The Final Countdown
The Final Countdown
We are now 3 weeks and 2 days from our proposed leaving date for our multi-year; around the world trip and I can’t say the situation we find ourselves in is how I imagined it during the last 18 months of preparation. Sometimes I wonder why we plan and prepare so much, when so often things don’t turn out as expected. I think it is the planning that causes us the stress and frustration we experience when things don’t go according to plan.
I am trying to stay calm and “enjoy the ride”, after all, it’s part of the journey. This journey does not begin with us locking our front door on leaving day. It began 18 months ago, when I suddenly thought, for no apparent reason, let’s drive around the world.
This was the plan
June 2017: Drive our truck from Kelowna BC, Canada to Grass Valley California, while enjoying a week with my best friend and her husband, who flew over from the UK to join us on part of that road trip.
July/August: The truck would be transformed into a tough, off-road beast (hence the name nickname Rambo) by XP Camper. Modified with all sorts of off-road gadgets and accessories that I have never even heard of.
August/September: Truck and Camper completed – we would fly down to Grass Valley and collect our new home and slowly drive her back to Canada, putting it through its paces and ironing out the bugs.
October/November: Spend these couple of months kitting out our new home and filling it with all the goodies we need for our adventure.
November 27: Departure date! Get ahead of the Canadian winter.
HERE IS THE REALITY
June 2017: We made the trip from BC to Grass Valley and delivered the truck – step one can be considered a success.
August 3 – September 11 Work begins on our truck. Marc at XP Camper removes the bed of our truck with the intention of attaching the custom made flatbed, the base for the camper itself. Shortly after we receive an email titled “Rust Bucket”. The frame did seem a little rusty but thought it was no big deal. Apparently, we were wrong. Marc initially felt the frame would simply need cleaning up. That progressed to the frame needs sandblasting and refinishing, which didn’t sound good, or cheap.
We had two separate body shop workers to inspect the frame and they both concurred it was a problem and advised having a “frame swap”. WTF is this, another thing I’ve never heard of. Buy a new frame and then rebuild the old truck on the new frame. Megabucks. Now we’re very upset and worried.
What do we do? Sell the truck and buy a new one? It took us seven months to find this one, plus it’s in California, and we’re in Canada, and we’ve already spent $4,000 on parts for it; or do we run with the frame swap? From a business perspective, it would cost more money to sell and buy another. Frame swap it is.
James found an amazing Body Shop in Grass Valley, Brandon, the owner, went out of his way to help us. “Ok,“ he said, “I’ll source a new frame.” But they don’t make them anymore. “Ok, I’ll get one from a wreckers yard”. Brandon called around, but no one near him had one. James gets on the case, starting a USA-wide search for a 2007 Ram 3500 frame that hasn’t come from a wrecked truck. By the end of the weekend, we had found our frame in Idaho, from a truck whose engine had exploded. The truck was dismantled and after a number of delays in shipping finally arrived in California on September 11th. Work can begin on sandblasting the new frame and coating with a new, super-duper protective coating. Then the frame swap can commence. Phew! Now we can relax.
September 18: We are now sitting at Vancouver airport about to board our flight to London. We planned a visit back to the UK (we are Brits) to say goodbye to parents and friends before our big adventure. We receive an email from our truck and camper builder, informing us, he feels our truck is in too bad a shape for him to work on and he will not be completing the truck build. Seriously? Three months ago we drove this truck 1,700km from Canada to California and now we’re being told he won’t work on it. I need alcohol.
I had an idea to contact a person called Tim Scully, a guy we’d very briefly met while attending the Overland Expo West in May. He was an off-road driving instructor and I knew he was based in Sacremento, an hour from where our truck was. I asked if he knew a decent off-road shop, one that could not only add all the lovely off-road goodies and upgrades we’d bought for our truck but who could perform a frame swap. He replied, “well that’s exactly what I do, I have a shop and we do frame swaps all the time, frame repairs, frame modifications and we build off-road vehicles, mainly Land Rovers, but I’ve owned a load of Ram trucks”.
I think we just hit the jackpot. After a few conversations with him, which instilled huge amounts of confidenc, it sounded like a piece of cake so we hired him for the job.
October 25: Having spent weeks researching the best type of product to finish the frame (James now knows a lot about rust and oxidization prevention) we gave Brandon at Rolly’s Body Shop the go-ahead to prepare our sparkly new frame. Tim then drove to Grass Valley, collected our truck and the new frame, and took it back to his workshop in Sacramento. Within a few days, our truck had been fully dismantled off its frame and our new one is ready to go.
November 1: We receive an email from Marc at XP Camper informing us of further delays with our camper build. They are still waiting for a shipment of some vital motor parts from Germany, predicted to arrive early in December. We currently have no idea how long, after its arrival, it will take to complete the camper, but we’re still being told to expect an early Christmas present.
November 4: Two days ago an Arctic front swept in and temperatures plummeted well below zero and the unthinkable happened. It started snowing. No! We were supposed to leave before the snow flew!
As you can see, things have really not gone to plan. We are still planning to leave in 3 weeks and 2 days, but our round the world journey will begin in a Uhaul Truck, not an XP Camper. We plan to drive all out stuff to Washington somewhere, where we’ll pick up a Cruise American Motorhome and drive to California. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, our truck and camper should be completed! Watch this space.
During the planning of our trip, we have been fortunate to meet people who have shown a great deal of enthusiasm about the expedition and have supported us through sponsorship of products and/or services. They played a part in helping make This Big Road Trip a reality, are passionate about what they do and passionate about doing it well. If you're in the market for their product or services then we can highly recommend them.