Getting ready for Central America…….A quick trip to Michigan??

Posted: May 18, 2012 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel

**18 days to Mexico!!**  Dead in the middle of the preparations for heading to Central America, we decided to take a quick trip to Michigan. We decided we did not have enough to do, so we packed up and headed north. Ohh, did I mention we decided to drive our 2008 Smart car. What a trip. This is an excellent vehicle for commuting around town, running errands, and saving fuel .Yes, saving fuel that is why we chose to drive this vehicle to Michigan. Upon first check, we averaged slightly over 42 miles per gallon. Yes, that is why we drove the tiny little vehicle measuring just over 8 feet long, bumper to bumper. The overnight bag was packed along with the bathroom bags. Everything was fitting just fine. Wait, we need to take a full-sized traffic light to my Father In Law..There goes the rear view mirror visual. Did I mention there was no cruise control? I mean who usually needs cruise control around town? For that matter, who drives a Smart car 900 miles one way? That would be us.

Amish Consignment Auction- Charlotte Michigan

We made it just in time to attend one of the largest consignment auctions I have ever attended. The local Amish community put on an event that would rival a county fair. In addition to every conceivable household, farm and garden, firearms, vehicles, and garage item, fathomable, is the food. Ahhh, the food. There are pies, breads, cakes, cookies, burgers, hot dogs, ham and cheese, you name it. Pecan pie, strawberry rhubarb, coconut cream , apple, and others. You cannot help but eat several pieces of pie. This is an experience you must try if you are ever in the Charlotte, Michigan area. They hold it twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Look up Lavern Yutzy. You wont likely find him on Facebook, you will need to meet him in person. He is the owner of the auction company and an all around good guy. Check out his auctions on www.auctionzip.com Well, after a nice dinner at Leos in East Lansing Michigan for Mothers day, we visited family and then decided to return on Tuesday morning. Other than a false call on a check engine light and some rain, and a lengthy detour, the trip home was uneventful. Man, I hope I do not have to drive the Smart car for a few days. Its wonderful in doses….small doses.

Well back home means back to preparations for the trip. I pulled the Land Rover into the garage and began replacing the brakes. I decided to install ceramic brake pads all around. Primarily to help reduce the brake dust. Like many vehicles these days, the wheels on the Rover are pretty open. The dust tends to cover the exterior of the wheel. Ceramic pads eliminate most of this. I ordered slotted and drilled rotors for the front. This will help dissipate heat and reduce the potential for the brake “wobble”. After everything was cleaned with brake parts cleaner, I lubed all of the contact points. This will assist with the operation of the calipers. I took the opportunity while the wheels were off to clean the years of brake dust accumulation from the back side of the wheels. It took several cleanings, but I finally could see the factory rim below the grime. After pressing the brake pedal several times to seat the calipers, I gave it a test drive. The rotor instructions recommended a break in procedure. I performed this and all seems well.

Ceramic brake pads

I had ordered a swing away bike hitch online, and it arrived via UPS. The swing away design allows the bikes to be loaded and “swing away” in order to open the rear door. It’s a great design, although, they tend to cost considerably more than a conventional rack. After searching extensively, I finally settled on a Hollywood brand rack. This was a good balance of quality and price. The rack arrived promptly, and I was anxious to set it up. The box was packed very nicely. Everything was wrapped securely in padded wrap. Upon opening the box and wrapping, lo and behold, I began to notice damage. Ironically, the box did not display damage on the exterior. That led me to believe one thing. The rack was damaged prior to shipping and then wrapped up. I was not happy. I contacted the seller (Ebay seller). While waiting on hold, I noticed some writing on the box. After closer examination, I identified a “RA number” in other words a return authorization. Now I know it had been damaged and returned before. I provided pictures to the customer service rep. I was informed that unfortunately, the rack was no longer available. They said they would allow me to return it for a refund. This was not acceptable. I already knew, I would not be able to compete with the price I had paid for this one. I asked them to see what they could do. Approximately an hour later, I received an email apologizing for the inconvenience. They said they had issued a full refund, and that I could keep the hitch at no charge! Wow talk about customer service. I was able to fix the problem and use some satin Rustoleum to seal it up. After assembling the unit, it looks like new. Thank you Hollywood Racks!

Hollywood Bike rack

Stay tuned…..all of the fun stuff coming up (roof rack, tent, lift kit)

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