Costa Blanca #2, Spain, 11/13

December 10, 2013

With our grey water tank nearly full and our freshwater tank almost empty, we headed north to Aguilas to resupply. Leaving Cabo de Gata and the Costa Almería, we drove north on good highways towards the super resort city of Benidorm on Spain’s famous Costa Blanca.

We stopped for the night at a beach recommended by fellow travelers, Playa del Pinet, which turned out to be a parking area along a side street. Looking like an RV dealership, it was a winter haven for Dutch, Swedish, French and German snowbirds. We grabbed an available spot and spent a quiet night, but it was no place to linger. Others would spend a couple of months there.

It was interesting to see the difference between the European RVers and those we know in the States. There were virtually no tag-alongs, but everyone had either a small 2-passenger motor scooter or cycle or at least bicycles on the back, sometimes electric ones. No trailers or 5th wheels. No slide-outs. These were relatively small coaches built on Fiat, Ford, Renault or Peugeots with 4-cylinder diesel engines. Almost everyone had a satellite dish for television and an array of solar panels. Most of the lighting inside was LED. Virtually everyone uses cassette toilets since in Europe there are very few if any places where you could use a hose to dump 25 gallons of black water.

Benidorm announced itself from far away. Negotiating the main drag of Benidorm, we were glad it was not the height of the summer season. Monika remembered her first visit to Benidorm in 1966 when there was only one high-rise building. Now there was a forest of condos. Still, the beach is beautiful and we could see the reason for the town’s popularity.

Once a sleepy beach town, Benidorm is now a super resort city with a forest of high-rise condos and the largest discothèque in Europe.

Once a sleepy beach town, Benidorm is now a super resort city with a forest of high-rise condos and the largest discothèque in Europe.

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We could not imagine what the traffic would be like during the height of the summer season.

We could not imagine what the traffic would be like during the height of the summer season.

The Benidorm main beach was world class.

The Benidorm main beach was world class.

Playa del Pinet turned out to be a parking area along a side

Playa del Pinet turned out to be a parking area along a side street for European Snowbirds. It looked like an RV dealership.

Many Snowbirds had either a small 2-passenger motor scooter or a motorcycle to get around. There were no “tag-alongs”.

Many Snowbirds had either a small 2-passenger motor scooter or a motorcycle to get around. There were no “tag-alongs”.

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Bicycles were also popular. Many were electric.

Bicycles were also popular. Many were electric.

This three-axle coach was about the maximum size we saw, and they were rare. No one had “slide-outs”.

This three-axle coach was about the maximum size we saw, and they were rare. No one had “slide-outs”.

Solar panels were a must. This foldout set was claimed to produce 120 watts for 350 Euros ($473.00).

Solar panels were a must. This foldout set was claimed to produce 120 watts for 350 Euros ($473.00).

Despite strict rules differentiating “camping” with “parking”, (no chairs, awning, tables, BBQs, etc.), some people pushed the law.

Despite strict rules differentiating “camping” with “parking”, (no chairs, awning, tables, BBQs, etc.), some people pushed the law.

 

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Seitz Factory, Krautheim, Germany 6-13

July 16, 2013

On the road and looking for a good place for the night, the modern gas stations and truck stops in Germany are often ideal. They have clean restrooms but it will cost you a Euro to use them. If it’s a big truck stop, parking areas are large and easily accommodate small motorhomes like ours. We found a comfortable spot in the back of a gas station. In less than 10 min. we were sitting outside and the chicken was cooking on the BBQ.

Modern German gas stations and truck stops are often ideal for overnight stops.

Modern German gas stations and truck stops are often ideal for overnight stops.

Our little Weber “Go Anywhere” grill is turning out to be a good travel companion.

Our little Weber “Go Anywhere” grill is turning out to be a good travel companion.

The next day we arrived at the small town of Krautheim. This is the home of the Seitz Window Company. We were one of the first campers in United States to use these popular windows, chosen because of their many features. First and most importantly, they are dual pane with no metal cold-sink to the outside. They also have built-in roll-up/roll-down privacy shades and built-in mosquito screens. Our own windows, having been installed over 10 years ago on The Turtle V, needed some minor repairs, and what better place than at the factory.

Several years after we had installed our original windows in 2001, Dometic purchased the Seitz Company. Dometic has been an important product sponsor on our vehicles and RVs for many years, including refrigerators, awnings, stabilizers and now Seitz Windows. The simple fix for our aging windows was to replace the frames on the inside and readjust the security blinds and the mosquito screens. Although the factory does not normally do repairs, they were kind enough to arrange for a technician to do the work and they were able to put an overnight rush job on our new frames to have them painted to match our existing trim. We found a very comfortable campsite on a hill overlooking the village.

The dual-pane Seitz Windows are becoming more and more popular in the United States as RV manufacturers and customers learn of their features. They have been standard on European motorhomes for many years. After an interesting tour of the Seitz/Dometic factory, we headed for Switzerland.

The small town of Krautheim is the home of the Seitz/Dometic Window Company.

The small town of Krautheim is the home of the Seitz/Dometic Window Company.

Typical of many German towns, there is a castle guarding the surrounding countryside.

Typical of many German towns, there is a castle guarding the surrounding countryside.

Krautheim-Seitz 005 Krautheim-Seitz 006

Waiting overnight for the frames to be painted, we found a very comfortable campsite on a hill overlooking the village.

Waiting overnight for the frames to be painted, we found a very comfortable campsite on a hill overlooking the village.

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Seitz arranged for a technician to install our new widow frames.

Seitz arranged for a technician to install our new widow frames.

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After over 10 years of backload travel, surprises hiding inside the gap between the frame and the external window would require a botanist and etymologist to identify.

After over 10 years of backroad travel, surprises hiding inside the gap between the frame and the external window would require a botanist and etymologist to identify.

Seitz/Dometic Window Company any employs over 400 people. They make hundreds of different size windows, doors and sunroofs for motor homes and cars.

The Seitz/Dometic Company employs over 400 people. They make hundreds of different size windows, doors and sunroofs for motor homes and cars.

The Dometic Company has been an important product sponsor of The Turtle Expedition for many years.

The Dometic Company has been an important product sponsor of The Turtle Expedition for many years.

 

 

 

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Across the USA 2013 #10 (Shipping Security)

May 25, 2013

Not that we were worried or that we didn’t trust the hard-working longshoremen in Baltimore or in Belgium, but we had read about the horror stories of campers being broken into and equipment being stolen. When you’re shipping a vehicle overseas, replacing equipment is much more difficult. The Turtle Expedition’s Tortuga Camper will not fit in a container, so it must go “Ro-Ro”, (roll-on-roll-off), which means the vehicle is driven on and off the ship by dock employees. We took the normal precautions.

All easily removable external accessories like the PIAA lights and Total Vision cameras were removed. Smaller side and back-up lights were locked with PIAA Light Locks by McGard. All easily removable accessories from the cab were removed like radio, GPS, seat belts, Platypus hydration bags and fire extinguishers. False bars were velcro-ed across the inside of windows to eliminate temptation. Most windows are designed to be too small for anyone to crawl through. The camper itself is not accessible from the cab.

Outside storage compartments were either emptied or double locked with quarter-inch thick plates and padlocks. Of course, if someone wants to break in, there’s always a way, but we made it as difficult as possible. It’s called “physical intimidation”. Finally, since the cost of shipping is determined by volume, we reduced the tire pressure and emptied the Hellwig air suspension bags, which lowers the actual height of the truck by 2 inches. This could result in significant savings.

Easily removable external accessories like lights and cameras were packed in the camper.

Easily removable external accessories like lights and cameras were packed in the camper.

Radios and GPS are easy targets for the ”snatch-and-run” thieves.

Radios and GPS are easy targets for the ”snatch-and-run” thieves.

Center console and other storage compartments were emptied.

Center console and other storage compartments were emptied.

Items like the GPS brackets had no real value and could be left intact.

Items like the GPS brackets had no real value and could be left intact.

Smaller external storage compartments were emptied and put in labeled boxes in the camper for quick reloading. Larger compartments were double locked.

Smaller external storage compartments were emptied and the items were put in labeled boxes in the camper for quick reloading. Larger compartments were double locked.

Thick plates and double pad locks are impossible are remove without doing obvious damage to the camper.

Thick plates and double pad locks are impossible to remove without doing obvious damage to the camper.

Top storage boxes were padlocked and in any case, difficult to reach without a ladder.

Top storage boxes were padlocked and in any case, they are difficult to reach without a ladder.

Fuel and water cans were stored in the camper to eliminate any temptation. The spare tire and sand ladders are always locked.

Fuel and water cans were stored in the camper to eliminate any temptation. The spare tire and sand ladders are always locked.

Fiamm marine air horns were secured with a lock and heavy cable.

Fiamm marine air horns were secured with a lock and a heavy cable.

Finally, we reduced the tire pressure and emptied the Hellwig air suspension bags, which lowers the actual height of the truck by 2 inches.

Finally, we reduced the tire pressure and emptied the Hellwig air suspension bags, which lowers the actual height of the truck by 2 inches.

 

 

 

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Across the USA 2013 # 9 (Safelite/SmartPlug)

May 23, 2013

One of the last minute projects we took care of in Wrightsville PA was to have the experts at Safelite (in York) replace the windshield. It was not broken, but it had acquired the normal little bug and sand pits over the last 50,000 miles. We wanted to start fresh. Admittedly, I am a little fanatic about having a clean windshield. After all, one purpose of travel is to see out. There is an old Tibetan or Buddhist proverb: “If a man wears leather on his feet, the whole earth is covered with leather.” My version: “If a man drives down the road with a dirty windshield, the whole world is dirty.”

We also took time to upgrade our external 110-volt shore power inlet to the new improved SmartPlug. Instead of twisting and screwing to attach, it pushes straight in and stainless steel clips lock it in place with a weatherproof seal. An internal thermostat cuts power at the first sign of overheating and its straight-in connection blades have 20x more contact, greatly reducing electrical resistance and the chance of arcing. We did need to cut off the 30-amp male plug and adapt a heavy-duty 20-amp plug, the size we  normally use. A blue LED shows power is connected.

The technicians at Safelite used a unique Ezi-Wire device that cuts the windshield’s rubber seal without damaging the paint or factory trim.

The technicians at Safelite used a unique Ezi-Wire device that cuts the windshield’s rubber seal without damaging the paint or factory trim.

A previous installer had scratched the metal above the windshield. Safelite sanded off the rust and primed it before installing the new glass.

A previous installer had scratched the metal above the windshield. Safelite sanded off the rust and primed it before installing the new glass.

The sealing compound used by Safelite dries in an hour and has a lifetime guarantee. It remains pliable which is an advantage for the rough roads we drive.

The sealing compound used by Safelite dries in an hour and has a lifetime guarantee. It remains pliable which is an advantage for the rough roads we drive.

The installers at Safelite were extremely professional and they had all the right tools.

The installers at Safelite were extremely professional and they had all the right tools.

We had never used Safelite before, but their quality and service will bring us back.

We had never used Safelite before, but their quality and service will bring us back.

The old fashioned Marinco plug was replaced with a new improved SmartPlug.

The old fashioned Marinco plug was replaced with a new improved SmartPlug.

We did need to cut off the 30-amp male plug and adapt a heavy-duty 20-amp plug, which is what we will normally use.

We did need to cut off the 30-amp male plug and adapt a heavy-duty 20-amp plug, the size we normally use.

The SmartPlug pushes straight in and stainless steel clips lock it in place.

The SmartPlug pushes straight in and stainless steel clips lock it in place.

SmartPlug pushes straight in and stainless steel clips lock it in place. The straight-in connection blades have 20x more contact, greatly reducing electrical resistance and the chance of arcing.

The straight-in connection blades have 20x more contact, greatly reducing electrical resistance and the chance of arcing.

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Across the USA 2013 #8 (Hoak’s 4WD)

May 20, 2013

Our last stop before shipping The Turtle V to Europe was Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, home of Hoak’s Four Wheel Drive Center. This was a safe harbor to do a final oil & filter change, remove all lights, cameras, GPS, etc. from the outside and the cab for safe transport in the double-locked camper, and finish up a few last minute projects. In-between all of this, we took time to play tourists with our gracious hosts, Ben & Ann Hoak, owners of Hoak’s Four Wheel Drive Center. The local specialty is crab cakes, so that was a must. A weekend farmers’ market had such delicacies as smoked dog bones and a wonderful assortment of homemade pies, cakes and jams by the local Amish. A popular tourist town was Intercourse. We hear Paradise was nearby, but we didn’t go there.

Hoak’s Four Wheel Drive Center was a safe harbor to do final oil & filter change and prepare the truck for shipping.

Hoak’s Four Wheel Drive Center was a safe harbor to do a final oil & filter change and prepare the truck for shipping.

We joined Ben & Ann Hoak for a crab cake feast, a must if you are in this part of the country.

We joined Ben & Ann Hoak for a crab cake feast, a must if you are in this part of the country.

Fresh crab cakes!! Trust us, they taste better than they look.

Fresh crab cakes!! Trust us, they taste better than they look.

Homemade pies, cakes and jams by the local Amish were a tempting treat.

Homemade pies, cakes and jams by the local Amish were a tempting treat.

A bone for your Great Dane? Yes, there were small bones for your poodle. Maybe a pig tail?

A bone for your Great Dane? Yes, there were small bones for your poodle. Maybe a pig tail?

Yes, there is a town named “Intercourse”. Looks like there is also an Intercourse Island in the Dampier Archipelago off Western Australia. Probably not related?

Hm, there is a town named “Intercourse”. Looks like there is also an Intercourse Island in the Dampier Archipelago off Western Australia. Probably not related?

At the Intercourse Museum, we discovered a beautiful selection of Amish quilts

At the Intercourse Museum, we discovered a beautiful selection of Amish quilts

Trees were in bloom everywhere.

Trees were in bloom everywhere.

Tidy Amish farms dotted the rolling countryside. Steel wheels were norm, and five mules provided power on this farm wagon It’s an Amish thing.

Tidy Amish farms dotted the rolling countryside. Steel wheels were  the norm, and five mules provided power on this farm wagon. It’s an Amish thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Across the USA #7 (Rickson Truck Wheels)

May 18, 2013

Leaving the Espar Headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, we headed south towards New York State. Crossing the Rainbow Bridge we snapped a picture of Niagara Falls and it occurred to me that we were not “traveling”. This was just “driving”. Our typical travel day might only involve 150 miles and maybe 4 or 5 hours on the road before we find a nice place to stop for the night. If it’s really nice, why not stay a day or two and explore the area?

Crossing the border into Pennsylvania,— “Speed Limit 55 mph”, “Please Wear Your Seatbelt for the Next Million Miles”, but everyone’s going 78 mph and tailgating like they do in Los Angeles, —our next stop was Rickson Truck Wheels in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Very few shops in our area of California have tire-balancing machines that can handle our big Michelin XZL MPT 41-inch tires. More importantly, it’s not just having the right machine. Someone needs to know how to use it. While the ideal way to balance these big tires on new rims would have been finding a high point on the wheel first, then finding a high point on the tire and then matching the two so that they cancel each other. There was no time for that. Using a sophisticated computerized Hunter Hammerhead balancing machine with the proper centering device for our 20” wheels, coupled with Dan Rickson’s knowledge of how to use that machine, was the next best thing.

In some cases we were able to remove five weights and replace them with two, following the laser line that the Hunter Hammerhead drew across the tire. In two cases, after the Hunter found a high spot on the combination of tire and wheel, we did spin the tire on the rim to compensate. These are big tires and Rickson wheels weigh something like 130 pounds each. The slight shimmy we had been noticing at 65 mph is now gone.

While we were at the Rickson factory, Dan gave us a quick tour. We got to see the Mercedes blanks that were the foundation for our wheels. We asked Dan why he didn’t put valve stems on both sides of our reversible wheels. Basically he said it wouldn’t be DOT approved. We had consulted with Steve Sasaki at Powertank and with the people at GH Meiser (Accu-Gage Tire Gauge). Both agreed that it was not a problem to simply drill a hole on the backside of the wheel and add another valve stem. The surface where the stem sits does not have to be flat. The actual seal is created as the rubber expands inside the hole when the nut on the valve stem is tightened.

Back in California, we had experimented using 90° extensions on the valve stems. That was not the answer, so we had to drill holes and add valve stems after we had already mounted the tires. It was much more difficult, but we had no choice. Because we air our tires up and down frequently, depending on road conditions, and because the rims are reversible, valve stems on both sides were a necessity.

Real “air suspension”. What a ride!!

Real “air suspension”. What a ride!!

Having the correct centering device for hub centric wheels is critical to get a proper balance.

Having the correct centering device for hub centric wheels is critical to get a proper balance.

The Hunter Hammerhead is an extremely advanced sophisticated balancing machine.

The Hunter Hammerhead is an extremely advanced sophisticated balancing machine.

Dan Rickson knew how to take every advantage of the sophisticated Hunter Hammerhead balancing machine.

Dan Rickson knew how to take every advantage of the sophisticated Hunter Hammerhead balancing machine.

In some cases we were able to remove as many as five weights and replace them with two, following the specific instructions given by the Hunter Hammerhead.

In some cases we were able to remove as many as five weights and replace them with two, following the specific instructions given by the Hunter Hammerhead.

Steel blanks like these are ordered from Mercedes. They are the foundation for custom wheels like ours. Hub-centric holes and lug nut holes are machined in the blanks.

Steel blanks like these are ordered from Mercedes. They are the foundation for custom wheels like ours. Hub-centric holes and lug nut holes are machined in the blanks.

A robotic welder joins the centers with the outer rims.

A robotic welder joins the centers with the outer rims.

Computerized CNC machines are used for precise machining of center holes and lug nut holes.

Computerized CNC machines are used for precise machining of center holes and lug nut holes.

The specialty of Rickson Truck Wheels is a much stronger replacement 19.5 rim for those that typically come on trucks and motorhomes today.

The specialty of Rickson Truck Wheels is a much stronger replacement 19.5″ rim for those that typically come on trucks and motor homes today.

Any questions?

Any questions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Across the USA 2013 #6 (Espar)

May 15, 2013

After a quick stop at Ken-Tool, we headed northeast to Canada. Despite our fears of long lines and secondary inspections, there was no waiting and Canadian Customs simply asked us if we had any firearms or explosives, and then waved us through.

In the morning, the Customer Service people and Technicians were waiting for us at the Espar North American Headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario. Our Espar diesel-powered heaters are an extremely important element to our comfort on the road. The Airtronic Air Heater is the primary heater for the camper itself. The Espar D5 Hydronic heats coolant from the engine to 187°F. Using a system of valves, we can direct that heated coolant to our FlatPlate hot water heater, or to preheat the engine on a cold morning, or to the camper itself should the Airtronic fail, or even to all three at the same time if needed. Both heaters use diesel from the main tank and both have been extremely reliable over the last 10 years.

We had come to Espar for two reasons. First, we wanted to have the heaters checked and analyzed by the Espar technicians with their computers to make sure everything was working correctly. Secondly, since these heaters are often used in sailboats/yachts at sea level, we had never installed a high-altitude kit that adjusts their fuel for the thinner air.

This would’ve normally required the installation of the second high-altitude fuel pump on each heater, but as luck would have it, Espar engineers have developed a new and more efficient method to deal with altitude. A small black box was installed on each heater that actually measures air pressure, which is directly related to altitude, to adjust the fuel pump automatically. With parts at their fingertips, the glow plug and atomization screen on the Airtronic was changed.

The new air pressure sensors have been tested to 10,000 feet, so we will let you know when we get to the 16,000-foot elevation along the Walkhan Corridor. If all else fails, we can always just leave the engine running as we did in Siberia, letting our third back-up Hunter radiator in the camper keep things toasty.

The Airtronic Air Heater is a primary heater for the camper itself.

The Airtronic Air Heater is the primary heater for the camper itself.

The D5 Hydronic heats coolant which is directed through a series of valves to the engine, the FlatPlate heater, or the Hunter radiator in the camper.

The D5 Hydronic heats coolant which is directed through a series of valves to the engine, the FlatPlate heater, or the Hunter radiator in the camper.

Based on years of experience, we placed all the controls for heaters, the rooftop Golite and music right next to our bed.

Based on years of experience, we placed all the controls for heaters, the rooftop Golite and music right next to our bed.

Espar technician, Jeffrey Amours, knew every detail of our heaters.

Espar technician, Jeffrey Amours, knew every detail of our heaters.

Our Espar Airtronic main camper heater was installed so that it can easily be serviced when a glow plug or other parts need to be changed.

Our Espar Airtronic main camper heater was installed so that it can easily be serviced when a glow plug or other parts need to be changed.

With parts at their fingertips, the glow plug and atomization screen on the Airtronic were changed.

With parts at their fingertips, the glow plug and atomization screen on the Airtronic were changed.

A small black box was installed on each heater that actually measures air pressure, which is directly related to altitude, and adjusts the fuel pump automatically.

A small black box was installed on each heater that actually measures air pressure, which is directly related to altitude and adjusts the fuel pump automatically.

Both our Espar heaters will be extremely important during our travels along the Silk Road.

The new air pressure sensing device controls the fuel pump as altitude changes.

The Espar team, (L to R) Alexey Konyshev, Jeffrey Amores and John Giglio (far R) were all extremely knowlegible and helpful.

The Espar team, (L to R) Alexey Konyshev, Jeffrey Amores and John Giglio (far R) were all extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

Espar's mascot Bertrand will be traveling with us.

Espar’s mascot Bertrand will be traveling with us.

On our way south, we snapped this photo of Niagara Falls as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

On our way south, we snapped this photo of Niagara Falls as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

 

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Across the USA 2013 #5 (Ken-Tool)

May 12, 2013

We are moving quickly now. Hope you can keep up. After a relaxing visit and overnight stay at Reutter’s Roost B&B (probably gained 2 pounds), we headed towards Canada. An important stop along the way was Ken-Tool, the world’s leading manufacturer of tire service tools. Sometime soon, I’ll be doing a full post on our tire repair kit. For the most part, repairing a tire can be pretty straight forward, once you get the tire off the rim. Getting our 41-inch Michelin XZL MPT tires off our Rickson steel wheels was a serious problem.

Rock Tyson and Roger Kliskey met us when we arrived at Ken-Tool headquarters and showed us the step-by-step process using their T52 Bead Breaker, a T35 Heavy Duty Tire Hammer, and the T2006 Super Serpent Demount Tool. With T2002 Serpent Mount Tool and a pair of Aluminum Bead Holders, the big Michelin was easily slipped back on the rim. A blast of 120-psi air from our AccuAir 5-gallon reserve tank reset the bead and the Extreme Outback dual air compressors quickly re-inflated the tire.

Breaking down these big tires is still not easy, but with plenty of lube, now we know it’s possible if we have to repair a tire on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Having the right tools make all the difference.

A T52 Bead Breaker and T35 Heavy Duty Tire Hammer were used to separate the tire from the rim. We could also use our Hi-Lift Jack for the job.

A T52 Bead Breaker and T35 Heavy Duty Tire Hammer were used to separate the tire from the rim. We could also use our Hi-Lift Jack for the job.

The Ken-Tool T2006 Super Serpent Demount Tool was used to pry the bead of the tire over the rim.

The Ken-Tool T2006 Super Serpent Demount Tool was used to pry the bead of the tire over the rim.

The Ken-Tool T2006 Super Serpent Demount Tool was used to pry the bead of the tire over the rim.

The unique shape of the Super Serpent Demount tool greatly speeds up the process.

Plenty of lube on the bead and rim makes the job much easier. We carry a small jar of Tire Slick tire-mounting lubricant for this purpose.

Plenty of lube on the bead and rim makes the job much easier. We carry a small jar of Tire Slick tire-mounting lubricant for this purpose.

Rock Tyson, (VP of Sales & Marketing), and Roger Kliskey, (Manager), gave us a hands-on demonstration of the dismounting process.

Rock Tyson, (VP of Sales & Marketing), and Roger Kliskey, (Manager), gave us a hands-on demonstration of the dismounting process.

A Serpent Mount Tool and a pair of Aluminum Bead Holders made easy work of slipping the big Michelin back on the rim.

A Serpent Mount Tool and a pair of Aluminum Bead Holders made easy work of slipping the big Michelin back on the rim.

A blast of 120-psi air from our AccuAir 5-gallon reserve tank was plenty to reset the bead.

A blast of 120-psi air from our AccuAir 5-gallon reserve tank was plenty to reset the bead.

Our dual ExtremeAire Velocity 12-volt air compressors by Extreme Outback Products quickly aired up the tire to 65 psi.

Our dual ExtremeAire Velocity 12-volt air compressors by Extreme Outback Products quickly aired up the tire to 65 psi.

Quality products from companies like Ken-Tool are what make our life on the road and adventures like driving the Silk Road possible.

Quality products from companies like Ken-Tool are what make our life on the road and adventures like driving the Silk Road possible.

 

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Across the USA 2013 #3 (Bigfoot)

May 1, 2013

The snow-clogged streets of Denver soon turned the freeways into rivers of brown icy slop. So much for keeping the truck clean. It was nearly 850 miles to St. Louis. That’s more than we like to drive in one day. After over-nighting outside of Topeka, we threaded our way through the labyrinth of freeways into Kansas City, keeping an eye out for Dorothy and Toto, crossed the Missouri River, and headed straight to the comfortable home of Bob and Marilyn Chandler, creators and owners of the Bigfoot Monster Trucks. Having left Denver at a chilly 24°, we had the heater on most of the time. Suddenly Monika realized it was 84° outside, prompting a quick change to air-conditioning.

The next morning we headed over to Midwest Four-Wheel-Drive, home of Bigfoot. Bob helped me lift The Turtle V up on his shop rack. By placing Jack stands under the rear corners of the camper, we took the pressure off the giant pivot bolt in the back of the camper’s three-point suspension.

The master welders and engineers at Midwest Four-Wheel-Drive had redesigned and installed the camper’s suspension over 10 years ago after the miserably designed system by Safari Vehicles in Canada collapsed. With the pressure off the bolt we were able to back it out and check for ware on both the surface of the bolt and the lubeable bronze bushing. No problems could be seen.

After a relaxing couple days in St. Louis, we headed east, crossing the mighty Mississippi at flood stage. Destination Valley City, Ohio.

Midwest Four Wheel Drive is the home of the famous Bigfoot Monster Trucks.

Our Turtles have been in the Midwest Four Wheel Drive shop many times over the years. Gary did the very first story on Bigfoot #1 for Off Road Magazine.

Our Turtles have been in the Midwest Four Wheel Drive shop many times over the years. Gary did the very first story on Bigfoot #1 for Off Road Magazine.

Today’s racing fleet of Bigfoot trucks has a slightly modified suspension.

Today’s racing fleet of Bigfoot trucks has a slightly modified suspension.

The big hydraulic floor lift at Midwest Four Wheel Drive, home of Bigfoot, had no problem lifting The Turtle V.

The big hydraulic floor lift at Midwest Four Wheel Drive, home of Bigfoot, had no problem lifting The Turtle V.

Jack stands under the rear corners of the camper allowed us to take the pressure off the giant pivot bolt in the back of the camper’s three-point suspension.

Jack stands under the rear corners of the camper allowed us to take the pressure off the giant pivot bolt in the back of the camper’s three-point suspension.

Bob Chandler had not lost his knowledge of how to use the shop tools. He had designed and built the Original Monster Truck back in 1974, and it grew from there.

Bob Chandler had not lost his knowledge of how to use the shop tools. He had designed and built the Original Monster Truck back in 1974, and it grew from there.

A giant lubable pivot bolt is the essential component of the Tortuga Expedition Camper’s rear suspension, allowing it to rotate on the frame. You can’t twist a box.

A giant lubeable pivot bolt is the essential component of the Tortuga Expedition Camper’s rear suspension, allowing it to rotate on the frame. You can’t twist a box.

We thoroughly enjoyed our short visit with our old friends Bob and Marilyn Chandler.

We thoroughly enjoyed our short visit with our old friends Bob and Marilyn Chandler.

 

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Across the USA 2013 #2 (Gates/ATS)

April 25, 2013

Despite the fact that we reached Denver under blue sunny skies, weather was on the way. The temperature had dropped back down into the low 30s and flakes of snow were drifting around when we arrived at the Gates Corporation World Headquarters. It was a pleasure to meet some of the people behind the company that has supplied our belts and radiator & heater hoses for over 30 years. Many of the employees came down to take a closer look at The Turtle V.

Our first stop in the morning was the Gates Corporation World Headquarters.

Our first stop in the morning was the Gates Corporation World Headquarters.

It was a pleasure to meet some of the people at the Gates Corporation World Headquarters.

It was a pleasure to meet some of the people at the Gates Corporation World Headquarters. They have supplied our belts and hoses for many years.

Monika is giving Ken Van Oort, Advertising & Marketing Communications Manager of Gates Corp. a tour of The Turtle V

Monika is giving Kent Van Oort, Advertising & Marketing Communications Manager of Gates Corp.,  a tour of The Turtle V.

In the afternoon we headed over to ATS Diesel Performance where one of their expert technicians gave our Aurora 3000 Turbo a thorough inspection, both visual and using a scanner for an on-the-road performance test. Not that we expected any problems, because the Aurora 3000 has been extremely reliable, but it was nice to know that everything was in perfect running condition. ATS owner, Clint Cannon, gave us a tour of the expanded manufacturing facilities. Virtually all components of ATS Turbos and ATS Transmissions are now manufactured in-house.

The ATS Diesel Performance technician gave our Aurora 3000 Turbo a through visual inspection.

The ATS Diesel Performance technician gave our Aurora 3000 Turbo a through visual inspection.

Using a scanner for an on-the-road performance test, our ATS Aurora 3000 was given a clean bill of health.

Using a scanner for an on-the-road performance test, our ATS Aurora 3000 was given a clean bill of health.

During a tour of the expanded ATS manufacturing facilities owner, Clint Cannon, showed Monika the new Ubangi earrings he is making. You can tell, we were all laughing!

During a tour of the expanded ATS manufacturing facilities Clint Cannon showed Monika the new Ubangi earrings he is making. You can tell we were all laughing!

ATS Aurora Turbos have taken us around the world and now they will do it again.

ATS Turbos have taken us around the world and now they will do it again.

That evening Douglas Rykerd, a good friend who had been on one of our Baja California  adventures, met us for dinner.

Douglas Rykerd drove up from Colorado Springs in a blizzard just to have dinner with us.

Douglas Rykerd drove up from Colorado Springs in a blizzard just to have dinner with us.

It was snowing hard by the time we went to bed. With the Espar Airtronic Diesel Air Heater set on low, The Turtle V was dripping with icicles in the morning and there was eight inches of fresh powder on the hood. We waited a few minutes but the weather didn’t change. Next stop St. Louis.

In the morning there was 8 inches of fresh powder on the hood.

In the morning there was 8 inches of fresh powder on the hood.

With the Espar Airtronic diesel heater set on low, we slept warm but The Turtle V was dripping with icicles in the morning at 24°F.

With the Espar Airtronic Diesel Heater set on low, we slept warm but The Turtle V was dripping with icicles in the morning at 24°F.

Icy roads awaited us as we headed east.

Icy roads awaited us as we headed east.

 

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