My first snow mobile trip

Yesterday my step dad took me out on my first snow mobile trip ever. I had so much fun! The places that snow mobiles can go, and the speeds that they can do it at are amazing. It was pretty cool to see a lot of the back country that I’ve been exploring for much of my life in this new and exciting way.

We started out off of Highway 89 north of Truckee, then went past Webber Lake and did a couple of loops off the main road. After exploring around for a good part of the day, we ended up at Jackson Meadows Reservoir. The lake wasn’t quite frozen over, due to the warm weather lately, but it was still very nice to be up there with all the snow every where. We had a great time, and didn’t even see very many people or tracks. Fresh snow, everywhere we went.

The snow was great, even though there wasn’t too much of it. A nice base, with a good bit of powder on top. We had a good time exploring and I even got too try my hand at a few nice hill climbs. In some ways riding a snow mobile is like riding a dirt bike, but in many ways it’s not. You really have to throw your weight around, and it takes a little getting used to. By the end of the day I had it down pretty good.

The other thing that takes some getting used to is learning how to not bury your sled. I did this a couple of times, but I’ll chalk that up to being inexperienced. It wasn’t all to bad to get unburied, nothing like when four wheeling in the snow and getting stuck. I did get thrown off one time, I hit a rock and it launched me side ways. Luckily the snow was soft and I wasn’t going too fast.

All in all, it was a great day in the woods. I appreciate those whenever I can get them. Hopefully, I’ll get to go again someday soon!

Overlander Build-Up Part 1: Getting Started

In the Previous Article I talked about my reasons for choosing the Toyota as the platfom to build my overland travel vehicle off of. Now I’ll go into detail about the things I’ve done to the rig to make it more capable of getting me where I want to go. In this article I will go over the things that the truck came with when I bought it, and what I did right off with the things I already had laying around.

This 1979 Toyota Hi-Lux 4×4 was purchased from the original owner, with 160 thousand miles on it. It had a couple of problems, but for the most part was really straight for being a 30 year old truck. It was all orginal with even the factory hub caps and 215/70 R 15 tires. At the time I had some fairly worn 33″ Goodyear MT/R tires laying around, so I bolted them up. They fit a little tight, but for a stock truck with no lift they seemed to be just right. The truck also recieved a camper shell that I had laying around, so I could hall gear around without it getting wet.

The first thing that I did was drain every fluid out of the vehicle and replace it, as well as change every filter. This way I could start from scratch and know exactly what was going on with leaks. When I bought the truck, I had to replace the clutch master cylinder right away. It was one of the reasons the truck was such a great deal. The other reason was a very typical Toyota problem. It was missing a stud in the exhaust manifold. For what ever reason, all 20R and 22R engines have this problem, and there is a good way to fix it. Several companies sell high quality studs, so you just have to (carefully) pull out all the old ones, then replace them with the good ones and put a dab of high temp lock-tite on them. After that, its as simple as going back every oil change and checking the torque on the nuts to make sure they are still snug. I also noticed that the water pump was weeping a tiny bit, so broke down and spent the 40 dollars to replace it. These engines are a cake walk to work on, that’s why they are so great.

Other mechanical issues the truck has are typical front axle wiper seal leak and a carburator rebuild. The front axle will be taken care of when I rebuild the front axle at a later date. As for the carburetor, I am still trying to decide what to do about that, and will go into that with more detail at a later date as well.

As far as modifications right from the get go, I had a couple of radios and antennas from a previous vehicle laying around so I installed those right away. I installed the Midland CB radio with SSB capabilities and a Mag Mount antenna, as well as an Icom IC-V8000 2 meter ham radio with antenna. This would give me the ability to talk to other 4 wheelers and truckers on the CB, and also give me long range communication on the ham radio for when I am out alone in the wilderness. It’s a good security net to be able to communicate.

On my previous rig I had installed a power inverter to run my laptop during outings. I actually had another one ready to install, so in it went. It’s a great thing to be able to use mapping software on the Laptop to get around with, and that combined with the Garmin GPS means I will never get lost.

In the next installment I will continue to modify the truck into a trail capable overland vehicle.

Trip Report: Colorado 2006

June 2006 was a turning point in my life. It was the first time that I owned a vehicle that was not only capable of taking me cross country, but it was just as capable off road. Not only that, but this was the first time in my life that I had an opportunity to travel in a way that I have come to enjoy. Over the first half of the year, 2006, I was dreaming of going on a journey. On this journey I hoped to visit some friends a few states away, see some out of the sights, and feel the “freedom” of the road I had heard so much of in my life. There had been a few times I had felt this “freedom” before, I needed a big dose of it. Prior to this point in my life, I had never really driven east of my home in the Sierra Nevada’s just west of Lake Tahoe, California. There was one trip to Santa Fe a couple of years prior, but that was only a shotgun trip over one weekend and most of that time was spent flying. Not exactly a leisurely sightseeing type of trip, in any way. I had driven to Oregon a few times to see Crater Lake and the Pacific Coast, and driven to Port Angeles, Washington a few times to check out the Olympic Peninsula, but still nothing quite as big as I was feeling the deep down need for.

So one day towards the end of the month of June 2006, I set out with my truck, some camping gear and my camera and took a look at some of the most beautiful places in the country.

Leaving my world behind, I headed east over the Sierras into Nevada, where I spent my first night camping. Night time in the desert alone was something for me to get used to, but this would not be my first. I actually have come to truly enjoy the desert.

From there I headed down to the Grand Canyon, where I spent the next night in the desert, under the stars. I had no idea that a crack in the ground could be so powerful. I wish that I had stayed longer, but that will be for another day.

After spending some time contemplating erosion in the Grand Canyon, I decided to head north and look for more examples. It had always been a dream of mine to visit a little town in the south east part of Utah called Moab, so I made a b-line for it. There I found exactly what I was looking for, the town I still to this day vow to live in at some point in my life. Moab is surrounded by every type of cool and crazy out doors type of thing to do, and I spent a couple of days checking it out. First I went up to Arches National Park and had a look around. Then from there I started to think about a place to camp, and a local told me to head to Canyonlands National Park. I found all the camping I could ask for there, and much more. I did a little four wheeling, and a bit of hiking, as well as some swimming in the Colorado river. Moab rocks!

From Moab, I decided to head to Colorado Springs, via US highway 50. This road branches off of I-70 in Colorado and heads over the Rockies on a far less traveled route. It was quite a kick to head up over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet elevation, the highest I had ever been.

Once I made it to Colorado Springs to visit with friends, I decided to visit a couple of the local spots worth seeing. The first place I went to was the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and I even got to sneak in the back door through the Medano Pass Route. The dunes are a sight to see, and the Park is pretty low key so there’s not too many people around to spoil the views. It was a good stop for me.

Of course, if you’re ever in Colorado Springs, you have to drive up to the top of Pikes Peak. The views are outrageous and it’s great to get up above 14,000 feet!

Coming down from Pikes Peak I decided to take the long way around and come out over Cheyenne Mountain. This was a side trip well worth the time, and it was a good glance at what the Rockies are really like.

This got me fascinated with the beauty of the Rockies, so I decided to head out from Colorado Springs to the north and go to Rocky Mountain National Park. I’m still in awe to this day.

Not that I could ever get enough of Colorado, but it was getting to be time to head back home for me at this point. I headed up north from there over to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where I cought up with I-80 and headed back west to home. Boy does Wyoming seem like a big state! At least it did driving through that day. At least I got a picture of the Lincoln head!

Two weeks, three thousand miles and a good bit of money later, I was a happy man. This trip made me realize that there are so many things in this world worth seeing, and they are all just waiting for us to come. All we have to do is figure out how to get there. That is when I pledged to see as much of the world as possible, by any means.

Got to ride the train!

I’ve been wanting to ride the train over the Sierra Nevada’s for quite some time now, and I finally got my chance. There’s quite a bit of good things to see along the way, I really enjoyed it. Going of the mountains, and through the snow sheds on the side of hill is a pretty sight. There was some snow up there, not a crazy amount, like I had hoped for, but it made for a scenic trip. The train itself was not anything to write home about. Amtrak is definately not a luxurious affair, it’s really just like riding a plane, but way slower. This is ok, for someone like me who is not in too big of a hurry to get anywhere. I enjoy taking the scenic route.

It was nice spending some time out in Utah, even though I didn’t get to explore at all. Just being in a different place for a while is a good thing. Plus I got the company of my son, so I really had nothing to complain about. When I go out this summer with my truck, I’ll be able to explore around a bit more and see some sights. I’m really looking forward to that.

Now I’m back out in California, staying in a little cabin that I rented for the month. I hope to be able to get some good fishing in and some hikes, maybe some snow shoeing and four wheeling as well. It’s kind of nice to be back, but even better to have my daughter with me. She is the light of my life.

Out in Utah for the week

I had to sneak over to a Starbucks coffee to get a little time on the net, but things are going well out here in Orem. It’s a beautiful place, the mountains surround the city have a beauty that I cannot describe, and to make them even more beautiful, they are covered in snow right now. Truly this is a good place to wake up every day, I’m sure I could get comfortable here. I’ve thought this way about Utah since my first time here a couple years ago, and I feel it now. Someday, I’ll live here, just not sure when.

It’s been great hanging out with my son, Eli. He has grown so much since I seen him last, and now he is not such a baby. I regret not seeing him for 5 months, but there was little I could do about it. My plan now is to fly to and from work out of Utah, then travel to California in the middle to visit with my daughter. This way I can see him for a few days on either end of my vacation, and stay with my daughter through the middle. It’s the best thing I could come up with, to this point.

I am actually thinking that the next time around I will just drive out here, but I have a lot of work to do on the truck for it to be ready for that. Hopefully, I can get that done this time around. When Mia is out of school, I plan on picking her up and bringing her out here for the time. I have all of July off, so this should work out good for that. I plan to get some good camping and sight seeing in then. Moab, here we come!

I think that I mentioned this already, but I’m riding the train from Utah, to California next week. This will be a first for me, I’m pretty excited about it! The only bummer is that it leaves at 9pm and travels through the night, but that’s ok. The part that I really wanted to see was going over the Sierras, and that will be in the day time. All should be good, and fun. I’ll keep you posted on that one as well.

About my truck

Toyota is known world-wide for building extremely reliable stout 4×4’s, and it’s been proven for going on 30 years now. With a reputation like that, I decided to build up a Toyota 4×4 for my own travels. I’m quite familiar with them, considering this is my fourth build up. Prior to this I’ve built an 1981 short bed truck, an 1989 4runner and a 2001 Tacoma extended cab. All of those vehicles treated me well and took me everywhere I wanted to go.

The first two 4×4’s were built with rock crawling in mind, extreme wheel travel, crawler gears and super swampers. Once I picked up the Tacoma I found a whole other mode of offroad travel, and I quickly started to appreciate it quite a bit more. In some circles it’s called expedition travel, or extreme road trip, but I would prefer to call it overlanding. The emphasis is not on how big of a rock one can crawl over, but where you can go, and even more importantly for how long you can go there. Building an overland vehicle is done with an emphasis on being self contained for long periods of time, and the ability to see far off places. The vehicle is often built with slightly over-sized tires and a couple of inches of lift to clear them. Locking differentials will most likely be selectable air or electric lockers, so that on road worthiness is not effected. Stout bumpers with winches are a must, and many perfer to install the signature snorkel. The biggest part of setting up an overland vehicle is the living arrangements. This can be anything from a camper shell with a false floor to sleep on and store gear under, or a roof top tent, with accommodations for cooking and cleaning up. There are many approaches to this, and as you follow along on my vehicles build up I will talk more about each area in great detail.

The vehicle I’ve chosen is a simple and stout 1979 Toyota 4×4 shortbed pickup with a 20r engine and a 4 speed transmission. To this point the vehicle is fairly stock, with some minor modifications and is a perfect platform to turn into my overland ride.

Overlander Build-Up Part 1: Getting Started

About me

My name is Clayton Collins. I was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, a small town called Nevada City, California. I was always on the move as a child, and then as an adult I went th

I’m a 33 year old male, with two children. When I can, I like to include them in my travels as much as possible. Mia has been to 5 states, and seen some pretty good things. She is quite the trooper, and handles most situations far better than most adults. It’s great to have a childs mind with me, they see things so differently! Eli, beeing so young is still has plenty of time to explore, but he’s been through California, Colorado and Utah already. I’m sure it won’t end there.

I’m currently employed as Assistant Engineer aboard the 152 foot expedition cruise ship M/V National Geographic Sea Lion. It’s pretty much my responsibility to make the boat work. I maintain everything but the zodiacs and the exterior finish of the ship, and it’s quite a job sometimes. Many sleepless nights, and long days. The good thing about it, is the schedule. I work a 6 week on and 6 week off schedule. This gives me a great opportunity to spend time with my kids and do some traveling on my own, away from work. The other good thing about my job is the travel. I work half the year in Baja, and the other half in South East Alaska. This is a good deal for me, because I love both of these places and am getting to know them both quite a bit now.

My travels up until a year ago were solely through the US by automobile. I spent quite a bit of time driving around the US on some journey or another. Most of the times were road trips in the western states, but I did make a few out to the east coast and several over to Texas. One of my favorite places to go currently would be southern Utah. I’m a huge fan of Moab and the Canyonlands. I plan on at least one big trip out there this summer. I have also traveled to New York City, Richmond, Virginia and Daytona Beach, Florida on the east coast leg of my lifes journey. I hope at some point to get out that way again and see a bit more, and I do have a few friends to visit now. I also plan to get out to Maine soon as well, I’m sure that it’s a place I’ll appreciate.

Since I started working on the ship, I’ve been to Alaska a couple of times now, and Baja a couple times as well. Both are unique and interesting in their own way. Reading through my blog you will get a feel for the things I see and the adventures I have while working.

I’ll be in La Paz for a couple of days

I’m back in La Paz now, the boat will be tied up for the rest of my rotation. I’ll be spending the next couple of days cleaning and fixing everything that needs it, and getting it ready for the rest of the year. Like I said before, it’s pretty close already, it shouldn’t be too hard to get done. The only two things that are going to need a bit of work are the water maker and a whole lot of painting.

La Paz is like a ghost town compared to the last time I was here. I guess that because it was Christmas, everyone was out shopping. Now there are half as much people running around, but it’s kind of nice. I like it better this way, seems more real and less congested. I hope that the next time I come down it’s like this as well.

I probably won’t have too much to report on until I get out of here and on my way to Utah, so the next time I write, I’ll be back in the States.


Just about done now

Tonight is the last night of my last Baja cruise for this rotation. The seas have been pretty rough, so we have spent the last two days just cruising from beach to beach around the island of Espiritu Santo. It’s been kind of interesting to see some of the parts of the island we don’t usually go to. I’m going to miss Baja, but luckily I’ll be back.

For the next couple of days I’ll be doing odd jobs around the boat, giving it some loving that it truly needs. Hopefully I can get it to a point that it the other engineer isn’t too busy during his rotation. I think that I can get it there, but I still have a good amount of work ahead of me.

Tomorrow is the last day for quite a bit of the crew here. There is rotation leaving, and they won’t be back for 16 weeks, plus 3 of the 6 stewards are finishing up a 6 month contract. When I come back in 6 weeks there will be quite a few new faces. I’m excited about that, it’s kinda cool to see people come and go, and watch how they adapt to living on a boat. Some handle it well, others don’t, and still others leave. It never works out like I would imagine it, but that’s life. I’m cool with it.

Back to Loreto Marine Park

Today we made it back up to Loreto Marine Park, where we stopped at Isla Santa Catalina. There were some great bow riding dolphins on the way in, we had the bow camera going and people were loving it. I was loving it too! I actually haven’t really got to see too many dolphins and whales since I got down here. It’s still early in the season, but it would be nice to see some more wild life before I go next week. Even better, I would be greatful to see some bioluminescent bow riding dolphins, but that may be too much to ask for at this point.

There was a break in the action for a while after lunch today, so I got to take a cruise in a zodiac for a good hour today. I went a good ways around the island, and saw some pretty cool stuff. There’s quite a few beaches that seemed like they would be a real nice place to land a kayak and set up camp. I’m still not quite sure of the feasibility of making it to the islands in the Marine Park from Loreto in a Kayak, but it would be a pretty good vacation to think about in the future.

I had a pretty good day at work today. I changed some oil and filters on one of the main engines, and learned a bit about the ships water maker. The process of removing salt from water is pretty interesting. We evaporate the sea water, then collect the steam and pump it off to a holding tank. Not too complex, but it takes some effort. Other than that, work was pretty much the same ol’ same ol’, which is a good thing sometimes.

The last couple of days have been kinda cool down here. There’s not been too much star gazing at night, though the times when I’ve had a chance the moon had been very pretty. Clouds have been making for some amazing sunrises and sunsets.