Day two on the Mojave Road proved to be just as challenging as day 1 in all regards, but ended up giving up much more beauty in the way of scenery. Day one often felt like we were trudging along the surface of the moon, jostling over long stretches of baby head lava rocks, sweating tire placement as a puncture could happen in the blink of an eye if we drug our sidewall across some sharp lava rock. Whereas, the second day introduced us to the incredible amount of wildlife and vegetation that thrive in this barren landscape.
Day two succeeded in raising my heartrate to spin class levels, defying the laws of physics regularly, but it was not yet over. Being the only travelers on the trail in that region, (at least that’s how it felt. We saw one Jeep within a 3-day period) the options for camp are endless. We chose to pull into a nice flat area next to an old corral from the late 1800’s. After parking and stretching our legs a bit, we decided to reposition the van to maximize our view out of our sliding door, which we found is one of the best parts about living out of a van. The ability to adjust the views enjoyed while cooking, lounging, reading, and drinking your morning coffee.
Click. Nothing. Click. Yup, it was dead. Mambo wouldn’t start. There is a certain feeling that goes through your body when it hits you that your vehicle won’t start, and you are in the middle of the desert. So, after some thought, and remembering that we could jump ourselves off the house batteries, we were now unsure of whether our alternator had crapped out, which concerned us that if we continued to drive onwards, we would then deplete the house battery bank, leaving us completely stranded. Our initial instinct since travelling alone, was to bail off the trail as soon as possible, get the van repaired, and then return to the trail when safely able to continue.
Off we went. In the dark. Of course, this stuff always happens in the dark. I think that there is some sinister rule that states that most things will go wrong when its most inconvenient. So, we trudged into the dark heading towards Baker, CA which was the closest town with cell service, and auto repair shops if necessary. Once we hit pavement, which was surprisingly close (the Mojave Road although desolate during portions tends to follow or cross highways along the way, which is good if in need of fuel or repairs), we decided to call the previous owner Jon to see if he had experienced anything of this nature before. Sure enough, he gave us some invaluable troubleshooting tips which were possible by monitoring the amperage draw from the alternator by the battery management system, which was buried in a portion of the selections I had yet to navigate. After determining the house batteries were pulling amperage from a functional alternator, it was determined that we didn’t have a faulty alternator, but a dead starting battery.
It is times like this, where technology truly has made our lives easier, and vehicle breakdowns a little less inconvenient. Within 30 minutes of troubleshooting our problem down to a faulty battery, we had located a replacement battery, (which turned out is an odd reversed terminal Odyssey battery which is normally special order only), at a 4wheel Parts in Bakersfield, CA. And with the access to the interwebs at our fingertips, we had purchased the battery, and would be waiting for pickup at our earliest convenience. Knowing that we had our problem solved, a battery secured for replacement, and the ability to continue operating Mambo on the house battery bank, we decided to pick up where we left off and drove off into the night, hitting the trail once again in search of the corral campsite. We were determined to finish the trail, and a dead battery sure as hell wasn’t going to stop us!