There is one good thing about being a photographer: having a good excuse all the time. ?Honey it?s my job to keep my eyes open. I wasn?t looking at her chest, I was reading the logo on her T-shirt, and it was really interesting.?
After 30 years it really became a habit because you have to get the picture. Hundreds of people driving by but I spot something interesting in the parking lot.
This time it was an RV in Victoria; obviously a custom-built one for off-road use and it shows. The hood was open and it looked like the owner was doing some regular maintenance or just checking things out but I couldn?t find him. Maybe they were at breakfast on the other side of the parking lot in the restaurant. I was in a hurry, got a few pictures and wanted to come back later for an interview. At the time I came back they were gone and I had to do a little research and was really surprised to find so much information about the vehicle on the Internet.
After a few e-mails I gained the owner?s permission to use some of his pictures for the story. It is owned by Jay Shapiro who used to have a business in Singapore that was later sold to a big international company. So Jay now has time to travel the globe with his wife Alice and kids, Kurt and Maya.
The journey: first they drive up to Alaska, then down to the southern tip of South America. Africa is next all the way up to Gibraltar, across the strait to Europe, head for Russia, Mongolia and Asia. For a trip like that an average RV just wouldn?t do it, not even a modified one. Jay needed a truck that can be built in America and serviced around the world.?
After months of research and planning he decided to build it on a Ford F650 chassis with a CAT engine. Where you see a CAT excavator or bulldozer (and they are everywhere) you can also get parts. Even the truck had to be modified because the F650 doesn?t come in 4X4.
Jay also had something else in mind while planning the vehicle: it had to be green, as environmentally-friendly as is possible today. He calls it the EcoRoamer. The 34,000 lb truck runs on bio-diesel when available, can carry 130 gallons and it?s enough for 750 miles. All the cabinets in the RV section were built using bamboo, not plywood, saving trees; almost everything else was built using recycled materials. It has a generator but usually everything runs on a huge battery bank and the 2KW solar panels covering the whole roof. The only time they fire up the generator is when using the washer. It has a diesel-fired furnace that also heats the motor in extreme cold temperatures; AC runs on 24 volt from the batteries. The vehicle also has a sewage treatment plant; solid waste is composted using a sailboat composter; liquid waste and grey water is vaporized just like in an incinerator toilet. The cab was modified too, because of the two kids; they have to be entertained on longer trips. All the seats are swiveling captain seats, the front two can be turned to face the kids, the two seats in the back turn also to face the airplane-like folding desks on the back of the cab. The RV part behind the cab has everything you need to travel in comfort in the most remote places.
Clean drinking water is not available all over the world so this vehicle has a purifying system designed by NASA and can hold 150 gallons of clean water. It can turn almost anything liquid into drinking water through an array of filters. All of that was designed by Jay and his entire work is available to those who want to build one.
Price of the well-equipped motorhome is about $275,000.
And it is not a home away from home ? it is the only home for Jay, his wife, two kids and two cats for the next few years. He and his family are going to see a big part of the world and he is a man on a mission. Jay said he doesn?t just want to travel, take pictures and come home. Visiting so many places also gives him a chance to help? others, and the Muskoka Foundation was born. It is a non-profit organization with many overland travelers with different skills: doctors, teachers, lawyers, who joined the foundation to help people in those developing countries where they travel.
I wish all of them a safe trip and a special thanks to Jay Shapiro for the pictures provided.
We Travel to see new things and like to share what we see.