It only took 1000km of motorcycle riding, four wires cut in my tow harness and one near-death experience sliding through a film of invisible pig shit to bring her home. May I introduce you to the Nanny?
I didn't expect to buy a Hundy. I'd been hot and heavy for FJ62s and FZJ80 Land Cruisers. I liked the look of the 62s, but the capabilities and comfort of the 80s. But after letting a couple of very nice 80s slip through my fingers through indecision, when I saw my new Cruiser listed online, something snapped. UHJ100, I choose you.
Ask me again in nine months. But I think I scored. Hopefully the newer, softer Land Cruiser will still be more than capable for anything the Pan-American Highway can throw at it. And if all goes to plan, I'll be uglifying her up enough that we won't look like marks at every border crossing between here and Ushuaia.
But First, The Pig Shit
I was ready to hop on the next plane to Missoula and figure out a way to get down to Hamilton, Montana. But I'd already made the mistake of thinking about riding my motorcycle there, then finding a way to bring her back. Or rather, the mistake was telling Joe Brown about it. Just about four hours after I decided to buy this particular Land Cruiser, I was puttering down the Columbia River Gorge on my Suzuki SV650 with 960km to go.
It was awesome. Mostly.
I only made it about 320km on the first night before stopping. It was cold. Not as cold as it could have been, though. I was layered up with thermal silkies, street clothes and the lining of my textile riding gear. I've got this waterproof pair of gloves that I hate riding with because they're so thick, but they block the wind pretty well.
The only new addition to my wardrobe was a scarf from my girlfriend. It wasn't thick at all, but wrapping it around my nose and tying it behind my neck like a ninja at least let my own breath warm my face and kept the wind from slipping down into my jacket. I'm sure they make some sort of riding gear that does the same thing, but after dropping several hundred on gear when I first got into riding, I'm trying to stop buying one-off gear for the moment.
One of you guys messaged me and said to bungee a pillow to my seat. I didn't have any spare bungees - I know - but I happened to have thrown a stupid little roll-up backpacking pillow from REI into my tail bag that has two elastic loops at one end that were easy to lash on. I'm not sure how much the pillow helped, really, but with 960km ridden in 24 hours, every little cushion helped. (So did stopping every hour or so to stretch. Every one of you who recommended that were right on the money. It felt wonderful even when I didn't think I needed to stop yet.)
In fact, let me say this before I forget: You guys rule. I probably got 30 or 40 messages before I left with tips, encouragement and good lucks. It really added to the mania of the moment in a totally positive way.
Anyway, the pig shit! So I get up at 6am, suit up and head up 82 as the sun comes up. I'm maybe a half hour up the road - all scrub and dust in the high desert - when I start seeing little patches of dust in the road. Easily avoidable, even if they wouldn't affect my traction enough to matter.
A few kilometres later, as I'm cruising at 110km/h, I am coming up a slight grade when I notice the tarmac in front of me shift colour as my eyes match a new angle on the reflecting sun. Before I know it I'm in it - maybe two seconds after I see it.
The rear tyre of the bike starts to slide ever so slowly off to the left, perhaps 10 degrees off centre. Before I even have time to think, I'm going down, the rear tyre is now 10 degrees to the right. Back again to the left, slightly more. Then the right. The bike is setting up a rhythm, crossing back and forth. It does this just long enough for me to finally think, Yup. Going down.
Then I'm on dry pavement and the bike is as taut and straight as a guitar string with nary a chirp of recovery. I throw on my hazards and pull over to the shoulder before the adrenaline stops, even though it's telling me You made it. Go go go.
The bike reeks. The entire rear fender and most of the front radiators are covered in what looks like tan mud, but what my nose is reminding me smells just like the hog pens I used to play in when I used to hang out on the farm during the summer. Could have been some other wet, muddy manure, I guess, but all I can say is that I've spent far too much of my life slipping on greasy pig shit to think it was anything else.
The spatters are already almost dry by the time I start to clean the bike up with a spare handkerchief. And that's when I realised that all the dust I'd been seeing on the highway wasn't really dust but thin puddles of hog shit, the tops of which had begun to dry in the sun leaving slicks of shit below.
I bet in another half hour they were dried up and blowing out into the desert.
The Best U-Haul Man In Montana
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, provided you can call riding a 70hp engine in an open metal frame through the northern Rockies on highways that smudge through the forests like they were traced by the finger of an idle, toddling titan uneventful. Motorcycles have done wonders for my sense of what-hath-man-wroughtness.
Joe had located a guy in Hamilton who rented U-Haul trailers, but when I called him a couple of hours before I got into town, he said he didn't have any on hand. That guy - Dan - called me back an hour later and said he'd gone up to Missoula and driven one back to Hamilton, just for me. Later that night, he stayed at his shop late to meet me, then crawled underneath the Land Cruiser and helped me figure out which wires to snip to remove the old, rusted towing lighting harness so that we could wire in a temporary clip to get the lights on the trailer working. What a happy, helpful guy. He's the kind of Montana I like.
Sometime around 10pm last night, I had the bike on the trailer and ratcheted down. I put a hundred or so kilometres on the odo before conking out in a rest stop, then pushed through to Portland today.
I'm absolutely zonked now. My girlfriend Shannon and I were going to try to go drive down to that Overland Rally tonight to try to catch at least a couple of days of training, but even with her driving, I just feel too beat. (Plus, I really wanted to write this update as soon as I could!)
So instead, I'm going to have a couple of glasses of wine and go to bed early. Hopefully we can make it down to the San Francisco Bay Area tomorrow and catch at least a day.
But the truck! So I won't talk money in specifics, but let's say that I got a 2003 Land Cruiser with 190,000km for just about 30 per cent more than what I'd been looking at - 1996/1997 FZJ80 Land Cruisers with similar kilometres and lockers. It's a good bit more than I had planned on spending when I first started looking a couple of months ago, but I think it's OK.
Especially because of the nanny. The story from the dealership is that this vehicle was driven by the full-time nanny of a rich couple who live in a ski town in Idaho. (That would certainly explain why the front cabin is in great shape, but the second row of seating has all the knobs and dials kicked off.)
It's from Idaho, so it certainly saw some snow and ice, but I can't see any indication it's been off-roaded or driven too hard. It is slightly distressing that some of the minor interior repairs weren't done - I feel like you can always tell a lot about a car's history from the condition of its interior - but since I'm planning on doing a lot of wrenching over the next few months, I'm not too worried about it.
Plus, it's the newest car I've ever owned, so even if it's eight years old now, it still feels incredible posh to me. It has a navigation system! That you don't have to hold on with suction cups! So what if it has some little paint chips that need to be Rust-Morted and there are a couple of spots in the interior that look like some brat gouged them with a silver spoon?
When I dropped off the U-Haul trailer today in Portland, I got blocked in by another customer, but there was a dirt road that cut between two houses.
"Does that go out to the road?" I asked the attendant.
"Yeah, but it's super muddy, so people get stuck all the time." He looked at The Nanny. "But you'll be fine."
Yussssss. (And we were.)
I probably shouldn't have, but I shoulder-surfed the woman who was doing the paperwork and got the names of the previous owners, so I think I'm going to track them down and confirm the nanny story. (Plus, I wouldn't mind asking them a little more of the maintenance history, provided Toyota doesn't have the records themselves.)
But even if the story ends up being more used-car dealer hogwash, it seemed like a name fit enough to stick either way. So "The Nanny" it is.
Or maybe Nanny.
Like a goat?