ADVENTURE TRAVEL, VINTAGE LAND ROVER STYLE
20 February 2020
When 32-year old Blake Hennessy, from Burr Ridge, Ill., decided he wanted a road trip out west to Arizona and California, he fired-up his trusty 1989 Land Rover 110 4x4. In 30 days he clocked-up almost 10,000 miles, and had the adventure of a lifetime.
What inspired you to do this amazing trip?
As a big 4x4 fan, I’d always wanted to go to the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, AZ. It’s one of the biggest overlanding events in the world with more than 250 exhibitors showing the latest in camping, 4x4 and motorcycle gear. It is 1,700 miles from my home in Burr Ridge. When my buddy Rob Bedoe and I started planning it, we kept saying wouldn’t it be fun to go see this National Park, or that bit of California coastline, or meet-up with those friends. In the end we laid out a rough route that covered close to 10,000 miles. Our only constraint was how far we could go in 30 days.
Why did you decide to do the trip in a vintage Land Rover?
The vintage Land Rover was a big part of the adventure. A year and a half ago I’d found this very cool 1989 Land Rover 110 V8 County down in Lakeland, Florida. I’d always wanted a 110 after a trip to Africa with my dad when we drove around in Land Rover Defender vehicles. I’d owned off-roaders before, but never a Land Rover. This one - I call her ‘Vicky’, short for Victoria - had been imported from the UK, so it was right-hand drive, which was not a problem for me. It needed plenty of work, but the price was right. I flew down to Florida with a big bag of tools, and drove it the 1,400 miles back to Illinois. Knowing that we wanted to do this big trip out west, I’d gone through it mechanically so Vicky was in pretty good shape when we set off.
Which route did you end up taking?
We started off heading south-west down through Missouri and Oklahoma and across Texas and New Mexico to Flagstaff. Then after the Overland Expo, it was west to San Diego then up the Pacific Coast Highway all the way north to Seattle. Then Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and a straight shot east to Wisconsin and back home to Illinois.
What were some of the highlights of this marathon trip?
Where do you start? Of course, Yosemite was amazing. By luck we arrived after some abnormally high temperatures, so the snow melt was in full force. That meant all the waterfalls were putting on a real show. We loved Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, and the Devil’s Racetrack dried-up lakebed on the western side of Death Valley National Park was breathtaking. It was worth the 28-mile drive - at a snail-like 5mph - on the washboard dirt track that took us there.
How did your 27-year-old Land Rover hold up?
Really well. We had no major mechanical issues at all. Mine has the old 3.5-liter V8 gas-guzzler under the hood, which meant highs of 11-to-the-gallon and 8mpg through the mountains. We bought a lot of gas and were topping-up with oil every morning. While I already knew that the doors leaked water, driving through some of the Northern California downpours caused some major flooding around our feet. I guess it’s all part of the charm of owning a classic Land Rover 110.
Are your adventures in Vicky over?
Definitely not. I’m hoping to go to the Overland Expo East event in Asheville, North Carolina at the beginning of October, but it would be way too easy to go straight there. I want to drive north all the way to Prince Edward Island in Canada then head south along the east coast down to Key West. That’s around 6,000 miles round-trip. I think I’d better start saving-up now to buy the oil.