Hey D-90'ers I received so much good advice from many of you over the last year that I thought I'd share my experience of what I did with all that information. I'm hoping you'll chime in with your own similar experience or thoughts on what I could/should have done different. Basically I'm just going to ramble about my prep work and actual trip to the Arcitic Circle
BORING INTRO SKIP AHEAD
I'd wanted a Defender since I first saw one in Denver in a random neighborhood I was visiting in 1995. I thought it was the most amazing vehicle i'd ever seen. I didn't even know what it was until a couple years later I saw one at a dealership in Buffalo, NY. I nearly caused an accident pulling in at the last moment to test drive it. That day was cold, slushy and nasty. The sales person was not amused with my just looking attitude and did not want to go out with me in it. So I went solo. It was loud, cold, stark, and a pain in the ass to drive....I was in LOVE. When I got back I looked at the price and it was clearly out of my league. So, I shelved that idea for 11 years until I finally met someone else who knew what Defenders were and actually knew something about them. He was in the market and clued me into D-90 Source and a million other great resources. My new friend found a great rig and purchased it pretty quick. Now the pressure was on...i'd sold my Lexus, Harley Davidson, F-150, and any other toys to get the money ready. I found a great one on Ebay that was in phenomenal condition, had low miles, and an owner who had never put the top on since he only drove it to the swimming pool in the summer..so he claimed! The beafy upgrades suggest otherwise!
UPGRADES...nothing new here folks
Soooo...I've owned the rig since August 2008. Had no immediate plans for any upgrades or any real adventures. Then I went to MAR with a group of hard core owners from NYC. Once I saw what these things could do I was stunned. My mind went into overdrive thinking about the options. The first cross roads for me was whether to build out a serious Overland machine or a hardcore offroad machine. I decided for a compromise. The previous owner had done the lift kit and Old Man Emu suspension, the diff guards, and a few other things. I added an ARB front bumper and a Rockware rear bumper with gas can holder. Both used and from Source folks. Also added some nice Hella lighting and a few trinkets here and there.
Ok, now the interesting part. Round about January of 2009 I started thinking about trips I'd done around the US on the motorcycle and my memory started conjuring up my old fantasy of driving around the world. So in consulting some maps and the Internet I found the Dalton Highway. It runs out of Fairbanks about 480 miles to Prudhoe Bay at the Arctic Ocean. About 180 miles into the drive you cross the Arctic Circle.
I then learned about the Pan American Highway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-American_Highway
) that runs from Fairbanks all the way to the southern tip of Argentina. So I put together a thought of doing the drive in legs and leaving the rig in cities along the way with friends or in storage.
I started asking friends and acquaintances if they would be intersted. If their response was "why" I knew I could cross them off the list immediately. I had two friends who I wanted to go with. One waffled for 2 months before eventually saying yes (more on that later). The other wanted to but had to decline. Partner selection is so critical that I'm glad I got my mistakes out of the way on the easy portion. My friend is the coolest, most fun, and entertaining person I've ever met. We've taken some hellacious trips together in the past that all ended well. What I "forgot" about was all of the traits that he has that drive me insane. Note the phrasing..they drive ME insane. I have some freakish sensitivities to some normal everyday activities. Crunching ice, chewing gum, and now it turns out incessant sun flower seed husking! These are all perfectly ok things to do however, they will send me over the edge to the point of needing medication. So as a friend, my man is the best, as a travel companion in stressful situations, not sure iI'd have him for round two. Nor he I since I'm sure i have my own bad habits.
In the interest of finances I decided to have a a bed built for the back of the rig and to store items underneath it. worked awesome. both my parnter and I are big guys and we fit back there great. down side was that our noses were only about 6 inches from the top of the roof. Close quarters for 15 hours a day, no showers many days, and little fresh air in the rig made from some pretty rank smells!
We took off on Monday the 24th of May from Chicago and ended up about 250 miles north and west of Fargo on our first day. Nothing too eventful except the reality that we were going to drive about 7500 miles in this vehicle. The next day we entered Canada through North Dakota and cruised up to Edmonton. This was a brutal drive as it was flat and barron, plus no more 7-11 diet coke super big gulps. From Edmonton we blazed on to Dawson Creek and were on the Alaskan highway. That's when we started having some fun. From Dawson Creek all the way to Fairbanks we did not see one police officer. That was great for speed but a little nerve wracking for safety. d-90's are not necessarily known for speed but we would hold 80 mph for hours at a time. Hurt mileage a little but was nice to move along. The first night on the highway we found a place to stop on the top of a mountain top that was unbelievable. The view was great and the air was soo clean. We also got a taste of the midnight sun. It finally set around 11pm. The next morning we powered on through another 800 miles or so up to the Yukon Territory and spent the night about 100 miles outside of Haines Junction. Another gorgeous view and scenery. By the way; at this point we'd seen about 10 bears and all manner of wildlife. No mosquitoes yet though. The final day on the Highway we barrelled all the way to Fairbanks We got in around 3pm. Checked into a hotel and rested for a few hours before hitting the town for a while. If in Fairbanks, check out Reflections. Just sayin'.
Now, at this point we were feeling pretty beat and pretty nervous about the Dalton. Anything you read will make you think it is a landmine waiting to destroy you and your vehicle. The stories definitely got to us. We made what I thought was a preliminary decision to "see how it goes." Definitely hit the Arctic Circle and then decide if we wanted to push through. About 100 miles into the Dalton we looked at each other and said, wow, this is no big deal. Nice gravel and nice pavement. Trucks were a little close for comfort but definitely not too bad. I started hinting that I wanted to continue. My partner made it very clear that he had checked out on the idea of going all the way. When I realized this I was devastated and it took me about an hour of sitting on some rocks chewing this over to come to grips. I realized that if he took the other position of pushing me to go on, I might be resisting and play the safe card. My partner was adamant that we turn back around. This was hard because the mission was to go to Prudhoe Bay. This had always been "my trip" and he was a passenger who was only in to it because i was into it. He did not have much emotionally (or financially) invested. I decided that convincing him to go up would be a mistake and that I had screwed up by entertaining the conversation the day before about cutting short the Dalton. I tried to take an objective view and retrace what went wrong. It comes down to inviting and convincing someone to take a trip that they don't really care about one way or the other. We didn't have equal skin in the game and that was my fault.
We enjoyed the Arctic Circle for about 1/2 hour, popped open the gas cans and refilled and started heading back down towards Fairbanks. I was pretty devastated and didn't feel much like talking. We made a stop at a scenic point to try and unstick my heater controls when a trucker pulled in. He was super cool and we hung out with him for a little over an hour checking out each others rigs. He told us what the rest of the highway up North of the circle was like and made me feel a little better that it definitely got worse ahead. Still no real consolation but I can at least know that it would have gotten harder and the risk of break down would have increased substantially. We got back on the road and enjoyed the rest of the drive down the Dalton into Fairbanks. Lots of wildlife, and a few good off roading experiences along the way. Since the sun never really sets up there, you can really lose track of time. We got back to the hotel around 11pm and were still ready to do more.
Sunday mid day we hit the road and headed down to White Horse in the Yukon Territory. Great drive with lots more bear and Caribou. On Monday we headed out and got down onto the Cassiar Highway and were blow away by the beauty...it was simply amazing. At around dusk we saw the most amazing and terrifying things ever. We'd been following a semi for about 40 miles. He was moving along nicely and it felt safe to have him in front in case of wild life. Well sure enough we come around a bend and there is a huge brown bear on the side of the road. We all slow down to about 20 mph and the bear darts in front of the semi. 1/2 a second later we look around the semi to the left and see the front bumper of the semi clip the bear and send him rolling down the highway. The bear doesn't miss a beat! Jumps right up and runs up the hill!! Around midnight we started running out of gas and only had 5 gallons on the back. somehow the nozzle was not fitting very tight so we messed with it for about 30 minutes before getting most of the fuel into the vehicle. Since we were low on fuel we went about 30 miles out of the way to Stewart BC to get fuel in the morning. What a great detour that was. Again, surrounded by mountains and gorgeous scenery.
Tuesday we left Steward and ended up in Prince George BC..nice hotel, nice dinner. long day of driving and the temperatures were getting into the 80's That's a little warm for my taste especially when stopped in the sun for an hour at construction zones.
Wednesday, today, we headed from prince George down to Vancouver. The scenery again, was amazing. Tomorrow I'll be in Portland Oregon to leave the vehicle for a few months whiile i decide what to do. At this point I'm planning on driving to Panama City, Panama sometime in the next 12 months. Many logistical issues to work out but chief among them is where to leave it in Panama until I can return to do South America.
So that's the story! What's left to do before i leave the vehicle? Massive cleaning and detailing, oil change, get two big cracks repaired in windshield, replace right rear marker lens, start shopping for a Discovery!
Hope that's got your mind thinking about a trip you'd like to take...
Here are some Photos you might enjoy