How it all started
The ten year plan: Joe and I met in May 2002 on a blind date set up by friends. During our first phone conversation we quickly discovered our mutual desire to travel. J0e asked me my top three places to see; Africa, Australia and the Grand Canyon and I wanted to get to the Grand Canyon before I turned 30. Joe asked “when do you turn 30?” and I sheepishly answered “8 months.” Joe and I were in the Grand Canyon in September 2002!
Joe confided in me that he wanted to sail around the world after having a taste of life on a sailboat back when he was 20. Joe also knew that he wanted to retire when he turned 50 so he said “let’s make a 10 year plan, we sell up and sail around the world in 10 years” “sounds good to me” I replied. However, a few years later when we were talking to friends Joe referred to our “10 year plan” and I said to him “no that was three years ago, it is now a 7 year plan.” So, we set a departure date of Spring 2014.
How did we end up with this truck?
Well I will try to make this as short as possible. In September of 2012 Joe asked me if I wanted to do something special for my 40th birthday and I said “Yes! I would like to see two Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas.” After a few days of thinking Joe responded with “well, if we are going to Vegas I think we should go back to the Grand Canyon” and I agreed. We tried to book a room at the bottom of the canyon, as we had been to the rim on a previous trip, but all rooms were booked for 2013! After the initial shock and disappointment we decided that before we went sailing around the world we needed to tour North and South America first and the best way to see all of those countries is on land.
The Search was on
Joe searched on line for at least six months for an appropriate vehicle; high ground clearance, diesel, well insulated and constructed and cab to living space access, this limited our choices dramatically. Nothing met our criteria in North America or if it did it was well out of our budget. On the German Auto-Trader website Joe found the “Traveling Palace” it seemed to meet all our criteria except that it was in Italy! Joe kept searching but “Traveling Palace” was tough to beat so we Skyped the owners to ask some questions and made a verbal agreement to buy it and fly down to Italy.
Bringing Baby Home
We stayed for one week at a B&B with the owners of “Traveling Palace” in Perugia, Italy where we were able to stay in the motorhome for a few nights. Roberto, the owner, gave us several tutorials about the truck he said” this is the type of truck that you will to tinker with, constant maintenance, chores…” WARNING BELLS! We bought the motorhome and then the next big hurdle was getting it back to Ottawa. We thought we had lined up a company and a contact before we left for Italy and he assured us that we would be able to get a hold of him while in Italy, nope, we tried calling, emailing-nothing. We lost our contact person. Roberto suggested using the company that he had used, desperate and almost out of time we ended up shipping with Bahri shipping lines for $9500, ouch. When the ship was in the middle of the Atlantic we got an email explaining the ship would only go as far as Baltimore this time instead of Halifax. Eventually she arrived overdue and in the wrong country. Bhari offered to deliver the truck from Baltimore to Ottawa(for a fee). Sounds great right, until they explain the fee will be $7000! $7000? that’s an eight hour drive. Eventually after some yelling they agreed $3000 was reasonable.
The day before the truck left Baltimore Joe received a call from the broker, ” is it possible the vehicle is a 2001? if so, it is not importable”.
I hope this is entertaining, it was not at the time. When you enter the vehicle’s VIN it says 2001 passenger car. Mercedes Europe use a different coding system with their heavy duty truck VINs. You tell customs that and they look at you like you have two heads. Mercedes Canada were no help at all, and Mercedes Europe took 2 weeks to respond to Joe’s “urgent” email. It was Jim at Eurotech who came to the rescue. Somehow he got us a letter from Daimler with all the build info, the same day.
Held at the border for 3 hours, reason unknown she was delivered to our local truck shop for the safety and e-test. All passed no problem except for the paperwork details.
The makeover begins!
The Traveling Palace arrived in Ottawa in August of 2013 and Joe started renovating her that Fall. The first order of business was to remove all the stickers. Removing the stickers was very rewarding, it took us a lot longer to decide on a new paint colour.
The Fall weather in Ottawa was great in 2014, Joe worked non-stop, evenings and week-ends until December when it was just too cold. Joe completed 90% of all the carpentry work before December, this included gutting the whole rear interior and rebuilding a double bed and bathroom. The original design had a single bed, a huge L-shaped bathroom, and a very large armoir unit between the bathroom and kitchen. We knew that we would want to re-design and change to a double bed and a significantly more compact bathroom. We lost the storage in the armoir but Joe added plenty of storage under the bed and even a pantry between the bathroom and kitchen.
Unfortunately it did not end with the carpentry, in the Spring when Joe retired from a long career as a carpenter he worked full time on the truck. Joe stripped back all the electrical and completely re-wired the truck, painted the interior, installed a hatch, installed solar panels and tweaked the plumbing. We realized that although Roberto had all the servicing done on the truck by Mercedes he had done all the ‘motorhome’ work himself. Roberto would get things working again but nothing was done by a professional which was why he had to keep “tinkering” and as he said there was “always maintenance on this truck.” Joe is meticulous with his work and calls in professionals when needed so there will be NO tinkering on our journey!