The Turtle V – Update #6 – The Camper Part 1 – 2019

June 22, 2019

The Turtle V Expedition Camper

A One-of-a-Kind Build

After constructing a wood prototype—stick and staple—an aluminum exoskeleton was fabricated and welded at all joints. Inside this exoskeleton, 1 ½ “ panels of honey-comb Nida-Core were hand laid with fiberglass and attached to the aluminum frame with marine Sikaflex adhesive, secured with marine pop rivets where needed. All cabinets and other accessories, both inside and out, were attached to the Nida-Core walls using Yardley brass nut-certs and 3M EPX 2-part epoxy.

Turtle V #6 Camper 1 005

After constructing a wooden prototype, an aluminum exoskeleton was fabricated and welded at all joints.

You cannot twist a Box

In 2000, this European-style expedition camper was designed by us with pencil on paper and mounted to the chassis of the F-550 using a three-point suspension system engineered by the experts at Midwest Four Wheel Drive in Missouri. There are two supporting pads at the front and a large pivot bolt at the rear. This completely isolates the camper from the twisting of the frame. You cannot twist a box. It will break apart!

Our Goal for the Camper:

Big on the Inside – Small on the Outside

After driving across Russia in 1996 for eleven months, we noticed the advantage the big Kamaz personell carriers had for height clearance by angling the size of the roof. Since you never stand up against the wall you do not loose any headroom and though you may loose some storage space, up high is not where you want your center of gravity. Admittedly, we did not want The Turtle V to look like another US camper or motorhome. That was one of the reasons we did not put a bed over the top of the cab nor add inside storage.

 

 

 

 

 

The camper was designed to be as big and comfortable on the inside with maximum use of space, and as small as possible on the outside. After 30 years of exploring the backroads of over 40 countries in four previous vehicles, (see Vehicles on www.turtleexpedition.com), and two special project trucks we built for Ford and Dodge, we knew where we would be going and what vehicle could get us there—and home again. Back in 1997/1998 we had carefully studied designs by respected European expedition camper companies including AluStar, Unicat and Langer & Bock and attended a couple of large overlander gatherings in Germany. Using the advantage of looking through a filter gained by years of observing what worked and what didn’t, the design began to take shape. We had an inside view on the newest and most functional products available at that time, and it continues to evolve.

Basic Living Requirements

Basic living requirements were simple; sleep, cook, eat, work, bathe and go to the bathroom without opening the camper door, for a week if necessary. A comfortable bed, a comfortable place to sit, to eat and work, a functional kitchen with a three-burner propane stove to prepare healthy meals, two sinks with two faucets, one for purified water and one for filtered purified water, a compressor refrigerator, an inside and outside shower, a Porta-Potti, a good sound system and plenty of light where it is needed.

Let’s start on the outside:

Camper Roof

Two BP85 solar panels on the roof run through a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 3000i controller.

Two BP85 solar panels on the roof run through a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 3000i controller.

On the roof of the camper we installed a system of Yakima permanent rack rails. The Yakima rails accommodate low-profile Yakima Skyline Towers and cross bars to which we can attach racks for a canoe, kayaks, or a Yakima ski box. In preparing for our recent 40,000/26-country expedition, we had a custom weather-proof locking aluminum storage box designed for additional clothing, (summer or winter), backpacking gear and other travel equipment. It was mounted on the rear Yakima cross bars. Two BP 85 solar panels on the roof run through a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 3000i controller.

?Air Conditioning?

We did not want air-conditioning nor the generator and separate fuel it would require. In the places we travel we rarely have shore power. Two Fan-Tastic Vents give us great air circulation. One is located on the ceiling between the dinette and the stove and the other over the bed. Two smaller fans can be moved where we need them.

Windows

Aside from offering protection from burning sun or pouring rain, an awning is great place to hang clothes to dry when there isn’t a tree for fifty miles.

Aside from offering protection from burning sun or pouring rain, an awning is a great place to hang clothes to dry when there isn’t a tree for fifty miles.

All windows are Seitz dual-pane with privacy and mosquito screens incorporated. They can be locked in vent-mode. All windows are a size too small to crawl through but plenty large enough to see out of.

Awning

Of course we needed an awning, not only for shade or rain in a camp, but its poles provide a quick clothes line if we do a small wash when there isn’t a tree for fifty miles. The 8.8 ft. Fiamma 45 has served us well and opens in a couple of minutes for a quick lunch break.

Outside Lights – Front Rack – Air Horns

All running lights are Grote LED. Backing up a camper at night can be troublesome. We installed four powerful flood lights that can be turned on manually or automatically when we shift into reverse. On the front of the camper box a large cab-over multi-use storage rack was designed. A Weather Guard locker fits perfectly with room for more jerry cans, a load of firewood or a Cascade Designs SeaLine bag for diving gear. It afforded a convenient place to bolt a pair of Fiamm stainless steel marine air horns. Loud horn is an international language. A remote-control GoLight has a good field of view from the Weather Guard lid.

Outside Storage Compartments

When we ship the truck or park in non secure areas, all outside doors can be locked or even double locked.

When we ship the truck or park in non secure areas, all outside doors can be locked or even double locked.

All outside compartments, the camper and the cab doors can be locked or even double-locked for shipping. The compartments were built knowing mostly what was going to be stored in them. In addition to their function, big pad locks are a physical intimidation. Too much trouble. Thieves are usually looking for something easy, quiet and fast.

Driver Side

Two side compartments on the front driver side contain a fuel fill port for our auxiliary Transfer Flow tank, the Racor fuel filter previously mentioned in Blog 5 and the Eberspaecher Hydronic coolant heater.

A series of valves and transfer tanks allow us to direct the hot coolant back to the engine and/or through a Kelvion Plate heat exchanger and/or to a small radiator heater inside the camper. It’s free heat when we are driving. We also gained more storage space when we replaced the leaky marine 6 gallon hot water heater with the Kelvion Plate heat exchanger. 

The Watts Series MMV thermostatic Mixing valve cools the 160°F water from the Kelvion Plate heat exchanger down to a safe 120°F tap water in about three minutes.

A Warn quick disconnect in this compartment lets us  plug in our jumper cables utilizing the four Odyssey camper batteries. 

The Dual ExtemeAires can take our 41” Michelin XZLs from 30psi to 55psi a little over a minute.

The Dual ExtemeAires can take our 41” Michelin XZLs from 30psi to 55psi a little over a minute.

Below that is a compartment for our dual ExtemeAire Magnum 12 Volt compressors by Extreme Outback Products and storage boxes for air hoses, electrical cables and adapters.

At the far rear, the propane compartment was sized to fit two Manchester 20-lb tanks with a secure hold-down and a duel-tank switch-over regulator leaving room for pre-measured repair and equipment boxes and the outside shower system.

Rear Compartment – three access doors

The big rear compartment has room for long bulky gear that isn’t needed every day.

The big rear compartment has room for long bulky gear that isn’t needed every day.

The big compartment behind our Darr military sand ladders holds long equipment like our awning crank, wash brush, and fishing poles, chains, recovery gear and spare parts. It is also accessible from both sides of the camper. On the driver side, the fill tube of our main Transfer Flow tank is located while the passenger side is filled with leveling blocks, a shovel, a saw and two bottle jacks, etc.

Passenger Side

The upper door on the passenger side rear holds every-day camping gear like our ZipDee chairs, the Weber Go-Anywhere BBQ, a foldable Coleman stand, table tops, a Ready Welder 12 V welding system, the portable toilet seat, etc. It is the only door that opens towards the rear because it makes access in camp more convenient.

Entry Door

This is our newest version of a mosquito screen. Magnets snap back in place.

This is our newest version of a mosquito screen. Magnets snap back in place.

Playing around during the initial design phase, we decided that the best place for an entry door was on the passenger side in front of the rear wheel. A rear entry door like in The Turtles III and IV, is always dusty or muddy and the same thing can happen to a door behind the rear wheel. After we came back from our Silk Road/Around the World adventure in 2015, the entry door was replaced by Global Expedition Vehicles. It’s a great design, water and dust tight and has a secure locking mechanism. Monika recently sewed a two-part mosquito screen attached with Velcro that closes with magnets. The bottom is weighted down with a string of fishing weights.

The Rear

On the rear of the camper custom racks are securely bolted to the camper wall. They hold and lock two Nato-style water and two fuel cans by Midwest Can Co. and our spare tire in the center. The 198-pound tire and wheel are easily removed using a draw bar that fits into a receiver socket on the roof. A 500-lb capacity Warn Drill Winch lowers the tire to the ground. The Total Vision rear view camera is located below the receiver socket.

Oil Reservoir

Amsoil is on tap from a 14-gallon reservoir built into the camper behind the wheel well.


Amsoil is on tap from a 14-gallon reservoir built into the camper behind the wheel well.

On the right rear corner of the camper (behind the wheel well) we designed a 14-gallon oil reservoir that is filled from the inside and has a spout on the outside when we need a quart of oil. Quality oil, like the Amsoil 15/30 Heavy Duty Diesel Oil we use is the heart of our Power Stroke engine and cannot be found in some of the countries we travel through. Once in Kyrgyzstan, we drained our 15-quart engine sump and a shop wanted to pay us $5.00 for the oil we asked them to recycle! We gave him the oil and a hat.

Mud Flaps

Our PlastiColor mud flaps are extremely important for keeping all kinds of slop off the sides and back of the truck. We reinforced them to limit flapping. When backing up in deep water, brush, sand or snow, quick-connect cables keep the mud flaps from being damaged by the tires.

We could have easily stayed here for a couple of days but China was calling.

Tajikistan 2014: We could have easily stayed here for a couple of days but China was calling.

 

Photos by The Turtle Expedition and Chris Collard

The Turtle V – Update #5 – The Cab – 2019

June 14, 2019

The cab is our office on the road. First we applied Rhino Lining to the floor, and to further reduce road noise, the floor and doors are insulated with vibration-dampening Dynamat. Kraco floor mats are easy to clean. For ease of entry, Kodiak Sidewinder automatic folding steps were installed that drop down when the door is opened. Recaro Style Orthopedic seats incorporate seven adjustments, a heater and ventilation fan. Four-point Mastercraft Safety Harnesses hold us securely and comfortably in place. A custom walnut center console contains maps, flashlights, auxiliary locks and all small travel accessories. It incorporates cup holders specifically sized for our Aladdin travel cups and a very hidden secret storage compartment for a complete spare set of keys and other items that even you couldn’t find. On the front, a 12-volt plug outlet powers our Rugged Radios communication system and a small Statpower PRO Watt 125 inverter can charge phones and computers on the road. On the side of each seat a Kiddy Safety Halotron fire extinguisher is securely mounted. Behind each seat hangs a 3-liter Platypus hydration bag with a sucky-tube Velcoed above the door for easy use. The Platypus can be removed for hiking trips.

While eating breakfast in the Karakol Valley, Kyrgyzstan, Gary was watching local traffic pass by.

While eating breakfast in the Karakol Valley, Kyrgyzstan, Gary was watching local traffic pass by.

  Driver’s Control Station

A quick look at the dash, left to right, will show a switch for the side flood lights on the rack over the cab, a fuel tank selector switch, a inside/outside temperature gauge, a hand controller for our roof-mounted GoLight, and the information screen for our SmarTire pressure/temp tire monitoring system, which keeps us informed of the pressure and temperature of each tire and warns us if there is any sudden pressure or temperature change. A switch engages our front differential ARB Locker, and next to it another switch turns on our dual ExtremeAire 12-volt compressors by Extreme Outback Products. These compressors feed an AccuAir 5-gallon aluminum reserve tank which serves to operate our twin Fiamm marine air horns, the front ARB Air Locker and to inflate our Hellwig Air Assist suspension bags. Air is also used to re-inflate tires, reseat beads if tire repairs are needed, and just a general use of high-pressure (120 psi) air for air tools. Loud air horns are an international language!

Rugged Radio and air pressure gauges

Our Rugged Radios intercom system allows us to communicate in a normal voice and also listen to music fed by Bluetooth.

Our Rugged Radios intercom system allows us to communicate in a normal voice and also listen to music fed by Bluetooth.

In the center we upgraded to a Kenwood AM/FM radio with CD and flash stick ports. These power a factory premium 4-speaker sound system or can go via Bluetooth to our Rugged Radios intercom headsets. This communication system has greatly increased the safety and pleasure of overland travel, allowing us to speak in a normal voice and be heard every time. Two 12-volt auxiliary plugs are factory standard. Air pressure gauges show the condition of left and right Hellwig air bags and the pressure in the AccuAir 5-gallon aluminum reserve tank. Where the ashtray used to be we placed the controls for the Passport SR1radar/laser detector.

Mechanical Auto Meter gauges

At eye level there is an Auto Meter 14-psi oil pressure warning light, mechanical Auto Meter gauges for Volts, Water Temperature, Oil Pressure, Boost, Exhaust Gas Temperature and a Garmin GPS. Overhead is a custom walnut console that holds a Cobra CB radio, JRV map lights and control switches for fog, driving and four backup lights.

Total Vision remote cameras

Where the rear view mirror normally goes there is 5-inch monitor that is fed by our three Total Vision remote cameras, one on the front bumper, a second on the rear above the spare tire, and a third inside the camper. A switch allows us to toggle between the three cameras from the cab.

Extra Safety Measures

Vehicle doors are so easy to open without a key using a Slim-Jim, we installed an auxiliary padlock on both cab doors. Thieves will need to break a window to get, and that’s noisy and messy. As a further theft deterrent, we fabricated special window covers from Space Blanket material (purchased at REI). They attach in seconds with Velcro tabs. If a thief can’t see what there is to steal, he usually just walks away or doesn’t even cross the street. The Space Blanket material also keeps the cab cool when we are parked in the sun. Car alarms are useless most of the time. The blinking red LED on a KC rechargeable flashlight set on the dash at the bottom of the windshield gives would-be thieves something to worry about.

The Turtle V – Update #4 – Drivetrain, Suspension & Fuel – 2019

June 7, 2019

 

Traffic was light in Azerbaijan.

Traffic was light in Azerbaijan.

Not the least important part of any vehicle, the drivetrain of The Turtle V has been carefully selected and designed to do a job, reliably.

The front differential of the F550 is a heavy duty Dana 60. We added an ARB Air Locker and protected it with the Dynatrac Pro Series off-road differential cover. The function of the ARB is simple. It is air actuated from our 5 gallon AccuAir air tank which is constantly kept full, (120 psi), by our twin ExtremeAire Magnum 12 Volt Compressors by Extreme Outback Products. If we start to lose traction it’s simply a matter of pushing a button on the dash and the ARB locks the front axles together like a spool, giving maximum traction to both wheels at the same time. Otherwise the front differential remains totally open for comfortable normal driving. ARB Air Locker has proven its reliability in both The Turtle III & IV.

The rear axle holds a massive Detroit S135 fitted with a Detroit Truetrac limited slip. The Truetrac operates as a standard or open differential under normal driving conditions, allowing one wheel to spin faster or slower as necessary. When a wheel encounters a loss of traction or the terrain changes, the gear separation forces take effect and transfer torque to the high-traction wheel. The helical-shaped gears mesh with increasing force until wheel spin is slowed or completely stopped. When the vehicle exits the low traction situation, the differential resumes normal operation. We tried the Detroit Locker but it proved to be much too aggressive on hairpin gravel roads and even on pavement. ARB does not make one for the Detroit S135.

(See Turtle V Blog Part II for information on the Dynatrac Free-Spin bearing replacement.)

South Bend Clutch

Ford’s factory clutch exploded after only 60,000 miles. We replaced it with a HD South Bend Clutch, pressure plate and throw-out bearing. There had been an annoying tendency for the clutch to grab. We replaced the factory clutch slave cylinder and its hard plastic line with the South Bend unit that features a flexible stainless steel line. The problem instantly disappeared.

The ZF six-speed manual transmission and two-speed transfer case are not as smooth as our old four speed in The Turtle III or the five speed in The Turtle IV, but now, with a hard 200,000 miles on it, we should not complain. We never used the PTO option. A periodic oil analysis of all the gearboxes has shown that there is no unusual wear in the transmission.

K&N Breathers

Thanks to highly mounted K&N breathers on The Turtle II, we had no problems crossing this flooded two-track where beavers had decided to dam a creek in the Upper Peninsula Michigan.

Thanks to highly mounted K&N breathers on The Turtle II, we had no problems crossing this flooded two-track where beavers had decided to dam a creek in the Upper Peninsula Michigan.

Where possible remote K&N breathers on gear boxes and differentials were added to keep water out during river crossings or beaver ponds.

Deaver Springs, Rancho and Hellwig

Custom suspension has been designed by Deaver Suspension to carry our anticipated fully loaded weight of 14,000 pounds, all the time. No overload springs. All our Deaver Spring packs feature a full “military wrap” and have Teflon pads between leaves for smooth flexing. Dual adjustable Rancho RS9000XL shock absorbers in front set on #3 and single adjustable RS9000XLs set on #6 at the rear have shown to be reliable under the harshest conditions. Adding Hellwig Air Assist bags at the rear softens the ride and Hellwig HD sway bars front and rear improve stability and cornering.

The Turtle V carries 94 gallons of Diesel thanks to Transfer Flow’s two tanks

Our factory fuel tank was replaced with a custom Transfer Flow tank with a 46 gallon capacity and an emergency drain plug if we should get a bad tank. Transfer Flow also installed their 38 gallon auxiliary tank and designed a special switch-over valve so we can choose which tank to run from. Those two tanks along with our two 5-gallon jerry cans give us a total of 94 gallons of diesel, or an easy 1,000-mile range. If there is a road anywhere in the world 1,000 miles long, there will be diesel somewhere, or it wouldn’t be a road.

Racor and Airtex

An auxiliary Racor fuel filter/water separator/fuel pre-heater with a clear bowl allows inspection for dirt or water in the fuel before it even reaches the Airtex fuel pump.

 

The Turtle V – Update #3 – Bumpers – 2019

May 31, 2019

The Turtle V gets a Buckstop front Bumper

The Turtle V, a yurt on wheels, was quite comfortable among its fellows in the beautiful Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan, valley.

The Turtle V, a yurt on wheels, was quite comfortable among its fellows in the beautiful Tash Rabat Valley in Kyrgyzstan.

The front bumper is a custom design by Buckstop Truckware in Oregon, incorporating some of the features of our previous bumpers like lockable storage compartments, two trailer hitch receivers, headlight protection bars and rock deflector in front of the steering cooler. Mounts for a Go Pro camera and our front Total Vision camera were added. We upgraded our previous 12,000 lb. Warn winch to their new 16.5 TI which is discreetly mounted low, and locked inside the bumper. The Viking synthetic line is safer and lighter. PIAA LP570 LED white long-range driving lights and PIAA 510 Series Xtreme White SMR fog lights were strategically placed. Both can be controlled with manual JRV switches or by the dimmer switch. A Passport SR1 radar/laser sensor is neatly mounted out of harm’s way.

Bumpers are made to keep a cow or a deer out of our radiator. To stop rocks and gravel from chipping the paint on the hood, we applied a computerized layer of XPEL Paint Protection Film.  The same material protects our headlamps from rock chips and scratches. The film is non-yellowing. XPEL has custom-cut patterns for nearly every vehicle.

The Turtle V’s rear Bumper

The rear bumper was custom-designed by Unique Metal Products. Like the front bumper, it incorporates 2” X 2” HD trailer hitch receivers on both sides and the middle. The socket in the middle holds our Yakima bike rack, a Class 3 trailer hitch or a Mac’s Trail D-Vice. The end sockets on each side fit a specially designed drawbar that can be used for a Hi-Lift jack or an auxiliary table for our Weber Go-Anywhere BBQ, (see upcoming Camper Blog). The bumper itself serves as a compartment to store the main Hi-Lift jack bar, leaving the foot and lift mechanism stored clean and safely away.

For high clearance trucks, a rear bumper like this is a legal requirement in Europe to keep little cars from driving under you.

The Turtle V – Update #2 – Tires, Wheels, Steering, Bearings & Fender Flares – 2019

May 24, 2019

The Turtle V project was full of challenges. First, we had to get rid of the dual rear tires. Duals don’t work on rocky roads and they plow sand, mud and snow.

With a temperature of 140F, it was hard to sleep near the burning hole in Turkmenistan.

With a temperature of 140F, it was hard to sleep near the burning hole in Turkmenistan.

 

 Michelin XZL’s and Rickson steel wheels

After some experimentation, we chose Michelin XZL 335/80R20s and mounted them on custom 20X11 Rickson steel wheels. Michelin is the only tire company that makes anything like the XZL. Its ability to carry a full single axle load of 7,540 lbs. at 50 psi or even less without overheating is unique. It handles highway speeds of 70 miles an hour like any mud and snow tire and we can drop the pressure down to 25 psi or even 15 psi without bead locks. Despite the XZL’s aggressive tread, we still carry Pewag mud & snow chains for both front and rear axles. The Rickson wheels can be reversed to run on front or rear and still track in line. Valve stems on both sides facilitate airing up and down.

The perfect answer: Warn Drill Winch 

Getting the 197-pound wheel and tire down from our custom mount on the rear of the camper was easy. A 2’ draw bar slips into a receiver on the roof and a Warn Drill Winch lowers the tire to the ground using a 14-volt cordless drill for power. The Warn Drill Winch can lift over 500 pounds.

SmarTire system

SmarTire Pressure and Temperature monitors were installed on all rims before tires were mounted and balanced.

SmarTire Pressure and Temperature monitors were installed on all rims before tires were mounted and balanced.

Before we mounted and balanced the tires we installed a SmarTire sensor/transmitter on each rim. As we drive, the SmarTire receiver on the dash tells us the pressure and temperature of each tire and warns us if anything suddenly varies from preset perimeters.

 

MOOG tie rods and LEE Power Steering

Steering with the big 40.7” tires was not really a problem, but to take the load off the MOOG tie rods, drag link and the idler arm bushings, we had a custom LEE steering pump engineered with a remote reservoir for better cooling and a full ram-assist system which eliminates the need for a steering shock absorber.

Dynatrac’s Free-Spin™ Heavy-Duty Hub

The first big mechanical challenge was the ongoing problems with Ford’s unit bearing on the front Dana 60 axle. Clearly designed to speed up assembly times, both Timken and TRW knew there would be problems. Fortunately, the easy fix was Dynatrac’s Free-Spin™ Heavy-Duty Hub Conversion Kit. It was designed to replace the factory unit bearings with fixed spindles for superior strength, and smooth performance. It uses Timken bearings that can be found all over the world and can be adjusted and serviced by any mechanic.

Custom Bushwacker Flares

With the bigger tires, fender flares were necessary. We basically ramped up the truck to see what hit and cut it away. Bushwacker digitized the cut out and made custom flares. The rear flares were easier. We just built the camper to fit the 40.7 inch diameter of the XZLs, allowing room for suspension travel and mud and snow chains.

The Turtle V – Update #1 – Engine – 2019

May 17, 2019

The latest in the 48-year dynasty of Turtle Expedition research trucks, The Turtle V and its European-style Tortuga Expedition Camper have gone through a continuous process of refinement since it was conceived in 1999. Back then it was an experiment. Now, with over 200,000 miles on the odometer including a two-year/40,000-mile expedition through 26 countries following the SILK ROAD, The Turtle V has proven itself beyond any doubt. It has met and surpassed our initial goals: Safety, Comfort, functional Performance, and above all, Reliability.

Following one of our favorite roads in Uzbekistan.

Following one of our favorite roads in Uzbekistan.

Ford’s Super Duty F-550 4X4, powered by the International One Millionth Power Stroke 7.3 liter Inter-cooled Turbo Diesel, puts this truck in a class by itself, while still maintaining the comfort and maneuverability of the American pick-up. The cab is the same as an F-350, but a closer look reveals a massive Dana 135s differential in the rear, with a frame and suspension designed to carry a GVWR of 17,500 pounds!! Kind of like an F-350 on steroids!

The Turtle V sports the One Millionth Power Stroke 7.3 Liter Inter-Cooled Turbo Diesel

The One Millionth Power Stroke 7.3 liter Intercooled Turbo Diesel, puts this truck in a class by itself.

The One Millionth Power Stroke 7.3 liter Intercooled Turbo Diesel, puts this truck in a class by itself.

The 7.3 Navistar diesel is universally known as one of the most reliable of the Power Stroke line, and with no catalytic converter or other smog filters, it will run on any type of diesel, with or without sulfur. The engine was retrofitted with an ATS 3000 turbo which has improved mid-range, better exhaust manifold gaskets and no waste gate. Our goal was not more power. More important, reliability.

With that same goal in mind, we installed a Dieselsite Adrenaline HPOP high pressure oil pump. The oil pump is the heart of the engine. Starting a 7.3 L Power Stroke engine requires turning the engine at a speed high enough and long enough to raise the oil pressure to 450 psi to open the fuel injectors. Especially in cold weather, the factory starter really had to work. The MPA (Motorcar Parts of America) Xtreme HD starter is a direct bolt-in replacement. With 4.0-KW of power compared to OE’s 2.5-3.0-KW, it spins the engine like a top.

Under the Hood of The Turtle V

We upgraded to a K&N Performance washable air filter and added more life and protection with an Outerwears pre-filter cover.

We upgraded to a K&N Performance washable air filter and added more life and protection with an Outerwears pre-filter cover.

The only other changes we made were to upgrade the starting batteries to larger Odyssey Extreme group 34s. We swapped the factory air filter for a K&N Performance washable air filter and added more life and protection with an Outerwears pre-filter cover. A Dieselsite coolant filter keeps contaminants out of our Gates water pump.

Installing the Amsoil Dual Remote Oil Filtration System dramatically extends drain Intervals. The Amsoil Ea Bypass Filter typically filters all the oil in the system several times an hour, so the engine continuously receives analytically clean oil. In addition to the factory fuel filter/water separator, we installed a Racor fuel filter/water separator/fuel pre-heater with a clear bowl to allow inspection for dirt or water in the fuel before it even reaches the Airtex fuel pump.

The exhaust system was engineered by Magnaflow Performance Exhaust with a flow-through muffler and custom pipes to minimize problems with deep water crossings and provide clearance on fuel tank and mud flap. 

Japan #6 – Snow Monkeys – December 2014

May 14, 2019

Let the truth be known, one of the main reasons Monika and I wanted to visit Japan was to see the amazing Snow Monkeys. In the frigid valley of Japan’s Shiga-Kogen (Shiga Highlands) near Nagano, the site of 1998 Winter Olympics, there is a thermal spring that has been discovered by a troop of Japanese Macaque monkeys. They are also known as the Snow Monkeys because they live in areas where snow covers the ground for months each year. No other non-human primate is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate, surviving winter temperatures of below -15 °C, (5°F). They have brown-gray fur, a red face, hands and bottom, a short tail and big ears, and often seem remarkably human-like.

Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park

When they are not in the hot springs or feeding, the Japanese Macaques huddle together to stay warm.

When they are not in the hot springs or feeding, the Japanese Macaques huddle together to stay warm.

In 1964 the Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park opened. It is located in the valley of the Yokoyu River that flows down from the Shiga-Kogen. At an elevation of 850 m, (2,788 ft), surrounded by steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the earth’s surface, the area is called Jigokudani (“Hell’s Valley”). The monkeys discovered the pool of warm water and made it their winter home. Free food too…..

Japan Rail Pass

We loved watching the baby snow monkeys cuddling and nursing.

We loved watching the baby snow monkeys cuddling and nursing.

A great way to travel through Japan is with the Japan Rail Pass. You need to buy it before you arrive in Japan. From Kanazawa, it took three train rides, a bus and finally a taxicab, (because an avalanche had closed the train tracks), to get to our accommodation in the Hakuba area. Dragging our luggage behind us through the snow we arrived at the Pension Ratanrirun, mostly frequented by skiers and snow borders. It was a cozy place with a Japanese style hot tub, bathroom down the hall and comfortable beds.

Where is that little bugger? I know you are in there.

Where is that little bugger? I know you are in there.

In the morning, getting an early start to avoid the crowds, a bus brought us to the trailhead for the Snow Monkey Park. From there it was a steep 40-minute hike up a treacherously icy trail to the hot pool where this particular troop of Japanese Macaques has made its hangout. For the first time during our two-year adventure around the world, we wished we had our MSR trekking poles and our Yaktrax traction clip-ons for ice and hard-packed snow, but of course they were packed safely in The Turtle V, now in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on its way to California.

We could tell you all kinds of wonderful Snow Monkeys Japan 6 57things about these amazing monkeys but the pictures are worth a thousand words. Just for fun we have included a caption here and there. The animals are so used to tourists; thousands come every year to see them. In the wild they spend most of their time in forests and feed on seeds, buds, fruit, invertebrates, berries, leaves, and bark. In the park they are fed rice in the winter by Park Rangers who watch over the crowd to make sure no one steps out of line. A sign at the entrance says it all:

 “You may think these monkeys are your long-lost relatives. They don’t! Don’t touch them.”

That evening, delighted we had finally seen the famous snow monkeys, we walked through the neighborhood in search of dinner. Skiers were happy.  The snow was dumping hard. The air was crisp and the fresh powder was squeaking under our boots. It was a magical night, our last in Japan. A local bar served some excellent Sashimi, still a bit pricey. The restaurant that supposedly offered Kobe beef was already closed so we ended up eating the worst pizza we’ve ever had.

New Year’s Eve 2014 – The longest ever – 32 hours!

Trudging back to the train station in the morning in the dark, we caught a series of trains to the Narita airport in Tokyo for our flight to San Francisco. It was New Year’s Eve 2014, the longest we have ever experienced (32 hours).

More Adventures ahead

You may think that’s the end of our adventures. It’s not. As you read this, we are packing The Turtle V for an extended trip in South America. Our goal will be to see the many places we missed in 1988/1989, back when internet did not exist. Our bucket list will include Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia; thick juicy steaks from the famous grass-fed beef of Argentina; parking in the middle of 35,000 sheep waiting to be sheared in Patagonia; getting a close-up personal look at the Emperor Pinguins of Antarctica; exploring the vast wetlands of the Pantanal in Brasil……see you there!

Japan #5 – Hiroshima – December 2014

May 10, 2019

At 8:15 AM, August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber carried out the World’s first atomic bombing. The bomb was about 3 m, (9.8 ft.), long and weighed about 4 tons. It was called “Thin Man” at first because of its long thin design. When the actual bomb turned out to be shorter than expected, the name was changed to “Little Boy”.

Hiroshima Peace Museum's reflection in the Peace Pond

Hiroshima Peace Museum’s reflection in the Peace Pond

 

“Little Boy” that changed the World

The bomb exploded approximately 600 m, (2,000 ft), above and 160 m, (525 ft), southeast of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, ripping through and igniting the building, instantly killing everyone in it.

The impressive Hiroshima Peace Museum

The impressive Hiroshima Peace Museum

Because the blast struck from almost directly above, some of the center walls remained standing. Even the building’s iron frame could be recognized as a dome. After the war these dramatic remains came to be known as the A-Bomb Dome.

The bomb was delivered by a total of three B-29 bombers. One carried devices for scientific observation, another carried photographic equipment, and the third called Enola Gay, named after Col. Paul Tibbits’ (the pilot) mother, actually carried the bomb.

On the streets of Hiroshima it was just another Monday. It dawned clear and sunny. The yellow air raid alarm was cleared and the hot summer’s day began as usual.

A Fireball blazed like a small Sun

Strolling through Hiroshima's Memorial Park on this cold wintry day we came upon this Peace Bell which is rung by visitors as part of their wish for Peace.

Strolling through Hiroshima’s Memorial Park on this cold wintry day we came upon this Peace Bell which is rung by visitors as part of their wish for Peace.

The detonation of the “Little Boy” created a fireball that blazed like a small sun. More than 1,000,000°C, (1,800,032 F°), at its center, the fireball reached a maximum diameter of 280 m, (918 ft.), in two seconds. Surface temperatures near the hypocenter rose up to 4,000°C, (7,232F°). Fierce heat rays and radiation burst out in every direction, expanding the air around the fireball and creating a super high-pressure blast. These factors interacted in complex ways to inflict tremendous damage.

Although the casualties are not precisely known, approximately 140,000 people are believed to have died by the end of 1945. Among them were many school children and South Korean prisoners of war, mobilized to demolish buildings near the city center for fire lanes. Buildings within a 2 km, (1.5 mi), radius of the hypocenter crumbled and burnt to the ground. Death was often presumed from personal effects left behind. Many bodies were never found or identified.

The pull-string of the bell in the Children's Peace Monument reminds us of Sadako Sasaki’s story who folded 1,000 Origami crane in hopes to have her wish fulfilled.

The pull-string of the bell in the Children’s Peace Monument reminds us of Sadako Sasaki’s story who folded 1,000 Origami cranes in hopes to have her wish fulfilled.

People close to the hypocenter said the atomic explosion looked yellowish red. Those further away reported a bright bluish white light resembling burning magnesium. The intense thermal rays from the fireball caused burns within a radius of up to 3.5 km, (2mi). Those within 1.2 km, (1,312 yd.), of the hypocenter sustained severe injuries to their internal organs and most died within a few days.

As we walked past the shocking photos of the results of this horrific act of war, as an American, I could not help but feel sad, and I could only wonder how many American lives had been saved and the thousands of other soldiers and civilians who would have perished had the war not been stopped in its tracks. And then again, remembering what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor, I could not repress the smugness of thinking, “Well, did we get your attention?”

“Fat Man” drops on Nagasaki

In fact, the devastation brought to Hiroshima had not been sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender. On August 9 at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Major Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 503 m, (1,650 ft.), above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).

The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.

One of the monuments in the center of the Peace Memorial Park reminds us, among other things, to transcend hatred, pursue harmony and yearn for lasting World Peace.

One of the monuments in the center of the Peace Memorial Park reminds us, among other things, to transcend hatred, pursue harmony and yearn for lasting World Peace.

Even though the Japanese War Council still remained divided, Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared, “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.

Hiroshima, the City of Peace

The Children's Peace Monument is dedicated to Sadako Sadaki and thousands of other child victims of the A-bombing in Hiroshima.

The Children’s Peace Monument is dedicated to Sadako Sadaki and thousands of other child victims of the A-bombing in Hiroshima.

The beautiful Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace, erected on August 6, 1952, embodies the hope that Hiroshima, will stand forever as a City of Peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning to genuine, lasting world peace.

Japan #4 – Parks & Temples – December 2014

May 7, 2019

In case you never get to visit Japan, we wanted to give you a quick glimpse of some of the amazing parks and temples we saw. While every big city in the world has beautiful parks, those of Kyoto were spectacular. It seemed that almost every leaf and twig and branch had been exactly trimmed. Many of the parks have ponds and surround beautiful temples. The attention to detail of the buildings was exquisite.

Kyoto

Gary is feeding the deer in Narin's City Park.

Gary is feeding deer in Narin’s City Park.

In Kyoto, one of its main attractions was a huge courtyard of carefully manicured gravel and a few rocks but no trees. It’s the internationally famous Rock Garden that is said to have been created by a highly respected Zen monk named Tokuho Zenketsu around 1500.

Kanazawa

The Kanazawa castle's wood work was quite amazing.

The Kanazawa castle’s wood work was quite amazing.

In Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden and Castle Park each tree had guidelines to maintain the exact shape of each limb and to help protect them from heavy snow loads. The historic castle is being restored and its woodworking was amazing. There appeared to be no nails or metal fasteners. Each beam and truss was joined using interlocking joints and pegs.

Shirakawago, a traditional village

On a little side trip to the historic village of Shirakawago winter had already come. Old traditional houses were heavily laden with snow. Many were open to the public. Exhibits showed how people lived a 100 years ago.

A quick look at these pictures will give you an idea of another element of Japan.

 

Japan #3 – Food -December 2014

May 3, 2019

Food is such an important part of traveling to new countries. While we do most of our own cooking in our self-contained camper, we never miss the opportunity to try the local specialties. Wandering through the market place in Kyoto, without a translator standing next to us, the question was, “What is it?” While there were a few things we could recognize, there were many others that looked more like bait to me. Shrimp and baby octopus were easy to identify. Fresh crab was a popular item but at prices like 25,000 Yen, ($202.00), or even 42,000 Yen ($339.00), apiece or per kilo, we settled for a little take-out sushi.

Fresh Crab? Take out your wallet!

Baby Octopus on skewers.

Baby Octopus on skewers.

Normal vegetables were plentiful, but they took on a different appearance when prepared Japanese style. Spices are a very interesting part of Japanese cooking and there were plenty to choose from. We were particularly intrigued with Sansho Japanese Peppers, actually seedpods of the Japanese prickly ash (Zanthoxylum piperitum). They have a sharp, citrusy taste, with an electrifying tingling numbness that can linger for more than ten minutes. Related to Szechuan peppercorns, but far stronger, they bring a sensation that is something like a mild electrical current. Sanshos appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, inducing a sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, causing a kind of general neurological confusion in your mouth. Yes, you can taste a few in the market.

A 1oz. piece of Sashimi can cost $17.00

Safe to say, if it swims in the ocean it’s edible, and sometimes pricy. The record for a bluefin tuna was $1.8 million. Yeah, $1,800,000.00 US dollars! The best slices of fatty bluefin – called “o-toro” can sell for 2,000 Yen ($17.00) per piece at upmarket Tokyo sushi bars. The fish’s tender pink and red meat is prized for sushi. With a single mouthful-sized piece of sashimi weighing around 1 oz, the record-breaking tuna is worth around $219.00 per bite. Japanese eat 80 per cent of the bluefin tuna caught worldwide.

Tea or Sake?

The tradition of making Saki is over 2,000 years old.

The tradition of making Saki is over 2,000 years old.

To wash it all down, there is always tea or sake. Tea is served with most meals and we found some interesting varieties in the market. We visited the Historic Gekkeikan Sake Okura Museum for an educational tour showing how this traditional wine was distilled.

Japan’s tradition of sake making began more than 2,000 years ago shortly after rice cultivation was introduced from China. Though the first few centuries yielded a beverage quite unlike that of today, years of experience perfected brewing techniques and increased sake’s overall appeal and popularity. The Gekkeikan sake brewery was founded in 1637 in the town of Fushimi, a location well known for its high quality of water.

If you want to take an experimental viewpoint, sometimes what makes a food fall into the “gourmet” class, is that you don’t know how it was made or what’s in it. When all else fails, there is always a hot dog on a stick and a cold beer. See how many of the photos here you can identify.