Over the couple of years that we’ve owned Ruby, Willow, with a little help from me, has renovated and improved the majority of the mechanical and aesthetic features of the van, with one exception… Our sliding door.
Now that’s not to say that we haven’t worked on it. Willow has spent countless ours trying to fix the butchery that the door suffered by the hands of previous owners. And at times, it has closed better than we received her.
We spent some time with Colin Kellogg, a well respected VW mechanic, during our time in Florida and for a while, we were even able to close the door easily from the inside. As with all our previous attempts however, the improvements didn’t last long and sure enough, the door quickly went back to being the bane of our lives.
With Ruby packed away, we were all set to leave our friends the Thompson’s to set off to La Paz to collect our apocolypic post supplies that were awaiting us. As I went to close the door, the bolt which held the door runner fell off. Causing the door to launch itself towards the floor, snapping the lower aluminium bracket that fixes the door to the lower runner. To say we were pissed off would be an understatement. We were fuming. To make matters worse, Willow had noticed that the bolt was loose, but we never got round to fixing it. So really, it was our own fault we were in the current situation.
Once again, in our time of need, we turned to the internet. Jen posted on the Todos Santos Newsfeed, asking if anyone knew of any local VW mechanics who would have a new part, whilst we googled VW stores in the surrounding area. As always, when you post something online, you get the occasional idiot who feels like they have to comment, even if they have nothing constructive to offer. We had that idiot reply to Jen’s post.
“Oh, that’s not going to be easy to fix!” One person commented.
Thanks jackass, for that helpful remark!
As comments poured in, it seemed our best bet would be La Paz, which fortunately was our next destination. For some reason, Ruby likes to create problems on a Friday. There was the clutch cable in France. The windscreen on the I10 and now this. Hopefully, finding a new part wouldn’t be too problematic.
With no other option, we removed the broken bracket, slammed the door and reinforced it with bungie cords. Hopefully they would last the hours drive to the La Paz.
When we had previously driven to La Paz from La Ventana, we passed some bay windows in some scrap yards outside of the town, so we decided to try them first, in the hope of getting a second hand part fairly cheaply.
We knew the road they were on, but couldn’t quite remember the location. Driving slowly over treacherous dirt roads, we pulled out on the road which connected La Paz to La Ventana. Spotting some scrap yards, we drove past slowly searching for the bays which we had seen previously. There were none in site. Pulling into another yard across the road, which had a collection of old vehicles, Willow asked in broken Spanish, if they had any parts for our van. They didn’t. It hadn’t started well.
We followed the road further to La Paz, in the hope of spotting the bays further down. Willow was convinced that we should go the other direction, away from La Paz. So after failing to find them, we turned around and headed back. Shortly after the two yards we had tried previously, we found another yard, and sitting proudly by itself… A faded blue bay window. The only problem however… It wasn’t a scrap yard… It was a Police impound yard. What was even more frustrating, was the fact they actually had three bays lying within the compound.
We drove around, and spotted signs of life inside. It seemed that there was a family living onsite, guarding the vehicles. Again, in broken Spanish, we asked if it would be possible to buy a part, only to be dismissed immediately by an old man, presumably the father. It seemed we had no alternative, but to head to the specialist VW garage, in the hope that they had the part we needed. This option would probably end up being quite costly.
Driving back into the main town, the garage was actually only a couple of minutes away from the abandoned school we had stayed at previously with our old group. As we turned onto the main road, we found the street was full of VW vans. This must be the right place. Annoyingly, the garage was closed for lunch, so we headed off to the DHL office to collect our post. The vibe around La Paz was more intense compared to our last visit. The Malecón was closed off and shops were limiting how many people could enter to five.
At least our post had all arrived. It would have been infuriating to have to come back again for a single package.
Back at the garage, they were now open, and even better… They had the part we needed. It was a cheap imitation of the original part, but it would so. Chuffed that we had got a new bracket, and without breaking the bank, we headed back to the abandoned car park to fit it.
I would love to tell you that we fitted the part in minutes and drove off into the sunshine to live happily ever after. But it is never that simple with Ruby. Our sliding door is not in the best nick, and so the repair works done previously to fit the bracket, meant that we could not align the replacement in the correct position to get the door to fit. Defeated, me drove back to the garage and asked for their help. The English speaking owner came out to examine the door and confirmed that it would need minor reconstruction to get the door to fit properly. Unfortunately, as it was late, they would not be able to look at it until the next day. They offered us the contact details of a local body repair shop who may be able to look at it that afternoon but we decided we would prefer VW specialists to look at it, as there are so many important adjustments to get the door to work properly, and we doubted the body shop would understand this. All we wanted was our door to function properly. We had grown tired of having the slam it hard to try and get it to close, and so we left optimistic that tomorrow, we would finally vanquish our evil door.
We returned to the creepy abandoned school to spend the night there. Letting Aimee out upon our arrival, as she had been cooped up inside the van all day. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but if our door problems could be resolved for a decent price, then maybe the bracket breaking would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
It was soon dark, and Aimee had decided that she was having too much of a good time exploring and so we spent a good half an hour hunting her down, before she eventually came galloping out from some nearby bushes.
The next morning, we arrived back at Geraldos VW garage the next morning, hopeful that we would finally have a fully functional sliding door when we returned. We set off on our bikes into La Paz, Aimee in her rarely used rucksack. After a quick stop at a garage to inflate Willow’s bike tyre, we went in search of a coffee shop, when we could wait for the work to be completed, whilst using some WiFi to update our blogs.
On the way, we passed a bait shop, so popped in to see if we could get some hooks and bait for our new rod. Knowing next to nothing about fishing, I wasn’t much use at explaining what we needed, so I agreed to return later in the day with our rod, so the guy could see exactly what I was talking about. It was a scorcher of a day and Aimee was not enjoying being in the rucksack, so we parked up at a restaurant near the harbour and ordered some coffees, and let Aimee loose to explore the garden, although she seemed content to rest in some shade. A kind employee brought her over a bowl of water, much to her delight. I don’t think he was expecting to see a cat tied to the lead, and so he was a bit taken back when we saw Aimee lying there.
After killing a couple of hours, we decided to fetch the fishing rod and check on how the repair works were going. Leaving Willow to look after the bikes, I was taken to a guy who was welding a section of the door, trying to fix the area where the bracket attached to. They asked us to come back in a few hours, so off we went in search off supplies for apocolypic fishing rod. Back in the shop, the guy was very unimpressed by our lightweight rod. For newbies like us however, it would help us learn the ropes and was compact enough to store in the van, without taking up too much space.
With some weights and hooks bought, we perched up at a small bar/restaurant across the road from the garage and waited, whilst enjoying a ice cold beer, whilst Aimee scrambled out of sight behind a screen for an area that was under construction.
As it was Saturday, the garage was due to close at 3pm. 2pm came and went and there was no sign of Ruby outside. I headed over to check on the progress, to find them still working on the door, panic on the face of the guy left with the responsibility of fixing it. Clearly it wasn’t going to plan. I knew there were lots of adjustments on the door, but I was by no means an expert, so I headed back to the bar to inform Willow to have a look at it for herself. Just as she was nearing the garage, the loud rumble of Ruby’s engine could be heard as they backed Ruby onto the street, so I grabbed Aimee and headed over to see what was going on, as there was no way they had sorted the door in the short time I had left them.
We were met by Rogelio, the English speaking owner, who informed us that the door was in too bad of a state to repair. To make matters worse, the door no longer shut at all. We had left Ruby with supposed ‘VW specialists’ and in a whole day, they had only managed to make our door worse! As you can imagine we were not best pleased. Rogelio informed us that we would need a new door, which he could source for us. He tried to reassure us that he would get us a ‘good price,’, but refused to actually give us a rough estimate of this ‘good price’. We may be better off financial than most of the locals, but that didn’t mean we had money to chuck at a sliding door that they had made worse. With no other alternatives, we agreed to return when they reopened on Monday, he would spend Sunday enquiring about doors and hopefully one could be sourced for a reasonable price. At least they had the decency to not charge us for the man hours they wasted in damaging our door further.
We decided to head off back to Playa Tecolote, as neither of us fancied spending another night at the abandoned school. We parked up at a local mini market and got out the tool kit to look at the door. Not feeling comfortable leaving Aimee in the van with a door which refused to shut. We slackened off the bolts enough to get some movement in the bracket and were relieved when the door closed on the first attempt. With Ruby secure, we popped into the shop to buy a few supplies to last us the weekend.
As we followed the road north out of town, past the ferry port, we were almost at the junction for Playa Balandra and Tecolote , when we notice a road blockade up ahead, waving traffic to turn around.
“Maybe there is another triathlon event happening this weekend.” I suggested to Willow. Not wanting to head back to LA Paz, I was pretty certain that I had seen another turn off slightly further back, and was sure I remembered someone talking about another road which led to the beach, only it was a little rougher than the main route.
Retracing our route, there was another road and on our phones, it looked as if it would take us round to the beach, so we followed, fingers crossed that we would encounter another blockade further ahead. I don’t think either of us were in the mood to tolerate more problems today.
The road was in a bad state of disrepair, but we managed to follow it around and soon the beach came into view. Compared to our last visit, the beach was almost completely empty, bar a few campers of the far end. We searched for a spot to park that would be far enough away from everyone else, but there was a strong breeze blowing in from the sea, so we decided to find sanctuary behind some sand dunes.
The day had not gone the way we’d hoped, but if he could find a cheap door for us over the weekend, there was still a possibility that we could finally sort out door once and for all. So we went to bed, still dreaming of a future where we could close our door with ease, from the inside of the van. A small voice in the back of my head was whispering to me that we’d hadn’t seen the last of the door issues.