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 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 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.