Author Archives: pugsly

Day 31 – Bodie Ghost Town

May 22, 2017


Emily and I love traveling the 395 corridor East of the High Sierra, but for some reason had never made the side trip to the Ghost Town of Bodie – until today.  Bodie is about 13 miles (and a steep climb) off of 395.  The last 3 miles are dirt, with conditions varying from groomed to washed out depending on how the weather has been.  When we visited there were a couple of spots that had washed out pretty badly, but the Parks folks were actively working to improve it.  Take your time and you’ll be fine.


Bodie State Historic Park is a little north of Mono Lake (and a lot higher up), and is a “complete” gold boom town that is being preserved by the State of California and available to tour.  You pay a couple of bucks per person as you enter – definitely worth it.  We also recommend that you purchase the walking tour guide so that you aren’t left wondering what happened at site 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc…

So get the guidebook and wander around.  The town is at 8,379 feet so wear your sunscreen – even if it is cool the sun will get you!

Most of Bodie is available to view without arranging a tour.  The exception is the large Stamp Mill which requires an escorted tour – we didn’t do this, but found more than enough walking around to fill our time.

We spent a good half-day at Bodie and continued on our way north.  After a fuel-up and re-provision at the Gardnerville, NV Walmart we camped south of Lake Tahoe at Crystal Springs Campground in the Toiyabe National Forest.

This is a very nice roadside campground in a deep valley next to (at the time) a very fully flowing stream.  We are generally really pleased with National Forest campgrounds and this was no exception – well maintained with cheerful camp hosts Madonna and John.  We were still catching the beginning of the season so only one other campsite was occupied.

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September 1 – travel to Guatemala

We had a very early start to the day today, getting up just before 4am and leaving the house by 4:45 to catch our 6:20 flight to Miami.

The baggage conveyor was out of order at the American Airlines desk so things were a bit backed up, and the unfortunate desk agents were getting quite a workout lugging bags to carts at the end of the counter instead of just moving them to the conveyor right behind them. Emily and I are each checking one bag this trip.

This journey will be my second test of the Osprey Waypoint bags (and Emily’s first). I wanted a bag that I could carry on my back instead of carry by hand, and the Waypoint converts into a very decent backpack and has a detachable daypack on it as well. Very nicely done and the Osprey’s all have unconditional lifetime guarantees. The convertible luggage wouldn’t be great for a long trek, but I would be fine taking it several miles. The idea is something that works well when taking public transport where you might have a bit of a hike after you get off the bus, etc.

Once we get to Guatemala our plan is to take a private shuttle to San Pedro la Laguna. More expensive than using the public transport, but it was iffy that we would be able to make all the connections to actually make it to our destination on the day of arrival, so we are splurging for the private ride.

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I use table salt to make water safe to drink

The options for water purification can be overwhelming.  On the camper we have a particulate filter, followed by a charcoal filter, and finally a UV light.  This works great if you have the space, weight, and power to make it happen – but what about when you are packing everything on your back?

15794[1]There are lots of great evaluations of the different systems (pumps, pens, filters, tablets, drops, etc) that I won’t attempt to reproduce – google is your friend and mine.  I’m just going to jump right in on what we are using.  The H2gO Purifier, which is a miniaturized version of the large scale MIOX technology that big companies (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, et al) along with municipalities, the US Military, aid organizations, etc use to clean water.

The H2gO uses electricity to convert brine (salty water) into chlorine and hydrogen peroxide, which you then use to dose your water.  (There was a predecessor product a number of years ago – the MSR MIOX, that you could consider this a much improved reboot of).  It won Gear Junkie’s Best in Show at the January Outdoor Retailer Trade Show

Here’s what I have – I’m using a pre-production version, the final version will have a colored case and, I think, different graphics.  I backed this as an indiegogo project 16 months ago, and (like most kickstarter/indiegogo projects) their delivery plans were aggressive – but the good news is that they are getting very close to shipping and the production versions are going to be sold domestically in places like REI and the other big outdoor retailers under the Portable Aqua brand as the Portable Aqua PURE.

H2gO Purifier contents


Thanks to the clear plastics you can see the two salt reservoirs (top right and bottom right)

H2gO Purifier front


The device can be charged via USB, or via the built in solar cell on the back.


H2gO Purifier back

So far I’ve only used it to purify a water bottle’s worth of tap water in my kitchen – stay tuned for how the H2gO works for us during our September trip to Guatemala!

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Prep for Guatemala – September 2014

After having a great time at Overland Expo West this year, Emily and I came home excited about doing some travel outside of the US.  We want to do the long drive at some point in the future, but the timing isn’t right for us to take the 18 months away right now.

We’ve never been to Guatemala before, but numerous folks at Expo recommended Guatemala for Spanish language schools.  So we thought “why not?” and booked plane tickets to spend September in Guatemala.  Now all we had to do was figure out where we were going to stay, what school, etc.

There are a huge number of options – we don’t like big cities and prefer mountains to beaches, so after a lot of research we narrowed the search for schools down to San Pedro la laguna, a Guatemalan town on the southwest shore of Lake Atitlán.

Lago_Atitlàn[1]It’s a small town of 13,000 people and popular with backpackers for the language schools and restaurant/bar scene.  Apparently the downtown “gringolandia” has a pretty active nightlife.

So while it will be nice to have some places to go – we don’t want to stay in gringolandia.  Searching the schools I found Corazon Maya Spanish Language School which is just outside of the town area on the lake and will (hopefully) give us the peaceful place to stay that we are looking for.


Travel to Central America is a little different than domestic travel.  We already have passports, etc. but it had been quite a few years since we had our vaccinations updated.  In addition to the normal stuff (MMR, flu, TDAP, polio) CDC recommends Hepatitis A, B, and typhoid vaccinations along with malaria prophylaxis when traveling to Guatemala.  We take Cipro and epipens with us to use as needed.  Neither of us has ever had a dangerous reaction to a sting or bite, but that’s no guarantee that you won’t the next time – epipens are cheap insurance against your throat closing up on you because you got stung on your tongue, etc! (That actually happened to my Grandmother once).

For staying in touch while we are gone, we expect to have decent wifi available in San Pedro, and I have a DeLorme inReach Explorer with paid up global SAR/MEDIVAC insurance.  MEDIVAC is a good thing to have – for about $220/year you get guaranteed medical evacuation / repatriation to a hospital of your choice.  If something bad happens to me and I need medical care in the US, this makes that happen.



Tripadvisor Forum

Lake Atitlan Travel Guide



Categories: Prep, September 2014 | Leave a comment

Well, I broke it – frame replacement


If you’ve been following my posts on facebook or expedition portal, you know that we are replacing the rear section of the frame on Robinson.

tl;dr – our truck is too heavy and the load is improperly presented to the frame.  We’re fixing this by replacing the rear frame section with a stronger one, and changing the way the sub-frame presents the payload to the vehicle.

Here’s the frame removal activity.  This was done at British 4×4 in Durham, NC.  There’s a chain hoist, which made lifting the rear subframe off of the frame an easy task

Lifting the subframe


Frame section removed – we just rolled it out.


Both frame rails broken

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 Some of the design drawings for the new frame section.


And some images of the new frame pieces coming together at the fabricator…

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Staying in contact from just about anywhere – Part 1

Two-way communications is a rapidly evolving space.  What was state of the art 6 months ago might be obsolete today, and certainly the right choice 2 years ago seems anarchic now.

Cellular communications continues to improve, but there’s still a many places in the world (and indeed our nation) that you can’t get a signal, or at the very least have to go to the expense and effort to get local service, sim cards, or international service on your domestic phone – assuming it supports the frequencies that the area you are visiting uses.

There are more and more truly international cell phones, and I expect this continue to improve – but a cell phone is not “bet your life” technology for the back of beyond.

When I was in England last year, I bought a sim card for my ipad and used talkatone for VOIP calling to my google voice number.  It worked perfectly – and I like this option if you are someplace blanketed by good cell service (like the UK).

We like to go to remote places, and there are plenty of places we’ve been to where we don’t even take the phone out of the truck – just a complete waste of time.  Sometimes I’ll take a handheld 2 meter radio with me, in the hopes that I can contact somebody on the national simplex or a local repeater if need be.  I’ll also leave a note on the car to alert SAR that I have a ham radio with me in case of misadventure… that way a search party just needs to get within radio range not visual range.10346371_10152426469493340_6116280680475724517_n

A satellite phone has never been an option I have seriously considered due to cost and platform limitations… and like cell phones there is the “okay” network (Globalstar) and the “good” network (Iridium).  Guess which one is cheaper and which is more expensive? 🙂

So what if there were a way to have 2 way communications with friends and family, continuously (well every 10 minutes) update my location, and be able to summon SAR with the touch of a button?  What if it also had GPS, and ran on that “good” satellite constellation?  What if I could even use it to update twitter, Facebook, and this blog?   Crazy talk, right?  Up until recently yes, but enter the DeLorme inReach Explorer.


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So what’s next?

We’ve been home a week or two… I’m a great believer in momentum, so we are already planning what to do next.

Three things on the agenda…

1. Maintenance and repairs to the fuso after 7000+ miles of driving. We have a nagging fuel contamination issue that will probably mean dropping the tanks, and the subframe is sagging pretty badly on the driver side… So that means that the Bigfoot will have to come off again to assess the issue and repair/reinforce.

2. Evaluate other camper box options. Earthcruiser, All Terrain Warriors, and Global Expedition Vehicles all make a Lifting roof Fuso box and XP Camper is kicking around ideas to make one. I have a crew cab Fuso that we are working on converting to 4×4 that could be the platform for this new vehicle.

3. Plan the next trip. We’re going to spend the month of September 2014 in Guatemala doing Spanish language immersion and learning about the Mayan culture.  Not every trip needs to be by land, this time we will fly in and fly out.  We’ve signed up with Corazon Maya Spanish School which is in San Pedro La Laguna on the shore of Lake Atitlan.  The school has bungalows for rent so we’ve decided to do that rather than stay with a family – figuring that for a month stay it will be nice to have our own place to retreat to.


Categories: Prep, Repairs, September 2014 | Leave a comment

Historic route 66


We stayed last night just south of death valley at Shoshone.   Nice little rustic even park with full hookups and a springs fed pool for $24.  Bargain.


Today we dropped due south through Mojave.   Found this nice little WW1 memorial where we had lunch.


Since the interstate highway system came in, 66 is pretty desolate.


We’re staying just over the pass from Oatman, az tonight.  Should be a great sunrise in the morning.


Categories: Spring 2014 | Leave a comment

Dust, dust everywhere.

We’re back on the grid after spending the last 5 days in the Saline Vallley, reportedly the most remote desert valley in the USA and I’ve certainly never seen anything to contradict that.

We like it because unless you have satellite (we don’t) you are completely disconnected from the outside world while you are there.


We’ll have a much better update when we have a greater than 0.001mbps connection

Categories: Spring 2014 | 1 Comment

May 6 – Maintenance


After a great trip to the Black Rock Desert (which we had not been to in many years) with our good friends Barry and Lori Ellis, We are spending two night at their great mountain house just outside of Lake Tahoe.

(See Emily’s posts for Black Rock Desert, here are some of them) May 3 May 2


Robinson’s onboard air system had developed a leak.  We have an Extreme Outback Air Compressor which has given good service in tough conditions – but  the main airline from the air tank to the distribution block had developed a leak and had to be replaced.  As is often the case, this was a 30 minute repair, but required unloading the motorcycle from the garage and removing the garage floor plate to get access to the compressor… so it was a half day job.  I bought some high quality rubber airline as we passed through Reno yesterday at Home Depot, so had what I needed to make the repair.  I had a splice, but the line was pretty old and stiff so I decided it was a better choice to replace it.

Barry helped me clean the compressor air filter using Simple Green APC and K&N Filter Oil.  I really need to replace the filter, but that wasn’t an option.


I also helped Barry re-grease the Superwinch X9 on his Discovery 2.  The winch had been giving him good service but had been getting noisy – we pulled it apart and the remaining grease was either dried out or dirty – we cleaned everything with mineral spirits, re-greased and re-assembled.  Should be good for another 6 years.


Categories: Adventures, Repairs, Spring 2014 | Leave a comment

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