2011 Western U.S. Expedition

Traveling the Wide-Open West in Style

20110622 - 20110831

Final update: 20110901 from San Diego, CA

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1017A Camper at Lunch Stop

Mercedes 1017A Expedition Camper during a lunch stop on the Magruder Trail, MT.

All photos copyright, Bill Caid 2011. All rights reserved.

The Trip

Late in 2010, Kathleen and I purchased a lightly-used Mercedes 1017A military cargo truck and converted it to an expedition camper.  This process, like most construction projects, adhered to the so-called "80-20 Rule".  The 80-20 Rule states that 80% of the work will be completed in 20% of the time, but the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time.  We started this effort in October and are "essentially" complete in mid-June 2011.  The number of details that required attention was tremendous, as was the fabrication effort, but the truck is ready for an extended test drive.

The chronicle of the build-out of the truck and camper can be seen on 1017A Camper Construction Page

This is not the first outing for this package; we have done a number of small outings in San Diego county, a trip to the Overland Expo and a week in Baja.  The Baja Expedition is detailed on Baja Trip 2011  and demonstrated that the concept was viable and that the platform was sufficiently stable to execute a long trip  To be sure, the Baja trip showed that there was some effort required to address some issues, a front bash plate protecting the radiator in particular, but most of the items were nits.  We addressed the nits and completed the planned enhancements and prepared for our departure.

The western U.S. is one of our favorite areas, Mexico notwithstanding.  It is sad that the political situation there prevents widespread travels without the constant, nagging fear of being kidnapped or killed by the narcos.  But, since Mexico is not a candidate, both due to actual climate and political climate, we settled for the west.  Our planned route will first take us to the Tahoe-Reno Mogfest to meet with our Unimog buddies, then south toward Tucson, AZ.  From Tucson, we wil head north, likely toward Mount Rushmore.  Then east over the Rocky Mountains and generally south back to SoCal.  Our return date is open-ended.  NOTE: we actually returned on 20110831, one day ahead of our ad hoc scheduled date.

Tracking Our Location Via The SPOT

Some years ago, after a scary mechanical failure in the canyons and mesas of southern Utah, we decided that we need a better way to advertise our position and call for assistance if needed.  Kathleen found out about the SPOT which is a GPS locator that transmits your coordinates via satellite so that others can see your location.  The location is plotted on Google maps and a "bread crumb" feature is available for an additional fee.  We have the enhanced service, so you can see our historical path back 50 updates or so.  See our current location plotted on Google Maps in Real-Time via SPOT satellite geo-locator device.  This page is "book-markable" and is updated approximately every 15 minutes, but may miss updates due to inability of our transmitter to reach the satellite.  The communication is "open loop" so the device never knows if it's messages are actually going anywhere, it just keeps trying until the next update is available.  If we are in a congested urban area with high buildings (like Manhattan) or in deep canyons, the position may not update.  We try to send an "OK" message once a day just to let everyone know that we are, in fact, OK.

Connecting and Contacting Us While on the Trip

Because of internet connectivity issues on a previous trip, we purchased a MiFi cell phone modem that allows us to connect nearly anywhere there is 3G service via cell phone (which is most of the cell phone service area available today).  But, as we all know, cell phones are useful many places, but not everywhere has coverage, particularly in the remote areas of the western U.S.  Our phones and the modem are enabled daily so you may contact us, although it may take a few days for us to respond.  But, we will respond.  If you are close to our current position or planned path and would like to meet, just give us an email or call and we will do what we can to hook up.  If you are on the moglist or BenzWorld, my cell number is available there.  My email, spelled out, is "bcaid at yahoo dot com".

Trip Details

The link table below contains links to the photos and dialog for each of the days of the expedition.

Links to Daily Adventures
Part Dates Adventure Locations
San Diego to Lake Tahoe, CA  and Tahoe MogFest Day 1
Tahoe-Reno MogFest Day 2
Lake Tahoe, CA to Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ to Mogollon Rim, AZ
Mogollon Rim, Gila Mountains and Cliff Dwellings
Gila Mountains, Monticello Box and the Very Large Array
El Morro National Monument and Lava Tubes
Albuquerque, NM to Hot Springs, SD
Hot Springs, SD to Badlands, SD
Badlands, SD to Black Hills, SD
Back Hills, SD to Philipsburg, MT
Philipsburg, MT to Riggins, ID
Riggins, ID to Eagle, ID
Eagle, ID to Steens Mountains, OR
Steens Mountains to Bend, OR
Bend, OR to NWMF 2011  (with NWMF photos)
NWMF 2011 to Central Oregon Coast
Central Oregon Coast to Crescent City, CA
Crescent City, CA to San Diego, CA



Both of us had a great time and we saw many, many new places.  The 1017 performed well beyond our wildest expectations and proved itself a robust and reliable platform.  That said, we did have some issues with the camper itself, but these issues were known prior to the trip and were not surprising.  Generally speaking, the build quality of the camper is not what we would like and there were internal mechanical failures due to the insufficient robustness of the interior.  We have a plan to address these issues, but our ability to repair them on the road was limited.

The west is a great place and the ability to visit remote locations in comfort makes it even better.  We were blessed with good weather on the entire trip and our biggest concerns were heat during the day and closures of trails and roads due to fires or fire danger.  The west in the summer is fire-prone, but this year seemed worse than normal.

We saw some great stuff, no doubt.  But, I think that the highlight of the trip was the Steens Mountains in Oregon.  We entered the area via remote BLM trails across the Alvord Desert and then went to the top of the mountains from the west side.  The road is the highest in the state and provided dramatic views of the desert to the east.

It was nice to meet new friends and outstanding to reconnect with old friends.  Thanks to all of you who hosted us at your homes.


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Copyright Bill Caid 2011