Made it to Mexico – Day 66 (5365 miles)

So, we crossed the border at Nogales, Arizona and have travelled a few hundred miles without meeting any drugs gangs or baddies of any kind.  As I said in my last post Mexico really does get such mixed reactions.  The lady that ran the campsite we stayed on in Nogales advised us to “Get across the border and don’t stop for at least 300 miles” but the went on to tell us about her American girlfriend who has lived alone in Mexico for many years and been fine!

The crossing itself was pretty good.  On the American side we were just waved through, which actually wasn’t what we wanted!  We thought the US customs would stamp our passports on the way out, as we came in on an ESTA which allows us to come in and out several times over a 2 year period we expected a stamp for a complete audit trail.  The 1st customs officer we stopped and spoke to could hardly look at us and really didn’t even want to bother with a complete sentence “Don’t do that here” was all we got.  He then pointed to the guys dealing with the incomers from Mexico and told us to park up and speak to them.  We had to walk a fair way to get there and it was obviously an area where pedestrians are not the norm as by the time we were close they both had their hands hovering over their gun holsters!  Luckily they gave us a chance to ask our question and answered with a full sentence!   Basically the 1st guy was right there is no record made on the US system of foreign nationals leaving if it’s via a land border.  Seems really odd as they are so strict on having details of your onward travel plans on arrival and then they don’t check you actually leave!

On the Mexican side a helpful official who’s excellent English compensated for our non-existent Spanish walked us through the form filling and photo copying that is required.  They have a neat sticker that is displayed on your vehicle windscreen to prove temporary importation and surrendered on exit from Mexico.  I had read that the Banjercito’s (temporary importation officials) would come and look at the vehicle and place the sticker on the windscreen.  Ours just handed it across the counter and told us to do it.  Fine by us.

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Mexican customs and Banjercito.

We drove for about 4 hours trying to decipher the Spanish road signs and realised we had a lot to learn and pretty quick!

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There were armed soldiers patrolling the highway but they looked pretty relaxed!

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There will be many cactus shots I warn you now!

Our first night was spent in a small seaside village called Bahia Kino.  We knew there would be campsites here as it’s on the route that Americans and Canadians  who spend their winters in Mexico (known as Snowbirds) use.  We knew it was the wrong time of year for these guys to be there but expected the sites would be used by holidaying Mexicans, we were wrong!  The first 3 sites we tried were deserted, the gates were open but there was no one around and on inspection there were no bathrooms available to use.  The 4th site we tried was open, nice spot right on the beach and inhabited by a few residents who lived there in trailers all year.  One guy who came to chat had moved there from Denver 10 years ago, the funny thing was he said he’d travelled all over Mexico but wouldn’t do it now, too dangerous!  The site was a bit tired and in a poor area but fine for a 1 night stop.

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It looks like we have lots of neighbours but in fact most of these RV’s were empty, their owners come back around October each year.  Although it will work in our favour later in our travels this really is not the time to be in the lowland areas of Mexico it is so hot and humid.  We sweat and scratch a lot (the mosquitos are vicious).

We’ve been a bit lax in keeping you informed of our future plans.  Some of you probably still think we are driving down through Central America to get to South America and this was our plan until about a month ago.  We had been hearing reports that RHD vehicles were being refused entry on some occasions into Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.   I had phoned and emailed all the embassies concerned before we left home and emailed again from Colorado but received no replies.  I contacted a couple of people who had blogged about getting stuck and having to change route and neither had been able to get to Panama by road.  We had to make a decision whether to rush through Mexico as had been the original plan in order to get through Central America, again pretty quickly  and ship out of Panama before the end of November.

We decided there is so much we want to see in Mexico that we are going to have a slow meander through and ship out of Vera Cruz, Mexico direct to Cartagena, Colombia.  For me the fact we won’t get to Costa Rica is disappointing but we can do that some other time.

But now we have another challenge!  John contacted a shipper in Vera Cruz and sent them copies of the temporary import docs for Juanita.  They have told us we should have got temporary import docs for the contents of the van as well. 😡  We were unsure whether this might mean retracing our steps to Nogales but today we have been given a bit of hope that we can get it organised at another Customs office.  It’s not a done deal and we won’t know until next week but in the meantime we’ll just keeping travelling slowly (as we like it!).

Perhaps if the Banjercito official had inspected the van  before giving us our sticker as I had read this wouldn’t have happened.  Oh well, another lesson learnt!

I’ll finish with a few more pics and yes there are more cactus!xx

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The suspicious noise….

Now I know you’re all waiting to hear about our (I mean, mine) progress on the “Suspicious noise problem” so I thought that I would give a quick update after completing my second session of “One the road diagnostics and repair”.

The background info behind the problem is that we did not have the noise at the set off from New York and there was no noticeable showing during the drive across the USA, neither when we were visiting the first of the National Parks.  The noise started after Monument Valley, but I chose to think that I was hearing things!  Now the drive around MV was rough but not what I’d call really rough.  True, you would have had to turn the radio up pretty loud to drown out the banging and clattering of the van as it bounced from rock to hole, but this should be nothing that the van shouldn’t take in its stride.

The noise is of the type that indicates that a rotating bearing is running dry, or has excessive play, and the noise is more noticeable when the van comes off of the forward drive and starts to coast on the overrun.  Also, and most important, the noise increases with road speed and not engine speed.

During diagnostics session one I checked the front wheel bearings and CV joints.  I kind of knew that this may be a waste of time as I had serviced the CV joints and re-packed the front wheel bearings with grease before we left the UK.  The picture below will give you an idea of what these look like.  (DOJ, BJ and Front axle hub assembly)

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During this session I found no discernible wear in any of the front rotating parts, so then turned my listening during the daily driving to the rear axle and drive shafts.

Today I completed diagnostics session two where I checked the bearings on the front and main drive shafts, the rear wheel bearings, transfer box output bearing, rear differential backlash and finally the drive shafts ‘UJ’ joints and sleeve yokes.

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I found no free play in the rear wheel bearings, transfer box output bearing, or the front diff input bearing.

The rear diff backlash is right on the high limit which will indicated more than a desirable amount of wear, so this could be the problem.

I found that there was approx 0.010″ of lift in the rear sleeve yoke, this is within limits.  However, rear and front propshaft ‘UJ’ joints took more than an expected amount of grease (from the newly purchased ‘Mini grease gun’) indicating that they had not been greased for a while.  Also, there was no witness of the old grease being evacuated from the ‘UJ’s by the new grease as I filled them with the grease gun.  This could also be the problem.

Well that’s it for now, I have gone as far as I can with the limited resources we have.  If the bloody noise is still there when we set off on Monday then I will apply Jane’s approach and turn up the radio to very loud, and wait and see!

I’m betting you’re all glad Jane doesn’t let me write the blog……!!

John

 

Border country – Day 61 (4892 miles)

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We are still very much in the desert, and these swirls of dust are a common sight, known as Chiindii by the Navojos, sounds much more spiritual than Dust devil!

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“Can you hear that noise?”  A question John has asked me many times in various vehicles over the last 26 years.  I don’t think I have ever answered yes!  For me any strange noise originating from a vehicle is easily rectified by increasing the volume of the radio, sorted!  I realise this flippant manner is ridiculous and it’s a good job John takes this type of issue seriously.  So, he had the front wheels off to check for dry wheel bearings.  Luckily (well kind of) all was well with the bearings but he can still hear a noise.  It seems to get worse when we’ve been on the road for a few hours.  Tomorrow will be a good test as we cross the border into Mexico and want to get a few hundred miles south in what is likely to be plus 38c temperatures based on what we’ve had the last few days.  Watch this space.

Our last sightseeing trip in the US was the White Sands National Monument, aptly named don’t you think?

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Can you spot Juanita?

By the time we left at noon the temperature was over 30C but the sand which is a actually gypsum was lovely and cool to walk on. Before being given national monument status in 1933 the areas was thought to be a possible site for gypsum mining but the price of raw gypsum was very low at the time.  In the museum, there was a board that stated the average human would consume approximately 28lbs of gypsum in their lifetime!  Apparently mainly from beer, wine, blue cheese, canned foods and toothpaste and if you like to lick plasterboard it could be more!

As we headed out of New Mexico and into Arizona we came to a US customs checkpoint.  We were travelling parallel to the Mexican border and didn’t expect to be stopped and questioned until be actually crossed into Mexico.  On hearing we weren’t US nationals we were asked for our passports, we had copies to hand but the originals were tucked away.  Initially we were told we had to get them out but the next question was “Where are you going after the US?”, when we confirmed it was Mexico the passports seemed to be forgotten and questioning switched to, “Are you going alone”, “Without a guide” and her final comment was “Well I wouldn’t be going down there!”

Mexico really does bring such mixed reactions, from those that have been, those that haven’t been plus the myriad of information in the media.

Well, we want to go and we’ll be fine, sensible and fine.🌵🌴🌺🌮☀️.

 

 

 

Monumental – Day 56 (4308 miles)

We previously visited Monument Valley in Utah about 23 years ago.  It wasn’t planned, we just stumbled across it enroute from Nevada to Colorado, it was late one afternoon and we drove around with the whole valley to ourselves.  It is such a familiar backdrop to anyone who has sat through a cowboy film from the 1960’s you really are waiting for John Wayne to gallop into view!

Quite a lot has changed in 23 years and it is now firmly on the tourist trail.  The benefit of this is a small number can camp in the park meaning you get the see the sunset/sunrise and breathtaking night skies close to the rocks.  The downsides are there is now a hotel (although small), restaurant, gift shop etc. to cater for the masses so there is much more traffic in the area, however for the Navajo native Americans who run and staff the park that is obviously a good thing!  However if you are prepared to get up early as we were, it wasn’t hard to get away from the hoards.

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We arrived in a dust storm, worried we may see nothing, but swallow a lot of sand!

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Luckily the sandstorm cleared and we got this view before the sun set.

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Juanita looking like the small kid who wants to hang out with the big kids…..

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and ends up left at the park on her own 😔

Next morning we were up at 5.30 in the hope of some nice early morning views.  It wasn’t the best of sunrises but still a pretty special place.

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The tripod is back!

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A nice spot for tea and porridge.

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After all that stunning scenery we headed into New Mexico and stopped at a small state park for the night.  It was called Bluewater and whilst it didn’t provide the shopping opportunities of it’s namesake in Kent neither were there any problems parking!

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In fact we had the place to ourselves.🙂

 

 

Goodbye Colorado – Day 54 (3968 miles)

Hi All, before we get on with our news just wanted to remind you that as this is a website it could be hit by malware so if you receive a mail from us about the blog and anything doesn’t look right it would be better to access via the website address rather than by clicking on a link included in a mail.😊

It’s time for us to move on (yes Will we do travel veery slow!) but as I’ve said before there is a lot to see and do in Colorado and we have still only just scratched the surface.

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I spent a great afternoon/evening hiking, eating and chatting with these ladies.  They meet regularly for a book club but I happened to be here for an extra special get together that included a hike around the beautiful area of Crested Butte (pics of the mountains are further below).

I don’t think I have introduced you to my big sister Lizzie, she is above on the right in the white shirt. Thanks for looking after us so well Lizzie, it’s a good job we’ve walked a lot as your cooking is bloody good😍.

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If you ladies do agree on an official name for your book club it really should include laughter you’re a fun  bunch.

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We travelled over a mountain pass called Keblar that takes you up to 10,000 feet on the way to visit Willy, Gina and Grace (you met them in our last blog) at their home in Carbondale.

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They took us to meet Tom and Rose who split their time between Colardo and Mexico.  Their knowledge of Mexico and places to visit off the beaten track was so useful.  We both left feeling very excited about that leg of our journey.  Not sure we will get to stay in the amazing hotel that overlooks Copper Canyon but as it will be about the time of my Birthday who knows what surprises John may be planning!  Thank you Tom and Rose we loved the time we spent with you, hope we get to meet again sometime.

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Never get bored watching hummingbirds.

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John enjoying a small seafood dish!

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Any excuse to include a pic of lovely Grace, tucking into mango on a stick!

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Back at Crested Butte, the top of the mountain is 12,162 feet, luckily the ski lift only stop shorts of this by 800 ft!

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We set off via the path, rocky but definitely a path…

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Where did the path go!

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Let’s just say I was happier taking photos of John than getting on with climbing, but it had to be done.

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Made it.  Photo taken by a very fit man who had walked up about 4,000 ft and looked fresh as a daisy.  He was a volunteer who made sure lightweight walkers like us were aware of any bad weather coming in and the times that the ski lifts closed etc.  Within 10 mins of this photo being taken it was pouring with rain and the rocks that had been hard enough to clambour up were wet and slippy.  By the time we got down to the path my legs were like wobbly jellys, definitely out of my comfort zone!

Next stop New Mexico, see you there…..

 

 

Can you spot the potty? – Day 46 (3634 miles)

We had forgotten to show you one of the extras that John had purchased to make wild (or primitive as it is called here) camping a little more comfortable.

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The solar shower is more of a trickle than jet but it is better than nothing when there is no other option.

We won’t go into the workings of the toilet!

We used the shower at the Sand Dunes as there were only loos on site and the next outing was proper wild camping at an area called Texas Creek.  We were meeting our nephew Willy and his wife Gina and their daughter the very lovely Grace (not that Willy and Gina aren’t lovely too!)

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We arrived in UK type camping weather and had to sit in the car for half an hour before the rain stopped!

Luckily the ground was sandy and at this altitude the humidity is low so it wasn’t long before it was dry enough to set up camp.

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As you can see our shower/potty tent blends in perfectly with the surroundings!  Those of you from the UK and of a certain age may recognise the stripy windbreaker to the right.  Much used by many families  for UK beach and camping holidays during recent decades.  In the US where there is every conceivable item available for camping and leisure it is surprising how many times we have been asked where this came from? and told what a good idea it is!  There maybe a gap in the worldwide camping market here, a quick re-design with lightweight poles and fabric and it could be a money spinner!  One for you Will Wilkins.

The reason we had chosen this spot was so John, Willy and our other nephew Mick could fish in the creek.  They didn’t catch much but it was such a pretty spot it didn’t matter. image

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Gina, Grace and I played in the water, the disturbance may have been why the fishing wasn’t great!

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It as a warm day and evening so we were in and out of the van a lot.  We managed to keep most of our food in sealed containers but a loaf of bread was left on the front seat when we went to bed.  John heard some rustling in the night (I was comatose as usual) but couldn’t find the source of the noise.  In the morning there was definite signs of chewed bread and we had visions of a small mammal nesting in the van upholstery 😳.  We set a bread trap the next night but there was no sign so hopefully whatever it was left when John disturbed it.

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Bye for nowx