Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alaskan winter RV livin' update!

In this update:
* Toyota motorhome 3.0 V6 to 3.4 V6 engine swap & review
* A few new tips & advice
* Golden Eagle Bike Engine Kit
* The Shoot Dangs! 2nd national tour trip report & upcoming shows
* 1st annual SNOW-JOB Winter Festival

Well, it’s been since August now that the 1989 Toyota Odyssey 4x4 motorhome had an engine upgrade.  I took out the Toyota 3.0 V6 engine w/ blown headgasket and rusted block and swapped a 1999 Toyota 3.4 V6 engine in its place.  If you search the internet for reviews of this swap, you’ll find all kinds of advice, but the general consensus is that the power increase is noticeable and the gas mileage is improved...

1989 Toyota Odyssey 4x4 motorhome on an 8,000 mile road-trip in early-September, 2015


Now that I’ve had this engine in my Toyota motorhome (I couldn’t find anyone that did the 3.0 to 3.4 swap in a Toyota motorhome yet), here’s the honest truth to what I’ve found:

1)         There is a noticeable increase in power, but not a very significant increase.  The horsepower was boosted from the 3.0’s 145 hp to the 3.4’s 190 hp.  With the old 3.0 engine, I could never get into 5th gear, my average highway speed was about 45-50mph, and the motorhome severely slowed down on long uphills, sometimes needing 1st or 2nd gear on main roads and highways.
         The new 3.4 engine gave me an slight increase in top end speed (average speed is about 55 mph now), I can use 5th gear occasionally on flat ground or downhills, I rarely ever shift below 3rd gear on main roads/highways, and I have much more torque to climb long hills (the 3.4 almost feels like a diesel as it just pulls through the hills with its torque).  It’s really nice being able to almost keep up with Alaskan highway speeds now, occasionally I’ll hit 60 mph.

This was about half-way through the swap, before all the wiring and vacuum hoses began...

2)         Most people say you get a boost in miles per gallon (people claim 15-17mpg), but my oxygen sensors aren't hooked up yet (long story), which is giving me a significant decrease in miles per gallon (I went from getting an average of 12.5 mpg with the old 3.0 engine to getting an average of about 9 mpg with the new 3.4 engine). I'll be hooking those up in the next few weeks, still sorting some wiring harness issues out.

3)         You will have a boost of confidence on long road trips knowing you have one of the best engines (3.4) that Toyota has ever manufactured, much more reliable than the 3.0.

4)         While I would definitely recommend this 3.0 to 3.4 engine swap, if I would have known the gas mileage was going to drop 4 mpg instead of increase 4 mpg, I might have just swapped a V8 engine in its place instead of the 3.4 V6.  I still feel like there is not enough power as I would like, so the next upgrade I will make is adding a Toyota Supercharger to the 3.4 to give a significant horsepower increase and truly get me up to highway speeds (65 mph).

5)         You should probably order the 3.0 to 3.4 adapter kit from Offroad Solutions (ORS).  I ordered their 3.0 to 3.4 wiring harness adapter (which made the wiring much easier) and their exhaust manifold adapter (which switches the side the exhaust is on to fit your old Toyota 3.0 exhaust).  You will also have to custom make engine mounts unless you order them from ORS.  ORS is a great company and they can really help walk you through the engine swap on any complicated questions when all seems lost.  To save a little bit of headache, I put on a K&N Cold Air Intake so I could leave my battery on the same side of the engine as the 3.0 and not have to move the air filter box to the other side either.

Trying to find a swimming hole, turns out the California drought was pretty bad.
OFF-GRID RV LIVIN' TIPS & ADVICE:

Kage removed the passenger seat...

1) RV refrigerators don’t last forever.  If your fridge has a strong smell of ammonia, it’s time to get a new fridge.  The fridge in my Toy home died just 2 days before we left on our 8,000 mile road trip/band tour to Burning Man and back to Alaska. 

      Once your fridge is dead, it’s cheaper to buy a new fridge than actually repair the contained cooling system.  There’s a good chance your fridge won’t fit through your RV house door, but it’s very easy to remove the passenger seat of the Toyota motorhome and just fit the fridge through the passenger door.


Old fridge out, new fridge in.

2) KNOW the exact height of your motorhome! – it’ll take you 3 minutes… just get a tape measure out and do it!  I know the height of mine (12 feet 2 inches to the top of the wind-directional chimney cap)… but I never measured the height when the bikes were on the roof rack… BIG mistake.  I miscalculated how tall the RV was with the bikes on top and hit an old, stone arch bridge in Ashland, OR and broke the bike fork in half, ripped the roof rack off the RV, and spent the next day fixing everything in a parking lot.

     Every time I approach a bridge now I treat my motorhome like an 18 wheeler and look ahead to see the bridge height maximum clearance label before I pass under the bridge, this has saved me a ridiculous amount of times (the bikes on top bump me up to a 13 foot 2 inch clearance).  Something to think about.

The Toy home is toasty: cooking some moose that Kage hunted this year on the Kimberly wood stove.
3) Free internet! If you’re living off-grid in your motorhome, you’ll find coffee shops your best friend.  Spend a couple bucks on a coffee and then you have a place to hang out for hours with free internet and free heat to stay warm in the winter… some coffee shops even give you free refills the same day.

4) Park late and wake up early to avoid trouble! This is one of the easiest tricks in the book of off-grid motorhome living.  First, make yourself a list to hang up in your RV of all the “free” places you can think of to park overnight (public streets, neighborhoods, non-municipal parks, retail stores, abandoned side roads, mountain road or highway pull-outs, etc)… this helps you make an easy decision every night of where to stay. 

5) Never stay in the same spot 2 nights in-a-row, this is how you get busted and ruin it for everybody else that is trying to live unconventionally.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people living on the streets in RV’s that just sit in one spot for several days, sometimes up to a week… and sure enough a “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING” sign pops up and that once-awesome camping spot disappears forever.

     How do you avoid this situation? Get to your camping spot LATE at night (after 10:00 pm at the earliest) and LEAVE by 7:00 am.  Most people are home by 10 pm and won’t leave for work until after 7 am, which means you won’t have a bunch of passer-bys calling your RV in to the local police department.


6) PREPARE for winter!  If you have a wood stove in your motorhome and no where to plug into electricity, make sure you have enough wood to last you the entire season... you can't count on your propane furnace to keep you warm once your RV house battery dies.  On a cloudy week, my solar panels can't quite keep up with using the propane furnace too much, so the Kimberly wood stove is literally a life saver.

Engines on Bikes...




    I recently realized I may or may be a motorhead at heart, cause I just love engines.  Whitewater kayaking in the summer involves driving to the put-in on the river, then kayaking downstream… but how do you get back to your car after paddling the river if you carpooled with friends in one car?

     Hitch-hiking isn’t an option for half of the remote whitewater streams we paddle, so I sold some stuff I didn’t need anymore in my storage and bought myself a Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit.  Should make kayaking shuttles (and runnin' errands around Anchorage) cheap and fun.  These kits are made in Minnesota and are the only belt-drive, rear engine mount kit available for bikes.  After doing a lot of research, this kit seemed the best way to go for several reasons:

1)    Easy to install and remove.

2)    The clutch can be disengaged and the belt can quickly be removed in a few seconds, allowing for a completely friction free system (compared to a chain drive system which can’t be disconnected and creates drag when pedaling).  The belt drive system is also much quieter to ride around the city/sidewalks than a noisy chain drive system.

3)    The Honda GX35 4-stroke engine is super reliable, requires no mixing of gas & oil (so you can easily fill up at any gas station while riding around, and provides plenty of power.

     The Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit took about 30 minutes to install and was very straight forward.  The only real modification I had was having to drill a hole in the frame of my bike to attach the front engine mount bracket.


REVIEW: I have had the Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit since early December and kit has proven to be very reliable and super fun to drive around town (I’ve put about 450 miles on the kit so far).  I had to invest in some studded winter tires for my bike (26”x2.1”) because of the ice and snow from our Alaskan winters.
     The gas reservoir holds about 1/3 a liter of high octane (91) gasoline, which means it only cost about 18 cents to fill up!  You’ll make it around 15-ish miles on that tiny tank, which means I get about 180 miles per gallon!  Top crusing speed seems to be around 25-30mph and it’s pretty easy to keep up with traffic in town.  The engine mounts seem to be pretty solid jumping curbs and heading off-road.  Pedaling at start up for a few pedals helps take a big load of the engines little clutch and helps keep down the wear & tear on the engine.  The belt seems to be holding up just fine, but I ordered a spare belt just in case.

Rallying through the snow, works pretty awesome!
     I carry a 1 liter MSR fuel canister in my bike’s water bottle holder just incase I run out driving around somewhere.  The Honda engine starts within the first 2 pulls every time, it’s really nice being able to rely on an engine.  My next project is ordering a long drive belt and fabricating a wider drive ring for the wheel so I can install this kit on my fat bike (which was my original plan, but the fat bike has 5” wide tires so the stock Golden Eagle Bike Engine kit won’t fit).  Overall, the engine kit is pretty awesome & I would recommend if if you're looking for a cheap shuttle/transportation solution.  I figured it will pay for itself in gas money saved since us kayakers can just hop in one car and take the bike for the shuttle.

BAND TOUR

     This past fall our band, The Shoot Dangs!, did our 2nd national tour.  We loaded up in my Toyota RV and left Anchorage, Alaska on an 8,000 mile round-trip, taking the ferry on the Inside Passage of Alaska to play shows in Haines, Skagway, and Juneau then shows throughout Washington, Oregon, California, & Nevada, with Burning Man being the furthest stop of the trip.
Kage, Jerry, stranger & myself pickin on the porch.

Driving Nelly around & found this big shoe, Burning Man 2015.
The Front Porch crew, Burning Man 2015.
     We had an incredible time, made a lot of new friends and connections, and finally got to see all the small Alaskan coastal times, super cool to see if you haven’t seen them yet.  Our band has been on a little bit of a break while band members are out of state, but our first shows of the New Year are this February 11th, 12th, & 13th here in Alaska (Chair 5 Pizza Pub on 11th, Taproot on the 12th, Moose Pass Winter Festival on the 13th).  Looks like we’ve picked up a pretty wicked fiddle playin’ gal from Kentucky, so we’re looking forward to filling in our sound!  You can check out our live show schedule/music samples at www.reverbnation.com/theshootdangs . 

 
Tobias the wolf dog was tired... yup.

 This has been the first decent winter in Alaska we've had in a while.  The snowmachine skiing has been off the hook! Been trying to get out as much as possible, here' s a few random pictures of the shenanigans.  A few of us are in the process of creating a new freeride, film & music festival in Thompson Pass this April 14-17th (called Snowjob), which will be free to the public.  For more information, go to the event page:

www.facebook.com/events/1692276744322428/1692278930988876

That's about it for now...
Kage skiing a line in the Hoodoo Mountains, Eastern Alaska Range
Mad Maxin' the sled... Jeff & Rene's wedding in Hatchers Pass.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Six Mile Creek Whitewater and Bluegrass Festival ... Saturday, August 8th, 2015!!!!

         


                                            
Saturday, AUGUST 8th, 2015!
* This year's Six Mile Creek Festival is dedicated to the late Xavier Engle, our good friend, he'll be missed this year... we'll be having a riverside Viking burial for him and sending his ashes off in between the music - if you knew Xav or want to be a special part of this special send-off please bring flowers to put on the log raft for Xav*

*** THERE will be no food vendors this year! Bring food for yourself! ***

The purpose of the Six Mile Creek Whitewater & Bluegrass Festival is to bring everyone in the whitewater paddling community and also the music & arts community together to share a unique weekend of athletics, entertainment, the human connection and nature on the beautiful shores of Six Mile Creek.

Come experience the CHAOS of paddlers sprint racing through a narrow, whitewater canyon... guaranteed ear-to-ear grins! While you’re at it, come boogie on the shores of the river on Saturday night to some incredible, boot-stompin’ live music! EVERYTHING (live music, competition entry, festival entry, camping, parking) is FREE!!!!! As always, there will be a raffle for some sweet prizes, an awards ceremony for the races, live music, and some fire-spinning once the sun goes down!

However, I really need everyone to donate cash this year, as I've always lost money out of my own pocket to put this event on free for everyone... and I really want to be able to pay the bands this year... a $15 - $20 donation is really needed to help pay the set-up costs, portapotty rental, event insurance, misc expenses, bands, help buy a dome for the main stage, and keep this festival going year after year! **** There will be a cash donation box up front near the main stage, please put what you can in there to help make it possible to continue bringing everyone together every year at this festival****

DIRECTIONS: Drive 1 hour south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway towards the town of Hope. Main festival grounds are located at mile 3.4 of Hope Road. Look for festival signs.

PARKING: You can park off the shoulder of the road, but DO NOT park over the white lines or you will be towed. Don't block anyone in and make sure sure sure your car is completely off the road. They are very serious about towing, so please spread the word!!! Please be respectful and don't park on anyone's private property! Be creative and use your common sense.
*** there is a good chance that you might have to drop camping gear off at the festival area, and go drive your car down the road a ways and find a shoulder big enough to pull off over the white line. There is another large camping area around mile marker 1.

* Free camping! around the main festival grounds, no room for RV's though, tent camping only. There are plenty of free camping areas along the road to Hope, just be creative. There is also an official campground about 10 miles down the road past the town of Hope. Once again, be creative and use your common sense.


* PLEASE PACK OUT YOUR OWN TRASH!!!! It would be awesome to have everyone's help on Sunday morning cleaning up the area... the Chugach National Forest rangers will be assessing the area after the festival and it needs to be BETTER than it was before the festival to have the festival next year... I need everyone's participation to do this (pick up any trash/paper, fluff up the grass where your tent was, pick up any left-over food on the ground, etc)

** If you get to the main festival grounds at 1:00pm on Saturday and wonder where folks are at... YOU'RE MISSING THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE FESTIVAL!!!!... the extreme, mass-start sprint races 5 minutes back up the road!! (look for lots of parked cars off the Seward Hwy about a mile north of the Hope Road junction).

DIRECTIONS to the extreme race area mentioned above: *Competitors & spectators will leave the main festival grounds & drive up the road to the 1st canyon race area just off the Seward Highway about 1 mile north of the Canyon Creek bridge overpass on Saturday at 1:00p.m. sharp...*** you'll notice people leaving the main festival area, just use your intuition and follow them***


* If you want to volunteer, all you have to do is contribute somehow. I need volunteers to
- make a fire pit/collect firewood
- pick up trash and bring it to town/the Hope dump on Sunday morning
- help break down the main stage on Sunday morning
- help pack up Sunday morning
- help direct people towards parking
- river safety/rescue racers by boat/throwbag
-etc etc etc

IF YOU WANT TO VOLUNTEER, please contact me at kayaker35@hotmail.com or just help at the festival when it looks like help is needed.

MUSIC Schedule:

SATURDAY, AUGUST 8th, 2015 at the main festival grounds:

- 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Angeline Moore
- 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm : Two Katfish( Kat Moore & Co)
**** Viking Burial Ceremony for Xavier Engle AND awards ceremony****
- 7:15 pm - 9:00 pm : Big Fat Buddha
- 9:30 pm - 11:00 pm : The Shoot Dangs
- 11:30 pm - 1:30 am : Blackwater Railroad Company

EVENT SCHEDULE:

SATURDAY, AUGUST 8th, 2015:

11:00 am : all competitors/racers need to walk down to the main festival tent/dome on the shore of the river, grab a racing bib and sign your name, Bib number, and phone number on the sign up sheet. PLEASE return bibs to the main stage tent immediately after the races!

12:30 pm: racers and spectators leave main festival grounds at Boston Bar area and carpool/drive back north to the 1st canyon extreme race series site (5 minutes back towards Anchorage from the main festival site, about 1 mile north of the Seward Highway bridge over Canyon Creek, just before the Hope cut-off road... look for lots of parked cars off the side of the highway at 1:00pm.

1:00 pm - 1:30 pm : Downriver mass-start extreme race through the 3 biggest rapids of the 1st canyon (KAYAK, canoe, inflatable kayak)

2:00 pm: PACK RAFT mass-start extreme race through the 3 biggest rapids of the 1st canyon (pack rafts only)

2:30 pm: INFLATABLE POOL-TOY extreme mass-start race (inflatable pool-toy race...ride an alligator, shark, couch, whatever you want!... (normal whitewater gear is required (aka: drysuit, life jacket, helmet))... pack rafts don't count as an inflatable pool-toy:^

4:00 pm: everyone drives back to main festival area, awards ceremony, bonfire party, & live music begins. AWARDS will be around 7:00pm!


Here's a write-up from a few years back:
http://girdwoodsummer.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/six-mile-whitewater-festi...

and a quick racing video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3p-qKFn4I4

and a video of some of the live music that will be happenin!:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrFECx0IyF0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGJIjvT0AB8


Sponsors:
* Cook Inlet Keepers
* Mooses Tooth Brewing Company
* Susitna Sled & Kayak
* Alaska Raft & Kayak
* Chugach Outdoor Center
* NOVA
* American Whitewater
* Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking
* Bills Distributing
* Knik Canoe & Kayak Club
* Great Harvest Bread Company

******* Any questions please email or if you want to volunteer help please Timmy @ kayaker35@hotmail.com or sign up at the festival grounds*******


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

3 years of Toyota motorhome living - how goes it???

1989 Toyota Odyssey 4x4 (1 of only 6 ever made - I was lucky to come across it!)

  It's been a while and  I've had several folks ask what's up, so here's an update.  First, the Toyota 4x4 motorhome lives on!  Although the V6 3.0 liter engine has a blown head gasket and is limping around, I'm currently in the process of installing a larger, custom V6 3.4 liter engine.  It should boost my horsepower from 145 hp to 190 hp.  55 hp will make a huge difference driving "Nelly" all around Alaska.

  I've done quite a bit of research, and Toyota's 3.4 L is a significant improvement in reliability, power, and fuel economy, so I should literally be a happy camper once the engine swap is complete by mid-April.  It will also
be pretty sweet to have the capability to drive faster than 40 mph down the highway.  Thanks all you patient people out there, I'm sure I've pissed you off at some point, but just remember... I'm not in a hurry cause' I'm already home.


     We haven't had much of a winter in Alaska this year.  It's been one of the warmest and least snowiest winters on record (warm ocean currents have not shifted much from last year, causing oddly warm weather patterns), and you can really see it in the mountains.  Snowmachines are still not allowed in most of the public use areas due to lack of snow.  People are still skiing, but it's pretty sad this year... even my interior RV garden (pictured below) was growing into mid-October this year, unbelievable!


Crow Creek Road, Girdwood, AK
     I just realized this coming April will make 3 years of living in the Toy home.  It's been a crazy adventure and I've met a lot of incredible people along the way.  2 more years to go and I'll have the Toy home paid off!

     I've found Alaska to be an awesome place to live in a camper off-grid, however I have also noticed a lot of potential camping areas and public parking areas have been closing down the last 3 years, and I feel like I need to do my part by speaking up.  There are a few other people out there living in vehicles and some people have been ruining the free camping spots, primarily by staying in one spot too long and then the spot is permanently blocked off or "No Camping/No Overnight Parking" signs are put in place.

     One example of prime spots to stay the evening, but have closed do to excessive, multi-day camping:
Home for the night at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood - skiing and live music, yup!
The Seward Highway pull-offs.  There used to be a dozen different pull-outs to park and stay overnight in (provided you are low-key and move along in the early morning).  Unfortunately, people camped too long, and now there are 3 ft. ditches and large boulders blocking the pull-outs, rendering them completely unusable... even if passerbys simply want to rest for a moment.  It is sad to see these spots permanently erased from the list of places to potentially camp for a night.  To everyone out there staying overnight in their vehicles... please be responsible, leave your spot early the next morning, take your trash with you, and be respectful about using the bathroom (if you don't have a bathroom or porta-potty in your camper, then make sure to dig a hole and bury your waste/burn your toilet paper).  If you ever go to New Zealand, the free camping has literally been ruined by tourists and locals that use the bathroom and leave their waste and toilet paper exposed everywhere.  We don't want Alaska to begin closing our free camping areas down, so do your part!

     That is all.  If we can all educate ourselves on being more responsible campers and stewards of the environment, then we will continue to enjoy free camping and no hassles in Anchorage and all around Alaska.

                      Another free overnight camping spot...  I make sure to camp responsibly and move early the next morning so there are no issues.
Kage & I at an abandoned gold mine in the Talkeetna Mountains.




































      Kage and I recently returned from a trip to New Zealand and Fiji.  We had an incredible time overseas and all I recall is a blur of incredible experiences: scuba diving, whitewater pack rafting, speed flying, paragliding, canyoning, hiking, caving, busking and played a few shows with our instruments, fire spinning, stopped by the Lord of the Rings "Shire/Hobbiton," oh... and consumed a healthy amount of lamb pies with an occasional salad.  We bought a van (1992 Toyota HiAce diesel cow), converted the van into a fully self-contained camper (installed a toilet, sink, and fresh/grey water tanks) and toured both islands of New Zealand.

   Below is a quick video of one of the adventures: 


A Hobbit home in The Shire, Lord of the Rings movie set, New Zealand.


     As I mentioned above, free camping in New Zealand has become next to impossible.  Tourist and locals alike have absolutely trashed the land.  Almost every scenic pull-out we came to or trail-head has toilet paper literally everywhere, and plenty of trash found nearby.  It's actually really sad, as this was my 5th time visiting New Zealand, and now there are "No Freedom Camping" signs everywhere.

     Unfortunately, campervans have become the target for irresponsibility, as locals and police assume that campervans staying overnight without an onboard bathroom or porta-potty are leaving the toilet paper behind, when the reality is that day-hikers or sight-see'ers just passing by also leave behind trash and toilet paper.

     The only way to camp for free in New Zealand these days is by obtaining a "Self-Contained" sticker from local auditors who inspect your van after you have installed a plumbed sink, sealed fresh water and waste water tanks, and a sealed porta-potty system (see pictures below).

Our fully-converted Toyota Hiace diesel van: plumbed a sink and freshwater/wastewater tanks, added a toilet behind the drivers seat.





The required "Self-Contained" sticker you need to camp for free in New Zealand
Kage with a celebration float after running the whitewater upstream on the Kawaru River, South Island, NZ.
The "Embrace" sculpture burning at sunrise completely surrounded by over 50,000 people.  Small-scale tornados were created from the intense heat produced by the fire! Unreal! Another beatiful moment at B.M.

  Another highlight of the year was getting to experience and participate in the Burning Man festival this past August/September, held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.  If you are open-minded and want a mind-blowing experience that you can't experience (to this magnitude) anywhere else in the world, then you absolutely have to go to Burning Man at some point in your life.
     Over 50,000 people of all ages, all walks of life, all personalities and oddities, come together for a week in the Nevada desert to create Black Rock City.  I read and heard how large and overwhelming this city becomes, and man did it live up to all the hype!  I think I'm still residualy dancing over half a year later... and we're definitely going back this year!
     What do you do at Burning Man? Well, I remember: riding on pirate ships across sand,  climbing into a box of mirrors and losing all direction, chasing a flaming mechanical octopus,  riding a bike through a tornado, camping with the owner of a pro baseball team, wandering from live show to live show with fire-blasting canons and stacks of speakers taller than a hotel - so much sound the hairs on your arms would stand up...  and I made many great friends I'll know or remember for a long, long time. Incredible!
Taking a break somewhere in Black Rock City.  It's hard to get lost when you can make anywhere your home.


Kage and I playing pickin' some grindage' for passerbys.




  The Shoot Dangs! have had another awesome year of shows in ridiculously awesome places.  Arctic Man, Tailgate Alaska, Salmonstock, Forest Fair, SnowFest, Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival, Six Mile Creek Whitewater and Bluegrass Festival, I can't even remember them all!  We had the opportunity to play shows at bars and music venues in Valdez, Homer, Denali, Talkeetna, Seward, Girdwood, Hope, Fairbanks, and Anchorage, and we'll be doing it again this summer!  Thanks so much to the fans, friends, and strangers that encourage us to keep keepin' on!

     We're currently in the process of recording a new album, which should hopefully be ready for release at the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival on May 22nd, 2015.  A lot of new, original songs inspired by outlaws, freedom and times long gone.

Thanks to our friend Katxia for drawing (a tiny version) of our banner!! We love it!

     The band is also planning a fall tour from Alaska down to Burning Man 2015.  We are hoping to take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and play shows along the southeast Alaska coastal towns (like Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell, etc) the last week of August.  We'll be taking the Toyota motorhome down.  Can't wait!  Well, until next time... oh, and for a list of show dates, booking information or music samples, go to www.reverbnation.com/theshootdangs


A show at Down East Saloon, Homer, AK.




Thursday, July 17, 2014

Six Mile Creek Whitewater & Bluegrass Festival! Friday & Saturday, August 8th & 9th, 2014!!!



Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, AUGUST 8th - 10th, 2014!

The FACEBOOK event page for Six Mile Fest.... www.facebook.com/events/1415787765367682

Come experience the CHAOS of WAYYY too many people sprint racing through a narrow, whitewater canyon... guaranteed ear-to-ear grins! While you’re at it, come boogie on the shores of the river on Friday & Saturday nights to boot-stompin’ live music. AJ’s barbeque will feed you (bring cash). EVERYTHING (live music, raffle tickets, competition entry, festival entry, camping, parking) is FREE!!!!! 

** However, a $$$ donation will REALLY help pay the set-up costs, permit fees, and keep this festival going year after year!

For more info visit:
www.timmystoyota.blogspot.com or contact kayaker35@hotmail.com




DIRECTIONS: Drive 1 hour south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway towards the town of Hope. Main festival grounds are located at mile 3.4 of Hope Road. Look for festival signs.

PARKING: You can park off the shoulder of the road, but DO NOT park over the white lines or you will be towed. They are very series about towing, so please spread the word!!! Please be respectful and don't park on anyone's private property!

* Free camping!
* 21+ to drink (BYOB)
*** Please bring cash for a generous donation...

There will be food from AJ's Bar-be-que Friday & Saturday, a raffle for some sweet prizes, and some fire-spinning once the sun goes down!

* Please pack in and pack out your own trash. If you have time to help clean up the festival grounds on Sunday, your help will not go unnoticed!

* If you want to volunteer, all you have to do is contribute somehow. I need volunteers to
- make a fire pit/collect firewood
- pick up trash and bring it to town on Sunday morning
- help break down the main stage on Sunday morning
- help pack up Sunday morning
- help direct people towards parking
- river safety/rescue racers by boat/throwbag
-etc etc etc

IF YOU WANT TO VOLUNTEER, please contact me at kayaker35@hotmail.com







MUSIC Schedule:

FRIDAY, AUGUST 8th, 2014 at the main festival grounds:
- 10:00pm - 11:00pm : Backwoods Revolution
- 11:30pm - 1:30am : The Dirty Hands

SATURDAY, AUGUST 9th, 2014 at the main festival grounds:

- 6:00pm - 7:00pm : Wayward North
- 7:30pm - 9:30pm : The Destry J.W. Smith Band
- 10:00pm - 12:00pm : The Shoot Dangs
- 12:30pm - 2:30am : TBA

EVENT SCHEDULE:

SATURDAY, AUGUST 9th, 2014:

11:00 am : competitor sign-up down at the main festival grounds tent/main stage area, racing bib hand-out

12:30 pm: racers and spectators leave main festival grounds at Boston Bar area and carpool/drive back north to the 1st canyon extreme race series site (about 1 mile north of the Seward Highway bridge over Canyon Creek, just before the Hope cut-off road... look for lots of parked cars off the side of the highway at 1:00pm.

1:00 pm : Downriver mass-start extreme race through the 3 biggest rapids of the 1st canyon (KAYAK, canoe, inflatable kayak)

1:30 pm: PACK RAFT mass-start extreme race through the 3 biggest rapids of the 1st canyon (pack rafts only)

2:00 pm: INFLATABLE POOL-TOY extreme mass-start race (inflatable pool-toy race...ride an alligator, shark, couch, whatever you want!... (normal whitewater gear is required (aka: drysuit, life jacket, helmet))... pack rafts don't count as an inflatable pool-toy:^

2:30 pm: Backwards race! (ALL river craft!) You go forwards, you're disqualified!

4:00 pm: everyone drives back to main festival area, awards ceremony, bonfire party, micro-brewed beer, AJ's bar-be-que, FREE RAFFLE, & live music begins. AWARDS will be around 7:00pm!






Here's a write-up from a few years back:
http://girdwoodsummer.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/six-mile-whitewater-festi...

and a quick racing video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3p-qKFn4I4

DIRECTIONS to the racing area: *Competitors & spectators will leave the main festival grounds & drive up the road to the 1st canyon race area just off the Seward Highway about 1 mile north of the Canyon Creek bridge overpass on Saturday at 1:00p.m. sharp. * There are plenty of free camping spots along the Hope Road if the camping/parking is full at the main festival grounds.




Sponsors:
* Cook Inlet Keepers
* Mooses Tooth Brewing Company
* World Kayak
* Susitna Sled & Kayak
* Alaska Raft & Kayak
* Chugach Outdoor Center
* NOVA
* American Whitewater
* Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking
* Bills Distributing
* Knik Canoe & Kayak Club
* Great Harvest Bread Company

******* Any questions please email or if you want to volunteer help please Timmy @ kayaker35@hotmail.com or sign up at the festival grounds/beer garden*******

Monday, March 10, 2014

Living off-grid interview by Nest Magazine

Here's a recent interview Kage and I had by Nest Magazine.  You can find a much prettier version of the arcticle on Nest Magazine's website:

http://www.nest-mag.com/index.php/nests/tim-johnson

I hope this article helps or inspires someone, somehow.   It'd be a lot easier to go about my own business and not spend any time writing or answering questions from people, but I think it's important to send back the positive energy and inspiration that so many people send out to me, so here's my odd way of doing it.  Kage throws some great tips out there for women that are considering a similar lifestyle on the road.  Thanks Inga for the interview:


NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

Living in a van down by the river

The first step to living small, but big: move into something smaller!

Tim is from the warm south of the U.S. and moved to the ice-cold north to realize his dream of living off-grid in a motorhome. Together with his girlfriend Kage he travels on Alaska's roads, showering in the gym, growing salad in the indoor garden, and keeping warm with the help of a wood stove. True to the motto: "The 1st step to living small, but BIG: move into something smaller!" In the following interview Tim and Kage tell us about the life on the road and in the cold.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

Could you give me some information about your personal background? Who are you, what is your profession, where are you from, what are your hobbies, what do you wish for your life?

     My name is Tim Johnson, friends call me Timmy. My profession? Metaphorically “living out of the box”… while literally “living in a box.” I guess my main income is based off of teaching driving.  I try to save every scary, hard-earned penny I make teaching driving and invest in life's many adventures & a sporadic life on the road.  I’m nearly finished with a Masters degree in Environmental Science/Isotope Hydrology, so I might not have to continue risking my life with new driving students. There’s something sketchy about driving down an icy Alaskan highway in January, with a brand new driver that speaks no English and has horrible reflexes… but I supposed somebody’s gotta do it.

     I grew up in North Georgia’s Smokey Mountains. Maybe you’ve seen the movie Deliverance? Them are my stompin’ grounds. Spending time in an Alaskan bush cabin as a kid, I always found myself dreaming of calling Alaska “home”. I finally moved to Alaska in 2002, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com
NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

     Some folks have a drinking problem. I have a “water problem”, otherwise known as whitewater kayaking. Kayaking is the backbone of my adventures in Alaska and around the globe. The summer in Alaska is incredible for kayaking, where I can lose myself in deep, remote, and unforgiving whitewater canyons. In the winter-time, I either travel out of the USA to paddle (usually to New Zealand, my second home) or I’ll hang around Alaska and ski, speed-fly, or snow machine. I also enjoy picking the banjo in my free time, and try to do a show every now and then with our band. My girlfriend, Kage, is also a banjo player (she helped teach me a few new banjo skills), so we share the passion for playing and creating music.

     What do I wish for my life? Honestly, I wish to learn everything I can from everything around me, and I hope to make a positive impact in the people’s lives I interact with. I also aim to create an environment that inspires adventure (within myself and others), morphs dreams to reality, and leaves a positive footprint and a bit of inspiration behind. I’m always grateful for the inspiration other people give me, so I’m just attempting to return that energy.

What happened that you've decided to move from the warm south to the cold north of the U.S.? From where came the idea to live off-grid all year in your camper?

     After spending time as a kid in the remote wilderness of Lake Clark National Park, I just always knew I wanted to call Alaska home… so I simply acted on my dreams.  I never did like moving into new homes. It seemed I had to move into a new apartment or home at least every year for 10 years straight, throughout Anchorage and Girdwood. Roommates would move in or move out, and I would basically be forced to find a new home. I had enough belongings to outfit an entire house, so every time I moved it was a serious undertaking. I finally grew tired of moving all my belongings around, so I decided to sell everything that was unnecessary, and move into a small motorhome year-round. I was really concerned at first, because I knew I would not have a designated place to park, and I didn’t know how comfortable I would be throughout the cold winter months.

     As it turns out… if you think “out of the box”, life on the road will more than accommodate you.
In an article about you, I've read that the reason you've moved to Alaska was the dream of living in the wildest place on Earth. What is the most fascinating thing about this rough nature?
The most fascinating aspect of Alaska is the raw experience of untouched wilderness. I haven’t been anywhere else on earth that feels so remote and wild, even within a short distance of the city.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com
NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

Could you tell me something about your camper? Where have you found it? What add-ons have you added since you owned it?

     After the decision to live in a motorhome full-time, my old man (Bob) & I were searching the internet for a Toyota 4x4 motorhome, and my old man came across an ad for an extremely rare (only 6 ever made) Toyota Odyssey 4-wheel drive motorhome in Los Angeles, California. We both were looking for a 4x4 motorhome at the time, and since I lived in Alaska (he lives in Georgia) and I was planning on living full-time in the motorhome, I decided to buy the 4x4 motorhome… and he opted for a very rare Toyota Sunrader diesel 2-wheel drive motorhome for his travels.

     The Toyota Odyssey 4x4 has come a really long way from its stock chassis. I have installed a wood stove & chimney, along with solar panels, which allow me to live “off-grid” and not be plugged into a power source for heat or electricity. If it’s cold, I simply throw wood in the fire instead of relying on propane or a generator. If I want to watch a movie or charge my phone, the solar panels power the LED TV and recharge my phone. Pretty cool.

     I also had to custom-build a kayak rack on the roof to hold the kayaks, and added a couple of rocket boxes to store skis & gear on the roof. I also added an 8-inch lift, 33” off-road tires/rims, and a bull-bar/brush guard to protect the motorhome from a wreck (since the brakes are stock Toyota 4-Runner brakes and are severely underpowered). In the spring, summer, and fall, I have an interior garden where I grow lettuce, green onions, and spices for an off-grid food source.

     My girlfriend quickly pointed out that my camper looked like a sporty man-mobile, and even though I thought it looked pretty sexy, she has definitely helped make the inside look a little classier. I grew up in log cabins and always wanted a rustic, but modern-twist cabin-look to my motorhome. Kage has helped envision several interior designs and projects. The latest little project was making ceiling beams using 100+ year old, grey-weathered wood from old Alaskan gold mines. Looks pretty awesome! I sewed some custom, super-thick winter curtains made of oven-mit fabric, which keeps the heat trapped inside the single-pane windows in the winter time. Kage sewed some faux-leather curtains for a little extra attitude in the summer time.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com
NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

You've named your camper "Pittsburgh Nelly". Where did this name came from?

     Ah, I just couldn’t think of a better name. Nelly just rolls of the tongue easily. Watch Chris Farley’s movie “Almost Heros” and wait for the punch-line if you really want to find out…

I'm really enthusiastic about the fitting-out of your nest. What impressed me most is the little in-house garden. How did the first motorhome-grown salad taste?

     The motorhome’s in-house garden is one of my favorite features also. There is something about having living plants and edible food growing in your car just makes it truly feel homey. The salad is ain’t that bad either. We’ve had a couple of aphid problems eating the lettuce, but whenever that’s under control it’s nice having free, healthy meals and spices for cooking.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

I suppose the winter temperatures in Alaska are really cold and most of us aren't used to bear those. How do you get through the ice-cold nights in your motorhome? Any special tactics? Or probably longing for a warm shower?

     The Kimberly wood stove is the only reason we are able to comfortably survive the winter in my motorhome. I keep the fire stoked on the majority of the winter. Keeping the fire going cuts down the condensation from cooking and breathing in such a small 110 square foot living space. Even though the motorhome is not well-insulated at all, the wood stove puts out enough heat to keep the home cozy. I do have a built-in, 16,000 BTU propane furnace which we occasionally use to quickly warm things up, but RV propane furnaces are not truly designed to be used 24 hours a day, and have a tendency to fail.

     Kage and I use each other for heat (which helps a lot), but replacing cotton sheets with fleece blankets is my best advice to staying toasty warm. We throw a big down comforter on top of those fleece blankets on really cold nights, and although ice forms around your face and pillow, you stay nice and warm. We typically just take showers at the gym (a gym membership is a great thing!) or at friend’s homes.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com
NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com
NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

I could imagine that many people that you meet while traveling are fascinated by your vehicle. What was the most beautiful or unexpected reaction to your motorhome and your unusual lifestyle?

     We get all kinds of great reactions to the motorhome. Usually it’s an ear-to-ear grin, or someone beeps their horn and gives a thumbs up. Sometimes people and businesses leave gifts of food on the hood. In the winter, I run the wood stove basically all day, so the motorhome drives around with a fire burning. I always get funny reactions from people at red lights, because of the smoking chimney.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

     The craziest single reaction I had to the home was this past November. It was about -20 degrees F outside and I had the wood stove going. I went in to get some groceries for dinner, and while shopping the grocery store intercom came on. The person speaking on the intercom said “Attention! License plate “Y-RENT”… your RV is on fire!!!!!!” I finished shopping (knowing everything was fine, as the wood stove is air-tight), checked out at the register, and walked out of the grocery store to see about 70 people pointing at my RV and it’s smoking chimney (from the wood stove). Bystanders and fire fighters were surrounding the motorhome, planning out what to do next. I walked up to them and told them I just had a wood stove, and they all laughed and went their own ways.

I don't want to keep the new music video of your band "The Shoot Dangs" from our readers. I for one, am already a big fan. How do you combine the tour life with your life in the camper? Are you all living in your camper together while touring through Alaska?

     “The Shoot Dangs!” aren’t touring full-time in the camper, but one of our band members is from Fairbanks, so when he comes down to Anchorage for our shows, he usually sleeps in the RV’s guest bed.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com
NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

     We just completed a Southeastern USA tour from Georgia to Texas, but we didn’t bring my motorhome, just a tiny 1989 Toyota Corolla 4wd station wagon. We’re all close friends now, but next time, we’re bringing the motorhome. This is the first real band I have ever been in, and it’s been a lot of fun. We are planning a future tour to play at Octoberfest in Germany (and all over Europe), then head over to Tokyo, Japan next fall to play some shows. We’ll also be playing around Alaska all winter/spring/summer long. Honestly, it’s a lot of fun creating music and sharing it with people, there’s no other feeling like it. Listening and playing music has always been a core part of my life, and it’s awesome to contribute and give back to the music scene.

NEST MAG - Tim Johnson - Living in a van down by the river - www.nest-mag.com

Kage's camping tricks for girls

     Some girls are hesitant to live a life off the grid that may cause your hygiene and beauty to be on the rocks. I try to keep things really simple for myself. Having a fire going all night sometimes leaves my face dry. To resolve this, I heat a pot of water to steam over the stove, which warms my face. This water can also be used to make coffee. I use a mist of rose water to wash my face. I have apricot oil for my skin and hair, with a dash of concealer, and mascara - if the day calls for it. I like to keep antibacterial oils for remedies. Lemon, peppermint, and water mixed in a spritz is great for car sickness on long trips or headaches. Try Rose, cypress, or eucalyptus mixed with grape seed oil to deodorize armpits instead of a deodorant. If I get smelly I use rose water to rinse, pat dry, and a cotton ball application of rose oil over it. Rosemary mixed with a lighter oil is great for a finish on your hair ends.

Tim Johnson

     If the weather gets really cold it is good to have a bag that insulates your shampoo and conditioner so that they do not freeze. Some of you hair and skin care products can freeze or blow up! This can be troublesome because when some products freeze, the water and oil separate in the product and sometimes do not mix back together again. A thick fabric or insulated bag keeps this from happening. It’s nice to have it in a fabric that can be washed if you have product spill out of the containers. I spoil myself and use a big towel when I shower because I like having it for my whole body and long hair. The small camping towels just don’t cut it for me.

    If your hair looks too oily, I have a couple of favorite hats I like to wear as often as I can or use a dry shampoo. You can also use a huge makeup brush and use powder on your hair roots. This works great for me because I’m a natural blonde. I have also learned a nifty little hair duo where you part your hair on one side and do a French braid with the front hair to the other side; leaving the rest of your hair free.

     Fashion clothes, outdoor gear, work clothes, and play clothes. Getting your entire wardrobe in a small space is not easy when you start out. You have to down size slowly. Eventually you learn that having too much will bring you down. I like to keep in mind the type of fabric I have and for what activity. Will it dry quickly and is it warm? What I have found out to be most essential is: jacket, black spandex leggings, spandex tank tops, fun dress, comfy long top, vest, fashion scarfs, leg warmers, long johns, corduroys, favorite tee, wool sweater, polypropylene hiking ‘zippy’ top, yoga pants, sweatshirt, Carrhartt overalls, wool soxs, hats, running/hiking shoe, crocs, leather boots, rubber boots, and a chicken costume with a tutu.

     I pretty much have one of everything and make it work for everything we do. I can fit all of this in a 2ft by 1.5ft space and a small closet only 4 feet tall x 2 feet wide, except the chicken costume; that goes in the Rocket Box on top of the camper. Tim built a little wooden separator in the 2 ft x 1.5 ft. bin so it is easier for me to stay organized and see what I have to work with. He also put in a long body mirror on the inside of the bathroom door so that I can see all of myself! In the winter we drain the water out of the camper pipes and stop taking showers in the camper. This gives us extra space to store large winter clothes, mukluks, and things in the shower that we don’t typically use in the summer. We also have a little vertical shoe compartment hanging up and that helps us keep gloves, hats, scarfs, snow beacons, goggles, and cross country ski boots organized.

     I clean with Windex, vinegar water, lemon, and vodka. I try to stay away from chemicals as much as possible. Vodka mixed with water cleans wonderfully in the winter because it doesn’t freeze. I like to use a straw wicker broom when I can to keep dirt and dog hair out. We also have a little vacuum that we will charge once in a while with the solar panels. It’s nice to get everything vacuumed out even when it’s cold. Maintaining a clean house on wheels is necessary if you want to be able to actually drive around. We could use the free car wash vacuums but we tend to be out of town often and I get a kick out of vacuuming in the wilderness with no power lines around.

How many miles have you driven with Pittsburgh Nelly on Alaska's roads?

     I’ve put about 30,000 miles on the Alaskan roads and about 2,000 miles off-road so far, and hopefully those miles will keep accumulating (as long as the little V6 3.0 engine keeps chugging along). I don’t have a real winch yet, but I’ve had to use a come-along hand winch to pull myself out of a couple mud holes and bogs (there are a few crazy roads and trails to navigate up here if you’re playing in the woods or camping).

What are you planning for the future? Still living in a van down by the river and sleep each night at a different place?

      The future? I guess a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. So today, I’m going to enjoy myself and hopefully do the same tomorrow.

And finally, what does a nest (home) mean to you?

     A nest, home, spread, or whatever you want to call it is, more than anything, is an environment to call your own, where comfort and familiarity are status quo. It provides a space to recharge your being, refuel your body, and rest your mind. Everyone should experience the privilege of their own NEST!

Thanks again Inga, see ya'll out there on the road, er river, er where ever...

- Timmy J.