Posted on September 18, 2014 by jason
After a night of camping south of Santa Rosalia, we headed into town to ask the obvious question: anybody got a windshield? The new Spanish word for the day is parabrisa. We did a bit of a goose chase and even visited a yonke, but came up empty handed. The consensus response was that we would have to drive to La Paz – or maybe Constitución before we would find anyone selling auto glass.
We taped up the windshield with packing tape and started the long haul – 550 km looking through a shattered parabrisa.
Despite the obstructed view, the scenery here is killer. It’s a nice drive. You manage to find each square inch of glass that is the best one to look through depending on the curve of the road.
Our side-plan was to look for VW buses along the way and flat out offer to buy their windshield from them. We spotted 5 junked buses in backyards and in empty fields. All without windshields.
Driving without A/C has never been much of an issue for us – but it’s definitely hot here in the summer. As long as we’re moving, it’s okay. It’s when we have to stop – say for long delays due to read construction – that it can get miserable. We’ve been hauling this 12V fan around for a few years and it’s come in handy quite a few times – it earns the BodesWell seal of approval. Today, especially. Still, nothing beats hopping in the ocean.
Side note: Back when we crossed the border in Tijuana, a guy stopped us in the street and offered to install an A/C in the bus for $200. Bode jumped on it – YES, PLEASE! I balked. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned before, but the bus came with a dilapidated aftermarket A/C when I bought it. It was a preposterous hack job cut through the roof. At least, now I know where it may have come from.
Posted on September 17, 2014 by jason
Now that the bus was up and running well, we decided it was time to bust a move down the peninsula. There’s not much we want to see until we get farther south, so we got up at the crack of dark and started out. The goal was to drive until we could camp on the Sea of Cortez – Santa Rosalia was 820 km away. A huge day for us.
Lot’s of open desert and a few familiar sights from the last time. Occasional military checkpoints with the usual questions: Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Vacation? Pase.
The big flag at the 28th parallel, where Baja Norte becomes Baja Sur (be sure to fill up the tank in El Rosario – the last chance gas for 300 km before Guerrero Negro). I was quite pleased to fill up again on the main road and blow past Guerrero Negro without venturing into town. South of here, there are no more military checkpoints.
Somewhere in here my coil gave out – again. This one was a brand new blue Bosch coil I bought in L.A. and only had about 10 hours on it. It was smoking hot. I swapped back to my old (used) one and kept going. What kills a brand new coil?
This is also where the road turns east and where things got a bit more interesting for us. By now, it was later in the afternoon and we made the decision to keep going instead of stopping for the night at San Ignacio – a logical rest stop after a long day, with good camping options. No, I wanted to camp and swim on the Sea of Cortez. Santa Rosalia or bust.
Maybe 50 km from Santa Rosalia and getting close to sundown, we came up on wide load. So wide that a big truck coming the other direction collided with it. The resulting debris came directly through our windshield. All in a split-second. Scary stuff.
We immediately slammed on the brakes and swerved off the road. We were stunned and did the quick check to make sure everyone was okay – lots of little glass cuts and rattled nerves. I got hit in the head by some sort of truck part, but fortunately our frame and windshield absorbed most of the impact before it came through the glass. It could have been much much worse.
We looked around and… it was just us. Nobody stopped. Both trucks just kept going.
After calming down a bit and sweeping up broken glass, we didn’t have much option but to climb back in and keep driving. As luck would have it, we eventually caught up to the truck again on a slow winding mountain pass. At the bottom was a police checkpoint.
We frantically waved our arms and flashed our lights just as the federale was waving the truck through… then held him up when he saw us.
We went in circles describing what happened to the police as the truck driver played dumb. He didn’t have an accident, he said. That metal piece wasn’t from his truck, he said (it wasn’t).
There was lot’s of quiet talking behind the truck between the cop and the truck driver. I’m guessing he had no insurance*. In the end, the police decided there was no evidence to prove what happened. Nobody saw anything. We couldn’t prove any fault. We would need to track down the other truck driver to figure it out… Basically, move along and deal with it yourself. At least nobody’s hurt.
I asked if it was legal to drive like this – if he could give me formal permission in case I was stopped by police later. No – it’s no problem, he said. “It’s Mexico.”
* we have Mexican auto insurance, but liability only.
Posted on September 16, 2014 by jason
From Playa Rosarito, we made the short trip down to Ensenada. We started out down the toll road, but were turned around half-way to Ensenada – it was closed. A sign would have been nice. I haven’t totally forgotten what it’s like to drive around Mexico, but it’s all coming back now. I’ve missed it.
We had plans of getting a little farther than Ensenada, but the idiot light came on just as we were leaving town. Uh oh.
I pulled over immediately and everything looked obviously okay. That’s bad. After a little poking around, I figured it had to be the oil pump. I really didn’t know how it could have broken – it’s never happened to me before – but it was the only thing that made sense. I pulled the sensor and turned the engine over a few times and nothing came out.
I drove it a few kilometers back to town – stopping often to cool off and re-check everything – and the light wasn’t going off. We found a now-closed camp site and pulled in and parked for the night. We figured somebody would either come kick us out or collect money. Either way, we weren’t going far.
After the engine cooled, I dug in and got the oil pump out. The end of the gear was as mangled and the end of the crank was pretty beat up too. This also didn’t make much sense until I realized that the pump shaft was the wrong size. The whole thing was customized when I had to replace it in Buenos Aires, so maybe I should be surprised it lasted that long? We’re feeling lucky it did, and went out in a town and not halfway down Baja.
After lots of deliberating and 2 days of searching around Ensenada and being offered the wrong size oil pump multiple times (and told it would work fine), I found Autoparts Mike. This is the place to go for all things VW in Ensenada. There is nobody there named Mike.
The new pump went in without a hitch and we’re back in business. Our few days here gave me an opportunity to meet Lorenzo – a local character that told me lots of stories I won’t forget too soon – and that can’t be reprinted here. The campsite – it’s been closed for over a year for not paying taxes. Still, the owner was happy to collect a few bucks and let us stay.
We also got to meet Margo and Tony. They were next door and saw the bus and thought it looked familiar… then wandered over and said “Are you Bode?” They just started reading the blog recently and had gone back to the beginning to read the whole thing. Based on their reading, we were in Portland and Bode was still 4. “You’re so big now!”
Posted on September 6, 2014 by jason
Oops, we did it again.
Border Day! We haven’t done this in a while.
We made the exact same ‘mistake’ we made the last time we crossed over into Mexico – we made a last-minute decision to cross late in the afternoon and just went for it. This time, the San Ysidro post at Tijuana. Still, this is pretty easy stuff. We even crossed in good company when another VW bus pulled in front of us right before we drove into the security checkpoint. Guess which two vehicles got stopped for inspection?
Border crossing days are always a little funny. Even though we pretty much know the routine and have quite a bit of experience with this, we still get the border day jitters. You always have just a tinge of anxiety that something is going to go wrong immediately after you cross that imaginary line.
Tijuana is the busiest border crossing in the world, and it should be rated ‘beginner’ level for sure – at least crossing *into* Mexico. Haven’t tried getting out here yet.
This border post is huge and moves quickly. Maybe you’ll get pulled over for a random inspection or maybe not. They just asked us to open the doors and they peeked inside. That’s it. No documents, no passports – nothing. Just keep driving and you’re in Mexico!
Baja has a ‘special trade zone’ status and is different from the rest of Mexico. Driving in Baja with your foreign vehicle doesn’t require any permits. Just keep driving. If you later want to cross to the mainland by ferry, you can get your temporary vehicle import permits down the road at the port in La Paz.
For stays in Mexico longer than 3 days, you’re technically required to have a tourist permit. There is supposed to be a migración office right where we crossed, but we must have just driven past it. We asked around and some people told us it was closed – not sure if this was true – and we needed to go to the Otay Mesa post (another border crossing) about 4 miles away. So, we did and found the office and paid our $25 USD each for a 6 month permit. Easy – there was not a single person in the migración office and the officers seemed surprised to see us. They had to get up off the office sofa and miss a few minutes of the fútbol game.
There is an even better way – and we even knew about it – but the border day jitters had us anxious to get our permits right away. We’re a little rusty. Don’t do this.
Instead, just drive away from the border and start goofing off and enjoying Baja. Driving across and away from the border with absolutely no paperwork is the way to do it. Seriously.
You have 3 days to get your tourist permit – but nobody is going to check anyway (really). Later, assuming you’re driving through Ensenada (about 50 km away) you’ll see a big sign near the entrance to town for their migración office at the port. Stop here and get your tourist card in a much less-hectic and smaller town right on the beach. Then, have a margarita and watch the sunset over the Pacific.
Posted on September 4, 2014 by jason
After a few uneventful days of working and pressing flesh in L.A., we headed over to Robbie’s garage… and we got to meet Robbie. I had a leaking final drive seal and needed a place and tools to do it – and an address to ship a few items – and Robbie kindly obliged via our Facebook page.
First, locating the proper seal was a bit of a task. There was no way I could order it and have it arrive in time (from Canada?) and it took forever calling around to find it locally. Trouble was, when I went to pick it up locally it was the wrong part. But, this is SoCal and aside from the traffic, it’s not a bad place to go hunting for VW parts.
I ended up at Low Bugget – home of A.J. Simms – a.k.a. Mr. Kadron. While we were waiting for the wrong part to arrive, A.J. and I had a quick chat about my carb and distributor setup. If I would go pull off my left carb and dizzy, he could tap the carb for vacuum (for the SVDA) and re-curve my distributor for me. Simple choice – I broke out the tools in the parking lot and went to work. A.J. also called around and found the correct seal at a local ‘secret’ transmission shop while my distributor went on the Sun 680 Distributor Tester. He pointed out how poorly my distributor advance curve was and started the re-curve process. End result – I could immediately tell the difference and the bus now accelerates nice and smooth. He told me EMPI once asked him to quote re-curving 500 ‘bad’ dizzys. I didn’t ask if he took the job. But, if you’ve got just one, you can send it to LowBugget and they’ll do it for you.
Replacing the final drive seal ended up being a longer than expected task, so having a nice garage space and tools was awesome. I also picked up a spare coil, after frying my old one about a week ago. Big thanks to Robbie and A.J. for helping us out!
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