Emily & I – A New Adventure

In Emily and I, News & Stuff, Travel by David71 Comments

Almost a year ago I bought a 1993 Land Rover Defender named Jessie. To say we had a rocky start is an understatement. There were days I was torn between loving that Defender and wanting to drive her into the ocean. Things took a while to smooth out for Jessie and I, but I bribed her with a new transmission, and at the end of February 2011, I packed up my Vancouver condo, sold most of my possessions, and packed what remained into the Defender and began what was to be a one-year nomadic life as I traveled around North America.

And then I fell off the wall in Pisa, and took 4 months to get Jessie back from Atlanta where I left her to fly to Italy. In all the chaos of recovery I needed to register and license Jessie in Ontario, my temporary home while I recovered. That registration required a safety certification which I learned Jessie would never pass. Not even close. Extensive corrosion in the frame forced me to take her off the road. There’s a good chance repairs are not an option, leaving me two choices – replace the frame (in other words, re-build her completely), or sell her to someone with more time and resources to do a restoration. I’m still mulling it over, but the end is the same: if I want to resume my nomadic life – and I do – then Jessie and I need to say good-bye. If you want to say “I told you so,” get in line. In the meantime, I’m unrepentant – Jessie and I had a great time while it lasted.

So, enter Emily. Emily’s a 2011 Jeep Wrangler. And in February, when I get back from Ethiopia and Kenya, I’ll finally (finally!!) pack my gear up and resume my journey. This time I’m taking much more time to see, and photograph, the American west, spending as much of 2012 as I can. If I move back to Vancouver it’ll be late Autumn 2012, but the nomadic life suits me very well, so we’ll play it by ear. Until then I’m living lighter and lighter as the days go by – a desire of mine made easier by the fact that there’s just a lot less room in the back of the Jeep than the Land Rover. This return to simplicity, something I once embraced much more easily, has made more room in my life and my heart & mind for the most important things. The last year has been the most profound gift.

I’m still choking on the need to take Jessie off the road, but as much as I love the Land Rover, it is the journey and the adventure I love most. So yes, the Jeep is sexy and new, and she’s comfortable and fast. But character is earned, not purchased, so she just needs some adventures and some miles under her wheels before I enjoy her nearly as much as I did Jessie.Β  I spent this past weekend enjoying the fall colors on the snowmobile trails at my family’s cottage on the south edge of Algonquin Park, and I think Emily and I are going to get along just fine.

Can’t wait to pack my cameras and tripods into the back and get back to the journey. We’ll head south along the eastern seaboard fairly quickly (give me a break, it’ll be February and I’ll be camping!) and after a week or so in the Florida Keys, I’ll head west. I plan to spend as much time as I can, slowly, in places like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, etc. And I’ll be at the Overland Expo in Arizona for the middle of May. If there are any overlanders among my readers, I’d love to see you there and buy you a drink.


  1. David, if/when you get to AZ I’d be honored to buy you coffee/lunch/dinner sometime. You designed my site back in 08 (lol, you had time back then) & it was/is a huge part of my journey. Thank you for sharing the manifest bliss of your nomadic/higher calling through sacrifice & faith.

  2. A shame about Jessie, I have a Defender 110 that I call Ernie. Jessie and Ernie could have got together and produced a 90! There would be pools of oil everywhere until trained.

    Well at least you have a Jeep so when people call your Jeep a Jeep it is a Jeep as opposed to when people call your or my Defender a Jeep! Good luck in your travels. I’ve just found your website again and enjoying catching up. I have a copy of Visionmongers and your new book is now on my Christmas list.

  3. I love those old Defender’s, first time I went camping in Kenya (at Hell’s Gate) and a friend of mine from Germany had one of those, it was a great car, got to drive it to Lake Naivasha too!
    Much better than the Land Rover another friend had, we would have people ‘push start’ it for us, by popping the clutch, since the starter didn’t always work.
    Now back here in Ontario you don’t see vehicles like that, or others running on paraffin for that matter.


  4. The Jeep looks great, and thanks for the overview. I did mean “object pronoun,” as opposed to “I” as a subject pronoun. I’m glad to see you recovering well. Feel free to come by for a visit if you find yourself in western New England (Springfield/Hartford/Berkshires) and we can ponder the use of semi-colons by the wood stove.

  5. David,
    found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. Your photographs are beautiful. Love the jeep, although, as a military family don’t know how you do the nomadic lifestyle all the time. I guess you get use to it.

    Sorry I missed the Webinar yesterday. It got late in the day (I live in South Carolina and I am an East coast girl) I will make sure I attend the next one. I was looking forward to it. I was watching your podcast this morning. πŸ˜‰

    Hope you enjoy your trip.

    btw…you have a very nice smile.


  6. It’s said that you can hike the Arizona trail from Nogales to the Utah line in March and keep up with the wildflowers.

    Strongly recommend you schedule some time for Wupatki National Monument, east of Grand Canyon National Park. One of the undiscovered gems of Highway 89 and the west.

    I’m going to be working this spring to get a shot of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park after a storm AND before it gets tracked over by ATVs. Near Zion NP, but heavily used by motorized recreationists.

    Be safe out there and give a shout if you are heading to southern Utah. I have land in Torrey (gateway to Capitol Reef NP) you can camp on πŸ™‚
    Here’s the apple blossom schedule: http://www.capitolreef.org/capitol-reef-info3.html

    Happy trails.

  7. Author

    Kevin – Keep an eye on me, OK? If you see me getting close to Abilene, let me know. My geography of Texas isn’t great. I do know I want to swing through Austin this time. I love that town. And Dallas, too. I hate that town, but I have a friend there.

  8. Author

    Greg, I will most certainly be back in Oregon this year, though it’s likely to be closer to the fall. I’d love to have a pint and hear your recommendations for some camping spots. Thanks!

  9. Author

    Theodore, thanks for the reminder, but there should be a period, or at very least a semi-colon between object pronoun (which should probably also be “object, then pronoun”) and “Sorry, that one just…”


    Emily is a Sahara. The Rubicon would have forced me into letting Jeep make decisions about suspension, etc. instead of making better choices myself. So I bought the Sahara Unlimited and am having Garvin front and rear bumbers, skid plates, Warn winch, PIAA lights, and a 3″ suspension lift kit from American Expedition Vehicles done before putting pro-comp steel wheels and BFG Mud Terrains or similar tires on her feet. πŸ™‚ An onboard, under-the-hood ARB compressor will be the last mod before we head out in early 2012.

  10. Emily & Me … object pronoun, sorry that one just always pops out at me. The new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited looks great. Which model variant did you go with?

  11. Got to admit, a van conversion doesn’t have near the charisma of Jessie or the Jeep.

    On a trip to the coast last year, I caught a fleeting glance in my rear view mirror of what could only have been Jessie as you were leaving Bandon. If you return to Oregon, I’d love to show you a few choice places to park Emily.

  12. Hey David

    Looks like you’re going to be doing the same trip we did, but backwards. We left Edmonton in -35c December 15th, 2009 and headed south – fast! We stayed in Phoenix for a month, then headed through AZ (you GOTTA stop in Tombstone and Bisbee, AZ – 30 minutes apart and couldn’t be more polar opposite if they tried – both great fun!).

    Then TX for 6 weeks, New Orleans, FL, Savannah (love that place), NC, DC, Philly, NYC, Cape Cod (Martha’s Vineyard), Canadian maritimes, Quebec, Montreal, Upstate NY, Chicago, Millwaukee and back west to home.

    If you’re going through any of those places, fire me an email and I’ll see if I can remember the places we camped (we have a 34′ motorhome – for sale, wanna buy it?!).

    Our top 4 favourite places of the trip, that we (husband and I) both agreed would could live were: Bisbee AZ, Lancaster County PA (Amish country near Philly), Cape Cod, Savannah GE. All great places, cozy!

  13. Just the name Sportsmobile makes me giggle. I don’t know why. Does it come with a cape and super powers? I’d buy one if I got a golden lasso!

  14. Author

    @Greg Vaughn – I looked at the Sportsmobile once but it failed to catch my eye. Comfort is a pretty subjective thing – the Autohome on top of the Jeep is easily the most comfortable I’ve ever been while camping and even now while I’m recovering and living at my family’s home in Ontario, there are many nights I opt to sleep on the Jeep and not in the house. When I first started this adventure the goal was to do more with less – in a smaller vehicle – and the idea of a camper, like the Sportsmobile, just didn’t appeal. Also, and this too is personal, I can’t stand the aesthetics of those vans. πŸ™‚

  15. David,

    Got my copy yesterday…. no time to read anything yet, but last night I was checking out the wonderful images. As per usual, all are great, but the one with the candles on page 82 fro Kathmandu, Nepal 2010 is just breathtaking.

    As I’ve said before, your images keep me coming back, the words would be empty without them…

  16. Beautiful Jeep! (should have gotten a 2012 with the increased MPG & HP πŸ˜‰ ) I hope to get a similar one soon! You know, I was at a OneLight workshop recently, and Zack was talking about some guy who had a racing motorcycle built into a glass case as a bar. Maybe you should send Jessie his way and let him glass-case her into a bar!!

    Blog is inspiring, work is beautiful, keep up the good work!!

  17. I have a 2010 Jeep Wrangler and I love it. It’s comfortable and I am not afraid to take it anywhere, off or on the road.
    Enjoy Emily!!!!

  18. It’s so good to see you chasing the dream again David! I don’t know when you will be rolling through Abilene, Texas on I-20 but when you do we would love to hold you up long enough for our growing photography group to say hi and send you on your way with a full stomach and a few laughs. Several of us have followed your saga and would welcome the opportunity to add some wind to your sails on the way through… wind is something we have plenty of… especially in our group. πŸ™‚

  19. David, good to hear you are getting back on the road to continue your trip. Look forward to the posts and photos. The Overland Expo sounds really interesting to see all the vendor and gear for long term travel. My gf and I are currently travelling through the west and after 2 months discovering the limitations of how we prepared πŸ™‚ Might try to check out the expo if we are still in the area.

  20. S’Ok, Duncan, I get it. πŸ™‚ Good thing Melissa’s as sarcastic as you. πŸ™‚ Now, give me a moment, I need to re-boot Windows… πŸ˜‰

  21. Oooh Melissa, sorry. Too others who misread my post too. It’s tongue in cheek, David will get the English sarcasm. But i should have put a smilie wink in, you’re right.

  22. Wow Duncan-harsh! Why don’t you tell us how you really feel! Maybe you can enlighten us with what you drive and shoot with so we can all be cool like you!

  23. Jeep, Nikon, Sigma….

    …..dude’ll be editing on a windows Pc soon. Loser.

  24. I guess I’ll pile on and say if reliability and repairability were at all important, buying any kind of Jeep over a 30 year old Land Rover is a no-brainer. Personally, the Grand Wagoneer has amazing character.

  25. Glad to hear you will soon be getting back to what you love doing, David. Congratulations on the recovery.

    The last two weeks, I’ve been driving from Los Angeles, through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I’m in Tennessee now, dropping in on friends and family before heading further east, enjoying a nomadic stint of several weeks.

    I-40, west of Albuquerque through New Mexico and Arizona, is the prettiest stretch of road I think I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive, and the day I spent in Sedona was spectacular. I expect you’ll make an amazing trip of it.

  26. Enjoy your new partner.
    A silly question;
    on a days shooting, how many shots will you typically take and how many of them will be “keepers”?
    Also what is the minimum time you give yourself to photography “a place”?
    Half a day A couple of hours, Two days or what?
    Thank you teacher
    Lots of safe adventures (we need you)

  27. David,

    Glad to see you are back on your feet! Good luck with your adventure.

    Any chance you will visit Australia… some day? πŸ˜‰

  28. David, good luck on your “take 2” journey. I will be happy to see your new images from the road. Maybe our paths will cross. We are 4 months into our north american road trip (starting in Victoria) and are now on the east coast just starting to head south. We’ll be coming along the southern states in the winter when you get started. Hopefully we can meet up somewhere in the desert! It would be a real treat for me to meet you.

  29. David – will buy you a drink in West Central Florida if you come through our area. Where are you heading in Mexico?
    Glad you are taking after Willie Nelson, once again. Travel safe

  30. Hi David,
    So glad to see you back on the road, when you get to California, I’d love to meet up with you again. SF tweetup was an honor to spend time with you and the others…look forward to you sharing your travels with us….:)

  31. I’m just curious as to the naming decision process for Jesse and Emily?

  32. Looks like the Sahara Edition. Great choice to get a Jeep Wrangler JK. It was with great reluctance that I got rid of mine (Roxie), had to do it for the sake of the family.

    They are very capable off-road, in the snow, etc. And the Jeep community is great. I’m looking forward to the day when I can get another one.

  33. “What a dream I had
    dressed in organdy
    clothed in crinoline
    of smoky burgundy
    softer than the rain…”

  34. We drive a right hand drive Toyota Forerunner here in Africa. We laugh at jeeps, but not because they are inferior or anything. and they laugh at us. Like one guy said- you have entered a very polarized subculture much like Canon vs. Nikon! But the most important thing is that you are continuing your “mission” and passion. Who the heck care which gear you use to get there! Looking forward to the photos!


  35. “But character is earned, not purchased, so she just needs some adventures and some miles under her wheels before I enjoy her nearly as much as I did Jessie.” hmmmm….very well put and very tongue in cheek :-). All the best for the new relationship!

  36. Welcome, Emily. I look forward to following your and David’s adventures and hopefully meeting you on the road next year.

  37. Sheesh, You should be happy, at least the steering wheel is on the correct side this time. πŸ™‚

    Can’t wait to meet her.

  38. Very nice wheels but more importantly good to see you getting back on the road again. God speed…


  39. California!! Yay! Please plan a workshop or at least a meet up so I can buy YOU a drink! You deserve it! Happy travels! (And stay away from walls)

  40. David, so glad your trip to Laos & Cambodia went well! πŸ˜‰ Wish I could have been there! Congrats on Emily, how great it must be to be back to traveling; I’m so happy for you! Rehabbing is no fun…takes a long time to heal. Wish WI was in your itinerary! I know, I know…

  41. Are you planning on coming through Canada this time? There is at least one beverage waiting for you in Nova Scotia.

  42. Best of luck with Emily, may she be a trouble free travel companion πŸ™‚ !!!

  43. Safe traveling David – may the light be with you! I’m looking forward to following your ‘Travels with Emily’ (there’s a book there) around America and seeing some great images. Cheers, Keith

  44. Welcome to the family Emily! πŸ™‚

    No, not the same as an old Landie. But being a nomad doesn’t mean doing it rough so enjoy the new found comfort. Emily is a good name. A strong name. She will look after you.

  45. Yes, you definitely need a pin-up for Emily!

    Best wishes for Phase B of your adventures. May I suggest brushing back up into Oregon at some point in your journey? Central Oregon is gorgeous at all times of the year and Eastern Oregon has a fair bit of variety as well.

  46. Sorry to see Jesse go but, at least you stayed with your plan (Gear is good. Vision is better).
    When, if, you head to Nova Scotia let me know.

  47. Sad to see Jesse go but Emily will be much better for all the on-tarmac driving your doing around the continent!

  48. hmmmm I might come overland from Manitoba in May… does that count… where exactly in Arizona???? πŸ™‚

  49. glad you went with the manual- mine still needs a name… but come through Austin and we will take them off the road!

    jealous of the fall colors and weather up there. and happy thanksgiving- i think? soon?

  50. So good to see you back in action, even if it is without Jessie!

    The jeep looks great… but it is a little to clean. You need to get some more dirt on that shiny new paint job!

    Would love to connect when you come through Atlanta.

    Also, your blog is like crack.

  51. Keep us posted on your schedule, I may run across you somewhere in the coming year (if I do, I’ll show you a bit about large format photography).

  52. As ever, best of luck with your adventures and continued progress. I’m looking forward to seeing the likeness of Emily if/when you reveal a new Jessie-like pin-up style decal for her doors. Best wishes, Ed

  53. David,

    A JEEP!?!

    Just kidding, Karna and I are considering those for ourselves. BUT if you haven’t realized it yet, you’ve just joined a VERY polarized sub-culture of vehicle ownership.

    Let us know when you’re near Denver and we’ll be get together.


  54. third option: ship Jessie where they have fewer rules.;)

    Thanks for the introduction. Nice to see some fall colors!

  55. David,

    Glad to see you back in your natural habitat (aka on the road). Looking forward to tracking you down when you are in California again.


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