The view from my Godfather's place near Tehachapi, California

A Breakdown and a Pause Before Mexico

Since Christmas we’ve been through a dozen different landscapes, wild camped under the most brilliant starry skies, and had another mechanical breakdown.

On the way from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, in a very empty part of Nevada, Hanna started really laboring up hills, to the point where she conked out.  Luckily we just made it to a petrol station before the engine stopped.  The guy there said there was a diesel mechanic 3 miles up the road.  Before getting a tow we tried Hanna to see if she’d start.  She did and so we limped the 3 miles to the diesel mechanic and arrived just as he was shutting up shop for the evening.

We stayed overnight in the car park of the garage, ready for the mechanic first thing the next morning.  He was a lovely guy (normally they only work on trucks but the boss was away and he took pity on us).  It turned out there was air in the fuel lines.  We had a spare fuel filter, so he replaced that in the hopes that it was the problem.  Hanna started up perfectly, and so we set off once more.

It was all going well til we hit the hills before Flagstaff, where Hanna started labouring once more.  We parked up in the Flagstaff Mall parking lot and Mark set to, checking everything he could to do with the fuel system.  After about 3 hours out in the freezing cold he found a wet flexible hose which he tightened up.  Hanna started up once more, although Mark wasn’t convinced that he’d found the actual problem.  I was fed up with the cold and just wanted to get to the warmth.  I persuaded Mark to let us drive the 2 hours to Phoenix so we could see a mechanic there instead.  Safe to say, we made it half an hour down the road before Hanna gave up completely.  So, towed back to Flagstaff and another garage car park we were (after spending another freezing hour in the dark, with the towing guys loading Hanna up – they had to disconnect the drive shaft because she’s a rear wheel drive).

Hanna getting a lift, near Flagstaff, Arizona
Hanna getting a lift, near Flagstaff, Arizona

Andy at High Mountain Diesel was fantastic.  He went through the entire fuel system, replacing all the flexible hoses, until he found the problem – 22 years of gunk blocking the intake filter on the sender unit in the diesel tank.  Luckily for us Andy is a proper mechanic – find and repair, rather than find and replace – so, after a day and a half in Flagstaff, he got us back on the road on New Years Eve.  The one big ‘ouch’ was that we forgot to ask him his hourly rate, which turned out to be $130 plus tax!

As you can probably imagine, our savings have been dwindling faster than we hoped due to Hanna’s various mechanical issues. Luckily I rediscovered a brilliant website that I came across, back when I was researching in England all those months ago. It shows free camping places throughout Canada, USA and some of Mexico. I wish I’d remembered it earlier!  It’s saved us loads on camping fees this last month, and given us the confidence to start camping in more unusual and wild places.

We’re now staying near Tehachapi, north east of Los Angeles, seeing Mike and Lizzie (my Godfather and his wife), who I hadn’t seen since I was 4.  We’re also awaiting parts for our longer term mechanical issues (namely: a tendency to overheat and a speed wobble).  We want to get sorted before we head south into Mexico’s warmer weather and bad roads next week.

Mike and Lizzie’s place is utterly beautiful.  It has the most phenomenal view, with elk and deer that roam up to the house, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, brilliant blue jays and an abundance of little birds that flock to their feeders every day.  It’s been such a luxury to sit by the wood burner, looking out at all this and then watching films in the evening on a full size TV 🙂  It’s been intermittently clear and sunny, snowy, foggy and generally pretty cold but I’m pretty sure this will be the last time we hit weather like this for the next year (I can’t quite believe we’re going to be warm for that long – bring it on!!)

Another view from my Godfather's place near Tehachapi, California
Another view from my Godfather’s place near Tehachapi, California

Now we’re getting ourselves ready for Mexico – sorting out insurance and adding a bit of extra security to Hanna, genning up on the border crossing procedures etc.  Our final planned stop in America is a visit our friends in LA, before hopefully meeting up with our Hymer friends Jurgen and Clemencia so we can head into Mexico together.

We love to hear from you so please leave a comment if you feeling like saying hi 🙂

23 Responses

  1. Dad
    | Reply

    Poor old Hanna, I empathise with her completely. Still, new hips and new hoses – that’s got to make things better.
    love to mike and Lizzie
    xx

    • Saskia
      | Reply

      Hi Dad. Her working parts will be pretty much all hauled over by the end of this lot of work! Will pass on your message to Mike and Lizzie. Lots of love to you both from us both xx

    • Saskia
      | Reply

      P.s. Mike sends his love too and says come over and he’ll take you out to shoot Ritz Crackers!! xx

  2. M
    | Reply

    Hope Hannah behaves on her way to Mexico. So good to see you looking well and happy at Mike and Lizzie’s. It must wonderful to be with them and get some home lovin’. Here it is now getting verrrry cold for the first time. Thanks gor the most beautiful photos. Are they taken with your new camera, Sas? it really makes me want to visit where you’ve been. Heaps of love. Xxxx

    • Saskia
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      Hi Ma. yes, the photos are taken with my new camera 🙂 I’m loving it, although still very much learning how to use it. Glad you’re getting a feel for where we are! xx

  3. Michael renovich.
    | Reply

    You are living the dream. You may not know it now but you are. You’ll be telling these stories till you die! And you will die but the stories will live on through those loved ones who read these accounts, who if they dare will be inspired to follow (follow in your footprints or tire tracks- hopefully). Mexico will be a whole nother level so best get Hannah in top shape. Godspeed.

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi Michael – Living the dream! Indeed … some days it’s even the dream we set out with 🙂 It’s all good and thank you for reminding us – lest we forget, which sometimes we do 🙂 Mexico, Hanna and the other level … it’s all coming and coming soon. We are looking forward to it but obviously with a little trepidation. Hope the roof is going well and that those cold biting winds upon the roof aren’t too needle sharp. x x x

  4. Crofty
    | Reply

    Noooo! Gunky fuel lines! Godammit. I know what a massive ball ache that can be. Had HUGE problems with the lotus – still not totally resolved – with shit in the carbs. I’m looking at renewing the fuel tank cos we’re thinking the contamination is coming from corrosion in there – hope your problems are solved without that kinda nonsense

    Love the picture of the big truck picking up Hannah – was the guy a good guy? Or a chiselling redneck? Hope it was the former.

    May your lines be clean, your roads smooth and your campsites awesome xxx

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi David – thanks for the comment. Thankfully with the Merc system there are 3 filters between the fuel and the engine so we hope that there is no more to come from that system (Hanna gets renovated – 1 system at a time – by the time we get back it all should new!). So the air was being pulled in through every hose clip, join and seam that the lift pump could pull it from – with the whole sender unit being cleaned and re-fitted hopefully the system has settled down again and the mechanic really did take apart every pipe join and clip then replace or re-seat the lot. He also removed the tank and hoovered it out with a vacuum pump then re-fitted it, as Sas said “a find and repair mechanic” we were lucky to find him I reckon.
      The tow truck guys were great – it got down to minus 5C on the side of the road (and later that night minus 15C) and they were under Hanna laying on the ground undoing the drive shaft with gloveless hands … brrrr … they were very worldly aware and not local yokel at all luckily for us and they enjoyed driving us back in the articulated lorry tow truck as if they had a gnat attached to the back – we actually went faster on the tow truck than Hanna can drive!!
      We aim for clean, smooth and awesome everyday … quite often getting raspy, so so and a little bit dirty … but one does try 🙂 Take it steady young man x x x

  5. Peter
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    Hi guys. Really sorry to hear you’ve had MORE problems and more bills. Still, it’s all part of the adventure as they say, and it’s surely easier to get all the issues sorted out this side of Mexico and beyond.
    That Free campsites site looks like a great resource – will save it, hoping that we too will someday make it to the Americas.
    Best wishes. Looking forward to more stories of your Adventures.
    Peter and Elaine

    • Saskia
      | Reply

      Hi Peter and Elaine. Thanks for your lovely comment. It sure is part of the adventure! And one we didn’t really think about in advance, although with a 23 year old vehicle it’s obvious there would be a breakdown or two along the way. Hindsight is a wonderful thing 🙂

      I’m glad the free campsites website looks helpful. We’re going to write a post specifically about our take on the best ways to camp in America. There are so many places that are free or super cheap to camp but they usually don’t have any facilities so you have to be self-contained and know where to empty/refill your tanks etc.

      Keep in touch 🙂

  6. Scott LJ
    | Reply

    great to get the full lowdown after the brief but oh so welcome chat with Mark at NY eve. Turned out my flu was a full blown chest infection so that was the last nice thing to happen before being bed ridden and thoroughly broken for the next week. Glad Hannah is rolling again despite the fiscal hit, keep the updates coming, they are helping me survive the bleak midwinter! xxx

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi Scott – Thanks for the comments and that all this might actually be helping someone back home cope with the vagaries of the Uk dark season (not sure if I should call it winter by all accounts). It was brief wasnt it – the call on NYE – but it was lovely to hear your voice. I hope the lurgy has left the building completely by now and that the LJ household is firing on all cylinders in preparation for the return to the light-side in not so many weeks now. Love to the girls, all 3, stay tuned for more as soon as we have written it x x x

  7. Jürgen Weigmann
    | Reply

    Hi Saskia, hi Mark, we are glad you got Hanna back on the road and made it safely to the LA area. Your post was impressive and we admire the way how you are dealing with all these challenges. Hopefully you will have less problems with Hanna’s health now,
    The place where you are right now looks beautiful. We have also reached LA and are preparing for our trip to Mexico and central America. Today we had two cracks in our windshield repaired. They charged us $ 140,00 for something, which you can get for free in Europe. – O.k., we had no other chance and accepted the price.
    There are still some more things we have to get done, before we can leave LA. We think, we will be ready for the trip to Central America in about a week and would very much like to do that together with you. So let us try to speak on the phone and meet you some time before or at the weekend.

    Big hugs to both of you

    Jürgen and Clemencia

    • Saskia
      | Reply

      Hi you lovely two 🙂 Sorry to hear about your windshield – we have worried about damaging ours and what we would do if it broke! I’m glad you managed to get it fixed at least. It looks like our timing to go to Mexico could be perfect – fingers crossed because we would love to go with you too! We have no cell reception where we are now but will call when we come down from the mountain. Big hugs from us both xx

  8. Justine
    | Reply

    So hopefully that was the core of the problem sorted before you hit Mexico! Too many adventures of the mechanical nature. Hope you can relax and trust in Hannah the Vana! Now you can enjoy some fabulous adventures heading south for the sunshine…..X X X love you. MISS YOU!! X X X XXXX

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi Justine – We are checking comments and realised that we missed some along the way – really sorry lovely lady.
      After that beakdown we have done more mechanical stuff but in a more planned and ordered fashion.
      So we finally replaced all the rest of the parts in the cooling system (to go with the other parts of the cooling system that we already replaced) in Tehachapi. Tick.
      Now we have started to drive on Mexican roads the steering box has decided to lay down and rest a lot … secondhand one tracked down in Manchester just organising to have it sent ahead of us for collection in Guadalajara.
      We are actually really loving Hanna a lot – the steering box issue is not fatal and she is so much more ‘fixed’ than ever before she is a dream to drive.
      I know you and Sas have spoken recently so enough of the catching up … we miss you and send you lots of love – love to all of your boys too, Mark and Sas x x x

  9. charters
    | Reply

    Hi Repair what you can in US- labor expensive. South of the border experience- tools and parts. are very limited but- labor inexpensive. We -Jennifer & Charters have traveled south from Canada and are now in Costa Rica .I Overlander is the best overall site for your kind of traveling .Contact for advise if needed. Will reply when we have wifi

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi Charters – thanks for your comment. We are sorry that it has taken us a while to respond – lack of wi-fi can be a real pain sometimes.
      We are now on to the latest mechanical quest but this time we are aead of the game, so we have tracked down a secondhand steering box in the Uk and are having it shipped to Guadalajara ahead of where we are now. so we get the local labour rates and the UK parts – best of both worlds. Now we have had the temperature issues fixed in the USA we are ready for more 🙂
      We regularly check I overlander – thats a great site isn’t it?
      Please do stay in touch we will be in Costa Rica in May and we wish you and Jennifer safe and fun travels.
      Saski and Mark x

  10. Gin
    | Reply

    Hi guys what a beautiful photo from your Godparents place. Good luck with your next phase and sunnier times ahead Mexico yippee it was almost 20years ago when I was there blimey I guess I’m getting old or older! Much love to you both miss you love Gin X

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi Gin – Today is a day for a bit of catching up and responding to comments from our lovely friends. So sorry that we didnt reply to you when you left your message. The time spent in Tehachapi on the mountain with Sas’s godfather was a very special time and I have some photos to add from then too. We are now in Mulege, Baha California Sur, Mexico and tomorrow heading for a semi deserted beach called Coyote, It is much warmer and sunnier now than in Tehachapi (from 5 degrees to 25 degrees).
      20 years ago in Mexico? where were you back then? I visited Puerta Vallarta in 2001, loving the people the food and the attitude to life here.
      Love to Mark and the kids from us both
      Lots of love Mark and Sas x x x

  11. Vannie
    | Reply

    hi 🙂 x

    • Mark
      | Reply

      Hi Vannie – Somehow we managed to miss quite a few comments (we want to reply to everyone’s) and we have to admit we missed a few. So Hi! and welcome to the blog – it’s lovely to hear from you – loving the updates on FB – Otis and his first baking session – great. Love to you both Mark and Sas x x x

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