A little delay in our departure date….

Well, as in any planning things change. Change can be good or bad. In this case, it is good.We had been planning a departure date of June 4th 2012 up until this point. However, Bernard’s daughter (who was supposed to join us on the trip), was notified that she was accepted to the University of Charleston! Congratulations to Kristen Barbour. Her orientation will be toward the end of the month. Her Father, Bernard Barbour, being the great dad that he is, decided to take her on a “graduation trip”. So they are flying to Germany for a week, before we depart to Mexico. So, at this time, we are tentatively planning a departure date of June 25th 2012. That is the beauty of overlanding. You can be flexible and still enjoy your plans. Remember “it is the journey, not the destination”. It’s not about arriving, but driving! Stay tuned, we have much more to come…….

I call it work….she says I’m playing!

It has been a few days since I last wrote. There is a good reason for that. I have been Busy, with a capital “B”. After ordering a multitude of parts, accessories and “stuff”, it began arriving. I ordered an extra heavy-duty front driveshaft for the Land Rover, as this is a weak spot on the drive line. The new shaft comes with heavy-duty u-joints that are greaseable. Take a look at the picture and you will see the difference in the new shaft. I was very pleased with this purchase. All three joints contain a grease zerk to offer future maintenance. I installed the shaft with little problem. As recommended, I replaced the 4 nylon lock nuts on each end of the shaft. This required  3/8-24 nuts. Lowes carried them, so easy replacement.

New Heavy Duty drive shaft on left

Next on the list was the brush guard. I had it sand blasted and powder coated by a company in North Augusta South Carolina called Custom Machine.

Company that powder coated the brush guard

It turned out pretty nice. The prep work was not as good as I had hoped, however they did give me the option to use another sand blaster that did “show quality”. I decided against it, since this is an off road brush guard after all. This task of installation proved to be a little more time-consuming and difficult. First, I had to order a mounting kit, as the person I bought it from (used in Atlanta), did not have all of the required mounting kit. I found a company out of Utah called BPUtah. They were friendly and helpful even taking my order over the phone after hours. The kit arrived within a few days. In order to fit the new brackets, the front bumper assembly had to be removed and holes cut out for the brackets.

Brush guard back from the powder coaters

While working on the bumper, I got the call. The call that the Baja roof rack had arrived! Now this is one of the most exciting things I had been waiting on. This was what truly marked this vehicle “Expedition ready”. It was the key component to getting ready for our trip. I stopped and went to meet the UPS driver as it was in a semi truck. It was quite an undertaking getting it in the back of my truck, but I was determined. I hurriedly returned home to get a look at the prize. I was concerned and noted on the drivers slip that the box had sustained damages. I hoped that it had not passed through into the rack. I called Southeast Overland and spoke with Steve. I told him I hadn’t yet looked, but that the box was damaged. Fortunately upon opening the box at home……no damage! Yes, it looked every bit as glorious as I had envisioned, even sitting on the driveway. It seemed to say “Are we ready yet”. Now I was juggling installing the brush guard and wanting to see the roof rack installed. One thing at a time. Finally I was able to get the brush guard installed and secured.

Brush guard installed!

So it was about 7pm, and dusk was starting to fall. I tried to talk Angela into grabbing the other side of the roof rack and helping me set it on top of the Rover. She did make a valiant effort, but she could not lift it that high. Fortunately, the instructions said to call a friend. So, I called Rich Hinson who happened to be close by. He agreed to come by and help set it on. Man, I wanted to see this on the roof! Rich, Jenny, and Evan stopped in and we commenced to setting the rack on the roof. Viola! It looked great. We are really getting somewhere now. It is really looking like an expedition vehicle.

It was too dark to get pictures by the time I was finished securing it down, but man it looked tough in the flood lights! I went out first thing in this morning and snapped a couple of pictures.

Roof Rack – Not Damaged!

I drove it 20 or so miles and noticed a howl. I will need to check out the mounting and wind deflector to see if I can figure out where it is coming from. Oh Well, all in a days work. Or so I say. If you ask Angela, she says I’m playing with my cars…..

Bernard is in Florida this weekend. One of his “to do” items is to meet with Luis Vassallo of OGE 4×4 (another possible expedition partnership?). Take a look at how Bernard’s rig is coming along.

Bernard Barbour and Luis Vasallo

I received another notice of delivery today. This is probably one of the most important accessories. The roof top tent manufactured by Ironman 4×4 is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow! I cannot wait to get this. Along with the RTT (Roof top tent), is also the 2″ Ironman lift kit. It is going to be one exciting day. Stay tuned for installation and testing info. For those of you not so into the technical side of the preparation, hold on, we will be departing soon and the topics will shift to the trip. Angela told me this info was “boring for girls”. Well, hopefully you will hang in there for the long haul.

**18 days to Mexico!!**  Dead in the middle of the preparations for heading to Central America, we decided to take a quick trip to Michigan. We decided we did not have enough to do, so we packed up and headed north. Ohh, did I mention we decided to drive our 2008 Smart car. What a trip. This is an excellent vehicle for commuting around town, running errands, and saving fuel .Yes, saving fuel that is why we chose to drive this vehicle to Michigan. Upon first check, we averaged slightly over 42 miles per gallon. Yes, that is why we drove the tiny little vehicle measuring just over 8 feet long, bumper to bumper. The overnight bag was packed along with the bathroom bags. Everything was fitting just fine. Wait, we need to take a full-sized traffic light to my Father In Law..There goes the rear view mirror visual. Did I mention there was no cruise control? I mean who usually needs cruise control around town? For that matter, who drives a Smart car 900 miles one way? That would be us.

Amish Consignment Auction- Charlotte Michigan

We made it just in time to attend one of the largest consignment auctions I have ever attended. The local Amish community put on an event that would rival a county fair. In addition to every conceivable household, farm and garden, firearms, vehicles, and garage item, fathomable, is the food. Ahhh, the food. There are pies, breads, cakes, cookies, burgers, hot dogs, ham and cheese, you name it. Pecan pie, strawberry rhubarb, coconut cream , apple, and others. You cannot help but eat several pieces of pie. This is an experience you must try if you are ever in the Charlotte, Michigan area. They hold it twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Look up Lavern Yutzy. You wont likely find him on Facebook, you will need to meet him in person. He is the owner of the auction company and an all around good guy. Check out his auctions on www.auctionzip.com Well, after a nice dinner at Leos in East Lansing Michigan for Mothers day, we visited family and then decided to return on Tuesday morning. Other than a false call on a check engine light and some rain, and a lengthy detour, the trip home was uneventful. Man, I hope I do not have to drive the Smart car for a few days. Its wonderful in doses….small doses.

Well back home means back to preparations for the trip. I pulled the Land Rover into the garage and began replacing the brakes. I decided to install ceramic brake pads all around. Primarily to help reduce the brake dust. Like many vehicles these days, the wheels on the Rover are pretty open. The dust tends to cover the exterior of the wheel. Ceramic pads eliminate most of this. I ordered slotted and drilled rotors for the front. This will help dissipate heat and reduce the potential for the brake “wobble”. After everything was cleaned with brake parts cleaner, I lubed all of the contact points. This will assist with the operation of the calipers. I took the opportunity while the wheels were off to clean the years of brake dust accumulation from the back side of the wheels. It took several cleanings, but I finally could see the factory rim below the grime. After pressing the brake pedal several times to seat the calipers, I gave it a test drive. The rotor instructions recommended a break in procedure. I performed this and all seems well.

Ceramic brake pads

I had ordered a swing away bike hitch online, and it arrived via UPS. The swing away design allows the bikes to be loaded and “swing away” in order to open the rear door. It’s a great design, although, they tend to cost considerably more than a conventional rack. After searching extensively, I finally settled on a Hollywood brand rack. This was a good balance of quality and price. The rack arrived promptly, and I was anxious to set it up. The box was packed very nicely. Everything was wrapped securely in padded wrap. Upon opening the box and wrapping, lo and behold, I began to notice damage. Ironically, the box did not display damage on the exterior. That led me to believe one thing. The rack was damaged prior to shipping and then wrapped up. I was not happy. I contacted the seller (Ebay seller). While waiting on hold, I noticed some writing on the box. After closer examination, I identified a “RA number” in other words a return authorization. Now I know it had been damaged and returned before. I provided pictures to the customer service rep. I was informed that unfortunately, the rack was no longer available. They said they would allow me to return it for a refund. This was not acceptable. I already knew, I would not be able to compete with the price I had paid for this one. I asked them to see what they could do. Approximately an hour later, I received an email apologizing for the inconvenience. They said they had issued a full refund, and that I could keep the hitch at no charge! Wow talk about customer service. I was able to fix the problem and use some satin Rustoleum to seal it up. After assembling the unit, it looks like new. Thank you Hollywood Racks!

Hollywood Bike rack

Stay tuned…..all of the fun stuff coming up (roof rack, tent, lift kit)