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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time To Go Home….The Final Run Begins.

Saturday morning in the Yuma area dawned with clouds and bluster…And I said to myself…self,its time to start heading for home,for I have finally contacted that great disease,called…GOING-HOME-ITIS,when the old mind set finally realizes that the party is over…..If you could call it that.

But I had one other task to perform,and that’s to stop and meet some favorite folks that I have been in contact with for over a year now,but have never met personally.This was my best chance to do this as they were boondocking at Borrego Springs and that's just 20 minutes off my route along the Salton Sea.

THE BAYFIELD BUNCH….See their blog on my side bar,its been there since day one as Al has been a big help this past year helping me,especially through those first few weeks of setting up my own blog.


They knew I was coming but they thought Sunday,and no I didn't attack at dawn like I threatened.I performed a daylight raid at noon,catching them off guard,parking a distance away and wandering close to their rig like I was looking for a place to park close by,knowing that Mr.Crankypants,as he likes to call himself,would not like the intrusion.

As I got closer to their open door there was an explosion of dogs heading my way….The jig was up as Checkers was the first to reach me before Kelly could get out the door.But I met Checkers like a long lost friend and we bonded immediately.Dogs know when people like them.


we spent the next 45 minutes just getting to know each other,then they invited me to park next to them, so I set up across the way by the old radio tower.


Later we stood out talking and watching the storm clouds forming over the mountains behind Borrego Springs,trying to get a few photos of the clouds and sheets of rain glinting in the sun as they cascaded down on the hills.


The weather finally drove us in for the afternoon as the rain finally hit us in a downpour that lasted for a few hours.It was a good excuse to watch the Gold Medal Curling final at the Olympics.

As I write this at 3:30 am….Yes up early as usual….I was looking at the inside of my eyelids by 7 pm so have had my nights sleep.The rain is gone the moon is bright and the darn wind is still  rocking the trailer.And its damn cold.

So we get another chance to visit today with a time out for the Gold Medal Hockey Game,then tomorrow,Monday,the final 4 1/2 day push for home.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blowing My Own Horn…Plus Some Other Ramblings.

The past few days have been preparation days here in the Yuma area,despite a couple of days of howling winds and sideways gravel and a fine film of dust on everything….Life is good I guess.

I’m one of those (one at a time kind of people,)I go to town and get one thing done for that day,then come back saving the next task for the next day.Monday was get a new tire for the trailer day.The first place had a 6 ply in the computer but not in stock…Hmmm! So on to the next place…They had 8 of them but I would have to wait for a few hours to get it done.This meant I will have to do more than one thing today,so why not hit Wally’s place since there are 3 of them to choose from in the area.

I needed a new jack for raising the trailer because even though the trailer is 4” higher,the jacking point now is lower than before and I have to dig a hole to get the jack in place…Not good on pavement.So I found one small 2 ton that will supplement my 4 ton that I have been using.So along with that and a couple of pairs of cheap Chinese pants,I exited the store and headed for the nearest Burger King for a Whopper fix.

One whopper and a fender-bender was the next order of the day…As I was preparing to exit the BK parking lot,I spotted someone over my right shoulder in a vehicle stopped.I figured he was waiting for me to exit,so I backed out and BUMP! It seems someone behind me was also backing out and we met in the middle.I guess the fellow waiting and watching in the other car was just enjoying the fun.

We both jumped out apologizing to each other as I looked at the big dent in his bumper and no mark on mine,then as we were talking his dent popped back out as it was a vinyl bumper.We both laughed,shook hands and decided no harm done…Chalk that one up to being lucky.

The past couple of days were spent getting my satellite assignment changed back from the Mexican satellite to the one I use in the US and Canada.It took 48 hours for Galaxy Broadband to respond to my e-mail as I waited and waited watching for the one light to go out on my modem,telling me that I have been decommissioned from Satmex5.

Finally during the big wind/dust storm,they finally get around to it.Not to be deterred after all this wait,I brave the elements and get her re-pointed in the darkness.All went fairly smooth considering the usual little glitches of re-registering on the new satellite.At least I didn't have to phone for help this time,so things are looking up.

I waited until daylight to change over the television part of my dish set up,as the BOW,(bird on a wire)has to be changed from…

              THIS SIDE                                                              TO THIS SIDE 

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To keep the automatic alignment of Star-Choice in focus with the new internet satellite assignment.For those of you reading this that have the same set up…I have found this winter that if the TV signal gets weak in southern Mexico that the ever strong internet signal can sometimes be readjusted to a weaker point allowing Star-Choice to be adjusted stronger without losing your internet.

The other day I checked in on the blog of famous travel writers Mike and Terri Church,and was very surprised to find that they had put in a bit about me from the time that we met at Hacienda Contreras,a few weeks ago  Bottom of page.

Terri had snuck up on me when I was all greasy and dirty working on my axle problem,and snapped a photo.Being called a “famous visitor” tends to make my head swell as they are the famous ones. She told me at the time that many of the RVers travelling in Mexico were following my exploits.I did notice quite a few hits on the site meter from Mexico every day and wondered as non of these people are on my reader list as far as I knew.

It still never ceases to amaze me how almost every week I see someone on the site meter who is sitting for up to 3 hours steady,reading through the archives of my blog.How can this semi-illiterate fool capture someone's attention like that and hold it for so long.Usually in face to face conversations with friends,they are turning off and dialing me out in about 5 minutes.

I have received some nice e-mails from people who take the time and effort to search out my e-mail addy.One nice person named Charles, in Alberta,was full of encouragement during my axle crisis and he called my writing sort of succinct…….succinct  

Well I guess Charles is right.I calls it the way I see’s it…..So I want to thank all the people who have sent e-mails and welcome the new readers this past week.Some of you have some great blogs.

My time is winding down here and I still haven't made a final decision as to which way to go home.My favorite is straight up through Nevada to Twin Falls Idaho,then west into Oregon as this is the way I came down in November.I much prefer it to I-5 with all the traffic,potholes and expensive California gas. I guess the weather forecast will determine this.

It would also mean that I wouldn't be going to Borrego Springs and pulling my surprise pre dawn attack on the Bayfield Bunch.Big Al isn’t responding to my threats,so he may be in hiding now,a typical eastern tenderfoot I guess……So only time will tell….got to keep the prey off guard.  Dig in Al,you never know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Back At Pilot Knob BLM…Yuma

Friday morning just a few hours after posting my last blog entry,I noticed that one of the trailer tires(not the one shown in the blog)was low after just filling and adjusting pressures on them the day before.So with a slow leak to contend with,I figured maybe I should get back to Yuma and get this,along with a few other things dealt with.

I set my Garmin just so I could see what time I would reach Yuma.driving off,I hear a strange voice speaking to me in German…I look in the back seat…No..nobody there,then I realize that Miss Garmin has been abducted and replaced with someone I don't understand.So I stopped and went into the Garmin settings to find that somehow they had changed to Africaneese.You know…Something strange seems to effect my Garmin every time I leave this place.Last year it lost satellite reception after leaving this spot.A problem that didn't go away until after I got home.


That grey motor home has my spot from last November and the Bounder to the right of it was there in the same spot at that time.I don't think I could spend that much time in this place.

This place is disliked as a barren boondocking spot and there are other places nearby that are much nicer,but this place is special in my heart like a second home after 13 years of stopping here for week or two each year.It was the location of my first big boondocking experience,after a short stay at Peg leg's in Borrego Springs.

I prefer it to the free 14 day spot nearby which is very dusty and always seems to have ATV’s roaring through kicking up more dust.At least here there is some security and a nice big garbage dumpster,which is important to me as I find sometimes boondocking,that getting rid of your garbage can be a problem.And here in the back there is a minimum of traffic and dust and others.


So yesterday I bought another new tire for the trailer,making 2 new ones this season to go along with the other two (14 month old tires) that are just about finished already.This has been a year of much travel from the Arctic to almost the Guatemalan border.

This morning I e-mailed Galaxy Broadband in Toronto to request that they change my satellite assignment back to G16 from SatMex 5.So I hope they don't cut me off before finishing this blog entry.Then the process of re-registering begins.I hope it goes smoother than last November when they had problems getting me on the Mexican satellite.Also I have to change the position of my Star-Choice TV Bow to the other side of the internet radio arm.Got to see that hockey game this afternoon.

I will spend this coming week getting a few things done and some final shopping before hitting the road for home on March 2, which takes 4 1/2 days from here.I may go over to Borrego Springs for the last 2 days making the first days run into California’s big valley,a little closer.I like to make my first stop at Col.Allensworths State Park about 50 miles north of Bakersfield,and that's a bit of a long run from Yuma,even though I’ve done it before.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Back Where It All Started

As far as blogging is concerned,for me,this is where it all started less than 14 months ago.With nothing else to do but enjoy the Arizona sunshine,and the fact that I was sitting out here in the desert at this location for 2 weeks with internet at my disposal,why not start at “WHY”ARIZONA.


So there it was,the test run,followed by one nice comment and encouragement from Al and Kelly of the Bayfield Bunch,and I was on my way and its been a fun ride,especially slowly gathering a nice list of readers.Many more readers are not on the list and its been like pulling hen’s teeth to get some family members and friends on the list,so I gave up and excepted the fact that they do read it on occasion.

Don't you just love it when a family member or friend sends an e-mail asking where are you and what are you doing?…………….Jeeeze!….Read my blog…..That's why I write one,so I don't have to write a form e-mail…Of course it hasn’t happened very often…But it has happened and its sort of humorous I guess,especially when they know I have a blog.


So here I sit again for the umpteenth time looking across at my nearest neighbor,and saying to myself,its a beautiful morning and this is just an R and R kind of day,so what to do?

Well!…..Start with what I call my big breakfast,as I’m a regular “cereal in the morning” kind of guy,so today I will have this for a change…


Just ignore the ketchup and the slightly burned (made in oven) toast,and of course my sliced tomatoes must have a slight sprinkling of sugar on them…..Yuk,you say?….No it tastes good,don't knock it until you try it.Tomatoes are a fruit you know,so why not….Always have….always will.

After breakfast I figured I better do a little light maintenance and figure why my fridge is not as cold as it should be,but first I better check all my tire pressures,as one on the trailer looks low,so I got out my handy Canadian Tire compressor and filled the tank and brought all tires on both vehicles up to snuff.

One thing of note while checking tires and the tightness of the new lift kit bolts,was to show what happens when the brake controller is set too high and you make a panic stop as you come to an unseen Mexican Tope.


There are 2 of these flat spots and I remember 2 times when a panic stop just before a tope created a cloud of blue smoke and a screech…Why isn’t the flat spot in the middle you say?…I don't know,but it looks like I’ll be replacing it in Yuma next week….No its not cupping….At least originally.

After filling the tires,I blew out around the burner of the fridge including the flue and removed and blew through the jet.A few hours later even with the heat of the day,I found the fridge to be working better.This is the second time in a year that my little compressor has saved the day for me and my fridge….The last time was in July on the dusty Dempster Highway,high above the arctic circle.

So since I was on a roll,I repaired a poor fitting door on my hot water tank,as the tech in Quartzsite had not bothered to do it properly when I had my tank changed in November.

So…..Satisfied with myself with a few tasks well done,I decide it was time to make a couple of taco’s for lunch then get horizontal for the afternoon and enjoy another peaceful,78 degree,day here at “Why BLM” (Bureau Of Land Management) …Free camping in a beautiful desert….Does life get any better than this?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back In The USA,3 Months To The Day.

It was November 17th when I arrived at the Why Arizona 14 day boondocking  area prior to entering Mexico,and February 17th when I arrived back in the early PM.


I did what I said I wouldn't do,and that was to rush back in a day and a half from Celestino,over 800 miles,but I cant help myself.Once I get on the road,my knuckles tighten on the wheel and my eyes bug out and I say to myself…..self..lets get outa town.

My friends at Celestino were a few hours behind me leaving and will end up a full day behind me when they arrive in Arizona.

I made it to the Pemex 30 miles north of the Guaymas /San Carlos turnoff before nightfall.I think its about the 8th time I’ve stayed in this rather dirty dusty truck stop.It always seems to be convenient,time wise, going both ways.

I was up well before dawn,cant sleep well anyway in those places,breakfast and dishes done and on the road in the early darkness,just me and a 1000 trucks.I’m starting to like going through the city of Hermosillo in the pre-dawn darkness, as its so quick and easy with no traffic to deal with.It was starting to get light just as I left the north end.

It was good to see the Hermosillo to Santa Ana stretch of highway had been repaved since my last time going north on this stretch 2 years ago,when it was pothole hell and I had thoughts of never returning to Mexico ever again because of it.

Next,I wondered what the new Army checkpoint just before Benjamin Hill,was going to be like.Well,it was more involved than I thought.The first kiosk fellow went through my paperwork thoroughly.He was from Chiapas and since I was there just a few weeks ago,we had a bit of a bond for this homesick soldier,not that it does any good as he now sends me to the 2nd kiosk where the next guy wants a tour of the trailer.He goes through everything,even opened up my can of cashews.Left my dirty underwear alone….I wonder why? Should have put the cashews with the underwear.

It took about 15 minutes but seemed a lifetime and he was satisfied.Funny thing,he never once looked in the back of the truck under the cap where I have plenty of stuff stored,but he will open a can of cashews.I think they just like to look inside these RV’s to see what they are like.

Half an hour later I passed the Pemex that ripped me off on my first day last November,still quiet,no customers,attendants just sitting around just like that day I turned in and became their mark.I wonder if they have a reputation to be so quiet.My complaints to Pemex and Safeco via E-mail were never responded to,but they may have done a check on them,I don't know.I was hoping to see the place covered in yellow tape when I went by but I guess that's just a dreamers dream.

At Santa Ana I turned west onto highway 2 for Sonotya.The new quota westbound was built to the same specs as the Arco Norte around Mexico city,a nice new wide concrete highway that ends at Altar 75 k’s away,then continues as a nice 4 lane until Caborca,another 33k’s.Then the rest of the way to the border is a beautiful new 2 lane highway with wide shoulders.This route is becoming very popular with travelers who are westbound,instead of Nogales.

Tuning in my paperwork at Km21 San Emetario is usually quiet but still a little slow,just like getting it done is usually slow here also.Next a final refueling stop at Sonoyta the border town of 12000,then its just up the hill and into the US customs line.Only 2 ahead of me,then my turn as I’m greeted by a nice young lady who takes my passport and asked if I have anything to declare.I told her I had some fruit,bananas,papaya,and 3 oranges….She says no oranges allowed,just dump them over there as you leave,pointing ahead,and have a nice day.I stupidly said…That’s it?….Yes that's it, she says and I’m outa there and across the street to the general store for more oranges…..Gotta have my orange or grapefruit in the morning.

Another half hour has me back where I started 3 months ago,selecting a convenient spot to boondock away from others a fair distance like all good boondockers should do.Its of course a little more busy now compared to last November when I had the place practically to myself.Here I will rest a few days before taking the next leg of my journey back to Yuma.I seemed to have developed another small problem,this time with the fridge not being as cold as it should be for the past few days…..I guess its always something with an 11 year old trailer,but nevertheless,I was a happy puppy when I dragged her back across the border,because for awhile there back in Chiapas,I had thoughts that I may have to abandon her.

So ends a very interesting Mexico trip,unlike any other Mexico trip in the past,full of happy times and sad frustrating times,meeting many new friends who I hope to see again.

I think back to all the trials and tribulations like being attacked by sugar ants,killer bees and having a possum take up residence under my hood,and I didn’t even show you the the flying ant crises in Chiapas as bigger problems had already raised their ugly heads with the broken axles…..Will I go back to Mexico again?……………DAMN RIGHT! Already planning.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Couple Of Day’s Rest And Ready To Roll At Dawn.


Above is an overview of Punta San Miguel RV Park taken from the roof of one of the beachside buildings

3 nights and 2 full days mixed with some nice afternoon naps has got me feeling ready to make today’s run for the US border at Sonoyta/Lukeville.One overnight in a Pemex should do it.The last time I made this run 2 years ago,I did it in a day and a half,but I don't need to push it that much this time.

My plan in the last entry, to go shopping for much needed groceries on Sunday morning,turned out to be a bit of a disappointment because for some reason the supermarket in La Cruz,12 miles away was a zoo of people,maybe Sunday morning of Valentines day was something special, but I couldn’t even get into the parking lot.Then I couldn’t get a shopping cart,they were all in use and when I would follow someone out to their car to get their cart,someone would be waiting ahead of me.So I gave up,bought some beautiful fresh strawberries from a vendor in the parking lot,and came back.The next day(yesterday)was back to normal and I got what I needed.


Here’s a shot taken the other way,looking toward the beach.The RV sites are behind me and to the left.

Its been muggy and warm these past couple of days with not much overnight cool down,so my little “Buddy Heater” that I was using in the high country,is getting a rest, and I’m sleeping with all windows wide open,listening to the crashing of the waves.


This is the main gazebo where social events take place,with a bar in the building behind.


This park is under new ownership this year and is really only 2 years old.The new owners have dropped the price to compete with the other 3 parks in this area.So at 150 pesos(less than $15.)plus electric,( 3 pesos per kilowatt hr)its a good deal with full hookups.


The owners have also hired a really nice young Mexican fellow who has lived in the US for several years and seems more American than Mexican when you talk with him.He’s always available and ready to interact and help with anything.His name is Roberto.And also,Manuel the caretaker is a friendly person who tries to speak Spanish slowly to you for better understanding.Get out of the way when he starts singing though.


Its been nice catching up with old friends Barb and Jake and meeting their travelling companions Larry and Yvonne.I hadn’t seen Barb and Jake since Yuma in November when I helped them find and set up with a satellite internet system.

So we all will be leaving this morning.I will head out ahead of the rest of them,cuz I’m a “Ride at Dawn”kind of guy,early start,then time for a nap or two along the way.I wont be setting up internet for a few days as I travel,so the next post will probably be from the 14 day BLM at Why Arizona,my favorite boondocking spot.

Finally a shot of an unusual cloud formation,made pink by the setting sun.Looks like a big old thundercloud getting ready to gather some moisture.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celestino Gasca…Punta San Miguel RV Park.

Yesterday was one of those grueling,driving days,almost 500 miles and 12 hours behind the wheel,with a few naps thrown in,but closer to home and in more familiar territory.Out of the high altitudes and on the beach again.I only stopped twice to take pictures and at the same time check on the new suspension modification and the heating problem I had with the brakes since Oaxaca.


Its a couple of thousand feet that you drop down soon after leaving the high valley around Mazamitla and Hacienda Contreras RV Park.Above is a stop I made just as the sun was rising against the western hills above Lake Chapala.You can see Mexico’s largest lake below.


I want to go back and carry on with my little axle saga since my last post a few days ago when I was about to do the road test,then maybe we can put all this finally to rest.

Jon,(I think that's the Dutch spelling)another camper,and I went out on the test first thing,he had a cell phone so we could call back to Sal if necessary,but all seemed ok and really felt good,some brake warmth on one only.We took a bit of a pot-holey road,(not hard to find)and no buckling of the spacer channel,which was bothering me as the actual thickness grade of the material was not in the plan I had,only a photo that I showed on this blog earlier.

Now back at camp and figuring,finally my troubles are over and I can get back to a normal routine.I decided that a day of rest was in order before hitting the road the next day.But first I wanted to crawl under(I can do that now)and secure some of the brake wiring that was hanging down…….Then I saw It……..Oh No!..At first I thought a bolt had sheared off at the head.This was one of the main ones that bolt the modification to the trailer frame.

A closer inspection found that somehow in all my assembling,I had missed putting the bolt through all three layers of plate and the head was buried behind one piece instead of passing through it……Well this meant disassembling the whole thing,at least on one side,if I could drop the axle a bit without disturbing the other side.Well 5 hours later and staggering around in the heat of the day,I had it done….So much for my day of rest. Jon’s wife came around with a big pot of home made soup which hit the spot, as I was too tired to fix anything myself and had already missed lunch,losing all track of time.

A fairly decent nights sleep and the crack of dawn had me out the gate and on the road yesterday with a long haul ahead of me.I managed to hit the first tope unknowingly,what a great start to my journey,oh well a test I guess,then an hour later I almost hit another at a good rate of speed,but a lot of blue smoke from a locked up brake saved that one…..Soon onto the Quota highways and away from tope-ville for the rest of the trip.

Looking down at the town of Tuxcueca on the shore of Lake Chapala.Imagine living here with 12 months of springtime climate.


And the road going down.Mexico really puts lots of warning signage into their dangerous curves.


The 12 hour trip was uneventful and a nice warm, mostly sunny day,getting up to 84 before dropping again as I headed north.It seemed that a toll booth was almost every half hour or less,so you just shell out the money until its all gone.At least its a fast,Tope free road.On the back(free) roads it would probably take 3 days to make the same trip.(When I get back to the US,I’ll have paid a total of more than $ tolls this winter.)Thank goodness the gas is cheaper here.

Coming through the east side of Mazatlan I realized just how scruffy some of these west coast cities are after the clean progressive cities and towns of the interior of the country.And dusty streets,…..I had forgotten about that this past 2 months.

I arrived at Punta San Miguel RV,an hour north of Mazatlan, just as it was getting dark.I did gain an extra hour with the time zone change.I chose this park instead of Celestino RV,next door because friends are here,and besides I had already spent a week last November at Celestino RV,so a change of scene was in order.Now maybe my problems are over and I can enjoy a few days rest before hitting the road toward the US border,800 miles away.

The first thing is, I need some groceries.My fridge is almost bare,except for a few stray Corona’s.


Friday, February 12, 2010

To Get The Job Done Right And On Time….You Do It Yourself.

Well, the lift kit has been manufactured and installed and will be road tested this morning.After waiting for the metal fabricator to get back to us,(he didn’t have the materials in stock and was waiting).Sal the Park owner here at Hacienda Contreras suggested that we drive over to the city of Sahuayo about 45 minutes away,and go to the metal wholesaler,get the material and do the job ourselves.I love this man’s enthusiasm and encouragement,it sure bolstered me.


Sal’s shop here at the RV park,is a mixture of workshop,storage on one side and lounging area and kitchen on the other side.So Barb his wife and he are jockeying for control of the neutral ground.

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So with all the materials purchased on Tuesday afternoon,an early start was in order first thing Wednesday.Actually Sal had more large metal working power tools than did the fabricator up the road.He has several large metal cutting tools but the pieces we worked with were of a shape and size that found me learning how to use and enjoying a small hand held cutting disk.

I did most of the cutting and Sal the marking and drilling and by Thursday morning we had the pieces ready for painting.


So there are the pieces of the kit.The only plan I had going in was to go on line to the R-Vision Owners Club(R-Vision the company that makes Trail-lite)and to the discussion forum and search for any lift kit info.

Luckily someone had bought a factory lift kit and showed what it looked like and how to install it.So with that,I downloaded the photo’s,printed them out and used that as a guide for constructing my own kit.

While we were doing the construction in Sal’s shop,he had also requested that a local auto body man come and look at the damaged wheel well.He was out almost immediately,looked and did the repair right away,with the help of his wife they had a fiberglass repair done in no time.


They did a good job,but did miss a small part which I didn't discover until yesterday when we were installing the lift kit.He sent the materials out with Sal and I did it myself,then promptly a few minutes later,while fighting to get a bolt in on the kit,raised my head into the still wet fiberglass.Yes when I go to the barber when I get home,I’ll get a hair/fiberglass cut.

Well…As I like to say….Done like dinner…..Again…..Baby’s got a new pair of high heeled shoes.


Sal’s a great guy and a hard worker and was my rock through all of this and I hope was justly rewarded for his fine efforts .


So now its a mutual admiration society.


Barb (Sal’s wife)took the photo’s but didn’t want to get into the pictures.

So there you have it,2 full days of knuckle busting work and one day of gathering materials and the job is done….BUT….The road test is this morning,so Willy the worrier isn’t totally convinced until that’s over.I guess its the gauge strength of the materials that is the question mark,but modifications can easily be done if necessary.

In closing I want to say for any RV travelers who may be heading from either coast toward Guadalajara,San Miguel,Patzquaro ,you should make a stop here at Hacienda Contreras RV and enjoy this delightful place,with its equally delightful owners,you wont regret it.

This will always be a 2nd home to me in Mexico and I will continue to return,hopefully not with a lot of problems next time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things Are Looking Up….A Continuing Saga

Yesterday morning I got busy first thing jacking and blocking up the whole trailer with anything I could find.Sal(the owner)came around soon after starting and helped me find blocks and a larger jack.Even a couple of old rims worked out good.


I showed Sal the photo’s I copied off the net of the OEM lift kit that Trail-Lite has available,which is a ready made, no welding required,out of the box,bolt on installation.So I figured duplicating this should be quite easy.I could see Sal was taking quite an interest,being a mechanic when he lived in Illinois.I felt this was a good sign because when the time came to explain to the metal fabricator,he should have a full understanding of what is required.

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You can see in the LH photo,if those swing arms had been manufactured with the arm slightly down rather than slightly up,I wouldn't have to be doing this now.There were 3 positional choices when ordering,I chose the wrong one,as well so did the Spring and Axle guy in McAllen.

On the RH,Sal and I dropped the axle’s to the ground ready for the fabricator to come and be shown what was required.He was busy but Sal brought him around about mid afternoon after he finished his last project.The two of them went into a long descriptive discussion on what was required for at least 45 minutes.Finally all was satisfactory and he said that he would return with the preliminary pieces at 10am today,this way he can check for fit as he constructs the 2 main parts for each side.This is great and his shop is in sight of this park.

Sal told me that this guy built him a metal spiral staircase,so this should be a snap.Also he told me of a fiberglass worker he knows, that is not expensive and does good work,so this might be a good time to get the wheel well repaired.


Above is a photo taken on Sunday soon after arriving,and that camper and jeep in the background belongs to Mike and Terri Church, the authors of several RV Travel books,and regular visitors to the big Snowbird RV Show in Abbotsford BC each fall.I sat in on one of their talks just before leaving to go south.I wanted to get their new 4th edition of “Travelers Guide To Mexican Camping.”I don't think there is hardly any RV’er who travels Mexico,that doesn’t have one of their books.Everyone calls it the Mexican RV travel bible.I know that it guided me to many of the places that I travelled this winter and the fact that they have the GPS co-ordinances for every campground in Mexico, made it a snap to especially find the campgrounds in busy cities,like the last one in Oaxaca.

They also have camping books covering Europe,Alaska and many different US areas,they are based in Seattle and have a great website called


I had just arrived early Sunday afternoon and was setting up my satellite dish when Terri came over to say hi and to tell me that they are regular readers of my blog and she also told me of some of the side trips she read about on my blog that they tried.Actually many of my side trips were originally from their book,I guess I just expanded the info a little more.

Marlene and I last met them 9 years ago in Alamo Sonora when we were carrying their 1st edition and I pointed out a needed change in the map of Teacapan and gave them a bit of an update on the campgrounds in that area.Mike took it all down and the following year their 2nd edition came out with the changes and included our names in the credits.

All in all I find it a bit humbling that these well travelled folks are actually following my blog.It really is a thrill for me.I’ll have to asked them where they found it.

Last but not least,thank you again for all the nice comments,and encouragement in the comments section.To answer Croft’s question,no I don't think overloading was a factor as I have always been very careful in that regard,(actually I’m a fussy old fart) and try to let the truck carry most of the heavier stuff as the trailer is an ultra light weight.It was just a couple of real bad TOPE’s that I didn't see,that lead up to the final failure.9 years of Mexico travel plus this past summer with an over 800 mile round trip of punishment on the Dempster Highway to Inuvik NWT and back…..Well I guess something has to finally give:)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Willy Update…My Axle Problems Continue.

I left Oaxaca early Saturday morning,about 6:45,to avoid any traffic rush.This was actually the first road test of the new axles.I could feel a little slow releasing brake drag as I pulled away from each traffic light,but was soon climbing out of the city and on to the Toll highway.

Just before the first toll booth,about 20 minutes out,I stopped to check everything.First I could smell something hot and found the 2 rear brakes were hot.You couldn’t keep your hand on the drum,so figuring something was amiss with the wiring we did,I cut the wires feeding the rear temporarily,a further test found them cool,so it wasn’t an adjustment,I think.

When we installed the new axles,we noticed that the wheel well clearance was less than before,(top of tire to highest point in wheel well)but figured it would be ok because there was only about an inch of clearance before and there was never a problem.Calvin and I discussed manufacturing a lift kit for better clearance,but I decided to take a chance that it would be ok,not realizing that the spring bars when I hook up would add some pressure to the trailer axles,possibly even lessening the clearance.And what about full holding tanks and the weight of that?Which I didn't have at present.

Just before Puebla I checked again and found that any pothole or rough spot in the road was causing the wheels to bump the wheel well lining and was showing a crack and some rub marks.Regular road movement was ok as there was about 1/2 inch clearance. (NOTE:There is nothing wrong with the new axles,we had 3 choices of starting angle of the swing arm when ordering them,and really, we picked the wrong one).

Here is what is happening,below

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I continued along doing a frequent check and finding that I’m fine if I stay out of the potholes and in Mexico that is very difficult.

I stopped for the night in the same Pemex as the trip over just before New Years.Over 8000ft and boy did it get cold when the sun went down.This is just north of Atlacomulco about 6 Km’s for those of you familiar with the area.Quite a difference from Oaxaca at 5000ft where it stayed in the 60’s overnight.

Just after noon yesterday,(Superbowl Sunday),I arrived back at Hacienda Contreras,south of Guadalajara,where I spent Christmas.Welcomed back by Barb and Sal the owners,who have been following my blog and knew of my problems.


I thought if I’m going to have to add a lift kit to this axle setup,I need a place with room to work and also to have the advantage of “hopefully”Sal’s help.Being Mexican/American,having Sal as an interpreter with the metal fabricator,if we can find a good one,will be important.

There is an OEM lift kit available and I downloaded the info and found it was very close to what Calvin and I had discussed,so all I need now is time and a fabricator that will come here and listen to exactly what I want,and maybe he will even have a better idea.All of this I will find out today.I also have to sort out my braking problem at the same time,so I will probably be here for awhile getting all of this done squeezing  my return home time even more.I could try travelling home under present conditions,but it would be white knuckle worry the whole way.

For any technical minds out there that may be interested,here is what the lift kit looks like installed.That C channel is bolted on to the original mounting point.So I need to have channels and backing plates made like this,then its all bolt on work….This winter trip has I believe,become the trip from hell.

lift kit 2

Friday, February 5, 2010

Done Like Dinner.


Calvin says,”we need a bigger hammer.”   Back on all fours again and it feels good.

It took about 4 hours to swap out the axles,most of the time was spent jacking and blocking from several different positions so that we had room to work.Everything was a perfect fit.

I spent a bit of time in the morning prior to Calvin’s arrival from another project,to repair temporarily the badly damaged wheel well.So all was done by mid afternoon and the first Corona was cracked in celebration.

One little surprise….When we dropped the rear axle and had a look at it,we found it also was badly cracked and ready to give out.I’m sure glad I didn’t know that when I was limping up that windy mountain road to get here a couple of weeks back.I’m also glad that I ordered two axles,or I think yesterday I would have committed Hara kiri after finding that.

So now time is running out for me.I’ve just 4 weeks to get home and 4000 miles to travel which means if I travel every 2nd day,it will use up all the time.Usually I like to travel 2 days and rest one.I also would like to take a weeks rest at the half way point which would be about Yuma.With the fact that the past couple of weeks has taken its toll on the stress levels and the pocketbook,I think its time to go home.Actually 2 weeks ago when all this trouble began,I was into my 1st day of the return trip,because Puerto Arista was my furthest point out,and only a couple of hours from Guatemala.And right now I’m only a days drive from that turn around point.

I have also decided to scrap my original plan of taking a different and new route back to the U.S. and go with what’s familiar to me,which means going back the way I came,the west coast route.This also means stops at all the places that I have already visited,which also means not too much new to blog about for this trip.

Due to the fact that I have had some really scary close calls driving over these past couple of weeks,especially in Texas where I found the RGV around McAllen very confusing with the expressway dividing a bunch of one way roads,where one time I found myself going the wrong way and facing down 3 lanes of on coming traffic.I also found myself having to use my GPS just to go shopping then returning to the motel because I would get lost every time in the confusing maze of oddly angled streets.

So I'm not going to press my luck,and being the natural worrier that I am,wondering what other break downs are in store for me. All in all I would, after 3 months in Mexico,at this time,like to be a little closer to home to be in my comfort zone.

So my blog posts probably wont be every day from here on in unless there is something of interest.Possibly short picture less updates or something like that.

just to answer the question in the comments section of the last post,trying to get those axles back into Canada without paying duty,is something that I wont attempt after last years little seizure with the tires that I thought looked old enough after 4 months of desert travel.How do these customs people figure these things out?…..THEY HAVE WAYS.

Welcome to the new readers that have joined in this past couple of weeks,you guys sneak up on me sometimes and I don't notice the new additions.Some very nice blogs too.

Thanks also for all the nice comments and encouragement through these past 2 weeks.And to Calvin in the picture above,I’m sure glad you live in this park and are a great mechanic,because without you,(a Canadian Expat)I would have had some real big problems getting this job done on the trailer by myself.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Back In Oaxaca After Another All Day And Night Run.

I got the phone call that I was waiting for about mid afternoon on Monday,Feb.1st.when James the boss man at Camco Wheel and Axle,said those magic words…”Your axles are in.”

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The 2nd shot is what all the trouble was about as that is a shot of them laying on the ground here,waiting for today’s installation.

They changed the drums and brakes over from the damaged one that I brought north and I was loaded and ready to roll first thing Tuesday morning.I Had a bit of a sleepless night in anticipation and worrying whether I would have to pay duty to get them back into Mexico,even though it was just a temporary importation.

I was rolling in the 5:45 AM darkness on 281 from Pharr Texas,a different route than the one I took coming in,quieter and more isolated,in the outskirts of Reynosa.It was confusing trying to figure out exactly where to go in the darkness,upon reaching the customs section on the Mexican side,as there were several lanes of travel.So I backed off and waited for a car behind me to pass and quickly fell in behind him and followed and did what he did as we passed through a series of gates,not seeing a soul.

Wow! no customs check,all that worry for nothing….NOT!…Again the early morning rush in the city of 3/4 of a million, with everyone jockeying for position in the narrow lanes.One accident made things worse with the traffic.Finally out with no other cities to contend with that are difficult to traverse until Oaxaca…Then the “free zone customs” loomed in the darkness,21 K’s out, and my heart sunk as I realized that this is probably where they are going to ding me the tax.The first thing the nice young agent did was want to look in the back of course and even with me trying to distract,mentioning that this was all stuff related to my winter travel with my trailer,he quickly spotted the axles and the discussion was on.

He understood exactly that I was bringing them in just to make a repair then leave the country,but that doesn't matter because I’m still importing goods and who knows what I may really be doing with them.He was really nice through all my arguing,and I realized,just pay up and get on the road,this is futile.The cost was just under $150 US.

I guess what really hurts is that I will have to go through this again to bring them into Canada.And after what happened last year when I tried to come in with 8 new tires on both the van and trailer,and got caught….I don't want to go through that again.

A shot below back in the Oaxaca Trailer Park.


To carry on, the whole drive on Tuesday was a combination of fog,drizzle,heavy rain,a big thunder and lightning storm,(was napping for that one) and temperatures never getting above 50 degrees,and mostly mid 40’s.

I took four 1 hour naps over the 26 hours of driving,stopped again at my favorite little travel plaza at the toll booth of the San Luis Potosi bypass.I bought a pizza this time.I’m afraid this little 2 week side trip has put my normally well balanced diet into the toilet…..Well you know what I mean with that little play on words.

I arrived back in Oaxaca(and finally a warm climate) just about 7:30 am and into what I would say is the most difficult city that I have ever encountered,for driving, in all of Mexico.Despite the heavy rush hour,the highway through the north end has a strange set-up where you alternate the traffic flow back and forth,from side to side,sometimes the traffic going the other way is on your left then you crisscross at these weird intersections then the other flow is on your right.When I leave this place pulling the trailer……I’m leaving real early.


This park is no beauty but it does have an unexplainable appeal and I find it to be very friendly.One of the reasons are Calvin and Leanne,2 expats from BC who have been living here for 2 years now in their converted bus. Calvin really came to my rescue when I arrived with my axle problem.He said he could smell me before he saw me as the odor of burning rubber permeated the campground.

The campground is right in the cities north end and makes all shopping an easy walk.This city is a real cultural experience and everyone who visits,goes away with fond memories of their experiences in this place.So I’m looking forward to taking some time after all the axle business is over.

This campground used to be much larger but they built this office tower(below) on the property.That's the nose of my truck sticking out on the right.


So now with Calvin’s expertise,we hope to get the installation started today and hope no other unexpected surprises will come along during the process.First we will remove the other axle and I need to repair at least temporarily,a badly damaged wheel well insert,where a hole has appeared inside at floor level below my fridge.


One final comment from my last post.Several people came forward with help on identifying some of the birds, and regarding the thrasher,Judy and Emma according to my “Birds of Mexico” book were correct,it was the Long billed Thrasher,so similar to the Brown Thrasher that I needed the books explanation to see the difference,mainly being grayer cheeks and blackish (not brown) breast strips.Thank you all.

I finally have my side bar weather and travel map updated.It was impossible to do the map using the laptop pad.I really missed my mouse.         MY LOCATION