After Mexico 13, 22nd October 2004

After my last mail, Sam suggested, did I think of insuring the vehicle for a lot and driving it off a high cliff?

Well, I didn't, for 3 reasons. First, my instinct suggests that, generally, an action like that might be considered to be illegal. Maybe it's OK in Texas? Second, I don't hold damage insurance, the insurance company might be suspicious if I suddenly increased the policy to all risks then lost it. Third, and most important, I have a van with 120,000 miles only and no oil used, I reckon good for another 100,000 miles at least, transmission new only 30,000 miles ago, and brakes just now totally refurbished, I just wish the brakes had been as good as that for the 40,000 miles I have driven the van. It's also got 6 good tyres. As far as I can tell, it is a good vehicle. OK it looks a bit tatty but I like it like that. If I knock a bit off It somewhere it doesn't really matter. It's also a thief deterrent have a tatty outside. On my (actually my ex wife's) house in France the little house facing the road was as tatty as you could imagine. People visiting would come into the courtyard and say, wow, I didn't realise there was anything like that here!

If a garage man, with an idiot error, causes meltdown on the electrics, it is not a good reason to dump the van. It is however good reason to mouth obscenities at him from time to time. Sorry Bill I know you souped up your own dragster to qualify for the Nationals in 1979 but you blew the repair to my van.

If you look at web sites of people travelling with oldish motor homes, you will see a great many vehicle problems. These type of vehicles are very heavy and break down frequently. I reckon I have, over all, had better than average luck. And I paid less than $5,000 for the motor home, I would guess it is still worth the same.

I have taken this van where you are not supposed to take a motor home. For example down to Batopilas (and back) at the bottom of the Copper Canyon in Mexico where the AVERAGE gradient for NINE MILES is 15%, dropping 7,000 ft. (14 km, 2 km drop). Or there was the trip to Punta Allen. It's only 30 miles (48 km) but it took me 25 hours to go, rather less, 5 hours, to get back. On each of these trips I got stuck once out, once back. Driving a new motor home there is no way you would risk this sort of excursion. On my old van a few more scrapes or bashes along the side make no difference.

For those many who commented unfavourably about Midas I should mention that I went there because the repair shop who refitted the front disks suggested I go there, also I have often used Midas in France, there they are good on quality and price. I guess, as someone suggested, that Midas being a group to avoid is in part to do with the strange US liability laws. If I had known what you all tell me now I would not have touched them with a barge pole. And will not in future. Thanks for the advice. One of the problems of travelling in strange countries and places is that you rarely have local knowledge, you take the advice you are given, or you just take pot luck. You win some, you lose some. On the brake job I lost one (front brakes) and I won one (rear brakes). Oh, forgot to mention. Midas told me I should replace the front disk pads. Since I had driven the van the grand total of only 27 miles since they were fitted new I did say no that one...............

Back to my journey. I spent the night in a car park near the freeway and moved about 5.30 am to the car park at Lowes, it was getting very noisy, my goodness, lots of people start work early!

I drove over the mountain road, what super brakes I have now, then continued to Hueco Tanks state park. Some natural water storage places, plus some pictographs. I went on the guided tour, rather special, it was a descendant of one of the Indian leaders of people who were attacked here who was the guide. The pictographs were not special, there were very few, they were much obscured by graffiti, and they were not very old, only about 150 years, they even showed Mexican soldiers. At that time we in Europe had already been printing books for 300 years and these were cave art pictographs. I think the paintings in the Dordogne date back to around 10,000 BC not 150 years. There they are so special that the French have reconstructed the whole cave system and pictographs about mile away from the original and you have to book about a day in advance just to get to see the reproductions.

Our Indian guide told the story of the pictographs. He told the story at length. The others on the tour seemed fascinated. Me, I was bored to death. After nearly 3 hours I dragged myself away before the tour was finished.

I parked in a picnic spot, and in the morning watched a neat sunrise.

I actually watched a pretty neat sunset the night before.

I drove towards the Guadeloupe Mountains and was so fascinated watching the mountains

that I missed my right turn before the mountains. No problem, I had super views, and watched a great slide show presentation in the visitor centre.

In Van Horn I visited the museum and was given a personal guided tour by Robert Stuckey who is the volunteer there. I listened to a vivid and fascinating story of the early times of the town with accounts of early shootings and possible murders and the nefarious ways a local huge ranch was started. This was the biggest at over 1 million acres in Texas although not the richest. And although not the best museum of the 100's I have visited it was probably the most enthralling due to Robert's accounts of the local wrong doings!

I carried on towards Marfa, stopping in a picnic area on the way. I went on a little further than I intended because I saw a tethered blimp and wondered what it was for. I found out.

Another sunrise followed. Or maybe it was a sunset?

It was sunset. I checked the time the photo was taken. Looks more like a sunset anyway.

There was a tree. Guess who climbed it.

At Presidio I had more occurrences of the "check motor" warning light. These started around 10 weeks ago. It happens very rarely but when it has happened I have had a computer check run on the engine. Of course, every time, by the time I get to a garage, the warning light refuses to come on so there is no problem for the computer to find. The first time was just before I visited the Copper Canyon. They found nothing wrong on the check but looked at the fuel filter and found it needed replacing so they replaced it. The next time the computer found nothing wrong, again, but the garage suggested I replace the spark plugs and wiring array. They did that too. The next time, again, the computer found nothing wrong, this time the culprit was reckoned to be the fuel pump which is inside the fuel tank. I couldn't get a replacement so left that one alone.

The warning light flashes on and off, for varying periods. There have been some minor periods of the light showing on and off maybe 4 or 5 times, but nothing major for the last 6 weeks until Presidio, when the light came on about half the time. Except of course when I was in the garage and the mechanic had the computer in his hand ready to plug it in. After I left the light continued flashing, but not so badly, for the rest of the day. Today it has not come on at all.

I have been thinking about this. When the light comes on the power drops. Not by a lot but noticeably. Now with the frequent power drops in Presidio I realised that these power drops were always of the same proportion. Now if it had been a fuel pump problem then I would expect the resulting power loss to be a touch erratic. Also, for the first time, the light stayed on when the engine was running at idle so I was able to notice that it was running roughly. I also realised that the light only came on when it was a very hot day. Today it is cold and raining, no problems. Apart from the noise of the wind and the rain and the van rocking around in the wind but those are different problems.

So, all you guys (and gals) who told me, after the event, that you knew it all, and then produced fascinating stories, I'll mention that one of my ex-wife's most valued and prized special skills was an almost 100% accurate hindsight, I'll give you the chance to get in front. What's the problem? I'll welcome your thoughts. Unless you think your words of wisdom will be of general interest please reply to me alone, and do please remove this long message from the tail of your reply.

I continued along the Rio Grande towards Big Bend.

The above is a view looking west.

After turning north just before Big Bend I stopped for the night in a picnic area, with super trees and cut grass, I pulled out my chair and read, Little Cat climbed trees.

It pattered with rain during the night and stayed damp in the morning so we stayed where we were for a while. Little Cat watched a hole, I played on the computer. After 3 hours of this we both became bored so continued on to Alpine, where it rained harder, and then another picnic area for the night where it rained some more and the wind blew enough to rock the van around

Oh, my take on the motor problem? I think I'm losing one of the 8 cylinders when the power drops. Maybe one of the injectors is failing when the gasoline is hot and therefore vapourising too readily. it's not plugs or leads, they've been replaced.

Best regards

David Barker

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