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Driving from Texas to South America in an '87 4runner

Old 09-16-2012, 12:57 PM
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Here's a little post that Shannon wrote while I'm dealing with our electrical issues...

Our Wedding Day in Guatemala




Even though we had been engaged for a year, we didn't actually decide where our wedding was going to be until about three months before the actual event. After seeing photographs of Lake Atitlan and getting confirmation from several other about how amazing the lake was, the decision was made to have our wedding there.



We decided to keep the wedding to family and invited only a few of our closest friends. We wanted to keep things as simple as possible. We were originally planning to have our wedding alone, with no guests at all, so this was a stretch. Considering the short notice, we figured ten, maybe fifteen people would commit to the occasion. You can imagine our surprise when thirty-one loved ones RSVP'd.





Our good friend Katie recommended staying in San Marcos La Laguna at Hotel Aaculaax. At Aaculaax we made friends with the owner Lily, who recommended talking to her friend Ana who happens to be a wedding planner and owns a hotel in Santa Cruz La Laguna.




Our honeymoon suite at Hotel Aaculaax...only a slight adjustment from sleeping in the 4Runner.




The honeymoon suite's balcony at Hotel Aaculaax.



Wedding planner? No thanks, sounds expensive and you know wedding planners…they always go over the top. That's what I thought anyway. Brenton and I met with Ana and her assistant Karen at Hotel Isla Verde, a short fifteen minute lancha ride from San Marcos.

After talking with Ana and Karen for less than an hour, I was proven wrong. Ana and Karen were both down-to-earth and didn't try to make our wedding anything we didn't want it to be. Not to mention, their whole business is based on being eco-friendly, which is something we appreciated. We waited about a day for word on what the total cost would be and again we were pleasantly surprised. For what they were quoting us, we didn’t feel like we could do it on our own for any less. It wasn't long after that we decided to do our wedding at Hotel Isla Verde.





Our family all arrived within a couple of days of each other and we spent the first few days exploring the beautiful city of Antigua. On the third of August, we all piled into a bus and made the three and a half hour drive to San Marcos La Laguna on Lake Atitlan.










The first night we enjoyed a wonderful meal and drinks at Fe Restaurant. We called it our "non-rehearsal dinner" since we didn't plan on actually rehearsing anything. Half of our family stayed with Brenton and I at Hotel Aaculaax, the other half stayed about fifteen minutes down the main road at Pasaj-Cap. Both places were wonderful, beautiful, and our hosts were amazing.




The first course from our amazing dinner at Fe Restaurant.




...and of course we had to wash down that incredible dinner.





The breathtaking view from Pasaj Cap, where we had a bbq together. This is also a great place to camp if you find ever find yourself in San Marcos La Laguna.




The next day, the fourth of August, we headed over to Santa Cruz in lanchas. I headed over a couple of hours earlier to get ready. Brenton and the rest of our guests came over in two different boats. As people arrived they enjoyed the incredible view and drinks from Hotel Isla Verde. We decided the ceremony would start at four o'clock, though I didn't actually come down until four-thirty. That's not too bad right? Brides are supposed to make a fashionably late entrance.





The lancha ride to the wedding venue.





Every bride needs a support team.




We married on the dock, surrounded by our family, with "the most beautiful lake in the world" as our backdrop. Amazingly, we didn't get rained on either. Remember, we chose to get married in Guatemala, in the rainy season, in the late afternoon. That's prime time for a downpour.




Exchanging vows.




Our officiant has a problem with pacing, especially when public speaking.



Did I mention my now brother-in-law was our officiant? We couldn't think of a better person to do it. As Brenton mentioned in the previous post, his sister Marissa, her husband Jay, and our nephew Cooper came down a couple of weeks before everyone else so we could spend some time traveling a bit with them. It was at this point when we asked Jay to officiate. We didn't give him much time, so we're grateful he agreed.




Note the Mayan girls enjoying the show through the windows.





Brenton and I decided to write our own vows and we also wanted Jay's part to be unique and personal. We looked up traditional vows and found some aspects that we liked, gave them to Jay, and told him to go wild. You could tell that Jay had poured his heart and soul into the role, and we couldn't have been happier with our choice to have him as our officiant.




You may kiss the bride!
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:02 PM
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After the ceremony we enjoyed incredible food, dessert, and a fun night of dancing and spending time with the people we love. Our day was amazing and everything we could have wanted.

















Things got a little emotional during the father-bride dance.







Since we were still on the lake, I surprised Brenton with a night at Hotel Isla Verde exactly one month after our wedding, on the fourth of September. Since tourist season is slowing down right now, we almost had the whole place to ourselves. We enjoyed a romantic dinner and slept in a comfy room with an amazing view of the lake.




A nice little surprise, the girls at Isla Verde pulled out all the stops for us...again!



We are so grateful to all of our family and friends who made it to our wedding and for all the wonderful people who helped to make it possible. We couldn't have asked for more.
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Old 09-16-2012, 08:38 PM
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Congrats on your wedding and best wishes!

Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
I wouldn't say electrical gremlins are "ruining" our journey, just making things a little more interesting and giving us more time in one of our favorite cities.
That's the spirit; the thing that make us hardy guys enjoy worlds outside our own.

Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
Sorry RAD4runner, I should've been more specific about "no signs of life". The starter only cranks when i jump the solenoid contacts, then the engine will start fine and continue to run.
Oh, so you're fine then! Your starter solenoid, fuel system and starter are certainly is good. Just need to sort out the voltage regulator/alternator thing and figure out how to energize starter solenoid with normal starting circuit. Did you check it starter relay is clicking?
I have simple but thorough explanation of starting system here


Not sure about fuel... I haven't tried jumping the starter solenoid's contacts with the ignition off, I'll give that a shot for giggles.
Oh, no need to do that. We already know it will crank.

Saludos,
RAD
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Old 09-17-2012, 03:40 AM
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Could be a corroded main starter cable coming off the battery. Check the cable to make sure corrosion hasn't worked its way down into the wire from the battery contact. I've had two old yotas that had this problem when trying to start.
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Old 09-17-2012, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
thank god for Roger Brown (that should be a bumper sticker slogan for old Toyota drivers).
LOL, too true. That really is a good idea.... hmm..


Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
When the alarm guy did the installation, I asked about the kill switch and he said it would only disengage the starter, not the ignition. I originally wanted to avoid a kill-switch because I've heard so many horror stories like yours, but I figured the starter kill would be easy to bypass. I don't believe the interior lights were wired to the alarm, just the marker lights (doesn't answer the brake lights not functioning).
I believe that most of the interior lights share a circuit with the marker lights... dash, radio, etc.

From what you've described, most of your problem areas are touched by a typical alarm install, except the wipers, that is just weird.


Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
There is a hidden button that overrides the starter-kill, but it appears that the alarm has no power at all. I can't arm/disarm it whatsoever...When the alternator first showed signs of undercharging and we stopped at the parqueo. The alarm barely functioned, and the arm/disarm sounded almost like a screech. This was before alternator began to overcharge and the big "pop" sound and smoke genie that killed all the electronics. By the way, this is the alarm in question...what a waste of money. It was a last-second decision.

What a coincidence, I had a Viper too. :-/

That overriding the starter-kill button would simply power the alarm's relay in the starter circuit. If the alarm is dead or if the relay is fried, then it would not do anything, the circuit from the ignition switch to the starter relay would not be completed.



Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
My brother installed some driving lights for me before leaving WA, and he wired it to the deck light switch. I highly doubt that he screwed anything up considering he's an electrical lineman and her really took his time to make sure he was doing it right. Maybe I will gut those too...we'll see.

Whether he did or not depends on two things, using a relay and having fused circuits with as short of unfused length of wire possible. I would expect someone to install something like that wiring it's own circuit and not touching any of the factoring wiring.


Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
Not sure about fuel, I suppose I should check for voltage at the fuel pump's contacts with the ignition turned? I should assume that the fuel pump is running when the ignition is turned because otherwise the engine wouldn't crank over with the solenoid jumped.

I haven't tried jumping the starter solenoid's contacts with the ignition off, I'll give that a shot for giggles. Every time I've done it with the ignition in the on position.
If you can put the ingnition switch to ON then jumper the starter and the engine starts and runs, then your fuel pump is definitely powered and running. The engine wouldn't run but for about 10 seconds after the pump were to lose power if you didn't have it keeping the pressure up in the fuel line.

If you jumper the starter with the ignition off, it will crank the engine (you're bypassing all the switches connecting the battery straight to the starter), but there will not be spark nor fuel so you'll just be testing if the starter works and running the battery down.
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Old 09-17-2012, 02:43 PM
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Looks like a great trip!
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Old 09-17-2012, 03:28 PM
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This is awesome. The year before my son starts school, he turns 3 this year, he and I are going to embark on a trip like this, but we'll be making it round trip. I've always wanted to drive across the Americas.
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:11 PM
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Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Another month has passed along with another long period of silence on our end. We've since crossed several borders and it's hard to believe how much has happened since we left our little bubble of peace in Lake Atitlan. For the sake of consistency, our story will pick up where our last broadcast left off, but in regards to our 4Runner.

Of course, if you get impatient and once every month or two isn't enough for an update...you can keep closer tabs on us with Facebook.







Apparently when folks head south, once they get to Guatemala, the miles really begin to add up and it's typically time to replace a few things. Toothbrushes, book lists, maybe a timing chain. The 4Runner was starting to misfire terribly since we left for El Salvador and our wedding was quickly coming.

I decided now would be a good time to let someone else do the work and cross my fingers that the rig would be waiting for me after the wedding. Luckily, fellow travelers Home On The Highway and Capitol Southbound had already been in that boat, so we followed their recommendations for a mechanic in Guatemala City.







Driving in Guatemala City (or any capital south of the border) can be a little intimidating. Take the typical mishaps of driving in Latin America, Guatemala's lack of useful signs mixed with plenty of nauseous one-way boulevards, a notorious reputation for crime, and you've got a giant bowl of scary spaghetti to get lost in. The very thought of driving through Central America's largest city is enough to put any tough-guy Clint Eastwood into the fetal position, sucking his thumb. No problem though, we had been practicing for this…couldn't be worse than Mexico City right?







Even though I had studied several maps of the city and I already had the GPS dialed in for this little venture, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried for the drive to the mechanic's shop in Zona 8 (see: sketchy-ville). You see, my first time driving into the capital was to meet with my sister, brother-in-law, and my 4 month old nephew when they flew in for our little side-trip to El Salvador. Sure we got really lost before we up with them, but at least I had the best navigator in the world helping me thru every wrong turn (I'm referring to Shannon of course, not the GPS). Only this time I would be driving solo, while Shannon entertained the first of our guests who were starting to arrive in Antigua for our wedding.







Of course the 4Runner battled me every second of the drive. It was like dragging a spoiled child to the dentist to get all of their wisdom teeth pulled. Knowing fully well that we're too cheap for proper anesthesia, this was going to hurt, and the 4Runner was kicking and screaming the whole way in protest. I didn't even think that I would make it to the top of the first hill as I left Antigua…but like a broken horse, the 4Runner eventually submitted and miraculously dragged me all the way to Guatemala City in a fit. I was amazed when I realized that I didn't get lost in the city once, and I even made it in decent time, though I was hardly able to break 45mph the entire drive.







I met with Adrian of Krazy Kustoms, and I was glad that we had found him to work on our baby. Not only was he a nice guy, but he seemed passionate about his work. We chatted for a while and I got to know him, and I felt at ease as I handed him the keys to our home. So what do we do now? I suppose I just sit back and enjoy the fact that several friends and family have come together in Guatemala just for our little wedding. This should be no problem while some stranger manhandle's our little girl right? Right?



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Old 10-29-2012, 07:50 AM
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Volcano climbs and an eruption




After our last wedding guests left town we still had some time to kill while the 4Runner was getting some surgery. We met a couple of fun German backpackers, Fabian and Puck, while hostel-hopping and they had convinced us to tag-along on a day-trip to climb Volcan Pacaya. It was less than $9 usd per person, and we were tired of worrying about our vehicle, so we were game.







We didn't realize we would be part of a large tour, but we still enjoyed the short 1.5 hour hike up this active volcano. The tour guide was in his sixties, but he was built like a 25 year old. He said he makes the steep hike twice a day, 6 days a week.







The guide's dog was following the whole day too. We named him 'Black Fred', in honor of Guanajuato Fred, because this dog was obviously a badass too. He climbs volcanos every day, what does your dog do? Lick himself to sleep?







It was funny to see a mini gift shop at the top of the volcano, allegedly selling "Lava Jewelry", but no one was there and we didn't see any molten gems on display. We did get to see some interesting thermal vents and Shannon even climbed inside. Then the tour guide roasted some marshmallows using the heat from one of the vents, the typical volcano tour photo op.











Fabian has been carrying around some traditional liederhosen around Central America, for an "art project" he's been doing for university. He takes a photo wearing the liederhosen in random places that you wouldn't see in Germany. So we talked him into bringing the liederhosen. At the top of the volcano, he snuck behind a rock and changed for us. It was a good laugh, and everyone enjoyed the irony.







Unfortunately they try to sell all the tourists on taking this trek, even some who physically shouldn't. A woman with hip problems was told that the hike was "easy" and she would have no problems. They offer a horse ride to the top for a small fee, but there was no option for the slippery walk back to the bottom. The poor thing seemed to be having a terrible time, but luckily she had some nice German boys to help her down the volcano.







For more photos of Volcan Pacaya, go to our Facebook page.


Later that week while we camped at the Tourist Police headquarters, the Antigua area made international headlines. The nearby Volcan Fuego had been more active than usual, and we were fortunate enough to see some eruptions. Over 30,000 villagers were evacuated to the southwest of the volcano, but luckily we were safe in Antigua since we were to the Northeast, even though we were only 6 miles away.



















It was very doomsday looking, but the locals all just continued with their day, so we followed suit. From our campsite at night we could even see the lava pouring down the side of the volcano, with an occasional eruption. It was a powerful display to witness and I feel lucky to have been there at that time. It's also a humbling experience, knowing that one minute we can be living our every day lives, the next minute we could be running our asses off while 10,000 degree lava chases us. Just a friendly reminder to take stock of what you have, and of course it's never a bad idea to sacrifice a virgin for the sake of the villagers.


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Old 10-29-2012, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by spikeophant View Post
This is awesome. The year before my son starts school, he turns 3 this year, he and I are going to embark on a trip like this, but we'll be making it round trip. I've always wanted to drive across the Americas.
Round trip would be a great way to see more of Latin America. We'd love to be able to do that, but it would be either a rushed two year trip or maybe more like 3 years!
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Old 11-18-2012, 07:35 AM
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Were you able to find the source of the magic smoke and electrical gremlins?
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