We decided on a pickup truck with a slide in camper for this trip due to the smaller footprint, turning radius and of course four wheel drive. Lots of research led us to a Ford F250 made between the years of 1999 and 2002 with the 7.3 Litre Diesel Engine. This decision was based on many friends and co-workers yielding high support for these trucks.  We scoured the internet for months and settled on the Ford Powerstroke Diesel truck and felt confident we would find a good truck in Las Vegas shortly.

We made a list and completed an almost 50 point inspection on our soon to be vehicle.  This list was largely gathered from a Youtube Expert.  The one issue was that it was a standard transmission, which for a big diesel truck means a much slower acceleration than most people expect in the age of automatic transmissions.  Also, neither of us had driven a standard truck as a daily driver in over eight years. The good thing about a standard transmission is that they rarely break, so we opted for the inconvenience and bought the truck for $7,800 with 292,000 miles on it. It was very uncool in that it had stock tires, was not lifted, no huge exhaust and actually did get 20+ MPG before we added a camper.

After months of looking for the ideal truck, we thought we’d found a bombproof truck.  What actually happened, is that we drove it less than 300 miles, and in middle of nowhere Grand Canyon National Park, the clutch pedal broke.  We then had a hair-raising ride back to Las Vegas where the shop that replaced the clutch before we bought the car honored a warranty that didn’t exist (Thank you Discount Muffler of Las Vegas). The next day upon receiving the car we drove to purchase the VERY camper we have now. On our way there the driveshaft fell out of the car. If you’ve ever had this happen, you’ll understand we thought that the entire truck bed had fallen out of the truck.  Once we had a chance to see what had happened, we were sad and also relieved, but very happy that Tony the AAA tow truck driver picked us up and towed our car to Discount Muffler of Las Vegas once again.

Car tow after driveshaft fell out

After dropping the car off, Tony saw the predicament we were in, and offered to drive us to the rental car location, no questions asked. On the ride over, he received an urgent call for a collision on the highway blocking traffic. Our problem seemed very small in comparison, so we asked Tony to drop us off and we would walk or get a taxi the rest of the way. This seemed like an ok idea at first, we were less than a mile from the rental car place, how bad could a one mile walk be? Well, being naïve to the reality of our situation, we soon realized we were left on the side of the road with no stores in sight to take shelter in with $4,000 in cash, all our passports, birth certificates, and social security cards in an area that we’ll refer to as… sketchy. Luckily, an Uber driver was about 15 minutes away, and picked us up. That was a long fifteen minutes.

For the first week of this trip, we were staying with some of Chris’ family and their climbing friends in a vacation rental (A five day rental that is now considered by the Nevada department of motor vehicles our “permanent address” – but that is another story). Our truck broke down about a week after everyone had left – except Josh.  Josh was kind enough to take a bag of our stuff and Melissa’s guitar while we looked for a camper, wherever we could find one one craigslist.  The plan was to meet up in Zion National Park in a day or two.  What Josh did not know at the time, and we clearly couldn’t tell him for fear he might feel guilty (it wasn’t his fault he was lending a hand just as all the magical hands we have met along the way thus far) is that Josh had every single item of clothing we owned. With our plans changing and our truck breaking down we simply wore the same clothes for four days.

After the clutch fiasco we ended up meeting up with Josh back in Las Vegas and did some wonderful camping at Lake Mead.  As it had been a trial of a time for both of us and an impending rainstorm came we purchased beer and saran wrap to make a shelter under which we would sleep. The conversation soon began to become deeper than the beer allowed and we went to bed.

Makeshift shelter at Lake Mead

From this point forward we were staying with Jessica and George of Las Vegas.  Jessica took us in in 2010 when we hadn’t a job and no clear prospects of one. She housed us no questions asked and no payment ever accepted for staying with her.  Jessica and George offered us not only a bedroom to stay in but lovely dogs for Haley our dog to play with, a loving unassuming atmosphere and safe environment to get settled once again. I suggest if you’re ever in trouble in Las Vegas to look up Jessica and George in the phone book.

A brief point that should be mentioned here in our transition is that one major reason for this new way of life for us is to simplify. And in making that happen, we are now knee deep in all our belongings strewn about in a haphazard and partially organized, partially dysfunctional way, in the center of Las Vegas. We’ve had to get rid of most of our stuff in Hawaii, so we spend half of most days at a Walmart or the DMV or something similar. The only reprieve from all of the chaos was truly Jessica and George. Beautiful people are worth more than anything and capable of grounding you even in the most stressful times. It was also a good reminder to us that this way of living is extremely difficult to pull off in the beginning. Most of the world is fighting very hard to keep everyone in the system so to say, and any attempts to diverge are met with heavy resistance. But it is worth it.

So here we are inside Dixie National Forest attempting to convey a story. Today was the first hike we took and within 500 yards of our remote spot was a GeoCache that we stumbled upon, not looking for it. It’s a sign people, not alone in the wilderness will prevail with love and caring attitudes. We’ve found if you give the real “time of day” to another soul, you receive that time back. In some instances ten-fold.

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