In this edition of RUX Rides we sat down with our friend Julie Brenninkmeyer to talk about her Adventure Mobile, hear about life on the road with her growing family, and how a little adaptability on the road can get you out of a pickle--as well as leave you with an epic story.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
My family—Julie, John and Betty Hartley—live in Durango Colorado most days; but when not at home we can be found adventuring as much as possible in our van, by plane, by boat or by bicycle! We love figuring out how to do more adventures as a family now that Betty is getting old enough to participate in meaningful ways. She has started pushing us to go camping and looks for any opportunity to climb rocks or wade in cold mountain streams. John is an outstanding vehicle problem solver and four wheel driver. He actually has his international four wheel driving instructor certification. On our trips we most often hear “How did you get that vehicle here?” I love navigation when I'm not car sick and am always ready to jump on my bike for some long dirt road rides.
I know our reader's are going to want to know, can you give us the run-down on "Tonto"?
“Tonto” is our Ford E350 Sportsmobile EB van. We have owned one or more Sportsmobiles for over 15 years. These vans are becoming “classic” with all the new models on the roads these days, but we we have found that its reliability and adventure capability is unparalleled. Having a vehicle that can be worked on almost anywhere is really key for us. We have done lots of modifications on the road when we were living in it full time. One of the best was when we found a mechanic in Mexico to weld the perfect bolt that we had lost on a remote trip.
What is it about your Ford E350 setup that you love the most?
The outdoor living set up. As we now have three people, and a trusty dog Ozzie to accommodate, our “spread” has increased in area when we stop to camp. Over the last year we have installed an exterior propane tank and John has dialed in his outdoor camp kitchen. He likes using the rear Aluminess box and Primus stove and grill to create some outstanding camp meals. On a recent “boys only” motorcycle trip, everyone brought meals, but only one guy did the cooking. This guy!
What's been your favorite adventure in "Tonto" so far?
Before our daughter Betty, we lived full time in the Sportsmobile for eighteen months and did an epic trip around some wild places in Canada, the US and Mexico. One of the wildest times was in the remote areas around Popocatépetl Volcano in Mexico. We camped with incredible views and no one around. The driving was pretty epic with some serious four-wheeling to get in and out. In those days we picked a road on a map that looked desolate and remote and just went for it. We had some great adventures. We will do it again!
What are the most wild situations you've gone through during your adventures so far?
The two most epic events happened on the same trip in the Copper Canyon in Mexico. On the way down to the remote town of Batopílas we got our first, and maybe only, flat tire in a very desolate place. On a vehicle this size and this heavy you have to be sure to carry all the tools, and back up tools, to get the job done and with some long but careful work we changed the tire to our spare just as it got dark and dangerous. On the way out of the canyon it was looking like we were going to run out of diesel fuel. John was riding ahead on the motorcycle while I drove, because, why not, and he found a mining town that had a drum of fuel. John had to siphon the fuel from a barrel with a hose using his mouth, and it may not have gone exactly as planned.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting into a custom adventure vehicle?
Do some research and try before you buy. We used to run one of the first expedition vehicle rental businesses in the US and got to try out a lot of different platforms ourselves. It was always gratifying to see customers come and rent from us, go on great expeditions, and come back and know exactly what they wanted with what options. Then they could go to find the perfect vehicle for their adventures. Talk to people who have something you are interested in. Trust me, they want to talk vehicles and adventures.