Writing an eBay description of a beloved car is like writing an obituary for a friend that’s still alive. Flaws and strengths. Have to be honest. But then you have to go out to the garage and crawl inside them.
Let’s not focus on the sad news, which is the passing of my lovely 1975 BMW 2002 on to another owner. Ruby is a good car, but I’m barely driving her, and I don’t like owning things I don’t use. May she be as good for her next owner as she has been for me.
Instead, let’s focus on why I’m letting her go: to buy a Land Cruiser.
I’m getting older and slower and dumber. I’m 32. I’m not going to be rich or famous or wealthy or have a lot of money or be rich. But what I do have, what has become my own personal fortune, is freedom. I don’t have a lot of stuff, but I don’t have any debt. I have my health. (From which I withdraw at a rate of a few whiskies-and-cigarettes-per-day.) And I have a job that lets me make money from the road.
I wasn’t planning on being at Gizmodo this long this tour. Six months, in and out. But it’s been more like nine months already and I don’t see an immediate end in site. I had this startup I was going to do with a friend, but that died on the vine. So here I am blogging. Which, hey. It’s a good gig.
But I won’t be able to do this forever. I’ll go stir-crazy. I always do. So I’m trying to put together the next big adventure.
Next year, I want to hit the road. First to Alaska, to touch the pole. (And get every Palin woman pregnant. My girlfriend objects to this goal primarily for political reasons.) Then back down and around the States for a month or two, visiting many of the places I’ve never made it to or haven’t spent enough time in. And then late in the year, down south through Mexico and on towards Argentina. The Panamerican Highway.
As daydreams go, it’s a pretty mild one. Hundreds of Americans hit the overland road every year toward Central and South America. And a large percentage of them write and blog about it. And I’m sure I will too.
But in the meantime, I’ve got slightly less than a year of learning and experimentation ahead of me. I need to greatly expand my abilities as an auto mechanic beyond my current specialities, Bolting Things On and Sandwich Spreads. I need to bone up on some more Spanish. I wouldn’t mind some sort of first-aid training, as the last I had was 20 years ago in the Scouts.
And I need to figure out what gear is essential and what is a joke. I expect this is going to be a relatively high-tech expedition rig when all is said and done – I am a tech dork after all – but the last thing I want to be doing in a year is troubleshooting fritzy gear in the field. (Instead I want to do that this year.)
So first things first: getting a truck. Land Cruisers are about as universal as a vehicle can be across the world. Capable, relatively inexpensive when used, and with a better-than-average chance of local parts availability. Plus the old ones look fantastic. And if you can’t look fantastic in the field, where can you, really?
(I’m looking at 62s and 80 Series, if you’re a truckdork and care.)
I’m particularly looking forward to finding the balance between equipment to keep us running strong on the road with things that we’ll want to, you know, live in relative comfort. I’m not Mr 4×4, but I’ve seen plenty of rigs taken out to the desert, or what have you, that are packed to the gills with extraction equipment, etc, leaving little room for water. I had a moment last night when I looked at my acoustic guitar, safely swaddled in its hard case and thought, “Of course I’ll want to take my guitar.” And then a bit of shock as I realised that my guitar in its case would take up a tremendous amount of room in the back of a Land Cruiser. Should I instead strap it to the top? Mount it on the hood like an ornament? Build a special guitar trailer? Every single thing ends up being questioned and questioned again.
That doesn’t bum me out. I’ve been ditching more and more of my stuff over the years. I already do two-week trips abroad in a carry-on – with my camera equipment. But it’s going to be a whole new level of technomading it.
I also have no idea how to use a Hi-Lift jack in all its fancy multivariousness. The only winch I’ve ever used was made of Lego. Most of my desert driving experience was while high and in dust storms. I’m out here in Portland, Oregon, now, so there’s plenty of terrain around to practice on all winter, but I’ve got a lot to learn.
It’s my latest mid-life crisis, and I look forward to sharing it with you all. We’ll see if I actually manage to stay on target for this one – I’m not known for following through when it comes to life goals – but I’ve been thinking about it heavily for at least a couple of years. I have to luxury of actually being able to pull it off. It seems wrong, in a way, to not do it. But who knows?
If nothing else, it should be amusing to watch me flail.