It is catchup time; our last entry was 9 days ago so what has happened since then?
We spent two nights at the Langwieder See Campingplatz outside Munich and had a nice visit with our friends Ursula and John and got to hear a bit about their experiences establishing themselves in Munich.
From Munich we headed towards the town of Gaggenau a bit south of the city of Karlsruhe (as you can see in the two photos below this was a bit of "winter driving"). Gaggenau is the closest one can get to Unimog Central. This is where the Unimog was "invented", and until 2001 where it was made. Now it is the home of the Unimog Museum and more importantly for us it is also the home of Merex/Mertec a specialist Unimog workshop and parts supplier.
Some time back we made an appointment with Merex to have some work done on our truck and we had to be at their place in Gaggenau first thing in the morning on Monday 27th January.
It took us just over a day to drive from Munich to the Gaggenau area with one night spent, yet again, in one of the service areas beside the autobahn.
The weekend of the 25th/26th was spent at a Campingplatz in the town of Ettlingen about 45kms from Gaggenau. Like the Munich campground this place was mostly permanent residents. We spent much of the weekend cleaning and tidying the truck and camper.
Monday morning we drove the final 45km to Gaggenau and the Merex workshop and spent the morning meeting people and working through the list of work we needed done with the shop manager. Once all the immediate business was taken care of we loaded a whole pile of stuff into a nice little Skoda car that Merex loaned us and proceeded to the nearby village of Gersbach where we had rented a small apartment through AirBnB; which was to be our temporary home while our truck was in "the shop".
Thus began our week in Gaggenau.
The work on the truck went smoothly and there was only one major surprise. We have been nursing a leaking front right hub since Mongolia and fixing this leak was one of the big jobs on my list for Merex. The next series of photos are mostly about the dismantling of that hub. Once we had the hub apart we noticed that the bearing surface of the large gear wheel was showing signs of wear and so it had to be replaced.
In addition to regular visits to Merex to see how work was progressing on the truck we got a chance to have a look around the area. We enjoyed visiting the old town of Gersbach on the Murg river with its quaint cobbled streets and traditional and well kept buildings. We visited the Unimog Museum and in addition to getting some historical background on the birth of the breed I took a ride around the demo track in the resident U4000.
The Merex folks were very welcoming. We had dinner one night with Neil (our main contact) and his wife Elke. Rene, the boss, took a lot of time out of his busy days to chat to us about expedition vehicles, Iceland, and even arranged a visit for us to a local manufacturer (Archmobil) of Expedition Trucks. Eugene, the shop manager and head mechanic was impressively calm and methodical and seemed to be a good mentor for the shops apprentice Lucas.
Towards the end of the week our son Brendon came down from Berlin for an overnight visit so that we could get some work done on a joint software project we are doing.
Friday afternoon, pretty much at the close of business, we picked up the truck started the next leg of our journey. All in all the week in Gaggenau was very successful. Lots of good work on the truck, new friends, a visit with Brendon, and some interesting things to do and places to see.
Well, from Gaggenau we are headed to Antwerp Belgium. On Monday (3rd Feb) we deliver the truck to the port of Antwerp for shipment back to North America.
This was not part of the original plan for this journey as we had intended to leave the vehicle in Europe over the winter and return in the spring/summer to spend some time seeing Europe.
Well that is still the plan, we will be back in Europe, with our truck, sometime in June 2014 for some more extended travel.
The truck is returning to North America for a refit and some upgrades at GXV's facility in Springfield. The trip across Asia has been quite hard on the vehicle. Somethings need repair, we have some upgrades we want and generally we want to put our baby back into "as new" condition in preparartion for the next phase of our travels.
Mike at GXV was working on finding a facility in Europe where he and some of his team could carry out the work but it became obvious that we would both get a better result if the work could be carried out on GXV's home turf where they had access to all of their team and resources. So thats the plan. Back to the US for a couple of months of work and then back to Europe.