Category Archives: my life

Growth is hard and life on the road is filled with personal growth . We’re not afraid to put it out there. Stories of the things that effect us most.

party girls showing off

Adventures with Old Friends and New

Dirt Road from the airportIt’s been three years since boy and I went on our road trip adventure to Ouray Colorado so when Mark over at Metal Tech extended an invitation to their party at the 2011 FJ Summi in Ouray, it seemed like perfect timing.

Flying into Telluride on a cloudy day is an experience best describe as 45 minutes of complete boredom followed by 60 seconds of shear terror. The small plane which had to leave two passengers and six bags behind because of weight restrictions seem to fall from the sky as it descended from cruising altitude to landing strip in less time than it takes to say a quick Hail Mary and beg forgiveness for all the sins of my past.  As the saying goes: “Any landing you walk away from is a good landing”.

You would expect to see lots of FJ Cruiser photos and descriptions of wheeling trails like Black Bear or Corkscrew here. After all this is the 5th annual FJ Summit with some 500 folks gathering to drive the high mountain passes, compare rigs and talk wheeling. But today was more important than that.croud of people on a deck

Today was about meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Metal Tech sponsors a party at one of the local watering holes where the beer comes in their famous MT Pint Glasses (green this year if your collecting the set). If you don’t know about their pint glasses check on ebay… you can probably find someone willing to part with theirs for the right amount. Of course you may have to sell a kidney to afford one on ebay. Metal Tech doesn’t sell their pint glasses, instead they hand them out free at lots Land Cruiser events as their way of giving back to the wheeling community across the country.young man smiling

Mingling through the crowd, I found myself in a sea of new faces.   There is a strong community bond among this sport and  I quickly found everyone extending a hand and inviting me into their circle of friends  Some were here with friends, others with their wives or girlfriends and a few father bonding with their sons.

Walking through the bar, filled with hundreds of unfamiliar faces, one suddenly stood out.  I have a strong bond with Frank…  We wheeled The Rubicon Trail together.  The bond that formed on that off-road adventure is hard to explain but it will last a lifetime.  In no time the years melted away and we were sharing stories of our kids, work  and life.  Frank is one of the good guys that I’m fortunate to call my friend.

Parties have two phases.  Phase one is filed with folks talking, sharing stories, and exploring the ties that bond us all together.  When the sun goes down and crowds thin out…  Phase 2 takes over.  I wont name, names or go into details, but when Metal Tech throws a party, debauchery, mayhem, tramp stamp competitions and nudity are a real possibility.

the good night kissIn the morning, I’ll be wheeling as a guest of Metal Tech and have an opportunity to try out their new FJ Cruiser rear long travel I’ve been eying for a while now.  What Hula Betty doesn’t know…  That Metal Tech long travel is a done deal…  its just working out the timing now.

woman tattoo artist at work

The Continuing Adventures Of Hula Betty

hula betty looking outYes, every woman in this website is referred to as Hula Betty…  She is an independent spirit.  A woman who knows what she wants and has the drive to reach out and take it.  Hula Betty is a way of life that embraces adventure.  More than a name, more than a pretty face, Hula Betty is a way of life and a sense of self.  Which brings us to this adventure.

Leaving your parents’ home and going out on your own is the ultimate adventure.  Its the big adventure every parent looks forward to watching with pride and dreads with all their heart.  You hope that when they leave, they take with them the knowledge you’ve tried to impart, a strong identity of who they are and a compass in their soul that will always guide them home if needed.seattle street

Hula Betty has that and more.  And she wanted to make sure she never forgets her roots.  Her idea was to combine flesh and ink to create a permanent reminder of all those temporary feelings of her youth.

We set out for the city on a day painted with sunshine as the ferry boat pulled out into the sound.  Leaving the sleepy little poulsbo behind, the Seattle skyline grew closer as we talked about things to come and what led Hula Betty to her decision.  Two adults discussing rack

One thing about the ferry schedule…  you are either an hour early…  or hour late…  the boat never seems to line up with the time you planed.  But an early arrival gave us time to walk around, taking in the sites and the smells of Pikes Place.  We stopped to enjoy a little people watching from the calm of a barista’s paradise, and even managed to explore the world from the pages of a map as we chatted about the places that remained to be explored.  Today’s destination was a little closer…  but no less exotic.

seattle sky line tattooMadam Lazong’s was where I first had my adventures etched into flesh and I was proud to be asked to accompany Hula Betty as she marked her adventure.  She had spent considerable time contemplating designs, placement, and the emotions this marking would evoke for her.  She was ready but Steph was running late and you could tell Hula Betty was getting a little nervous as the realities of the needles sunk in.  But she is nothing, if not strong in her convictions, she knew the butterflies would pass.

Some times its the little things that have the most meaning in our lives.  For me it as a day spent with Hula Betty.  For her it was the elegant simplicity of the Seattle skyline to reminder of home.

man sleeping camp chair morning sun

River of Change

man fly fishing riverThe second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. Life is like a river flowing, ever-changing. It flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth and gentle in some places, it snags on rock crops out of nowhere. As soon as you think you are safe, something unexpected happens.

Pain finds men no matter where they are, no matter how good they are, how hard they try. Struggling to make ends meet, make relationships connect, make life work out. Men live on a piece of rock that makes us sitting by camp fire

Some, find a friend, a brother, to lean on. A brother in arms to help in the struggle, to stand shoulder to shoulder in the battle for life. A brother who, without question will lay down his life for another. A man who will walk the road of hell because someone is needed to point to the light, calm trembling eyes and show the way out.

These are not just words rolling out to the world. These are echoes of hope heard among the trees, on the river, soaring among the stars in the night. Men struggle at birth, through sickness, with old age and death. The world changes, life flows.

Thank you Lord for another day. Help my brother along his way, please; bring peace, to the soul. Grant us all peace, serenity and the courage to change.

west texas dog days

A Picture’s Worth A 1,000 Words

silver fj cruiser flexed out black bear ouray coloradoThose of you who have read through our stories here know that pictures are a big part of the last great road trip. And like boho chic runway models you will find one or two of our images that are better than average. But most of the time I rely on point shoot… shoot a lot and hope something interesting comes out.

But when I see someone with an eye for composition and an editing flare I realize I just hack at it…

You know who they are. Artist who tell their stories with a single image. William Shafer (Raggler on Flickr) is one of those guys who tells his stories with pixels. Stories that convey moods and transmits an energy without ever writing a single word. When I look at these images my soul changes.

white sand desert blue skyFor me there are hundreds of stories in each of these images. I don’t necessarily see only Raggler’s story… I see mine. I look into these images and I feel my past adventures and I imagine adventures still to come, I take his story and make it my own.

When I first came across Raggler’s images I felt the need to travel… around the block, around the world, it didn’t matter I just needed to travel. I see these images and sense the energy of the road, I hear the road calling to me, I feel its pull on my life.

silver fj cruiser sandy desert roadMy life has been dragged across blacktop and dirt around the world. I’ve encircled the globe four times, seen 17,504 sun rises and loved deeply.  I’ve driven to places I shouldn’t have and met people who surprised me in so many wonderful ways. My life stories are spread across the Internet and tattooed in flesh. But it is images like these that humble me. I see these images and know I have to keep moving.

Until the other day I didn’t know Raggler but now he’s inspired me to create better stories in life, words and images.

fj cruiser bikini woman…Ok this photo, just screams Hula Betty to me! What do you think?

Off road adventures and sharing the experience through the lens of a camera is something we all reach for but only a few like Raggler will grasp.

Thank you Raggler for sharing your images and allowing us to post them here.

olympic peninsula map

Getting Back In The Saddle

olympic peninsula trail map2009 was incredible for off-road adventures… Tahuya OVR ParkBill Burke training, Tillamook State Forest and of course the Rubicon Trail off-road adventure.   It wasn’t so good for economic adventures.  Without much work we had lots of time to hit the 4×4 trails…  A little too much time.  Fast forward to today, 2010 and economic times have improved.  Good news for business…  not so good news for wheeling.  Over the last six months we’ve racked up more air miles than trail hours, flying back and forth to Texas, Montana, Oregon, and around Washington.   But all that is about to change…  at least a little.

The good thing about nights on the road and working out of hotel rooms is you have lots of time to Google trails and research you next off-road adventure.  This time we were looking for a multi-day solo run to wash off the stress and airport grunge.

Turns out the Olympic Mountain Range is the wettest place in the lower 48 states…  If you live in northwest you may think your back yard is the wettest place on earth this year but really the Olympics are it.

It also turns out that there are forest and old logging road encircling the majority of the mountain range.  While not the gnarly boulder filled “roads” of Rubicon, the back roads of the Olympics offer seclusion in one of the most beautiful places in the northwest.

At just under 8,000 feet high, Mount Olympus is the big boy in the range which includes Mt. Deception, Constance, The Brothers, Warrior, Eleanor and a host of others.  The range is filled with rain forest, beach, alpine meadows, rain shadows, clear cuts and some of the world’s largest trees.

This off-road adventure is not going to be about raising our testosterone level with gnarly terrain or testing the limits of our suspension.  This adventure is about getting back in the saddle, connecting with the soul of the open road and freeing the demons in our head through quiet reflection alone in the middle of nowhere.

We’ve printed the maps and loaded 500 miles of GPS way points.  Now to finish up a little rig maintenance and wait for the sun to warm up the trail…  or at least the rain to stop for a bit.  We haven’t figured it all out but looks like we have a plan…  And a good plan today is better than a perfect plan a year from now.

holly names prom girls

Hula Betty Goes To Prom

holly names prom dates fj cruiserI’ll be the first to admit…  We are not high on the cool scale of 18 year old seniors. But when prom rolls around…  the laws of physics and high school insecurities are suspended.

Turns out that even the lines of limos didn’t draw as many looks or photo ops as our FJ Cruiser.  Of course after you’ve seen 10 stretch hummers…  you’ve seen them all…  But the Blue Bunny… There is only ONE.

So to all the kings and queens of the prom we hope you have a great time and stay safe.  As you graduate and venture out into the world, heading for college, work or military service remember…  The world is yours and it will become what you make it.  We hope you make it better than you found it and your life is filled with adventures just as special as Prom.

fj cruiser dash pod console

For The Love A Good Woman

broken fj cruiser passanger windowThe day started out perfect…  one of those beautiful crisp sun shinny fall Seattle days that mark the start of school and have you forgetting the cloud covered drizzle that you will soon be immersed in as the price for living in God’s country.  Parked on Western below Pikes Place Market like thousands of times before we left rig and set out to explore the local vendors’ quirky NW offerings…  did you know you can still buy a dragon shaped paper weight made from Mount St. Helens’ ash?

Back at the FJ Cruiser, as always, we left Hula Betty and Brenda, our GPS system (named by wife and girl for her voice when she tells us where to turn).  Over the miles, Brenda and Hula Betty have formed a deep bond of trust and friendship as they stood their posts on the dash.  Sure like sorority sisters fighting over a guys attention (ok that is my mid-life crises talking) they had their arguments but they always ended the day as friends.  And who knew that on this day that friendship would be put to the ultimate test.

Walking back to the rig, it wasn’t until I was at the passenger’s door that I notices the pile of broken glass shards twinkling on the ground and the gaping hole where a window  had once protected the interior form the NW’s elements.  AND THEN I HEARD IT…

Barely audible, a soft tear filled quivering voice came from the dash as Hula Betty struggled to find the words… She’s gone…  Brenda… is gone.  My eyes immediately fixed on the corner of the windshield, now empty, where Brenda had shouted out her navigational commands.  Still trying to collect herself, Hula Betty, shook and wiggled on the dash as she explained how Brenda sacrificed her life to save the rig from further damage and performed the ultimate act of friendship to keep Hula Betty affixed to the dash.

fj cruiser front seat full of shattered glassApparently as some crack tweaker smashed in the window, Brenda set off the alarm and distracted the thief screaming take me, leave the rest…  I’m the pretty shinny one… Take me leave everything else…  Hula Betty said those were the last words she heard and the last she saw of her friend as the crack whore ripped Brenda, sparkling like justice, from her stand leaving behind exposed wires and the little suction cup stand that she had once so proudly perched on.

Thanks to insurance and the Poulsbo Auto Glass Clinic, within less than 24 hours, the rig is getting repaired, Hula Betty is attending therapy to help with her post traumatic syndrome and a small private ceremony for family and friends was held that celebrated the electronic life taken from us too soon.  But I swear last night lying in the dark, drifting between consciousness and that half dream state I heard Brenda’s voice carried in over the breeze lovingly barking out “Stay Left, Drive 5.3 miles on I-5 and take exit 423 North”.

A day after our loss which we can still barely speak of, Hula Betty and I sit here in the driveway about to hit the road for Rubicon.  We observed a moment of silence and thought of all the miles we’ve seen with Brenda and how we’ll miss her…  All of us will be a little less without the love of a good woman.

sunset seen between pine trees

It’s My Blog and I’ll Ramble If I Want Too

mount angeles at hurrican ridgeThose of you who follow the Last Great Road Trip know to expect: FJ Cruiser How To articles,  off-road adventure  stories, Hula Betty’s off-road videos, diversity discussions and the occasional rant or rave on whatever it is that we feel like ranting about…

Well since I had time to think on a trip out to Hurricane Ridge and Obstruction Peak in the Olympic National Park this is one of those rant times….

Like most, I have a Facebook (heck even Hula Betty has a FB and she can barely reach the keyboard from the dash) with several of you friending me or joining the Last Great Road Trip fan page.  I want to thank so many of you for joining us on Facebook sending messages and posting comments.  It means a lot…  Thank you.

This website started as a way to connect with family and friends, and to let them follow along on our Arctic Circle off-road adventure now more than two years back.  Since than it has turned into so much more…  We’ve gone on all sorts of off-road adventures and posted hundreds of stories with thousands of folks (I know because I check our Google Analytic) reading them, watching the videos, down loading pictures and few even buying decals.  Sure the topic is 4×4 off-road adventures and it leans toward the Toyota FJ Cruiser crowd, but really it is about the friends we’ve met along the way and the relationships that form on the trail, by the camp fire or over a cup of coffee at a truck stop diner.sunset with moon over olympic mountains

The more we see and travel, the more it becomes true… Everyone has great stories tell… we want to hear them all…  We’ve met friends who faced cancer, joblessness, hearing loss, and death…  and they all seemed to go out of their way to lift the spirit of others and maintain a zest for life.

When I hear how someone connected with their dad on a road trip or decided to start a crazy adventure of their own… I crack a smile knowing how great that can be.  So thank you all for following along and I hope this website will continue to entertain, inform and inspire others to take on adventures in their own lives.  Who knew my mid-life crisis was going to be so much fun.

idaho spud king building sign art

Michelangelo Never Painted In The Rain

idaho construction wall artArt is amazing… It inspires, confuses, questions and touches people is ways they can’t explain.   Some seek out their art in churches, others in museums and galleries and some in private collections.  On my road trips and off-road adventures, I look for it outside, on the road and away from the crowds. commercial building art Whether it is Buddhist sand art, sand castles on the beach or back alley tags, out door art speaks to me.  And one of my favorite forms is building murals.  The older the building, the older the mural…  the better.

I don’t know what it is about the art on the side of buildings but it seems to be alive. Maybe it’s the quest since usually you need to hunt for it in back parking lots, alleys or off the beaten path.

Bull Durham building sign artBut building murals are not often shiny and new. Rather after years of ware and fading, the textures seem to tell the story of life.   The brilliant colors that once adorn the building become tired under the grind of daily life until its spirit begins to peal and crack.  However when you look closer, you see it is the aging tears in the paint against the texture of the building that gives the work its depth and sense of maturity.  You realize the art has stood against the elements and won.  The art is not fading, it is wearing its battle scares as a badge of honor and what looks like blistering and cracks are really welts taken in defense of its place in the sun.

roslyn cafe an oasis fj cruiserSure that is a lot to read into a an old building mural, but isn’t that better than thinking you really should smoke camels.

Art is everywhere and the next time you’re out on the road looking at a building mural, snap a picture and send it to us at off-road adventures on Facebook.  We can’t get enough.

metal tech beer pint glasses

Loose The Shirt – Win The Battle!

It’s funny how friendships develop.  You never really know until it is too late and you’ve gone and made a new friend.  One such friendship was struck up purely by accident.  A couple of years ago when we started to build up the rig for off-road adventures, I went looking for a shop that focused on Toyota trucks with a reputation for quality work and great service.  I found Metal Tech 4×4.

From the start there was something about Mark’s quiet confidence, patience and deep knowledge of all things Toyota Land Cruiser that struck me.  Mark chatted with me for hours about our plans for the rig, explained where he thought we should focus our mods and how to best prepare for the perils  of off-road travel. Mark took the time to explained the pros and cons of different suspensions, how to approach obstacles with an IFS vs. a solid axle, and even where to look for other resources.

At the 2008 FJ Summit Boy and I had a chance to wheel with Mark and LT.  To this day Boy still comments how much fun he had on Day 6 Blue Bunny,  thanks to Mark and LT’s ability to make a 14 year old boy feel like one of the guys.  Since then I’ve had a few chances to swing by the shop and it never fails that we spend a significant amount of time catching up.  Sure we talk about Land Cruisers, wheeling and upcoming activities.  But we also talk about our lives, kids and the zen art of small business management.

Only another entrepreneur can understand what its like to bet on your own business skills and stare down the responsibility of being the accountant, sales guy, bill collector, product developer and head bottle washer.  When I talk business with Mark his passion for creating quality products that allow others to enjoy off-roading as much as he does, really comes out.  But you still have to pay the bills and not too long ago Mark told me his story: “Loose The Shirt – Win The Battle”.

Intuit, the guys who brought you Quicken software, are running a competition for users of their business software.  The competition involves writing a story about your business and exposing yourself to the public vote for best story.  The top 50 stories will move on to the next phase of the competition with the winners eventually receiving cash grants to build their business.

It is not often that I ask you to take action.  Sure I ask you to click through a Google ad or two, but that is nothing compared to this request.  This is important.  Please take a moment:

  • Read the story Mark submitted Really go read it!  I’ll wait…
  • Vote on the story as Inspiring, Useful or Funny…  did you vote yet?  how about now?  NOW?
  • Leave a comment letting Mark and LT know what you think about their story

You will need to register with Intuit in order to vote.  It only takes a minute and you’re not having to give up any family secretes. No emails, no waiting just sign up, vote and done…  It’s that easy and a minor price to pay for the opportunity to make a big deposit in your good wheeling Karma account.  Remember…  Vote Early…  and Vote Often!

Thank you for helping a friend  out and the next time you find yourself in Newberg, OR. say hi to my friends at Metal Tech.  You just may strike up a friendship of your own.