Baja and the Breeze part I: A man, a can and a plan

Baja and the Breeze part I: A man, a can and a plan

Our own customer systems development manager, Brad Van Orden, recently put our Air Breeze personal wind turbine to the test during a two-week trip through Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. In this short series, Brad will share his adventures on the road and how the Air Breeze helped to keep the wind in the sails of “Nacho,” his 1984 Volkswagen camper van, along the way.

Luke, the Australian heavy machinery mechanic and fellow beach camper, peered into the engine compartment of Nacho, our proud 1984 Volkswagen camper van. “I reckon we’re gonna need an aluminum can to fix this, mate,” he said.

After eight hours of abusive dirt road travel the previous day, we had limped onto the beach, our bodies tired, and our van nursing a new and somewhat severe exhaust leak. It took the better part of the morning, but Nacho emerged stronger and more confident, sporting pieces of Arizona Iced Tea can like Medals of Honor in place of a disintegrated exhaust gasket. “You’ll want to bleach your cutting board mate; it’s covered in my blood,” proclaimed our Aussie friend.

Looking at our map of Baja, Mexico, we hadn’t realized that the line heading south from San Felipe along the Sea of Cortez signified a dirt road. My wife’s official road trip title was “Navigation and Map Technician,” but I’m certainly not placing blame on her for falling asleep just prior to our fateful southerly turn. The exhaust leak wasn’t the only way in which the 8-hour dirt road ravished our poor little Nacho:

Hour 1
After having grown tired of dirt road travel, we detoured for a beach stop, thinking a short swim would soothe our woes. Upon approaching a distant beach palapa, our Nacho suddenly sinks to the axles in the sand. An hour and a half of digging and stacking rocks sees us back on the road, dirtier and more tired than before, our dream of frolicking on the beach crushed; spit on like a common dog.

Hour 3
Temperature gauge fails. Out comes the Bentley manual and the problem is traced to the engine compartment. All bags and belongings are moved into the road, the engine compartment is opened, and we determine that the ferocious jarring of the road has caused a wire to break in half. Wire is used to suspend the Brooklyn Bridge, yet this road has proven stronger than wire, stronger than the Brooklyn Bridge. As I fashion a connector out of a piece of scrap metal, a truck passes by on the road. Its dust settles over all of our belongings and cloaks my motivation in a shroud of dirt. It is the only other vehicle we see on the road all day.

Hour 6
As evidence of our skillful project planning we determine that we don’t have enough gas to complete the entire dirt road. In a moment of weakness it is decided that the best option is to take an unmarked dirt road to the East to see if we can find any gas. Minutes later we find ourselves driving full speed into deep sand. Two Mexicans see our predicament and offer to pull us to a nearby beach where the sand is hard enough to drive on. Two beers change hands in thanks and we find ourselves driving on a beach, still without any gas.

Hour 7
Finally having arrived at a gas station near a remote military checkpoint, Sheena decides that the only thing that can save the day is an ice cream bar from the gas station. A comprehensive search reveals a distinct lack of ice cream, and I witness the very moment when Sheena’s little heart gets crushed like my dreams of ever getting off of this dirt road alive.

A 3,000-mile Mexican road trip in a 27-year-old vehicle may seem like a foolhardy endeavor. While it is true that many days we limped onto the beach in the evening knackered from the day’s adventures and mechanical mishaps, we remained soft to the core by pampering ourselves like vagabonding Hugh Hefners. We would pop the camper top, raise our trusty life-breathing Air Breeze wind turbine, turn on the tunes, dim the lights, throw some machaca in the microwave and grab a cold one from the fridge, and then watch each other melt into content piles of mush, ready to do it all again.

Read the next part of Brad's wind-powered Mexican adventure.

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