Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Qldelsie
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Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » January 17th, 2014, 4:58 pm

I am an old retiree, but don't like sitting around, so in 2012 I shipped my Lotus Elise to LA, drove all round the US (Laguna Seca, Pikes Peak etc) and then drove it up to and all around Alaska, getting 100 kms past the Arctic Circle on the Dalton (aka Ice Truckers) Highway, which was fun. Eventually 9 cm of ground clearance, and sleeping in a one man tent in bear country and often poor weather, proved a bit too much, and after 5 months I came home, vowing to find a way to do the trip "better". No gripes with first trip - Purpose was to be first ever Lotus across the Alaskan Arctic Circle, and that was achieved, but I wanted to see more of that great part of the world (I have fallen in love with Alaska, which is amazingly similar to Aus in many ways), and to do that I needed a "more suitable" (read bear and weather proof) vehicle.
18 months after my return to Aus, after a lot of asking and looking around, I found the perfect vehicle (IMHO) - A 2008 78 series V8 diesel Troopie, and have spent the last 12 months slowly rebuilding suspension, bearings, bushings, drive train etc, and fitting it out to be self sufficient. It is an ex rental camper, so has all the beds and stove and pop top etc - It just needed personalizing. And as it had 260,000 kms on it a few bits were wearing out ! But everyone who sees it reckons it is now just about ideal - I just need to prove it !! So it will be shipped from Brisbane to Seattle next month, arriving Seattle about 15th April. I will then spend a couple of weeks getting all the supplies and additional clothes I need before setting off on 1st May up through Vancouver Island and the Inside Passage on the car ferries as far as Skagway, and then drive up from there to the top of Alaska. After a few side trips, like to Inuvik in the NW Territories, and then Churchill in Manitoba to see polar bears and beluga whales, I will head south, down through the middle of the US, Baja, Mexico and central America, ship the car from Panama to Cartagena in Columbia, then down the west coast and Chile etc to the bottom at Tierra del Fuego. Target date into T del F is January 2015. After that, who knows - will depend a bit on how I and Troopie are holding up !!!

I did a trial trip in July 2013, from SE Qld, across to the Flinders, up the middle via the Rock and Palm Valley etc, and then up to Darwin, and back to SE Qld via Mt Isa, Longreach etc. Great trip, and Troopie (and all the changes I had made) worked well, and I loved the Troopie - My first 4wd, my first diesel, my first V8 - And I wish I had gone that route before - But work and family got in the way then !! So now it is time to set off again and enjoy it fully !

If anyone is interested, the story of my 2012 Alaska trip can be found here http://elsiefrombottomtotop.blogspot.com and if you have any sense, just read the second to last entry which is a summary of the whole trip, with the best of the photos, otherwise you will fall asleep !! For this 2014 trip, my trip blog will be here http://imgoingonanadventur.blogspot.com but I haven't really started that one yet - I will shortly put in details of my proposed route, a well as details of what I have done to my Troopie, but I am a bit busy getting paperwork and import permits sorted at the moment, so please be patient. I will really start putting entries in there on 1st May when I hit the road.

And if you have any comments, or want to say hi during my trip, you can always contact me via email through my blog. I can assure you that it is friendly comments and support from people along the way that not only make the trip worthwhile, but also enable one to get through the loneliness and long days on the road. And knowing someone is out there reading it makes the effort of writing a blog every night a real pleasure on those cold, dark, wet nights !!

Safe travels everyone, and remember, all those who wander are not necessarily lost !!! And BTW, if you think a trip like this is expensive - Think again. It is actually cheaper to ship the car RoRo from Aus to USA than it is to freight a car by road from Brisbane to Adelaide !!! That is why I do it !!!
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Peter Aawen » January 17th, 2014, 6:31 pm

You are such a BarSteward@!!! Whaddayamean doing that without asking for convoy participants!!

I will be watching the blog and taking copious notes, I've got a trip to Alaska in the planning stage, just gotta work on the Missus to convince her to retire, cos there's no way I'm taking the Mother-in-Law on that one!

Jealous to the extreme!
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Aaron Schubert » January 17th, 2014, 8:17 pm

Awesome mate. More pics!

Aaron
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Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » January 18th, 2014, 11:09 am

Ha ha !! Yes, I know the feeling when someone else is doing "it" !! Convoy participants more than welcome Peter, although I tend to go my own way on the road, so collect "short term" convoys on the road as I go, until our paths diverge again. As you know, on long trips, its always amazing how often you keep bumping into the same people !!
And if you (or any one else) are planning (or even thinking about) a similar adventure, I am more than happy to share any helpful hints and ideas - Anything from paperwork and costs and methods to import your vehicle to USA etc to costs and routes and clothing and camping requirements. Use me where you want, in that regard. Most of this is on my blogs (somewhere - Usually at the beginning !!) but am happing to email or telephone chat with people direct about it all. Any time. But it is more important to be confidant that you can do it, because then you will succeed. When I drove the Lotus off the wharf in Los Angeles last year, I could not stop grinning. After all the hard work, all the paperwork, all the planning, that first drive down the American road in MY car, on MY terms, made everything else met away. The car could have blown up right then and I wouldn't have cared - It would have been worth it ! (Luckily it didn't !!) After that, the trip just got better every day. Whether one goes to the Kimberleys, the Flinders, or Alaska; whether you go for a week or 6 months,is unimportant. It is when all the planning and organizing effort comes to a successful result that makes the everything worthwhile. I think you all know what I mean.

And Aaron, there will be lots of pics once I hit the road. I find it easier to put my photos in Picassa, then there is always a link at the bottom of each days blog to that days photos in Picassa. Alaska has really poor internet speed, especially when downloading pics, so I found this is the best way to do it, so everyone can then find them and I only have to download them once. It takes me 3-4 hours a night to do my blog usually, just because of poor speed and frequent drop-outs, so I try to keep it as simple as possible.

Fis - You will have to stand in line - The most common reaction I have from people is "Me too - Me too !!" !!! Which is why I only have two seats in my vehicles !!! Would consider bolting an old couch to the roof though if anyone is good looking enough !!

Here are a couple of links to interviews I had when on the road which were a bit of fun - One in Fairbanks in 2012 and one in Hawker, in SA, last July when the ABC grabbed me as I was parking my car !! Both came about because the reporters saw the stickers on my car, and came over for a chat.

http://www.newsminer.com/features/latit ... l?mode=jqm

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/201 ... 816225.htm

newhue
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by newhue » January 24th, 2014, 2:03 pm

nice work oldelsie,

Our dream upon retiring is a similar type of travel, bit off though at the moment. We plan to fill in Aus in the meantime as to have a good understanding and representation of our own country before going abroad. Do you self fund it, or is there some type or sponsorship.

Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » February 3rd, 2014, 4:52 pm

Understand the idea of doing Aus first before venturing overseas, but at 66+ I look at it slightly differently. It becomes more difficult to cope with some of the issues of travelling overseas as you get older - IMHO anyway. While there are some fantastic things in Aus, no doubt at all, the action of actually "doing it " is easier because a) we (mostly !) speak English, b) the systems involved (ie getting there, repairs, phones/radio etc) are already known to us, and c) being rescued, even from the outback-most outback, is possible, if you have prepared properly - We have Flying Doctors etc. The reason I did the US and Canada in 2012 was to do an "easy" trip (ie English speaking (sic !!), and (relatively) civilised !) first to see if I was still up for it. Now for this 2014 trip I am having to learn Spanish, plan ahead for things like oil changes and services so they are done in major centres, and know everything about my car so that if I do break down, I at least have a chance of fixing it myself, or at least helping the local mechanic. No RACQ in the Atacama Desert !!! So, and this is purely my opinion, I am leaving some bits of Aus for "later" because I can reach them "more easily". That's all.

(BTW, having just gone up the centre to Darwin and back to the GC via Mt Isa etc, I have to say that the driving conditions in Aus are MUCH tougher and the roads worse than anywhere I have seen so far in the world. I took a Lotus with 9 cm of ground clearance up the Ice Truckers / Dalton Highway to the Alaskan Arctic Circle and the car survived it - Some of the roads I went on up through the middle of Aus were FAR worse (sand, corrugations etc) than the Dalton - No way I would take the Lotus up there !!)

Regarding sponsorship etc, I have agonised over this, especially in regard to using the trip to raise money. As a cancer survivor, I would dearly like to do something to raise money for research or similar along the way, but there is a major issue. Having sponsorship requires a lot of feedback if you are to give your sponsors the required return on their investment. You can't just take the money and say thank you and disappear off around the world !! I had sponsorship when I used to race cars, and it was hard work - you not only have to perform well on the track, but you have to get print coverage in papers and magazines, you have to attend shows with the car, and generally obtain coverage - It is a lot of hard work !! The same is true for raising money for charities etc - I looked at talking at Rotary or Lions or similar around the USA and Canada, but the big downside of that (for me) was that you then have to set firm dates for when you will be somewhere, and suddenly you are tied down to be in a certain place at a certain time, and you have lost the freedom of being on the road. In 2012 I committed to talking at the regular meetings about 15 Lotus clubs across America, and at one stage I was sitting in Zion NP in Utah having a lovely time hiking etc, and suddenly realised I had to be in Colorado (1000 miles away) in 2 days time to speak at a meeting !! I therefore missed everything between Utah and Colorado because I had to hurry !
The solution is possibly to have a secretary - or 2 !! You really need someone to organise things while you do the driving and manage the vehicle - ie you need a back up team to do it properly. Many of the stories you read about have a full crew looking after them - And, to me, that takes away the "adventure" and freedom aspect - It becomes a business.
If you read a book called "From Here to There" by ABC Radio host Jon Faine, he states that one thing he is glad that he and his son did NOT commit to on their journey from Aus to the UK in 2009 was to write a blog. In hindsight they realised how difficult it is, at the end of a long hard day on the road, to sit down and spend several hours downloading photos and writing a blog and posting it. I read this book before I went, and although I started to write a blog, within a couple of weeks I was finding it hard work - It usually took 3-4 hours each night to download pics, choose the best ones, delete the rest, downsize them to a size suitable for posting, then write and post my blog - All in freezing temps with very slow internet connections !! But just as I was about to give up on it, I started to get feedback and support from people who were enjoying my story. People who saw my blog address on my car as I was driving during the day and emailed me in the evening expressing support and wishing me well. People who had seen my car parked somewhere and contacted me via the blog address on the car. And, most importantly, friends and acquaintances who messaged me or emailed me saying how they were reading my blog for the day every night before they went to bed, and how much they enjoyed it and please not to stop. This support made the effort involved totally worthwhile, those 3-4 hours each evening became a real pleasure for me because I knew people were enjoying it !!
So to answer your question, I self fund it !! But I reckon it is cheaper to do a trip like this than it is to live at home in a house in Oz !!! My budget for the next 12 months is $40,000 or so, and that includes fuel (a lot of it !!), food and accommodation, and some additional adventures on the side along the way. By the time I have paid my rates, (ever increasing) water and power bills, and skyrocketing food bills, (and of course my high fuel bills !!) in Australia, the cost is almost a wash. Fuel in Venezuela is $0.01 per litre. (Yes, ONE CENT A LITRE!!!!). Costs are generally a LOT lower when on the road in many of these places. And beer is often a lot cheaper too !!! By renting the house out while we are away, I am actually SAVING money !! Well, I keep telling SWMBO that, anyway !!!! Shhhhh !!
If you want to fund your travel, maybe look at someone like Ron and Viv Moon, who I am sure many of you know, and perhaps have a good solution by writing Guide Books - http://www.guidebooks.com.au/about.htm But I have no illusions about how much work is involved for them to do this, and personally I am not prepared to do it. But I have communicated with Ron, and even met him in the middle of Bairnsdale a couple of months ago (our vehicles are relatively distinctive with all the maps and stickers on them !!), and he probably has the balance just right - For him.
Or here is an idea for you to consider - As a business, set up a team to provide (for a fee) back up for other solo travellers like me, to handle all the contacts and sponsorships etc - Leaving us free to do our travelling ?? I give you an outline of my trip, where, when etc, and "the team" (ie you) then look for sponsorship, money raising opportunities etc to suit my trip, and generally doing a lot of the leg and paper work that I just don't have time for when I am on the road. I would absolutely jump at a solution like that.......................And you would then be able to fund your travel AND expense it !!!!
Hmmmmm !!!!

Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » March 20th, 2014, 6:03 pm

Troopy left on the ship out of Brisbane last week, and is now half way to Japan !! I leave on the 14th April, to meet the car in Seattle on the 15th. I then have 2 weeks to get everything sorted before the wife arrives on the 3rd May, and we set off north to Vancouver Island, and then the Alaska Marne Highway ferries up through the inside passage.

The adventure begins ....................!!!
Next post should see me driving on the "wrong" side of the road !!!

G
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Foo
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Foo » March 23rd, 2014, 12:09 pm

I will be watching this thread/trip with much anticipation, sooooooooooooooooo jealous! :D

Foo

JC807
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by JC807 » March 24th, 2014, 3:59 pm

i've subscribed via RSS to your blog. keep it up!
previous:-> 06 BF XR6T, 74 KE20 4AGTE, 04 RZN149R, 01 AE112R, 01 KR42R, 84 E30 318i, 67 MINI DELUXE
current:-> 08 VOLVO V50 T5 AWD, MY13 ISUZU D-MAX 4X4

Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » August 24th, 2014, 3:39 am

Having been all over Alaska, up to the Arctic Ocean both up the Ice Truckers Highway and also the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, been across to Churchill on Hudson Bay to see the polar bears, and then down through the US, I am currently down in S Mexico, having just driven all the way down through Baja, then caught the ferry across to the mainland, and wandering around down here. All still seems to be going well mechanically, and heading into Guatemala next week, before heading on south.
This is something everyone should do !!! Its amazing.
Giles
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Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » October 28th, 2014, 5:21 am

Just arrived in Ecuador and we are relaxing by a Lake not far from Quito. Having a ball - I wouldn't be missing this for quids. Got prevented from entering Costa Rica a few weeks ago because we were RHD, but after 12 hours they changed their mind and let us go ! (I think they wanted money - But I wanted my money more than they did so I waited.....and won !!) Then there was the fun and games getting the car cleared from the port in Cartagena Columbia - Took us 3 days before we finally got it out, just due to petty bureaucracy and being shuffled from one window to another, and one department to another !! You have to laugh at it otherwise you would go crazy.
But the people everywhere have been amazing - Friendly, and love to know where we are from and where we are going, the scenery is just out of this world (although Troopie gets a bit wheezy spending so much time at 3000 metres !!), and I will never complain about the standard of Australian driving again !! Over here you worry about people coming towards you in your lane, not about people going in your direction who overtake on blind corners or over brows of hills !
Just for fun here are a couple of pics with Troopie with a couple of Volcanos - The one on the beach is on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, and the one on the grass is at Panajachel in Guatemala, on shore of Lake Atitlan.
Needed a water pump and new brake pads in Panama, but apart from that, touch wood, all I have needed is oil changes and grease. Changed fuel filter once in Guatemala. Getting 12-13 litres per 100 kms average. And just to cheer you all up, paid 85 cents a litre for diesel yesterday !! Most expensive so far has been about $1.08 a litre. :)
Giles
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Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » April 21st, 2015, 6:11 am

Well, now nearly the end of April and I have reached the end of my South American adventure. Am now just outside Montevideo in Uruguay waiting for my ship that will take my car and me on to Europe next week . I have decided to keep going a bit longer because if I return to Australia now I may never get started again ! So I am planning to visit Iceland and then drive right round Scandinavia before dropping down through Poland and Eastern Europe. We want Christmas in Europe, and then to warm up again we are planning to go down to Morocco after the new year ! Then ? I don't know !
Now I have reached the end I am happy to say that Troopie has behaved perfectly the whole way. The water pump was replaced in Panama, new brake pads in Cusco (rear) and Santiago (front), and new suspension bushes in Cusco as well. Apart from that I have just done regular oil changes and filter (oil and fuel) changes and that is all. 62,000 kms and she only missed a beat in sub zero temps at 5000 metres overnight when she was a bit sluggish in the morning until she warmed up. Mind you I was a bit sluggish that morning myself ! She now has over 350,000 kms on the clock.
Will probably start a new blog once I get to Europe but will put the new link up on my current imgoingonanadventur.blogspot.com.au blog Pics of Patagonia and Ushuaia and Iguazu Falls (all AMAZING) are in my blog.
Cannot believe how many Troopies there are over here doing the same trip - but they are all German, Dutch, or Swiss. No other Aussie cars anywhere ! And all 6 cylinder engines and VERY envious of my V 8 since they can't get one in Europe ! So c'mon all you Aussie wanderers - Get over here and show the flag !!! With diesel at less than $1 a litre it's cheaper than driving round at home !
More from Europe when I get there
Giles

Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » April 21st, 2015, 6:28 am

Some pics just to give you some incentive ! Machupiccu, Mt Fitz Roy, Torres del Paine, and Iguazu Falls.

All just unbelievable !
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Qldelsie
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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Qldelsie » November 3rd, 2015, 9:44 pm

Just an update - Because I never returned to Australia as originally planned!
We shipped onboard the car carrying vessel from Montevideo to UK - 4 weeks with a lot of time for reading! Interesting seeing all the ports, and the sheer volume of new cars being moved around the globe is mindblowing. Until you see 20,000 cars in one parking lot, you don't realise the volume. Sadly, there is also a separate big business shipping old vehicles (including trucks, the trays of which are filled with parts or even old fridges) from Europe to W Africa - And many of them really are clunkers, needing to be pushed on to the ship because they are non-runners. I find this dumping of old cars in poorer countries a bit like shipping waste to other countries - Not quite on. But that is just IMHO.......

Spent the last 3 months driving up through Scandinavia (Norway was gorgeous but horribly expensive), then down thru' Finland (bit boring, unless you have a fishing boat), the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania (really interesting with lots of history), Poland (fantastic, really enjoyed it, while places like Treblinka and Auschwitz are very moving), Czech Republic (loved Prague, but too many tourists!), then Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Belgium; mostly visiting fellow Overlanders we met while on the road in S America. Now in the UK housesitting until after Christmas so we can have a rest and get out of the worst of the winter weather, then currently looking at Spain and Morocco in January / February, then maybe across to Turkey before shipping to (hopefully) Iceland in Spring, then over to Nova Scotia and drive back to Alaska for September (still my favourite place!) Iceland might be too expensive unless I can ship from there direct to the USA. Then from Seattle back to Aus in about 2 months time, arriving back in about November 2016.
Troopie still doing OK - Almost 400 K kms on her now. Still uses no oil, but had to replace the engine battery yesterday as it was past its best and failed to start her after just 3 days sitting - One of first times she has actually had a "no go" issue!!
Everyone I meet is impressed by the Troopie and how well the camper part of her works - My wife isn't even a camper and is managing to survive most of the time!
Only issue I have is that right from the start, my BFG A/T tyres wear unevenly. By this I mean that the tread blocks actually wear down at different rates, so that one block will stand prouder than the next block - Very odd. This then causes the wheel to be out of balance, and the steering wheel vibrates, but you cannot balance it out with weights, so you just have to buy 2 new tyres for the front and move the fronts to the back. Really annoys me and I would love to know the cause, so if anyone has had similar and managed to solve it, I would love to know how!
Giles

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Re: Just going for a drive...to Alaska. Then S America

Unread post by Peter Aawen » November 3rd, 2015, 10:18 pm

Sounds like you are having a great time, & looking forwards to even more!! Lotsa great country still to cover in your plans! ;)

About your tyres wearing oddly, try rotating them, or if you do already, do it more frequently. Swap the fronts to the back, back to spare (1spare or 2? 1only, put the LH rear on the spare) & move the spare/other back tyre forwards but change them to the other side of the car (spare to right front & right rear to left front on the forwards move) Do that at least every 10,000 km interval & it should iron out that uneven block wear, sooner if you can see the odd wear starting sooner - I did have one set that I got down to 3,000 km rotations & they STILL wore every second block more!! :irked:

Moving them from the front to the rear should wear the blocks flat & even again if you are running the right pressures, so they are good for when they hit the front again. If you find you are getting 'more punctures' in the RH rear tyre when you are driving in RH Drive countries, swap the RH rear to the spare instead - the kerb-side rear is the one you want to swap up to the spare to give it a break & even out the wear rate with the other (less weighted on hi-crowned roads)

Good Luck :thumb:
An Ex-Service person is someone who thought enough about their country & how great it is, how lucky we are to live here, to write a blank cheque made out to 'The People and Commonwealth of Australia' for the value of 'Up to & including my Life!'

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