Better late than never! I meant to write this blog shortly after we returned home way back in Febuary, but… life just kinda got in the way… and marriage! (See next blog by Kat)
Anyway, as a refresher, you might remember this shot from our last blog post showing Charlotte being loaded into a YELLOW container in Valparaiso, Chile, bound for Long Beach, CA USA. Note the RED container placed right next to the yellow one.
Charlotte all tied down in the yellow container. The entire loading process took over an hour as I had to crawl around under her to reach the tie downs, disconnect her battery and drain her gas tank dry. (Shipping rules)
We sealed the door and watched our mobile home get hauled off by this huge “Stacker”. We were told Charlotte’s boat trip would take about a month, but the strike situation going on in Long Beach might delay our picking her up for as much as an additional month!
We flew home for the final time from South America on February 19th and began the wait. A couple of weeks later the receiving company in Long Beach contacted me to confirm all of our papers were in order. This is when we discovered that the container number we had did not match the container number they had! Our number from the yellow container was bound for Oakland, CA. Their number was for the red container and said Charlotte was in it bound for Long Beach! Twilight Zone! We even looked back at our pictures to make sure we weren’t loosing it. Yup, we had put her in a YELLOW container and the RED container was sitting right next to it, the new container number clearly emblazed on its side!
A quick call to poor Sebastian resulted in him driving once again all the way to the port to find out what happened. The Valparaiso athorities gave him a picture of Charlotte loaded in the RED container just before the door was closed and sealed and it was loaded on the ship. They NEVER admitted to having switched her, and we guess they never planned to tell us. Clearly someone screwed up the paperwork and those sneakly port workers moved her as this was deamed easier than redoing all the bloody papers – easier despite her flat tires, no gas, no battery and my trusted tie down labor. We had no idea what shape our poor Charlotte would be in when we finally got to open that red container.
The big wait was finally over on April 7th when we were united with the red container in a warehouse in Long Beach, CA.
Cutting the seal which I never put on in the first place! What would we find inside?
Whew! A happy Ned and Kat breathe a collective sigh of relief after realizing our trusty travel partner was none the worse for wear after her ordeal. The gas fumes were staggering when we opened the door. They must have put some gas in her to move her around.
She fired right up and placed her tires on US ground for the first time in 16 months.
Vaca Muerta was dutifully re-installed from his hiding place. The old cow head had made the whole trip despite almost meeting its demise at its first border crossing into Belize. Strangely, we had no visits from U.S. Customs inspectors of any sort!?! They had no suspicions of a smelly VW bus that had just spent 14 months in South America. Go Figure?
Gas was added…
Air was added…
Many thanks go to my sister, Kate, who lives in L.A. She picked us up at LAX and hung with us at the port until we were sure Charlotte was ready for the last leg of the journey, a return to the starting point – our driveway in Nevada.
First stop naturally was an auto parts store, this time for gear oil, all of which had leaked out onto the container floor during the boat trip. The transmission had leaked badly the entire trip, necessitating refills every 500 miles or so. By this point I had developed a relatively clean way to fill it without groveling in the dirt too much.
We got out of L.A. quickly and headed north up the PCH to visit my Mom in Santa Barbara.
Shortly after we stopped for tacos (container on dash) at a roadside taco truck, it started pouring rain. The last of the South American dirt and dust was washed away in this deluge – at least on the outside.
After an overnight stay with my Mom we hit US395 for home. We were soon back to our routine of stopping every 50 miles to add water. The crack in Charlotte’s engine case, the final result of our trip-long battles with the vibrating alternator, was getting worse and we wondered if we’d cook her in these last few hundred miles.
Even after 30,000 miles of the Americas, US395 and the Eastern Sierras remain a breathtaking drive.
One last restaurant photo! We stopped for dinner at our favorite BBQ in Bishop, CA.
After dark somewhere near Mammoth, I stopped for a water fill and noticed we didn’t have any tail lights. Ah Charlotte, one more trick in your bag. Driving a Vanagon makes one resourceful if not crazy. I asked Kat if we had any red cloth and she produced pink bikini bottoms from somewhere. I wrapped them around our manual backup light, hit the switch and viola, a pink tail light! Ironically we were passed by no less than two cops in those last 100 miles. Guess they approved.
Around 10 pm we rolled into our driveway. The trip was now complete and all three of us were home safe and sound.
153,620 was the final count.
The final repair in the daylight.
You never know when bikinis will come in handy!
When we left our driveway in December 2013 I wrote the mileage at the time on the overhead consul with a Sharpie. The final touch was to write the current reading. How bizarre the entire trip fell just 22 miles shy of being exactly 30,000 miles!
Next up: Charlotte goes from World Traveler to Bridesmaid!!