COVERCRAFT steps up to pitch in during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

April 4, 2020

We have just learned that Covercraft, one of our sponsors, has shifted their manufacturing from quality car and seat covers to protective gear for medical personnel and first responders. Congratulations. Let’s all follow their moto: Together we can do this!

Check out their COVID-19 update in the top bar of their website. www.covercraft.com

At the Covercraft manufacturing facilities employees are busy sewing protective gear for medical personnel and first responders. © Covercraft
At the Covercraft manufacturing facilities employees are busy sewing protective gear for medical personnel and first responders. © Covercraft

Gary is working on a blog about the custom made quality Covercraft covers for our turtles, The Turtle V and Lonesome George II. More news on Lonesome George II soon……in the meantime

Let’s all stay home as much as we can, keep practicing social distancing and washing our hands!

Stay safe and healthy,

Gary and Monika

The Turtle V is safely tucked under a Covercraft cover awaiting warmer weather.
The Turtle V is safely tucked under a Covercraft cover awaiting warmer weather.

Baja California # 3 – November 2019

March 23, 2020

Heading south from Cataviña and Rancho Santa Inez, our next stop was Mulegé to hopefully get internet. Many overland travelers have become infected with the dependency on internet and like any addiction, it’s hard to stop. As we continue our sponsorship for Masha, the young girl in Tajikistan, it’s fun to WhatsApp with her once a week or when we happen to have a good connection, allowing for the fact that she is 12 time zones away! In fact, thanks to readers like you, we are now able to help three other young children to get a better education through our Donor Box The Children of the Pamirs Education Fund.

Before we left the historic Rancho Santa Inez, Señora Matilde requested to have her picture taken with Gary and The Turtle V.

Before departing the historic Rancho Santa Inez, Señora Matilde requested to have her picture taken with Gary and The Turtle V.

Hotel Serenidad outside the quaint town of Mulegé was a must. It was here that Monika and I first met in 1977.

Hotel Serenidad in the quaint town of Mulegé was a must. It was here that Monika and I first met in 1977.

In a sense, we were continuing down “memory lane”.

Mulegé

A stop at the Hotel Serenidad outside the quaint town of Mulegé was a must. Mulegé is about 620 miles south of the border at San Diego, if you were wondering. It was here that Monika and I first met in 1977. The campground includes hot showers and even a laundromat. Unfortunately we did miss the weekly pig roast, which includes a salad, beans, tamales, flour tortillas, pork ribs, a dessert and one small margarita or one beer. All you can eat for only $15.00 bucks while a mariachi band entertains. What a deal!! Yes, they did have internet.

We had borrowed a Sea Eagle FastTrack Angler Pro inflatable kayak, (www.seaeagle.com), which would insure an endless supply of fresh fish.

We had borrowed a Sea Eagle FastTrack Angler Pro inflatable kayak, (www.seaeagle.com), which would insure an endless supply of fresh fish.

Moving on down the beautiful coastline of the Sea of Cortez, we stopped at one of our favorite beaches to camp for a week or so. We had borrowed a Sea Eagle FastTrack Angler Pro inflatable kayak, which would insure an endless supply of fresh fish. The problem was that every traveler who camped near us wanted to know more about The Turtle V and there were a hundred questions. Most could be answered by referring people to the 9-part blog we recently posted covering all the details of building our fifth expedition truck, The Turtle V. (https://turtleexpedition.com/the-turtle-v-update-9-vehicle-specs-2019/). Remember there are nine parts!

Then and Now

The memory of this photo taken in 1977 on the Sea of Cortez was one we wanted to revisit.

The memory of this photo taken in 1977 on the Sea of Cortez was one we wanted to revisit.

We could have fished off the rocks but having a boat made the catch easier.

We could have fished off the rocks but having a boat made the catch easier.

In the morning, before the curious travelers started asking questions, we had time to catch dinner. It took us about 10 minutes to quickly inflate the Sea Eagle using their unique 2-stage double action Bravo 4 pump. Front & rear twin fishing rod holders and elastic tie-downs kept light gear out of our way. Waterproof bags clipped onto the back of the comfortable seats for camera and a water bottle. Paddling out to where we could see rocks in the clear water, the Sea Eagle was perfect to explore the shore line. With its removable skeg in combination with the external, rigid, inflatable “Needle Knife Keel “, it tracked straight and stable, even in light wind and small waves or chop. Using some flashy lures or pieces of scrap fish from the previous day, the trigger fish and small sea bass were happy to take the bait. The foam padded removable floor prevented punctures from fish splines. Back in camp, cleanup was easy thanks to the removable floor and big drain holes aft. Using the 2-stage double action pump, deflating was a 5-minute job.

Loreto

The old fishing village of Loreto, now a modern tourist resort, has not lost its charm.

The old fishing village of Loreto, now a modern tourist resort, has not lost its charm.

Heading further south in search of a new adventure and good internet we reached the old fishing village of Loreto, now a modern tourist destination with an international airport and a port for cruise ships. Juan María de Salvatierra was a Catholic missionary to the Americas. On October 15th, 1697, with one small boat and a crew and six soldiers, he landed at a place called Conchó (probably meaning waterhole), where he laid the foundation of Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the first of the Baja California missions, a chain that would eventually reach all the way to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and end in Sonoma, California. Following the long-term religious policies of Spain in what they called their “Spanish America”, the missionaries forced the indigenous Californians to live in settlements called “reductions” or “rancherías” that were located close to the missions. (cheap labor). If you look up the word “reduction”, it sounds similar to a “concentration camp” like the Chinese are currently using to reduce the population of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Mission San Francisco Javier

The Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto was the first of the Baja California missions, a chain that would eventually reach all the way to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and end in Sonoma, California.

The Mission San Francisco Javier was the second of the Baja California missions, a chain that would eventually reach all the way to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and end in Sonoma, California.

Many of the Indians succumbed to diseases like smallpox, typhoid, measles brought over by the Spanish. Their numbers were drastically “reduced” and their traditional way of life was disrupted. European fruits, vegetables, sheep, horses and ranching were introduced. The missions have been accused by critics of various abuses and oppression. In the end, the missions had mixed results in their objectives: to convert, educate, and transform the native peoples into Spanish colonial citizens. There is a great poster in a café outside of Ensenada. It reads.”Viva Zapata Cabrones! La Revolution no esta terminada”. (“Viva Zapata Assholes! The Revolution is not finished.”).
We were happy to see the old horseback guide Bule and his wife on their ranch outside San Javier.

We were happy to see the old horseback guide Bule and his wife on their ranch outside San Javier.

Over the years we have visited many of the old Baja missions. One of our favorites is Mission San Francisco Javier in the rugged mountains west of Loreto. We recalled that the 20-mile dirt road serpentined up under steep cliffs, around hair-pin corners and splashed through knee-deep arroyos. The village was quiet at night except for the town generator which ran till 10:00 pm, their only source of electricity. We stopped along the way to revisit our friends Bule and Angelina, an old couple at their little ranch on the side of the road. Bule, now in his 80s, had been a tour guide leading people into the Baja backcountry where original California families still live a life as they did 100 years ago. These ranches have no roads to them. Pack mules must be used to reach them on what could be an eight day round trip. This has always intrigued us and we were happy to see that Bule still had the contacts who could take us on such an adventure someday.
The vados on the new paved road are great free car washes!

The vados on the new paved road are great free car washes!

The mountains west of Loreto are full of hiking trails.

The mountains west of Loreto are full of hiking trails.

The beautiful route up the mountain is now paved all the way to the San Javier but still every bit as spectacular. We were pleased to see that the little community had not changed. Power is no longer from a noisy generator. The beautiful mission, first founded in 1699 and later moved in 1710, was the second to be built in Baja California. It is as impressive as ever. Its hand carved belfry, spires, and altars required many years of construction. Its three gold-leaf altars, surrounded by eight life-size oil paintings, were shipped from mainland Mexico and then carried by mules into this remote location. With a backdrop of steep cliffs soaring hundreds of feet behind it, light filters through the peninsula’s first stained glass windows. It is praised as the finest preserved stone mission on the Baja peninsula. Easy to miss, a short walk behind the church we found the remnants of the first orchard planted in Baja California. Its lone survivor is a stately olive tree estimated at 400 years old. If you want to feel young, wrap your arms around a 400-year-old olive tree.

Baja’s oldest Olive Orchard (400 years!)

This massive olive tree stands in the first orchard planted in Baja California - 400 years ago!

This massive olive tree stands in the first orchard planted in Baja California – 400 years ago!

Still following old memories, we had learned of another ranch in the mountains where they were also still tanning and dying leather in the old way using tannins found in various types of vegetation, particularly the Palo Blanco tree. We had seen some beautiful saddles and clothing, (jackets and chaps), hand stitched, (no electricity!) at Mulegé’s 314th anniversary fair. The name La Trinidad stuck in our mind. Following somewhat vague instructions, we ended up pushing through squeaking mesquite trees on a two-track.

The famous Trinidad Deer

Yes, there was a ranch called La Trinidad, but no leather tanning. Instead, it turned out to be the location of one of most famous prehistoric rock art pictographs in Baja. The Trinidad Deer, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is attributed to a highly developed pre-Hispanic group of people known as the Guachimis who lived in the area from 100 BC to 1300 AD. The ocher colored Trinidad Deer on a rock wall in the Sierra de Guadalupe cave is renowned by archeologists for its perfect dimensions and symmetry.

The Trinidad Deer, a UNESCO World Heritage site is attributed to a highly developed pre-Hispanic group of people known as the Guachimis who lived in the area from 100 BC to 1300 AD. 

The Trinidad Deer, a UNESCO World Heritage site is attributed to a highly developed pre-Hispanic group of people known as the Guachimis who lived in the area from 100 BC to 1300 AD.

Normally you need a permit obtained in Mulegé and maybe a guide to visit the site. We had just stumble onto it. We were welcomed by the owner of the ranch, Dr. Leonel Orozco Avilés, who happened to be visiting that weekend. It was late in the day, and as an exception, he kindly allowed us to camp for the night. He was a wealth of knowledge about prehistoric rock art of this cave and all of Baja, some of which we had visited on a previous trip.
The manager of the Trinidad Ranch lead us to the famous Unesco World Heritage Site to discover the famous Trinidad Deer.

The manager of the Trinidad Ranch lead us to the famous Unesco World Heritage Site to see the famous Trinidad Deer.

The next morning, his ranch manager registered our passports in a big book and we paid the mandatory fee before trekking up to the cave with him and his young son as guides. Going back out the main two-track, we took the precaution of covering our side Seitz windows with XPEL TRACWRAP, to keep them safe from the hungry mesquite tree thorns. I guess we will visit the ranch where they do the tanning another day.

It was time to head back to our home base now. We had done enough shaking and enough damage to The Turtle V to give us confidence that it was ready for another year-long expedition in South America. We made a quick stop in Mulegé to pick up some supplies, a ½ kilo warm corn tortillas and some fresh local goat cheese. Parking was easy across from the tortilla factory and near the little supermarket. It’s a walk-around town, and yes, there is an Internet café. The Mulegé Mission was the third in the Baja chain.

Coco’s Corner

Coco was as jolly as ever and doing just fine.

Coco was as jolly as ever and doing just fine.

Moving north, the quiet town of San Ignacio made a great overnight stop by the plaza and we could fill up our water from the faucets by the church in the morning. Of course there was great internet in the new hotel just a block out of town.

Back on Highway 1, we took the turn off on the new section of Hwy. 5, as yet unpaved, to reach our old friend Coco at Coco’s Corner. He was as jolly as ever and doing just fine. Coco’s Corner has been slightly modernized but the old trappings of dozens of girls’ underwear still hung from the rafters and one of our original Turtle Expedition posters retains a proud place on the wall. Looking at the other decorations in his little kitchen, I spotted another girly poster that showed that Coco was still the character loved by thousands of Baja travelers.

Catching Triggerfish at Gonzaga Bay

Trigger fish are not only good to eat. They are fun to catch!!

Triggerfish are not only good to eat. They are fun to catch!!

The old sand two-track out of Coco’s Corner is still better than the “improved” gravel. Once the pavement started to appear we stopped to air up the tires and continued on to another one of our favorite waypoints, Gonzaga Bay. Gonzaga is surely one of the nicest beaches in all of Baja California for walking and swimming.

We were getting low on fresh fish by now. Rather than inflate our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak for just a quick fishing trip, we hopped in José’s panga and motored out into the bay by the rocks. He knew exactly what we were looking for: triggerfish! We landed 10 or 12 in less than an hour. Back on shore, José even gave us a lesson on a quick way to clean them resulting in a pile of nice fillets with no bones. (Ask for him at Alfonsina’s Hotel desk.)

Several of the beach houses at Gonzaga Bay had decorations of whale bones.

Several of the beach houses at Gonzaga Bay had decorations of whale bones.

A storm was brewing so we headed out early toward San Felipe. The newly paved road was in a state of disaster, thanks to what appeared to be poor engineering. The last hurricane pretty much wiped out every bridge or viaduct. We lost count of the detours after about 18. Turning west on Highway 3 north of San Felipe, the road was in much better shape. Still no shoulders and very narrow but not as many big semi trucks roaring past us. To our surprise, we even had some snow going over one of the passes. The long line at the Tecate border crossing was boring, but much faster than the one at Tijuana. Remnants of Trump’s unfinished famous wall reminded us we were about to reenter California. Showing our passports, we were through in less than a minute.
A full double rainbow frames the shrimp boats south of San Felipe as a storm approaches.

A full double rainbow frames the shrimp boats south of San Felipe as a storm approaches.

Stay tuned as we head for South America where we’ll spend at least a year exploring interior portions of Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and maybe a little of Peru. We hope you will travel with us at www.turtleexpedition.com, which is currently being remodeled to make it easier for those of you who follow us on cell phones, pods and pads. As they say in Mexico, “Hasta Luego”.

Baja California #2 – November 2019

March 6, 2020

The camp overlooking the 8-kilometer-long clam beach and the Punta Mazo Peninsula was too perfect not to stay a couple of days, but we did need to move on, and we had to time our exit for a low tide to return to the gravel road and Highway 1. After airing up the tires back to 55psi and a few quick stops in San Quintin to fill up on diesel, water and some fresh fruit, we drove south down the Baja Peninsula. The narrow road was sometimes treacherous, with big semi-trucks passing us only inches away at combined speeds of 120 miles an hour. Often there was no shoulder, or worse, a 6” drop-off over a steep berm. No room for mistakes. To make an already obvious point, we stopped to take a few photos of what I guessed was about a $230,000 Unicat MAN expedition camper parked in one of the numerous junkyards along the highway. I had recognized the style of windows from a visit to the Unicat factory in Germany years ago when we were researching our own Turtle V. An overturned semi loaded with tomatoes offered more evidence. Little crosses along the road reminded us of those who were less fortunate.

Disaster struck for this French Couple

This ruined MAN German camper was a victim of the treacherously narrow Hwy 1.

This ruined MAN German camper was a victim of the treacherously narrow Hwy 1.

The exciting ups and down through deep “vados”, (dry flash flood crossings), were something like riding a giant rollercoaster, like when the cart starts up the track from the loading platform-—click, clank, click, clank—(the brave ones hold their arms over their heads)—and you can’t see what’s coming up over the top—-Left turn? Right turn? Steep downhill? A big semi-truck using all of his lane and part of yours!!!? All the girls scream!  It’s called “white-knuckle” driving. You can scream but do not hold your arms over your head!

Loncheria El Faro, El Rosario

Café, Loncheria El Faro, in El Rosario is a great place for a quick meal on the road. The propane station is just across the street (at the southern end of town).

Café, Loncheria El Faro, in El Rosario is a great place for a quick meal on the road. The propane station is just across the street (at the southern end of town).

We made a short stop in El Rosario for lunch at our friends Café, Loncheria El Faro. After a couple of delicious shrimp tacos, we got our propane tank filled just across the street. Knowing our escape route lay ahead, we carefully drove south to Cataviña and into its amazing rock garden. Turning into the boulders we followed a sandy two-track that twisted through the cacti for a while to reach a special spot we nicknamed Turtle Camp. Amongst the huge house-size granite boulders, there are two that form a perfect giant turtle. We arrived just in time for a spectacular sunset while we grilled some fresh fish over a mesquite fire. For those of you who know this camp or find it, please leave it clean for the next person and gather your fire wood from the desert before you get there, and please, don’t post it on some “app”!! Let people discover it for themselves.

Heading toward the Pacific Coast

There is a special freedom of driving a Baja backroad where you know you will not pass another vehicle all day.

There is a special freedom of driving a Baja backroad where you know you will not pass another vehicle all day.

Getting a lazy start the next morning, we lowered our big Michelin XZLs down to 30psi and headed west on what started out as a very nice sandy track leading to the Pacific Coast some 50 miles away. The unnamed backroad is sometimes used as part of the Baja 1000 off-road race and it is seldom if ever maintained. This was supposed to be a “shake down” trip for The Turtle V before we ship to South America, and shake it did. There were some very rocky pot-holed sections and some 4-inch washboard that required slow speeds. The real function of trails like this are not to entertain four-wheelers or the wanna-be racers. Their purpose is to reach the fishing, lobster, abalone, crab camps and remote cattle ranches. While you might think you are “off-roading”, your hubs locked and 4X4 engaged, you are likely to meet a fisherman in a two-wheel drive pickup with bald tires bringing his catch to the market. He will be just as surprised as you!

These comical Boojum (Cirios) trees always amuse us.

These comical Boojum (Cirios) trees always amuse us.

The scenery was spectacular from valley to valley, ranging from forests of crazy Boojum Trees (Cirios) to stately Giant Cardón, Coastal Agave, Jumping Cholla, Elephant Trees (Torote Colorado), Old Man Cactus, and clusters of spiky Barrel Cacti. Sometimes we just had to stop and climb a rock to take in the view. Traffic was nil so camping at dusk was simply finding a clearing and stopping. Safety was not even a remote concern. We still had plenty of fish and a stash of fresh oysters. There is something special about camping 30 or 40 miles away from the nearest highway or light bulb. We even found a place where the local families had built a little shelter with some tables.

In Search of Lobster

One of our goals on this trip was to enjoy the abundant seafood Baja has to offer and that definitely included lobster. By afternoon we had reached our destination, a deserted beach near a lobster camp we had visited many times. No sooner had we set up our chairs and poured a glass of wine, a rattling Ford pick-up arrived. The friendly fisherman asked if we wanted lobster! Yes, of course. We paid about $18 for four fat ones, a deal since the last time I saw frozen lobster at our local super market they were over $11.49 each.

Fresh lobster waiting for the grill.

Fresh lobster waiting for the grill.

Our technique for preparing live lobster, learned from Mexican fishermen, may be a bit cruel, but it’s quick. Rip off the tail from the head and body. Insert one of the antennas into the tail, broken end first. As you pull it out the sharp spines will remove everything you didn’t want to eat. Cut a slot in the back of the shells, insert a little butter and wrap them in foil. Place them on a hot grill for 10- minutes while you are melting some butter.

After a quiet morning and a nice walk on the beach we drove around the point to visit old friends at the fish camp itself. While I watched the fishermen haul their boats out of the surf and unload the traps of lobsters, Teresita insisted on giving Monika a lesson on how to make a flour tortilla. It is said in Mexico that a girl cannot marry until she can hand-make a good round one.

The Turtle V takes a selfie.

The Turtle V takes a selfie.

The road back out to Hwy 1 was as rough as we had ever seen it, perhaps the result of recent hurricanes, the last Baja 1000 race, or the swarms of side-by-side Razors that have ruined many of our favorite backroads as they follow apps that are telling everyone where to go. After a pleasant night at Turtle Camp we continued a few miles south. The gas station in the town of Cataviña was abandoned but our 1,000-range would take us all the way to Santa Rosalia or Mulegé if needed.

Mandatory stop at the legendary Rancho Santa Inéz Café and Motel

On our way south we stopped at the old Rancho Santa Inez, a historic watering hole before the highway was paved. Señora Matilde is always pleased to see us.

On our way south we stopped at the old Rancho Santa Inez, a historic watering hole before the highway was paved. Señora Matilde is always pleased to see us.

We stopped at the old Rancho Santa Inéz café and motel for wonderful Huevos Rancheros breakfast at this historic watering hole & air strip. It’s just out of the Cataviña settlement a short distance off the highway and there is a large area for overnight camping and even bathrooms. It was also a place to refill our water supply. Long before the highway was built, it was once an important stop for travelers because of the deep well. For years, the Baja 1000 race used it as one of their main pitstops until recently. It’s also the trailhead to visit one of Baja’s lost missions. Heading south we were slowly getting used to passing the semis—well sort of.

Baja California #1 – November 2019

February 28, 2020

Well, in case you were wondering if we would ever leave, we have. Just as the leaves of the maple tree in front of our office in Nevada City burst into flames, (no not from fire), we uncovered our trusty Turtle V expedition truck and headed south to Baja California. Crossing the border at Tecate without a problem, we followed the improved highway through the Guadalupe Valley wine region to Ensenada on the Pacific Coast.

Ensenada is a friendly tourist town and port, and a good place to start an adventure.

Arrival in Ensenada

Ensenada has always been a friendly tourist town and port. We parked safely at the Bahia Hotel and gave the guard a few dollars. Strolling down the Malecón next to the bay, there were plenty of tourist shops if we wanted to buy a hat or a T-shirt. We headed straight for the fish market where the selection is overwhelming. Clams, shrimp, oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters and more fish than you would even think of. Since we knew all the seafood waiting for us a little further south, we limited ourselves to some nice fillets of fish for the first couple of nights. Of course we couldn’t resist a fish taco at one of the many little restaurants. After years of coming here, we have our favorite.

Hussong’s Cantina

Hussong’s is always full of strange characters—like these two.

Our next stop was mandatory. If you’re headed into Baja without a stop at Hussong’s Cantina, (established in 1892 by German immigrants), for a cold beer or a shot of tequila and some live Mariachi music, your trip is doomed. We tell you this from years of experience. This old watering hole was busy for a Thursday night. Finally scoring a table in a room crowded with more local Mexicans than tourists, we met our old friend, Sergio Murillo, the owner of the BajaRack Adventure Equipment who lives in Ensenada. Another beer and a bag of peanuts made our arrival official. As tradition dictates, we threw all the peanut shells on the floor. The noise level was, well — that’s part of the experience!

Celebrating Birthdays

Erika is beautiful lady and joining her for her birthday was special.

Thanks to a little bit of planning ahead, we happened to arrive the day before Sergio’s wife, Erika, was celebrating her birthday. The following afternoon we had a wonderful dinner overlooking the crashing Pacific at the Luxury Punta Morro Hotel and Restaurant. The service was impeccable, even impressing Monika with her Swiss standards. The evening ended with another birthday party at their home in the hills above Ensenada. We didn’t miss the opportunity to continue celebrating Monika’s birthday, our 37th wedding anniversary and Masha’s birthday in Tajikistan who just turned “sweet 16”!

Wine Tasting in Baja’s Guadalupe Valley

The following day, Sergio invited us to accompany him and Erika on a wine tasting tour and he had a particular winery, Misiones de California, in mind. Arriving late afternoon, we got a personal tour that was one of the most informative we have ever taken. The family-owned winery had an interesting selection. Their Rosé was made from grape stocks originally brought to Baja by the Spanish missionaries sometime in the 18th century. Can’t say it was great but it was certainly unique and intriguing, considering its history.

Heading South on Baja’s Highway 1

A parting shot of the Baja Rack truck and The Turtle V. Our truck would not be this clean for several weeks!

The next morning, after saying our good-byes to the Murillo family, we stopped at a market to pick up some last minute supplies. They are often less expensive than in the US, like ripe avocados and papayas. Heading south on Highway 1, our first stop was the farming community of San Quintin. Airing down the tires from 55psi to 30psi, we turned west on a sometimes rocky, washboard gravel road to reach the second of two bays where there are now several oyster camps instead of the one we remembered. We stopped at a friendly looking one. It was getting late so we asked if we could there camp for night. “Sure!!” the owner said, knowing we would be his first customers in the morning.

Oysters by the Dozen

After buying a couple dozen oysters just picked fresh off the racks in the bay, we continued west through rolling volcanic hills created by eleven volcanos that erupted some 10,000 years ago during the Pleistocene period. The road ended abruptly at a small fishing village. Our destination was still a good half hour away but the only road was the beach, totally impassable at high tide. We waited.

The Beach is the Road

The beach is the road. Fishermen use it every day. The high tide erases all the tracks.

Finally it felt safe. The soft sand getting to the hard pack of the receding tide definitely asked for four-wheel-drive but then it was damp sand at 35 mph to the exit of the beach. More soft sand that can be driven in two-wheel-drive if you aren’t as heavy we are. After a scenic drive through volcanic rolling hills and sand dunes, we arrived at our old friend’s home, Antonio Jimenez, and another perfect campsite. Here, the sandy road ends and turns abruptly down a long flat beach along the Punta Mazo peninsula. It is this beach where many big Pismo type clams are harvested. At low tide we could drive all the way to the far distant point.

Feasting on Pismo Clams

Our old friend Antonio was very pleased that we revisited him after at least a decade.

Not having the expertise of clam digging, Antonio’s son was happy to bring us a couple dozen, (approx. $5.00 a dozen) and we set about cleaning them while an orange sunset melted into the ocean. Chopping the clean clam meat and mixing it with diced onion, tomatoes, Jalapeño chilies, garlic, a little oregano, and a teaspoon of butter, the mixture was repacked into clean shells, wrapped in foil and grilled for about 10 minutes on each side. While the clams were baking we enjoyed a few oysters on the half-shell. It was a delicious meal and the “dishes” were just thrown away. We slept soundly to the sound of the incoming tide washing over the volcanic rocks in front of camp.

Trail Fixers – October 2019

October 23, 2019

Regardless of what kind of vehicle you’re driving or riding during an overland adventure, or maybe even before you leave home, one thing is certain: Stuff breaks, and if Murphy is standing by your side, you won’t have a replacement. You will have choices: Live without it, fix it, or worst case scenario, start walking or set up camp. Over the years, we have discovered a few amazing products that we would never leave home without. Experiment with them a bit when it doesn’t matter. A little imagination and a touch of MacGyver goes a long way before you throw your hands up in the air.

A quiet camp overlooking the vineyards of the country of Georgia between Turkey and Azerbaijan along the Silk Road.

A quiet camp overlooking the vineyards of the country of Georgia between Turkey and Azerbaijan along the Silk Road.

 

Fiber Fix Wrap  

FiberFix Wrap is especially useful for repairing round objects like shovel or axe handles, tent poles, fishing poles, water pipes or any shape than can be wrapped. Combining industrial-strength fiber and a specialized resin into a wrap, it will bond with woods, plastics, metals and PVC or almost anything. It hardens like steel. Claimed to be non-toxic, it does come with rubber gloves. It is water activated, sets in 5 minutes and fully cures in 20. It comes in seal packets of 1”, 2” and 4” wide strips about 3 feet long. We repaired pick and hoe handles with good results.

 

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue is a legend. It will work where other glues may fail. Its water activated polyurethane formula expands into materials to form an incredibly strong bond to virtually anything. Because it’s like heavy syrup, it can reach difficult places. It’s 100% waterproof. It does need to be clamped. Once on a lengthy backpacking trip, the stitching on the side of my boot completely failed. I applied Gorilla Glue and weighted it down with a couple of big rocks overnight and it held well until we reached civilization where the boots could be replaced. It sets in 20-30 minutes of clamp time, fully cured in 24 hours.

 

J-B Weld 

J-B Weld is the original cold weld two-part epoxy system that provides strong, lasting repairs to metal and multiple surfaces. Mixed at a ratio of 1:1, it forms a permanent bond and can be shaped, tapped, filed, sanded and drilled after curing. Because of its ability to withstand temperatures up to 600°F and its tensile strength of 3,960 PSI, it is ideal for serious mechanical repairs. It sets in 4-6 hours with a full cure in 15-24 hours. J-B KwikWeld is a fast setting version of the original J-B Weld. It sets in about 6 minutes and is fully cured in 4-6 hours.

 

RapidFix Dual Adhesive   

Rapid Fix 2-part Dual Adhesive System is basically a high-tech super glue which can work well by itself. When mixed with RapidFix welding powder, it can fill cracks, gaps and holes and can be drilled, sanded and painted instantly. The moment the welding powder comes in contact with the adhesive it turns rock hard. It bonds to plastics, metal and rubber in seconds. You can build with it—a little adhesive followed by a little welding powder and then a few more drops of adhesive. If anything breaks, Rapid Fix 2-part Dual Adhesive System is usually one of first products I grab.

 

RapidFix Fiber Patch UV   

We were looking for a way to patch big things like plastic/fiberglass fenders, canoes/kayaks or even a hole in the side of a camper. RapidFix Fiber Patch is an extremely durable fiberglass re-enforced self-adhesive polyester fabric repair patch. One step. No mess. It cures in 5-10 minutes with an optional UV lamp or in bright sunlight, 50 minutes on a cloudy day. It can be drilled, sanded and painted in less than an hour. It will bond to all surfaces except Polypropylene (PP). It comes in 6” X 6” and 9” X 12” sheets packed in a re-sealable aluminum pouch, so you only use what you need.

 

RapidFix Liquid Plastic UV  

A bit of UV magic, RapidFix Liquid Plastic UV is another amazing glue, except that it’s not really a glue. It applies like honey or a gel, but it doesn’t run so you have control. It bonds to plastic, metal, glass and wood and can fill cracks, holes and gaps. It cures in 20 seconds when you shine the special UV flashlight on it. Think broken sunglasses, taillight lens, jewelry, loose screws, frayed electrical wire or a small hole in your tent or rain fly. When cured, it’s crystal clear and can be filed, sanded and painted.

 

Shoe GOO/E6000 

Shoe GOO/E6000 are similar products and both have multiple applications beyond shoe repair. They are excellent adhesives, but each has interesting limitations that you need to read on the tube before using. Shoe Goo is slightly thicker. Once we had a big cut in a tire. We filled it with Shoe GOO and parked it overnight on a piece of wax paper. It kept the cut clean for months. Both products can be schmoozed out to form a waterproof seal, but E6000 warns against applications that are exposed to sunlight. If Shoe GOO repairs your Tevas or your Birkenstock sandals once on a long trip, it has paid for itself.

 

Loctite Stripped Thread Repair

Loctite Stripped Thread Repair is not something you need every day, but if you need it, it can be worth its weight in gold. The product comes in a two-part tube for easy mixing and a release agent once the epoxy is set. It will adhere to most metals including aluminum, iron, steel, brass, magnesium, and copper. It is resistant to most solvents including engine oil, diesel fuel and gasoline, but is not recommended for use with brake fluid. Initially it sets in five minutes and can be used after 30 minutes. With a temperature resistance of -65°F to 300°F, it has a wide range of applications.

 

Elmer’s Glue-All & Glue Stick

Good old fashion Elmer’s Glue is probably one of the first products you would always see in our stationary box. It bonds to most porous materials like paper, cloth, and leather, and also to semi-porous materials such as wood and pottery. For wood or pottery, like that broken coffee cup handle, it should be clamped for 35 minutes before use. Its little companion, the Glue Stick, is just a great tool for sticking post-its or other notes where thumbtack won’t work.

 

Premium Silicon Glue

Premium Silicon Glue (by GE) is great for general household/camper repairs and craft projects. It adheres to glass, metal, plastic, rubber, ceramics, fiberglass, painted services, and wood. It is permanently waterproof flexible and shrink and crack proof, which makes it ideal for sealing around windows. It’s much easier to apply than the heavier ShoeGoo but perhaps not quite as strong. It’s basically clear, tack free in 30 minutes and fully cures in 24 hours. It has a service temperature rating of -60°F to 400°F. You can clean up excess with mineral spirits, but being careful to apply it only where you want it is easier. A few paper towels could be handy. It also sticks to skin.

 

Fix-it Tapes 

While tapes are not really glues, they often work hand in hand with them, as a quick clamp, a backing, or maybe just a third hand when you need one. Duct Tape sticks on most stuff, doesn’t like long exposure to weather and can leave gooey residue sometimes. Gaffers tape is more expensive, but it has many uses as temporary clamps for nearly everything. It does not stretch like other tapes, sticks on everything, can be removed and used again and leaves no mess. Blue masking tape is cheap and just plain handy for holding repairs together, backing a glue repair or even a quick bandage. In case you wondered, Duct Tape was Originally Named “Duck” Tape and came in Green, not Silver. Duct tape was invented by Johnson & Johnson’s Permacel division during WWII for the military. The military specifically needed a waterproof tape that could be used to keep moisture out of ammunition cases.

 

 

Scratches and Chips on the Road – October 2019

October 11, 2019

How to Stop them – How to Fix them

Whether you spend most of your time on the highway or exploring backroads, paint chips and scratches happen. They are unavoidable. Following narrow one-lane side roads in Baja, you can hear the screech of the sharp mesquite needles etching racing strips along the door panels of your truck/camper/SUV/4X4. They can be nearly impossible to rub out. If you are really proud of your ride, the scratches are painful. They can be prevented by covering the exposed areas with a product called Tracwrap by XPEL. This clear, easily applied and removed vinyl material comes in 4-inch 20-foot rolls or for bigger jobs, it is available in 18-inch wide 100-foot rolls. If you keep the backing paper on some sections it can be saved for later use. Otherwise, we just peel it off and throw it away.

Following narrow one-lane side roads in Baja, you can hear the screech of the sharp mesquite needles etching racing strips along the door panels.

Rock Chips

Rock chips are another problem. You can’t see them coming, but you can hear the little ‘tick” as a tiny bit of gravel takes a piece of your paint off. At 70 miles an hour, bugs can do the same damage. Again, we turned to XPEL. They make computerized precut sections of paint protection film. They have patterns for virtually every vehicle on the road. You apply them the same way that you apply Tracwrap, but these pre-cut kits are not designed to be removed easily like Tracwrap. XPEL completely eliminates rock and bug chips on the front of your hood and fender scratches, depending on what kit you buy. Some kits also include XPEL coverings for the headlights which not only eliminate rock chips but stops the yellow oxidation that is plaguing many vehicles today.

Windshields

Windshields: You can apply Tracwrap to the lower part of windshields in some states to prevent rock chips but you should check for local regulations. We have seen this used on race cars where they put it on in layers on the drivers’ goggles and on the windshield. When they pull into the pits they simply reach up and peel off the dirty layer.

Sharp mesquite trees on Baja back roads will leave some nice racing stripes.

Sharp mesquite trees on Baja back roads will leave some nice racing stripes.

A Tip from Argentina

Another little tip we can tell you about rock chips. In Argentina, where many of the roads were gravel for hundreds of miles, we learned to drive as close to the oncoming vehicle as possible, (It feels like you’re playing chicken.), but they do the same. The reason is that when gravel or rocks fly up from an oncoming vehicle, they come at an angle. If you are close to that vehicle as you pass at a combined speed of perhaps 90-mph, the gravel and rocks hit your wheels or maybe the side of your car or truck. If you’re far away, by the time the gravel reaches you it’s at your windshield level. The fact is, gravel being thrown up by oncoming vehicles doesn’t necessarily break your windshield, but driving into that gravel at 60 miles an hour will do it every time.

Now if you’re driving a road that is frequented by big trucks like the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay, or the Dempster Highway, also referred to as Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8 to Inuvik in Canada, when you see a big truck or another vehicle speeding toward you, slow down or even stop. The rocks and gravel may be in the air, but you don’t need to drive into them at speed.

Why are they waving in Argentina?

Another funny thing we discovered in Argentina driving down the long gravel roads. At first we thought everyone was so friendly because they were waving to us. Actually, what they were doing as we passed was to reach up and touch the windshield from the inside with a finger. Somehow, they told us, this stops the vibration of a rock hitting the glass and creates only a chip instead of a shattered windshield. Just for good measure, we used to do this too until we had a custom rock shield for the windshield built.

No, this was not an automated car wash! Ouch.

Repair Suggestions

Back home you assess the damage. Scratches and small chips can be repaired with some of the cool products on the market today. We have had good luck with the Automotivetouchup kit that comes with a prep cloth, primer, paint stick coded with the exact color of your vehicle based on your vehicle VIN number, and finally, a clear coat. All of these come in small application pens that are easy to use. They are especially helpful to get rid of little rock chips.

For larger chips like when I accidentally bumped into a fence in Tajikistan, we carry small containers available from your body shop with the correct paint code and a small brush. We also carry a little container of paint thinner for cleanup or if the test bottles need to be thinned a bit. For minor scratches, Mothers and Turtle Wax both offer scratch removal products that will help disappear rock chips and small scratches.

Mud Flaps

As a final protection on gravel roads, a good set of mud flaps do wonders from stopping rocks and gravel from flying up and chipping the side of your vehicle. Once in Patagonia we had a half-inch rock fly up and the wind was so hard it broke the side of the window on the camper. Mud can be another big problem on some roads like the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) in Canada. The road surface is coated with calcium chloride that when wet, turns into something like peanut butter or brown Crisco. A good set of mud flaps helps.

Building a camper any wider than The Turtle V would risk trail damage from cacti and mesquite.

Building a camper any wider than The Turtle V would risk trail damage from cacti and mesquite.

Wow, how do you keep The Turtle V so clean?

You may not be as picky about the looks of your overland vehicle on the road, but we have used all of these products at various times. At big shows like SEMA and Overland Expo, when people see where our expedition truck has been, a common question is “Wow, how do you keep it so clean?” The secret of course is, we take a rag and wipe off the dirt, especially before we cross borders. A clean truck gets more respect than a dirty one. No, we have not found Elbow grease in a bottle yet, but for short adventures, products like Mothers California Gold Showtime, Meguiar’s Interior Detailer Cleaner, Turtle Wax External Waterless Wash & Wax and Meguiar’s Quick Detailer are great for a quick clean-up in camp while the steaks are grilling. Even easier, Wipes like ArmorAll Cleaning Wipes, Simple Green All-Purpose Wipes, Turtle Wax Spray & Wipe Interior Detailer, or good old Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner and a rag work. We keep a resealable pack of Glosser Microfiber Detailing Wax Wipes by CleanTools behind the seat. They are impregnated with a moist cleaner and wax and they are disposable.

So you see, there is no reason to drive around in a chipped-up, scratched dirt bag, unless you just want to look like you’re on an adventure. Clean vehicles run better.

They do have feelings you know!

Updating our Website – October 2019

September 27, 2019

Dear Turtle Expedition News Subscribers

It’s time to update our website once again to make it more accessible for mobile devices. Please bear with us. There could be a bunch of glitches to be ironed out and we might have to repost a couple of previous blogs because they ended up in draft mode. Remember, life is an adventure, even online!

We have been very busy wrapping up many projects around here on various different fronts from getting our house and property more fire safe to packing The Turtle V for our next big adventure in South America. That said, very soon we are taking off for Baja for a month or so to get the cobwebs out of the truck and take some PR pictures for the various companies we have been working with over the years.

Gary is hungry for fresh fish, oysters, mussels and clams. We borrowed a Pro Angler inflatable kayak from Sea Eagle to go fishing in the Sea of Cortez and hang out for a few days. Upon our return to Nevada City, CA, we will quickly repack for South America and hit the road.

Gary is working on a short series of tech blogs to answer questions people have had over the years.

Stay tuned.

Monika

Plenty of clearance makes rocky roads in the desert easy to navigate.

Plenty of clearance makes rocky roads in the Baja desert easy to navigate.

Children of the Pamirs Education Fund Opened – August 6, 2019

August 6, 2019

BREAKING NEWS!

 

We were shocked when this young girl waded out into the creek and took the brush from Gary's hands.

We were shocked when this young girl waded out into the creek and took the brush from Gary’s hands.

A feature article on The Magic Girl of the Pamirs has been published in the Fall 2019 issue of Overland Journal. The story describes how we met a young 11-year old girl we are now sponsoring. We had backed into a small creek to wash dust off The Turtle V, high in the Pamir Mountains (10,000 ft.) of Tajikistan during our Silk Road Expedition in 2014. This fearless young girl simply walked into the water, took the brush from Gary’s hands and started helping. Without a common language her eyes, her smile and her no-fear self-confidence told us much more than words could have said.

Masha’s ability to transition from herding and milking goats to a city life and a very demanding education program was remarkable. Yes, she still knows how to milk goats!

Her ability to adapt from milking goats to city life and a very demanding education program was remarkable. Yes, she still knows how to milk goats!

In the course of the last two years, with our help, she has transformed her life from gathering firewood and milking goats in her remote mountain village to becoming a teenage “city girl”, now studying at the prestigious Aga Khan Lycée private school in the town of Khorog, with 17 subjects 6 days a week and extra English and math classes on Sunday.

Masha’s transition into becoming a student and a teenager in the city has been remarkable and rewarding for both her and us.

Her transition into becoming a student and a teenager in the city has been remarkable and rewarding for both her and us.

During a short visit last year to see firsthand how she was doing, we learned about many other young children that, for lack of funds in this very poor region of Tajikistan, could not get a better education which would help improve their own lives, their family’s and their community. The average income in Khorog is about $100 a month, putting better schools and learning tools like a computer and access to the internet out of reach for most families. Seeing this on a personal level prompted us to start “The Children of the Pamirs Education Fund” through DonorBox.

During a visit to Tajikistan's capital she and her friend enjoyed city life with ice cream, pizza, malls, escalators, movies and a beauty parlor. It was a new world!

During a visit to Tajikistan’s capital she and her friend enjoyed city life with ice cream, pizza, malls, escalators, movies and a beauty parlor. It was a new world!

 

If you wish to help with our efforts, there is a link on our home page, www.turtleexpedition.com or you can access the DonorBox Fund directly. All donations will be used exclusively to help a child get a better education. If you wish to sponsor an individual child for a year or longer as we are doing, given the internet and apps like WhatsApp, we can help you establish a direct contact with the young person to get involved in his or her life. It’s been a very rewarding experience for us. If you simply choose to make a personal donation, we will be writing occasional news updates on the progress.

To touch the past, Touch a Rock.

To touch the present, Touch a Flower.

To touch the future, Touch a Life.

To change a life, Teach a Child.

Thanks, Gary and Monika

 

 

 

The Turtle V – Update # 9 – Vehicle Specs – 2019

July 19, 2019

Base Vehicle: 1999 Ford F-550 4×4 Super Duty, 165” WB Chassis Cab

Design and Assembly: The Turtle Expedition, Unltd.

Year Built: 2000, modified and updated continuously (as needed)

Heading for the Guadalupe hot springs we followed off-road pre-run tracks.

Heading for the Guadalupe hot springs we followed off-road pre-run tracks.

Engine: International 7.3 L Power Stroke Diesel V8 equipped with intercooled ATS Aurora 3000 Turbo, DieselSite Adrenaline high pressure oil pump, DieselSite coolant filtration system, K&N high-flow air filter, AMSOIL dual remote bypass oil filtration system, Airtex fuel pump, Racor auxiliary fuel filter/water separator/fuel heater with clear bowl, Magnaflow Performance 4” exhaust system

Torque: 550 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 RPM

Horsepower: 305 HP @ 3,200 RPM

Transmission: ZF 6-Speed with South Bend Clutch

Transfer Case: New Process Gear 271 F

Front Differential: Dana 60 with ARB Locker and DynaLoc manual hubs

Rear Differential: Dana S-135 with Eaton Truetrac limited slip

Front Suspension: Dual Rancho RS9000 XL 9-position adjustable shocks, Deaver Spring pack, Hellwig HD sway bar

Rear Suspension: Rancho RS9000 XL 9-position adjustable shocks, Deaver Spring pack, Hellwig HD sway bar & Hellwig load leveling air suspension

Front Bumper: Custom by Buckstop with locking storage compartments, Warn winch, special mounts for Total Vision front camera and GoPro, Hella auxiliary driving lights

Winch: Warn 16.5ti with Viking synthetic Dyneema® HMPE Line

Rear Bumper: Custom by Unique Metal Products with storage for Hi-Lift Jack bar

Tires: Michelin 335/80R20 XZL MPT mounted on custom steel Rickson wheels

Electrical: Two Group 34 Odyssey Extreme batteries

Alternators: Ambulance package. Dual high-output alternators for starting and camper batteries

Air Supply: Dual Extreme Outback ExtremeAir Magnum 12 Volt compressors with 5-gallon AccuAir reserve tank

Fuel System: Dual Transfer Flow tanks with manual switch

Fuel Capacity: 94 gallons total: 46-gal custom Transfer Flow main tank and 38-gal auxiliary Transfer Flow tank plus two 20 L (5-gal) jerry cans on the rear

GVWR: 17,500 lbs. (factory rating)

GVW fully loaded: 15,000 lbs.

Sections of the Devil's Highway along the Arizona/Mexican border were fast and dusty.

Sections of the Devil’s Highway along the Arizona/Mexican border were fast and dusty.

The Turtle V – Update #8 – The Camper Wrap-up – 2019

July 12, 2019

So there you have it, The Turtle V and its Tortuga Expedition Camper. If you have seen The Turtle V blogs #1 to #7 2019 on our website, you now know more about this vehicle than anyone has ever asked or wondered.

Ultimate Vehicle

If we are talking about the ultimate overland vehicle we need to be clear about the word ultimate. According to Merriam-Webster it means something that cannot be further improved or refined. Let’s keep that in mind.

At just over 13,000 feet in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan we enjoyed the morning sun and took the opportunity take a hot shower and to dry some clothes. No laundromats in sight here.

At just over 13,000 feet in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan we enjoyed the morning sun and took the opportunity take a hot shower and to dry some clothes. No laundromats in sight here.

 

Designing your own Camper

Designing your own camper is a can of worms and can be very frustrating, time consuming and expensive. We know!! We have built, modified and traveled in five Turtles and two project campers built for Ford and Dodge. There are lots of mistakes to make. Unless you have the luxury of time to experiment as we have had for the past 48 years, there are some things to think about.

First you need to decide where you’re going and for how long. Will you be visiting National Parks, taking weekend trips to the beaches of Mexico, or driving around the world? If the former, do you really need four-wheel drive, a winch, and locking differentials? Is it going to be warm and sunny where you’re going? Your personal level of comfort is critical. The second consideration is who you are traveling with. Will it be just yourself and a companion, or with two kids, a cat, and a dog? These factors will influence both camper size and equipment needed.

The Aksaray-Sultanhan is the largest Caravanserai along the Silk Road in Turkey.

The Aksaray-Sultanhan is the largest Caravanserai along the Silk Road in Turkey.

 

German Ideas

We learned many tips from German camper manufactures like Unicat, Langer & Block and Alustar, after visiting their factories, and from fellow travelers at events like the Africa Fest and the Safari Club meeting in Germany. For example, custom cabinets were sized to fit what would be stored in them. A file cabinet is a great convenience for organizing trip information and documents. Compartments just the size of the Pelican cases we use for camera, computers and a major First-Aid kit maximize use of space. All drawers for food, cooking utensils and clothing are on full-slide ball-bearing tracks with positive marine-style steel latches. Space is always critical. Our 10” dinner plates fit perfectly on a 10 1/2” shelf. A larger 15” or 18” shelf would be a waste of space! CAD design is helpful. Using CAD, when you move the kitchen sink it tells the bed and the window if there is still space. Bathroom? Where do you put a 3ft X 3ft X 6.5ft space in a small camper, just for occasional use? The Germans figured this out too. Use the doorway! It is a space that is always there. Good for a roomy shower or a Porta Potti that slides out on tracks.

As we started down this amazing set of switchbacks in Kyrgyzstan, we could imagine a string of camels coming up heavily loaded with the treasures of The Silk Road.

At 15,272 feet in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, our ATS turbo made our 7.3 Power Stroke engine think it was at sea level. The barometric altitude compensator on our two Eberspacher heaters worked perfectly.

 

Level of Comfort

Next to determine is your level of comfort—a very individual matter. You may be content curling up in a sleeping bag on the ground, crawling into a pop tent, or climbing up to a roof-top tent. Those are all fine choices, but they relate back to where you are going, for how long, and ultimately the weather. Can you be comfortable for five days of pouring rain in Ecuador? How does a roof-top tent feel at -60°F in Siberia? How does anything feel at 135°F in the desert of Turkmenistan? At such extreme temperatures, and they are not that difficult to find, the advantages of a well-insulated hard-side camper become more obvious. While we love to meet and mix with the locals wherever we camp, when the mosquitos are buzzing in your ear and the locals are watching your every move, there are times when it’s nice to go inside and close the door.

The high grasslands of Kyrgyzstan near Lake Song-Köl gave us unlimited perfect campsites.

The high grasslands of Kyrgyzstan near Lake Song-Köl gave us unlimited perfect campsites.

When I began outfitting the first Turtle in the early ’70s, a 1967 109 Land Rover seemed like the perfect choice. There were specific goals to be met. Most importantly, my traveling partner and I needed to sleep in a comfortable bed in any weather. That requirement does not change for a week in Baja or a year in Tajikistan. We also needed to be able to go to the bathroom. Not necessarily the most important thing…but it will be if you can’t. Are you happy behind a bush with a shovel or a portable toilet seat, (a luxury if you don’t like to squat), or a toilet seat over a plastic bag and small trashcan? Maybe a step up to a Porta Potti is preferred? The bush works really well provided there are bushes and not many people around. The plastic bag in the trashcan for inside the camper is an excellent solution—we used this for years. It should be noted that it’s a lot easier to get rid of a plastic bag than it is to find a place to dump 5 gallons of poop. Use a pee jar at night! Privacy you ask? If you are traveling in a small camper for a year and cannot go to the bathroom in front of your partner, you may have a bigger problem. Don’t forget to include a bathing option: a solar bag on the roof, sponge baths, a dive in the ocean with sea-soap or Joy detergent, or a real hot shower inside or outside your camper. Be aware that you need to plan on how you will handle personal hygiene before you stink.

Umpqua National Forest, Utah. Welcome to our living room on the road.

Umpqua National Forest, Utah. Welcome to our living room on the road.

 

Purified water

The next critical consideration is a reliable source of purified water. This concern in developing countries isn’t just bacteria, but more importantly, viruses. Though there are all kinds of water filters and purifiers available, the term “purified” is often inaccurately used. Don’t be fooled!! Sickness from bad water can ruin your trip or even your life!! The most practical solution we found is to chlorinate the water in the water holding tank, then filter out the chlorine and dead bacteria and viruses. We installed the Everpure dual-filter Superchlorination/Dechloination system we have used for many years. The Everpure system uses a method suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most towns and cities use chlorine to purify their water, which is why it can often taste like a swimming pool. Everpure recommends 1/6 once, (5ml), or 1 teaspoon to each 10 gallons or 8 drops per gallon in your tank. Chlorine, common bleach, is available all over the world. (Don’t use the kind with soap or lemon flavors. Swimming pool service stores are an optional source.) It’s not always an exact measurement because sometimes we have to guess how much water is left in the tank. There is a small test kit if you are worried. A little more doesn’t hurt. The chlorine kills bacteria and most importantly, viruses. This system allows us to fill the tank from any source: a river, lake, irrigation ditch, or village well.

The old trails leading into the interior of Baja California always lead to surprises.

The old trails leading into the interior of Baja California always lead to surprises.

 

Cooking

Cooking is another important component of a well-designed overland camper. Eating is essential to your health. Aside from the cute little backpacking stoves that are designed for, well, backpacking, you have choices with regard to fuel: diesel, kerosene, unleaded gas, alcohol and propane are available everywhere in the world. Electrical induction stoves might work if you have a generator and big batteries. (You may need to change all your pots and pans.) Diesel stoves have obvious advantages if you are driving a diesel truck, but we highly recommend you try some diesel stoves at home for a few days before you decide. We did! We recommend propane; maybe little disposable cans for a short trip but a 20 lb tank for longer adventures. In case you never thought about it, the whole world cooks on propane, otherwise known as LP. It is important to understand that LP stands for—Liquid Petroleum. Yes, it is a liquid and we can find it and refill our Manchester LP tanks anywhere in the world using a local adaptor, purchased at a hardware store, and a local exchange tank. 

As we started down this amazing set of switchbacks in Kyrgyzstan, we could imagine a string of camels coming up heavily loaded with the treasures of The Silk Road.

As we started down this amazing set of switchbacks in Kyrgyzstan, we could imagine a string of camels coming up heavily loaded with the treasures of The Silk Road.

 

Storage

From a vehicle standpoint, you have to look at all of the above to determine how much storage you will need. If the goal is to see how far off the beaten track you can get and still be comfortable, it shouldn’t be too big to go where you want to go. Choosing a vehicle with an appropriate gross vehicle weight rating is key—adding bigger springs or stiffer shocks to a low-GVWR platform is not necessarily the answer. The brakes and frame of a vehicle were designed by expert engineers for the rated GVW. Dual rear wheels are not a good idea. They plow sand, mud and snow, and they will pick up big rocks and cause tire failure.

Following part of the infamous Hastings cut-off in Nevada, a mistake the ill-fated Donner party made, we drove through a slice of history.

Following part of the infamous Hastings cut-off in Nevada, a mistake the ill-fated Donner party made, we drove through a slice of history.

 

Fuel

Lastly, you must consider the type of fuel. Gasoline is available everywhere. Octane and quality varies. Diesel has always been the preferred choice for overland travel. Newer diesel engines require ultra-low-sulfur fuel and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which will pose a problem in third-world regions. I suggest starting with an older 3/4- or 1-ton American diesel pickup with the weight capacity you need that will run on any diesel fuel. There are millions of used trucks out there and the aftermarket companies offer products that will make them stronger and more reliable. You can scroll through the companies on the Suppliers page on our web site, https://turtleexpedition.com/suppliers/, for some answers. Take the thousands of dollars you save and use after-market products to improve the reliability of an older vehicle.

Our weeklong camp on the Sea of Cortez was idyllic. No we’re not telling exactly where it was.

Our weeklong camp on the Sea of Cortez was idyllic. No we’re not telling exactly where it was.

 

Building The Turtle V

The goal in building The Turtle V was to create a vehicle that was comfortable and reliable, and a camper that was big on the inside and small on the outside. Did we succeed? For our kind of travel, which is living on the road, (not off-road but sometimes very bad roads), and exploring the remote regions and cultures of the world, the answer is absolutely! Is this the ultimate Overlander? It is a work in progress; check with us after we’ve driven around the world a third time.

If you are thinking about building your own camper or buying one, the previous seven blogs should give you food for thought. If you want to see some of the previous four expedition campers, you might find some answers on our vehicles page or at https://expeditionportal.com/the-trail-of-the-turtles-thirty-five-years-of-learning-and-mistakes/

If you’d like to see a few more pictures of The Turtle V on the road, browse through the blogs on our website that cover our most recent 40,000-mile/26-country/two-year expedition around the world, following the Silk Road or check out https://expeditionportal.com/world-nomad-the-turtle-v/

If you just want to know more about us, you might find some information at https://expeditionportal.com/32806/

A remote camp on the Pacific of Baja California gave us an evening light show and almost a double rainbow.

A remote camp on the Pacific of Baja California gave us an evening light show and almost a double rainbow.