Owner Stories: Tim Dalton

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Meet Timothy D., one of the first owners of an EC Terranova based on Shelter Island, New York. Tim is an avid outdoor adventurer, photographer, dive master, fisherman, skier (just to name a few of his hobbies) and beekeeper. Tim brought the EC crew some of his own honey and it was delicious. He wasted no time in getting out and using his vehicle, we were fortunate enough to catch up with him a few weeks ago for this interview. 

Tim’s Terranova will be on display at our booth at Overland Expo East in Arrington, Oct 7-9th. 

Tell us about yourself.  

I grew up in Garden City, New York and started adventuring when I was a little kid. My parents sent me to camp and I always wanted to do what the older kids were doing so if they were going on a hike, I’d weasel my way into it. In high school I started surfing with friends and overnight camping, and in college, at University of Denver, I joke I majored in skiing. I spent a lot of time after college in the mountains, cross country skiing and winter camping.

Then I moved back to New York and joined my father in the family business, ultimately running five funeral homes on Long Island. I took a year of mortuary science and never looked back. I loved my job but it was 24/7 and 365 days a year including all holidays and weekends.  

Dreaming of my next adventure is what pulled me out and I finally retired at the end of 2017. I  reached a point where I wanted to go do more and explore. Now I get to go out and enjoy another life and get back to doing things I always wanted to do as a young man. I’m catching up on all the stuff I put on hold and I plan on doing this for a long time. 

Your Instagram profile features incredible underwater photography swimming with sharks and whales. Tell us about that.

I grew up fishing with my father on Shelter Island in New York. I always liked the water and got certified for diving in 1982 and became an instructor. Eventually work and kids took over and I took a break but eventually started reef diving and got into underwater photography.  Through that I met an underwater cinematographer who founded aquaterra films and I ended up going on a lot of photography excursions, including the sperm whales you saw on my Instagram. Pretty awesome.

What led you to EarthCruiser? Have you owned expedition vehicles previously?

I have a Ford Raptor that’s set up to go back country and do off roading but that’s hard to do in Long Island. It’s limiting, you have to go distance and miles. I traveled with a friend who would always talk about buying a vehicle and seeing the wildlife which was right up my alley of what I wanted to do. 

When I retired I almost bought a boat but I didn’t want to be caught on the hook all the time in a marina with 800 other people. I’ve been there, done that and wanted to do something different. 

I started researching different companies like EarthRoamer but found it too big and pricey. I also considered DIY but I came across EarthCruiser, talked to another owner, and found the customer service to be excellent. 

You hold the honor of being one of the first EC Terranova owners, why did you decide on this particular vehicle?

Several reasons. To start, I really liked the vehicle concept. It gave me what I wanted to go off grid, with maximum power, and with enough fuel and power to be comfortable for an extended period of time. I’ve also always had Ford trucks so the platform on a Ford F-350 is one I understand, and it’s the size range I wanted. I picked it up in December 2021 and promptly took it out.

I also like that it’s single fuel because it’s just diesel. I got the heat and fuel to run the truck, got the solar on the roof to run the fridge and everything else, and hot water heater and A/C. I have all the comforts I need, and all of the outdoors.

Another feature is the pure measurement from front to rear bumper not counting anything hanging off the back.  It’s really 24 feet, so when you go into town you’re not too big at 30 feet,  you’re relatively town friendly to find a place to park, and being smaller off-road you can get into tighter places. 

I got a big winch on the front and the mattrax hanging and if I want to bring my inflatable boat with an engine I can because of how it breaks down and it doesn’t infringe on living space.

What have you done so far?

I drove it back to New York from out west and was very impressed with the vehicle, it felt like driving in a limo, and I slept in it on the way back. In January I drove from New York to Colorado for skiing and a joint trip with my son (TJ) and girlfriend (Kristina) who have a Winnebago revel sprinter van. We visited some national parks including Moab and did some off-roading.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with how capable it handles off-road. My son’s sprinter van has upgraded suspension and tires and is still not that offroad capable. We went someplace I thought we’d never get the van free, and times he complained about the windage when driving was no problem for the EC Terranova. 

We camped outside national parks and then stayed in the canyonlands through a major snowstorm, which was awesome because no one was there. We also drove to needles then through southern Utah and Grand Staircase-Escalante, then to Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and then Zion. 

Now that you’ve had some time out in your EC Terranova, why do you think it’s the best option out there? 

I already have 8900 miles on it. I love how it drives on the highway. Traveling between places is comfortable and I can bring all of my stuff, which you don’t need much. I like the induction cooktop and the refrigeration is excellent. 

I have been more than impressed with the composting toilet which functions exceptionally well.

On our winter trip we were in 13 below-zero weather up to 68 degrees and it  functioned properly. I stayed comfortable and warm and I’m able to bring my dog (Max) with me so he’s included in the whole thing. There’s enough storage for me and with 56 gallons of water and heat and A/C, I can be off the grid. I’ve got 800W hours with my solar panels so I use that to charge computers, phones, and even medical devices.

If it’s raining or snowing it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ll just go hiking in the snow and then cook up dinner on the induction cooktop. It may be zero degrees out but I’ve got hot water and a working fridge.

Any favorite features?

I love the queen size bed. It’s comfortable and I sleep well and it has the lights and plug-ins down below. My parents had a Grand Banks boat they kept in the Bahamas and I used to travel down there and hang on the boat and go places with them. If you understand that lifestyle, you’ll understand why it’s easy to consider the EC Terranova a land boat.  If you’re into that type of lifestyle it’s very easy to assimilate. It’s not just where you’re living inside because part of your whole thing is being outside.

Do you have any dream trips planned?

Going to Alaska. I’m hoping I can join the EC Adventure trip next June. 

What advice do you have for people who are new to overlanding or thinking of adopting this lifestyle?

To me, why I like it so much is it just frees up your mental space. You can enjoy the scenery. Everyone is so into their phones but here you can enjoy being off the grid and disconnecting from the world around you, no news, no people or politics. 

The best is to just enjoy the experience. Overlanding is also about keeping an open mind. I wandered up to Sig Sauer in Epping New Hampshire and found a nice place to stay with great scenery, near the ocean, and I’d go make dinner and hang out, have a little fire and go to bed early, then go back to class. 

Even on this trip when we were down in Needles, which I loved and we went in mid day, we found a great little place to go and no one there and took an awesome hike to the forgotten canyon and it was spectacular. The weather was perfect. 

What’s Next?

Plenty of trips this summer and fall before the holidays and then more time in Colorado after Christmas. I want to go back out west to southern Utah, up into Nevada, and stop in Bend to see EarthCruiser and go over the vehicle for the first yearly check. 

 It would be very easy to spend half the year in Terranova. I like the simple lifestyle. You find a great place to park and hike,  sit and relax. It’s great for pets and to be safe, and then you just go onto the next place. Part of my thing is being focused on getting off the grid. I also want to go to Montana and wander around. 

I’ve always spent time diving into the world below and now I want to see the world above. You’re only as old as you want to be. 

Thanks for that inspiring interview Tim, For those attending Overland Expo East, you can meet Tim and his EC Terranova in person at the EarthCruiser booth. Stay tuned for more details.

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