At the end of 2011 we quit our jobs and set off in our 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon, "Nacho". Our plan? To circumnavigate the globe, slowly, while discovering culture, food, recreation, and emergency roadside Volkswagen maintenance. We are Brad and Sheena. Just wingin' it.
Last night, as I stood outside of Nacho changing my shirt, it dawned on me: we’re homeless.
We set off from Cave Creek yesterday on the first real day of our trip with the goal of getting to Puerto Penasco, Mexico. An hour after leaving the plan was adjusted, and we decided to see a group of my childhood friends in Tucson for dinner. No problem, we can still be rugged overlanders in Tucson, we’d just camp in Nacho in my friend Shannon’s driveway. Extreme. As it turns out, our great around the world Vanagon road trip is turning out to be full of unexpected twists; Sheena and I woke up this morning on an air mattress on Shannon’s floor, and then Shannon made us breakfast and coffee. After that I tweaked my back while writing on the computer, which prompted our friend Leah, a massage therapist, to give both of us massages. We are so rugged.
I had envisioned our departure this way: We would wake up from a long night of peaceful sleep, say goodbye to Sheena’s family, and roll out of town. In reality, the days leading up to our departure were a frantic scramble. The morning of the departure was a sleep deprived sprint. We woke up at 6:00 and finished two more projects and packed up Nacho. After a while the packing of the van became too much, so we just threw everything into boxes and set them on the floor. We can deal with this later.
We’re readily settling into a routine of relaxation and general laziness, as it’s 11:19 and we still haven’t left. No matter, we’ll be in Puerto Penasco by the evening. This also means that we’ll be leaving the easy internet access of the United States. We have an international mobile internet card, but we’ve never used it before, so there’s a possibility that it may take a couple of days to get it figured out. If the blog doesn’t update for a couple of days, it probably doesn’t mean we’ve been kidnapped. Give us a few days, then send in a rescue squad.
As we go, we’ll be updating our live map using a GPS tracker. This will help someone find and recover Nacho in the event that we manage to get ourselves thrown in the clink.
When I ride our Vespa, I look like an idiot. Vespas nowadays are of a size in relative proportion to a grown human’s body. In 1963, Vespas were made to fit the bodies of prepubescent Italian girls. The fact that I’m 6’3″ and male, and the fact that I have an ultra-feminine matching white helmet, make me look like an idiot. My love for our Vespa, Cicilia, makes me blind to the fact that I should be embarrassed to be seen in public on it. I love her, our sweet Cicilia. One day a couple of years ago I was riding herto work when, to my utter surprise, her rear wheel shot off for no apparent reason. I crashed, Ciciliagot scratched, and I scuffed up my stupid-looking ultra-feminine matching white helmet. I love Cicilia, but she breaks down just about every week. Love-hate relationships. Everybody has one.
Yesterday I held myself suspended upside-down in Nacho’s door frame for the better part of the afternoon as I guess-and-checked my way through the entire fuse panel in an ill-fated attempt to track down a short in our electrical system. The hunt for the short started when I decided to change Nacho’s battery. I bought one of those super expensive Optima batteries, hacked the posts off, and shoehorned it into the too-small battery compartment under the seat. I hooked up all of the wires and turned the key. Nothing. Fast forward two full days. Nacho still won’t start, no short found. Love-hate relationships. Some people have two.
Today I finally found the problem. Turns out that, despite all signs pointing to a short in the system, there was no short in the system. That $200 Optima battery turned out to be fried. I checked it a million times with a multimeter and always got over 12 volts, but the moment it was loaded it would drop to 2 volts. Not really Nacho’s fault, but I was still hating life. A quick battery swap, a few replaced wires, some soldering, and we had ignition. I also finished hooking up the battery separator, so now our starting battery will automatically jump itself to our house battery if it needs help starting. Someday we’ll look back on this project and say it was worth it.
It’s not all work and frustration around here this week. On New Year’s Eve we took to the mountain bikes one last time. We met up with a group of characters from Flat Tire Bike Shop in Cave Creek and headed out to the Black Canyon Trail. I’d never ridden out there before, but after having done so I’d say it’s some of the better desert riding I’ve done. Swoopy, fast, and rocky. Also apparently treacherous; Ernie blew a tire in a hard corner and wrecked, Breon toppled off of a ravine and was stopped by a palo verde tree stump to the back, and Heather suffered a leg would during the Breon rescue maneuver. Not to worry though, as secret agent Johnny Utah was along for the ride, and his squad of Blackhawk rescue copters were undoubtedly waiting to swoop in at the first sign of real danger.
Afterwards we rendezvoused in the parking lot for après ride beers and bratwurst. Saturday, 75 degrees, clear skies, friends, bikes, beer, and barbequed brats. It really doesn’t get much better than this.
As a Vanagon owner in the throes of a love-hate relationship, no perfect weekend would go unpunished. After adjusting and de-winterizing Nacho’s water sanitation system, I flipped the switch to the pumps. I heard the water rush from the tanks into the pumps, wind its way through the filter and light, and head back toward the sink. And then I heard the spray of water splashing behind the cabinets. Suddenly I remembered that one night this Fall when it froze before I had winterized the water system. I guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow. If everything goes well, and if Nacho serves up some love, we’ll be in Mexico on Tuesday.