Monday, December 12, 2011

Three More Weeks!

Amber and I have both given our notice at our jobs. We are just wrapping up our current lives before beginning our adventure. Amber has already leased out her condo, and I am working on doing the same starting January 1.

First Amber and I are spending a week in California with friends and family. We are headed to San Francisco for a few days to enjoy wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma!

After that it is Bangkok, Thailand on January 11. We bought one-way tickets so we are commited!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adventure Strikes Before Even Leaving Home Part 2.

Kevin gives me a call an hour later with good news. He was able to weld the gear shifter back together. We're both optomistic that the weld will hold. I meet him at the shop to pic it up, and Amber and I drive back out to Eagle River to give it another try.

The gear shifter goes back on the transmission without incident. Amber helps me bolt the cab floor back on. The truck starts with any problem. I give a verbal "Woo hoo" in celebration. Now it's time to try it again. I pull back onto the the main road. The transmission seems to be shifting without any problems. It's good to go!

I turn the truck onto the on rap for the Glenn Highway. The truck will do 0-60 in around five minutes (wait, the truck can't even go 60 mph) so a line of cars is building up behind me on the on rap. The truck is taking a while to go much more than 35 mph, so cars are honking as they cruise around me. I don't care, they don't know what I've been through!

I notice at this point that the speedometer doesn't work. Ah, who needs one anyway. I give Amber a call on the cell phone and I have to yell over the noise of the engine which is not very insulated after I had to tear up the floor insulation. "HOW FAST AM I GOING!", I yell to Amber over the phone. She is following close behind me. "About 50", she says. "Ok, that's fast enough. I'll stay in the slow lane." I say. That's the end of our conversation. The rest of the highway drive goes without problems.

I choose the most direct route to my house which take us directly through the middle of down town Anchorage. I considered a different route, but the main route has fewer stop lights to deal with. As I come to the first stop light as I enter Anchorage, the RPMs on the truck are not settling down even I'm stopped at the light. I don't know it at this point, but the problems is that the gas peddle is getting stuck a little because it has been driven much in the last 10 years or so. I think the problem has to do with the choke cable.

Shifting gears has become very difficult because the accelerated RPMs don't want to let the truck shift. Even when I do get the truck in gear, the gas peddle is so sticky that the only options are a medium idle, or full throttle!  I proceed to lurch down the road as I shift gears. The first thing that happens is the truck almost stalls because the engine is tired and doesn't have much power. As a result I press down on the gas peddle and I almost flood the engine with gas as the sticky gas peddle goes all the way down. Next the combustion finally catches up and the truck violently lurches forward. This process is repeated everytime I shift gears. The last five miles to my house are stressful. I'm sweating in the cab hoping the truck will not expload.

I reach our condo complex. Parking is kind of tight, and as I make the first corner, I side swipe a large cottonwood tree. Leaves and branches fall from the tree, and the truck is left with a permanet scrape down the length of the container. I finally get it backed up to Amber's garage. We made it home safe.

PS.  After doing a little work to lube up the throttle cables, the truck is running better than ever. Starts every time! It is now safely stored away in a vehicle storage lot. Oh, yeah, it's for sale too!

Adventure Strikes Before Even Leaving Home Part 1.

I've always been someone on the look out for a good deal. That's why when my girlfriend Amber and I began planning for our year long travel adventure, I thought it would be more cost effective to purchase an old box truck to store our personal belongings in while we traveled rather than renting a storage unit. Of course the up front cost of purchasing a moving truck is more expensive than the storage unit, but the ease of moving and ability to sell the truck when we return could leave us with $0 in moving expenses.

Most people would probably just rent the storage unit and forgo the risk of purchasing a 1984 GMC 7000 utility box truck. but not me. I found the rig on Craigslist ( I love Craigslist.). The truck was located in Eagle River about 15 miles Northeast of Anchorage along the Glenn Hwy. Amber and I drove out to Eagle River from my house in Anchorage and met the owner, Kevin. He'd been using the truck storage for the past year, but was moving out of state so he needed to sell. It appeared to be in decent working order. After all it was built in 1984, the same year that I was born and I'm not fallin apart yet. I was a little concerned about its size. I wasn't sure if I wanted to drive the truck around town. Its about 27 feet long and has 10 speed transmission. Fears aside, we bought it after a very short haggling session, and made arrangements to continue storing the truck on Kevin's property for several weeks until we needed it to move our belongings into.

three weeks later......

We drive out on a beautiful Saturday morning to pick up the box truck in Eagle River. Kevin meets us, and we go to start the truck... After cranking it over a few times, the battery dies and it won't start.... Damn It! After some struggles with an extension cord, Kevin manages to get his battery charger hooked up and we get it started. With that, I get in the truck cab, and off we go!

The first half mile or so is down hill so shifting isn't much of a problem. The engine is a little tired, but it works. I reach the stop light at the bottom of the hill with no major problems. I'm at the front of the turn lane so I'm first up when the light turns green. Amber is right behind me in her car.

At this point, the RPMs are starting to idle a little higher than usual. I get it into first gear and creap forward. Max speed in first gear for this truck is about three mile per hour. I shift into second gear as I begin the corner. I didn't accerate enough, and the truck begins to sputter when I release the clutch in second gear. I shift back down to first gear to try it again. Now the RPMs are much higher than they should be, even at idle around 1500 RPMs. I'm accelerating and I go to shift into second gear again. Big trucks aren't quite like cars in that they don't like to go into gear if the RPMs are too high regardless if the clutch is pressed in. I push a litter hard and then.....

the gear shifter goes lip as if it came out of it socket! I search for first gear... nothing. I search again for second gear... nothing. Oh Crap!!! I have just enough speed to coast to the side of Highland Road. The back end of the truck is barely off across the white line. Amber pulls in behind me.

I spend a view minutes try to figure out what is wrong to no avail. I shut truck off and give Kevin a call. "Hi Kevin, I'm right down here on Highland road about a mile from your house. I went to shift gears and it's like the gear shifter sheered off the top of the transmission." "Really", Kevin says, "Ahhh, I'll bring some tools and I'll be down in a minute."

Five minute later Kevin arrives with some tools. We both agree that we are going to have to pull off the top of the transmission to see what happened. We pull back the aged rubber flooring and disinegrating fire and sound insulator to expose the floor panel around the transmission. Kevin goes for more tools as I begin removing the bolts holding the panel to the floor. Two of the bolts are so rusted that they stripout immediately on trying to unscrew them. Our only option is to use a drill bit to drill out the top of the bolts.

Twenty minutes later we get the floor panel off. The gear shifter is bolted to the top of the transmission by only four bolts. They come off without incident. Kevin and I discussed along with cell phone consultations with my dad that if the gear shifter was secured to the transmission with a pin, and I sheared the pin, that it may have fallen into the transmission. Which is really bad as it is very difficult to get out and could require removing the whole transmission.

We slowly pull the shifter off the transmission and there it is. The bottom two inches of the gear shifter had sheared off and was resting in the top of the transmission. It appeared that there was an inperfection in the metal casting that made the metal weaker than it should have been. I don't think 1984 GMCs are still under warranty.

We are somewhat relieved as this could have been a much more serious issue. It is Saturday so most mechanics shops are closed. And a gear shifter for a 1984 GMC 7000 isn't exactly something that Napa keeps on the shelf. I can't leave the truck on the side of Highland Road for very long. It is a fairly high traffic highway and I am envisioning a cop car pulling up behind the truck at any moment and saying that it has be towed right way.

Kevin thinks that the gear shifter can be welded back together. We drive to an auto shop in Eagle River, the people there don't think it is possible, but Kevin isn't convinced. Kevin says he has a friend in Anchorage that has a welder that he can use to do it himself. So we leave the truck on the side of the road, hoping it will be there when(if) we return.

Friday, May 20, 2011


So I'm trying to plan my travels. The tenative plan is to take off from my home in Alaska for at least one year. I am going to start in SE Asia. I have traveled their for short periods of time in the past, and I love it there. Great weather, great people, and it is cheap. Traveling in SE Asia, my goal is to be able to live on $20 a day. I feel like as an American, I am a huge consumer. Do I really need to consume so much? More than half of the world's populationg lives on less than $2 /day yet many of these people are happy. If I can't live on 10 times the money that half the world's population lives on then I have a problem. I want to learn to spend less money on consuming and spend more time experience the joys of living. I have created a new blog dedicate to traveling cheap. It is called Tips for Making Money While Traveling the World. Check it out!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Just Created a new blog called "Tips for Making Money While Traveling the World"

So I just created a new blog called Tips for Making Money While Traveling the World so check it out. I'm trying to get into the blogging thing in prepartion for my travels. I'm going to do research on the kinds of things that world travelers can do to earn some money.