Our adventure began with a call from my friend Rui Mendes, after many years traveling through Venezuela, our country, He ask me: “Would you like to travel to Alaska?”, “Of course!!!…” I answered him straight away, without even take time to think it over. “Then, let’s start working on that project. We will leave in three months!”
How could I say no to the dream of any 4×4 lover? To most people, a trip like this would be only a dream. We had the chance to live it up to reality. Thanks to our sponsors, who gave us metallic and logistic help… and our up-going spirit, we were able to overcome the challenge. We set our goal to reach the largest oil field in North America, Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) by the end of winter, starting our journey at Houston, Texas.
We shipped our vehicles – two FZJ80 and one FJ60, totally equipped for this adventure – at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Once in Houston (Texas), and after four days of paper work with the US Customs, we began our journey toward the state of Utah, to travel through the Moab desert, the Mecca of 4×4. After taking turns driving during two days, we arrived at dawn at this impressive desert. Imagine the emotion of us, seven Venezuelans, when we arrived at the most significative point in the world for 4×4 sport. Our adrenaline was sprouting through our pores. We settled at a campground in order to recuperate our strength, for what it was ahead of us. We decided to start at “Lion’s Back”, an impressive rocky formation that looks like the back of a lion, with a 63 degree inclination. We were forced to lower the pressure of our vehicles’ tires, and with the help of our co-pilots, who were guiding us on foot, we were able to climb it. The sound of the tires as we move through the rock and the abyss at both sides of the road, was a stage new to us…we couldn’t believe that we were there! We went up and down a few times, enough to take some pictures and to appreciate the beautiful view in front of us, as we continue our trip through the rock desert.
This time it was not so hard, and we took some time to enjoy our selves, since we had schedule five days to travel through these passages. At night we went back to town to grab something to eat. We found the town people very friendly and they treated us very well. They were very curious to know from where we were and what we were up to. Our uniforms and our vehicles’ stickers called their attention. They were always willing to help us, to talk to us and even invite us to drink some beers, as it was the case with a couple of Canadians who shared our campground and came down to tryout their motorcycles. The following days were full of adrenaline, as we tried our Toyotas on different trails like Poison Spider, Launch Pad, Hell’s Revenge, among others, taking our vehicles to the limit, since it is a different history to overcome those obstacles with our trucks loaded as they were. Only my 80 had a second gas tank of 170 liters, plus the gear needed to camp in Alaska, as the roof tends which increase our point of gravity a lot.
In one of those obstacles, the lateral inclination and the low tire pressure took the tire off the wheel, but with the help of the hi-lift and the winch we were able to overcome the incidence without greater inconveniences. On the last day we decided to face the famous Golden Crack. I passed first with no problem at all, thanks to the rear locker, however, the 60 needed to be helped by the winch and the other 80 suffered the known crack. One of the differential satellites broke down and we needed to take it to the mechanic, which delayed us three days… we had to recover the lost time on the highway. Our next stop was Death Valley in California, were an Off Road Land Cruisers group was waiting for us. In order to catch up with this group, due to our tardiness, we had to drive 36 hours straight, without resting. Thanks to our GPS, we managed to find the programmed route, but we didn’t know what we were facing next… ahead of us. We started to climb a trail of loose rocks, by the side of a small river. It was dark and we had not slept the night before. Up the mountain we encounter a new element that we were not counting on: snow! It was the first time for us, practicing off road on these conditions. It was great! We woke working with our peaks, shovels, winches and lockers activated as we went down the mountain, since we lost our trail… But it was worth the effort.
We looked for a different route which could take us to where we thought the group would be camping and we found our way. Among the members of this association we found our Venezuelan friends, Roberto Miranda and Álvaro Rodríguez, who have been residents of the United States for some time. They welcome us with a spectacular dinner, which included “arepas de Reina Pepiada” (typical food from our country). We enjoyed the pleasant conversation and the beers we drank. The next day we traveled through this large territory and we were lucky to witness the blooming of the valley, which happens every so many years. It was amazing! We took a lot of pictures. One of the scientists who were doing some investigations told us that the last time the valley bloomed was 60 years ago. The phenomenon was due to the high precipitations of the previous months and that we were very fortunate to observe a once-in-a-life-time event. We said goodbye to our friends and keep on going our way, making a 24 hour-stop in Las Vegas, where we were suppose to rest… which we did not. However, whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
We continued our adventure heading to Salt Lake City in Utah, then we cross through snowed highways to Yellowstone Park where we could enjoy driving snow bikes between Idaho and Montana. Then to Missoula and Seattle to cross the border and enter to Canada visiting Vancouver. From there up, all the way looked the same, beautiful scenery of mountains, lakes, pines and snow. We cross Squamish, Whistler and Prince George in British Columbia then White Horse in the Yukon Territory to the Alaska Border. We made a stop at an ice sculpture exhibit in Fairbanks and then Continue to our Goal driving the famous Dalton Highway, a stop in Cold foot to pass the night give us the most incredible experience of the trip, looking at the northern lights in the sky was a thing that fuels the soul. The cold was really intimidating, we spend the night in sleeping bags inside our Roof top tents at (minus) - 8 grades Fahrenheit... hard experience. In the morning we continued to Prudhoe Bay the northern most point of the United States that can be reachable in conventional vehicles. When we get there, the joy embrace us, after so many miles and adventures we finally get our goal, we had a toast to celebrate, raise the Venezuelan Flag in the air and took some photos, then we realize the bad thing about getting here... we still had to make all the way back .
Countries: U.S.A. – Canada
Duration: 36 days
Route: U.S.A.: Houston, TX – Moab, UT – Death Valley, CA – Las Vegas, NV – Salt Lake City, UT – Yellowstone Park, ID,MT,WY – Seattle, WA, Canadá: Vancouver, BC – Prince George, BC – White Horse, YT- U.S.A.: Fairbanks, AK – Dead Horse, AK
Members: Rui Mendes (Pilot) Andrés Muñoz (Copilot-mechanic) Luis Vassallo (Pilot) Juan Godoy (Copilot) Francisco Angrisano (Pilot) Miguel Sanchís (Copilot-mechanic) Daniel Herrera (Camera man)
This is just a sample of the thousands of pictures that we took, don't forget to watch the video that was broadcasted by Fox Sports Latin America and the gallery below.