If there’s one thing almost every Alaskan has, it’s an off road vehicle of some sort. It could be a boat, bush plane, ATV/UTV, Argo, or snow machine (snowmobile for you Lower 48’ers). Our plans here in Homer include building a house, putting up a high tunnel, and owning a few small animals. We’ll need something to haul produce up from the garden, run up the road to get the mail, take hunting, use collecting firewood, etc.
Given the expected uses, we knew we wanted a UTV/SxS (side-by-side); you can haul more people and stuff. I was particularly drawn to the Honda Pioneer 700-4. Hondas are big up here, they’re built well, and they hold their value exceptionally well. The 700-4 has 2 fixed seats up front, and a dump bed in the back. Contained within the bed are two additional seats that fold up independently. The versatility is highly appealing, because any competitor’s 4 seater with a dump bed is at least 3 feet longer. The trouble with a Honda SxS is a) it’s expensive, and b) trying to find a used one is next to impossible.
We don’t really need one until we get the house built, but I started perusing online classifieds in the off chance I’d find a used one to buy. A few days later in the wee morning hours, I struck gold. I found a 2014 Honda Pioneer 700-4 loaded with a bunch of accessories, less than 60 hours on the engine, and at a fair price. Because they’re so rare used, and the world of online classifieds is all about who shows up first with cash in hand, we embarked on a frantic rush to connect with the seller and take a peek at this machine.
Unfortunately, the seller lives in Nikiski which is about a 2 hour drive one-way. We made the decision to run up there on a week night (which in hindsight was probably a poor decision), trailerless, and without cash. But hey, we didn’t want to let someone else get it!
On the way up, Mama B called UHaul in Soldotna to see if they had a trailer that would work for us, in the event we chose to buy it. The employee seemed overwhelmed by the question, but at the end of the call we had a trailer on hold, to be picked up minutes before they closed for the day.
As the sun was beginning to set, we arrived and met the sellers. They were a younger couple with an 18 month old boy. Little B enjoyed running up and down their driveway with their son. At one point they were standing next to one another and he reached over to grab her hand. Little B wasn’t too sure about that; no surprise. She rarely lets us hold her hand and this was a stranger. After a chat with the seller and a quick test drive, we decided to buy it.
On the way to the UHaul store (about 30 minutes from their house in Nikiski), we stopped at the credit union hoping the electronic funds transfer from our old bank had completed so I could get a cashier’s check. Swing and a miss. Fortunately, the seller was willing to accept a personal check otherwise we’d have been dead in the water and would’ve needed to make another 4-hour round trip.
At the UHaul store, we quickly confirmed that the original employee was overwhelmed. She booked an enclosed trailer for us, not the open trailer we requested. Thankfully they had a selection of open trailers available. We hooked up the 6’x12′ trailer, and peeled out as the employee turned off the OPEN light, heading back to the seller’s place.
Back at the seller’s house we drew up a quick bill of sale, exchanged money for title/keys, and were then greeted with a fantastic life lesson: measure twice, leave UHaul once. We were so focused on finding something 5′ wide, that we neglected to measure the opening/ramp width. The trailer itself was 6′ wide, but the ramp was a few inches shy of 5′. There was no way the Honda was going in.
On the plus side, Little B positively loved running up the ramp, into the trailer, and back out/down again. She was living the dream being outside, running around, and up way past her bedtime.
As we were standing there trying to figure out what to do and when we could come back with another trailer, I asked the seller what he would charge me to drive the Honda to Homer in the truck/trailer he had right there ready to go. We agreed on a price and he said he’d deliver it that night. It was going to make for a late night for him, but whatever. That’s his choice. We gave him some cash, and headed back to UHaul to drop off this trailer. I put it right back where I picked it up an hour earlier, and we headed back to Homer.
About 5 minutes after we pulled into the driveway, he came rolling down the street. We unloaded it, parked it in tight between the truck and the garage door, and called it a night. The next day I cleared out some room in the garage and it just barely fit under the short garage door. Now, like true Alaskans, our toy is in the garage and our vehicle is outside.
Next, to find a trailer.