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Old 11-02-2009, 08:31 AM   #1
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Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

We just got back from a 9 day trip to Gonzaga Bay in Baja California with the new(used 2003) SMB.
The rocky section thru the mountains south of Puertocitos is 1/2 paved, and the rest of the questas newly bladed, the sandy section from Huerfonito to GB is still the same.

The road cracked the sheetmetal on the van on both rear mounts where the awning attaches to the van, killed the vans AC, killed the electric fridge on the way back, and a rock broke the front windshield.

Did the 35 miles of dirt in ~ 3.5 hours.

No problems crossing at Mexicali, only one checkpoint at the Ensanada turn off.

No problems getting Diesel in San Felipe.

Driving the SMB was a PITA! Too top heavy, too much swaying back and forth.
The "captains" seats sucked for offroading, not enough lateral support.
The van didnt get very good gas milage driving the dirt slowly thru the questas.
The fridge killed the battery in 2 days, Im glad we brought a ice chest. We are going to replace the 12V model with a 2 way propane/12V

Camping in the SMB was really nice, it was windy all the time and it was nice to hide in the van.
The kayaks on the penthouse roof did OK. Didnt really get to use them because of the wind.

Swung by Punto Buffeo, didn't see Scatter's rig so kept driving to Papa Fernandez.


The new paved road is going to bring about the end of an era, Im glad we have been going down so much in the last 15 years. It IS going to change Gonzaga Bay.
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Old 11-08-2009, 01:01 AM   #2
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jstanley
The road cracked the sheetmetal on the van on both rear mounts where the awning attaches to the van, killed the vans AC, killed the electric fridge on the way back, and a rock broke the front windshield.
Wow, that aint good, what the hell kind of road was it? You didn't drive like you were in the Baja 1000 did you?
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Old 11-08-2009, 10:29 AM   #3
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

Bummer, sure sorry we missed you jstanley. We were here, but keep the rig in the garage and use the P.O.S.T. for transportation while here for local driving.
Sure sorry about all your problems on the road. We make the run all the way from Bufeo to Puerticitos in an hour and a half. No kayaks on top and do have the Deaver springs. Rides MUCH better then stock. Not too surprised on the awning cracks. There's no way that mounting system will stand up to much rock-n-roll. I lost a fridge here last Christmas when deminimis came down. At least mine was still under warrantee and got it replaced for free. Working fine so far..
Hope the trip didn't bum you so much you won't do it again. We've had a solid week of no wind. On the verge of being too hot.
Hope to see ya on the trail.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:03 AM   #4
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

Quote:
We were here, but keep the rig in the garage and use the P.O.S.T. for transportation while here for local driving.
Thats what we figured, but after 15 hours of driving we were ready to get to Papa's.
Quote:
We make the run all the way from Bufeo to Puerticitos in an hour and a half.
!?! WOW, My wife says "You have lost your dirtroad mojo", maybe shes right.
Quote:
Not too surprised on the awning cracks. There's no way that mounting system will stand up to much rock-n-roll.
And because of the wind we only got to use the awning for 1.5 days. Im going to fill the space behind the sheetmetal with epoxy and try screwing into that. It was nice when we used it but we almost lost it to wind gusts when we left the van and went snorkeling without taking it down.

Im going to replace the fridge with a propane/12 volt so losing it isnt that big of deal.
Im looking for seats that are more "bucket like" for more lateral support.
I also added a Helwig sway bar to the rear, Im lookinging into disconnects for that to help with the back and forth swaying on rough roads.

Quote:
Hope the trip didn't bum you so much you won't do it again.
We are learning about the SMB, we never had a van, or automatic trans, or deisel, or AC so it is all new to us. It was a bummer to lose the vans AC. The van sure is nice when you are parked!
I have reconsidered alot of routes like Steel Pass, Mengal Pass, or the Swansea grade. My old 93 4wd f-250 and 93 Toyota 4wd pickup really take rough roads well compared to the SMB. They also drive paved roads much better. The SMB is tall, and heavy!
We just got tired of camping out of the back of the 93 F-250, and it was falling apart (last November the tie rod and connector fell off on the Gonzaga road when I stopped to take a break! That might be some of my driving fast on dirt roads mojo problem)
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Old 11-10-2009, 11:58 AM   #5
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jstanley
Driving the SMB was a PITA! Too top heavy, too much swaying back and forth.
Yeah, it is a different experience - driving a tall van. It takes some getting used to. I can't rally-drive through the bumpy stuff like I could with my old Jeep Grand Cherokee. Airing way down helps absorb some of the bumps, but as for the swaying all I can do is take it SLOW when the road looks uneven.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jstanley
The van didnt get very good gas milage driving the dirt slowly thru the questas.
You'd think going slow would be good for gas mileage, but with all the braking, soft terrain, and aired-down tires it's pretty bad. I get only about 10 MPG on the trail.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jstanley
The fridge killed the battery in 2 days, Im glad we brought a ice chest. We are going to replace the 12V model with a 2 way propane/12V
Do you have solar on the roof? Are you batteries older than 5 years? The combination of solar & good batteries should keep your fridge going indefinitely without having to start the engine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jstanley
The kayaks on the penthouse roof did OK. Didnt really get to use them because of the wind.
I can see how that would add to the sway! I've thought about bringing our sea kayaks down to baja on the roof, too, but I haven't yet -- fearing that kind of swaying.

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Old 11-10-2009, 04:14 PM   #6
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

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Do you have solar on the roof? Are you batteries older than 5 years? The combination of solar & good batteries should keep your fridge going indefinitely without having to start the engine.
No solar on the roof, and 6 year old batteries. While solar is fine for Baja and Death Valley we also travel to the north coast where the sun doesn't really shine. We also have kayaks on the roof blocking the panels. The 2 way fridge itself is only $300 more, but plumbing and venting it is going to be pricy.
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I can see how that would add to the sway! I've thought about bringing our sea kayaks down to baja on the roof, too, but I haven't yet -- fearing that kind of swaying.
The kayaks and rack add no more than 150lbs to the roof, I dont think they add alot to the swaying but I was worried about the top shifting with the extra weight. I also dont feel good about raising the top with the kayaks up there, one bad gust from the wrong direction and it might be ugly
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Yeah, it is a different experience - driving a tall van.
I was surprise how much harder it is to drive compared to a cabover camper on the f-250, I thought it was going to be easier than the truck with the camper. We got rid of the camper 10 years ago cause it was too big. While driving offroad the aftermarket "captains chair" seats SMB provides was like driving while sitting on top of a unsecured barrel.
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:16 PM   #7
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

You might need some suspension work - shocks, springs, bushings kind of things.

I don't think our SMB is any more of a handful than our 3/4 ton PU with a popup camper. And a lot better than the same truck with a heavy cabover camper. It is a tall, heavy van, but it has been on some pretty bad roads and trails and the sway never seemed on the same level as the PU camper.

There may be something not right with your van. Find somebody local and compare, if you can.

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Old 11-10-2009, 05:26 PM   #8
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

If solar isn't a viable option for you, you might want to consider getting yourself a small generator.


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Old 11-10-2009, 07:35 PM   #9
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Re: Gonzaga Bay road nibbles on Sportsmobile.

Quote:
You might need some suspension work - shocks, springs, bushings kind of things.
I just put on new shocks (Rancho 5000), a new rear sway bar, and new e rated tires. The body isolation bushings might need replacement. I don't think anything is wrong with the suspension, I just think Im getting older, and the new full hip replacement doesn't help. (Also the loss of the "dirt road mojo" thing). This last trip I actually did the same time as the old F-250 (~8mph in the dirt)
Quote:
If solar isn't a viable option for you, you might want to consider getting yourself a small generator.
If I cant stand the noise the electric fridge made Im sure not going to get a generator, and the SMB does not need any more weight! Im carrying enough propane for 20 days of fridge anyway.


Im just a little glad that the Gonzaga Bay road is now only 35 miles of "bad road", only 6-7 years ago it was 95 miles (50 miles of the worst potholes in the world followed by 15 miles of rocks followed by 30 miles of rocky washboards). We have been going down 2-3 times a year for the last 15 years, it was one of the reasons we sold the cabover camper.
The new road is not going to be good for our "scene", however. It will make getting farther down south easier, but things are changing down there also.
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