Catch up since the gearbox exploded

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to finish my blog during our Easter trip to France. The last couple of days we headed back up to Dieppe without any problems. The walks we went on, although pleasant enough to break up the long drive we had to complete, weren’t really worth mentioning. Those of you who have previously read my blog posts will know it wouldn’t be an official road trip in Ruby, without her having a diva moment… And boy did she have one. Driving back up from Willow’s parents, we had literally just joined the M40 after a brief stop off at Beaconsfield services when there was an almighty bang and the most horrendous noise coming from the van when I tried to out it into forth gear. Now we shouldn’t have been surprised, as the van was making some horrible mechanical noise that didn’t quite seem right during our drive round the Pyrenees. However, the noise it was making was grave course for concern. Fortunately, we were able to out the van into the other gears and so limped back up the M40 in 3rd gear. I can tell you that it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but credit to Ruby, she made it back. Once back at work, Willow examined the gearbox to see the damage that was the course of the alright racket. Here is what was left of 4th gear.After a bit of research from Willow, we sent the gear box up to a guy in Stoke, who reconditions VW gear boxes, for a price great price of £1200. It took just under two weeks and our new and improved box was ready for collection. The gearbox was totally upgraded, with harder wearing gears, and the ratios were improved to allow us to cruise down the motorway with lower revs.After a couple of test drives, the improvement to the gearbox was evident. Mainly the reduced noise inside of the van. It has also been very nice to drive casually at 70mph with the engine coping easily.After the gearbox rebuild, there is literally not much left mechanically to be repaired or replaced, however neither of us are going to get too carried away as we are talking about Ruby, and she does love to cause a fuss at the most inconvenient time!Since Easter, we have been in regular contact with freight and clearance companies regarding the shipment. I know the representative of the freight company was getting tired of my constant emails querying every aspect of the shipment. We received initial quotes of around £1200 for the freight and £1300 for the clearance cost once the van arrived in New York. This however changed when we were told that we couldn’t ship any items in the van and would have to provide a pallet at an additional cost of £200. Although neither of us were particularly pleased with the additional cost, we were far happier taking our own items rather than buying them again over in the States.Before we knew it, the academic year had finished. Willow inished job a couple of weeks before me and set about redecorating our house, ready for us to rent it out for the start of August. After 3 years at Thornton, I said goodbye to my class and my school. Things were now starting to before a bit more real. We both worked endlessly on the house, and on the 1st of August, said goodbye to our house and animals. Luckily, we had found tenants who will be looking after the zoo whilst we are away.We were now officially jobless and homeless. I did get to see the cats one last time whilst collecting post.As the days till our trip closed in, Willow moved down to her parents to spend some time with her family and friends and worked desperately to complete minor jobs to the van’s interior. Mainly reinforcing the bed boards, which had begun to show signs of wear and tear from the past couple of years of usage, and adding new and improved curtains, as the old curtain track drove the two of us insane!I stayed in Birmingham, to spend a bit of time with my family before heading down to meet her and the van later on in the month. The day I had to leave Birmingham was a bit surreal, it didn’t really seem like the last time I would be in Birmingham for a least a year, and at the same time would be the last time I saw most of my family for a while either. After saying my goodbyes, I headed down south, packed with a plastic pallet for the freight.The van was booked to ship from Southampton to New York around the 20th of August A couple of weeks ago, we received the exciting final confirmation along with details of where to drop Ruby off. It’s fair to say that that email filled us both with immense excitement that we were finally getting to close to the actual date, and absolute dread that we were missing something and wouldn’t have enough time to get it complete. Luckily, by the time I arrived to meet Willow at her parents in East Sussex, she had completed the majority of the work in the van. The only thing we really had left to do was a trial run the day before we dropped Ruby off at the docks, filling the plastic pallet that I had bought in Birmingham and brought down with me. After spending a bit of time dismantling our bikes, we played the biggest game of Jenga that I have ever played. We did eventually manage to get everything onto the pallet, we would just have to remember where everything went to next day and pile it all back on at the dock.After a sleepless night panicing about all of the things we could have forgot, the day had finally arrived to deliver Ruby to the dock. The journey to Southampton was horrible, we faced torrential rain and long traffic jams along the A27. This was clearly England’s way of confirming that we needed to leave.We arrived at the docks and after being bounced around parts of the dock as nobody knew what to do with a VW and a pallet, we eventually ended up in the heavy goods part of the dock. After informing the freight worker that we needed to unpack the van and pack a pallet he started to get a bit unsure, and started to convince himself that it would be best for all parties to just keep all of our stuff in the van. This was obviously conflicting for us. Yes, it would make it a lot easier than unpacking the van and then repacking on the other side. However I had lugged the pallet all the way down from Birmingham. Ultimately, although we had payed for the pallet, we were more grateful for not having to go through unnecessary hassle and so after getting a quick stamp on our deliver notice that was it. Ruby was delivered and we were now vanless.

Fortunately, another guy at the dock drive is back into the city centre, so we avoided most of the torrential rain. Once in the city centre, we headed to a nearby Yates for a celebratory glass of champagne and sat in shock that we had actually just dropped the van off. They was literally no turning back at that point.Since dropping the van in Southampton, we have been helping Willow’s parents move house and have just bought a fancy DJI Maveric Air drone to help us take better pictures and videos of our trip.Here is some footage from our first attempt.


All we have left now, is to wait for the 28th to fly out to New York and wait for Ruby to begin our adventure. Hopefully, I will be able to write more about fantastic scenery than Ruby breaking down.Watch this space.

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