Sparks will fly, and sometimes do, but right at the moment we have the strangest need to travel vast distances in a very old military lorry, yes a faithful old 1991 Leyland Daf T244 4 tonne truck that the British Army had had enough of and decided to palm their whole fleet onto “enthusiasts” at very reasonable prices (Well that’s what I told Mandy, my long suffering better half).
Anyway, ahead of myself here. I will take you back a couple (10) years when this inspirational idea first germinated over a few beers in rural France. It was that period when those intrepid adventurers Ewan and Charlie were gifted a shed load of kit and brand new bikes to head off around the world, just for fun, and make loads of cash into the bargain. Well they are famous! Myself and Darren “Chalkie” White were sitting in the grass area (Vastly bigger that any usual garden) of his small holding in central France. It was very warm, very pleasant and the girls (My missus, Mandy, and his Karen, yes that does make us Andy & Mandy and Darren & Karen) maintained a steady stream of ales from the well-stocked fridge.
To give you an idea and some background of the type of layabouts we are: at that time we were both Landrover Defender owners. Him, with a 200 TDi, genuine, Camel Trophy and me with my TD5. Both were regularly used off roading, wild camping and generally bumming around the countryside trying to find some excitement. Chalkie had previously spent many months careering in and around Morocco. Travelling through the Atlas mountain’s, above the snowline, whilst sleeping in a tent and then plummeting into the Sahara proper for a bit or sand action. Chalkie also ran Off Road France, a company involved in leading other mis-guided fools around rural France, well the dirtiest, muddiest, wettest and roughest bits that attract “those types”, and us it would seem. Luckily Karen is one of the most laid back, understanding, tolerant, easy going girls I know. That’s probably why he married her! Did I mention she is also natural blond – which is probably why she married him!! Their general attitude towards their existence and future is “One life live it, One world see it”
The three of us had all met in the good old “green machine” HM Forces back in the 80’s. We were all NCO’s in the Corps of Royal Military Police (RMP, before it was engulfed by the Logistics Corp, but that’s another story) in Germany and, as a result of an excessive social life, have been pretty good mates since. I had since met Mandy (1993), another girl with a similar reckless nature as Karen, and once introduced both girls got on like the proverbial house on fire. Mandy isn’t blond, most of the time, and so cannot lean towards any such excuse for marrying me.
Myself and Mandy have travelled around UK and Europe under our own steam. We have taken part in such activities as “LandyRally” (A Land Rover expedition type rally in Europe, Organised by Tom McGuigan), which in 2007 we finished in first place, Chalkie coming in a very close (1 Point) second. (He was very dis-chuffed, but, sh** happens) We also frequently travel to the White’s French homestead for a bit of holiday recreation and a few beers, or Rose for the girls. Mandy also joined me attending bike rally’s such as Crazy Dayz, Bulldog Bash and the other similar excuses for a wrecker weekend with like (and mad) people.
In Sep 2011 Chalkie, myself and a fellow biker (and ex squaddie) Dave made a dash to Morocco on our trustee steeds. Chalkie and I on KTM 640 adventures, and Dave on a slightly older BMW GS 650. It was about this time that I realised that the KTM has the worst seat ever invented. It provided comfort for about 0.5 miles after which it became a razor blade that stayed with me for a month (Despite a sheep skin cover) Morocco was hot, very hot, and very dry (alcohol). The people were fantastic and scenery outstanding. We travelled across the north for some distance, but, unfortunately, the trip had to be cut short because of engine trouble with one of the bikes (Not mine) and we had to head back towards the Pyrenees and glorious rain, lots of it!
Over the next couple of years we loosely planned our trip to take place in the future. It had started with myself and Chalkie on bikes, a lads thing. Then Mandy got involved and we were going in the Landrover. Then Chalkie sent me a picture of an “Overland” truck, a heavy duty motorhome, and I thought….. I could build one of those, how hard can it be! (Very as it turns out!!)
I managed to get in touch with Ed, the guy who headed up Overland Vehicles, a company that built this type of camper from scratch (Unfortunately now gone down the pan). I couldn’t afford a fully built vehicle but didn’t have the engineering ability to build the body structure. We hatched a cunning plan where Ed’s chaps would build “the box” and fit windows etc and then I would take it over to fit everything else, what could go wrong, I had previously decorated the house, almost alone, after all.
I took receipt of the aluminium covered vehicle in February 2012 and work commenced, continued, and then continued some more for over five years until it was ready for it’s first outing, a family trip to Derbyshire. We (accompanied for the first and last time by our teenage daughter) had a “great” time and identified a lot of things with the truck that just wouldn’t work. Back in the workshop (My Mum’s back garden) changes took place over the next year and a second outing to Ireland took place which went much better (Mainly because we met friends, was fantastically looked after and discovered the finest Guinness and Beamish available to man). Things were better, but not finished, and upon our return we continued to tweak with things.
This is where we are now. The truck is about where we want it but tweaks continue. We have stopped working for a bit and were planning to head East in June this year toward The Stans, Mongolia and beyond into SE Asia. That is all about to change! We have recently identified a US insurance company (Thum) that will cover us for a year in Canada and the States, but only until the truck is a max of 30 years old. This is fairly unheard of in recent times and as it’s currently 28 this is the only time we could do this. To that end we have booked a very big boat to take our pride and joy from Liverpool (There were no options) to Halifax, Canada, at the end of June and we follow it out, on a plane, shortly after. The trip will begin. If anyone has any great ideas of what to do, see and visit please contact us. Hopefully there will be a GPS mapping page on here that shows our current location (Once we begin) and a vague route (Put together in an afternoon using Google maps) to take us from Canada to Mexico. The “East” route was a lot better planned but this is being thrown together as I type. Our Daughter, Erin, has designed and drawn our very own corporate image which takes pride of place on the side of the truck.
So, just to get some caveats in early doors! This blog is being put together by myself, supervised by my good lady wife from time to time. It started as being mainly for the benefit of our families, my Mum in particular, who is very concerned that we may be executed by some of the hostile locals, or, fall fowl of the Constabulary. As a result it will probably reflect how very careful we are being at all times, maintaining security, obeying all rules and, above all, eating properly. (Although there maybe some hidden links that may show some reality, Mum’s not so good with technology :-)). Enjoy.