38 N Western America


ARIZONA again.

On our return from SA, via the South Pacific, on a round the world ticket, our mates from Phoenix fetched us from the airport and later on, took us to Dipli at the storage facility. After 8 months in the open, the outside and everything inside was covered with dust. In Prescott, friends provided mod cons (including a vacuum cleaner!), and space on their scenic acreage so that our vehicle could be prepared for the long way north. Maintenance on Dipli entailed: radiator repair and replacement of water pump, drive shaft, injection pump, injectors, glow plugs, etc.

Our hosts had travelled extensively and had just finished writing a how-to-drive-from-North-to-South America book: “Americas Overland” by Greene & Greene.



The Desert Botanical Garden contains Arizona cacti, like the tall Saguaro, the fat Barrel cactus and the fluffy-looking but very prickly, Teddy Bear cactus. There were humming birds and comical Gambel’s Quail with a curled plume on top of the head.

At the Heard Museum we once again noticed, how wealthy families bequeath huge sums of money to the Arts. The collection of Hopi Indian carved and painted Kachina dolls was exceptional, as were the Navajo bead-embroidered leather cradles.


The natural marvels in CA are incredibly varied; from the weird yucca-like Joshua Trees to the immense Sequoia trees, to the tallest in the world, the Red Woods. There is low-lying Death Valley National Park where it was 46ºC and Kings Canyon NP where it snowed while Jan was replacing a brake master cylinder kit. On the road to Yosemite National Park a young officer from the California Highway Patrol stopped us and said: “You may not continue driving because you do not have California licence plates…” Helloo…



San Diego. The Aircraft carrier “Midway”-museum portrays in detail the life on board the massive “USS Midway”. We learned how 4500 crew had lived in cramped quarters sailing around Vietnam and the Pacific. The captain’s de luxe suite was on a higher level, overlooking from where the scores of airplanes would land and take off.

At the San Diego Zoo, we saw the panda cub, a large anteater with baby on her back and the-no-longer-lonely cheetah with a Golden Retriever dog as a cage mate. We also saw a bizarre bearded wild pig, signposted: “A pig of beauty is a joy forever”.

We were delighted to find a state-maintained Hollister Hills OHVA (off-highway vehicle area) where trail bikes and off road vehicles can play around.

New buddies in a 4x4 Volvo took us on the trails and up the hills. It was also a good spot to replace a clutch plate. Jan positioned a tyre lever across Dipli’s roof hatch and used a ratchet hoist to winch the gear box out and into place. When the diff oil seals did not fit easily, we froze one part and heated the other. When Leone could not be outside, 1/8 of the motorhome was available to perch on; the rest was taken up with tools and parts.

On California’s west coast we saw one of the Missions built in 1776. As we were approaching Los Angeles the funky seaside towns became more built-up. The GPS led us to a nice but pricey ($52 p night) RV Park near Disneyland. Disney was great fun and the laser-firework show a marvelous spectacle. After 3 hectic days, an afternoon with a friend from South Africa was relaxing and consoling.

In horrendous traffic J had to drive L to the Getty Villa in Malibu. This reconstructed Roman mansion, houses the late oil magnate, Jean Paul Getty’s invaluable collection of Greek and Roman art.

Always when we were out observing, folks would be looking at and photographing Dipli, saying:

“What is THIS?”

“Man, what IS this?”

“This is a cool machine”

“Beautiful Landlowel!” - a Chinese monk who couldn’t say “r”

and, most often: “I like your rig”.

Obviously, to Americans, Dipli was the strangest vehicle they had ever seen.

The librarian (L) had to see the John Steinbeck Centre in Salinas valley. The interactive exhibits bring each of his novels to life. There were movie clips from “Grapes of Wrath” (1939) and close-up shots of James Dean in “East of Eden”. “Travels with Charlie” was depicted by displaying the actual camper, in which he and his dog, Charlie drove around America.

Although some of the San Francisco streets are narrow we followed the 49-mile route past the main impressive views, suburbs, parks, buildings and bridges. The next day, we enjoyed a lunch with friends in a lovely suburban home.

North over the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge we went; through vineyards and the valley called “the salad bowl of the world”. It was June and we could taste the first cherries of the season and strawberries bigger than a golf ball.


We drove through thick green forests. In Eugene where the first Nike light-weight running shoe originated in 1964, a Nike-outlet displays the waffle iron which moulded the first rubber soles.

At the Aviation Museum in McMinnville we saw the world’s largest wooden aircraft, “Spruce Goose”, built by multimillionaire Howard Hughes. In 1947 it cost $25 million to build and flew only once.

Downtown Portland did not have convenient parking and the famous Rosegarden had no blooming roses yet. We crossed the Columbia River, the border of Oregon/Washtn.


The road around the Mt St Helen’s crater was still snowed up. The Volcano Visitor Centre was at a lower elevation. There were photos and films showing how the bulge on the mountain side had expanded and erupted in 1980; also pictures and tales of the subsequent devastation.

“Starbucks” started off in Seattle in 1971. It was a good excuse to go for a good coffee there.

From the web site gasprices.com we found the cheapest diesel in a town called Ferndale. (We live in a suburb called Ferndale in South Africa).



In Vancouver we had our own luxurious bedroom in the home of South African friends. While Leone enjoyed the garden and stocking up at the South African shop, Jan worked on Dipli. A big treat was to be shown the sights of Vancouver. The various views were of rivers, bays and inlets. We were astounded to see so many large parks with walking and biking trails. The uncommercialised beaches have logs to sit on or lean against. Landscaping and building was underway for the 2010 Winter Olympics. At the Museum of Anthropology we saw fine exhibits of First Nations totem poles and other wood carvings. We were waiting for the ferry to Vancouver Island when we were requested to remove one of our two gas cylinders mounted on the back. Bureaucratic (il) logic! The capital of BC, Victoria has a most picturesque inner boat harbour against a back drop of the Victorian-era parliament buildings. Baskets of flowers on lamp posts adorn the streets.

In a Tudor-style café we enjoyed a real English High Tea. Leone saw the house, art and writings of Emily Carr and at the Art Gallery, a Pop art exhibit (Andy Warhol) and a display of the most exquisite Eastern silk embroidered items. The large Butchart garden (including a Japanese garden) was gorgeous.

Back on mainland BC we went to visit a young cousin from SA, who was one of the thousands of doctors who had left South Africa and now practiced in Canada.

En route north we saw acres of dead pine and spruce trees. Prince George used to have a large lumber industry but sawmills were now closing. A new friend showed us on his land, the cause of the forest holocaust: thousands of tiny beetles which bore into inner bark and extract all the sap. Don invited us to park next to his lake, housing beavers and water birds like the lovely Loon. The lake and critters feature in children’s’ music productions which he does: www.worldofavaloon.com. We saw a black bear there.

Canada was much dearer than the U.S. We found some cheaper diesel at Gitanyow on an Indian Reservation (no tax). The filling station was next to a row of 100 year old Totem poles.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon. The temperature at 6ºC. The high mountains were in the clouds but we could see lakes and rivers below the road. Suddenly our vehicle headed to the right and off the road – sinking into the soft shoulder, leaning to the right. We went down and down into the ditch and up the other very steep side, now leaning to the left and more and more and then


Dipli fell over onto his left side. “Are you OK?” We were hanging in our seatbelts. Jan turned the main battery isolator off to obviate sparks due to possible damaged wires. We could not get the RH door open until someone came to force it open and let us out at what was now the top. He phoned for a tow truck from Dease Lake. Leone was trembling from shock, cold, a painful bruise - and relief. Jan climbed in through the roof hatch and clambered over the fridge, which had hit the ceiling and was now in the middle of the mess. He was searching for valuable effects, threatened by seeping muddy water and falling rain.

The Officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police offered his vehicle as a safe deposit. Jan helped the lone tow truck driver with winching and after 4 hours a very muddy Dipli was offloaded in his yard in Dease Lake. We rummaged for clean clothes and valuables as he had offered to drive us to a hotel: “Full”; next one: “no vacancy”. Back to the Arctic Excavation’s large yard. We were wet and shivering. We covered the soaked mattresses with plastic and found some dry bedding. We could not find the camera and other objects were missing too. Must have slipped out into the pools of mud…. After a hot cup of tea at 00h30 we tried to sleep.

The next day was a glorious long sunny day and we felt so grateful. We got everything dry. Jan removed the glow plugs to blow the oil out of the cylinders and then the engine started! It took Jan 3 days to repair most of the damage, but Leone’s clothes locker was permanently ‘modified’. In spite of a huge bruise on the shin she could walk the 2km to the village to buy food and two cake pans.

The cause of the incident turned out to be the rear differential which had collapsed internally and locked the RH rear wheel; this one-sided braking caused the sudden swerve to the right. Removal of the drive shaft and side shafts isolated the diff so that we were on our way again, on front wheel drive. (The cake pans were used to cover the hub bearings since the side shaft/flange assemblies were removed).

This journey up to June 2008:

Time on the road (excluding home visits): 5 years

Kilometres driven: 214 000 Countries visited: 88 (with Dipli).

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