Sunday, June 24, 2007

Heading to San Diego

Well the adventure started on Friday afternoon.

Melissa, the girl I met through my couch surfer in San Francisco and is my traveling buddy for Baja, was going to meet me in LA at about 3pm for us to then head down to San Francisco.

I was a little bit hesitant about driving into LA by myself and trying to navigate around the huge freeways, so we decided to change the pick up spot to Santa Barbara.

Unfortunately Melissa's ride share was running late, so she didn't get to Santa Barbara until 5.30pm which meant we probably wouldn't get into San Diego until just after 10pm. That worked out great because my Hawaiian buddy Myles was flying in at 10 and we were going to catch up at his friends bar, Tiny's, on Voltaire St in Ocean Beach.

So I met up with Melissa and we headed off along the coast, I got to drive through Malibu and a few other coastal towns, very beautiful.

LA Skyline at Sunset

We managed to navigate most of the way through LA before we ran into Gridlock, which lasted about 40 minutes before clearing out to 4 lane hiways with not much traffic.

It got to about 9.30 and Melissa said we still had about 1.5 hours left on the trip, and my hostel closed at 10pm. I called them up to let them know I'd be late and not to wait up and basically got a "too bad, you still have to pay for the nights accommodation". No shit. I was trying to be courteous....... black eggs.

They did change their tone though and organised it so the key would be in the letter box, and put sheets and towels on the bed for me.

By 11.00 I was in the land of the nod so we pulled over so that Melissa could drive for a while. When we parked I could here a rapid clicking sound from under the seat (where the engine lives). I opened it up and found that the top cover for the radiator fan had broken off it's clips and was being pounded by the fan........... for how long I'm not sure.

I got out the trusty duct tape and proceeded to bodgey up a fix.

Now I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but the car doesn't start well hot. It'll start first thing in the morning, and after a normal drive, but if you've been driving for more then an hour it needs to cool for about half an hour before it'll start. I'm sure that'll be great in Mexico.

Anyway, because of this fault, and the fact I'd been driving for 4 hours, I had to do this fix while the fan spun at a squillian miles an hour (yes Cory, I still have all my fingers and no, I can't believe it either).

Well that fix lasted the time it took me to put the seat back down, so I unscrewed the top and removed it all together, in the process making a LOT of noise and totally freaking Melissa out. But again I emerged with all my fingers in tact!

So we pulled back on to the freeway and headed off again.

About half an hour into the journey it felt like one of the front tires blew out. GREEEAAAAT. I just put new tires on for Mexico and I get a flat in between LA and San Diego.

We pulled over and got out to inspect the damage.


All tires had air, no leaks, everything seemed fine.

I decided to drive on from here, and we pulled back onto the freeway and continued down the road. Everything seemed fine, up until we got to about 45 mph when I could feel a grinding beneath my feet. Time to get off the road I think.

We passed two exits which seemed to just get on other freeways and got off on the third exit. As we pulled off I saw a truck station (8 bay shed to work on trucks) and pulled in there. I parked the car and headed over to the shed to ask someone to check it out, because lets be honest, taking off the cover of a radiator fan is about the extent of my mechanical knowledge (and I nearly stuffed that up!)

I spoke to this guy, Juan, who said to drive the car over to have a look at it. STARTED FIRST TRY!!!! Hooray, the starter problem is now a thing of the past.

Juan checked out the van and could see something on the inside of the wheel, either grease or break fluid, but he needed to take off the wheel to find out for sure. I had to move the van around the back so they could check it out, and guess what returned to be a thing of the present. The van wouldn't start.

Sooooo, we spent the next 20 minutes hanging around the front of the shed.

2 things happened while we waited for the van to start.

Firstly this guy came up to me slapping a HUGE blunt object in his hand and in broken english was saying something about sliding tires. Was he going to beat me up for my tires? Maybe my tire was sliding and he knew I couldn't make a hasty exit. Or, maybe he was a trucker who needed some help sliding the truck be further along his rig.

Luckily for me it was the last one, and my skills with trucking more then doubled (knowledge went from zero to one)

Secondly Melissa noticed the name of the truck stop we were at. Indio. Now that doesn't mean anything to me at all, nor would it to you.

That is of course unless you know Southern California. To give you an idea of where we were I've prepared this map ----> Map of misdirction

Once the car was started and Juan and his buddy Troy had a look it seemed like we needed a new hub, but they were working until 8am, and the auto stores weren't open until then either. We could drive on to San Diego, but the tire would catch fire and fall off.


So we drove, very slowly, around to the back of a service station and jumped in the back of the van for one of the better nights sleep I've had.

I woke up in the morning to Juan calling my phone to ask if I still wanted them to work on the van. We met up and he and Troy started on the van.

After much review it turned out that the pressed ring in the hub was no longer pressed, but spinning. Spinning causes friction. Friction causes heat.

The heat from this welded the smaller bearing on to the spindle of the front tire, and then wasted the bearing. Now some people will know what I'm talking about, I certainly wouldn't if someone explained this to me. Pictures are always good though.

This is what the bearing should look like (pay attention to the small bearing)

This is what my small bearing looked like.......

They fixed it up enough to get us from Indio into San Diego, and I've got another spindle part (with hub) arriving in San Diego on Tuesday, so hopefully I'll be able to get to mexico by thursday. This meant that Melissa would only have a couple of days in Baja, so she decided to head back up to LA and catch up with friends.

It took us about 4.5 hours to get to San Diego, sitting on 50 mph and stopping every 50 miles to let the tire cool down, but we got there eventually.

In fact, as we were coming in to San Diego there was a Toyota Tacoma parked in the middle lane with it's front left wheel parked 50 meters further down the road. Could have been us!

As we pulled in to Ocean Beach I saw Tiny's and pulled over immediately to find Myles, Billy and Sarah shooting pool. It's good to have the Bali crew back together again (skev, nick, slimer, pedro, where are you boys?!?!)

Melissa feels terrible about taking me the wrong way for 124 miles, but I'm kind of glad. I got to see a part of America I wouldn't have otherwise seen. The desert is beautiful, and there were hundreds of wind powered turbines throughout the place.

Check my facebook pic's for more pictures.

And at the end of the day, the hub was going to go eventually, better it was there then halfway down Baja in Mexico, plus it gives me a couple of days to chill out in San Diego, the past week has been hectic and I haven't had too many chances to relax.

Plus, it's never about the destination, it's always about the travel.

Until next time, ride em in, cut em out, cut em in, ride em out, ride em in, cut em out raw hide


Kate said...

Hey Justin - My advice to you is to surround your car in white light and visualise the mechanics working like clock work - I'm not sure what other choice you have. If all else fails - Saint Christopher is the Saint of Travels - he may help. Everytime I loose my wallet (nearly daily - which is no surprise) Saint Anthony always locates it! It works and it sounds like you need all the luck you need. Travel safe and stay smiling. Of course it is about the journey - ENJOY! xx Kate.

nils said...

justin, just stumbled upon your blog, but hey what an adventure! if you even need a place to stay (for any reason), hopefully our directory of surf accommodations can help, see maybe you should add your van to the directory :) anyway, I'll keep reading your blog, good luck, have fun. and when you come to the UK, you gotta try sauntons in North Devon - my fav place in the world.

Birdman said...

Thanks Kate, I'll keep that in mind when I drop the car off at the mechanics today.

Birdman said...

Hey Nils,

That site looks pretty cool mate, I'm going to check it out and see if I can find some lodging as I head through Mexico.

Hope you keen enjoying the blog.