Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Fri, 24 Oct 2014 04:31:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Field Tested: Altrider Hemisphere Saddlebagshttp://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-altrider-hemisphere-saddlebag-system/ http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-altrider-hemisphere-saddlebag-system/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:21:50 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22655 It was not particularly scary but it was starting to get interesting. It was day five of our tour of the Ecuadorean Andes and the sun had long abandoned our ride. We rounded a turn, cut through a tiny mountain village, and Justin blurted out over the radio, “Well, we did want the expert rider experience.” No sooner had he said it, the fog thickened and the rain increased. None of this would have concerned me had we not had another 1,000 feet to gain, the high point of the road tickling the 14,000 foot mark. I watched as Justin’s rear wheel slipped back and forth in the mud, the inky black to the right only suggestive of the endless drop off it likely hid. The only thing I didn’t worry about was all of my gear. It was safely tucked away in Altrider’s new Hemisphere Saddlebag system.


Released to the public just weeks ago, we were lucky enough to not just get to test two Hemisphere Saddlebag systems, we got to do it on the exotic backroads of Ecuador where severe dust coupled to heavy rain, would conspire to ruin our gear––to no avail. Unlike many other luggage systems, the Hemisphere uses a clever two-part system to make attaching and removing the bags quick and easy. They’re also waterproof, easy to load and unload, and by all accounts, seem supremely durable.


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Heading towards the high peaks with Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentals, two of the four bikes in the group used the new Hemisphere Saddlebags. Both systems performed flawlessly.


The foundation to the system is the unique holster system. Once attached, they need not be removed at any time and make for two convenient little buckets to receive the actual Hemisphere dry bag. Shaped to straddle the passenger seat, the heavy-duty roll-top Hemisphere bag swallows gear in mass volumes and once loaded, easily slips into position in the holster. Two buckles on either end of the dry bag pair to each holster to keep the roll top closed and the bag secured. Two additional straps with metal cam-buckles over the central portion of the dry bag keep it firmly in place.


The pleated “buckets” have additional straps to further secure the main dry bag and can accept additional bits of gear you may want to have more accessible or at least not mixed in with your gear. For our purposes, a messy bottle of oil fit into the outer bag pockets as to not dirty the rest of the gear.


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Made of robust materials with what can only be said is keen attention to detail, these are expedition grade bags made to endure the most demanding rides. As important to the construction is the thoughtfulness of the design. Accessing items in the main bag throughout the day was easy and struggle free. The bags themselves were cavernous and swallowed my gear making me feel like I was grossly under-packed. By trip’s end, not a single component appeared at all phased by our week long journey suggesting these bags will endure years of use.





My favorite aspect of the design is the quick and easy means of detaching the bags from the bike. With the quick removal of two straps and two buckles, I could simply lift the Hemisphere bag off the bike and lug it into my hotel room over my shoulder. Okay, yes, there were hotel rooms involved, but Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentals really knows how to pair rugged riding to posh digs.



Fly-and-ride Luggage

One of the things I love about luggage systems like these is how they facilitate fly-and-ride trips. In the last year I’ve flown to my ride destination twice, once internationally. I was amazed how compact the Hemisphere Saddlebags were when folded tightly into my suitcase on route to Ecuador. In retrospect, I could have easily just checked the dry bag as one of my allotted pieces of luggage and called it a day. Try that with hard cases.




The Hemisphere Saddlebag system is one of the better systems of its kind, and worthy of consideration if you’re in the market for a simple yet durable luggage system. As an additional plus, there’s no need to outfit your bike with an expensive luggage rack. Just plop it over the pillion seat and go.  $379





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Story Telling with Video Courses Now Openhttp://expeditionportal.com/story-telling-with-video-courses-now-open/ http://expeditionportal.com/story-telling-with-video-courses-now-open/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 07:02:02 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22567 Half the thrill of having an adventure is telling people about it afterwards, right?


The trouble is, you probably have as many miles of GoPro or camcorder footage as distance covered. How do you turn that mass of disjointed shots into the kind of movie Discovery Channel would air? Or at least one that has your friends begging for more.


Simple, you let someone with thirty-five years in broadcast television and adventure travel help you.


Andrew St.Pierre White, professional filmmaker, adventurer, teacher, and author, is offering privileged insight into his storytelling and filmmaking techniques – the same techniques that have won him international awards and got his TV shows coveted airtime on channels like Discovery and Sky.


Andrew is teaching a series of exclusive online training courses covering everything from capturing video and audio right through to the final edit of your story.


His courses include:


·     A fully interactive online 6-week shooting course complete with invaluable reviews of your video and audio course assignments by Andrew and the other participants.

·     A fully interactive 5-week editing course. Next one starts November 5th.

·     A non-interactive shooting course, purchase now and do the learning at your own pace.

·     The non-interactive editing course and an iPad app are under development.


By doing his courses, you will start out as a still photographer or videographer and end up as a storyteller.


As a member of the Overland Journal and Expedition Portal community, you will receive a 10% discount on the quoted price for the courses. For more details please view Andrew’s website:




Andrew promises that you will learn more, faster, with him than on any other online course available today. That’s his claim. And to prove it, he’s offering a money back guarantee on all his courses.


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Hear what his students has to say . . .


“In just one class with Andrew, I learned more about making a great video than I had in all my other classes combined.  Andrew’s practical focus comes from 30 plus years of being a doer, not just a teacher.  And make no mistake, Andrew is a GREAT, humble and respectful teacher.  Andrew’s class opened my eyes (and ears!) to how to tell compelling stories through video, and made me a much better consumer of the art as well.  Thanks, Andrew!”

Robert Towry

Monument, CO


“A still photographer at heart, I wanted to make the leap into video making. With Andrew’s class I have learned so much and was so motivated that I want to become the next Spielberg! The course was informative and fun, from theory to fascinating clips that kept us all wanting more! There are many teachers who teach, but Andrew inspires and knows how to tell a story! “

Connie Blaeser

Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada


Discounts for Overland Journal members.

10% discount on all courses. Go to beafilmmaker.com. Click the Prices and Options tab and select, discounts for Overland Journal. The password is: overlandjournal.



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Loki the Big Green Steyr Tackles the Globehttp://expeditionportal.com/loki-the-big-green-steyr-tackles-the-globe/ http://expeditionportal.com/loki-the-big-green-steyr-tackles-the-globe/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:02:43 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22541 They call it Loki, and from the looks of it there’s not a lot of terrain it can’t handle. A 1976 Steyr 680 flat-bed truck, Loki produces a modest 120 bhp with its 6-liter diesel engine. But, paired to a non-synchronized five speed transmission with a locking rear differential and full time four wheel drive, it’s a formidable off-roader. Fitted with a full living habitat in the rear, it’s also a comfortable home for German adventurers Astrid and Sven as they work their way around the world.

After a prolonged search for the right vehicle, and many months of preparations, Astrid and Sven have already covered a large portion of the globe. They have traversed all of Europe and traveled through Russia, Mongolia, and they’re now in China.

Their plan is to drive south into India, spend the holiday season perhaps in Myanmar before spending the spring months in Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and into Indonesia. From there they will continue their way further south and into South America. Eventually, they’ll continue their journey into Africa heading north back to their home city of Munich. So far, it looks like they’ve had a great journey.


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If you think their truck is great, you should swing by their website and read through a few of their posts from the road. It’s an impressive adventure and looks to be getting more interesting by the day.




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Build of the Month: Scout II Pop-up Camperhttp://expeditionportal.com/botm-scout-ii-four-wheel-camper/ http://expeditionportal.com/botm-scout-ii-four-wheel-camper/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:43:05 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=20999 What happens when you mate an International Scout II with a Four Wheel Campers Blazer? The surprisingly spacious dual-berth cabin features a 3-way fridge, two-burner stove, sink with 10-gallon fresh water supply, and a 12,000 BTU furnace. At the heart of the Scout II, a 304 V8 engine provides the power to turn a set of BF Goodrich 33×10.5 all terrains. Though this Scout camper was sold some time ago, the build is still an inspiration to those of us into compact camper design. Check out all the details in the build thread here on Expedition Portal.



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Retrospective: Range Rover, the Early Yearshttp://expeditionportal.com/retrospective-range-rover-the-early-years/ http://expeditionportal.com/retrospective-range-rover-the-early-years/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 07:19:44 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22487 Who could have known it would become such an epochal vehicle. A legend even at the time of inception, it would go on to dominate the category it created, defining a standard that others would aspire to imitate, often in vain. Like all heroes, it would have its flaws, detractors, and usurpers to the thrown, but for the better part of 45 years, the Range Rover has held its own.


Like all triumphs of design, the wellspring of the Range Rover can be attributed largely to one remarkable man, Charles Spencer “Spen” King. Cutting his teeth as an apprentice for Rolls Royce in the early 1940s, Spen would later go on to become the chief engineer for Rover, leaving his mark on a number of projects before and after his contributions to his crowning achievement, the 1970 Range Rover. His automotive influence would later be applied to the Triumph TR6, Stag, and TR7 as well as other revolutionary designs of the time.





Already well known the world over as a premier off-road car maker with their Series I and Series II trucks, Land Rovers, by the time of the late 60s, were being used to explore the most remote and rugged corners of the globe. It was said that for one-third of the world, the first car they had ever seen was a Land Rover. Their vehicles had also been widely adopted by military forces, commercial operations, and countless farmers as the modern day country workhorse. It would be fair to say that due to those favored applications, Land Rover’s were characterized by their very utilitarian nature. In America however, the Jeep Wagoneer and Bronco were winning loyal fans with their off-road prowess paired to refined creature comforts. Seeing a gap in the British market for a similar 4×4, Spen and fellow designers set out to create the Range Rover, a vehicle with the brand’s off-road pedigree, but with additional refinements for driver and passenger.





Starting in 1967, the Land Rover design team began building a fleet of 26 clandestine test vehicles which were badged with the somewhat deceptive and mysterious Velar brand name. It wasn’t until June of 1970 when the veil of secrecy was lifted and the first Range Rover was officially announced. So impressive was the design of the first Range Rover, it was immediately put on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris as an exemplary work of industrial design. It wasn’t just the critics that were so enamored with the new Rover, as consumers snapped it up as quickly as they rolled off the line.


Although not as finely appointed as its American counterparts, the Range Rover was built around the company’s uncompromising off-road ethos. The suspension employed coil springs over leaf springs, it had permanent four-wheel-drive and disc brakes on all four wheels. Power was supplied by a V8 engine which produced an adequate 135 bhp. Overall, it was a vehicle primarily built for utility, the interior rather sparse of features. As the subsequent years progressed, the addition of more luxurious features would become more common, eventually making the Range Rover the elegant estate wagon every well heeled gentleman had to own.




In 1971, in an effort to confirm the new Range Rover’s position within the off-road segment, Land Rover entered into a bold proposition with the Trans Americas Expedition. Under the leadership of Major John Blashford Snell, two Range Rovers were commissioned to complete a daunting drive from Alaska to Ushuaia via the Darian Gap. Although it would be hard to say the two Range Rovers made the journey without a hitch, they did somewhat manage to complete the journey as planned. In the years to follow, the Range Rover’s off-road aptitude would be tested and confirmed many times over, most notably within the Camel Trophy series.

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As the years pressed on, the Range Rover would sell well and receive a number of important updates and improvements. Engines would go on to include diesel options and the interior evolved into the posh SUV we know it to be today. Until 1987 however, the Range Rover was not officially available to North American consumers.


With the entrance into the American market, Land Rover made the conscious choice to market the Range Rover as a highly exclusive off-roader delivered with the same features normally reserved for only the finest luxury sedans. Power windows, an electric sunroof, leather wrapped seats and wood accents were all added to the Range Rover setting it apart from every other SUV on the market.


Twenty five years after the first unit rolled off the assembly line, the Range Rover, then officially billed as the Range Rover Classic, was a legend of automotive history. In 1994 the successor to the original Range Rover was released in the form of the P38, but knowing loyalists still demanded the Classic, Land Rover left it in production for another year.


In an interesting twist, in 2004 after the introduction of the third generation of the Range Rover, Spen King criticized SUV owners by saying, “Range Rovers were never intended as a status symbol but later incarnations of my design seem to be intended for that purpose.” The takeaway from that quote––go get your Range Rover dirty.






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Destinations: Harquahala Mountainhttp://expeditionportal.com/destinations-harquahala-mountain/ http://expeditionportal.com/destinations-harquahala-mountain/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 16:05:52 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22295 Ending at the highest summit in Southwest Arizona, the Harquahala Mountain is as steep, rugged, and beautiful as the desert comes. Its finer historical points start back in the 1920’s when Charles G. Abbott spearheaded an effort for contraction of a weather observatory. Looking for a dry climate allowing for sun observation and measurement, the Harquahalas were an obvious choice for the new station. In 1920 the Smithsonian Observatory was constructed atop the peak and a small team began the tedious and grueling task of gathering weather data in the harsh Arizona desert. Although standards of living improved slowly with the addition of a refrigerator, telephone, and better quality water tanks, the observatory was abandoned in 1925 for a new location in Table Mountain California.


The small and crumbling pack trail has now been upgraded many times by the BLM and is drivable with only moderate difficulty. Covering 10.3 miles from start to finish, this route climbs 3,700 feet to a total of 5,600 feet above sea level. Starting off of Eagle Eye Road, a clear sign points to the Back Country Byway followed by a large and colorful entry sign just off the pavement and onto the dirt road. A shaded information station is placed off the start of the road with a map, description of the trail, and historical information. I would recommend stopping here to learn a little about the area and let the family use the “facilities” located nearby.




Wandering down the dirt road you’ll find markers along the route guiding you on the correct road. Once you’ve begun the markers and a little common sense will keep you on track so enjoy the views and don’t worry too much about missing a turn or taking the wrong path. If you do feel like exploring off the byway, several old mines can be found in this area including the Alaska, Snowball, and Monterey mines.


Continuing the climb the road will snake its way around the opposite side of the mountain revealing a stunning view of the desert below. WARNING: the road does narrow on many of the switchbacks and bypasses. While it’s wide enough for one vehicle it may be impossible for two vehicles to pass. Turn offs can be few and far between so please be cautious and polite to others on the trail.


As you begin to approach the summit the road condition continues to deteriorate. The BLM paved one small section that was especially dangerous, however there are still several climbs that can result in slipping, spinning, and grinding. Use care when ascending these sections as a slide off the road would not end well for anyone involved at these heights. WARNING: The consistently steep ascent and slow speeds can easily result in engine overheating. Monitor temperatures carefully during your ascent. During colder months it is also possible that this road may gain snow or ice. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ROUTE UNDER THESE CONDITIONS. The unfavorable road slopes in several sections can lead to a loss of traction towards the ledge.


Upon reaching the top you’ll have the pleasure of witnessing some of the best views Arizona has to offer. It will be fairly cool at these altitudes so eating at one of the several overlook picnic tables is a great option for lunch. Make sure to bring plenty of water for yourself and your pets, the altitude combined with heat can make quick work of your hydration. If you are feeling adventurous with your foods, there are several prickly pears growing at the summit. Cut one off and remove the prickers for a tasty treat!

Coming back down the mountain you’ll want to make sure to downshift into first gear and check your brakes. The steep descent can quickly result in a serious problem if full braking power is not available. The views descending are even better than during the ascent so enjoy the journey!


Seasons and Conditions

As with anywhere you travel, time of year can make all the difference. While this trail is open all year, we would recommend avoiding summer months as the high desert heat can result in overheating during the slow steep climb and monsoon rains can and will wash out portions of the trail. Fall and Spring are both great times to run the trail. Temperatures are mild, weather is stable and favorable, and the road has had time to firm up since the monsoon season. Winter can be favorable as well however it is possible that snow or ice may accumulate. If this is the case DO NOT ATTEMPT THE TRAIL.


There are no permits required to traverse this trail, however some valuable information can be found on the BLM website regarding the area.


Camping along this route is limited to back country remote sites without facilities. There are a few towards the summit of the trail and almost unlimited in the desert below the mountain. As always remember to choose your site carefully and tread lightly to avoid damage to the surrounding environment.


Map Provided by TrekNow

Getting There

From Phoenix travel 80 miles west on I-10 to the salome road exit at mile 50. Turn right and follow salome road for 9.6 miles to Eagle Eye Road. Continue roughly 8.5 miles until you see a sign pointing to the back country byway.

From Wickenburg take H-60 to Aguila. Turn south onto Eagle Eye Road for roughly 18.5 miles until you see a sign point to the back country byway.

Local Resources

The closest town in which you can find fuel, food, and hotels is Aguila Arizona. Unfortunately if you need a full array of services like medical, law enforcement, or better hotels and restaurants you’ll need to travel to the town of Wickenburg.

For more information check out the BLM website here:


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Long Term Wrap Up: Salsa Fargo Tihttp://expeditionportal.com/long-term-wrap-up-salsa-fargo-ti/ http://expeditionportal.com/long-term-wrap-up-salsa-fargo-ti/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 07:30:14 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22458 It was roughly a year ago when I plucked this little beauty from a collection of boxes and with anxious hands began assembling it piece by shiny piece. As it came together, passers by at the Overland International office would stop and say, “Wow, that’s a cool bike. What is it?” It’s easy to forgive the uninitiated for not immediately knowing what to make of a bicycle that looks largely like a mountain bike until you take note of the unusually flared drop bars. To the adventure cycling set however, that is the one thing that sets it apart as unmistakably––a Salsa Fargo.


As I said of this bike in the 2014 Overland Journal Gear Guide, “The Salsa Fargo Ti is a witch’s brew of exotic ingredients borrowed from other platforms to create an adventure bicycle without peer.” I do get carried away with my wordsmithing, but you get the drift. It’s a handful of 29er mountain bike mixed with a pinch of touring bike. What ever it is, the end result is a bike designed to devour big miles regardless of the terrain.




The thing that is most surprising about the Fargo platform is how well it does at just about everything from tough trail to baby smooth tarmac. We’re all well aware of what happens when you design something that does everything. It usually does nothing, or at least nothing well. The Fargo certainly isn’t an all mountain shredder, nor will it win your local road race, but it is impressive how well it conquers everything in-between.


Some of you may remember our Fargo project from a couple years ago. We built up a steel Fargo in a multitude of configurations from commuter to tourer, singlespeed to bikepacker. I even rode it in a 100 mile mountain bike race proving two things: I’m a glutton for punishment and the Fargo is if anything––versatile. The titanium version is all that and more.


I have now racked up just short of 2,000 miles on the 2014 Salsa Fargo Ti, and I am wholly smitten by it. I loved the steel variant, but the titanium version with updated full carbon fiber fork is simply better. What I noticed first, something I hoped I would notice, is the lively feel of the titanium frame. There is a feedback that is indicative of titanium that is hard to put to words, but it is there. It’s more than a compliance to the ride, it’s a feeling that the frame is contributing to the effort. It has a springiness that is, well, what makes titanium the “magic metal.” Regarding the new all-carbon fork, it simply adds a level of control accuracy that the steel fork couldn’t achieve. Diving hard into turns the new fork holds a line with tenacity and confidence. Standing with the bike fully loaded with bikepacking kit, the fork is steadfast, never flexing to the pressure.




On the Trail


Taking the Fargo Ti to the singletrack is one of those things I do more often than I thought I would. Maybe it unleashes my inner Tomac (Who raced drop bars in the early 90s), or maybe I just like the challenge. Regardless, it is very doable to ride technical singletrack with the Fargo as long as you adapt to three considerations. First, the bottom bracket is relatively low, so being mindful of foot placement is key lest you smack your cranks on the rocks with enough force to loosen your fillings. Secondly, the hand positions best suited for braking will likely put you in the drops. That’s a pretty aggressive place to be when rolling down techy trail. Lastly, the geometry is pretty relaxed so diving into hard turns requires some turn telepathy. You can’t figger out your line mid-turn. If you do, you’ve way over shot it. Fitted with full bikepacking kit, and at moderate bikepacking tempo, the off-road chops of the Fargo Ti are more than adept at tackling any moderate trail.




On the Road


At the risk of just burning good tires for the sake of wasting rubber, I have slogged down many a mile of pavement on the Fargo Ti. The longest day might have involved a solid 87 miles of pavement and all things being considered, it did quite well. Hunkered down in the drops, the miles melted away, the drivetrain more than tall enough to provide enough gear. On a recent bikepacking trip near Durango we hit speeds nearing 55mph on the road and the Fargo Ti was rock solid, even under full load.




Being a bike dork of the highest order, it was only a matter of time before I adorned the Fargo Ti with a multitude of upgrades, most of which are obnoxiously unnecessary, but fun all the same. I don’t know why I felt it needed a 120 gram Easton EC 90SL carbon fiber stem, but it’s on there. It probably didn’t warrant carbon fiber bottle cages, but I had them in the closet so why not, right?


The big register dinger was the purchase of the ENVE XC carbon rims paired to Sapim spokes and Chris King hubs. I could have bought a really nice bike for the price of these two wheels alone, but they are spectacular wheels. Okay, that might have been over the top, but they really did add to the line-holding capabilities of the front end and the power delivery at the rear. And, most importantly, they declare my status within bike geekdom better than a cog-capped scepter.






By now my Fargo Ti has become a bit of a do-all machine and as such gets used as a daily trainer, weekend bikepacker, and as soon as my schedule clears, will be used for more protracted journeys. As the days shorten, I have fitted the Fargo Ti with a Nite Rider DIY Pro 3600 light system. Some may lament the weight of the battery and lamp, but for me, they permit several rides on one charge. Plus, they are ridiculously bright. I have only had the lights for a month, so I’ll have to give a full report on those later.


At the aft end, I did what I said I’d never do and fitted the bike with a rear rack and bag system. I hate riding with a pack, so the Moots Tailgator system seemed ideal. The tubular titanium rack weighs but a handful of grams, and can be used to hold the two purpose-buit Moots bags, or any small bag. For things like spare tubes, a jacket, snacks, and all the goodies needed to keep me on the road as long as possible, it’s pretty slick. With the ability to mount five water bottles on the Fargo Ti, I’m seldom thirsty.





It’s a beautiful machine, the 2014 Salsa Fargo Ti. I’m happy to see Salsa didn’t make many changes for 2015 as it is a near perfect design. Even when I squint through a critical eye, I can find no discernible faults with it. The finish detail is superb, equal to the boutique ti bikes in my quiver. The geometry and fit dimensions are neutral and accommodate a wide range of rider sizes. It’s a thoughtful bike, one the competition must feel is too intimidating to challenge. The Fargo seems to occupy its own space in the market, and perhaps that too makes it extra special.


What I enjoy most about the Fargo Ti is that every ride holds endless possibility. I might start a ride burning pavement, then hit a gravel road, stretch of singletrack, it really doesn’t matter where the route takes me, the Fargo will eat it up. It also begs to be ridden for long hours. Anytime I get a full day to ride, I load it up with food and fluids and just go. Where I go matters not. That freedom to go anywhere gives the Fargo a sense of freedom I truly love.


The only thing mine needs is more miles. Where to find the time, that’s the thing.




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On a recent bikepacking trip along the Colorado Trail from Silverton to Durango, the Fargo Ti carried me and my gear with no problems at all. I did fit the Fargo with a SID carbon-crowned fork, which was necessary for such an aggressive trail. The brakes might have been a tad underpowered for the long and steep downhills, but all-in-all, it was a great platform.


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Company Profile: Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentalhttp://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-ecuador-freedom-bike-rental/ http://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-ecuador-freedom-bike-rental/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:14:53 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22301 I am probably not unlike many motorcyclists in that I often dream of extended travels to the deepest corners of South America. It’s an intoxicating fantasy filled with the rumble of a well tuned engine, never ending roads connecting quaint villages, rustic roadside inns, and all of the charms we associate with the lower Americas.

Until recently, the only way to get your South American riding fix was to either ride or ship your motorcycle there. For travelers like me, I simply haven’t the time or means to dedicate to such a protracted or expensive journey, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the experience altogether. Over the last few years as the popularity of off-road touring has exploded, so too have the opportunities to scratch that itch. Companies like Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental are now providing riders with turn-key tours making South American motorcycle travels easily achieved.


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Founded by Court and Sylvan, two well-traveled adventure riders themselves, their Quito based operation has a fleet of more than twenty well maintained motorcycles of all makes and models. Providing self guided and fully supported tours, their routes cover the diverse regions of Ecuador from the densely vegetated Amazon Basin to the rarified air of the Andes Mountains. With trips starting at just four days to longer journeys up to twelve days, they offer something for everyone whether you prefer dirt, pavement, or a carefully crafted mix of the two.

Just last week, my friend Justin Julian and I had the good fortune to join Court and Sylvan on their six-day Off-Road Ecuador adventure. It gave us detailed insight into their company, their philosophy of travel, and why they chose Ecuador as their adopted home.


The Founders


Sylvan prepares to launch their video drone. It’s all about capturing the experience for these two.


In an earlier life I was a travel guide in Europe and Alaska and have a deep appreciation for the client/guide relationship. In my humble opinion, the tell-tale sign of a good guide is where they live. Many companies providing tours within South America are not residents of those regions but simply swoop in, knock out a few tours, and fly home. Court and Sylvan, after a year traveling the Americas on motorcycles, made the conscious choice to call Ecuador their home and over the past five years have developed friendships with the people along their routes. From a client’s perspective, that provides priceless x-factor. As we made our various stops throughout each day, Court and Sylvan were quick to introduce us to the people along the route, people who have become their––amigos. Little details like these are impossible to replicate by the fly-in tour companies.


The Country

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As well traveled as I thought I was, I had to admit I knew very little of Ecuador prior to stepping off the plane in Quito. After just twelve days on the ground, I can say with conviction that I will most certainly return. Although not a big country by South American standards, it is diverse in its landscapes, has a textured history, and is populated by some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. In an age when travel safety is of paramount concern, there wasn’t a day in Ecuador that I didn’t feel wholly welcomed by its people. From the capital city to chance encounters with locals in the most remote corners of the backcountry, the people were warm and gracious, smiles and curiosity the backdrop to every interaction. Even when traversing areas considered dangerous by the U.S. State Department, we were treated with nothing but kindness.


The Riding

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By mid day, most of our rides had us well above the clouds, high above 13,000 feet.


I have been fortunate enough to ride many of the most celebrated motorcycle destinations in the world from the Alps to Baja. Riding Ecuador’s paved, cobbled, and dirt roads just might top them all. I had never heard of “Incan Pavement” until my wheels rolled over it, but I will never forget the experience. The work that went into building hundreds of miles of stoney roads is mind boggling and the quality of the ride is superb. To think sections of these roads may have been 400 years old is hard to comprehend.


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For our trip, one billed as an off-road adventure, we traversed hour after hour of beautiful dirt roads, some sections offering just the right amount of challenge, most not so difficult as to detract from our ability to take in the views lining the route. Each day our bikes would transport us above the clouds, the high points often reaching well above 13,000 feet. When the dirt would turn to pavement, the revs would build, the speeds increase, and I have to admit, carving Ecuadorean tarmac is as good as it gets.


The Motorcycles



Riders have close connections with their steeds and the thought of riding someone else’s bike often holds little allure. Standing in Freedom Bike Rental’s office in Quito, surrounded by beautifully maintained motorcycles, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Their inventory of bikes includes Husqvarnas, Triumphs, BMWs, and even the latest Suzuki V-Strom 1000. It’s easy to see, Court and Sylvan are if anything, motorcycle enthusiasts.



The Accommodations

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There’s no better way to unwind from a long day in the saddle than a dip in a pool or natural hot spring.


Like many riders, I’m not afraid to sleep on the ground, but I won’t ever shy away from a nice hotel. Despite the fact Ecuador’s more remote areas have few options, our route seemed to always converge with a great hotel, just as our day came to a close. It would be fair to say some of the hotels along our ride were more rustic than others, but every night was comfortable, clean, and relaxing. Having breakfast on a veranda overlooking a coffee plantation shaded by banana trees is a great way to start the day, especially when that breakfast is accompanied by freshly brewed coffee acquired in a tiny village the day before.



The Experience

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Justin the Giant made quick work of making new friends where ever we went.


It would be impossible for me not to rave about our time with Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental. Court and Sylvan created a six day experience that was beyond our wildest expectations. The riding was superb, the accommodations and food excellent, and our guides were good pals by trip’s end. We couldn’t have asked for a better trip, a trip I will report in full in an upcoming issue of Overland Journal as well as here on Expedition Portal.






Ecuador Travel Logistics


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Money: Ecuador not only uses the USD as their standard currency, the cost of travel is an exceptional value. Although hotel prices are factored into Freedom Bike Rental’s self-guided and guided excursions, hotels seldom exceed $50 per night. Lunches are rarely more expensive than a couple dollars and even gas is less than $2.00.

Flights: For most Americans, getting to Quito, Ecuador requires little more than a short three hour, forty five minute flight from Miami with a slight change in time zones, seldom more than a three hour difference. Our flights from Phoenix and Minnesota were just $950 and $800 respectively. Hotels in Quito can be readily found for under $75 for what I would say are rather nice digs.

Connectivity: Although travel makes for a great opportunity to unplug, we had unexpected cell coverage, even in far flung corners of the mountains, and every hotel offered WiFi. Charging devices is easy enough as Ecuador uses the same Type A power outlets as used in North America.

Documentation and Visas: Unlike other countries in South America, Ecuador does not require any reciprocity fees, or unique travel visas. All you need is a passport.







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Chile’s Charms: Running Hot & Blowing Coldhttp://expeditionportal.com/chiles-charms-running-hot-blowing-cold/ http://expeditionportal.com/chiles-charms-running-hot-blowing-cold/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 07:23:03 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=21829 Upon registering my motorcycle’s mileage clock 10,000 miles since hitting the Americas five months previous, without conscious volition I stopped seeing our trip as an extended holiday.  This had now become a way of life for my partner and I.  The honeymoon period wasn’t altogether over, it was simply the start of a new chapter having learnt the basic ropes of two-wheeled travel.  


Namely journeying into the unknown and coping with all its capricious twists and turns – coming out the other end better off for it.  Travel for me is one thing you can buy that will make you rich.  South America so far was adorned by many pleasurable experiences mingled with the odd misadventure thrown in for good measure.  We were able to carry all we needed on the back of two motorcycles, which wonderfully, excluded all those unnecessary societal burdens.  I’m done with those.  




The 50-mile ride from San Pedro de Atacama took us north in ascent to the Antofagasta region.  The sky was an animated arrangement of clouds straight from an episode opening of The Simpsons.  En route to El Tatio, we were ungrudgingly slowed by a herd of goats consuming the width of the road.  Watching the mature ones amble and kids toddling along bum-to-bum, my heart went out to commuters back home in murderous bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Straggling behind a frisky band of bearded goats was my kind of traffic jam.


In eventually skirting around the herd we blasted through our first ford of water; my lower half got drenched.  The splash I’d zealously made soaked my legs trickling into the top my boots.  Wet feet forgotten, we were favored with clusters of vicuña dotted on the mountainous plains – a wild relative of the llama, supposedly valued for its fine silky wool.  Like the llama, vicuña were a lot less skittish than the similar looking but larger guanaco.  It gave us a moment to marvel at them in the altiplano high Andean pastures against a big sky backdrop.






My bike had been crying out for some much needed attention but with everything else going on around me, I’d neglected to notice that a battery connection had become loose.  I was too happy to be astride the saddle bearing witness to deep yellow grassy plains curving in from the left and red rock rearing up from the right against a blindingly blue sky.  Landscape of this simple but immense magnitude in a three-part colour scheme set to ‘vibrant’ was a tonic to the system.


I spent the remaining four miles towards our destination in anxiety of presaging disaster.  Cue the rider lurching while enduring a motorcycle’s resistance to ride, my bike was not a happy soul.  Ordinarily, I would have sought instant roadside assistance from my partner, a self-taught mechanic at my constant beck and call.  But so close to El Tatio, I gently and slowly coaxed my motorcycle over an unforgiving four-mile stretch of the coarsest corrugations, relentless ruts and up hill sandy struggles.   She neither thanked me nor denied me; my F650GS was forever my perfect riding companion.  I owed everything to her and of course my partner’s pre-requisite knowledge of what makes my two wheels tick.




Back at serious elevation we rocked up at El Tatio, a geothermic basin.  My motorcycle had out-performed herself and Jason rapidly remedied her ailments.  Trying my utmost to shun the fatigue, dodge the dizziness and other bothersome symptoms of altitude, we surveyed our surroundings.  “Oh look!” I said, pointing to four grey foxes advancing on reddish legs that were long staring at us if not any potential meals at hand.  We were in geyser seventh heaven, thanks to the frozen underground rivers making contact with sizzling hot rocks.


I tentatively asked a member of the Tatio Mallku Society whose job it was to administer the natural heritage – a woman in charge of patrolling the activity around such fragile ground – if we might sleep in her stone floored office.  She responded warmly and would accommodate our request for a negligible fee.  The lady seemed obliging so I also inquired if there might be a hot shower nearby.  She smiled knowingly, pointed a mile down the hill and kindly explained, “There is hot spring.”  I laughed heartily at the self-evidence all around me and mentally applauded the utilization of natural resources.  Without toiletries in tow, we headed straight there for a dip.  By late afternoon, the ambient temperature had to be in falling single figures but what the heck, the pool was steaming away at a ‘Come to daddy’ 40 degrees Celsius.




Before reaching the hot spring, we took the time to recce the place.  Fumaroles bubbled all over the geyser field, plumes of scalding hot water gushed upwards and arresting towers of steam rose from the rocks making a spectacular sight.  Especially so, as we watchfully weaved through on our wheels.  The towers of boiling steam were intensely striking first thing, contrasting with an air temperature of -12 degrees and shrouding my partner amongst a sea of other bodies in the eggy stench of fetid vapors.  At 4,320 metres above sea level, we were gazing on the world’s highest geysers.  I had forgotten to bring my ‘boil in the bag’ rice, I’d just have to plunge myself in instead.


By dusk all the tourists were disappearing leaving the hot spring serenely still, just for us. My heart was racing and I found it difficult to slow my resting pulse; acclimatization was strenuous work-in-progress I mused.  The hot spring soothed and settled me.  Its hot surface water caressed my neck, my body remained lukewarm below the waterline but once my toes gently disturbed the sand on the bottom, it got ‘feet hopping’ hot again.  It stopped the compulsive musings compounded by the head banging at elevation and emptied all thought from the hinterland of my mind.  Like the tourist turbulent muddy pool upon our arrival; when left undisturbed sooner or later stopped rippling.




I surfaced the next morning like a bear roused from hibernation, lethargically coming out of my cocoon.  Our one-day sojourn in El Tatio extended into an unplanned second day.  The afternoon saw us race back toward the geysers; there were over 500 of the thermal manifestations.  A lot of them boiling away at 86 degrees Celsius, less than a kettle’s boiling point at sea level due to the altitude.  We stuck our fingers in as many bubbling mud pools, perpetual spouters, steamy waterholes and hot springs as we dared.  With the Andean gulls soaring and not a soul in sight, we took our wheels and rode around again within this unique and striking site.  A befitting depiction of our two-day stopover in El Tatio?  A toe-tingling sizzler!



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ADAK Bivouachttp://expeditionportal.com/adak-bivouac/ http://expeditionportal.com/adak-bivouac/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:54:00 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22270 You may remember ADAK’s Outpost camper (pictured above left), a spacious travel trailer built to handle rough roads and provide a comfy basecamp in the back country. The downside was it’s shear size, which made it impractical to pull over much more than moderate trails. For those of us seeking an equal level of all-weather comfort in a smaller trail-ready package, ADAK has unveiled the Bivouac.

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The Bivouac is a fully self-contained 11.9-foot bunkhouse on wheels, with sleeping for up to 4 adults, based on the same stalwart construction of the Outpost. Standard features include a dinette which converts to a bed, rear bunk, interior and exterior lighting, 450 amp-hours of 12 volt power storage, full bath with instant hot water heater, a 43 gallon fresh water supply, cassette style black water storage, electric brakes and a heavy duty 7,500-lb 8 lug torsion axle. The trailer can be custom built to fit practically any needs, with common options including solar charging, generator, air conditioning, propane furnace, inside galley, refrigerator, stove, microwave, 4-season water system, additional bunks, roof racks and ladders, and additional gear storage.

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With a dry weight of 2,925 pounds, the trailer is well within the towing capabilities of many mid-sized SUVs and small trucks. The Bivouac’s overall dimensions are 16’8″ long, 8′ wide, and 10’3″ tall with a ground clearance of 20.75 inches at the frame. Pricing on the base model starts just shy of $40,000. Learn more at ADAK Adventure Trailers.

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Overland Expo East 2014http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-east-2014/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-east-2014/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 07:49:29 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22223 While not as massive in attendance as the well-established Overland Expo West the inaugural East event was easily as big in acreage and enthusiasm for the overland world. What set the East event apart from it’s Western brother is the picture perfect North Carolina Fall setting and close proximity to big population centers, who came out in big numbers to see what this “overland” thing is all about. The same tested formula for a quality overland event was used; hands on driving/riding courses, tons of industry vendors showing off and selling the latest greatest toys, lots of educational opportunities on a wide variety of overland relevant topics and scheduled opportunities each day for the overland tribe to gather around food and beverages to share their stories.


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Fall showed all her South East flavor during the weekend. Venders and attendees started to roll in Thursday to hot sunny weather and a truly spectacular venue that featured lush green rolling hills, beautiful old trees full of vibrant Fall colors and a picture perfect large pond that was the centerpiece of the Taylor Ranch venue. On Friday the weather took a drastic change with lots of rain and high gusty winds. Many campers arriving on Friday were redirected to camp in the primary day pass parking fields in order to preserve the well manicured fields at Taylor Ranch, as the steep hill into the main camping area turned into a rutted muddy mess.


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Saturday was an absolutely beautiful sunny day, but was still quite windy and very cold. Sunday everyone awoke to frost covered vehicles and thick fast moving fog rising from the Taylor Ranch pond. Luckily as the sun rose everything thawed quickly and Sunday ended up being a perfect Fall day full of sunshine, puffy clouds and moderate temperatures.

Land Rover again built a great little offroad driving course to showcase the off pavement prowess of their vehicles, as well as teach basic offroad driving skills and provide the opportunity to learn your own vehicle’s limits. The weekend’s muddy conditions really highlighted vehicle and tire differences, as well as the value of proper driving skills. Because of the layout of the venue site the driving course was a bit hidden, and hence not as much a centerpiece as it is at Overland Expo West. Even though it was a bit out of view by most show goers, the line to drive the course was usually well over an hour long. Rawhyde Adventures also brought their adventure motorcycle riding expertise to Expo East through a rodeo ring riding course, similar to Expo West, and through utilizing the hills, fields and forest trails of the ranch.


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Events of this caliber just can’t happen without the support of great industry and local companies. There were over 50 vendors at this inaugural event showing off everything from the latest overland expedition vehicles all the way to the local animal rescue, and everything in between. It was great to see industry veterans like U-Joint Offroad, that don’t make it out to Expo West, have a big presence at their backyard event. A big thank you to the event’s presenting and title sponsors, Four Wheel Campers and Sportsmobile, for helping to make it all such a success.

Essential to the Overland Expo model is classes, workshops, demonstrations and roundtables. Topics range from; exploring your back yard trails to far away exploration, boarder crossings, sharing your adventures through stories, photography & video, traveling with a reluctant partner, overland women specific courses, finding the perfect vehicle for your overland travels and so much more. There was truly something on offer for everyone and anyone who likes to explore and find adventure.


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As usual it really did come down to the amazing people you meet at these events. Sharing stories, experience and skills with each other in order to better and grow the overland tribe. It was great to see so many fresh faces and absorb their enthusiasm for adventure and exploration. On the flip side of the coin was being able to learn so much from the many seasoned overland travelers who truly love to share experiences and skills from the road less traveled. The message shared by all was; Go adventure!


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Importing a 25 year old Vehicle 101http://expeditionportal.com/importing-a-25-year-old-vehicle-101/ http://expeditionportal.com/importing-a-25-year-old-vehicle-101/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:26:17 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22208 When I sold my 1988 FJ62 Landcruiser last year I felt empty. I decided to replace the truck on a whim with an equally dependable and lovable Toyota, a mint 1988 4×4 Pickup with a 5 speed mated to a 22re motor with front and rear lockers. It just wasn’t the same. I sold that truck this spring and the Land Cruiser replacement search commenced.


My first FJ62 search was of grand proportions but familiar to many Toyota fans. I found the truck on Craigslist using SearchTempest.com. After weeding through ad after classified ad for months on end I found one in Trona, California. (See Planet of the Apes, the truck was featured in a few scenes) 86k miles, not a spec of rust, and maintained by a BMW machinist. I booked my flight from New York and drove back twenty eight hundred miles with my less then enthusiastic brother in three and half days. Making stops at the old Profitts garage in Delta, CO for a post-purchase inspection and too many fuel stations along the way. I drove that truck over 100,000 miles in three years with basic maintenance and tire changes.


The utilitarian aspect, respect on the trail, waves from other Cruiserheads, smiles on kids faces as they sped past you in their car seat strapped tight in Mom’s Porsche Cayenne, and dependability are all things I missed. I knew what I had to do––Replace it. Not just with any old FJ60 or 62 Land Cruiser, but a diesel.


Once again my search began on the several vehicle forums of EXPO and the like, but the few and far examples were well beyond my budget of $10k.


Searchtempest.com resulted in a few finds in the US, but once again way out of my budget. I changed the search selections to Canadian provinces and a few examples began to emerge.  BJ60’s, HJ60’s, HJ61’s, 70, and 80’s series Land Cruisers all flew to the surface.  But something was missing, my search results were only delivering a handful of trucks, mostly beaten up overpriced examples. I began to realize that similair to Salt Lake City, which heavily relies on online classifieds such as KSL.com vs. Craigs, Canadians prefer www.Kijiji.ca.


I specified my search to

– Make – Toyota

– Fuel   – Diesel



To my surprise multiple listings of foreign import trucks rose to the surface. Province after province was chock full of diesel Land Cruisers. I felt as if I struck gold. Far more in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario then others. Simultaneously I began to research the process of importing a truck.  In several words the process can be described as, “daunting, intimidating, illegal, stupid, and ridiculously expensive”. I made countless calls to notable Land Cruiser shops, sent emails to other import owners, and discussed my possible quest with friends/family. The results from my inquiries were at all ends of the spectrum, “Not possible” to “What’s wrong with you, Joe?” to “It’s easy, just drive it across”.


Legally section 591.5 Section 2-i of the “Importation of Foreign Vehicles”


Clearly states “The vehicle is 25 or more years old.”


I figured enough was enough.  I was between jobs and the time was right to make the trip.  If I was going to bring back my boyhood dream truck I was going to have to do it myself.  I found the truck on Kijiji.ca , further north then I initially wanted to go in Whitehorse, Yukon. I negotiated the price, sent a deposit, and booked my one-way flight. A call to my local insurance company was made to arrange for a temporary Canadian insurance ID and a temporary United States insurance card.  I made a stop at the local AAA for more maps, Trip Tik, and confirmation of their tow services in Canada. I downloaded the 2010 Milepost edition for extra precaution.


Access the online 2010 milepost digital edition by visiting:


Direct download the 2010 milepost digital edition PDF by visiting:


Finally my last step was to stop by my local bank for cash.



Embarking on the trip from Denver on a one way flight, two thousand miles north, had me nervous. Additionally my less then enthusiastic brother was sitting this one out so I was going to drive the 4500+ kilometers back solo, if I bought the truck. Upon my arrival in Vancouver the customs agent asked my purpose of the trip and I clearly stated my intent, “I am flying to Whitehorse to buy a truck and drive it back to Colorado”. She was not amused by my response, stating, “everyone is crazy there, all the cars are covered in rust, and you’ll probably just be turned around at the border”. But she stamped my passport for entry and wished me good luck.



 I was going to need a mountain goat not a diesel Landcruiser if I was going to make this trip.


When Russia emerged on the GPS I began to have my doubts if I would make this journey


I arrived in Whitehorse greeted by freezing rain and a right hand drive air adjustable suspension turbo diesel Subaru. The owner of the Land Cruiser and unique Subaru was making his was back and forth to his studio http://yukonstruct.com/ where they were hosting local government officials for a meet and greet.  Tucked behind 3D printers, lathes, electric powered pickup trucks, and wood cutting lasers was the HJ61 in the flesh.  After two months of back and forth emails with the patient owner we made the deal.  A handover of cash, simple bill of sale, signatures on the Yukon registration, a run down of the truck, a fine Canadian beer (at 10 am), and a handshake completed the sale.



 New owner happiness vs Landcruiser sadness


The first fuel up of the trip in Whitehorse didn’t sting as bad as I thought it would.  Every fuel station offered me straight exchange $1 US to $1 CAD for cash not the actual conversion, I was prepared and stuck to credit cards from there on out. The thrill of the abundant torque, smooth acceleration way past 80mph, and quirkiness of right hand drive never got old. Only the lack of music(2 cds and no radio stations) left for a little to be desired as the kilometers passed, it was quickly made up though by the symphony of the straight 6 diesel and subsequent turbo spool.



Turns and turns of the Trip-Tik, fuel stops, fresh coffee refills from my Jetboil, a jump(shower) in the local hot springs roadside pub food along the Alaskan Highway, getting stuck and pulled out in a river bank near Fort Nelson (4wd wasn’t engaged, saved thanks to local Bruce McMillen!), avoiding caribou, bears, bison, elk, deer, moose, and other vermin, negotiating Calgary and Edmonton rush hour, and finally arriving at the Sweetgrass Coutts border crossing was exhausting.  With the only single minor mechanical setback of a driver door lock mechanism failure. I made it in just over thirty hours driving 70+mph getting 25mpg and better along the way.





All my doubts and prep work were to be put to the test. I pulled up to the Border Agent with the bug splattered and BC mud covered Land Cruiser diesel chugging.  I leaned left, way over the passenger seat, to give the officer my passport. He asked, ” Are you bringing anything back?” I stated, ” I bought this truck and have two cans of beer”.  He asked me again, ” So your declaring two cans of beer?”, “Yes, and I bought this truck”. He said, “Ok, looks good, your steering wheel is on the wrong side though but have a good day…”.  He waved me through.


I insisted, “I have to pay taxes or a tariff on my purchase of this vehicle.” the officer said your welcome to come inside and talk further.  Shocked and awed that I was about to drive into the good ole USA with just a wave. I prepared to wait the 6 or so hours for my truck to be entirely stripped down and searched.


Nope, exactly three minutes later another officer retrieved my passport and asked my intentions. I stated that I would like to import a vehicle, it is 25 years old.


He pulled out form OMB NO. 1651-0022 https://ssl1.appersonsecure.com/pdfs/common/01911.PDF


Filled in filler code1. (informal), entry type, country of origin, exporting country, entry date, ultimate consignee (myself), checked box 3. Unregulated., the officer signed his name, I signed mine, he dated the transaction, and I paid my 2.5% tax on the purchase price of the vehicle. There was no vehicle VIN check, no search, no pat down, there was absolutely nothing, and not a single person stepped outside the border crossing office to inspect the vehicle.


With the single piece of paper in hand I officially imported a vehicle on my own terms.



Officially stateside


I crossed a US border in exactly 15 minutes and imported a car I dreamed about for years. Pinching myself and looking in the rearview mirror for the next hour or so I realized what one Toyota shop told me, “Just drive it over” was true.  I really needed four things; a bill of sale, transfer of registration, temporary insurance, and my passport.


Onward to explore Montana, Wyoming, for a few weeks then home to register the truck in Colorado.


With a simple VIN # verification, payment of sales tax, and verification of insurance I was issued a Colorado license plate. If you have any doubt about trying to import a vehicle be assured; it is nerve wrecking, it takes a patient/enthusiastic seller, but foremost know that you can enjoy the journey because you can do it yourself.


Happy Importing!


Scott Brady & Enzo Ferrari were right, life is just better when the steering wheel is on the right side.


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