First North, then South – 1-Year+ Overland Trip to Alaska (from NY) and then to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego)

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Forjas

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*****
We are currently on day 135 of the trip and in Salt Lake City, UT getting the truck an overhaul – Last updated on: 17-Oct-2019
*****

Post 0: First North, then South – 1-Year+ Overland Trip to Alaska (from NY) and then to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego)

I’m already on the 3rd month of my Americas trip, but the more I go on with the trip, the more I think I need to make a report of it! I confess that I always had the idea on my mind, but I was just lazy on the first few months of the trip – if you call wanting to enjoy every minute of the trip ‘laziness’ that is. Now, after 3 months, after getting used to be living on the truck and the constant movement of the trip – ie. lifting camp, getting on the road, looking for a new camping spot, setting up camp, cooking dinner, sleep, repeat – I’m more in the mood to write trip reports.

Post 1 below is a general overview of the trip, the beginning of it all, my truck and about us. From the 2nd post on I will start with more of the day-to-day and talking about the route.

If you are on our route, PLEASE LET US KNOW (tips on routes, places/trails to hit are also welcome!) I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the Overland Bound folks (well, it’s about connection with people isn’t it?). I already met some of you on the road and it has always been a pleasure. I can guarantee I’m a pleasant company (ops, that’s a tough guarantee, lol).


See you all on the road! Cheers and thanks for reading!! :sunglasses:


Below is a hyperlinked index of all the posts. Just click and voilá!

Post 1: General overview of the trip, the beginning of it all, my truck and about us
Post 2: Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Routes (MABDR) – the first few days of the trip!
Post 3: The Breakdown!

***From here on those are proposed topics/posts - still working in writing those up!***
Post 4: Mammoth Cave and Badlands National Park
Post 5: Blackhills National Forest (Needles Highway) and Mt. Rushmore
Post 6: Glacier National Park
Post 7: It’s always winter in Canada (Banff and Jasper National Parks)
Post 8: Alaska Hwy
Post 9: The Infamous Dempster Hwy (spoiler, no flats!!!)
Post 10: Dawnson City and the Top of the World Hwy
Post 11: The Last Frontier (Alaska)
Post 12: British Columbia & Vancouver Island
 
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Forjas

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Post 1: General overview of the trip, the beginning of it all, my truck and about us

The Trip
:
Well, I think everyone here can figure out the idea from the title . The plan is to drive my truck with the wifey from Jersey City – literally across the Hudson River from NYC – to Alaska and, after hitting the northest point in the Americas, head south to hit the southest point (Ushuaia). After hitting those two goals, I will head back home (Brazil) and maybe travel a little bit more throughout Brazil…

How it all began?:
I’m a born and raised Brazilian and moved to the US ~4.5 years ago (in 2014) through an offer from my company to join the team in NYC. Been living and enjoying the American way of life for the past few years, but it was about time for a change. Moving all my stuff back to Brazil was not an option so… we were already going to sell everything in the US so… perfect time to go on that trip that we have been thinking about, no? YES! What a better time to move our lives into a truck?

We had been planning a huge trip (read, gap year) for some time and were saving money for the past 3/4 years. I’m an avid motorcycle rider and my plan was to hit Alaska on a motorcycle (I had a BMW G650GS for whomever is a rider and is reading this ^^) with my wife as a pillion. We did a couple of test trips and you can probably figure out she said “No way we doing this on a motorcycle”. About time to pull out the big guns and get a truck!

The Truck:
With the motorcycle idea out of the way (yes, you will be lost if you haven’t read “How it all Began?” just above), I quickly moved my mind to a 4x4, joined Overland Bound (I’m a fan of these communities/forums, lots of knowledge and especially a more dedicated forum with supportive people like Overland Bound) and got my hands into the truck below:

Pic 1.JPGPic 2.JPG
(This is the truck the day before the start of the trip – I had it detailed so it could be clean for one last time before 1 year of constantly been covered in dust! =P)

Since we were kind of ‘running against time’ and I wasn’t the most experienced guy with vehicles (give me a motorcycle and I will give you a rundown of what you could do it, give me a truck and ‘Arh’), I started looking for some build out trucks and had an idea of the stuff I wanted with it (drawer system, RTT, rear difs, etc) and also was looking into trucks that I would had the appropriate support (and parts!) in South America. The result, I flew to Texas to purchase ‘Howdy’ (it was Texas after all, so had to put a name to honor it).

Year: 2004
Brand/Model: Lexus LX470 (100-Series)
Mileage: ~185k miles (at time of purchase) and 205k+ miles (currently)
Tires: STT Maxx Cooper Tires (34 x 11.50)
Wheels: 18x9 Madness Rhino
Accessories: Magionilla RTT (AutoHome) – on a FrontRunner Slimline II rack; Front and Rear Diffs Locks (ARB); OME Shocks with 2.5” lift; ARB Front Bumper; Slee Offroad Rear Bumper with Dual-Swing Carrier (Spare Tire and Canister Carriers); Side Steps by Slee Offroad; Full on Slee Offroad under armor (skid, belly and back plates); AT Propane Carrier; Eezi Awing 2000 Series 2m Awning; Full on Rear Drawing System by Trekkbox; ARB Fridge; Safari Snorkel; ARB Diff Breathers; and whatever else I have forgotten.

Most of the above came with the truck when I bought it; 4-5 items I purchased / installed with the assistance from the guys of Mainline Overland in PA (great shop if you guys need something done to your truck).

Pic 3.JPGPic 4.JPG
(This is Howdy when we pick it up from Texas. We took 2 weeks off during the year-end festivities (ie. Christmas and New Year’s) and drove it back to NJ camping along the way. This pic is at Smokey Mountains National Park).

Pic 5.jpg
(On our way back from Texas we stopped at Blue Ridge Overland Gear in VA to pick up some new toys (including the awesome LC Attic System they have for the 100-Series - and they took it to Instagram. Awesome guys to talk to if you are in the area)

Pic 6.jpg
(Taking a deeper look into the truck with the help from the folks at Main Line Overland)

About me:
As mentioned above, I’m a born and raised Brazilian. I’m on the verge of my thirty birthday and been working hard non-stop since I’m 16. Got married at 24 and about the same time moved to the US (NYC) and lived there for ~4.5 years. I’m new to the vehicle/truck overlanding scheme of things, but I did traveled a lot onboard my motorcycle on some 14+ days trips up to Canada, down to Tennessee (through the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the Dragon and Cherolala), up to Vermont and New Hampshire (to the border of Canada) and also participated in some cool rallies (ie. 500 miles in 3 days in the Pine Barrens in NJ. Sand all day, fun stuff!). Most of my motorcycle trips were offroad or involved a good deal of off-the-beaten-path travel.

Pic 7.jpg
(Good times with the skinny girl!)

And here go some more pics!:

Pic 8.JPG
(Doing a proper tool organization! Accompanied by the fuel of our day-to-day!)

Pic 9.JPG
(Wife testing our drawer system with packing cubes to keep the clothes tidy – she made those dividers out of cardboard and later painted and put some colored tape on them to protect from rain).


Pic 10.JPG
(Giving it a go on the high-lift jack to make sure all was in order. Practice at home so you now what to do in the field)


Pic 11.jpg
(Me and the wifey on the weekend before the trip! Had to do some photo shootings. A friend took this sweet pic!)
 

semi_driver

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I’m in! I love your LX470 it’s fully loaded to the max! I did a trip on a BMW F800GS from Florida to Ushuaia. Finished in Brazil and sent it back to the states. You have Instagram?

Did you do your timing belts and heater T’s for the LX?
 
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Forjas

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I’m in! I love your LX470 it’s fully loaded to the max! I did a trip on a BMW F800GS from Florida to Ushuaia. Finished in Brazil and sent it back to the states. You have Instagram?

Did you do your timing belts and heater T’s for the LX?
Yeah, the truck was from the owner of OverlandCruisers (Superlative Overland Vehicle Restoration in Sonoita, AZ | Overland Cruisers) and he did a lot to it! I just added a few amenities for a year+ on the road ;).

Man... you did what I was planning! On a F800GS! Awesome!! Hope you had a great time.

I did the T's just before the trip. T Belt was done at 150k, so plan is to change before I head into Central America.

Instagram is @pelo.retrovisor (thanks btw, will add that to the top of first post)
 
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Forjas

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Post 2: Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Routes (MABDR) – the first few days of the trip!

The Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR):
For those who don’t know, the MABDR is the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route. BDR is a non-profit that creates off-highway routes focused on motorcycles (more details here: www.ridebdr.com). I came across those folks as I rode my motorcycle around but after a little bit of research found out that most of their trails were doable by 4x4.

Even though my plan was to hit Alaska up north and the MABDR route would take me south, an opportunity to cross over 1,000 miles and 5 states (NY, PA, MD, WV, VA) was not easy to pass. Especially since most of it would be off-road.

After a little bit of convincing with the wifey, off we were!

The MABDR starts off in the border of NY/PA in Lawrenceville, PA. The first 5 sections (the route is divided in 9) are in PA and that’s mostly hard packed gravel/forest roads. Even though fairly easy, those were fun sections which you can really feel the truck gliding through the gravel and get an even better feeling of the rear-end when it slipped off on the gravel corners. Of note, there are 2 ‘expert’ sections in PA which were a lot of fun. Tight trails, with rocks and ruts which required some cautions navigation. I changed to 4L because I didn’t see any reason ‘not to’. I was not trying to impress anyone and running in 4L provides a lot more control. If you want, I’m sure those sections could be done on 4H, but you have 4L in your truck, so used it! Here are some pics and videos of the trail:

Mid Atlantic Back Country Discovery Route.jpg
(the MABDR Route)

Wife Thinking - What The....jpg
(Wife looking at the map and thinking: What the heck did I got myself into?)

Fire Road in PA.JPG
(Fire road in PA)

Fire Road MABDR.jpg
(Fire road in PA)

Road View!.jpg
(Just a view of the road)

One of the 'Challenge' Sections.JPG
(One of the 'expert' sections)

The most fun sections for me were Sections 3 and 2 which took place in the George Washington National Forest in VA/WV. After a night of heavy rain with plenty of wind, the road was blocked by many trees and we had a couple of creeks crossing ahead of us. Add to that the twisty mountains and dirty roads of VA/WV (the mountains state) and you got a handful.

During one of those sections we came across a huge tree blocking the road; I was not carrying a chain saw and only had a small hatchet… time to put the brain together. I noticed there was a ramp built at one side of the tree – later I discovered it was built by a Canadian solo motorcycle rider as I spoke to some other riders going the opposite direction – and given one ramp was already there it would be easier to just build another one (the plan was to use the MaxxTraxx to better distribute the vehicle weight over the branches). After about 30-40 minutes of chopping and gathering wood, I hear the rumble of an engine coming from the other side, and a Jeep Wrangler YJ comes over. An older gentleman steps out and says “Seems like you have a little bit of a tree problem, huh? (chuckles lightly)”, then he sees my wife who is carrying the hatchet around and goes “And I have a bigger axe for her as well! Hahaha”.

Enough to say he went back to his Jeep and pulled a chain saw and 5 minutes later we were back on the trail!

Cutting the Tree.jpg
(Itttttt's chain saw time!)

Another Fallen Tree. What a Day.jpg
(Fallen Tree 1)

Clearing the road!.jpg
(Fallen Tree 2)

Guess What.JPG
(Fallen Tree 3)

Wife Working in Trail Cleaning!.jpg
(Fallen Tree 4 - Wife Clearing the Road!)

One of the Many Fallen Trees in WV.jpg
(Fallen Tree 5 - was able to go over it. Thanks the 2.5" lift!)

One of a few Creek Crossings.jpg
(Creek crossing)

Here are some pics of the MABDR, enjoy!
Later I will upload some videos. I'm having issues with the videos now =;(.

Aerial View of WV.JPG
(Testing the drone!)

Creative Pic!.JPG
(Just a creative picture)

He was just sitting there.JPG
(Howdy was sitting there so nicely...)
Nice View on the Road (1).JPG
(Awesome view on the road)

Nice View on the Road (2).JPG
(A steep bend!)

Nice View on the Road (3).JPG
(Cool view when crossing a rocky creek)

Overgrown Section.jpg
(Overgrown section)

This was a pretty rocky section....JPG
(This was a rocky, rocky section!)
 

Forjas

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Good on you! Inspirational.

I’m looking forward to your updates. No story is too small to write down. I’ll happily read them all.
Awesome! If there is only one person reading I will keep writing ;)
 

Forjas

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Post 3: The breakdown!

The Breakdown:
As early as day 10 of the trip we had our first breakdown… I was definitely expecting something like this to happen at some point, but not so early on the trip.

As we were cruising a pavement section on Section 9 of the MABDR to connect with another dirt road, we came across a narrow street in a quiet neighborhood, a Chevy Impala was coming the opposite direction and I decided to give him some space on the narrow street, and that’s when everything went south…

As I swerved right, I climbed into an apparently firm strip of grass and at that point the truck went f***** deep into a gigantic mud hole… I was not slow as I swerved (even though slowing) and speed + the weight of the truck put us in deep sh… mud! As I was swearing myself, I looked into the side mirror and the Impala had all lights flashing and was coming back to check on us… you guessed right, it was a disguised police car.

After speaking with the cop for a couple of seconds, I was confident the truck would easily climb out of the mud hole (yes, I was not aware in how much deep sh.. mud – sorry again – we were in). I climbed back into the cabin, put lockers on and, on a rookie mistake, tried straight to get out of the rut. The result? My right front axle snapped (I really think it was already badly stressed from the speed I got into that mud hole) – yes, I know we should never attempt to get straight out of the rut, I should have aired down the tires, tried to back out from the mud hole and used my Maxxtraxx… but, at the spur of the moment with a cop watching I made the wrong decision… we all sometimes do that and I definitely regret it but I have learned a valuable lesson (ie. need to do like the British and have a tea before attempting a recovery). But my mistake in a nutshell was this: I did not consider the situation appropriately, I was not considering that a recovery situation, basically because I was on pavement and not offroad… yeah, I know…

As my front axle snapped, another 2 cop cars appeared and the owner of the propriety where my truck (and the mud hole) was standing showed up. The owner did tell us that people getting into that mud hole was usual (then why not put a sign saying ‘Soft Shoulder’?!) but definitely not as deep into it as I was!

One thing to note is that, even as my front axle snapped and more cops showed up, I was NOT angry or pissed at all that my front axle snapped. I knew something like that would happen at one point or the other and I was ready for it, even though it was a rookie mistake to try and get out of the rut as quickly as possible, I do think it was very important for me to stay calm after what happened and truly assess the situation. That was my pro-move to balance out the earlier rookie mistake, lol!

Regardless, with my mind at ease (not exactly with a front axle snapped!), more time to think and more cops available (lol), I ended up suggesting we closed both sides of the street and winch the truck out with a strong tree on the opposite side of the street (kudos to the wifey who went to the other side to check the trees+distance for the pull and yelled “There is a good one here!”.

Breakdown_1.jpg
(setting up the recovery)
Breakdown_2.jpg
(winching out! Unfortunately I'm having troubles uploading the videos ='(

Breakdown_3.jpg
(The drag.... on the picture it doesn't look too bad, but check how deep in the truck was on the above pics!)

Ok, truck is out, now we have another problem which is: Where can we fix it giving it’s a Thursday late afternoon (no, I don’t carry a spare axle in my truck because I do think that is a lot of weight and space to be taken in my “house on wheels”).

Discussing with the cops and with the assistance of “All Might Google”, we found out there was a Toyota in Bristol, TN which was about ~50 miles away. Well, this was a loooooong drive, I took a little over 2 hours to travel the 50 miles, as we were driving at 20/30mph on a highway with the Center Diff Locked so that the rear could push the truck forward, but – there is always a but – I was properly (and happily) escorted by the cops for about half of the way, that was indeed an experience!! Escorted by 3 cop cars! (sorry, no pics I didn’t want to go too far)

Of course, the next morning I call the Toyota in town and the service guy starts with all that crap about the axle on my Lexus been different from the Land Cruiser and blah blah blah… I take it, hang up, find an offroad shop (RPM Offroad), drive the truck there. Quick look at the axle, quick call to another Toyota (in Ashville), push the guys over there a little for the parts to be quickly delivered, hang up and: “We will have the part in by Monday early morning and the truck will be ready before noon”. Done, deal!

It was really a pleasure to deal with the guys at RPM Offroad, if you are ever in the area of Bristol, TN and need some work done in your truck, consider giving them a call.

Ok, all set, now I have 2 days to spend in Bristol, TN doing…?

Bristol, TN / NHRA / Corvette's:
That’s the fun part about travelling and breakdowns. It definitely is a low point in your travel when you breakdown, but you should think of it as an opportunity to do something that weren’t part of your plans! After talking to a random motel guest at the parking lot, we discovered that a drag race of the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) was going on in town that weekend and I had never been to a drag race before.

The kind gentleman even supplied me and the wife with earplugs because it was supposed to be loud!!

Well, enough to say we had a BLAST going to that drag race. It was one of the highlights of the trip so far, seeing those cars hitting the 300mph mark and the noise when they start… Oh my… even better, my wife enjoyed a lot and had a hell of a good time, that’s hitting the jackpot!

If you never been to a NHRA race, I advise you should!

Breakdown_4.jpg
(Thunder Valley!)
Breakdown_5.jpg
(The Dragway)
Breakdown_6.jpg
(Ready, Set, Fly!)
Breakdown_7.jpg
(What a BEAST!)
Breakdown_8.jpg
(300 mph? Easy, peasy)
Breakdown_9.jpg
(Blowing up some smoke)

Oh, and on a last note. That weekend in Bristol, TN there was also a “get-together” of the Corvette Club… was just walking down the street and saw this… the breakdown sucked, but the blow was softened by a great weekend .

Breakdown_10.jpg
(Corvette's)
 
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