Lark, happily going along Route 66: USA, North America, Lark: Outfitted with a GPS (Garmin Nuvii) and a Dashboard Alter for Good Vibes Classic Painted Ox-Cart, Costa Rica, Central America: Country of Departure Lark: Back Country Roads of Costa Rica, Departure Day
Well, our trip through Central America, Mexico, California, across the US along Route 66 to the East Coast, including a big adventure up into Niagara Falls was a complete success. That’s not to say we were never challenged. In fact, when people ask me about how it went, I find myself saying: “It was an adventure”.
Recounting the “adventure” does not seem like a good use of virtual space, bandwidth or my time and energy. However, I will describe the general voyage and a few items that punctuated the trip.
The Lark was not without problems. I had replaced the fuel pump and filter due to failure While bringing her out of mothballs earlier in the year. However, the “new” pump started failing. I could get her running by beating the fuel tank with a rock. We went 1500 KM this way, beating the pump to life when it would quit and leave us stranded. Eventually in central Mexico the rock trick stopped working and we were towed back 120KM to the city of Pubelo, Mexico. I sought a hotel down the street from the Chevrolet agency and installed an OEM replacement pump for the 1990 Chevy Blazer drive train that motor the Lark. The hotel was really great about my wrenching in their parking lot.
Second Country and first border crossing and repair to the Lark's Shocks
Heidi in front of La Perla, a nice hotel in downtown Leon, Nicaragua, Central America
The rear shocks on the Lark never were very pleasing. I had installed them during the original conversion using “TLAR” engineering. For those of you who are not engineers, TLAR stands for “That Looks About Right”.
I had put the shock mounting points in too vertical of a position and ended up having to compromise on the selection of shocks. As a result, the shocks suffered from bottoming out easily when my conversion was complete. This shortcoming reared its ugly head early in our trip. The severe bottoming tore apart the frame at the upper right rear shock over and over. We made temporary repairs in Nicaragua and again in Honduras. Finally in Antigua Guatemala we took a day to repair the frame correctly. I had the shocks removed for the duration of our transit to San Diego where I installed air shocks that solved the issue.
Honduras and Nicaragua had some awful roads and the repair in Nicaragua had to be re-done in Honduras. Honduras: Second Border Crossing and Repair!
Guatemala Market: Fourth Border Crossing (El Salvador was third) and Third Repair to the body/shocks issue Volcanos in Guatemala Mexican Mechanics in San Cristobel, Chiapas: Mexico, North America
4th Repair due to Negligence at the Gas Station: 5th Country and Border Crossing
We lost a day leaving Pubela when a helpful gas station attendant put a quart of motor oil into the automatic transmission. We pushed the car across the street to a mechanic shop where 5 young men worked like a soccer team to drop the pan and clean out the offending oil. I had their work redone in San Diego, as the pan gasket leaked all the way.
I changed spark plugs and plug wires somewhere in Central Mexico, during a torrential downpour that caused misfires and stalling due to the deteriorated ignition system.
Plotting the route with Heidi's cousin, Scott-
who joined us in Antigua and stayed with us through Puebla
Admirers of the Lark in Mexico (and throughout the trip) were plentiful! Above: Photos of Tlaxcala and San Cristobel, Chiapas, Mexico
Driving through Central America necessitates preparation for the chaos and confusion of border crossings. The border crossings are not well marked, and require standing in at least 3 (sometimes 5) lines to obtain your personal and vehicle documents for passage.
Knowing where to find resources allowed us to affect many good quality repairs in San Diego, before commencing our drive along Route 66: solar shading on the windows to reduce the heat load on the A/C, air shocks to solve the rear suspension puzzle, GPS for our ease, leak repairs to cure the Larks incontinence, and load lightening. Man, was it good to get out on good roads! Heidi studied the process and document needs of each of the borders. She created a folder of packets for each border filled with original and copies of necessary documents. While we did well crossing the borders, there were still the confusing aspects of lack of knowledge, foreign language, deteriorated infrastructure and make-shift building usage to cause stress and tension. Sex Motels: they were cheap and often had garages for the Lark. We used them to crash hard for 8 hours and start again... Mostly in El Salvador and Mexico for about $20/night. Arriving in Nogales, Arizona after a LONG, GRUELING, but never DULL: Roadtrip!Along historic Route 66, we drove 90% along the major highway and dipped in to the old Route 66 to get gas and view attractions. If anyone out there reading this is an old car aficionado or a train lover, traveling Route 66 is a fantastic corridor for both trains and old car lots.
First Destination: San Diego, CA
We continued on past Chicago (the Eastern terminus of Route 66) to visit the Studebaker museum in South Bend, Indiana. The South Bend Indiana plant made not only Studebaker cars like our Lark, but also the military trucks that interest me, the M35, known as the “duce and a half”. Studebaker built these trucks for the military, and later in 1964 when Studebaker sold their plant to Kaiser the trucks continued to be built there. Eventually Kaiser became a part of American Motors Corporation, maker of the Pacer, Javlin and AMX. American Motors was bought by General Motors in the early seventies, and General Motors spun off the military truck building, creating AM General, which is still in business today making the Humvee.
Before long, we arrived on the East Coast tired and intact, then headed up through New York State along the Hudson first, and then east along the Erie Canal. We took a boat tour through a working canal section and lock, learning the history of the canal and viewing the technology that is still functioning today.
Above: NY State and PA border along the Delaware River
Below: Eerie Canal Tour
Our visit to Niagara Falls was quite enjoyable. I had no idea about the carnival atmosphere being built there.
The Canadian side is really interesting and again, we got into the tourist things, taking in an IMAX movie about the daredevils of the Falls, riding on a boat right into the mist of the falls, walking in and around the town like tourists do. We continued as far west as New London, Ontario to enjoy the company of one of Heidi’s high school friends.
The Lark took us back to the East Coast in Marion, Massachusetts, where the Lark will be garaged at Heidi’s fathers house. We took the time to remove the Costa Rica Plates and install Mass plates. The Lark will be right at home, as Heidi’s father’s house is right on the water leading to Buzzards Bay. Ok, that’s a stretch, but a buzzard and a Lark are birds….. guess I just laid an egg.
Labels: 4wd, Central America Roadtrip, Studebaker