Owner Stories: Henry Nesmith

Share this Post:

Hi Henry, tell us about yourself.

I was born in Kansas, south of Kansas City, and grew up there until going to College in Southern California. I worked for a finance company for a couple of years and decided I wasn’t cut out for that. One day my father-in-law pointed out that his town at one time had three hardware stores and no longer had one. He suggested my wife and I start our own. My wife and I had spent years fixing and selling houses and got to know towns around the Bay Area. We found a building in Los Altos to buy and created our business from dust. We’ve been a True Value Hardware Store for almost 40 years. One of my two daughters is working in the store as my second generation.

Did you have a lot of prior experience overlanding or camping?

Yes, I’ve done some. In 1989 I bought my first Range Rover and Land Rover was doing events in Colorado at the time. One of their instructions was Lee McGee. He was one of the two US drivers for the Camel Trophy in Siberia. I would go out to Nevada with him and we’d be out there in the middle of nowhere in tents, in all kinds of weather, practicing vehicle recovery. That was nuts!

I then bought a Defender 90 and built that for desert work. We were driving vehicles that aren’t what you’d buy today for capability but they did get us to a lot of places. In early 1999 Lee found two Series-1 Discos (Land Rover Discovery) at a dealer in Seattle that were on a loaner program. We bought and built them up for the same adventures. It was hard to beat that 100 inch wheelbase with springs.

All in all, those adventures lasted about ten plus years and then work took up more time, so I had to phase out, but I still wanted to be able to go out and relive that experience. I had enough exposure to dry camping, with different vehicles, with tents that got wet and frozen, and with pop-ups that didn’t stay as warm as I liked; or didn’t work. When it’s cold you spend so much time trying to stay warm, it takes the fun away. That’s something I don’t have to worry about with EarthCruiser.

Speaking of EarthCruiser, how did you find your way to buying an expedition vehicle?

I had stopped going out on longer trips around 2013 and sold the Land Rover Defender in 2017. I went to one of the early Overlanding events and met people that were building different vehicles to travel in. I looked at vans, pickup camper builds, EarthRoamer (seriously) and EarthCruiser. 

Three years ago I got serious about it. Two years ago in January I remembered reading that EarthCruiser was going to make a change from Fuso to Isuzu and I decided to move forward with a deposit for an Isuzu-based model of the EarthCruiser FX.

Why did you decide on EarthCruiser over anything else out there?

For a number of reasons.

EarthCruiser has a powerful brand and there are not a lot of manufacturers out there that have that kind of brand presence and quality anymore. Size was a big consideration for me. I was coming off vehicles that were small and light. EarthCruiser has the correct mix; it’s got enough room, and it’s not bulky, it’s compact. At the end of the day, I knew I didn’t want a camper shell. With EarthCruiser you don’t have to buy a bunch of stuff, it’s ready to go right out of the box. I also like the passthrough arrangement EarthCruiser has.

Once you get into a cab-forward design, which takes getting used to, you become accustomed to a different amount of visibility and become spoiled. I go through the EarthCruiser videos and see all the subtleties and changes they’ve made. For me, it’s the right size for fuel, water, and comfort. When you’re out there, having something dependable and systems you can count on is important.

When did you pick up your EarthCruiser?

I picked it up in August of 2022. I’m still getting used to it. I took it in for a 5k mile check-up and used the opportunity to drive a loop from the Bay Area down to Barstow, into Nevada, and then left at Twin Falls, and over to Bend.

How do you envision using your EarthCruiser, especially once you retire in a few years?

I like cold weather camping and the desert. I plan on attending future EarthCruiser Adventure trips. There is a remote section on the eastern side of the Rockies that goes North and South that I’d like to see. I think I’ll see older places that have been bypassed by the growth of the country. Missouri Breaks is on the list! The nice thing about having an EarthCruiser is it gives you plenty of options and that’s a real luxury.

What do you like to do on your adventures?

I’d probably drag a bike with me. At the end of the day, you don’t go very far with hiking, but with a bike you can certainly go farther if the terrain allows. Although hiking is sometimes the only way to get into a place, it’s nice to have a wheeled vehicle for support.

Tell us about the artwork and your vehicle wrap? Did you design that?

I didn’t design it. I worked with a company in Denver called Pure Blind that has worked with EarthCruiser in the past. Kyle is the owner of Pure Blind and Alexis was their designer. I am very happy with the results. It looks like you’re standing on a gravel road in Kansas before and after a thunderstorm went through. 

What’s a favorite feature of your EarthCruiser?

There’s a lot to like. I do like the heater. It works well with the internal fans so your remote compartments stay above freezing. The batteries are massive and the technology makes it so you don’t have to touch a thing. It has so much build capability that I won’t use but it’s sure nice to have it if you want to pull off the side of the road anywhere.

Where do you plan on taking your EarthCruiser out next?

I’ll head to Death Valley and stay off the corrugation, go out the back side of California and make a left.

Thanks Henry, we look forward to hearing about your future adventures. Any parting words to share?

People buy and build vehicles for how they use them. No judgments. From my experience the EarthCruiser works. It’s like the opposite of what one mostly sees. It’s efficient. It’s not how much I can hang on it that ultimately falls off. It’s what I need for the journey. When you look at other vehicles, you really get what Lance, Michelle, and the EarthCruiser Team are all about. At first you may think you wish something was different but then you realize, it was done for a reason, and you get why it’s purpose built the way it is. Ha ha also, the exterior driving lights are insanely good, and I thought 917s had good ones!