Goldi-Locker and the Three Diamonds - 3 days prep, 1 week on the road, 1500 miles, 2 brothers.

Preface to the 1500 mile trip:

In the fall of 2016 I was out on an adventure up the PCH through Big Sur to Berkeley, the trip was before the landslide that closed a section of PCH, but it was during some of the wildfires that summer. I had been planning to visit home, a couple thousand miles away in Michigan when I got a call saying my grandma had fallen and hurt her hip, she needed a blood transfusion as well. I hadn’t seen her in a year so I didn’t know how serious things were. That adventure to get home became a cross country color run, chasing the fall colors through Colorado and up into Michigan’s UP. Thankfully I arrived that fall to my Grandma doing quite well. The scare of losing her started a year of close connection with her, talking to her over the phone as much as possible, watching her health degrade from a distance, wanting so desperately to be with her as I was when I was young. That event was the beginning of a lot of ups and downs in the year to follow. But I'll always have fond memories of summers out in the Michigan woods in a beautiful two-story farmhouse that her and my Grandpa had expanded from a tiny farmhouse to a big loving home with a wrap around porch, acres of woodland surrounded the farm, and one of my favorite memories about the property is a huge section of pine trees where we went and dug up a christmas tree almost every year. Those trees now stand over 30 feet tall in the front yard of my parents log home where we planted them every spring when the ground thawed enough to dig a hole.

Feb 2017 my parents home suffered a fire on the west end. This photo shows the house after repair

Both of my grandparents worked in the aerospace manufacturing industry, my grandfather worked on pyrometers and my grandmother worked in carburetion and later as an inspector, at 4'11 she was also one of the first female union stewards in her company. Full of vigor, they both loved life.

Grandma and Grandpa.

When I arrived in Michigan that fall of 2016 to check on my grandma, I arrived to another unexpected scare, my brother had been in a roll-over accident in his Jeep that he was able to walk away from, lots of cuts and bruises and quite sore, but fully intact. Barely settling into the scare of nearly losing my grandmother and then my brother all in one week, I was a mess mentally and embarked on the road trip toward home.

It would be another year and eight months before Grandma would be gone. I made as many trips home as I could in that time. I brought home photos of all my travels whenever I could see her, I would sit with her and tell her of everywhere I had been and what I had seen. My grandfather traveled the virgin islands, Puerto Rico, France, Italy, Greece. and many other locations in the late 50’s and was a very skilled photographer, he carried his 35mm camera with him through all of these places. I can picture him sitting with her, telling stories of the travels he had been on, sharing his photos with her. She gained a thirst for traveling the world, but by then, they had six kids to raise. I now have all of his old Kodak Kodachrome photos.

Taken the morning of May 20th, when my grandmother passed away.

One day not long ago, while on one of my little adventures I drifted slowly in the still waters of an eddy of the Salt River as grandma drifted from this world. I pulled my kayak out of the river hours later to a flurry of texts and missed calls, her last granted wish was to see the spring flowers... one of her last requests my mom said, was to talk to me on the phone. To say my heart broke was the biggest understatement you'd ever make. I broke down at the news, I died inside a million times thinking of her wanting to speak to me, every time she talked to me, she told me how much she loved my voice and the adventures I take. I write this holding back the tears in my eyes, knowing it's part of life, death that is, and I greatly value every moment I spent with her, when she passed away, I had no idea how I would overcome it.

Grandma's hands.

My brother and I are a year apart and have always had a sense of adventure, as kids we rode bikes down the country roads until dusk, we hiked through the woods and walked up the creeks, camping out was a regular thing, we filled our days with hard work on our parents' farm and our version of fun was usually an outdoor and physical activity. We are quite creative and built a series of tree-forts that were connected with wooden walkways, only ten feet or so off the ground but in a very heavily brushed area. The trees we used were sassafras and the bases were surrounded by thorny dense raspberry bushes, it was a wooded section that ran the fence row of the fields behind the farm. When we nailed boards to the sassafras trees we’d release their root-beer aroma. I have fond memories of my feet dangling out of a window of one of those treehouse contraptions, kicked back on a carpet floor, chewing on a piece of sassafras, tucked away from the light drizzle outside, the tree houses were built of scrap materials that we got from various people and places. My dad would occasionally haul home some scrap stuff for us to make use of. Then one day he came home with a 1975 Yamaha Enduro, two stroke, it needed work, and he had a parts bike with it. We had a lot of fun with that old oil burner.

That was probably my first memory of the joy of a machine. Most of my early memories involving machines were work, farm or lawn equipment, but that bike was just pure freedom and fun. Surrounded by machines; agricultural, automotive, marine, motorcycles and beyond, Michigan is a great place for a young gearhead and as we got older, we made tons of power with turbo two-liter mitsubishi engines that were built over in Normal IL at the DSM plant, we drag raced, autocross raced, rallycross raced and we both became diehard mitsubishi enthusiasts...When my brother escaped safely from a Jeep roll-over I finally talked him into the 12 time rally Dakar champion chassis, the Montero. The Montero was far more of what he needed out of a vehicle. They’re rally trucks and handle the worn, potholed, crumbling roads through the snowy bumpy hills of the backwoods of Michigan and they soak up terrain at speeds that most vehicles would... well... roll over. The jeep is fantastic as an off-road vehicle, but it's not built with Dakar winning handling. The Rubicon is done slowly. Anything can be built into a speed demon, so this is no discount to the Jeep name, the engineering intentions behind each vehicle are just different.

My personal opinion is that Mitsubishi got pretty boring for the extreme enthusiasts in 1999. It marked the end of the body-on-box frame Montero chassis, the end of the Turbocharged, All wheel drive Eclipse and 3000GT, no more fun cars until the Evo four years later in 2003, the Montero sport was stilling squeaking by with a real frame but that would soon be ended as a product line.The evo caused a huge resurgence for a while. Their Owners’ Day event in Cypress California is mostly the diehard Lancer Evolution enthusiasts, they fill the lots, or at least Mitsubishi has historically expected the most attendance from them, so they’re allotted the most space. We started coming around with another icon and their parking lot went from years of only having one or two Monteros in attendance, to suddenly having over thirty, two years in a row.

The night before the actual event, already onsite.

Back in 2017 I went with friends, some from as far away as Canada, Phil and Wade drove down in their JDM rigs, a Pajero EVO and a Delica 4WD, then we cut out to cali with a bunch of Arizona Montero owners for a long weekend, after we left the Owners’ day event the group of monteros went on a small 4WD adventure up sugar pine trail in California, then camped under the pines. 2018 was in the planning stages since shortly after the end of the 2017 event. My brother was on board to attend and took the time off, the plan was for him to fly down from Michigan, we’d trek out from Phoenix, camp in Big Bear the night before. Then go to the owners' day and do some off-roading on our way back over the course of the week we took off work. Little did we know when we agreed to go on this adventure that we’d be doing it less than a week after our Grandma’s funeral, or that we’d meet the new CEO of Mitsubishi, formerly of RAM trucks and later responsible for the Cummins Diesel Nissan Titan, OR, that we’d learn the possibility that we might have this iconic vehicle, or a variation of it, back in the states.

We also didn't expect that our 1500 mile road trip would be a big part of our healing process...
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Part 2:
Mitsubishi Owners Day Expedition 2018 Day 0

Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Three days before our trip to Los Angeles, out of seemingly nowhere, the 4WD system was not working in my 1999 Montero. Before I would even get a chance to check it out, I had to get back from my Grandma's funeral in the midwest. Just south of the Michigan state line in South Bend Indiana there's a bike path my girlfriend and I have spent countless hours riding, the 40 something miles route along the St. Joseph river, across the "Michiana cities" is one of my favorite assets in the city I spent some of the best years of my life in. My Grandma was laid to rest right next to my Grandfather and just a short detour on the bike path I love so much. I'll be back to stop in and visit any time I'm back home. I spent the week after the funeral out at my parents farm in Michigan, I left the farm mentally recharged and physically exhausted. Getting out of the house to feed the cattle before my dad in the mornings was taxing, he wakes up early for being retired. But after 37 years of service in the electric company, he doesn't seem to know anything else but working. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that there’s too much stuff to do and not enough hours in the day. That’s just normal in my family and I admire my family for their work ethic. At the end of the week I hopped on a plane in South Bend Indiana and rode a Haboob into Phoenix…

The landing was rough, welcome back, Jack!

I only had a few days to prep for the trip, but I ducked into a Mongolian grill and got a giant bowl of stir fry noodles with my friend Nick as the storm swept across the area, smashing palm frans, dust and dirt against the glass doors of the restaurant. Minutes later the roadway was a river. Monsoon season in the desert is an emotional roller coaster. Much like the last year or so had been for me. ‘So that’s how it’s gonna be?’ I thought to myself, shoveling noodles into my face thinking of the trip I had ahead of me and the prep work I wanted to get done. The cicadas sound amazing this time of year, something in common with the summer Michigan storm season. As a kid I’d lay in bed with all the windows open, listening to them sing in the hot summer night. My parents built our log home, it seemed more like a lodge than a house when i was a kid, giant wood floors, dark log walls, deer and elk mounts hanging, a large earthstone wood stove on an old brick platform in the main room for winter heat. The big basement was used to escape the summer swelter as we didn’t have central air until I was a teenager. My Mom’s side of the family had always been in woodworking and farming, many of my cousins and uncles work in the hardwood flooring industry and do some amazing layouts with wood. My grandfather on my mom’s side ran a hardwood flooring business and did most of our house, years later my cousin expanded the wood flooring into other areas of the house and then, on top of the chaos I had came home to in the fall of 2016 (see above post), my childhood home caught fire in february of 2017, the flames torched the west end of the house and six months later our beloved farm dog Lucy would pass away from toxins inhaled from that fire. I visited periodically as they rebuilt, through inclimant weather and inept contractors... Despite all of the losses and frustrations and near misses in our family... we press on regardless... And on this last visit, despite the loss a giant part of our family, the glue, responsible for every holiday at grandmas and every summer family reunion in the humid summer park, playing in the rain with cousins, always there for us, Grandma was gone... The house felt like a home again though, both my sister and I were in town and the big log home now has vaulted ceilings and big windows in the gables on the west end of the house, it was once again filled with friends and family activity like it was growing up. Our place was a pretty open hangout spot for most of our friends, my friends and I built many street and race Mitsubishi's in the pole barn out back and my parents liked having family events and parties on the farm.

That haboob I rode into the valley brought a ton of rain and replacing the windshield on Goldi-Locker is on my ‘to-do list’, along with a few other upgrades, the windshield was replaced previous to my owning it and I’m only reminded it leaks once a year when we have rain. Turns out that rain was able to blow the fuse for the 4WD system! The Montero has a Super-Select transfer case, it’s not very electrically sophisticated, in fact, it’s mostly mechanical with just a few little electronic things to make it smooth shifting into 4-high with limited slip viscous center differential at speeds up to 55mph. The Montero engineering is based on what it takes to win the Dakar, the ability to blast across the desert and adjust to terrain on the fly is important, open center, locked center, a low range that’s actually kind of high compared to most 4wds, but that’s because they intend to carry speed. Goldi-Locker was gonna need the 4wd, and the factory rear air locker for the week following the owners’ day. This failure of the system had never happened to the truck before and it took me a few hours of thinking to figure it out. Once I did, a simple 10 amp fuse change and a mental note to silicone the windshield seam until I make an appointment with my local glass guy and montero enthusiast Mark at Kraken Glass.

Ta-Da! Locked and time to get loaded (with camping gear)

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Part 3:
MOD expedition, Day 1

When Friday of that week rolled around I had just finished painting some finishing touches on my truck when it was time to pick my brother up at the nearby airport. We took our little blue 91 Mighty max out for lunch, sushi. This small cab truck cools down really nice in the 100 degree summer temps of the Arizona, the 2.4 EFI 4G64 just keeps on goin and with a bed cap shell on the back, we can take it camping on nearly any forest service road we want. The beauty in simplicity of a good work truck. Growing up my dad had an 'old blue' too, it was an early 80's 2wd Ford Diesel truck, I learned about the potency of powerstroke diesels from him, as his later trucks were all turbo diesel. We had a couple of hours before we had to hit the road for Mitsubishi Owners Day with three other Gen 2.5 Monteros, so we enjoyed our lunch and caught up on things we'd both been tinkering on. The drive to Cypress went smooth aside from the four of us getting split up near the end, but we all arrived around midnight to set up camp in the Mitsubishi HQ parking lot, camping onsite is tradition at this event, Lancer Evolutions had already nearly filled the lot, but sitting tall near the front of the show was the line of Montero owners. We backed Goldi-Locker into place and greeted our friends, new and old, met lots of new people and then set our rig into sleeping mode. The factory seats of the 99 Montero (and others) fold in a way to make a bed, a memory foam mattress topper soaks up and inconsistencies in the transformed bed and I kicked back to a wonderful nights’ sleep. Lulled to sleep by the idle of turbocharged iron block engines and the chatter of car talk.

We managed to get 26 trucks in a row of 25 spots, one left early though.



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Part 4:
Mitsubishi Owners' Day 2018

I woke to daylight and thought I had slept in, it was still quite early but we found some coffee and our friends. My good friend Brian mentioned to me that Mitsubishi had some executives that wanted to talk to Mitsubishi Montero owners. I was quite surprised, this was the first time I’ve ever experienced such a thing and I’ve been an enthusiast for about 20 years, I’ve attended events across america that are based around Mitsubishi’s and I’ve never had the feeling that Mitsubishi cared about the enthusiasts. Often times over the years I felt only a comradery with their engineers. Each year of any given chassis seemed to have a specific set of really robust components that were choked out by other components… like a secret code. You can and many people have reverse-engineered all of the available global chassis’ to pick the top components and build race cars out of stock stuff. The four cylinder 4G63 engines have rods that will hold up to 500hp, that’s a 500hp capable long-block that comes stock, strap on a turbo from a fuso, or a jdm turbo and you’ll be over half way to the power limits for junkyard money. The Montero engine is the same engine design used in the twin turbo 3000GT’s that will also take 500hp on stock rods and crank. I mentioned earlier that my brother and I grew up as gearheads, we love making horsepower, he spends his weekends tuning race vipers on a team, as i write this he’s on his way to pittsburgh with the team, fresh off the plane from our southwest adventure. I’ve always handled the mechanical end, but upping power requires tuning, so we’ve always, almost naturally had complimentary characteristics. Our work ethic is hard to rival when it comes to automotive projects. While spending the week together he dumped the ECU code and started reading it. Looking forward to strapping a supercharger on to Goldi-Locker...

Beautiful Lancer being admired by a Mitsubishi employee.

By the time the show was over we had met a half dozen execs, including the new CEO, Fred Diaz. Infact we talked trucks in the parking lot with Fred, we drooled over cars and vans, coupes and pick-ups, stanced, slammed, lifted, boosted and balls-out horsepower, some topping 1000hp over in the dyno area. We talked shop with dozens of awesome enthusiasts and hardly scraped the surface of all the things we wanted to see and ask other owners about. In the blink of an eye it was time to hit the dusty trail. After a scenic drive we camped with some of the other Arizona crew on the shore of Lake Elsinore, a small seemingly party town, we had pizza with friends, my brother and I discussed our adventure plans for the week ahead. We decided on Fawnskin for the next morning, just north of big bear lake would be our entry point into the Delmar Mountain area. Most of our friends had work to return to, but we had scheduled this week off a year in advance.

Brian's truck "Fezzik" and my truck "Goldi-Locker" looking out at lake Elsinore from highway 74.
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Part 5:
Low-Ride... Err, what?


Morning in Lake Elsinore brought hunger and a good recommendation from a former local and now member of our AZ crew, Nick Sierra. He suggested a great little spot for breakfast but on our route to said spot we crossed paths with a low-rider car show. My brother and I have been going to car shows all around Michigan since we were kids, we love any kind of automotive anything, so of course we had to go. But first, we ate a wonderful breakfast on the patio of Annie's Cafe with Nick and Joanna. and their pup Schism, a retired greyhound. After breakfast a short walk brought us to Dole-Whips and dancin classics on full hydraulic setups. Airbrushed and tricked out, part agricultural equipment, part classic car, (I see you deep cycle tractor batteries, hydraulic pumps and fittings from parker-hose, and I love you.) you’ll find us praising anyone putting in serious work with machines. We’re from the motor city state, gearhead runs in our blood, our great grandfather built Studebakers in the Studebaker factory that I later used as urban industrial decay backdrops for my automotive photographs. Our Grandparents worked in the aerospace industry, my father worked on cars from highschool until he was married and had kids, then he moved into the high-power public electrical field, but his autmotive knowledge never ran out, he also ran our family farm and maintained all the equipment. If you built it and you put hard work into it, you bet your butt we’re likely interested in it.

With a frozen pineapple treat in hand we embarked from the car-show to head up the mountain into the Big-Bear area. Big-Bear was a much needed break from the heat. Our plan was to meet up with our internet friends Linhbergh and Karissa of “Gon Dirtin” to catch up and exchange good times. They take some amazing photos and they’re always out on some adventure. Karissa was called off to a photoshoot in the bay area and Linhbergh was going to be running her to the airport, so we had the whole day to ourselves to explore, he was quite generous and pointed out a few of his favorite spots in the area, we made good use of them.

Around midnight he rolled into camp with his Gen 2.5 Montero and we woke to his pup Kyia investigating the campsite, a very small shiba-inu, she’s really smart and quiet, and once warmed up to you is very sweet. Animals are something we both enjoy, so my brother and I welcomed this friendly little pup with lots of pets and conversation. We spent the morning in a local favorite restaurant spot where my brother cleaned his plate and made Linhbergh and I look like a couple of weaklings, although, we did have twice the food he did, be careful with the portions at Grizzly Manor Cafe!

Afterward we took Kyia on a walk and stopped at Big Bear Coffee roasters, a favorite of mine when I’m in the area. I stumbled on this local carshow sponsoring cafe when visiting with my sister and brother in-law a year prior. After we got loaded up on caffeine and parted ways with three-quarters of the Gon' Dirtin' crew, we tried to explore Onyx Peak but found the gate was locked. This decision was made on a whim so it was no major loss. Instead we cruised down a set of washed out switchbacks into the staging area of the eastern OHV park. Years prior I had to camp on that shelf road when I took a wrong turn. My sister and her husband were driving our 2wd Mighty-Max and followed behind me in my old 2WD E350 Turbo Diesel. That road had to be carefully negotatiated with those two vehicles. The montero just sauntered right down it. It certainly looks worse now, but presented no challange to the truck. Then it was onward, upward! To Barstow... We were somewhere outside of Barstow when the hunger kicked in again. So we stopped for food and decided on a camp southwest of Prescott AZ in the Prescott national forest. The desert was well over 100 degrees and there were zero intentions of camping in it. So we headed east out of Barstow with the AC at full blast.


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Part 6:
Press Pause to Continue

Arriving at the junction toward Prescott National Forest we were welcomed by a giant wall of clouds and lightning. The radar showed storms over the entire range we wanted to camp in. The idea of weathering the storm and sleeping in the Montero was of little concern, but we were quite close to Phoenix, so we dipped in for a shower and a night of rest in comfortable beds at my place. Even though we had taken the week off this was also a good chance to check-in and get some work done, so we spent the morning catching up on work stuff, my brother was on the phone with his office back home and since I was in the valley I was able to send out some much needed parts to some of my customers, we also had the chance to drop off the prototype for a new toyota skid plate set I had been working on at my 'day job' in an engineering firm owned by my good friend Keith, who is also a Mitsubishi enthusiast and stage rally driver in his Mitsubishi Galant VR4, I had been working up there on this skid with my friend and now local Trials rider from the PNW Daniel. He drives a Tacoma, but I'm cool with that, since there's no newer Mitsubishi truck offering for him to choose from, and he needs to haul his bikes.

The engineering firm is always exciting and after getting headlong into a fun conversation about the Mitsubishi Owners Day many of my coworkers pointed out we’d make camp by sunset but we’d have to get on the road. So we curbed the conversation and hit the road. I work with some really adventurous people, many of them gearheads like me. Rally drivers, engineers, trials motorcycle riders, hunters, fishers, hikers, most of the people there know how to have fun outdoors and strongly support leaving for adventures from time to time. It’s good for you and they were right, we had to hit the road. Oak creek canyon vista was our goal and we'd be there by sunset. But, the monsoon season brought lots of rain to the north and the woods were soaked, two-tracks were muddy, going was slow and slippery, but at least the fire-ban was lifted.

On our way to camp we found a Chevy sedan mired in the muck. After locating the owners we pulled them out and set back on our way. Eventually we set up at the deepest vista we knew of just before sun down, the same place the Montero group camps at every year. The views are amazing and a lightning storm rolled in from the north passing us to the southwest. We watched the show and then turned in for the night. At midnight we woke to a giant clap of lightning and monsoon rainfall, the rain lulled us back to sleep and by morning it had ended, fog was rolling slowly up the mountain from the valley below as we sat on the dry cliffside making breakfast, we even had LTE signal, so we face-timed with our Mom after hearing she had hurt her back. She was thrilled to see us and loved the views. We talked with her until the phone battery started getting low, then shut it down and started packing up for the day ahead.

We descended from the vista and cruised up to Flagstaff, morning coffee at Macy’s is a good local spot with free wifi, if you’re in the area and looking for a strong brew, hit this lovely little local spot up. We stopped at a carwash to remove the red mud, then descended the switchbacks into oak creek canyon, from there we stopped at the bridge just north of Sedona and hiked down into Oak Creek.

While up in Flag that morning we had watched giant dark clouds forming over Humphreys’ peak and listened to booming lighting. Skies were clear down near Sedona, but not for long. We timed the hike based on the radar and discussed the dangers of flash floods. Once we got back up to the truck, the drizzle of rain had started and once we crossed into Sedona city limits it was a full on rain. We had lunch at the Javelina Cantina and planned our route out of town, we decided on the rainy scenic drive down 89A to Jerome, Prescott and then off the side of the mountain toward Wickenburg. The views were stunning, as one expects in Arizona and the rain had knocked the temps down to 65 degrees. We stopped many times along the way to explore spur roads or scenic vistas, Goldi-Locker chugged along, content on the road. We had the radio off for most of the trip, the sound of the 3.5 liter thumping along was the only sound as the Yokohamas soaked up the road, I run Bilstein 5100’s on the Montero and it’s one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever had out of a 4WD vehicle. With the cool weather it was windows down and arms out, we enjoyed the smells of the fresh rain everywhere we went.

As the trip gauge rolled 1500 miles we cruised to my place in the east valley, loaded kayaks on the roof and turned in for a few hours of sleep. The next morning we were up before the sun (4am) to kayak the Salt River. We saw maybe 10 bands of wild horses as we made our way down the river, it was flowing around 1100 cubic feet, which is faster than normal, but the rains brought this and we were stoked for the bits of rapids that the salt river provides. Kayaking took up the remaining energy we had for the week and by noon we were back at the house for a mid-day nap, followed by more sushi for dinner and an early bedtime. At sunrise the next morning my brother flew out for the races in pittsburgh and I had to get back to work at the engineering firm. It wasnt until he was landed and I was off work for the day that I realized how monumentally healing the week had been for me.

And that ended the 2018 Mitsubishi Owners' Day Expedition. 1500 miles on a 20 year old Mitsubishi. Two brothers just along for the ride.
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Incomplete Idiot
Great report Josh.

I lost my grandmother this year in a similar way. It struck a cord how you described it. I had just returned from a two week trip to be greeted with the news. Inevitable, but still unexpected because you don’t want to accept that they’re not long for this world. My mom said that in my grandmother’s few remaining sane moments she asked if she could speak with me. Like you, that bit of knowledge still hits me, wondering what she wanted to talk about, wondering if there is something I could have done for her to set her mind at ease, at peace. But I’ll never know, and that’s just something I’ve got to accept and move on from.

Travel and adventure have been a balm for my soul too, and this year has many more miles and tales in store (God-willing). Thankful for the hard work your family put into you. It shows in the products on my Montero that you built, and I’m grateful to know some of the personal side of how your story has impacted my family’s when we’re out adventuring. And as I’ve said before, if you’re ever in Virginia the beers are on me. Cheers and Godspeed.
Thank you guys for the kind words.

Nick, I'm still digging out of back-logged work and will be for a couple of weeks, but I'm down for some yakkin'! I'll hit you up.

Great report Josh.

I lost my grandmother this year in a similar way. It struck a cord how you described it. I had just returned from a two week trip to be greeted with the news. Inevitable, but still unexpected because you don’t want to accept that they’re not long for this world. My mom said that in my grandmother’s few remaining sane moments she asked if she could speak with me. Like you, that bit of knowledge still hits me, wondering what she wanted to talk about, wondering if there is something I could have done for her to set her mind at ease, at peace. But I’ll never know, and that’s just something I’ve got to accept and move on from.

Travel and adventure have been a balm for my soul too, and this year has many more miles and tales in store (God-willing). Thankful for the hard work your family put into you. It shows in the products on my Montero that you built, and I’m grateful to know some of the personal side of how your story has impacted my family’s when we’re out adventuring. And as I’ve said before, if you’re ever in Virginia the beers are on me. Cheers and Godspeed.

John, this reply means a lot to me, it brought a tear to my eye reading it. I apprecaite your kind words and sentiment. I'm sorry for your loss, I too wonder what she may have had to say to me, but as with you, i'll never know. Accepting I can do, moving on, I'm working on. I'll be heading east in the next few summers, goldi-locker is almost long-haul ready, gears and some more armor is all I need to feel confident taking the truck to the moon and back.
What an awesome trip report. I'm really new to the forum and the whole subject but I loved it. A wonderful blend of vehicle and life; if that makes sense.
Thank you so much for sharing your 'philosophy'.
Thank you guys, it means a lot to me that this is even read by anyone, considering the length and not-4wd content involved. I appreciate the kind words.
Indeed, what they said. That was well done. Struck a cord with me as well. I was close to my maternal grandmother (the only grandparent still alive when I entered this world). She's been gone many years, and in fact so are my parents as I race through middle age. Loss is tough, but it's the other book end to joy and so just a part of it, and OK when it's in the natural order of things. In the end it's the relationships that matter. Sounds to me like you had a terrific one with your grandmother, and really it's not in the past tense either. It's that relationship that connects to other relationships, be that your brother, friends, GF or even low riders. Now, as to low riders, also not my thing exactly but still something for which I have a lot of respect. Any day, I'd rather check out some cool low riders, than a car show of supercars. All your McLaren's, Ferrari's and Lambo's require is a big check book.