Driving Home – Part 2 – Day 3

After a great evening and relaxing diner, we slept very well.

The next day was looking to be a continuation of our good fortune.  In the pre-dawn light it looked light we were going to have another easy day…

But soon fate took a turn for the worse.

We hopped in the cab of the Unimog, turned the key, and were surprised by a new sound.



I turned the key again and got the same sound.



We sat there in the cab of the truck and I started to think…

The starter motor sprag was not engaging to turn the motor over.  The starter motor was working, but not engaging.

So there we are, 20 miles from the nearest town, and the truck won’t start…

We’re the only ones here and we haven’t seen anyone at all.

Time to think…

I remember I had this problem before on my old 1986 Isuzu Trooper II.

The solenoid was stuck, and it wouldn’t activate the plunger which sent the the pinion drive into contact with the motor.  The Starter motor would just spin freely.

So assuming we can get a new starter motor, here’s the next problem…

Can you find the starter motor in the engine compartment?


It’s all the way back there, behind the exhaust manifold, and above the front axle.  You couldn’t locate it in a more difficult location to work on it.

So there we were…

Plenty of time to think about this, because we’re not going anywhere.

You can’t tow a six ton Unimog.  It has air brakes, and without getting the motor started, you can’t get the air pressure up to disengage the air brakes.

The only solution is to get the motor started…

So back to my experience with the Isuzu Trooper II.  I learned that if you tap the starter motor, you can sometimes get the solenoid to work.

So that’s what I did.  For about two hours I tried tapping the starter motor from various angles and with various degrees of force and trying the ignition key…

And then, just once, the starter motor engaged the pinion drive, and the motor started!!!

Oh thank you Unimog Gods!  What a blessed sound!  I sat there in the cab, and very carefully made sure the motor warmed up and did not stall.

I sat there and thanked the Universe for this blessing.  The truck was running, and that’s all that mattered.

I closed the hood, and got back in the cab, and very carefully engaged the transmission and got the Mog rolling.

I had a new mantra.  “Do not stall the truck.” “Do not stall the truck.””Do not stall the truck.”

We got on the highway and continued our drive West.  Only 950 miles to Home.

We crossed the White Sands National Monument area.

And as I drove I realized… we can’t stall or turn the motor off till we get Home to Los Angeles because I may not be able to get it started again.

Just keep driving and keep the truck running.

We stopped in Alamagordo NM, and filled up on Diesel.  We were going to have to keep the motor idling all night when we stopped to sleep.  I did not want to run out of fuel.

The sun began to set in front of us.

We drove till about 10:30pm.

In Tucson AZ, we stopped at a truck stop, found a parking space in the back, left the engine running, locked the cab, and went to sleep in the camper on the back of the MOG.

It had been a stressful and exhausting day.  But we were grateful to have been able to keep going.  470 miles in a Unimog that has an average speed of 40 MPH.

That’s got to be some kind of record…

Stats for the day:  (Yes, the clock is still on Pacific time.)


Driving Home – Part 2 – Day 2

After a good nights sleep, we woke up, had a quick breakfast and coffee and were ready for another day of driving West.

Dad was in the passenger seat and eager to get going.

We headed west as the sun came up behind us casting the Mog’s shadow on the road in front of us.

The dirt road became a paved one, and our shadow became smaller.

The road was straight ans appeared to be endless.  I think we drove for over 60 miles without a corner.

After about three hours of driving, we crossed into Texas.

Aside from the chip seal on the road being a different color, the terrain was very similar.

The town of Wellington Texas has a main street paved with red bricks.

But we continued West.

Dad stares out the window thinking deep thoughts.

We crossed the Red River.

The North West corner of Texas actually had a few hills and offered an overlook for a view.

But then the road went straight for miles and miles.   I never knew Texas grew cotton.  It was everywhere.

Large grain silos.

And huge electric generating windmills.

As the sun began to set towards the West, our shadow became longer behind us.

Our destination for the evening was an OHV area, just outside of Roswell New Mexico.  We got there just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset.

Unimog at Dusk

Spectacular sunset.

We enjoyed our end of day victory beers and considered ourselves to be fortunate.

For dinner we cooked some chicken breasts on the grill.

The MOG provided us with light to work by.

Dad relaxed and watched the full moon rise.

It was a long day. Stats for the day.

Driving Home – Part 2 – Day 1

So on November 3rd, 2017, I flew from LAX to Tulsa to begin the second half of “Bringing the MOG” home.  The cool thing is, my Dad was going to join me for this section of the journey!

We met up at the airport in Tulsa OK, on the evening of November 3rd and stayed at a hotel.

The next day we got at ride out to Broken Arrow, and there we found the MOG, right where I had left it some two months ago.

We tossed our luggage in the camper, jumped up into the cab, and it started right up.  Amazing!  Leave a 30 year old truck parked for two months, and it starts right up!  This MOG wants to roll!

So Dad and I were psyched to get headed West, and soon the miles began to roll past.

It was overcast, but we didn’t care, we were just happy to be driving.  The route I had chosen kept us on the smaller secondary roads, and would allow us to camp for free at BLM land or National Forests.

The scenery slowly went by, as we passed through small towns in Oklahoma.

After a couple of hours we stopped to stretch our legs and eat a sandwich.

Dad is in the passenger seat and settles in for the ride.

Oklahoma rolls past under our wheels.

Grain silos doted the landscape as we drove along.

Some of them were massive.

Towards the afternoon the skies cleared and we rolled steadily West.

Where we’re going looks like where we just came from in the rear view mirror…

Dad is enjoying the scenery as we roll along at 40 mph.

Our destination for the night is a Wildlife Sanctuary at the end of a dirt road in Western Oklahoma.

As the sun got lower on the horizon, we had excellent light for a few Unimog prOn pictures.

Dad and the MOG. (I’m such a fortunate person to have both.)

Panorama shot.

We continued down the dirt road towards our camp spot for the night.

A short while later, we arrived at our destination and got ready to make dinner.

But first, our victory beers to celebrate a great day on the road.

Father and Son, and the MOG.

Dad finds a chair and settles in to watch the sunset and enjoy the scenery.

We’re in the middle of nowhere and there isn’t the slightest sign of civilization anywhere.  Perfect.

The sun slowly sets to the West.

So now it’s time to cook dinner.

We get a barbecue going and grill the steaks.

Finally, dinner is served.

Stats for the day.


Driving Home – Part 1 – Day 5

The next day, we continued West towards our destination in Oklahoma.

We drove through many small towns.

Eventually we crossed the Oklahoma border.

Some long bridges over the man made lakes.

The Unimog was almost too wide for some of the main streets.

And soon we were at our destination for this portion of the trip.

Stats for the day.

We parked the Mog Mahal, and went out to celebrate the completion of Part 1 of the drive Home.

Huge margaritas for everyone!

So that’s the end of part 1.

The Escape Mog is safely parked at a friends house, and hopefully in late October I may have more time to continue the long trip Home.

Bye Mog.  Be safe. I hope to get back to you as soon as I can.

Driving Home – Part 1 – Day 4

The next morning we were on the road early and slowly headed West when I saw this collection of old crop dusting planes.

I love all kinds of machines and we stopped to check them out.

It’s pretty amazing to see how simple these planes are and how huge the tank for the pesticides are.

and a pile of wings…

After checking out the planes, we continued on our way…

I just followed the route the GPS showed me, not knowing exactly where we were or what we would see next.

We were routed on a bunch of dirt roads, past old agricultural buildings, and miles of farmland.

What a pretty MOG!

Later we crossed the Arkansas River.

For some reason, Arkansas feels very different from Mississippi.  Kind of reminds me of New England where I grew up.

When I set up the route we would be taking, I tried to go though as many scenic areas as I could such as State Parks and scenic roads.

We stopped here at Cedar Falls, and took a short walk to the overlook.

Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park.

All this Unimog-ing and scenic beauty is exhausting.

Just goes to show how relaxing riding in a Unimog can be. 🙂

Eventually we got to our campsite at an old Army Corps site along the Arkansas river.

The Mog Mahal in it’s spot for the night.

Stats for the day.


Driving Home – Part 1 – Day 3

The next morning we were on the road by about 7:00 am and were driving through the smaller towns in Arkansas.

The Unimog has a bunch of small things that need fixing as a result of all it’s travels.  We set a goal to fix one thing per day.  It gave us something to think about and work on as we traveled.  For example, the refrigerator doesn’t work.  The sensor in the black water tanks always reads full.  There is a small hole in the passenger side of the camper…  These are all things that we plan to work on.

Tree lined roads

Crossing into Mississippi

The Unimog was just barely able to keep up with the minimum speed limit. 🙂

So speaking of things that need to be fixed. Apparently when it was in the country of Columbia, somebody tried to break into the cab, with a screwdriver into the drivers side door lock.  As a result the lock didn’t work.  We stopped at a locksmith in the town of Tupelo Mississippi.  Steve took one look at the lock, popped off the inner door panel and had the lock repaired in about 30 minutes!  THANK YOU STEVE!

Affordable Lock and Key in Tupelo Mississippi is a great place to get keys made and locks fixed.

Later that afternoon, we slowly drove West along the back roads of Mississippi.

It was actually very relaxing.  No reason to try and hurry, not that we can anyway…

Small towns along the way.

We drove for miles without seeing another car, but this crop dusting plane flew over us to check us out.

We’re definitely in farm country.

Abandoned shacks and houses along the way…

We stopped for a lunch break at this abandoned church.

It was hot and Alisa sat in the shade made by the Mog.

I wandered around and took pictures of the abandoned church.

Inside the church
A view of the Mog outside as seen from inside the church
The piano
The hymn book on top of the piano
Abandoned bibles

After our beak, we were back on the road…

We had to stop at the bridge crossing the Mississippi river.  The police car was blocking traffic so a wide combine could get across.

Entering Arkansas
Crossing the bridge

As we drove through the next town, things started to look a little familiar.

I had the feeling I had been here before… Was that possible?

We drove to our camp spot for the night in a state park.

As we pulled into the campground I realized, Alisa and I had stopped at this same part nine years ago when we rode our dirt bikes cross country on the TAT!

Well at least my choices for camping locations are consistent.

Alisa reads inside the Camper.

Meanwhile I cook dinner.

Hamburgers and canned beans

Stats for the day

Not a bad moving average for a Unimog.


Driving Home – Part 1 – Day 2

After a great nights sleep, we were up early and on the road just following the route I had put into the GPS.


Eventually we crossed into Alabama

The scenery slowly went by at a casual 40 – 42  mph or according to the MOG, 67 kmh.


Around lunch time we rolled into the town of Cullman Alabama, and stopped at Johny’s BBQ.  (I had researched all the best lunch spots along our way too.)

Alisa and I split a plate. It was pretty darned good.

Baby back ribs with beans and hush puppies

After lunch, I had a little detour for us to see a bit of local history.

Clarkson covered bridge

After checking out the bridge, it was time to move on…

On the horizon a storm was brewing.

Very heavy rain

But as quickly as it started, the storm passed behind us.

We were in the Bankhead National Forest. I had found a secluded place to camp for the night.

Time to relax and have a few beers…
Cooking dinner on the outside kitchen.

Stats for the day.

Driving Home – Part 1 – Day 1

So now that the Unimog was ready for it’s slow trip home, we said goodbye to our friends in North Carolina.

But before we left, Alisa’s Mom hopped up in the cab to see what it was like.

And before we knew it, she was standing up, looking out though the machine gun turret. (Yes, the Unimog has a machine gun turret.) 🙂

After saying our goodbyes, we were finally on the road, headed West.

Since we couldn’t drive on the Interstates, I plotted a route on the smaller secondary roads, and found camping in National Forests, Army Corps land, and other free places.

The route looked something like this.

I tried to find scenic things to see along the way, and our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls.  (I hadn’t been here in over nine years since my last cross country motorcycle trip.)

After a brief stop we continued on the narrow twisty roads.

After some seven years of saving and planning, it was finally happening…

We stopped to add some fuel

The view from the drivers seat…


One of the other things was had to do was drain the campers Black Water tank.

It had not been done before we bought the Unimog and needed to be done.

At the RV dump station

We’ll here goes…  Pull the lever and hope for the best.

With that task accomplished, we drove to our next destination, a secluded spot in a nearby National Forest.

We pulled into the secluded spot I had found, and parked for the night.

Our first meal in the camper.

Stats for the day.

(Yes, the time on the GPS is wrong..)

A successful first day.  I remember going to sleep in the back of the camper after a cold shower, listening to the stream just outside the window thinking how lucky I was…

Baseline maintenance before we start to drive the Unimog home…

So the Unimog patiently waited in North Carolina for about five weeks, until I could get some time off from work.

In the meantime, I started buying parts and supplies and learning about basic maintenance.

Finally on August 11th, 2017 we flew to North Carolina.  Luckily we have a friend there who has a garage big enough and he let me work on the Unimog for two days, to get it ready for the drive West.

As this is a new vehicle to me, I needed to change all the fluids, do an oil change and a few other things before we drove 1,100 miles to Oklahoma, where I had another friend who would let me keep the truck at his place till I had more time to complete the drive to California.  (Remember, the Unimog only cruises at about 40 mph…)

So here’s the Unimog in my freind’s garage as I start to do some basic maintenance.

I had ordered and shipped all the lubricants and parts I would need, and had everything ready to go, including select pages from the factory service manual.

Unimogs are special in that they do not have traditional axles.  Each wheel has it’s own Portal Axle, and each wheel has it’s own set if gears and bearings.

I wanted to make sure that each wheel had new fluids.  Additionally I replaced both fuel filters, the air filter, oil filter and flushed the transmission and refilled with Red Line Synthetic lubricant.

Five days of “high speed” travel in the middle of a hot summer is not what Unimogs were designed for, so I wanted to do the best I could for it.

One nice thing about Unimogs is that the hood and grill come off easily to make working on them easier.

Fortunately, I had some help doing the work,  (Thanks Patrick) and  as you can see, you have to stand on the bumper to add the nearly five gallons of oil that this truck uses.

There were a few other things that needed to be sorted out before we could make the trip West.  Unimogs run a 24V electrical system, so I had to install a 24v to 12v inverter in the cab so we could plug in things like the GPS and a USB port.  But after two days, the basic maintenance was complete.


Thanks again Patrick for your invaluable help, and Glenn for letting me use your garage.