For 10 years now I have owned my "dream off-road vehicle" or at least my dream Land Cruiser for the first 5 years. Now my needs have changed, but my love for the Land Cruiser has not.
See when I first researched LC's I had just spent a few short budget surf vacations surfing in Nicaragua, along the Pacific coast along the SOuthern border with Costa Rica. What a place! I fell in love with it right away, and all I was going there for was to get away, breath healthy, eat healthily and surf. period.
I wanted a surf getaway where I wasn't tempted by drinking endless beer, flirting with anyone at or constantly thinking about work or about what the trip was costing me. I could go cheaply. In fact, I could go surfing in Nica so cheaply that at times I actually saved money over staying at home over the winter holidays and going to all the cocktail parties, restaurants, and general holiday overspending fuss.
Nicaragua was the perfect escape. A room in the surf shop could be had for $12 per night or $6 per cot if you didn't mind sharing with whatever other surfer showed up that day. A $5 ride to the surf break could be had on a shuttle and with my own board that flew for free on Delta back then, I was on my way to a full day of surf for next to nothing. Add to that the plate of post-surf-session huevos rancheros y Pico de Gallo for the equivalent of about 1 dollar 35 cents, and this was too good to be true. Let's not even talk about dinners of filet mignon and lobster tails for $8 to $12 dollars or simple grilled red snapper, salad, tostones (fried plantain) and a cold local beer for $6. 'Si, uno mas cerveza con Limon, por favor.' Why not. Two beers surely wouldn't keep me from being at one of the world's best surf breaks by 7 or 8 AM. I was going to bed at 9 or 10. Of course, I'd be up early; I was there for one reason only; to surf.
That's when it hit me. Being on that amazing surf break each morning and finishing up my session each day before breakfast I found myself walking out of the ocean and changing shorts right next to a highly skilled surfer who was doing the same thing but from the comfort (and privacy) of his two ambulance doors on the back of his Toyota Land Cruiser.
This was the Edison moment, or the light bulb moment or whatever you want to call it. I would go home and research diesel land cruiser's with ambulance doors that were long enough to fit a bed in so that I could build one out myself to "live in" during my winter month (or would it be two months?) abroad and South of the border.
I decided on an Australian HJ45 11 passenger diesel troop carrier, a few of which were being imported into the United States each year. In mid-2007 just before markets crashed and before I moved into the house I was building right just blocks from downtown, I bid on and won the yellow beast, as I called it. I would later sketch the plans and schematics to build it out into a portable moving apartment built for surfing and survival alone, nothing more. Before the luxury sleep accouterments were assembled I beefed up the pulleys, belts, and fans to handle extreme Georgia to Nicaragua heat. This was where I had gotten my project and this is where I stopped it. By 2012 I had twin baby girls on the way, and put those lofty (and dreamy) plans to rest for a while.
Now, I reminisce about this old story and plan, but I also think of the next Land Cruiser (also from the 80's) but with AC, cruise control and more comfortable seating so that I can now plan my next surf adventures: week or month long surf trips or mountain camping trips with my two new little lady travelers who are already excited to "Go venture, daddy." So on to other things, loftier responsibilities and future dream beach breaks and the dream 4x4's that will get us there.
For now, I must simply share one of my all-time favorite videos on the ever-popular Toyota Land Cruiser. To see my HJ45 Yellow Beast as it still sits (for sale) go to:
I hope you enjoy this guy's video on the history of Land Cruisers as much as I do.
He is hilarious.