Show Notes for Podcast Episode #59
Interviewing Richard Giordano About the Joys of Overlanding, and a Simple Vehicle
Scott Brady interviews Richard Giordano of Desk to Glory about the joys of quitting your job and heading off into the unknown.
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Full Transcription below:
Richard Giordano Podcast
Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Overland journal podcast. I'm your host, Scott Brady and I'm here at the Overland Expo Mountain west and we're recording the podcast here in our camper and we have a very interesting guest today. Someone who's done a lot of international travel and has been very thoughtful in how he's prepared his vehicles, Richard Giordano. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Richard Giordano: Thank you for having me. I feel like I don't deserve to be here based on the legendary guests that you've had before me.
Scott Brady: You definitely deserve to be here. It's me that does not deserve any of this. I feel so lucky. Every day I feel like I'm waking up in a dream. The fact that I get to interview these great people and do the work that I do, so I think we're all really lucky.
Richard Giordano: A hundred percent.
Scott Brady: We're going to take a brief break and we will be right back. This week's episode is supported in part by iKamper. They make innovative, hard shell and soft sided roof tents that are designed to survive long term Overland use their revolutionary X cover [00:01:00] won the Overland journal editor’s choice award eliminating the bulky PVC cover, and also allowing for the fitment of crossbars for carrying bikes and kayaks. Their Sky Camp Mini is another award-winning design that provides a hard-shell tent in the footprint of a much smaller clamshell model. This is the perfect solution for smaller vehicles or on vehicles where Rackspace is dedicated to other systems. iKamper believes that the best times are those spent traveling, discovering the world with those you love most, you can find out more about their quality tents at iKamper.com. Yeah, and I remember... and I mentioned this when I interviewed Ashley is I remember starting to see your content coming out when you started your trip, Desk to Glory, going all the way down to the tip of south America and I remember one of the things that stood out to me was the quality of the editorial that you were producing and the quality of the images that you were producing. Also the fact that the vehicle that you [00:02:00] chose was so accessible. It felt to me that it's the exact kind of story that we needed to have told in the industry, which is just go and do it and you don't have to have a hundred-thousand-dollar G Wagon to go to the tip of South America, which you absolutely don't. In fact, it's probably the worst vehicle to do that with. What inspired you to pick the vehicle that you did to go all the way down to Panama?
Richard Giordano: So we went all the way down to Ushuaia actually.
Scott Brady: That's right, you went to Panama first and then you... that's right.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. We took a 1990 Toyota pickup. Just a four-cylinder 22RE five speed, super simple truck. The inspiration we had was that that's all we knew. We saw people like rune adventures and home on the highway. Both of them had first gen four runners and just slept in the back and that's all I knew of international travel by vehicle. I didn't know what was called overlanding at the time. When I didn't really look too far beyond them, I saw the dangers in their 67 Volkswagen bus. I saw Luis and Lacey in their 60 series land cruiser. [00:03:00] So I was like, Old truck, simple to fix and the one that we ended up taking was in my dad's backyard.
Scott Brady: Oh, that was perfect.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. So it was sitting there. My mom and her husband are running a plumbing business and then my sister used the truck as a run-around vehicle for that business. So we always had a heat pump in the back and pipe, and everything just beat on. I don't know if the oil was ever changed in that period of time and eventually, we're just sitting in the backyard. Windshield was cracked, leaking, moldy inside, but we took a look at it and the frame was good and the body was good, and I thought, well, if all of these other couples can do it in their old Toyotas, surely, we can too. So we had a 2000 Silverado at the time, and I wasn't super confident in that. And also, I'd never seen, you know, I never seen anybody take a domestic vehicle at that time down to South America. So we sold that, took that money, and put it into the truck. We had a total of eight grand Canadian in it when we left, including a new long block, a new clutch, and a whole new suspension. Then, yeah, we just threw [00:04:00] a canopy on the back little CBT rooftop tent and by far, the best thing we did was put the ARB fridge in. But you know, we had $8,000 Canadian at the time. It was worth six grand American, sir, that's all we knew, and we threw Rubbermaid containers in the back. Ashley had a suitcase. We didn't have any fancy duffel bags or packing cubes or anything.
Scott Brady: And then amazingly, you guys make it all the way to Ushuaia, right?
Richard Giordano: With really no problems, which is kind of, yeah, kind of crazy...
Scott Brady: But it isn't that the irony of it is that maybe a lot of traveler’s delay leaving because they feel like they need X or Y and really what is best done is to save that money for fuel and experiences along the way. I think one of the things that's been most helpful in recent years is seeing all of these trips that are being done with very standard vehicles. So there's been trips all the way down to Ushuaia that are done with a Honda Element or with a, just a passenger sedan or like the French have been doing for decades, like an [00:05:00] RV with their family on board and it's totally feasible to do that entire route with a standard vehicle. So starting off with an inexpensive Toyota pickup, which that variant of the Toyota was sold in many of those countries. It was before the Tacoma, so a 22 RE would have been very popular and parts would have been available. What a great choice and the fact that it was just sitting in your mom's backyard.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. It was accessible there and we just, yeah, I worked on it for four weekends as it wasn't in the same town that we lived in, so every weekend for four weekends went there... worked on one project. So once I swapped the engine, the next time was suspension. Next time I put a canopy on a rooftop tent. Then the last weekend was just tidying up loose ends, doing electrical and a little bit of solar and we left. We didn't have time to think about whether what we were doing was right or wrong, or if we had the right gear or if we, any of that, we just had a very limited amount of time before we wanted to leave and nothing else really mattered.
Scott Brady: And it seems like [00:06:00] that you have. A lot of personal interest in understanding how the vehicles work, taking, taking the time to get them repaired properly. What is some of the advice now that you've done that whole trip in a 22 RE Toyota pickup at the other end of it? What were the things that you changed about the vehicle that you most appreciated and maybe what were some of the things that you would have done differently for the next time?
Richard Giordano: So the nice thing is that there is going to be a next time. We have a big trip planned, well... we had one plan, a long story, but you don't know things until you know them, and we had no idea when we first left what we needed versus what we wanted. We had seen that a rooftop tent was available, I guess, and it gave us the opportunity to use the back for storage, for hiking gear and for any sort of other activities we wanted to do. We didn't know any better and we left. We spent, you know, 18 months traveling out of that truck, even though it was definitely not perfect, and it wasn't organized, and it was a real pain, sometimes to access gear. [00:07:00] So by far, the biggest thing we learned was A) the fridge is probably the most important thing that we that we installed and that B) organization is key. C) really quickly, is that inside space is really, really nice to have when you want to live on the road. When you're camping and when you have a choice of what kind of weather you want to be in, a rooftop tent is great and living outside is fantastic and probably the greatest part of that whole South America trip. Chasing summer, living outside, temperature was always moderate. We had maybe two weeks of rain in 18 months. When you don't have the choice to travel during those specific summer, fall, spring months, being able to get inside the camper when the weather gets bad and be comfortable and have a little home is priceless.
Scott Brady: Or even not advertising that you're camping. Cause when... I don't know how many times you encountered this, but oftentimes your day gets interrupted. Something happens, you get a flat tire or something on the vehicle that needs to be worked on, or you need to do some paperwork for the next [00:08:00] border crossing or whatever, and then you don't make it to where you want it to arrive. So then you're sleeping in the gas station, parking lot and the challenge with a roof 10 in that case is now you've advertised to everyone that I'm camping.
Richard Giordano: And we spent many, many nights in gas station parking lots throughout South America. Even with our future setup, we're doing a wedge camper, Go Fast camper. At least it's within its own footprint, as opposed to the soft-shell rooftop tent that we had that folds open, we're taking up two parking spots, we're feeling very vulnerable inside and yeah, it's nice to be a little bit secretive and be able to do everything we want within the actual vehicle.
Scott Brady: And I never encountered anything that made me feel unsafe. It was more just once you advertise that you're camping, then the locals are interested and they're curious about what you're doing and they, you know, you'll feel them climbing up the ladder to go check things out. Kind of like what we're experiencing at Overland expo here, we have to put a big sign on the door that says that we're on air because otherwise everyone would want to come and see the camper and it's the same thing [00:09:00] when we're traveling is that the locals are curious, which I think is amazing. But there's times when you do need to rest and you're tired from the day's activities and you want to get some sleep and not advertising that you're camping is a good thing
Richard Giordano: And I'm pretty introverted. So I recharge by being alone, or even with Ashley and by doing things that are quiet, I'm not distracted. So sometimes it can be. Exhausting, even though they're always great experiences when we meet everybody. It's nice to have a little bit of a choice of when we do meet people.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I think one of my most favorite ones was on the Northern route of Mongolia and I wake up in my tent in the morning and I'm kind of getting ready for the day, a little tent, little Nemo AirBeam tent and this little Mongolian kid just like crawls in and just sits at the end of the tent. Sat there and watched me, you know, pack up my sleeping bag and everything and at first it was a little, I mean, I was not concerned at all, and he was very quiet, and he just sat there and watched me and then I realized that that is how they live in [00:10:00] their gers. The whole family is in a tent, and their personal space would be very different for them. This was very normal to him. This is a really weird looking ger, this little lime green tent, and I'm going to go check out and see what this person's doing and actually it was one of the highlights of the trip for me, was to have that interaction that felt very natural to him. It became natural to me to understand that I'm in a different place. So it is nice to have those local interactions, but it sounds like Ashley, and you are interested in making this also a place where you work and you need to be productive when you're on the road. So before we get into that, cause I do want to talk about that, but let's talk a little bit more about... so it sounds like the roof tent in some ways was great, but you learned that you wanted to have some inside space to retreat to. What were some of the other things that you learned from that trip?
Richard Giordano: The biggest thing is that when overlanding the biggest thing that you need is the ability to adapt and whether that is to a timeline that's gone awry, or whether that's to your [00:11:00] vehicle that maybe something's not working properly, or maybe you're not as organized in a way that you feel that you should be, you can change absolutely everything on the road. It definitely doesn't have to be perfect before you leave. I did plenty of modifications to our truck, added a drawer system and the campground in Ecuador. You know, you don't always have access to materials and so on, but when you go to a major city, almost everything you'd ever want is there. There's always a four-by-four shop. You can always get an extra snatch strap and get more Shackles. So there is always something that you can add to your kit or change along the way. You don't have to be perfect before you leave.
Scott Brady: Oh, that's such important advice and maybe even you experienced this as well, is that you find yourself getting rid of things as you're traveling along because you left with more than you needed.
Richard Giordano: And that's, I guess another thing is that once you go and do it, you actually know what you need. We have so much more confidence this time in making those decisions because we live on the road for 18 months [00:12:00] that we don't have to second guess. Oh, do we need four max tracks? Do we need two max tracks? We mostly used our max tracks on other people, but when we did have them, they were invaluable to use on ourselves, but I'm okay with taking two and saving the weight instead of having a full set. But that's because of the way we travel. I know that we don't take unnecessary risk when we're by ourselves, because I would rather be making it to the next town so we can have dinner and enjoy this free food and so on rather than doing like an especially technical trail being prepared enough and having the skills to know that between airing down significantly adding some max tracks and having a recovery strap that we can use if we need to hail a local.
Scott Brady: You can always make a plan, or the locals will all show up and you push the truck out. I mean, it's funny how you... or they'll bring along an Ox and pull you out that way. The number of times that over lenders have been rescued by livestock is I think is pretty awesome. Or the little local tractor, they drive it out there on the beach and pull you out. [00:13:00] I think that it's so important to remember that on a remote technical trail in North America, you typically do want to have that kind of equipment because it can be very challenging. One of the benefits of traveling in North America is that you can purposefully go out and look for something difficult, which I think is great to keep our skills tuned up. But I also find that when I travel internationally, I start backing off on the risk, because if something breaks, it's just going to be very disruptive. It's going to be hard to find parts, or you've got to have them shipped in and it's a lot more difficult to repair vehicles in the developing world.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. We met some good friends that had a Pinzgauer with a swapped BMW engine and when that was a new build and they crossed the Sahara and everything, it was fantastic. But I think both the times that we met them in South America, they're waiting on parts and yeah, we just try to avoid that as much as possible. As long as we can disrupt the travel as little as possible, it keeps me happy. Keeps Ashley happy and we can just...
Scott Brady: What else did you [00:14:00] find on that particular truck that you really liked. At the end of it you were really happy with it, that you were glad you brought it along.
Richard Giordano: I was happy that when we brought a truck that had 320,000 kilometers on it, that I really didn't have to do anything to it other than basic maintenance and basic maintenance includes tire rod ends and ball joints, because we'd traveled such long distances on pretty bad washboard roads. We didn't have any major failures. We just listened to what the truck was saying to us. It was making a weird noise or knocking or squeaking, you pay attention to it and we treated it like a part of our family and it helped get us all the way down to the bottom of south America and back.
Scott Brady: Did you have a daily or a weekly maintenance schedule or inspection schedule for the truck? Did you have a way that you did that with regularity, or did you have a process behind that?
Richard Giordano: I wasn't strict, but I'm just constantly looking under the vehicle to see if there's a leak or I'm constantly feeling to see how the steering is changing or if the tires are cupping. Everything on that truck is it's quite nice because most of the mechanical pieces are quite visible. [00:15:00] So I can just like keep my eye on things and see if there are any major symptoms of something going wrong. But definitely not... it wasn't like a strict regular schedule, but it was pretty often anytime we had a grass campground, went underneath checking everything out or any chance we were in... anytime we were in a major city, even if we weren't ready for any maintenance, we'd get oil changed, do that, and then be able to put the truck up on a lift or at least on ramps just to get underneath, take a look at it and continue on from there.
Scott Brady: Did you find that repair parts, spare parts for that truck were available in South America?
Richard Giordano: Yeah. So we had a issue with our clutch that failed I think it was 42 or 43 degrees Celsius in Panama, and we were stop and go traffic for four hours and that kind of finished off the clutch at the time and we went to Equate four by four in Barron Kia in Columbia and they pulled the truck apart, pull the clutch out random Toyota, grabbed a new clutch and threw it in. We rebuilt the clutch master at the same time. Parts were available. Brakes were always available. Tire rod ends. There was never a time we had to wait for parts.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Wanted a four by four. I've got great [00:16:00] memories of that place too. Cool spot in Columbia. I don't know that they're still doing that anymore, but I think they even ended up with a shop in Bogota for a while too. Yeah, you're right. You can find those local four-wheel drive shops cause there's enthusiasts everywhere that want to go out and explore in their Land Cruiser or whatever and you can find those little shops to get that work done.
Richard Giordano: And you know the right ones to choose. So we were in Lima at the time or at one time and we needed to get tire rod ends swapped out and we went to this one shop and we rolled in, and there were three trucks that had total chaos, long travel, and kings and there was like a classic Bronco with a swapped engine, and a bunch of FJ cruisers and a bunch of land cruisers and I was like, okay, this is the spot I want to be. I trust that we can get the work done here and then there are other places where you're like, well, maybe we'll just pass by. Let's see what else we can find.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Keep going. Exactly and when you brought the truck back, you did do a, like a complete refresh on it and I'm asking these questions just because of [00:17:00] how much I appreciated your vehicle. I just, I thought it was such a charming solution and you were so forceful in the way that you modified it. So I'm just curious when you got back, what were the major changes that you made and has that been a positive thing for them.
Richard Giordano: So I've always been into cars and hot rods and trucks and stuff like that, but I've never had a good excuse to modify them until now. And again, anybody listening, probably the best bet is to take a vehicle. That's as stock as possible around the world because it's more than capable. Almost any vehicle is perfectly capable of driving around the world. I don't know... I just wanted to try some new things and especially after coming back from South America, I had a lot of ideas, kind of like wish list dream type things I wanted to try out. Each comes with pros and cons... yeah so, we ended up doing... well I told the whole truck apart in terms of all of the camping accessories. Stripped off the camper or the camper shell and the rooftop tent. The Old Man Emu's suspension was pretty worn out after, you know, 120-130,000 kilometers like all of it being [00:18:00] fully loaded and on rough roads. I knew we wanted some inside living space, and we also knew that we wanted to take this truck on the next adventure and part of that was that regardless of how much time and money and effort we spent building it was still a 30 year old truck. It's accessible. If we can take this, you can take your 2000 Tacoma or Forerunner or Corolla or whatever you want to take around the world. It's a dumb, old truck and I love it. So we wanted to, I don't know, keep on driving it. Plus it's small and it fits in every major city that we've ever been to. So that's a major consideration.
Scott Brady: I think there's also a lot to be said for not going into debt, not having a huge expense during the interview with Ashley. She really focused on the fact that when you guys were... when you came back from central America, everything you spent money on you related it to a day of travel. If you look at buying a new vehicle that could be years of travel, it's a big expense to buy a new vehicle and to outfit it properly. So by using a truck that you already have you've gained now potentially [00:19:00] years on the road, but not having that expense, and I think also if you want to go into Africa, there's the carnet de passage. So if you want to go into Mongolia on your silk road trip, there's a carnet that's required for that. A carnet on a 30-year-old Toyota is cheap. A carnet on a brand-new Gladiator or whatever else is extremely expensive.
Richard Giordano: And not to mention that most of the time we can't get insurance on our vehicle. So we wanted to take something that, god forbid, we had an accident. It's catastrophic and we have to leave a vehicle there or if it catches on fire or if it gets stolen we can just take our backpacks and continue traveling.
Scott Brady: Maybe buy a couple of local motorcycles and off you go.
Richard Giordano: Exactly. Like we can go to Russia and have a couple of vans or whatever it is and yeah, there are plenty of ways to do it. We can do it by foot. We can just get out and travel, however, we go multiple different ways. But that was definitely one of the ways of thinking. Try to take something we already had. We didn't have to spend any money on it. Except for the changes that we made. I don't know. It's fun to take pictures of. Let's be honest.
Scott Brady: It looks great in photos. I can't think of [00:20:00] anyone that would ever look at that vehicle and not just be charmed by it. I mean even if they don't like Toyota's, maybe they're a Land Rover person and seeing a classic Toyota going around the world is cool.
Richard Giordano: We've had conversations at every gas station that we've ever stopped at from here to Argentina. It doesn't matter whether people are like, I've had a pickup, I've had a High Lux, it's a conversation starter and it's fun. Yeah. But yeah. So coming back, we wanted to make some changes to make them more comfortable, both on like driving on road and off-road, and then also in park, we did our best to try to keep the truck as light as possible because it puts something like 65 horsepower down to the wheels, keeping GVWR in mind, but really just keeping in mind how slow we would go up hills if this thing was heavy, was a pretty key factor in a lot of decisions that we made. Being more organized than we were before was key, inside living space also key in terms of just having privacy , comfort and an ability to work inside and then we just had to fit in. A few other things that are just like in the truck itself in [00:21:00] terms of the interior so we've added a lockbox and our Tuffy center console in the middle of, so we have more locking storage and comfort. A place to rest our arm. More cup holders. There were only two cup holders before, and they held the tiniest little disposable coffee cups. So we wanted to make sure we had something that would hold the one-liter Nalgene. We've added better seats because the 30-year-old seats were pretty worn out. Pretty much had no support. So yeah, we just made the interior a little bit more livable. It's nothing compared to a new truck, but after a few days on the road, you kind of forget what a new truck feels like.
Scott Brady: You don't miss the heated seats, right?
Richard Giordano: I don't miss the heated seats; I missed the air conditioning.
Scott Brady: That doesn't have...
Richard Giordano: It doesn't have air conditioning.
Scott Brady: Ok that would be worth considering...
Richard Giordano: There were some sweaty days...
Scott Brady: I can imagine.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. So then yeah, so we had to go fast camper. Goose gear L-shaped bench with a couple of drawers, because I really want it to be able to access everything, anything fairly quickly and most of the time I want to access gear in one motion, as opposed to the way we did it before, where I would have to [00:22:00] move four Rubbermaid containers and a duffel bag and a suitcase out of the way to access tools.
So if I need to access a wrench to just check a couple of bolts, open a side panel, pull up the tool, roll check, a couple things, put it away. It doesn't take 20 minutes. It takes two minutes.
Scott Brady: Sure. That makes sense.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. So adding up... like taking what we had before, which was super inefficient and making something a little bit more efficient in terms of usability was very key. One of the things that we added a calculation on was how much time we'd save setting up camp with this new camper versus with the soft-shell rooftop tent and with 18 months on the road we would have saved 24 hours of time with the simple go fast two latch push up your hard shell tent versus the hard shell.
Scott Brady: I think a lot of people don't know that when they buy a soft-shell roof tent that they can be a huge effort to put away and especially the ones that have the zippered covers when they're brand new, they work fine. So the first couple of times you use it, it's no problem. But once you get a little bit of dust and a little bit of sun exposure and they become [00:23:00] brittle, or it gets cold, and the cover shrinks and you're fighting those zippers and you can easily spend 15 to 20 minutes putting our way a soft shell roof tent.
Richard Giordano: I felt like I felt my fingertips just from the memory of putting those tents away in the cold. So it's a lot of work, they're comfortable.
Scott Brady: They are, they are. We were talking about that actually, before we started recording about how we've seen the shift from soft shell tents towards the hard shell. And that's because they are so much easier to put up and to take down. Of course, the downside is that there are, there are big investments and that is always something worth considering.
Richard Giordano: Depends how much you're going to use it. If you're going to use it every day for two years, separate that investment over 700 days, it's not so bad.
Scott Brady: But I find in the podcast that it's almost always the same consistent answer is those that have lived on the road with a rough tent they come back, and the next vehicle always includes something that they live inside instead of living around or on top of the vehicle. I think that [00:24:00] that just simply comes down to there's some frustration in trying to access that one tool that you need, because it's buried under 15 different things, or you get stuck in that bad weather for a week or two weeks, and it starts to really affect the trip and that's why I believe that a lot of long-term travelers end up... even if it's something very simple. Like if you look at Land Cruising Adventures, they are living inside of 45 Land Cruisers.
Richard Giordano: Amazing.
Scott Brady: Yeah. They're awesome humans, like such cool, inspiring people. But they do have a way to live inside that Land Cruiser to get out of the weather and to have their own little personal space, which I think is a good idea.
Richard Giordano: Sometimes I don't know until you've done it and I remember on an expedition portal, I was kind of discussing what I was doing to the truck and Louise Skeeter asked what I was doing for inside living space and I said, oh, we don't need it. It's fine. We're going camping. I constantly remind him that he was right. Yes, you should have really focused on that, but it was fine. [00:25:00] We survived. I got a good core workout every time I opened and closed that tent and now, we can actually speak to that experience and without struggling a little bit, if you don't have the experience, you can't discuss it with other people, and it's nice to have that opportunity to do so.
Scott Brady: For sure and it is good to struggle. I think that we work better that way. I think we work hard too hard sometimes removing the struggles because just recently on the, on the sailing trip that I did, I just didn't know what I was doing and I had to remind the people on the boat that did know what they were doing that if I don't struggle, if I don't fight with this and learn it, if you just keep doing it, I will never get better. I'll never figure it out and I need to struggle, and I think that that's true from the trips is that you come back, and you realize I need to have a fridge and I'm probably not going to put a soft-shell tent on top of my truck for the next trip. So you're right... Those and those are great memories too. Right?
Richard Giordano: The stories of all the things that went wrong and the struggles and all of that, those are the best [00:26:00] stories. At the moment they're not always the things that you're having the most fun with. We don't have a lot of... we have a lot of memories of great times on the road, but they don't make for good stories all the time.
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Richard Giordano: So this is the dumbest thing I did, but the thing I wanted to do the most was do a long travel suspension system on the truck. Part of that was that there are only so many options with these Toyota pickups. We got torsion bars, so you can unlike the newer car, newer trucks with coilovers, or at least strats and so on that there's only so much you can do with them other than putting an Old Man EMU torsion bar and Nitro Charger Shocks on it. To be honest, it worked absolutely perfectly for what we did. The values are fantastic. No maintenance, no noise. You just set it, you forget it and you just go on your merry way, and you explore, and you travel and it's great. Yeah, so I did a plus three and a quarter inch long travel kit [00:28:00] from Total Chaos and two and a half inch Icon shocks front rear that are adjustable and secondaries in the front and it's so dumb to play race car parts on a long-term like traveling truck, but I just wanted to see what it would be like, and I wanted the comfort, performance. We put some 63-inch Chevy Springs in the rear that were custom made to handle the weight of the camper and all of our gear, less being significantly longer springs than the factory ones. It's quite a soft ride while being controlled. I took all of the things I wanted out of that suspension system and also took the things that I didn't want, which were a little bit more maintenance and more noise through the poly bushings and, and knowing that well ahead of time, I was happy to make the decision.
Scott Brady: And how did you address the track with the rear axle?
Richard Giordano: I just... Well, a couple of things. I felt like I performed pretty well with the track as it was, but I put a one inch... or one-and-a-half-inch wheel spacer in the rear. Just some quality rear wheel spacers with the hub centered rings just to keep that centered and fairly strong, [00:29:00] I don't necessarily like running wheel spacers, but I am also happy running that rear axle. I don't need to put a wider rear axle in. So the rear axle is still a little bit narrower than the front, but it seems to track better that way along faster at roads, which we find ourselves on a lot. I know that some people have issues in deep mud and snow and so on when you have a different track within the rear, but I have never really found that to be a big problem for us. So I'm taking the good with the bad.
Scott Brady: I think the only times that I've noticed it would be sand, you notice it quite a bit and mud, you particularly notice it cause then maybe the front tire is in one rut and the rear is fighting against another one that's the only times that I really found that to be a challenge, but I looked at some photos of it with the new suspension on there. It looks awesome.
Richard Giordano: It looks awesome. It performs awesome. A positive thing about it is that even though it requires maintenance, it is all very, very easily field serviceable. As you don't need anything except a couple of wrenches and sockets, and you can take the whole thing apart and replace the bushings or misalignment [00:30:00] spacers, or, you know, ball joints are super easy to replace. One thing we did was leave the lower ball joint in and all of the factory steering components. So all genuine Toyota, lower ball joints and tire rod ends all the Pitman arm. The idler arm is a Total Chaos idler arm but that's only because I went through three factory ones on our trip. They're just a weak point in the system when you are running washboard roads with larger tires and a heavyweight. Where I could, I used factory components for longevity and where I couldn't, I lived with it. Bring some spares.
Scott Brady: Talk a bit about your next trip. You've prepared the truck to go at least to Europe. Where do you guys want to go?
Richard Giordano: So we moved out of our apartment in February... end of February 2020 with the plans to ship our truck to Europe and drive east through probably out of Morocco, go east through Europe, central Asia, Russia, South Korea, Japan. We have this idea. We want to bring the truck back home to where it was built in Japan and that was the first place that Ashley and I ever traveled. So we want to go back and explore it a little bit more, but [00:31:00] yeah, so we moved out of our place. February 24th, 2020, we did a trip up to Tuktoyaktuk with X Overland. By the time we made it back COVID was in full effect and plans got derailed. So we are waiting until we're fairly confident that Overland travel through at least a few countries that we want to start in Europe is feasible and not dangerous and that will be welcomed. I don't want to start traveling around if people are struggling to survive.
Scott Brady: Feeling fearful of an outsider being there.
Richard Giordano: Exactly. So if they're feeling fearful of a traveler wandering about, and especially the way we travel, where, you know, we're traveling through multiple countries and seeing everybody and talking to as many people as we can. Yeah, we could spread all sorts of things. So we just wanna make sure that everybody that we see is comfortable and we'd be happy seeing us, I guess. And then on top of that knowing that we can actually make it through borders and get our vehicle imported and all the rest of it.
Scott Brady: Well, that's very good honorable that you and Ashley are taking into consideration the locals.
Richard Giordano: They're the most important part of the trip. It's [00:32:00] meeting the people, eating their food, and learning their culture. If we were going to travel and not see them and not talk to them and not eat their food, we could just watch it on TV.
Scott Brady: Yeah, no, I think those are definitely the highlights is meeting them where they are and if we come in as a foreign travel, into their country during a pandemic, I could see why that would be a, that would be fearful for them. You know, even when this was all kicking off and I was in South Africa going into Swaziland, I remember the officials were even kind of trying to maintain... they didn't know exactly. They just knew that they wanted to be far away from this foreigner, and they probably didn't even know the concept of social distance. I didn't either. We were all figuring it out, but that is a natural human instinct to get away from something that could be threatening to them and when I got back from that trip, I realized that I wasn't going to travel in Africa anymore. I needed to get home because it felt like I was waiting on the necessary pressure on someone else [00:33:00] because they needed to do their job. Their job was to let me into their country. Their borders were not closed. But I can understand why they would be very fearful of someone who came from across the ocean and flew in with who knows what? So that's really thoughtful of you guys to consider that in your travels going forward.
Richard Giordano: So we'll just wait. We've adapted as usual to a new schedule. I think we're going to try to get our truck across the border from Canada into the U S and just can't do a little zigzag route down through the Western states and go down to Expo West and just see some friends and travel some back country that's a little different than back home. Do that in the meantime.
Scott Brady: And you've taken up a lot more and more photography and video work. You did all of that work around the solo series for Expedition Overland, which you guys did such a great job.
Richard Giordano: Thank you! It was fun and the whole time we were wondering if it was gonna be interesting at all.
Scott Brady: That one photo of you guys setting up the camper in those conditions was... it's epic. I mean, it looked like something [00:34:00] out of you know, Star Wars.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. There were a few times like that where I was glad that we were filming for an episode because instead of being, you know, upset or fearful or complaining about the situation we were in, I was like, yes, I get to film this and like to show that we're doing something for sure. Show the struggle. So that helps get us through for sure.
Scott Brady: What advice would you have for people that are hoping to begin documenting their own adventures? Maybe for their own goals of being able to work from the road. What did you learn in capturing that solo series that you think would be good advice? What kind of equipment did you use? What did you learn along that way?
Richard Giordano: That's a great question because it's something we didn't do in South America. We didn't film any video. We shot a lot of photos and that was wearing at times sharing our entire journey. Sometimes you just don't wanna take the camera out. You just want to enjoy a place the way it is. Yeah. So having the opportunity to go up to Tuktoyaktuk and film that solo series for clan Rochelle, it was a really, really good learning experience to film [00:35:00] as much as we can and to show don't tell, I guess. Try to show what we're doing, why, who's meeting and just have the opportunity to edit in like once we actually get back and we can do some post-production... edit all the stories together in a way that is cohesive and makes sense and is all encompassing of the story you want to tell? It requires a lot of filming. It requires thinking ahead every night of things that we want to capture...
Scott Brady: Yeah, batteries, cold weather.
Richard Giordano: All of that stuff. So the first thing was like a story, because stories are the most important part. If you don't have a story to tell, and then the contents are not interesting nobody will watch it and if you're doing it for yourself, it doesn't matter. If you're doing it for your family, whatever, it doesn't matter. But for us, we were doing it for Expedition Overland. We really wanted to be able to tell a compelling story. So every night I would write down notes of what we did that day, notes of what we found, where I thought the story was going to go. If I thought that the story was going to go in a certain direction, I would make notes for things to film the next day. If something was starting to [00:36:00] fail, if we were having trouble with cold weather, like closing the habitat or whatever and we didn't really film it properly the first day, we'll film it better the next day. And we have chances to do that all on the road. You don't have a chance to do that when you. So you get all those pickup shots the next day, instead of not ever having them.
Scott Brady: That's great advice to think about what is the story that you wanted to tell. When you started the trip up to Tuktoyaktuk, what was the story that you wanted to tell?
Richard Giordano: I think there are a few things. One thing was sure we were in a fully built-out expedition, Overland Tacoma, but we're just two people in a truck driving north of Tuck. We didn't end up using any recovery gear... we didn't do anything special. We didn't do any technical trails. Most of them were all closed because of snow anyways. We just wanted to show that you can go, and you can enjoy these places without... you don't have to spend too much money. You don't have to do a crazy route. You can just go and travel and see these places. It doesn't have to be complicated. Yeah, we met plenty of people going up the Dempster highway in minivans with Jerry cans, strapped to the roof and a couple of spare tires in the back. We met a couple in a Chevy [00:37:00] Equinox from Jamaica who were going up to Norman Wells to do their work as nurses and, you know, they've never been in the snow before. So they got helped out by the truck drivers on that road, like pulled out of that snow dress multiple times. So you can be unprepared... and I'd recommend being prepared in a few different ways, but you can be unprepared, and you will find help.
Scott Brady: I've always thought that you, cause you'll often... those of us who like Toyota's we'll oftentimes see someone in a, in a Land Rover let's say, and they're breaking down all the time and you think, oh, there's, it must be such a struggle for them and everything, but then a few years ago I realized... also because I've had a lot of Land Rovers and I've had a lot of struggles with them, but I realized that I oftentimes had some of the best memories in a Land Rover because I was constantly interacting with locals and overcoming challenges and figuring out a way to fix the car and I think that if... we should always prepare in a way that keeps us safe or that meets the expectation of our travel partner, but [00:38:00] allowing for things to go wrong and allowing to not be over-prepared for a little bit of serendipity to occur. I think that that really adds to the trip.
Richard Giordano: Yeah, and even if it's not, even if you're not just allowing things to go wrong all the time, but just accepting that they went wrong and seeing where that leads. It goes a long way. We had some fantastic times in South America with mechanics that we met, who had invited us into their home, to their Finca, to whatever, and have shared amazing meals and amazing stories with people we'd never have otherwise met.
Scott Brady: Maybe that's the important reminder for all of us that travel is to go into the day and go into the trip with the mindset of things are going to go wrong and that is why I'm doing this. I want to go on an adventure and an adventure the definition of it is just an undertaking with an unknown outcome. If we come into it with the mindset of, I don't know how this is going to go, things are going to go wrong. Things that I've spent a lot of money on are probably going to break, or I'm going to lose them, or they're going to get stolen, or I'm gonna [00:39:00] realize I don't want them and those can all be sources of frustration for us if we allow them to be, and maybe that's the most important. Consideration when we travel is just accepting the fact that things are going to go sideways, sometimes really bad, but that's also why we chose to leave is to have an adventure.
Richard Giordano: And things are going to go wrong at home too. So it's nice to get out of the bubble and the comfort and see the world and the things that go wrong are usually not that bad. But yeah, saying that everybody that we met in South America, didn't matter what vehicle they had, whether it was a 93 4 Runner that was totally stock on bald tires or a brand-new sports mobile, or XP camper or whatever it was. Everybody had some sort of mechanical issue. It didn't matter how well prepared you were before you left somebody having some sort of issue and that's okay. And everybody sorted it out, made the trip as far as they wanted to go and safely made it home. So it's, yeah, just something definitely to keep in mind.
Scott Brady: I mean, even a Land Cruiser, if you beat on it long enough, eventually things are gonna, things are gonna fail you or you're going to get a puncture or you're going to get [00:40:00] lost, or you're going to have a medical issue that you're going to have to go to the local clinic to try to get worked out.
Richard Giordano: And they run out of diesel or gas... who knows what it is, but again, you got to try to keep in mind that those are the stories that you hold on to and like you tell over and over again to the next trip, which we've been doing a lot because it's been awhile.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Well, I'm so excited for your next journey. I mean, this silk road will be, will be wonderful.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. And we just can't wait to share that a little bit more and that's why we are trying to get more and more into the filming and give people a little bit of a glimpse of what travel on the road is actually like. Try not to sugarcoat anything. Show the struggles without complaining and just show the people in the cultures and landscapes and all these things are a little bit different from home and show that it is not scary.
Scott Brady: I asked Ashley what kind of work she was going to do from the road. What, in your mind, the way that you've kind of constructed your career, that dovetails with travel, what is going to be your focus going forward and what have you found works well for you to make a living [00:41:00] on the road?
Richard Giordano: So we can step back to South America for two more seconds, let's keep on doing that. But when we left, Ashley was paralegal. I was a mechanical engineering technologist. We worked downtown and in different firms, we lived downtown Vancouver and that's all we knew. We didn't know that there was another way to make money. You know, there was an opportunity to make money on the road and we started running into more and more people as we traveled that were working remotely. And we made that a goal for this time between, when we got back in 2016 to now to be able to slowly transition into something that is easy enough to do from the road and sustainable, because if we can continually make enough money to survive and even better save money on the road, there's not a reason to come back until we want to come see family and take a little break. So it's been a weird journey, I guess, trying to make that happen. The very first job I ever got that wasn't in the mechanical engineering field was for Toyota Canada. I made a decision based on these few opportunities that we had... a good friend of mine, Dave Connors races with Canguro [00:42:00] Racing, Kurt William, and he offered multiple times for us to come down and join them for an event. I also had a friend Erin who is an excellent videographer. I had a contact at Toyota Canada, so I wanted to mesh all of those together and go chase a race in Baja with Canguro and tell that story for Toyota Canada and I decided that if I can make this happen, if I could get a contract produces one video, this one 12-minute-long documentary on a Baja 1000 race and why these guys race a land cruiser in Baja? That if I got a signed contract, I would quit my job and wouldn't go back until I ran out of other work or whatever it was. That was in 2017 and I haven't gone back to my engineering job since, I've just kind of scrounge up all sorts of different projects along the way from more and more work with Toyota Canada to filming for Expedition Overland, to doing a lot of social media management as well. So being able to work with X Overland and nomadic Outfitters and working at the gear shop [00:43:00] in Calgary, Alberta working a little bit in sales and marketing remotely for them. That's a really fairly straightforward, sustainable way for me to work remotely and then we've got some other things on the go. We're hoping to document our travels for not only for ourselves and for YouTube, but for other big corporations. We've been talking about it for a long time and if it goes ahead, it'll be really good.
Scott Brady: One of the things I always like to ask for those working on the road, how do you set up your schedule to be able to be productive while you're traveling? What have you found works well for you, like what kind of an approach do you take towards that?
Richard Giordano: And we're pretty new to it, but we're realizing very, very quickly that we are going to have to travel very very slowly. Thankfully we like doing that. We have spent like months at a time in Santiago or Buenos Aires, whenever we want to settle down and just explore a city, so we're probably going to end up doing that quite a bit on this next trip. Stay in one place for a couple of weeks at a time, we might have to work nine to five, Monday to Friday or 12-hour days for three days a week or whatever it is to get the work done [00:44:00] and be relatively accessible via email and Slack and all those things. So if we have to travel slowly, we traveled slowly and it's going to be necessary for sure based on how much work Ashley's doing.
Scott Brady: Well, and it'll be interesting to hear what does end up working because everybody seems to be a little different, Chris Cortez and Brittany they all work Monday through Friday, and then they... or Monday through Thursday, and then they travel on the weekends. Others they'll do it every other day, or they'll work four or five hours in the morning and then be back into travel mode.
Richard Giordano: I find myself the most efficient very early in the morning when it's quiet and then there are no distractions. So a lot of the time I'll get up at 5:30, make coffee. I can get three hours or four hours of work before there are distractions. So I find that that works really well for me. I also find that breaking up the day is very efficient for me as well. So if I work five hours in the morning and then we go take off and take break and do some exploring for another four hours, go for a [00:45:00] hike, go for a run, whatever it is, and then come back to it and we'll be more efficient than trying to struggle through a straight eight, nine hours of work at a time.
Scott Brady: And with you both being in the vehicle, like I find traveling with other people that I can do email and basic communications very well from the passenger seat and that helps me stay up on communications in the best ways that I can. But then when I'm writing or if I'm working on something for the business, I do need that quiet time. If I try to do it any other way, it just ends up being a struggle.
Richard Giordano: I go into iPod mode a lot of the time where I just need to put the headphones on and edit photos or edit video or whatever it is, and just get into it. That can be in the camper, or sometimes it's in an Airbnb. Sometimes at a friend's house or somebody invited us in. Those are the times that I especially try to get work done in the morning. If we were at a friend's place, just get up early, I'd rather spend my time, or their time awake with them. So I'll just get up super early, get a bunch of work done. We're not afraid [00:46:00] to... I think the big thing was that without investing a whole bunch of money into our truck I don't feel like we need to stay in it all the time. I know it's okay to stay in an Airbnb, do some laundry, be in a nice, controlled area with air conditioning or whatever it is, get a whole bunch of work done very efficiently and then hit the road again.
Scott Brady: That's smart. Well, good luck with all that. Those are gonna be big changes and how exciting to be able to travel in that way with Ashley and that you both have your own skills that you bring to the table for all these different organizations.
Richard Giordano: So lucky that we like being two and a half feet apart from each other and at all times I don't think that's super, super common. She's my best friend. I don't really need to spend time with a whole bunch of other people. As long as she's around and we have these, it took a long time, I guess and especially started once we started traveling, especially traveling Overland... was that all of our interests that are really overlapping and now, especially all the work starts overlapping and it's so much fun. We've had a lot of opportunities to... she'll write an [00:47:00] article, I get to shoot the photos for it. Then we'll like a power team heading out into the woods and meeting people and those are pretty fun experiences.
Scott Brady: If you were to give some advice to someone that is new to overlanding. What would be your two or three pieces of advice that you would give them before they started their first journeys.
Richard Giordano: Okay. So I'll tell you what we did. We threw our truck together in four weeks and we left, and we had never used our fridge or our rooftop tent. We took, we had no shakedown run, nothing. So that's one thing to do, whether you have a stock vehicle or whether you'd have a built vehicle is to go out and try it and see what works for you. You'll know pretty quickly within the first couple of weekends of camping whether you need to make a change or whether you don't need to make a change. That's one of the big things, making sure that if you're going to be traveling to central and south America, try to learn as much of the language as you can. We missed out on so many opportunities because I didn't start learning Spanish until we got to Baja. Part of that was the [00:48:00] expedited process of wanting to leave as soon as possible and doing so from... like making the decision and leaving three or four months later, we just never had enough time to do all the things and learn the language. We had some fantastic experiences once we got farther south into central America, did some language courses and actually started to speak Spanish a little bit better.
Scott Brady: So you did a few immersion courses. How did that go? Where did you do those?
Richard Giordano: We did it... we did one in Guatemala, and we did one beforehand in Guanajuato in Mexico.
Scott Brady: I've heard that Guanajuato is great... and what a cool little town that is.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. So we camped up on the Hills with the dogs and the fireworks were there. You understand, for a couple of weeks they walked down through, into the town, through the smog tunnels that they had and walked into town every single day.
Scott Brady: I love those tunnels too. They were so cool. We actually camped at a fairly old... it looked like a soccer field. It was a few miles out of town, so it was a different camp spot. But did you go to the Maseo de Los Museos? That freaked me [00:49:00] out. So those that are listening, that's the museum of the mummies and there's a unique soil configuration in Guanajuato that allows for this rapid mummification and if the families can't afford to keep up the grave plots, they just dig them up and put them on display and I'm walking through this thing, which I'm already... like a Harry Potter film is like an 11 for me on like the scary scale. So I'm walking through this museum trying to have an experience and I came across like the little baby with its mouth open, like it's screaming, and I could not get out of that place fast enough.
Richard Giordano: I remember that there are a few places like that along the road.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it was so cool though. I mean, I would recommend that people go there, but like, I was terrified. I could not get out of that place fast enough.
Richard Giordano: So we spent the rest of our time in an Airbnb not being freaked out. It was great.
Scott Brady: Guanajuato is gorgeous. I mean, what a beautiful town in the middle of Mexico and nobody knows about it [00:50:00] mostly.
Richard Giordano: Oh and the food. Street food is so amazing. We met a guy from Nelson, BC who started a restaurant there too. So we had a fancy little restaurant in town and a little taste of home with a little bit of Mexico thrown in there. There are some good experiences.
Scott Brady: That courtyard and just the way that the whole place is built. It just feels like a little bit of Europe in a way and it's just, yeah. What a special little spot.
Richard Giordano: Yeah. The colonial towns were very, very interesting to go and explore.
Scott Brady: And what other, what other advice would you give people that are getting started with overlanding?
Richard Giordano: I guess the thing is like, don't be afraid to just go and learn. Don't make a schedule. Don't say you're going to go for two years if you're not sure if you're gonna go for two years. You don't have to make any expectations for yourself or anybody else. You can just make a list of things that you need to do before you leave. Check those things off. Leave. If you love it, keep going. If you don't love it, you stop. We have a couple close friends, Brene, Brina, and Spencer. They built a little FJ 40 up in Alaska, tore it all apart, put it together, put a roof top tent on [00:51:00] and by the time we met them in Eastern Mexico, they were done. They had had enough of it. So they actually went down to Guatemala, bought a sailboat and sent their 40 back home... or back into Texas, I think is where it ended up, and Hawaii eventually. But they went and bought a sailboat and then sailed that home because they just felt way more comfortable sailing than they did in their Rattletrap 40 series.
Scott Brady: Sure and I think that's, it's so key to remember that travel is so personal. That it doesn't have to be a version of what you saw on YouTube or whatever. It can be your own version and maybe it's that you like fast cars and you decide that you want to drive a Porsche down to Ushuaia, which can totally be done... can totally be done. So I think traveling in the way that you want to travel is a really key piece of that.
Richard Giordano: And it'll change like whether you change or your significant other, that you're traveling with changes, or you have kids and they start to get older, it's going to change. So don't be afraid to just switch gears or change directions and yeah. Just keep doing [00:52:00] what you want to do.
Scott Brady: Now. This is something that I like to ask and most of these podcasts do you have any favorite books or books that you've been reading recently that you think people would enjoy?
Richard Giordano: So the books I've been reading recently there's a book called A Voyage for MadMen. Can't remember who the author is, but it's a story about the Golden Globe race back in the sixties that one of the London newspapers put on, and it was a race around the world to see who was the first person to sail around the world on assisted, without stopping, and who would do it the fastest and the stories that are in that book from those guys that sailed alone around the world, or part of the way around the world just nothing we ever do will compare to that. Yeah, some pretty interesting stuff down there in the Southern Ocean
Scott Brady: That one's on my short list. So thanks for bringing it up and reminding me.
Richard Giordano: Yeah, it's a fun one and then another one I had read was The Monk of Mocha and it was a Yemeni American gentleman who decided that he wanted to go back to Yemen and start growing coffee. So he found these farmers that could go, that wanted to, and could grow coffee and [00:53:00] help them cultivate a little bit of a new business that existed years ago. It was one of the first places I grew coffee and he wanted to bring that business back to life there and it's a story about his travels there and getting stuck in some pretty serious conflict and has a lot of detail about where coffee came from and where it is now. So it kind of just took all of these things. I'm very interested in and overlap them together and it was something I had...
Scott Brady: Coffee and travel. Perfect.
Richard Giordano: I think I read the book in two days because I just couldn't put it down.
Scott Brady: Oh, that's a good one. I love that. I love that. Richard. Thank you so much for being on the podcast and thank you for inspiring me. So many of us. Your travels, both Ashley and your travels have always been very inspiring to me. I think it's such an important story to be told. You guys are doing amazing work. So Richard, how do people find out more about you and your travels?
Richard Giordano: Best way to get in touch with us or see what we're up to is on Instagram @DeskToGlory. We always check emails coming in from info@DeskToGlory.com as well. [00:54:00] So anytime you have any questions, or you just want to talk to somebody about traveling through Mexico, central, South America or anything, any questions whatsoever you have for us, just email info@DeskToGlory.com and we can always hop on a zoom call or just email back and forth there. You for coffee.
Scott Brady: Well, it's so it's so important for people that are planning to do a trip. Like you mentioned, to be able to talk to someone who's actually done it. So it's just really thoughtful of you to be able to be available like that.
Richard Giordano: And the reason we're available is because there are other people that were available to us, you know, we just pass it along we had so, so many people who were willing to give up some time just to give us a few bits of advice or a little encouragement along the way and we're always, always happy to do the same.
Scott Brady: Richard, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Your journey and Ashley's journey has been such an inspiration to so many people and to me, I think that you guys have done it in such an open and authentic way, which the industry needs. They need to feel... we all need to feel like we can go out and do it.
Richard Giordano: If we can do it, most people can [00:55:00] do it.
Scott Brady: Yeah. So thank you so much again for being on the podcast and thank you all for listening and we will talk to you next time.