An updated 5 year plan – The Road, as it were, Ahead

The Preamble

This story will start relatively differently than many I have told or even heard.

In July, I helped a friend move a gigantic 9 foot sectional-L couch.

Good night, everybody!

But this task was rendered surprisingly easy – we made use of his company’s Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van:

A sample Sprinter, thanks Wikipedia!

The Sprinter, with its cavernous cargo area and low deck for ease of loading, made the job supremely easy. For years now I have been intending on buying a piece of land and designing/building my own house. The specifics of where and how much land and what type of house and more has been fluid and changed over time, but I definitely plan on doing it. As such, and being the overly-analytical type who loves planning and researching, I have long looked into various pickup trucks. After all: some day, I will need a vehicle capable of being used to do construction (towing; moving gear and building materials; and rough road/offroad capable). My thinking on the value of a truck was in jeopardy, though, because this Sprinter van presented a new option for me to consider.

I did my usual, and began the process of looking into (meaning: WAY too much reading and research) this Sprinter van and how it might be a good match for the house building in my eventual future. Unrelated, but serendipitous, a few weeks later a coworker (who knew of my interest in a truck some day) passed me a link to the fantastic Outside Van in Oregon.  This company specializes in taking Sprinter vans with the 4×4 option and then upfitting them to become real deal offroad camping/adventure vans. Their work is excellent and also stupidly overpriced – but I spent a good 4 hours perusing the entirety of their website. I was enamored of this idea, as I love camping and trips, and it struck me – my Sprinter for building a house could actually be dual purpose, and let me make my own adventure vehicle.

To make a long, long, story short – I spent a LOT of time reading up about Sprinters and how they aren’t as reliable as one might like. And their 4×4 is capable for a big refrigerator of a van, but isn’t really going to get me as far offroad for camping as I would like. And many other little issues. So I looked into the Ford Transit…

A Ford Transit, compliments of Wikipedia!

A Ford Transit, compliments of Wikipedia!

… which doesn’t come in a 4×4, but there is a company available for putting in a 4×4 system (they’ve been doing this since 1965 on Ford Econoline vans and they’re extremely good at it). This option sounded really good and I looked into it quite a bit… and was pretty sure I wanted to go for it. Being me, I still researched the hell out of other options. Even back in May (prior to this van option, but as a part of “which truck do I want some day for my house building”), I had done a test drive of the new diesel Chevy Colorado truck – I was too large to comfortably see out of it, but I still felt the allure of a sleek, capable, and efficient smaller diesel truck.

Then several weeks passed, and I ended up going to Ann Arbor MI a few weeks ago now. I got very VERY tired of the sore knees/neck/back that come standard with me riding in my Chevy and my Subaru due to being so tall. This soreness and pain come with daily commutes in minor form, but over longer trips, it is just miserable. Because the Chevy, while I bought it for the fuel efficiency for my long trips, is simply too small for me. More specifically, I can’t see the traffic light if I am the first vehicle in line at an intersection – do not attempt this at home:

This is not a stunt - this level of hunching is always required for me to fit in most cars, due to being a giant amongst men.

This is not a stunt – this level of hunching is always required for me to fit in most cars, due to being a giant amongst men.

The Subaru that I am lucky enough to have has an even smaller cabin – my right leg only fits in one orientation so I cannot move or shift it for the duration of my ride. In both cars, my knees are pushed up into the dashboard – so if I were to get into a car accident, I could see knee and/or leg damage on top of any other bodily harm. I am sick of folding myself up and down into these cars… and “cars” means insuring and maintaining and storing two vehicles.

I am, over these past few months, trying to reduce things in my life – material things, scheduling things, overworking tendency things. Reducing down to a single vehicle for the entire year makes a lot of sense to me, and particularly if I get a vehicle that is the right size for a giant. To bring this back around to my trip to Ann Arbor – I will in the car for ~12 hours over the weekend and had sore knees for days afterwards. On my way back from MI I called a few friends to discuss options, and I essentially put together all of my research and years of lived driving trip experience – rather than buying (and insuring, and maintaining, and storing) a third vehicle, one of those vans, which wouldn’t be especially useful as a daily driver… perhaps what I should do is get rid of my two current vehicles and then grab the truck I want for my trip now. That will give me 4 years to design, build, test, improve, and re-test my camping rig before departing on the Big Trip (see below).

I did test drive the general type of truck I want to get, while I was in NC, and I loved it:

Test drive joy!

Test drive joy!

For more details on the particular truck involved, please see the next blog post I will be doing in the next few days 🙂

The Plan

So in the midst of the above research about vehicles and possible adventures to go on, I organically arrived at the following general intention, which evolved into the following: in about 4 years from now, I will embark upon a year-long trip. I will drive north into Canada and then diagonally across that nation to Alaska – taking every chance to soak in the undeveloped wilderness of the western provinces and the widely-acknowledged superior mountain glory of the Canadian Rockies (over against the American Rockies). I will drive as far north in Alaska as I can get, aiming to be there near the summer so I can really experience the explosion of life that occurs as the temperature warms. I will drive down to Washington state, and then go north and south and hit every other US state in a row. I will budget for a ticket to Hawaii while I am out west so I can collect the whole set, so to speak.

The adventure vehicle, which will be a Ram 1500 Ecodiesel engine capable of ~32mpg on the highway, will see me able to efficiently zip along the highways and local roads… but perhaps most importantly, I will be able to go off the road and see and camp wherever I’d like. The “wherever I’d like” portion of this is especially important, here – against my typical inclinations, I am intending on having a handful of things I plan ahead to see in each state or province… but otherwise, I sort of just want to keep driving and seeing whatever I encounter. Just going with the flow… while collecting the disparate experiences that shall add up to the adventure of a lifetime, I hope.

I will most definitely do a blog with photos and videos of the experience. For the video portion, I am thinking I would like to pick up a drone with an integrated HD video camera. I may try and invest in a telescope I can attach my camera to, to get photos of the stars as seen from the darkness of the wilderness. I may even do an intermittent podcast while I drive – more and more, I have become interested in radio productions and it seems like it could be fun to have an audio-only chronicle of portions of the trip so the imagination does the grunt work. I do hope to pursue sponsorships for my big trip – both in terms of getting gear for cheaper or for free, and in terms of advertising on the blog, to help fund the trip.

The Timeline

As a general point, the intention is as follows:

10/30/16-(spoiler) go trade in my Chevy Cruze on the truck (which is located in NC, as the diesel 4×4 Outdoorsman trucks are nearly gone from the 2016 model year)

~December 31 2020 – quit or take a sabbatical from McMaster-Carr

~Early January 2021 (?) – as someone who rather enjoys winter camping, I see no problem with starting my trip in the cold and progressing from there.

~for the following year – go and experience all the general things listed above, and the specific delights which come forth as a part of it

And that’s it. I will play it all as it comes. Which is rather different than my usual modus operendi… and that’s a damned good thing that I am going against it.

BONUS: The Plan After The Big Trip – Finally getting a PhD?

This blog post is a 5 year plan by title – and if I go on a yearlong trip 4 years from now, that will indeed bring me to end of a 5 year span. But do not fear: being  the planning type, I have some big plans for immediately after I return. In short: after going to Harvard in person for class in September, I spoke to the professor of the class and he was very encouraging about the possibility of my doing a PhD in Sustainability. He even mentioned the possibility of my doing a post-doc with him at Harvard once finished. He suggested doing my doctorate in England, as they take prior work and academic experience more into account than they do in US programs. That could mean 2-3 years to do the PhD in England, versus 4-5 years in the US. The professor does sustainability consulting for government and industry around the world, and for a variety of reasons that type of work sounds intensely fascinating to me.

So: more on this in a few years, once I, you know, finish this current Masters of Management degree. But I do suspect that the end of my yearlong trip, and the beginning of 6 years from now, shall see me flying across the pond, as they say, to try my hand at studying in Angle-land.