You meet the nicest people on Craigslist.

Last week we left you on a bit of a cliff-hanger; lets pick up where we left off. We rolled into Portland's Union station about 15 minutes early, which was good because we figured we needed every second to secure funds to make our next greatest-ever purchase. 

We were busy, but we had time to snap some quick shots. Union station is beautiful.

We were busy, but we had time to snap some quick shots. Union station is beautiful.

Chelsea looked remarkably good for spending a night in a train seat. I didn't.

Chelsea looked remarkably good for spending a night in a train seat. I didn't.

We played physical sudoku on a board Chels picked up at a curiosities store down the block from the bank. Only in Portland?

We played physical sudoku on a board Chels picked up at a curiosities store down the block from the bank. Only in Portland?

We hailed a cab real fast and drove a few miles away to a Wells Fargo bank. The daily manager, Mr. Trevor, was BEYOND helpful. We were there from just after open until just after closing (on a Saturday!) trying to manage access to some of our funds at a different state in a different bank, but alas, it didn't work out. We knew we would be heading to meet a gentleman by the name of Toby to discuss our purchase of a Swiss Army Pinzgauer truck at 2 o'clock when the bank closed, but we also knew we wouldn't have the cash in hand to buy it. The bank could process our request first thing on Monday, but that was two days away. We shrugged, phoned Toby, and (unbeknownst to us) started a GREAT weekend away.

Toby and I (and one of Toby's neighbors who is looking under the truck) checking out the Pinzguaer.

Toby and I (and one of Toby's neighbors who is looking under the truck) checking out the Pinzguaer.

So much shop talk. SO much learning. I was/am in heaven.

So much shop talk. SO much learning. I was/am in heaven.

It drives like a completely mechanical Austrian army truck. OHMYGOSHSOMUCHFUN.

It drives like a completely mechanical Austrian army truck. OHMYGOSHSOMUCHFUN.

Toby picked us up from the bank after waiting for ages. We were very afraid we were shooting his weekend in the foot, and man we felt bad, but he was cool as a cucumber. Over the course of the afternoon (and then the weekend!) Toby told us all about his Pinzgauer.

A Pinzgauer is a breed of Swiss cow, but more importantly, its a highly capable off-road vehicle built by the Steyr-Puch company for the Swiss and Austrian Militaries. They are commonly 4x4s and more rarely 6x6s, and originally powered by air-cooled gas engines, but more recently by turbo-diesels. We found a 1982 6x6 with a rare "workshop" fiberglass box attached to the back listed for sale a few weeks ago. After doing some research and realizing what a find it was, we spent every subsequent day thereafter talking ourselves into and out of buying it. Long story short, it's got low miles, great tires, and a fiberglass house/box on the back. Its drivetrain is designed to be both sturdy and serviceable, it has reasonable gas milage, terrific clearance, and incredible traction. It's well designed, over built, and underused, and that's why we're planning on taking it overland from here as far south as we can go. Mexico? Central America? Tierra Del Fuego? Who knows.

We were sold, and Toby liked the number Chelsea and I offered him (third offer; we totally lowballed the poor guy at first and he took it in stride). The only problem was, we didn't have the cash to back up our talk. All three of us were sitting on the curb thinking when Toby's wonderful wife Nicole walked up (after chasing their dog around the block, whom we had let out of the house by accident). Toby glanced at her sideways, saying something about us finding a hostel, and she cut him off saying:

"Of course they can stay with us."

That's me on the left, Maya the pate queen in the center, and Nicole in the striped pullover on the right.

That's me on the left, Maya the pate queen in the center, and Nicole in the striped pullover on the right.

The symphony plays in the distance as Toby and I talk shop about Swiss/Austrian trucks.

The symphony plays in the distance as Toby and I talk shop about Swiss/Austrian trucks.

The rose garden went nearly completely unappreciated that night. Portland's parks (or at least this one) are beautiful.

The rose garden went nearly completely unappreciated that night. Portland's parks (or at least this one) are beautiful.

What unfolded over the following two days was the most wonderful weekend away that we didn't know we desperately needed. Nicole and Toby kicked off our weekend with a free symphony concert at a nearby park. We had a charcuterie plate that rivaled the offerings of a fine restaurant, homemade pâté, fresh fruit, fresh bread, and fresh beverages. It was freshly excellent. We met some more new friends, and learned that the next day (Sunday) would feature a full-on brunch, and eventually went back to Toby and Nicole's house, fat and happy.

Measuring and dreaming.

Measuring and dreaming.

It has levers! And Rifle holders! (We actually removed the rifle racks and donated them back to Toby, who will be able to use in another vehicle of his.)

It has levers! And Rifle holders! (We actually removed the rifle racks and donated them back to Toby, who will be able to use in another vehicle of his.)

This is about as "American Beauty" as I get.

This is about as "American Beauty" as I get.

Here I am checking one of the ELEVEN fluid levels in the drive train. ELEVEN. That's one more than 10.

Here I am checking one of the ELEVEN fluid levels in the drive train. ELEVEN. That's one more than 10.

The next morning we got acquainted with our new vehicle; Chels started taking measurements of the box and organizing a small portion of its orignial interior outfitting, and I started checking and filling its 11 chambers of gear oil in the drive train (six portal axles, three differentials, a transfer case and a transmission). Toby and Nichole's neighbors are awesome, and we eventually had an audience of onlookers. Apparently Toby's eccentric vehicles are no new thing to his neighbors. We worked for hours, but in the early afternoon we were pulled from our pursuits to have the most outstanding brunch ever.

You're looking at Halibut Cheeks, eggs, fried zucCHinis, fresh fruit, and a newborn dutch baby. Don't worry, the Bubbly is on the Table.

You're looking at Halibut Cheeks, eggs, fried zucCHinis, fresh fruit, and a newborn dutch baby. Don't worry, the Bubbly is on the Table.

I am a  huge  fan of strangers. (sorry for the mishapen heads…panos don't always play well with moving objects)

I am a huge fan of strangers. (sorry for the mishapen heads…panos don't always play well with moving objects)

Straight up: brunch was nearly as excellent as the Pinzgauer parked out front. The whole conversation, hours of it, was spent on talking about traveling. From Asia to South America to Europe, it turns out we had found some new, very well-traveled friends. I left knowing two things: Halibut cheeks are superb, and there is a beat-up motorcycle named "The Chupacabra" that I need to rescue in Panama. Hopefully both topics will feature in further posts.

Reading up on important stuff.

Reading up on important stuff.

We acted like good gelato wasn't a big thing for us. Its a big thing for us.

We acted like good gelato wasn't a big thing for us. Its a big thing for us.

Walrus time!

Walrus time!

Later that evening Toby and Nicole took us on a tour of downtown Portland. We hit up Powell's used book store (you gotta go) and then Pinolo Gelato, and man they both were amazing. Check 'em out. We bought a book on camping, seeing as we'll be doing only that once we move into the Pinzgauer full time and start traveling.

Amazing food. New Friends. Austrian/Swiss vehicles. Really well designed furniture. God, is this heaven?

Amazing food. New Friends. Austrian/Swiss vehicles. Really well designed furniture. God, is this heaven?

Just killer food. Nicole can cook.

Just killer food. Nicole can cook.

Dinner was as good as brunch. more Halibut (yessssss!) more fresh bread, more delicious salads, all set before a fantastic backdrop of European design, retro American art, and Austrian vehicles. I want to take this moment to well and truly thank Toby and Nicole. You two are unparalleled in the world of my travels. I sincerely hope we can stay friends, if only for more of Nicole's cooking.

Happy dance at a rest stop!

Happy dance at a rest stop!

The next (Monday) morning, Chels and I ran to the bank and waited eagerly for them to unlock the door. We secured some funds, took some selfies, packed the Pinz and headed off for 600+ miles of straight driving back to the headquarters of Montana Raft Company. We both had work the next day, and couldn't dilly-dally. We would have loved to stop along the shores and vineyards of the Columbia river valley, or explore some of the side towns and rivers, but alas, those weren't on the docket for today. We had to boogie.

If you don't need hearing protection when you drive, you're driving the wrong vehicle.

If you don't need hearing protection when you drive, you're driving the wrong vehicle.

Toby was with us every step of the way. (That's him on the phone with me as I attempt to mess with the timing.)

Toby was with us every step of the way. (That's him on the phone with me as I attempt to mess with the timing.)

We drove and drove and drove, until I heard a rattle that I couldn't ignore. Something didn't sound right about the Pinz, but it may have been the hours and hours of driving ringing in my ears. I phoned Toby to rule out the possibility of pre-ignition (pinging can damage an engine fast), and we decided everything was probably OK. With a little confidence, we drove on into the night.

11 is a lucky number. Always stop/pump at lucky number gas pumps. Its doesn't cost extra.

11 is a lucky number. Always stop/pump at lucky number gas pumps. Its doesn't cost extra.

Where is that rattle???

Where is that rattle???

We drove further until the rattle darn near drove me nuts. I couldn't imagine that the sound I was hearing wasn't causing trouble, so Chels and I took the seats out (so easy) and removed the doghouse covering the engine (also easy) to make a diagnosis. It's real nice having the engine in the cab because it's totally covered and you can work on it from a standing position. We figured out that the only belt on the engine was vibrating laterally under a specific RPM, and probably needs replaced, but luckily it could wait until West Glacier.

As we were waiting, a gentleman by the name of Steve Hannah walked up to us, blown away by the coolness of the Pinzgauer. I was tired, beat up, and a little scared that the truck I had just spent a lot of money buying was already rattling itself apart. That attitude didn't last for long, as Steve bombarded us with compliments and positivity. In a kinda dark moment, Steve was the kick in the pants we needed. He told us that we gave him his biggest smile in five years, and kept exclaiming, 'Who does that?," but not in a condescending, parental, critical kind of way. His cries were those of someone who understood what we were doing, and loved it, but loved it in a way of just now realizing that a dream could come true. 

And so that's that. Our dream is to drive all over the place. We want to travel overland, for a long time, cheaply. We don't need a $350,000 EarthRoamer or custom Unimog. We need a sturdy truck and pocketful of dreams, and now we have both.

Give it all up and adventure all over the world. Who does that? We do, and so can you.

8.06.16 ::: A Midnight Train to Portland

The Amtrak Empire Builder, originally operated by the Great Northern Railway, runs just a mile from our summer camp spot at Montana Raft Company in West Glacier. It connects Chicago to Seattle and offers a spur line to Portland, OR. We had a thing we wanted to see in Portland, so we packed our bags, grabbed some to-go Wandering Gringo burritos, and headed for the station.

Packing for adventures VERY MUCH unknown.

Packing for adventures VERY MUCH unknown.

Put me down mom! Dad's gonna post a picture on your dumb blog and my friends are gonna see you hugging me and its gonna be embarassing.   - Loulou the cat

Put me down mom! Dad's gonna post a picture on your dumb blog and my friends are gonna see you hugging me and its gonna be embarassing.  - Loulou the cat

The train picked us up at 8:30PM Friday night for an easy overnight to Portland. Just a heads up about trains: be aware that they are imprecise beasts. They may be late, or they may be early, but regardless you need to be early, because the train will only be at the station for as long as it needs to be. Our train was at the West Glacier stop for maybe 5 minutes. Chels says less.

Lots of freight moves along the lines now. We see many trains a day when rafting.

Lots of freight moves along the lines now. We see many trains a day when rafting.

Our ride was about 14 hours long. The cars were comfortable, the leg room between seats enormous, and the staff friendly. Our sack dinner and beverages were perfect (Amtrak lets you bring food and beverages on the train to be enjoyed at your seat). The entire experience was a huge upgrade from the trains I rode extensively in China. I highly recommend Amtrak, and especially the Empire Builder, for a long distance trip across the US. It's a great way to see the US.

The Amtrak train arrived early!

The Amtrak train arrived early!

We opted for seats on the trip, rather than the more expensive beds. I brought a lightweight blanket for Chels and I to sleep under, and we tried to get as comfortable as possible in the seats. All-in-all, not a bad night. I did stay up a little later than her doodling.

We did our best to get comfortable. the seats were much better than plane seats, but they were still seats. (I don't approve of this photo. - Chelsea)

We did our best to get comfortable. the seats were much better than plane seats, but they were still seats. (I don't approve of this photo. - Chelsea)

We're not going to tell you why we went to Portland. That's a reveal for next week, because as of yet we're not sure how this rail excursion will end. Suffice it to say, we bought one-way tickets.

Until next time…!