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Date:         Fri, 21 Jul 1995 11:12:33 -0700 (PDT)
Sender:       Vanagon Mailing List <>
From:         "Tobin T. Copley" <>
Subject:      Finally!  Big Trip Report!

I'm thinking I'll do an installment of the trip report each=20 Friday. Hope you all enjoy!

NOTE: These reports my be a little long, so be forewarned!

The Big Trip A preface to the story

Finally I can do the trip report for the circum-continental=20 road trip Christa and I took in the first three months of=20 this year. Maybe I needed a couple of months to reflect on=20 our experiences, or perhaps I am just intrinsically lazy. =20 Let me provide a little background here.

Both Christa and I enjoy travelling immensely. Christa=20 never had many opportunities to travel when she was younger. =20 My father and I would jump in our =D476 Rabbit and drive from=20 Vancouver to Iowa and back to visit relative most summers. =20 My father is a geographer, and I shared his interests in the=20 environment around us--watching the landscape change as it=20 slid by, figuring distances to places we might visit or=20 stay, and just poring over the road atlas for hours. =20

I think it was on these trips that I first thought, "gee, it=20 would be neat to drive all the way around North America." =20 Too bad I was only 8 or 9 years old, because dad wouldn't=20 let me borrow the car.

Last year found me working in a job I hated, and Christa=20 feeling stagnated in her work. Both of us were stressed=20 out, and didn't know what to do with this "life" thing. =20 Last summer, Christa and I were driving near Grand Forks,=20 B.C. on the very mountainous Crow's Nest Highway when=20 Christa lost control of our little Korean econobox and sent=20 the two of us through the on-coming lane and off the=20 opposite embankment backwards and upside-down at about 100=20 km/h. The car rolled, hit and climbed a tree, acquired a=20 highly unusual shape, and landed right way up. Poor car. =20 Bye, bye car. We were both OK, and I walked away without a=20 scratch. =20

We were both impressed with how quickly life could end. =20 Epiphany! We needed a change, so...

We had been admiring VW buses for some time, so I joined the=20 vanagon list, bought a St. Muir book, and we started looking=20 for a westy to welcome into our family. Christa cashed some=20 of her savings and we bought a slightly neglected, but=20 basically sound mango-coloured 1976 westy for $3,000. We=20 set our departure date for January 1. Christa arranged a 3=20 month leave of absence from her work, while I waited until 6=20 weeks before we left, then walked into my boss's office and=20 gave my notice. I worked until 3 days before our departure,=20 then... free!


I won't go into mechanical details here, except to say I=20 sent most of my spare time the last two months before we=20 left going over the vehicle. Major items include:

1) Installation of an Eberspacher BN-4 auxilary gas heater. =20 I pulled one out of a junk yard in Chilliwack for $50.00. =20 I installed it with an electrical on/off switch wired to=20 the dashboard. It has no thermostat control.

2) I bondo'd up holes behind the front wheel wells which=20 were allowing water to soak the interior when driving on=20 wet roads.

3) Christa and I roamed junk yards and got stuff to repair=20 all the broken interior fittings. I replaced the sink=20 water pump and faucet. We bought a porta-potti, and I=20 built a box to contain it. I built another box that fit=20 between the two front seats, to hold stuff we might want=20 to access while driving. =20

4) We bought 6 gallon jerry cans for gasoline and water=20 (separate cans!), and a small (one gallon?) solar shower. =20

5) Christa and I replaced the padding in the front seats,=20 which were pretty trashed when we bought the van. We=20 spent a couple of nice evenings together removing the old=20 padding, taping the new foam into place, and putting the=20 upholstery back on. Very, very comfy seats when we were=20 through!=20

6) Of course, I did a tune-up and replacement of plugs,=20 points, distributor cap, rotor, all filters, and bled the=20 brakes. I also had new front shocks put on, replaced a=20 couple of CVs and CV joint boots, and replaced a=20 rusty/sticking throttle cable. =20

7) We needed new rear tires, but decided to let them ride=20 until California, where we figured they'd be cheaper. It=20 was only 1,000 miles to California, after all, and the=20 tires weren't all that bad.

TIP: You can fit three manuals (Idiot Guide, Bentley,=20 Haynes) plus other stuff beside the normal under-the-seat=20 storage area. There is a 5 or 6 inch gap between the body=20 of the car and the wooden side of the under-seat storage bin=20 (on the right side). Slip your manuals, etc into this gap=20 and they won't get torn/soiled/bent. =20

For creature comforts, we brought lots of cooking stuff=20 (Christa's a professionally trained cook) and stuff to eat=20 with. We bought a pair of those "itty-bitty book light"=20 things so we could read in bed, and so Christa could read=20 while I drove at night. We bought a couple of those re- usable sodium acetate heating pads for cold nights or for=20 injuries. For serious heating in cold climates, we brought=20 a small electric ceramic heater (110V) for plugging in at=20 camp sites with hook-ups. This heater could bring the=20 interior of the camper up to normal room temperature even=20 when it was 10 or 15 degrees below freezing.

We also brought a very nice Grundig Yacht Boy 400 Shortwave=20 receiver so we could stay in touch with what was going on=20 back home through Radio Canada International. We brought a=20 program guide for RCI as well. The radio was about the size=20 of a medium-sized hard-back book, so we were able to hide it=20 nearly anywhere it the camper.

Christa brought maybe 2 dozen books to read, so I built the=20 porta-potti box with enough shelf space to handle most of=20 these plus the reference books we took with us. I recommend=20 the following books to anyone travelling to Mexico:

- The people's guide to Mexico, by Carl Franz, John Muir=20 Publications (JMP). This is not a "what to see/do guide",=20 but a "how to live" book. Absolutely indispensible.

- The people's guide to RV camping in Mexico, by Carl Franz,=20 JMP. Very good, with specific recommendations for where to=20 stay from town to town, and with general how-to-survive=20 information as well. Has very little (no?) information on=20 the Gulf Coast north of Veracruz, but otherwise is=20 absolutely terrific.=20

- Mexico: The real guide, by John Fisher, pub. by Prentice=20 Hall. I don't normally like "guide" books, but this one is=20 for people who don't like "tourist" spots. I found I often=20 agreed with his assessments of many places, and he pointed=20 out things worth seeing, and things to stay away from even=20 though other people will encourage you to go. Good maps of=20 many towns as well. =20

- Where there is no doctor: a village health care handbook,=20 by David Werner, published by the Hesperian Foundation POB=20 1692 Palo Alto, CA 94302, ISBN 0-942364-01-3. (In Spanish,=20 Donde No Hay Doctor). Written very clearly at a low reading=20 level for people with no medical background. Deals with=20 tropical diseases/hazards as well, which is something most=20 first world medical handbooks don't address.=20

OK, enough on preparation. I'll cut to the trip, which I'll=20 send in separate messages over the next few weeks. I'll=20 send the first part today, though.

Tobin ---------------------------------------------------------------------------= --- Tobin T. Copley Currently =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D =20 (604) 689-2660 Occupationally /_| |__||__| :| putt= a Challenged! O| | putt= a '-()-------()-'=20 Circum-continental USA, Mexico, Canada 15,000 miles... '76 VW Camper! (Mang= o)

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