Don’t Drive with the Top Up… Ever

We made it to Huacachina just in time to find a place to park for the night. No more than a few seconds after I turned off the lights and crawled into bed, we heard a motorcyle pull up outside of the bus and start honking a wimpy “beep beep beeeeeeep!”

“I guess that’s for us,” I said.  I climbed out of the bus in my boxers to see what was up.

Of course, it was the police.

He told me it was dangerous to camp here and we had to move. I implored that we had asked at the hostel next door and they told us to camp here. We were even paying a few bucks to use the facilities. He insisted we move… about 30 feet.

He went over to the hostel owner and they chatted… the owner had nothing to add, except to do what the cop said. Move the car 30 feet.  I was in no position to debate the logic of it being safer 30 feet from where we were sitting, so I hopped  behind the wheel and fired it up.

For a split second, I considered the wisdom of driving with the top up (and Bode sleeping in it) as I eased it into gear, but we were only moving 30 feet or so. And, I had a cop insisting I get going immediately.

I made it about 29 feet before hearing a crunch. Everyone watched as I drove exactly where I was instructed… and right into a big tree branch.

Bode let out a comical sounding “Ahhhhhhh!” and he later said he had woken up as soon as the motorcycle pulled up and was listening the whole time.

I hopped out to have a look and the cop came over to look too. He suggested I back up. Then, he hopped on his bike and drove away – mission accomplished – gringos much safer now.

Bode came down and we all tried to sleep together, but I wasn’t sleeping. I was stewing, and the pounding music that was much louder from our new position wasn’t helping.

In the morning, we packed up and heading into Ica to find a ferreteria. I thought I could find fiberglass and patch it all up, but no luck. I was able to find some 10 minute epoxy and something that would pass for mending plates, so that would have to do.

I disassembled the metal top frame and used my ax against a rock to bend the metal frame back into reasonable shape. A wooden spar that was glassed into the top was broken in two places, so I used the plates and some screws to patch it back up. It should eventually be replaced, but it wasn’t going to happen in the desert.

The epoxy held the spar back into place while I patched the torn fiberglass top section surprisingly well (about 12 inches.) I screwed the spar and top together from the outside using some beefy screws with waterproof roofing washers (I lucked out finding these). Since I couldn’t find a staple gun, I re-used and hammered in the original canvas staples using the back of my ax. Ax good.

Angela asked how it was going, and I said it would work but wouldn’t win any contests. She said it would depend on the contest. Good point.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Drive with the Top Up… Ever

  • April 1, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Man, I got pissed reading this. What an ass. I’m glad Bode wasn’t hurt. Looks like you did a decent repair job given the circumstances.

  • April 1, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    And by “ass” I mean the cop. 🙂

  • April 1, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    What a bloody mess – I’d be fuming, too!!!
    Along the way we encountered so many situations where locals wanted to direct us through tight situations, and after a while I had learned that they NEVER took our HEIGHT into consideration. If I would have always trusted locals waving frantically that I should move on our camper would have ended up 2 feet lower (and ruined). It simply didn’t occur to them to look for overhead clearance!

  • April 2, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    thanks for putting the nail in the coffin for my personal debate about poptop vs. hightop on our next bus. Clearance matters..

  • April 2, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Wow, I’m so sorry to hear about the crash! Looks and sounds like you’ve done an amazing job doctoring it up for now. Good luck finding a replacement down there!

  • April 3, 2011 at 6:07 AM

    Well, at least you have another “worst moment” story to tell. What a pain. You guys personify resiliency. Good job and hang in there.

  • April 4, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Give me an address, I’ll send you a replacement pop-top arm.


  • April 4, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Peter – thanks for the offer, but i think it can endure the rest of the trip. I just noticed the front arms are bent too, so one more ax-hammering project on the list…

    Nick- high-tops are fine as long as you pay attention to what you are driving under. If you plan to ship, make sure it fits in a container – but they make high-top containers as well.

    Juergen – it amazes me how eager people are to direct traffic under any circumstance. I agree it’s best to ignore and use your own judgment.

    And, after reconsidering, I think the moral of this story isn’t about driving with the top up. The moral is to never drive in your underwear. The odds are pretty good that something bad will happen – or already has 😉

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