“Maybe you saw the article about our adventure in Autotouring about technical issues and the mental attitude you need to have to accept and get past them?
Well, the timing was just perfect! That got your attention – we’ll come back to this later.
So we left off last month at Malibu Beach. We stayed on a few more days and then moved on to a camp site outside San Diego to settle for a while. It was really great. And we totally loved San Diego! The city doesn’t have a huge amount of tourist attractions compared to its neighbours Los Angeles and San Francisco, but you soon become aware of the quality of life there. It had the vibe of Vancouver and San Francisco, but with heat on top. We sometimes wonder about crossing the Mexican border but as we’re just extending our visa, we tell ourselves that we’ll maybe get another chance later, so we continue on our way towards the Joshua Tree National Park - which we found a little disappointing - and Arizona.
We want to get to Louisiana by early February to spend a weekend in New Orleans with friends from Montreal. Visiting friends and family keep us moving on, which also helps us keep up timing.
In Arizona we explore Quartzsite, a town mainly populated by motorhomes. There must be tens of thousands of them. It’s awesome. Then we make a brief stop in Phoenix and take the Apache Trail, which is well worth a detour. We see more and more cactus trees and they get more and more impressive. We see the biggest number in Saguaro Park in Tucson. The government shutdown means we don’t get the best access to the national parks but we’re glad to be able to explore them a bit all the same. In New Mexico, the plan is to visit the Albuquerque and Santa Fe area but the minus temperatures there at the moment put us off the idea. We prefer to head to Roswell and explore the UFO museum. Disappointed by the visit, we leave for Texas.
Texas is a really wonderful surprise. The people are very open and always eager to help. We quickly pass by Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Park, which are closed due to the shutdown, and make for Big Bend Park. We spend most of our time left in Texas exploring the towns and cities. Dallas is the museum stop. Our programme begins with the Museum of Art, followed by the Perot Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum, which we recommend. We thought it was very interesting and well done. We make a stop in Austin, which seems to be a happening city, full of innovation and we love the energy about it. The architecture and art museum in San Antonio are amazing. Then we head off for a few days of adventure on Padre Island. Camping is allowed on the beach and we feel right at home. It’s a lovely wild and authentic place. We see quite a few birds. We’d love to stay a few more days but need to get to New Orleans on time. We take the coast road and make a detour around Houston. We decide to cross the Louisiana border and spend the night at a camp site on the edge of the bayou. And it’s there on Route 10, between Lake Charles and Lafayette, that the adventure takes an unexpected turn.
Our road trip is lots of great times, lovely places and wonderful people, but it’s also more difficult times, and even very difficult times, like we’re going through now. We’re on the motorway and suddenly the oil light comes on, there’s a loud noise and black smoke pours out. No more acceleration at all. We stop at the side of the road – we have to – and see a trail of oil behind us. Julian checks what it might be and, right then, sees flames in the engine compartment. Luckily we have an extinguisher to hand! Overheated oil must have set fire to something. We call a breakdown truck and a garage to see if they can help us out. We get to the garage and the news hits us: our engine block is cracked. A 2-3cm2
hole has appeared. That’s a big problem. It’s much more of a problem when you’re looking for a diesel engine block in a country where nearly all engines are petrol. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Given the time we have left in the USA, 3-4 months, the garage man strongly advises us to send the van back to Europe. There are a lot more diesel parts available there. Plus, our visa runs out soon. We also have to think of the money involved and sending parts from Europe would take a long time. We realise that it’s just a mechanical problem that can be fixed and that the situation would be a lot worse if the van caught fire or we had a problem with our health. But sending the van back would mean ending the trip a lot sooner than planned and it feels like our world is falling apart.
We don’t completely lose hope of finding an engine block but we know full well that the chances are very slim. It’s the weekend and we’re desperate for news from the garage on Monday. And we’ve reached out to our network to increase our chances of finding a solution. So maybe, totally unexpectedly and amid a lot of emotion, the adventures of Rainette The Van in North America have come to an end on Route 10 in Louisiana on 1 February 2019.
We’ll obviously keep you posted on our options and what we decide.
Hoping for some positive news, we’ll get back to you soon! "