds so strong you fear your van will tip over.

Learning to live, laugh and love but also forgive and forget in space no bigger than your bathroom.

Learning to live, laugh and love but also forgive and forget in space no bigger than your bathroom.

The last few years I've been in and out of a lot of different vehicles and travel set ups, if you didn't know, just ask my family, they'll tell you; it seems funny to them that I can't settle on a vehicle or travel set up.  To be honest though, I have bought and sold a lot in the last four or five years.  It's frustrated me, this joking, because to me the progression all seems perfectly logical and so what if I buy and sell a lot of stuff? What I'm realizing now is that all of those vehicles, they were part of my creative outlet and journey to the ultimate means of pursuing more creative outlets.  Each and every one of those vehicles was a blank canvas when I bought it and I painted each canvas well before it moved on.  I now look back on building the interior of the van and how much I enjoyed doing so, how much joy it brought me.  Every morning I woke up and was eager to go to work on my project.  I will continue to build vehicles because I enjoy it, because I learn new skills and it feeds my creative needs.

Watching the sunset on a snow capped mountain while being parked in a desert.

Watching the sunset on a snow capped mountain while being parked in a desert.

Being thrilled that you can feel your hands again when you drive from one place with less snow than the last.

Being thrilled that you can feel your hands again when you drive from one place with less snow than the last.

Being in the van and having the freedom to move about wherever I want but also being forced into a small space with no couch, no TV and no internet I've found that I need to entertain myself some how.  While in Mexico I drew a lot, I designed new van stuff, I drew pictures of Norton in cool places, I read books but then I realized that I had this incredible desire to create and learn.  I wanted to learn about culture and language, I want to learn an instrument and I want to learn new skills like surviving in the outdoors and fine woodworking.  Having this time to be away from a screen, away from a job, away from cities and busyness has allowed my mind to clear, revealing that there are things I need in my life that I have been ignoring.  

Meeting new friends at every turn.

Meeting new friends at every turn.

Then bumping bumping into them again.

Then bumping bumping into them again.

Exploring into places with no back up but yourself and your whits.

Exploring into places with no back up but yourself and your whits.

Getting the quintessential shot.

Getting the quintessential shot.

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Looking at where I've been and where I'm going in the van it's clear, this that lifestyle I've discovered is the most conducive to my development as a creator, as an artist and as I human being.  I've always had the fear of getting to the end of my life and regretting all the things I didn't do, by doing what I'm doing now, I don't have that fear.  Minimizing my life, fitting it all into a van has helped me realize how little I can live with and how easy it is for me to move around not only geographically but also career and opportunity-wise.  I'm starting to see my life before me open up to some incredible and adventurous possibilities and I'm EXCITED! I'm excited for my life!  How many people have a hard time saying that these days?  I'm one of the few who has escaped the clutches of a monotonous and dull life and I am so thankful for that.

The fog is clearing and my path is apparent, now all I need is to go.

The fog is clearing and my path is apparent, now all I need is to go.

HEAT SEEKER: CLICHÉ’S FROM THE DIRECTIONLESS DIRTBAG

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, I feel like I say that a lot, but this time I think it’s more true than the other times.  I'm not going to attempt to update you on everything, there’s so much that has happened and so much that I’ve been contemplating since I last wrote; one of those things being that I haven’t really written anything with much content in a long time.  Yes, I’ve provided plenty of content to be viewed, but many of my blogs as of late have been more of an update about my whereabouts and the things that I’ve seen in my travels.  One of the things that I love about traveling by myself is that I get piles of time to think through things in my life.  The first two weeks of my travels this winter I was moving around pretty quickly, trying to get set up for my trip into Mexico and meeting new people along the way.  I didn’t feel as though I was allowing myself a lot of time to just think, instead I’d spend the day outside talking with people around me, trying to photograph everything that I saw and then at night just settling in with a book before going to sleep.  In the time between my last blog and now I have traveled to the Southern tip of the Baja peninsula and back, admittedly it was quick and I was moving a lot, but I had a lot of time to think on the long drives.  As well, for the first time in my life I experienced something close to a third world country and a non-white culture.  So, here’s my dirtbag traveler cliché that I’ve alluded to in the this blogs title, I have returned from Mexico a changed man with a new outlook on life.

 

  I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting to find in Baja.  What I knew of the peninsula was that it was a largely white populated part of Mexico due to the influx of traveling American’s from Southern California in addition to the myriad of travelers from all around the world that come in search of Baja’s epic white sand beaches and vast and relatively untouched wilderness.  I figured that once I got down there it would be fairly similar to what I’ve known throughout the South Western states, I would be able to communicate in English with most people, there would be a well-developed civil structure etc.  I can assure you that the culture shock was pure and well realized the minute I crossed the border into Mexicali.  From the organized and maintained streets of Calexico you are ejected into the hustle and bustle of a busy and crowded Mexican border city.  Suddenly I could no longer read the signs, people were driving anywhere and everywhere without using signals, horns were blaring, people were trying to get my attention from every direction to buy their wares, it was like nothing I had experienced before.  I recognize that there are possibly American’s reading right now that have done the crossing numerous times and no longer believe that crossing into Mexico is such a harrowing experience, but for this white dude that’s never seen anything other than first world countries, it was a shocker.  

 

  Traveling throughout Baja I found that I began to develop a real thirst for the culture and everything that Mexico has to offer.  First off, I almost instantly fell in love with how anything goes on Mexican roads.  It’s so easy to navigate because no one cares what you do or don’t do.  So often we’d just pull off to the side of the road to consult our maps, park side by side still jutting out onto the road, obviously obstructing traffic a little and people would just calmly drive around you.  You can swing u-turns pretty much anywhere, speed limits are more of suggestions to Mexican drivers and the various modified vehicles are so much fun to look at because, again, anything goes.  I also fell in love with the food, if you’re smart(ish) and willing to pull off the road at any random taco stand you can discover some of the most fresh and delicious ingredients in your taco or burrito or enchilada, and then pay a few dollars USD and walk away  with a full belly.  I was also so stoked on how everything is so affordable if you’re traveling on the USD, by the end of the two weeks that I spent in Mexico I was almost $700USD ahead of my daily budget and that was while driving almost every day, purchasing groceries every few days and buying the odd tourist trinket.  Then there’s the language, Spanish is such an exciting and enticing language.  I now actually have a desire to learn a second language which I certainly didn’t have before.  All of these things are the immediate things that I learned and experienced, but the long lasting thing that I took away was the how this initial trip into Mexico has opened my eyes to what else is beyond the borders of North America.  For about two years now I’ve been saying that I just want to travel the United States and Canada and I didn’t really have a plan beyond that, but now I have a very real desire to complete my own Pan America trip and then possibly to travel throughout Africa and Europe one day. 

 

  I’ve long known that I don’t want a conventional lifestyle.  The thought of settling down with a family, having a good job and owning a house doesn’t (right now) appeal to me.  So, for the past few years I’ve slowly been developing on my solution for how I will live a life of adventure.  My plans have gone as far as about five years into the future, after working for a long period of time I want to live on the road for a year and travel throughout North America.  It will take a couple years of prep to afford a cushioned budget for the year of travel and then the year on the road itself will get me around the time that Alison will have gone to the Olympics once and we’ll be working towards the next; however, I hadn’t really planned past that.  Now, I have a mission, Patagonia.  I have a lot of friends now that have done or are traveling to the Southern tip of South America.  Before, when I had thought about doing the same trip I was scared off by the prospect of having the difficulty of communicating with the people as I traveled South.  I’ve realized now that learning Spanish was my only obstacle and it has now become an obstacle I will willingly conquer.  Traveling with my Swiss friends has also made me realize that I could possibly live the rest of my life traveling the world and how many experiences are out there waiting to be had, it’s just a matter of stepping beyond my comfort zone to find them.

 

 

  So, now with my new mission I have a focus for the future and I can begin planning for more epic adventure. On another note, I've been back in the US for almost a week now, I've spent a few nights in my favorite spot on Prewitt Ridge near Big Sur and met some incredible people.  Alison and I have traveled to Arizona for Valley of the Sun stage race, from there we'll drive to Utah to explore some of the National Parks.  

 

HUNTING FOR HEAT: ALL THE WAY DOWN TO J-TOWN

Van was done, snow was falling, temperatures were dropping...it was time to leave.  So, we did.  I'm still stoked on the fact that Norton was basically completely done when we left to head South.  It was so nice knowing that all I had to do was pack and go.  Now, it's been a while since I posted, two weeks tomorrow in fact, and a lot has happened since we departed Canada.  I'm currently in Joshua Tree, California where I've been chilling for the past few days while I prepare to cross the next border into Mexico and travel to the Southern tip of Baja.  It's been a pretty spectacular drive down.  As things often seem to occur for us in the first few days of travel, we saw a lot of rain and didn't get any solid sunshine till we were near the South West corner or Oregon.  The van has been great, slow...but great.  I've had no issues aside from a burnt out headlight, but we have noticed that Norton hates hills with a passion and I've become "that guy" who holds up a long line of traffic on the steep inclines with no passing lanes.  Norton has given us exactly what we were looking for, a small mobile home that we feel comfortable being in, that gets us out of the rain and doesn't cost much to operate.  On average we're filling up for $45USD and driving 450km on each tank.  Pretty decent in comparison to the truck with an average of $60USD and 350km to a tank.

Considering that it's been almost two weeks, I'm not going to go into too much detail on what we've been up to aside from driving, I'll let the pictures fill you in.

I was immensely pleased that instead of driving inland we chose to drive along the coast.  The South coast of Oregon is absolutely spectacular and not to mention its considerably warmer.  California was next on the hit list and it also did not disappoint.  First night in Cali we stayed with an old team mate of Alison's who lives in Arcata, then spent our New Years Eve up in the King Range Wilderness area where there's a rad mountain bike loop and terrain park nestled into the mountains.  The next night we drove to one of my favorite places to camp, Usal bay, where we enjoyed the sound of waves crashing against the shore below us.

The remainder of the coastal drive to San Francisco went smoothly and was rich with beautiful views and fun experiences for Alison and I.  We've learned to travel a little slower and were able to enjoy a few more beach walks and vista points.  Of course, we were still on a schedule which meant we couldn't stay there forever, but it was good to relax a little.

I dropped Alison off near San Francisco where she flew out with her team to Australia and I continued South to meet up with my friends Andres & Desiree from Switzerland.  We met up in Alaska at first in Fairbanks and then again on the Denali Highway and planned to meet up again down South and drive to Baja together.  I met with them at another favorite spot of mine, Prewitt Ridge.  After Prewitt ridge I parted ways with Andres & Desiree and drove directly to Joshua Tree while they went to LA.  

THE HIACE CHRONICLES: FINISHING TOUCHES

For the past week my head has been buried in the desert sands of Southern California and Arizona...while I've worked I've thought of nothing else but heading to the desert.  I'd say it's getting pretty close to that departure date.  Now with the van 98% finished it's even harder to resist the pull of warm weather and sunshine.  

A lot has happened in the past week (two weeks? I can't keep track) since we returned from our family Christmas in Alberta.  The electrical is 100% done, thank heavens.  I managed to wire all my lights backwards and thus had to fix that problem.  I thought that I had somehow managed to wreck my fantastic fan while installing it and after pulling all the wiring out and testing everything I found out that I had to crank up the hatch for the fan to start.  DOH!!!  The interior lights are the perfect temperature and really give us a ton of light.  The fridge was installed and I built a new shelf above one of the windows for a little extra storage.  The van is getting closer and closer to that home status that I'm so excited about.

Roof storage is something I needed more of, so I repurposed a tool box and created more roof top storage.

Roof storage is something I needed more of, so I repurposed a tool box and created more roof top storage.

van build (4 of 30).jpg
Axe mount in place.

Axe mount in place.

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van build (7 of 30).jpg
This plug connects to my battery tender which will safely charge my batteries to 100% when charging off shore power.

This plug connects to my battery tender which will safely charge my batteries to 100% when charging off shore power.

The little shelf above our window.

The little shelf above our window.

We're now able to enjoy meals inside the van, it's glorious.  Also, note the little hide-away desk/ table that Alison's bowl is on.  That's something I haven't shown in this blog yet.

We're now able to enjoy meals inside the van, it's glorious.  Also, note the little hide-away desk/ table that Alison's bowl is on.  That's something I haven't shown in this blog yet.

Fridge is in!