In an attempt to surprise Dane’s dad & step mom (aka “Schmum”) who live several provinces away, we had been avoiding conversations about our timeline for weeks. Even though our trusty GPS tracker (the DeLorme inReach) had been giving away our location, we managed to sneak into their complex – where they least expected to see us – and successfully pulled off the mission.
We spent the next several days catching up on current events, playing card games and laying pool side -and, of course, tinkering with the van when we had down time. We finished our last few projects, including applying the signage Vertex Glass Coatings sent us, and took many trips to Home Depot (as if we hadn’t spent enough time there in Canada!).
One afternoon, while perusing the aisles once again, we bumped into some close friends from home who were escaping the cold. One dinner and several exclamations of “Skål!” later, we had agreed to join them camping in the desert to watch rock-crawling rigs race over boulders in an effort to be known as “King of the Hammers”. Seriously, how could we decline?!
It was mid-day as we were climbing the highway into the high desert and all we could smell was syrup. We never really crave pancakes, but we could have devoured a stack with this sweet smell hanging in the air. After much talk about pancakes, we realized we had blown our radiator and the sweet, sweet smell was actually our coolant spewing all over the engine bay and down the face of the van, smoking where it landed on the hot pipes. We pulled off to the side of the road and, after close inspection, decided we could limp the van into the grounds and still watch the competition. Luckily for us, the group we were camping with had spent much of their lives off-roading and even racing in the Baja 1000! As soon as we rolled in, they came to see what this foreign, right-hand drive van was and, after hearing about our dilemma, were quick to find some aluminium shavings to patch us up. In minutes the fluids were topped up again, just in time to head across the valley for the show. Thousands of trucks, jeeps and buggies of all sorts were ripping their own line towards the hill where the event was gearing up to take place. Parking near the bottom, we hiked to the top to get a better perspective of the track: a rocky gullie between two mountain sides. Over the following hours we watched the 4×4 beasts tear up the rocks, stall out, get stuck and even flip over! Once the race was over, some 5000 trucks, buggies and bikes all bombed back recklessly through the darkness, each choosing their own line towards their camp for the night.
The next day we cautiously drove back to Palm Springs. Impressed with how well the shavings had worked, we wondered how long they would last. But, with such a distance to go, we ordered a new radiator from AUS and sat patiently by the pool until it arrived a few days later. We were lucky it happened where it did and not in some rural back-country of Central America. Once it arrived, we quickly swapped it out and packed up to get back on the road again for the next day. By this time, we had been in Palm for two weeks and worried we’d need to gain that time back elsewhere on the trip. In the end, the unexpected circumstance helped us slow down, spend quality time with family and friends, and dial in Diego, the van, quite a bit more.
At last, it was time for Mexico!