The Travel Queen Adventure

I (Mollie) remember the conversation like it happened yesterday.

Sean came home one night in January, 2012 and told me the news: He and Russ found a 1977 Dodge Travel Queen Motorhome for sale and they wanted to split the purchase, fix it up, put in a waste vegetable oil fuel system and drive it to Alaska and back with the four of us—Russ, his wife, Brittany, Sean and me.

Oh, I shouldn’t worry about the fact that the motorhome was older than me…by 11 years. And that I hadn’t seen it. And that it might have a wood burning stove coming out of the roof. The original engine had been replaced by a newer Dodge Cummings Turbo Diesel engine… And the engine alone was worth more than the guy was asking for the whole vehicle. Oh, and Russ thinks its a good idea.

So. What’s a girl to do? As in most instances when Sean has made up his mind, I agreed. What did we have to lose? Russ had agreed to be the brains on the project and to put it simple, Russ doesn’t do “impulse purchases.” All we needed to do was show up and do what he asked.

And so, for the next 5 months, we (and by we, I mean mostly Russ) fixed up the ole Travel Queen into a legit motor vehicle that ran off waste veggie oil. Russ worked hard… I mean, really hard to get her in shape for our May 29th departure. Sean and Brittany handled the plumbing (with only a few slight explosions of fecal matter from the previous owner—true story), I handled some interior painting, and Britt sewed seat cushions like a maniac. Big thanks to my dad as well for some carpentry work. And so began our 32-day adventure from Utah to Alaska and back to bike, hike, climb, and ski.

Today, we’re the proud owners of the Travel Queen, and another waste veggie oil-powered VW Golf. Sean’s got a whole grease filtering setup, and we’re hooked on this alternative fuel system, especially to satisfy our love for travel around the country.

Enjoy the epic photo gallery of the adventure below. All photos shot by the entire crew.

Blog Posts from the Trip

How we came to own a grease-powered RV

December 23, 2013
I remember the conversation like it happened yesterday. Sean came home one night in January, 2012 and told me the news: He and Russ found a 1977 Dodge Travel Queen Motorhome for sale and they wanted to split the purchase, fix it up, put in a waste vegetable oil fuel system and drive it to Alaska and back with the four of us—Russ, his wife, Brittany, Sean and me. Oh, I shouldn’t worry about the fact that the motorhome was older than me…by 11 years. And that I hadn’t seen it. And that it might have a wood burning stove coming out of the roof. The original engine had been...

Day 32: The TQ’s maiden voyage is complete

July 2, 2012
I’m proud to report that yesterday morning, the crew made it home after 32 days on the road! And get this: NO MECHANICAL ISSUES for the entire 3,000 mile return trip! Although we enjoy being smashed into 27-feet, I think this photo conveys our excitement to be home. Even Ava got pumped: What an adventure we’ve had. After thinking about this for a few days, I want to convey the things I’ve learned. There is a LONG list (and I’m sure it’s enough for many blog posts to come), but for today’s post, I’ve compiled the short list… the down...

Day 31: And you thought a 1977 motor home couldn’t do it…

June 30, 2012
We’re about ten and a half hours from home and feelin’ good. No mechanical issues to speak of—WAHOO! I feel this photo from Canmore, Alberta really speaks to the mood of our month-long adventure, don’t you?

Day 24: Walking on a glacier

June 27, 2012
Yep, check that one off my bucket list. According to Russ and Britt’s research, Matanuska Glacier is a family-owned operation. Basically, you roll up to mile marker 102 on the Alaskan Highway, pay $20 and sign a waiver, and get to drive right up to a glacier and walk around and do whatever you want. The other glaciers we’ve seen in AK have been roped off and don’t allow people to access them. Matanuska is a free-for-all. So we donned our YakTrax and crampons and headed off into the great unknown… Here she is, in all her glory: Putting on...

Day 23: Skiing on the summer solstice

June 26, 2012
Skiing on the summer solstice last week proved both successful and exhausting. After scouting the terrain the day prior, we headed to what the locals call “Peak Three” in the Chugach State Park right outside Anchorage. It was about 75 degrees out, and likely hotter in direct sunlight—needless to say, we loaded up on Aloe Up and began our trek. We knew there would be hiking involved until we got to the snowfield, but I don’t think either of us anticipated the feeling of carrying a 55-pound pack uphill for an extended period of time—in heat, no less. Once we got...

A recap of the TQ’s Mechanical Tour of North America

June 25, 2012
Before we leave Anchorage and head back to Utah, I wanted to do a quick mechanical recap to bring everyone up to speed on the trial and tribulations we’ve been dealt on this trip at the halfway point. Yes—I know, I know… it’s a 1977 motor home, so what did we expect? LAY OFF. They don’t call it an ADVENTURE for nothin’. Utah: The bike rack that we had in the beginning attached via the trailer hitch. An hour and fifteen minutes into our journey, we nearly lost a pin, and thus unknowingly dragged my road bike’s tires along I-15...

Days 21-22: Scouting out terrain

June 21, 2012
Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! Today, we will experience 24 hours of daylight here in Alaska. The past few days have been devoted to exploration. Whenever Sean and I arrive in a new place, it takes a few days to get acquainted with the land. We’ve spent our time traveling down to Seward, saw the warf and had some Huckleberry ice-cream, and then yesterday took a 2-hour hike in the Chugach State Park, scouting out lines for today. Now we’re off with our heavy packs and skis/splitboard to get some AK snow. While we get after it, please enjoy these pics from the...

Day 15: Why I ski

June 20, 2012
I think it’s the challenge that hooked me most on skiing. It’s the challenge of looking at a line, and clenching my abs before I drop in, and then letting my skis take me down, back and forth. Even the hiking back up is worth it to be able to get to do it again. When Sean first introduced me to the concept of “earning my turns,” admittedly, I was skeptical of not using the chairlifts (even though that’s what they’re for). But the concept of heading out your back door to a mountain, climbing up on your own accord—getting...

Days 16-18: Flipping my granola switch off and on

June 18, 2012
This July, I have been given the great honor of standing up in my best friend, Lisa’s wedding as the maid—er, matron of honor. (Still getting used to the fact that I’m married.) In planning her bachelorette festivities, we set a date in mid-June for a girl’s trip to Chicago… and then literally that same week, the Travel Queen came into our lives and the month of June was devoted to driving north. What’s a girl to do when both the open road and the best friend call at the same time? Make it happen. Thus, I took a flight...

Biding time

June 15, 2012
We’ve been busy for the past 15 days, getting after various passions on our journey north. Here are just a few of the ways we bide our time on a month-long aventure to Alaska. At the skatepark in Calgary… Slacklining and lounging in the Kammok in Fort Nelson… Making friends with 10-year-olds in the Fort Nelson skatepark… Doing calisthenics with new friends in Watson Lake… Ava, wanting to play frisbee every minute of every day… Rock climbing in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory with the TQ nearby, soaking up solar power thanks to Goal Zero… Getting after summer snow in at Mt. McIntyre in Whitehorse, thanks...

Days 10-12: Making new friends and finding new roadblocks

June 12, 2012
The good news is that we’ve had four days of mechanic-free driving—SUCCESS. The bad news is that we were completely stuck in Watson Lake for two days, and by no fault of the TQ. On Saturday night, we pulled into the Laird Hot Springs around 8pm, only to find the campground completely full. Due to the flooding past Watson Lake, many travelers—like us—found themselves stuck until further notice that the road to the north was open. Two hundred feet of road north of Watson Lake literally got washed away in the abyss of the overflowing river, and crews were forced...

Days 8-10: The Old Motorhome That Could

June 10, 2012
Another day, another adventure! After retrieving the TQ and her newly minted transmission from A1 Transmission in Red Deer, we (and by we, I mean Sean and Russ) proceeded to drive through the night till 6 in the morning to a little town called Pink Mountain, where we were forced to stop and sleep to wait for the gas station to open. Our stop wasn’t because we were out of vegetable oil, but rather we needed diesel because our fuel filter was done. When that happens, it’s usually no big deal… if you have another fuel filter, which we didn’t....

Days 2 through 4: Yellowstone National Park

June 8, 2012
As we’re currently on the road, I’m going to do a throwback to last weekend. Our mission was simple for that first leg of the trip: Test out the TQ while enjoying the peaceful serenity of Yellowstone National Park. There were so many things to see, patterns to photograph, and wildlife to film. The TQ handled things as best as it could with a broken transmission, and our spirits stayed high. By the time we headed out Sunday night, we felt like we’d seen the great majority of attractions in the park. Success! Britt and I took a mile-long hike to see...

Days 6 and 7: Fiesta at Flying J & a new transmission for the TQ

June 7, 2012
So I realize I’ve been a little vague about how the TQ is performing these days. To be honest? It’s been AWESOME… the tires are hardcore, we haven’t spent a penny on gasoline, and there is enough room for us to comfortably live in the TQ with four people and a dog without wanting to strangle each other. There’s just one thing that’s been underperforming: The transmission. Early on, we noticed that the transmission had a leak. Once we found the balance between filling it back up and overfilling it, we were set… we even had a quick repair in...

Day Five: Why we’re here

June 6, 2012
Yesterday, we spoke at Summit Preparatory School in Kalispell, Montana about our adventure in the TQ and what the trip means for each of us. As we sat at a picnic table in Missoula planning our presentation, it became apparent to me that each of us—although united with a common purpose—is exploring his or her own individual passion on this journey. For Sean, the trip satisfies his sense of adventure, and need to see new places that do something that not many people have done before. There’s also an element of snowboard/mountaineering exploration and a desire to document his journey...

Cute jumping photos aren’t for everyone

June 4, 2012
We’ve spent the last few days (days 2 through 4 of the TQ adventure) in Yellowstone National Park, watching buffalo, hiking, skiing (yes, we did), and enjoying the incredible riot of geology that is YNP. While I take another day to go through all the photos, I want to share a series of photos that makes me laugh. You know when people are on the top of a mountain or in front of a beautiful landscape and they jump in the air, looking all excited and coordinated? Well apparently not everyone can be so smooth, namely me. I tried the...

Day 1, Part Two: Ode to Tires

June 1, 2012
Everyone is OK. That’s the important part. Unfortunately, my bike Sarah (remember her?) took a hit to the jugular yesterday morning. Something had to happen on day one, right? Just after I’d posted my previous update, a lady waved us off the freeway because of something about the bikes—naturally we pulled over and took a tour around the TQ to be sure everything was OK. Turns out, our bike rack was about two minutes from total failure. It’s one of those models that goes into the trailer hitch and holds four bikes, and has two pins—one to keep the rack...

Day 1: Let the social experiment begin!

May 31, 2012
The day we’ve been waiting five months for has finally come. Sean, Brittany, Russ and I are officially on the road in the Travel Queen. The decals are lookin’ good, the solar is soaking up sun on this beautiful day, and the fuel smells like french fries. And that’s just the way we intended it to be! The past five months have been trying, to say the least. We’ve had our ups (WE JUST BOUGHT A MOTORHOME) and our downs (WHERE DID ALL OUR MONEY GO) but all the construction, painting, hammering, packing has come to an end… we are...

The Top of our TQ Packing List? A Yeti.

May 25, 2012
One may wonder why we would want to bring a yeti on our road trip from Utah to Alaska in our alternatively-fueled adventure base camp (a.k.a.: The Travel Queen). Perhaps to ward off hungry grizzlies who smell the alternative fuel that’s powering our motor home? Or to keep us company on the long drive through Canada? Nope… our yeti has a much more eco-friendly purpose. He gives us power. The Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator is the biggest, badass, eco-friendly generator there is. And he’s coming on our journey in the motor home…. Not only is the Yeti powerful, but he’s...

Travel Queen Update: Getting things dialed in

May 8, 2012
As you know, I haven’t updated since my parents’ visit a few weekends ago… and so much has changed with the TQ! Russ installed the solar panels, which are now happily fastened and soaking up rays from the top of the TQ. Since I can talk at length about our solar initiatives on the trip, that will be an entire post of its own coming up soon. During my parents’ visit, the first project Dad and Russ tackled was installing the bunk beds: As you can see, the walls are YELLOW! This was my big project: Taking joint compound (dry...

Travel Queen Update!

April 20, 2012
The time is drawing near for the TQ’s departure, and we’ve been hard at work, prepping her for the maiden voyage. Russ has been working extremely hard on the internal workings of the vehicle (things that my mind cannot comprehend), Sean has been uncaulking and recaulking the outside, and Britt and I have been focused on the “look and feel” of the interior. Our generous sponsors have also started shipping out the gear for this expedition, which we are so grateful to have! What’s even MORE exciting is that my parents are here this weekend, and my dad is itching...

Introducing: Our Travel Queen (the before pictures)

February 2, 2012
You may recall a recent post I put up about the latest addition to our family: a 1977 Travel Queen. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s about time I come clean with the adventurous purpose of this vehicle: A month-long expedition to Alaska! That’s right folks: This June, Sean, Russ, Brittany and I (and a couple of adventure-seeking dogs) will be taking the Travel Queen on her maiden voyage north through Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and up through Canada till we reach the ultimate backcountry rider’s paradise: Alaska. I absolutely cannot wait to see the terrain up there, not to mention learn...