When we woke in the morning, I checked in with my parents to see if they heard the radio interview. It hadn’t aired, so we assumed that they wanted more time to edit it.
We decided to pack up and leave fairly early, as we had booked Aimee into a vets for a health check. She would need a health certificate every time she passed over a border, so we wanted to make sure we had all the necessary paperwork complete for when we entered Mexico.
After a quick browse on iOverlander, we struggled to see many free places to camp, so I sent a few messages to VanAlert hosts, hoping we would have better responses than our previous attempts. We had not received a positive reply since Ian in Miami.
On the drive from Javier, I was surprised to receive replies from two hosts. The first was unable to offer a spot for that evening, but informed us that we were welcome to stay the following night. I also received a message from a guy named Bryan, who was happy for us to park up on his driveway. Bryan’s also mentioned that we would be able to use his tools, shower and laundry facilities. All of which we were in desperate need of.
We drove straight to the vet and filled in the required new client information and then Aimee was in a room waiting for her check up.
“This one will be much better Munchie,” Willow reassured her.
“No needles this time.”
Willow has half right, there were no needles. She did need to take her temperature and so she was a little taken aback when the vet shoved a thermometer up her bum!
With the paperwork complete, we put our understandably unhappy kitten away in the van, and grabbed ourself some food, allowing her time to brood alone.
From the vets, we drove down to the beach and had a stroll along the sea front. Admiring the expensive sea front homes that lined the coast. Although there was a slight chill in the air, the general temperature was definitely unusual for us Brits, and we knew we had definitely made the right choice to head further south. At this time, England was being battered by strong gales and heavy rain, so it could have definitely been worse for us elsewhere.
With the sun setting, we made our way to the Parmann residence. Initially driving past their house, due to some confusion with the American street numbering. Fortunately, Bryan’s wife Lesley heard Ruby driving by and flagged us down on our second passing.
We got speaking Lesley whilst we waited for Bryan to return from work. She invited us inside, where we met their two children Cecilia and Elizabeth. The Parmann’s owned their own VW, a T25 named ‘Bluey The Wonder Slug’. It too had a Subaru conversion.
On their wall, they had several canvases of pictures from trips in ‘Bluey’. I could help admire and enquire about the locations of the pictures. It seemed our new friends also had the bug for travelling!
Bryan returned from work and we spent the rest of the night chatting over a few glasses of wine. It seemed our new friends had more in common with us than just VWs!
We informed them of our need to do an oil change and to take Ruby to have her front wheel alignment checked. Her tyres were wearing unevenly, and our front right tyre was most likely illegal to drive on. Amazingly, they were more than happy for us to stay as longs we needed. Offering us use of their garage workspace.
Bryan had a tool collection which left Willow drooling, and so we knew we would have all of the equipment we’d need to prepare Ruby for the next part of our adventure.
We told Bryan and Lesley about our online Etsy store and were shocked and humbled when they went online and ordered a T-shirt and some stickers.
We seemed to have so much in common with the Parmann’s and could have easily spent the night ‘yapping away’, but eventually we called it a night and retreated back to Ruby. Grateful that Bryan had responded to our VanAlert message.
We woke the next day with a surprisingly large list of jobs to complete. It only felt like a few days since we did a lot of work at Stefan and Laura’s in L.A.
My first job for the day, was to take the rocker cover off. Oil was leaking into the spark plugs, causing the engine to misfire on one side. Willow reckoned that we must have blasted a gasket loose when we washed the engine at a car wash. That will teach us for trying to make Ruby nice!
As we ate breakfast, I checked the BBC WM radio website to see if the interview had aired, and was delighted to find that it had. Sadly there was no mention of our social media, so it was highly unlikely that we would receive any new followers.
With our bellies full, I set about removing the rocker cover, whilst Willow ‘went to town’ on the rear shock absorber. The nut she fitted at Stefan’s was not supporting the shock absorber tight enough, and it was almost impossible to get anything in behind to tighten it further. So drastic surgery was required. Willow had already done the same to the other side after we lost that captive nut and it seemed to be surviving all off the monstrous washboard roads we had encountered so far.
With the rocker cover cleaned and reattached, and the shock absorber bolted on properly, we could almost relax, knowing that Ruby was almost prepared for the next part of our journey. Before calling it a day, Willow changed the oil, as we had covered a lot of miles since our last oil change at Jeff and Shannon’s.
That evening, the Parmann’s invited their friend Mark and his family over for dinner. Mark was a local VW mechanic, who had moved to the States from England. Over dinner, we explained that we needed a new tyre and asked Mark if he knew where we would be able to acquire one, as our previous attempts in Louisiana had proved difficult. The evening’s discussion revolved around England, Mark clearly didn’t regret leaving, and a large part of me couldn’t blame him.
Mark messaged us in the morning. He knew a guy who had a spare tyre he was willing to trade for a bottle of Jose Cuervo. Stopping off on the way to grab the tequila, we made our way to Mark’s friends house. Mark was there working on his son’s T25. He had a looming camping trip deadline that he was working towards. Mark’s friend Bob, had an impressive collection of T25s. Including an interesting one that we had just recently purchased near San Fransisco. The van was covered in layers of duct tape, which apparently was a bugger to remove. Bob was aiming to restore it and flip it for a decent profit. I can think of worse ways to make money.
As it turned out, Bob didn’t actually have a tyre for us. He had a set of wheels, with hardly worn tyres on them. And we was happy for us to have them in return for the booze. What a legend!
We loaded the wheels and set off in search of a tyre shop which could sort out our alignment and balance the new wheels. Not realising how difficult that search would actually be.
The first shop were able to do it, but not until the following day, and they wanted $135 to do the work. As they couldn’t do it there and then, we set off to try some other shops, knowing we could always return the next day if we were desperate.
We ended up bouncing around tyre shops, getting rejected by all of them. The wheel adjustment on Ruby is a little bit different from modern cars, so it wasn’t completely unexpected, just frustrating.
Exasperated by our search, we eventually threw in the towel and returned to Bryan and Lesley’s. We put a message up on the San Diego VW Facebook page in a last desperate attempt to find somewhere a little bit cheaper than $135.
Messages quickly started coming in, and we had a few new options to call in the morning.
We spent another evening with our delightful hosts. Lesley threw together an amazing DIY tacos, which we washed down with copious amounts of wine.
‘Maybe we could just live on their driveway forever’ I thought to myself.
In the morning, I phoned the recommendations from the Facebook group and found a garage that would do our tracking and balance the wheels for $90, a much better price than our backup shop. With that sorted, Willow decided to look at one of the front wheel bearings. Over the last five months, the wheel had become incredibly noisy and we were starting to wonder whether it was the cause of our irregular tyre wearing.
“It’s fucked!” Was Willow’s professional opinion.
Fortunately, Willow had the hindsight to order a replacement a couple of months back. We probably should have changed it sooner, but it was one of those easy jobs to put off.
Whilst Willow was swapping the bearing, I was revisiting the rocker cover which I cleaned yesterday. Our freshly changed oil was leaking all over our hosts driveway, so I took it off and reattached it with some gasket seal, hoping that this would stop the leak. Thankfully it did.
With the small jobs out of the way, we set off to the tyre shop, enjoying the smooth silent ride from the new wheel bearing.
“If I knew it would have been this much better, I would have done this ages ago,” Willow groaned whilst I drove.
We left Ruby at the shop and walked down the road to McDonald’s to enjoy a cold milkshake whilst using their WiFi. It was another scorcher of a day, and the weather report for Vancouver predicted snow for the next week. We knew seeking warmer weather in Baja was the right decision.
Heading back towards the shop, we noticed that Ruby still hadn’t made it to the ramp and so we decided to sit in the waiting area. Hopefully us being there would give them extra motivation to hurry along. About five minutes later, someone appeared, informing us that Ruby was about to get moved. Clearly our presence helped.
They had some difficulties getting the alignment on one of the wheels to within their parameters, however it wasn’t far off and so we were soon back on the road. The difference in the ride was amazing. We no longer had to suffer the pain of the wheel bearing noise and wrestle the wheel constantly just to stay in a straight line. We would definitely enjoy the new and improved Ruby… well, at least until the harsh Mexican roads beats her back to normal.
We returned to Bryan and Lesley’s and set about swapping our wheels for our newly acquired ones. As much as I liked our cream coloured rims, the paint was starting to blast off when we washed her, so it would be nice to have tidy looking rims again.
Willow had bitten the bullet and ordered some more solar panels. Flexible panels capable of producing 300 watts of electric. We set about installing the new controller and tested them out. With the panel on the roof as well. We would now be heading into Mexico with the capacity of 450 watts, which would be useful as we were still not convinced of our AGM batteries capacity.
We finished the night eating more delicious food. Our new friends ordered in a Himalayan curry for us to try and it was to die for! It had been a while since we last tasted a good curry and this one did not disappoint.
We enjoyed a fairly lazy Saturday morning. Chilling with the Parmann’s, finishing a YouTube video and writing our blogs. Lesley made a fabulous breakfast using some of the left over rice from the night before.
Aimee was also enjoying herself around their house. She had finally gotten use to the two dogs constantly checking her out and was even starting to develop a bond with their cat Callie.
Taking inspiration from Bluey, we decided that we wanted to fit a solar shower on Ruby. We were not sure how easy it would be to find showers in Baja, and we would have the perfect temperature to heat the shower, not to mention it would save us some bucks a long the way also.
We ended up spending most of the day planning and blogging.
In the evening, their eldest daughter Elizabeth was performing in a school concert, and so we tagged a long to offer our support. Elizabeth’s honour band were very talented and performed a wide selection of songs, one using only paper to make the music. A strange experience that I certain hadn’t witnessed before.
Elizabeth’s honour band were followed by the honour orchestra, who ramped things up, performing a cover of Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’. I was in awe at the children’s musical ability. To play with that much maturity at such a young age was inspiring.
As we arrived back later, we dined on takeaway pizza as it was too late to cook. We were joined on the driveway that night by Katelynne, Cecila’s career. She had recently bought a T25 off of Bryan, and had been learning how to drive stick. Nervously parking her van beside ours.
As Sunday arrived, we set off to buy the parts to assemble our shower. Stopping off to buy some groceries as well, so we could cook the Parmann’s a thank you meal for being such incredible people.
Arriving back around midday armed with PVC piping, Greek food and lot’s of ‘two buck chuck’ wine, we set about building our creation, which went together fairly quickly. We decided to give the joints time to set properly, so we would try and fill it for the first time in the morning.
We had put our old rims up for sale on the San Diego VW group and was pleased to sell them to a guy for $40. This meant that we actually made money swapping our tyre out!
With our Ruby to-do list exhausted, we headed inside to start preparing our Greek feast. I made a moussaka dish which I had learnt during my time working at a four star hotel, Willow prepared fried courgette, a Greek salad and oven cooked feta, topped with sesame seeds and honey. The food was served along with pitas, stuffed vine leaves, tzatziki and hummus.
It felt liberating cooking in an actual kitchen again, and I think we did Greek food justice with our attempts, as every seemed to enjoy trying everything that was on offer. It felt like a fitting end to our time in San Diego.
We woke on their driveway one final time. From San Diego, we would cross into Baja and start making our way south from Tijuana.
Before leaving, we just had the small matter of shower testing to complete. We had installed a tyre valve into the pipe, so we would be able to pressurise the water. This almost meant however, that the joints could fail and the shower could have exploded, showering PVC pipe all over their driveway.
Expecting some leakage, we were pleasantly surprised to find that all of the joints held under 15psi. This meant that we were all set for our voyage into Mexico.
We only planned on staying with Bryan and Lesley for one night, but ended up staying with them almost a week. Although we knew we would be able to stop by and see them when we returned from Baja, we still felt sad saying goodbye.
It felt strange that we would actually be leaving America, albeit only for a couple of weeks. I felt conflicted, sad to be leaving as we still had much to see, but excited for a different kind of adventure, weaving our way south in search of more sun.
We just had the small matter of crossing the border to deal wit