Bringing Frito Home Arizona to British Columbia in my new Sprinter

I saw my first Sprinter on the street in Vancouver in 2004. In an instant I fell in love. I knew immediately that this would be my next vehicle.

I waited on the sidewalk for the FedEx driver to return and, overcome with enthusiasm, I pestered the driver with excited questions. "Can I see inside?" "Can I sit in the driver's seat?" "How much fuel does it burn?" "What's it like to drive?" It would be five years before I could answer those questions for myself.

The thing is, the Sprinter offers an array of capabilities not found in many other vehicles. It can easily park in a standard parking space, enabling access to inner cities. Parkades are off limits, though, Sprinters like this one are a nearly nine feet tall.

Its small turbo diesel is very fuel efficient, using barely 10 liters per hundred kilometers or 23 miles per US gallon. It can easily travel a thousand kilometers on a tank of fuel.

You can economically convert the inside to provide all the conveniences of an RV, including stand-up headroom for six- footers. Having a bed and a kitchen means the end of motel bills and crappy restaurant food, but best of all, it means freedom. You can go, and more importantly, stay, nearly anywhere you choose.

Because Sprinters were designed to negotiate narrow European streets, they are extremely agile, and that's a real benefit for off-roading. But perhaps best of all for a road trip vehicle, the view from the cab is spectacular. You sit more than six feet above the road and the windshield is huge.

Following five years of dreaming and a months-long search on the Internet, I finally found exactly what I wanted; a virtually-new, pre 2006 Sprinter. It was an '04 with less than 10K miles on the clock. I sent a bunch of money to "Trucks Only" in Mesa, Arizona and then flew down to see what I'd bought.

Frito's dashboard on a July morning in Scottsdale. Note the air temperature at 9AM. It would top 115F by afternoon.

My friend Jon and I were in for a treat. Frito's very first road trip would take us through some of the most scenic areas of western North America.

Equipped with our temporary Arizona tags, off we went.

Near a rocky outcrop called "El Capitan" just south of Monument Valley, we take a break from driving. In the 100F plus degree temperatures, Frito's cooling system and AC were working overtime.

Monument Valley is always inspiring. The Monsoon Season provided us with some great weather conditions for photography.

Of course we just had to stop to make our own copy of this iconic image of the American West. The ground alongside the roadway was worn bare from thousands of travellers, all stopping for their picture at this famous site.

On our first night out we began learn about this new mode of travel. We'd built a temporary RV setup from a few cardboard boxes, a sheet of plywood, a couple of foamies, two sleeping bags, two lawn chairs, a water container and a few storage tubs. Here, Jon studies the instruction manual for our new propane stove. Thank goodness there were pictures.

This is what it's all about. Rather than stay in motels, we got to spend the night at places like this.

At The Moki Dugway, we stopped to enjoy the view of the Colorado Plateau.

You really have to admire the audacity of the highway engineers who chose this route. Basically The Moki Dugway runs straight up the face of cliffs similar to those in the far distance. Well maintained, safe and fun, it's a "don't miss" bit of road, even for the timid.

Farther up into Utah, we visited Dead Horse Point State Park, near Moab.

Our second night out found us here, south of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area close to the Wyoming border in northeast Utah. The long day's drive resulted in a late arrival, so supper that night consisted of a bag of potato chips and a bottle of scotch.

North of Cody, Wyoming is Dead Indian Summit. We stopped here enroute to Beartooth Pass, a road Charles Kuralt termed "The most beautiful highway in America."

The southern approach to Beartooth Summit is Wyoming 296, The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

Mr. Kuralt was right. Beartooth Pass (US 212 south of Red Lodge Montana) is a close contender for The Most Beautiful Highway in America. It's another one of what I call "The Unnecessary Roads" - highways put in place for the sole purpose of providing spectacular drives.

Home at last. Later that winter, in winter storage in the shop, Frito and I begin the process of converting him from an empty tin box into a comfortable road tripper. Our adventures were just beginning.

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Photos by the author

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