Hi Randy and Carol, thank you for taking time to talk with us and share your story. Let’s start with you telling us a little about yourselves.
In 2018 we semi-retired after working many years in business and government, but we still maintain a small family enterprise that keeps us out of trouble.
We have been married almost 40 years; have two adult children and two grandchildren.
Carol grew up in the Fargo/Moorhead area of North Dakota/Minnesota and Randy is a born and bred San Diegan.
We’re an outdoorsy family (how can you not be in San Diego?) and have been boat owners for most of our lives, but as we got older we transitioned from boating to owning an EarthCruiser, so I guess you could say we are now official landlubbers. However we do carry two inflatable kayaks on the roof rack of our EC.
Given your outdoor adventures, when did you decide it was time to get serious about an expedition vehicle?
For many years Randy pit crewed in remote places in Baja California and the US for off road motorcycle racing teams; he slept on a cot or in the back of his pickup truck. A few years after we were married we took a 14,000 mile, two month trip to the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska, camping in the back of an itty-bitty Toyota 4×4. And finally when Carol turned 60 years old we took our kayaks on a ten day trip up Lake Powell from Bullfrog, camping on sand bars.
During all of these outdoor camping years, Randy kept a big three ring binder full of photos and information on what could be our ultimate four wheel drive camping machine. It was a dream book of sorts and was full of photos of MANS, Unicats, Unimogs and all sorts of domestic rigs.
Back to Lake Powell, after ten days of tent camping on the lake we arrived back at the Bullfrog Marina and were having our first sit down, sand free meal at the motel. That moment is when we figured it was time to start looking for that perfect camping machine, but it had to have an indoor shower and indoor bathroom.
Thus started the search.
How did you find your way to EarthCruiser and what considerations did you have when evaluating options?
Randy knew people who were building overland trucks from scratch, but we didn’t want to take two years of our lives to build an experimental rig. So we opened up the binder and eliminated European trucks right off the bat because they had to be at least 25 years old to import them into the US. The trucks that were left were either pickup truck based campers, converted vans, surplus LMTVs from a variety of sources, and EarthCruiser.
We wanted to be able to take our truck down forest service roads and over desert trails in the western United States and Canada. The trucks that were over ten feet tall or wider than a standard pickup truck got taken off the list first. And because there are lots of wood bridges and roads in the mountains that have weight limits the heavy rigs got taken of the list second. That left EarthCruiser, a few pickup truck based campers, and four wheel drive van conversions.
Our list narrowed after we started looking in earnest. A pickup truck based camper was too long with poor approach and departure angles, which is critical when off-roading. Four-wheel drive van conversions typically didn’t have room for both a toilet and a shower inside, so you wind up living OUT of a van conversion, not IN a van conversion.
Plus, vans typically use unibody construction and are quite tall for their footprint, with storage on a roof rack leading to a very tippy vehicle that is close to or exceeds their gross vehicle weight rating.
What really sold us on the EarthCruiser was a road trip in early 2017 to various west coast truck manufacturers. We saw glorified RVs with lots of wood and cheap RV fixtures that were plopped onto a four wheel drive chassis, except of course, for EarthCruiser.
We spent a couple of hours with Michelle in the shop drooling over the high quality build of an EarthCruiser. Everything was engineered specifically for that chassis, everything was proven with plenty of Australian and US truck builds, everything was well thought out and efficient, and there was no wood and no staples used in the camper construction. Everything is HDPE or fiberglass…yacht quality on wheels.
Why do you think EarthCruiser is the best option out there?
It has the footprint of a crewcab pickup truck and it is only 21’ long so it parks easily in the city. With its short wheelbase, it can turn around on a single track trail. Since it’s a cab-over design, you’re sitting over the front axle with the engine between the front seats, leading to a large living area in back.
And when you’re driving, you are eight feet above the road or trail with no hood to get in the way. It’s spectacular. Your windshield is as big as a living room window.
You live IN an EarthCruiser. All of your amenities are within reach, they’re efficiently designed, quality engineered, and there is no wasted space.
How do you use your EarthCruiser?
Our typical trips are a combination of weekends in the local mountains, a few weeks on the road in February visiting Yellowstone and friends in Colorado, one month in the spring typically in the Sierras, and two months in the fall all over the west.
On occasion Randy will take the EarthCruiser to job site meetings with contractors and use it as a mobile office. It’s nice to have air conditioning, a refrigerator and a bathroom.
Tell us about some of your favorite trips in your EarthCruiser.
Last summer we did a covid tour. What better way to avoid the virus than living in your EarthCruiser for two months? Leaving San Diego we stopped at a friend’s wedding in Fargo, ND, we explored the boundary waters in northern Minnesota and then we did a big loop of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
On the way back west we visited Randy’s Latvian-born great grandfather’s grave in Minneapolis and then we followed the Lewis and Clark trail through North Dakota and into Montana. While in Montana we stopped in Plentywood and researched Carol’s Norwegian born great grandfather’s land grant at the courthouse.
We spent many nights on the banks of the Missouri River at or near Lewis and Clark camp sites. We also stopped at old fur trading posts and historic cavalry forts. Eventually we made our way to Missoula then headed south camping outside of Pinedale, Wyoming and visited the Museum of the Mountain Man.
In Farson, Wyoming we four wheeled on the actual Oregon Trail and Pony Express route, camping at the Parting of the Ways, which is an historic split in the trail. We followed the Oregon Trail backwards to Scotts Bluff, Nebraska.
By the end of the trip we had traveled 10,000 miles in two months. It was awesome!
You have really put your EarthCruiser through the paces! What is a favorite feature of your EarthCruiser?
Its nimbleness, capability on the trail, and its comfort as a home.
Do you have a favorite type of terrain or geographic area you like to take your EarthCruiser?
Generally, everywhere west of the Rocky Mountains. Specifically, Utah, which is mostly wild and full of early man sites and fabulous geography and the eastern Sierras.
Do you have any dream trips planned?
It sounds like a cliché, but every one of our trips in the EarthCruiser is a dream trip.
Fair enough. Have you ever taken your EarthCruiser international or have plans to?
We don’t have plans to take our truck overseas. There is plenty for us to see in Canada, the US, and Baja California.
What’s something that might surprise someone looking at EarthCruiser for the first time?
It looks big but in reality the truck will fit down most Jeep trails with no problem and it’s a joy to drive. We both share driving duties and we both love it. The ride and the seats of an EC are actually much more comfortable than our GMC pickup truck and the view from eight feet up is unreal!
The scenery from an EarthCruiser is pretty incredible. What advice do you have for others getting into Overlanding?
Do your homework, define your needs, be realistic with your expectations and please don’t equate bigger with better. We see people at Overland Expo fawning over the really big rigs, but in my years of off-road experience I’ve never seen an LMTV or a luxury pickup truck camper at the end of the trail, but I have seen plenty of EarthCruisers and VW vans.
If you decide to jump into overlanding, do it with both feet. If you’re new to off-roading, don’t be timid, ask questions and learn from other owners. There is an entire new world just a mile or so off the pavement and it only gets better the deeper you go into the wild.
That is some excellent advice. What do you think is a way to help determine if an overlanding lifestyle is for you?
You know you’re an overlander….
If you don’t mind having your bathroom, kitchen, dining room and bedroom in the same small space without walls.
If you enjoy the howling of coyotes or the bugling of an elk in rut.
If you want to see the Milky Way as prehistoric man saw it, without any light pollution.
If you enjoy the peace of not having any cell coverage or the Internet for a few days.
In your time on the road, what are some tips you’ve learned?
Never miss an opportunity to take on drinking water or dump your toilet contents.
Don’t over-pack or over-provision. We’re typically near a town every week or so, so carrying more than a week’s worth of groceries doesn’t make sense to us.
Never, ever park near the front door of a supermarket or sporting goods store. You’ll never get your shopping done because you’ll be too busy answering questions about your truck. We carry EarthCruiser business cards with us for when we don’t have time all day to answer questions. People laugh, they want to know if we’re paid EarthCruiser salespeople.
Oh, and be prepared to be stopped by curious cops who want to see your truck. No kidding.
EarthCruiser’s are known for attracting quite a crowd. What are some of your must-have travel gear items?
A Garmin InReach for communications.
A well-stocked first aid kit. We’ve never needed it ourselves, but we have used it for strangers who get injured on the trail.
And if you’re going to venture off road, you can never have too much recovery gear. “Prepare to Self-Rescue” is a good motto to live by.
A nice camp chair is a must, so is a small bar-b-que and a coffee maker.
We love learning the meaning behind the names EarthCruiser owners give their vehicles. Your truck’s license plate says BIGLY37. What’s the story there?
Bigly is an archaic British adjective that means “pleasantly habitable” and 37 is our build number. We call our Earth Cruiser Mr. Bigly or just Bigly. And yes, it’s pleasantly habitable.
A big thank you to Randy and Carol for taking time from their fun EarthCruiser adventures to share their story and advice for others considering an EarthCruiser and overlanding in general. We wouldn’t be where we are without incredible owners