We had known for quite some time and especially after our journey through Argentina and Chile at the end of last year/beginning of 2016, that we would have to work on a new itinerary and a change of vehicle for our forthcoming adventures.
We had started to discuss different opportunities after our return from Argentina. We had some time to think and plan, whilst we were back home in Australia in April/May this year. We knew we still had many areas of North America we had yet to explore, but we hoped that the next 6 months from May, would help us at least tick off several of the major destinations, and so it has...but would we have enough time if we were to release Big Henry at the end of this next stint in November?
Big Henry in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
In the end we made the decision that we could wait no longer to progress with our travels into South and Central America and so we took the very tough decision to part company with Big Henry at the end of October. We love him dearly and he has been a remarkable companion, taking us to places we had never even dreamed of....corny but true.
Big Henry tackling the River Road on the Texas/Mexico border.... and posing at the Arctic Circle.
Big Henry tackling the snow on the Dempster Highway in Yukon Territory
Big Henry on the Denali Highway in Alaska.
We do not regret one minute of our time with him and he has taken us to the most amazing places in real off road luxury...but for all that, for our future needs he is just not suitable. Height and weight will be key issues for our next two years of travel as we go into regions where we need a more flexible vehicle to manage the roads and terrain. Many of the bridges for example in Argentina and Chile have a maximum weight limit of only 5 tonnes. And also....well he is just such a stand out vehicle and attracts so much attention, and ultimately some of this attention may not be desirable.
Remember this? A boggy encouter in Argentina...one we would not want to experience with Big Henry.
So, now the decision is made, where do we go to from here? Well as you would expect, we have done a great deal of research again and also spent time looking very carefully at another rig that will meet most of our needs. We spent time in Germany at the end of May at the Abenteur & Allrad Expo (https://www.abenteuer-allrad.de/en ), which is the largest overland vehicle exhibition in the world, at Bad Kissingen.
We had spent several months prior to this in long discussions with BlissMobil from the Netherlands ( http://www.blissmobil.com ), and looking at a new vehicle they were developing from their very successful range. There were lots of discussions about design and also the base vehicle we would use. In the end the new prototype pop top model they were developing was along way from the finished article, and the wait for production was going to be just too long for us.
Two of the Land Rover Defenders we really liked @ Bad Kissingen...but too small for our needs.
Probably the "ultimate" overlander vehicle and the one of most peoples dreams...Mercedes Unimog Camper...still too tall and heavy!
We considered other vehicles, but either they were too high, too heavy or in many cases the delivery lead time, some up to two years, was just too long for us to wait. Therefore on our return to the United States in early June this year, we started to look around again at what was on offer....in the end we have decided to stay with Ford for the chassis, but this time going for the all new 2017 Model F350 Super Duty( https://www.ford.com/trucks/superduty/ ) and mounting on this the V1 camper from XP Campers, who are based in California. We feel this combination will give us the best of both worlds. The Ford will be easier for us to service and maintain in both South and Central America and the XP Camper is much smaller, lighter and will remove altogether the problem of height. Sure, like all off road vehicles there are compromises we are having to make. We will not have the space inside as we had with Big Henry to move around, storage space will also be at a premium, although we have countered this to a degree by having a much larger outside storage unit to be built between the cab and the cabin. The advantages other than height and weight reduction are of course the unit will be much more economical, costs only a third of the price of a new EarthRoamer and will get us into places where we previously could not take Big Henry. Apologies for quality of photos here..these images were taken from the internet...to get a better view go to... http://xpcamper.com/versions/v1-full-size/
Ford F350 (old model) with XP Camper V1
Interior cabin shot showing set up with shower down and then shower in place.
Image showing seating area at end of cabin and image showing under bed storage.
So, all being well we should pick up our new rig at the end of April, 2017. We are likely to spend the first few months on the west coast of the United States, proofing the vehicle and visiting some of the places we had still on our list which we had been unable to get to with Big Henry. After that we will take the decision as to whether we ship the new rig down to Uruguay and continue our travels in South America from Montivideo, Uruguay, or, we will drive down through Mexico and the rest of Central America to Panama and then ship the vehicle into Bogota, Colombia, via the Panama Canal.
Big Henry? Well, he was returned to Earthroamer in Denver in October, where he had a full makeover ready for sale. After 3 weeks being prepped he sold on the first day he was advertised on the Earthroamer website....so now he is off to a new home and we sincerely hope and wish his new owners get to fully appreciate him the same as we have.
So then it is ON ON now to our next rig and new adventures in 2017. In the meantime we have been "immersing" ourselves in Spanish culture, language and gastronomy in the wonderful city that is Seville. Six weeks here to try and get our language skills up to scratch and then Christmas and New Year back with family and friends in the UK. Probably a return to Spain in February and March before jetting off to California end of April to pick up the new rig....yet to be named!!
Hasta luego Big Henry!