Victoria, BC to Inuvik, NWT- An Epic tale of...something

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May 14, 2006

It all started innocently enough. Having been a Roofer since '02, I had decided to go back to school for something a little more mechanical. And so, September '07 found me sitting in Class for an ELT Heavy Duty/Commercial Transport Mechanic Program. Since I was in school fulltime, my GF Ellen was gonna have to pick up the financial end of things for the year. This leads me to my story.

I had actually been on the waiting list for the course the previous year, so we had some time to save a bit and get prepped, and during that time we made the decision on how to reward ourselves once school was done. We were gonna go ahead with the first leg of our master plan. Perhaps a little more explanation is required.

Our "Master Plan" consists of a road trip from the Northen end of the Highway in Canada, to the Southern end of things down in Chile.

The "First Leg" was to consist of a trip from Victoria, BC to Inuvik, NWT and back. Around 7,000km total.

When we first came up with the plan, there was a lot of discussion around the coffee/dinner tables about how, what, where, the usual. SInce I was driving an '81 Jeep Wagoneer at the time, and gas was slowly climbing ever higher, we knew a different vehicle would be in order. Since I'm writing this little tale on a Toyota lover's website, I guess you can figure out which way I was leaning. Also, since I'm the one who would be handling all things mechanical, both prior and during the trip, Ellen felt it was best to leave all those decisions up to me. So, Toyota it was. At the time I had an 81 BJ60 that was under the knife and we hummed and hawed over how much work it would still need before it might be ready. In the end, it was decided a new vehicle would be needed and we could start from scratch on it.

My favourite vehicle to date had been my 85 4Runner. It was stolen, never to be heard from again. But I knew it and it's 22RE like the back of my hand. I wasn't positive about size or power, as far as carrying 2 people and a pooch and all the gear needed up and down mountains, but I had some big plans. So a bit of time elapsed as my brain went feverishly into sketch mode starting to plan how on earth all this craziness was gonna work out.

During this time, as some MUD readers may recall, I had a chance at an 86 HJ60 for free! Only problem was it was in Ontario(Other side of Canada). So briefly that was gonna be the vehicle, once we got it back. Well not to stray too far of the story, but I sold that LandCruiser to a MUD member with a cracked head(the truck not the buyer) about 400km after I had picked it up. Nuff said.

So the search went on, and around May of '07 I found her. A bone stock 1985 Toyota 4Runner with 22RE. She had been parked in the shade under some cedars for some time, and it was about a block from the Ocean. It had seen better days obviously and the owner said it needed a Head Gasket, so it didn't even run. The owner swore everything else worked fine, and at 6'5" and 210lbs, not many people get on my badside, so I figured, what the hell. I got it for $700CAD add $50 for the tow to my place, and there we were, two new loves staring at each other in the driveway.
May 14, 2006

First order of business was getting it cleaned up a bit. and figuring out what worked and what didn't. We've all, or most of us, have gone through the initial once over of a newsed vehicle at least a couple of times. And truth be told, it's kinda fun. Finding stuff in Gloveboxes and under seats etc... But I needed more, I needed to know how it drove(or if it drove). This meant tackling the engine. I decided to take the PO at his word and go ahead and fix the HG and be done with it. "be done with it", yeah, about that. After spending a bit to have the stock head cleaned up, I slapped her back together and damnit if she didn't purr like a kitten! For 2 weeks. Then all of a sudden we had heating issues and oil in coolant/coolant in oil. See where I'm going with this?

OK, so time to deal with the Timing Cover. ENGNBLDR was good enough to get me a full kit with Steel backed guides etc... Roberts your Mother's Brother, She's ALive! Then for a long time, nothing happened, well, almost nothing.

A few things happened over the next few months that frankly had nothing to do with anything resembling an expedition build, and then school started and suddenly there was a countdown. Eleven months. Well, less actually, but for arguments sake. Since I was in school all day, in a shop, I had a bit of time here and there to work on my own little projects. And boy did I have a lot of em.

We had come up with a preliminary truck budget of 8k, which I dutifully agreed to try and cut back as best I could. The list had a few "nicer" options that would eventualy be "reconfigured" to fall within our late to be reduced budget. Things like New Winch, Rooftop Tent, Complete Exhaust incl. Header, Sliding Drawer setup, New Bumpers F/R, Off-Road Lights, OBA, Cam. The list went on and on and as more and more new things started to make the list, the budget kept going up instead of down. So a lot of what was to be new became "Things I will make from scratch or not have at all"

Things that couldn't really be made from scratch, or things that couldn't be made for any less than buying were still on the list. Things that didn't make the cut included, but were not limited to:

Rooftop Tent
Front Bumper
Rear Bumper
New Winch
New Suspension

The list of things that had to be bought one way or the other included:

A winch
Front Axle Rebuild kit
Misc. Hardware.
Suspension of some sorts

Stay tuned for PART 3 when I tell you all about my crazy plans for a homemade RTT, or my ridiculously slow progress on a front Winch Bumper.
Sep 25, 2006
Truckee, Tahoe, CA
I'm driving my cruiser to Inuvik from CA starting August 5th. I can't wait to hear the rest of your story!
May 14, 2006
If I can make one recomendation, it would be to have as much time as you can. Sadly we were maxed out at 3.5 weeks of vacation time from Ellen's work, and a week of that was to be in Smither's with friends.
May 14, 2006

OK, let's recap. I'm in school fulltime, Ellen is working fulltime. We're down to one full income to cover all the rent and bills, AND try to save up an ever expanding sum for our trip. I had 3k coming in from a past debt that was going to be put directly into truck, the rest would all materialize from anything extra Ellen or I could make.

So, it's now February. Ellen, has just come back from 3 weeks in Ontario with her family and the final push is on. With 5 months to go and the realization that saving is not as easy as it sounds(not the first time I've made that discovery), a lot(read "everything") still needed to be done. While Ellen was away for her family time, the dog and I had a lot of time to throw some ideas back and forth and figure out where dollars were going to get slashed from our aforementioned 8k budget.

A few things have developed by this point. I had managed to find a set of BFG M/T's 33X10.5/15. Exactly what I was looking for, used, for $300CAD. I ordered a few things from NSOR. This was to be my one big order of anything new. Most of it was for the front axle which would be getting a complete once over and upgraded brakes and a bit of armor. The rear axle I had swapped out and put in an IFS rear with a V6 3rd member. A little more stability and braking and a slightly beefier diff and case. It was clear to us early on in the budget process that lockers and birfs were out unfortunately. So now we've managed to spend $2500. That figure had gotten me to this point:

A 1985 Toyota 4Runner w 355k on the clock
22RE with rebuilt head and new bottom end bearings
33X10.5/15's BFG M/T's
5" Lift using purchased shackles and rear springs
Homemade 7 leaf front pack
Used Rancho 9000's Fr/R
A completely rebuilt front axle with vented LC rotors etc...
IFS Rear axle with V6 Centre
and to top it all off,
A drop drag link w/ flipped ball steering setup!

yeah, I know. X-over just wasn't in the cards either. The fact of the matter is that the truck was old and tired and money had to be spent on certain necessities that the trip just could not do without. Next would come things that we really wanted in some order of cost and importance.

So anyhow, there's my rolling chassis essentially done. Add to that 2.5k another 500 in steel, and all of a sudden we've got bumper potential. As most do, I hate the factory location for the spare. I don't even know if a 33" can fit down there, but it didn't matter because that's where my airtank for OBA was gonna go. So, since my original, ridiculously high, budget had called for a beefy rear bumper with spare tire swingout, I figured I'd just make one. Having heard horror stories about the Dempster highway, and since we were planning on heading off the beaten path here and there, 2 spares were going to be needed and the second would just have to go inside. The inside was going to be put off till a bunch later. Still being in school and doing the odd roofing job for a bit of money, progress was slow. Also since I like to hum and haw and sketch stuff out and whatnot, plans were changing almost daily. And that's when the bomb hit!
May 14, 2006

As many on this board do, I get a little anxious every couple months. I come home every day and check the mailbox first thing in hopes that the most recent copy of 4WD Toyota Owner is waiting for me. It's like having 6 little Christmas'. Well, round about the point my story left off in part 3, my March/April issue arrived. Anyone who's a reader wanna guess what article made an appearance in that issue? You guessed it, page 48 did to me what nothing has been able to do before or since. OK, well not really, and I'm not even sure what that thing would have been, but I digress.

My own story could be written much like the opening paragraph of that story. "How do you create a once-in-a-lifetime adventure?" Well, I thought I had been doing so for the preceeding year, but the story went on to tell me I not only needed a Toyota FJ, and, apparantly, I was gonna have to either delay the trip and get Ellen pregnant fast and hope for a son(NOT AN OPTION), adopt, or patch things up with my dad. All seemed highly unlikely, and so it seemed I would also fail on the second requirement of a father/son crew. Well not one to be bullied around by a few words, I read on!

For those that don't, didn't, haven't or wont read "The Arctic Ocean" Story that I speak of, it goes on to tell the tale of a Father and Son team that do an incredible 19 day 6000 mile adventure North. In truth, it was an amazing article an made me a little green with envy. But hey, everyone has their own story, and this one was mine. And so without a sweetastic new FJ Cruiser and having to pretend my dog was my somehow the son I had always wanted, I pushed on with the planning and building.

I believe we had left off at $3k in our budget, and now I've got a bunch of steel lying around. At this point, my plan is still to be making my own RTT with steel tube piano hinges and a lot of canvas. Unfortunately, the more I refined the whole Idea, the more it seemed to get more and more complicated and heavy and eventually figured that any benefits in cost would quickly be lost in extra weight and size affecting aerodynamics and mileage. And so in one fail swoop, the RTT was out and a new tent for the family was in. More about the tent decision later. So, steel, the place I bought 90% of the steel at is no longer in business, and I can guess why. I went and chatted, and managed to find a lot of good deals on end cuts and since I wasn't really bound too many specifics, I could go one way or the other on lengths and sizes of various tubing. I wound up with a couple lengths of 1"X.125" and a couple lengths of 1.25"X.125", about 6' of 4"X.250" Square, Some 2"X4"X.125" Rectangular and some 2"X2" Square. Add to all that a miscellany of 3-5 foot pieces of some other round tubing and pipe, and a factory spare swingout from, I believe, a 91 Runner. Now I've got the ingredients, time to start cooking something up. These a re a few pics to give you an idea of how the factory rear swingout was being retro-fitted to the new bumper and 85 tailgate.
May 14, 2006
That was basically where we left off near the end of march. For a bit school took up some more time and progress was slow. In April a bit was done on the front bumper and we added 500 to our budget by adding a Warn 8274 to the mix. Couple more pics of the rear setup, and one of the front/right mount. I made some pieces out of angle iron I had kicking around. They bolt up into the frame as well as using the front leaf spring mount bolt on the side. To those I welded a 2"X2"X.250" crossmember with 4"X4" Angle tuckedbehind itand all welded together. All this means the front bumper has 10 bolts holding it to the frame and it ain't goin anywhere.
May 14, 2006
Gotta love living in Victoria, BC. The only place in Canada that didn't get snow last year. Unfortunately we get a ton of rain. Not quite Seattle or Vancouver rain, but enough grey windy days, that if you have to work outside as I do, it can make for slow progress. Especially if you have to keep regrinding and cleaning things of rust so they can be welded. Here's another couple of the rear and front with winch in. This is still the DD at this point and so signals needed a place to go until they could be dealt with. Funny thing is this is how the front stayed for quite a while till school was done.
May 14, 2006
So you can sortof get a look at the front axle.

IFS Calipers/LC Rotors/Extended Brake Lines/Dual Diaphragm Booster w/Large Bore MC/Front Armor/Complete Rebuild/Sitting on Custom Springs.

About the springs. They started out as a really good set of 79-83 rears as the main leafs. Then used the military wrap from a set of 85's. The rest are whatever was left in whatever order they fit best. I started with a 5 leaf pack. Whenever I did a U-turn or shap turn, the front would just nosedive and try to lift the opposite rear. So then I went to a six leaf pack. A bit better, but once winch and more bumper were added, the 6 leaf pack would be way too soft. So a seventh leaf was added and though I still have a bit to add to the front bumper, it seems perfect.
May 14, 2006

OK, so jumping ahead a bit to May and we've got the beginnings of a bumper on the front and rear. The winch is as yet unwired and the rear swingout was almost there. A few gauges got thrown into the dash and, after moving a couple of the rear window switches from the center console, a marine switchplate was installed in front of the armrest. The switchplate has three main switches, 1 momentary double pole, one momentary push-button, and fuses and a voltmeter. The main switches are for my fuel cut, winch circuit, and starting circuit. The double pole switch is activated by the main winch switch and controls the winch in/out. The solenoids are all mounted under the hood. The push-button switch is powered by the starting circuit switch, and it controls ignition. Unecessary? Yes, but cool and one more step in stopping a thief. Also unecessary but cool was a factory inclinometer/altimeter.

As the last two months before our trip rolled along, not as much was getting done as I'd have hoped. For one, summer was here and the roof was off and the lake was warm. Also, school was wrapping up and with a 3 week work-term and a final exam still looming, not to mention all the other non-truck related parts of the trip still to be dealt with, progress was slow. I did get a lot of body work done over the few months prior to the trip. Inside the rear wheel wells were rotten not to mention outer skins and rockers. So I got some donor panels for cheep and between that and some 1x1x.125 angle iron I went to town rebuilding the missing body. I should throw out there, that I'm by no means a welder. I realise it's clear from some of the pics, but since I only have a 110v mig to work with and have spent the majority of my welding life using stick welders on bigger equipment, I make it work. Not pretty, but damn strong.

By this point, we had basically figured out all the things that were just not happening for whatever reason and a few things that were still in the works would have to be put on a wait and see priority. We would be buying a tent that was botha tent and a screenhouse. The plan was to attach the screenhouse door to the rear roof of the truck and go from there. We had toyed with sleeping in the truck, but that would have meant 2 people and a dog sharing a small space. Also all the gear would have to come out each time we slept. Another problem was that even with a relatively shallow drawer there would be very little room. Tent it was.

Things left to do:

get 2 more tires(spares)
finish bumpers(front/rear)
wire winch
configure storage
install seats
install cam
front driveshaft
T-case skidplate
finish front suspension(7th leaf &caster shims)
finish wiring/plumbing all switches and gauges
install cd player and speakers(currently nothing)
change driveline fluids
make some rear inner panels
I'm sure there was tons more, but it just isn't coming to me right now. it doesn't seem like very much looking at it.

We had now given ourselves a final budget for the trip. Not that we didn't want more, but there was only so much time left and so we had a 3k budget for the trip. $2k for gas and 1k for us. 1k a week it seemed would have to get us and the truck to and from the Arctic Circle.
engine rebuilt2.jpg


Jul 12, 2003
Dude...that's a hellaofastory...I can't believe you've got me hanging waiting on the next chapter!!! Git after it - let me know what's next!!!!
May 14, 2006
"The word unblowupable is thrown around a lot these days"

Homer Simpson said it first, and I fully endorse the spirit if not the letter of the statement.

I've sort of lost a bit of track on what order everything happened in. Partly because it was a few months back now, and partly because at any one time I was working on about ten little projects. It's not the best way to do things always, but it's how I get through.
That being said, the rest of the build story may be a bit choppy as I just try to get everything down and in some correct order. If you have any questions about anything in particular, let me know.

Using the list from Part 5, let's see how much we've progressed as we come into the final few weeks.

OBA -What started out as a plan to use a factory Toyota A/C compressor, ended up with 12v ViAir unit going in. I had all the airlines and my airtank, a few fistfulls of fittings, and though it never got installed, I have the plans and valves for a type 12 maxi brake(air/spring brake) I'm going to be using it as my Parking brake. So it will be a hand valve controlled Parking brake. Spring on/Air off. Good luck stealing my truck.
Ultimately, I need a bit bigger tank to run stuff for longer, but the ViAir is 100% duty cycle. I've had it running for about 30 min straight with no probs. I only have a small piece of coiled plastic hose that mounts to the only quick connect under
the hood, but it reaches my rear tires, and it's regulated, so it's good enough for now.

get 2 more tires(spares) -Sounds easy enough, and depending on shipping etc... I may have been able to find a better deal on something online, but I looked everywhere locally for a couple of BFG M/T's used as spares. The deal I got for the first 4 was great, but it was only 4 and I needed 2 more. Finally with 2 weeks remaining I got a line on the last couple of km's(vs. km2?) in Canada and they got shipped, mounted, balanced and they even swapped my old ones around so the worst 2 were coming off to become spares and new ones went on the back. All in $500.

So our 3k has now become 3500. This is where a person starts to go "$3500? could have bought a "XXXXXXX" for that!" Well I didn't and here we are.

finish bumpers(front/rear) -As the pics have shown, bumper progress was slow at best. Partly because of school, partly because I kept changing my plan, partly because I'm a bit lazy. But in the weekend leading up to departure, it was because I ran out of welding gas. Well to be frank, it had been one of those months. 2 weeks earlier I had run out of wire on a weekend as well. A big spool no less! So with miscellaneous delays out of the way, and having a spare tire now that could be mounted on the back I plugged away with the swingout and side pieces to the rear bumper. We left on June 25th and I put on my last welds on the 23rd, didn't even get a chance to clean and paint.
I didn't get to complete the front one either, but got most done as far as having the winch securely mounted, but needed something better for the signals than zap-straps, and wanted a little bit of brush protection. So a couple of 1.25" pieces of tube got cut and fitted and when I came home on Monday the 23rd with gas, they became part of the truck, and welded the stock signal mounts to the tubing. also unpainted.

wire winch
-Wiring sort of got left till the end. So much so that a day before we left I was wiring the winch to the solenoids that had been mounted on a cool little piece of Aluminum treadplate under the hood(see pic) it matches the piece I cut for my rear tailgate. I never actually got the ground cable to mount, so jumper cables where there if winching was required.

configure storage -"Configure" isn't really the right word. Since the drawer wasn't happening, it basically became "where do I pack everything." Besides the two of us and the dog, we had a 35l 12v cooler(best thing ever!), 2 large 114l rubbermaid bins(one for camping stuff/one for recovery stuff), our tent, the 2nd spare tire, 2 backpacks, a couple of smaller rubbermaids(20l?) and miscellaneous blankets, pillows, shoes and other small stuff that jams into places easily enough. I always liked the idea of drawers for the stuff you need that is under all the other stuff. We hoped that we just plain wouldn't need anything in the recovery dep't, so we packed it basically in the middle of the storage area with stuff we needed more access to in front or behind. Configure really had just become, getting it all in. The truck was filled to the brim, but we had avoided anything on the roof(higher COG, less aerodynamic)

install seats -Nothing new or fancy, but I had gotten a set of SR5 seats out of a newer Runner and the old ones were torn and very uncomfortable. 7000km, we were gonna need a bit of padding.

install cam
-Way back in January when I had ordered a bunch of my front axle parts, I had also put in an order to ENGNBLDR for an RV cam and some fresh bearings. The bearings went in, but for some reason I held off on the cam. And well, I'm back from the trip and it still hasn't gone in. By the time I remembered it, it was getting too close to departure date and didn't want to mess with the engine internally since it was running great. Cam would have to wait.

front driveshaft
-Obviously with 5" of lift, and me not afraid of launching off speedbumps, there were problems with the stock driveshaft. Last runner I had, I used the stock one with about the same lift, but this time I had made my own springs which had pushed the axle about 1" forward. Well more really, about 1 3/4", but I also made axle relocation plates to balance the height l/r, and to move the axle 3/4" back. So with the 1" forward of stock the driveshaft no longer worked. Some go square, some go to a pro. Me, I grabbed a big chunk of 2.5" sched 40 and just replaced the thin walled tubing of the stock one with a longer length of the pipe. It's a tough job, and I new it wouldn't be balanced, but by rolling it along a flat concrete surface with a straight edge and calipers, I got really damn close. I found it helped to put the pipe in the oven at full for an hour or so, and the 2 ends in the freezer. They slid on, and as they matched temps, they snugged up as I was lining everything up, so that when i was ready to weld, they were held in place.

T-case skidplate -Take one large piece of 5/16 steel, bend to match the upper side of a stock X-Member. Drill holes. Leave in driveway for months putting it off and then deciding to not put it on. Can't really explain that one, it looks great, it's big, I just decided not to put it on. There you have it.

sliders -
I was gonna order a set, since they are pretty cheep these days. But then I had built both my bumpers, and figured I could do the same for sliders. Except I didn't, so, no sliders. They will definately be added soon, just not for that trip.

windshield -The windshield was a problem from the get-go. The stock one had a small crack in it, but more importantyl was rusted all the way around and would leak like crazy every time it rained. I decided one day to pull it and put in one from a wrecker. In pulling the old one, it cracked further. I cleaned out the area around and went to town welding the heck out of all the holes, about 50 pinholes and 12 bigger ones. Unfortunately when I went to install the new one, it cracked. Only about 4" on the pass. side, so whatever. It was probably gonna get cracked anyway on the trip as I've heard nightmare windshield stories from up that way.

finish front suspension(7th leaf &caster shims)
-As I mentioned, before, the 6 leaf was a bit soft, so I had already cut the 7th leaf. I had been waiting on caster shims from the local spring shop for the fronts and they arrived Friday the 20th. SO when I ran out of welding gas, I figured perfect time to install new leaf and shims and button up the front suspension. So I did, only to find that now my U-Bolts were too short.

OK, so let's recap. It's the last weekend before the trip. I have a bunch of welding to do and no gas to do it with. I can't even drive anywhere because it would involve removing the 7th leaf and caster shim to allow the old ubolts to fit. So the wekend was really a "get ready for Monday" weekend.

finish wiring/plumbing all switches and gauges
-So as you've just read, I had my weekend open up a bit and used that time to finish plumbing in the gauges and switches etc... All in all, there was the armrest panel that was all wired on the panel side, but only half so on the other ends of things. Pretty much the same thing went for the dash mounted gauges. I have a switch going from the armrest panel to the fuel pump, one goes to the 2 way winch switch also on the panel. The winch came with no remote, so this is how I did it, I wheel alone a lot so it works. The third switch was already in use as the arming switch for the push-button start that's located there as well. Best part is, I've reversed some of the switches, so on isn't always the same way. One more step in stopping a truck-thief. The two factory switches for the rear wiper and window had already been moved to the spots(unused) above the stereo opening. This was done to make room for the custom panel that was going in front of the armrest.
So a lot of plumbing went on throughout the weekend. I decide to move the CPU's temp sensor from the thermostat housing to down on the driver side of the block near the back. Anyone know what that spot is meant for? Every 22re I've seen has a plug screwd into it, with another sort of plug threaded into that. Anyhow, had to clean out a lot of crap that was in there, but eventually I reached coolant so decided the sensor could go there, and I'd mount the one for my new gauge in the thermo housing. For the oil pressure, I found a small pipe plug inside the engine mount on the pass side. Voltage went right to the battery.
make some rear inner panels -I had mentioned at the beginning about the truck being near the ocean and under cedars and having a leaky windshield. So, well the inside was prett rotten. When I first got the truck I had pulled seats carpets and all the panels. Carpets were cleaned seats were replaced originally for 10 set of truck seats that sortof worked. I'm still in need of a driver door panel. The rear panels I decided to replace with 3/8" plywood, paint it black and even install the factory seatbelt trim and cubbys. It turned out this would also be a good way to mount some speakers in the back. Though I wouldn't know that until 2 days prior to leaving. Panels turned out ok, some fastener replacement has gone on (bigger hex-head self-tapping screws). Left two square openings at the rear where the factory jack and tools go. still no doors on em. install cd player and speakers(currently nothing) -Well, I've already alluded to this, so on the second to last day I decided to pull the CD player out of the GF's Civic and throw it in the truck. 7000km, we'd want music, I was sure of it. When I moved the two window switches to the spots above the stereo opening, there was no stereo,nor did I think to take a future stereo into account. Not a whole lot of space back there. Anyways, I shoe-horned it in there, wired up 2 2-way speakers for the rear panels. I had those speakers already, and there were no factory fronts so install was limited. 2 speakers, one cd player(mp3 compatible) couple hours later and whamo, truck has music for the first time since I'd owned it.

change driveline fluids
-OK, that was just sortof a broad heading. As far as oil goes, I use Mobil synthetic, it had been done about 2k prior so I decided to ride it out for the trip, spun on a new filter and brought another anyway. The rings and pistons are old and she uses a bit of oil, so figured I'd add a litre at the turnaround point and we'd be good. Diffs had both been filled new when axles had gone back in, so they were good. Tranny and T-case were both done about 6 months prior, so they got the nod. Oh and since both the heater core and rad had gone after the HG & timing chain nightmares, the coolant was all pretty new and it too remained untouched. Brake fluid had all been completely replaced when the MC/Booster and LC/IFS brake upgrade had been done back in January, as well as the Clutch MC/slave going on me in the previous fall, leaving me with all new clutch fluid. SO, with everything getting the greenlight, I topped up my PS fluid and closed the hood!

I'm sure there's a few more things that I'll think of. All tolled it really didn't turn out to be too much of an "expedition" build. About $5000CAD was spent on the truck since day one, including the cost of the truck. Again, could have just bought a"XXXXXX", but I didn't, and now I have an 85 Runner, that I know inside and out, it's 50% new, and the other half has aged well. I still have a bunch of stuff to sell or trade that will ultimately bring down my figure to $4500, add that to the $3k for trip and I get an amazing trip with a kick-ass souvenir!

Part 7 will begin with day 1 of 17. Man could we have used another week, but this was a roadtrip and that means covering km's. If we'd had another week I'd have liked to stay in a few places longer.
air tank.jpg
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May 14, 2006
Sorry for the delay. Coming back from vacation unfortunately means having to do a bit of work on the side so I can afford a bit more summer before the new career starts. By the way, not that anything is too groundbreaking or anything, but if anyone has any questions or wants any pics, I'm glad to help.


Ever since the aforementioned article in 4WDTO showed up, I couldn't help but make comparisons to what they had done, and what we were about to do. What route they went and where we would end up going. Their new rig, budget and sponsors vs our "little burro" (as I now call her), budget and scrounging. In the story they found their most expensive gas in Eagle Plains at 6.79/gal or 1.80/liter. By the time we were into our last few weeks and money was being finalized, when people asked us "where we were going?", we had somewhat ambiguous answers ready. We just had no idea what kind of mileage the poor truck was gonna get, nor how expensive we would find gas in various remote northern outposts. Either way, we had two goals with this trip. Visit some close friends near Smithers, BC and cross the Arctic Circle. Hopefully we would accomplish both.

Day 1(Wed June 25th) turned out to be a late departure day, but we sortof planned it that way. It was an estimated 18 hour trip from Victoria to Smithers including the Ferry crossing to the mainland. For those not aware, Victoria is the capital of BC and is located on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island in the SW corner of the province.

Government of British Columbia

So, we spent the morning packing and cleaning the house for our friend who would be housesitting. Packing took a bit longer than expected as it can sometimes do. With that much gear it took a bit of tetris playing to get it all in there just so. The layout changed a couple of times until we got it just right and easy to unpack and repack what we needed first etc... By 2pm we were underway. The plan was to drive through the night and show up at our friends place in the a.m for coffee. We were off!

No we weren't. About 3 blocks away I realised I had forgotten my sunglasses at home. OK, now we were underway! We got to Sydney, and the Ferry terminal around 2:30 and made it on the 3pm sailing to Tsawassen(Vancouver). A quick stop to gas up and check tire pressures etc... and we were on the highway heading East. It's a bit of a tangled mess of higways in the lower west corner of the province, and a couple are under construction so our initial enthusiasm, wasn't matched by our speed of travel. Ultimately though, we persevered and overcame this first of what we were sure to be many hurdles on the voyage.

The first leg of day 1 being from home to the mainland, meant that our second leg would be a 150km/90m jaunt taking us from Tsawassen to Hope. It's hard to find a bad view in BC, with mountains, ocean and rainforest everywhere in one direction or another, but when you finally start driving towards those mountains the view becomes that much nicer. The Fraser River Valley is a lush section full of various farmlands. In late June, it's a sea of green as you slowly pick your way into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Once you reach Chilliwack, you're into the hills and the climbing has begun. It's safe to say the drive is beautiful for pretty much the entire rest of the trip, so I'll avoid going on too much about the stunning sights around every corner. After the up down up down necessary to cross foothills, the climb gets you to Hope. Hope, as a small sign still attests to, is where they filmed Rambo, First Blood. Being as how we had only been on the road for a bit and we still had a long way to go, we pushed on to the third leg of the day. This would be our last section on Highway 1, the Trans-Canada, for a while. A 200km/125m stretch of road, also called the Fraser Canyon Highway. Just outside of Hope, we stopped in a small town called Yale to let the dog have a stretch/snack/drink and do a little leg stretching of our own since we hadn't been out of the truck since we gassed up 2.5 hours earlier. We knew this was a roadtrip and that many KM's had to be covered, but it was also a holiday and dammit we were gonna ease into it! Yale is on the river and the Fraser is a fairly wide fast moving river which does explain the abundance of river rafting and white water kayaking signs we say along the way. So onwards and upwards, we continued North past such lovely places as "Hells Gate Canyon" and before long we were also noticing a lot of dead trees. If you haven't heard, there has been a Pine Beetle epidemic ravaging the forests in BC's interior and the evidence at times was jaw-dropping. Huge stands of dead trees in amongst live trees. Another stunning sight is driving through an old forest fire. Even being able to see only the portions visible from the Highway, thousands of square hectares of blackend tree trunks is still one heck of a sight. Unfortunately, it was getting dusk and pictures no longer became a viable option so you'll have to deal with my literary genious to impart the scenario. Well, no you wont really because it quickly became too dark to really see anything anyways, and so we drove. With a little "Thievery Corporation" coming out of the recently installed pioneer 2-ways behind me, and the glow of many new gauges in front of me, I was happy as a clam as we made our way further into the mountains. Before long we hit Cache Creek where we gassed up and made the switch onto Highway 97, a.k.a the Cariboo Highway. This would be leg 4, a 440km/275m stretch of darkness through the mountains to Prince George. PG is basically in the middle of BC. It's a bit southeast of the actual center, but once up in that neck of the woods there aren't a whole lot of cities, so for arguments sake, we'd be in the middle of BC by the end of this leg. Again, by this point it had been dark for a bit.
Everytime we gassed up, we kept a record of mileage and cost etc... and while we didn't really do any math at the time, when we got back we were roughly able to figure out our stats. During our first "tank", we used 50L to go an adjusted 450km or 9km/l or 21MPG. If we kept that up the entire trip(not likely), we would need around 890l/240gal of fuel. Since we were paying around $1.50/l or $6/gal, that put our gas budget at under $1500 and we liked that since we had budgeted $2k. I'd like to take this time to vent my frustration at "Grants Law". It's now a law in BC that you have to go in to pay for your gas before you pump. All the time. Everywhere in BC. It came in because a boy named Grant had died when he got killed by a car that was leaving without paying for gas. He tried to stop them. So, now, instead of just filling and paying, you have to guess as to how much your tank can hold, or pay more and then have to go back in to get change. Seems to me the easier way would be to tell gas attendants not to chase cars. Instead the Gov't decided that every driver on the road was guilty and punished us all. OK, I'm done

I'm gonna rush the rest of this day because well it gets a little hazy. Around midnight we called our friends to tell them we were in Williams lake, a couple hours from PG. It's supposed to be around 4 hours to their place from Prince George, and we figured we were in good enough shape to make it all the way. Well we were wrong. We got to PG ok, and another leg was done. We grabbed a Tim Horton's Coffee and decided a nap wasn't needed. PG is where you make the switch to Highway 16, the "Yellowhead" Highway heading west again. The coffee didn't last long, and neither did the wakefulness it provided. On top of the 800 kms we (I) had driven, and the late night/early wake of the day prior, we now got a little rain added to the mix. The rain was kinda nice at first since it was a real good rain. In Victoria, it doesn't snow, but it does rain quite often. Unfortunately it doesn't actually rain hard. I hadn't seen or heard a thunderstorm in a decade. But even the heavy beating of raindrops wasn't enough to keep me bright eyed. Though it did give me a chance to see that my self install of the windshield was holding up well without a leak in sight. About an hour out of PG, just before we hit Vanderhoof, I decided to pull over and try to get a couple hours shuteye leaning over in my seat. Well it was around 3am and it was raining hard, and trucks kept flying past us shaking our little truck fiercely. So after an hour and a half of almost-sleep, we decided to push on. In Fraser Lake we gassed up again. Looking back later we had gone almost exactly the same distance but we took an extra liter of gas. So far so good and we grabbed coffee and pushed on towards Smithers. The highway winds its way along between two of the many mountain ranges that make up the Rockies in BC and as morning crept up on us, we were a bit tired and cramped to really appreciate it. Long story short we arrived at our friends place at 9:30am. A 17 hour zig zag across, up and back the bottom half of the province.

That was a ridiculously long story about a 17 hour drive, but here we are. We had decided that Smither's was our 1/3 of the way there mark and having spent less than $200 on gas, we figured we were sitting pretty. The next few days would be spent with our friends before heading out again. We made their house base camp. On Everest, climbers use the base camp for staging , preparing and acclimatising. Well, we would do much the same. pouring over maps and GPS info and giving me a chance to finish things on the truck, and just getting used to the fact that we were on vacation. Part 8 comes soon with our eventual departure northward.


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