Length: 16 days
Fuel used: 222.78 gallons
Fuel cost: $502.19
This, by far, has been my largest overlanding adventure to date! It took 6 months of planning, quite a bit of nerve, a few last minute repairs to my truck, and, on top of whatever I had put in so far, more nerve. Why do I keep harping on nerve? We'll come back to that again as the story unfolds! So what did it take to make this trip happen and, more importantly, not end in disaster?
The truck! As overlanding generally involves relying on your vehicle to carry you and your gear through the whole journey, it's important to make the right pick to get the job done. For me, that would be my truck! I've been with this truck for a while. 10 years and 130,000 miles at the time of the trip to be more exact. I have always kept up on the maintenance doing whatever I could with my own hands and anything I couldn't do, I would leave up to a trusted mechanic's hands. I felt I knew what would mostly likely cause me problems and what would likely be a show stopper if I was wrong. I weighed it out as best I could and felt there was no time like the present! It pretty much goes without saying, if you are planning any kind of road trip with your own personal vehicle, you need to make sure it's up to the task!
The gear! No one wants to forget anything on a trip but you really don't want to forget anything on an overlanding trip especially if you know you won't be near civilization for a while or at all. In fact, there are at least two separate lists of gear you need to consider for an overlanding trip. The first and obvious list covers your needs for food, clothing, and shelter. The second and maybe less obvious list covers the needs of your vehicle. That would be a basic tool set, tire tools, and even extra parts and fluids if you feel like it's worth it! Aside from that, you might also consider vehicle recovery gear should you plan on being off-road through some of all of your trip. As many overlanders will tell you, having traction pads are invaluable! Pairing that with a hi-lift jack for its "winch in a pinch" capabilities and you might be nearly unstoppable!
The story! First off, the trip was a success. I made it through the whole trip with only a few minor issues. I call them minor but they might be more of a major problem to someone else or even me had I not been wrestling with these issues for so long already. Before I dive into the story of the issues, let me explain my expectations for the trip. I believed there would be an 80% chance of issues, 20% chance the issues would stop the trip immediately. That said, I was fully expecting my battery to be the issue I would most likely encounter as this particular truck has a notoriety of battery troubles since I've owned it. What I would have believed to be a trip ending problem? The transmission going out, something that would be tested many times through the mountains. A particularly weak link in the drivetrain of all trucks like mine and including mine.
Before the trip even began, just days before in fact, I had noticed a bit of a grinding noise coming from the area of the rolling front wheels. It didn't take much to determine the issue was a bad wheel bearing. Given the age, mileage, and that I had already replaced the wheel bearing on the opposite side within a few years, I felt it was probably time! So, in the waning light of the day, and into the early night, I got to work pulling the old bearing out and getting the new one in place. Fortunately a quick and easy job relatively speaking.
The first issue I had was the exhaust. That happened before I ever started off on this trip. The tailpipe had separated from the muffler and was swinging on the hangers clanging away as it swung back and forth into the muffler. That caused the rear of the muffler to no longer be properly supported and eventually the exhaust pipe leading into the muffler started to break under the strain.
The second issue, one I never really resolved, was a tremendous amount of oil coming from the engine and being distributed all along the underside of the truck. The frame rails, the fuel tank, all of it had a pretty good amount of oil on it and I never did figure out what happened. I simply topped up and carried on with the adventure never to have another problem again.
The third problem, a continuation of the first, was the muffler again. My patch was insufficient at holding the weight of the muffler, no surprise there, and on Old Fall River road, the front of the muffler broke free and dropped to the ground. Unfortunately, I was moving at the time and crunched it between the bed of the truck and the ground. Not wanting to litter the park nor leave my muffler behind, I went to pick it up which burned 3 fingers on one hand fairly efficiently. Imagine that, the engine side of the muffler is very hot! I made my way in town and bought a muffler that was to be delivered next day. I installed it in the parking lot of Napa auto parts in Estes Park. Problem solved and this time I made sure that muffler was supported properly.
The next problem I had was, you guessed it, the exhaust! This time the pipes, fully supported and unaffected by the muffler issues, entering into the catalytic converter started to break free. Obvious to me at this point, my 17 year old exhaust system had finally had enough and was not going to finish the trip. Once again, I patched it up as best I could and carried on with my now slightly more noisy trip.
Having made it through the end of the trip, the last issue I had, one I might have been expecting from the start of the trip. My first and, to date of this writing, only flat tire! I was completely unaware of the issue until radioed by a trucker on my CB. I pulled off the highway at a gas station, swapped in the spare, and carried on once more! On that note, though CB radios might be considered ancient technology to the modern cell phone, I can't say enough how invaluable it was to have someone notify me of a problem I was completely unaware of at the time!