Motoette -in forward motion

Bon Voyage Dorothy!

 

The last of my possessions from the US.

Will it all fit??

 

Hmmm, where do I start??? (As I look up and to the left tapping the right side of my cheek with my index finger). I am embarrassed to admit it has been quite a few months since I have updated Dorothy’s blog! But, I must say, I have a good excuse, as Dorothy has kept Matt and I very busy in her new job adventure as a wedding transportation vehicle.

Let me just jump back to March, when we scheduled Dorothy to leave the port of Oakland CA to make the long sea going journey to South Hampton UK. Matt handled the exporting of the bus and started working with a company out of the UK, which put us in touch with Aladdin Shipping in Oakland CA. They were very professional and I would highly recommend them for all your vehicle transport needs.

March the tenth was the day we drove the bus to Aladdin fully loaded with all my worldly possessions. I drove the rental car for the 20 miles over bay and across the Richmond Bridge as Matt followed behind with Dorothy, clearly struggling with her extra weight gain. We made the short journey without incident and with great relief, pulled up outside of the Aladdin offices.

We were greeted by friendly faces, which immediately sensed our growing concerns in leaving the bus to board a big cargo ship, not knowing whether her delicate form would survive the harsh salt weather and the long cruise. To calm our nerves, John, one of the workers, offered to show us the warehouse where they store the vehicles before loading them onto the containers. We both nodded our heads in unison and followed him through a security door and into the huge warehouse filled with cars, trucks and even other VW buses!

Packing Dorothy with my last few belongings from home.

Packing Dorothy with my last few belongings from home.

What an incredible operation.  We could see the workers systematically loading cars and trucks into the cargo containers. There was one container where they were stacking four vintage cars with nothing but a skeleton of two-by-fours to support their weight on top of each other. I had a moment of panic thinking that was how Dorothy was going to be loaded. But, with the gentle reassurance from John, he convinced me that Dorothy would be tandem with one other vehicle. Whew!

 

After 30 minutes we finalized the paper work and Matt and I said our good-byes to Dorothy, who was to sit out front as we left her for the next hour until the people at Aladdin were ready to store her for the voyage 4 days later. Like doting parents, we sat outside in the rental car waiting for that hour until she was moved to her safe haven, the warehouse. An hour went by, then another 30 minutes. Then another 30 minutes and still she sat there patiently waiting to be taken in. After two hours, we finally had to just trust in the system and head back….reluctantly, I might add! It was the time we would see Dorothy on US soil.

 

Dorothy set sail on the Dallas Express on March 17 and was to arrive near London exactly one month later. We tracked her ports of call, starting with Los Angeles, CA then on to The Panama Canal. The ship docked in a port just after going through the canal and then on to North Carolina, where it made another stop. One more stop in Nova Scotia before it headed due east and towards the British shores.

Dorothy parked outside of Aladdin Shipping. The last time we would see her in the US...

Dorothy parked outside of Aladdin Shipping. The last time we would see her in the US…

 

While Dorothy was on her cruise, Matt and I dedicated a good portion of our day to promoting the wedding hire business, MoonstruckVW. Our main focus was to get noticed on Facebook by creating a more entertaining page for those VW bus enthusiasts. Posting fun and unusual pictures of things bus related stirred up quite a buzz and soon we were having inquiries for Dorothy. One of the frustrating things about doing wedding hire is, as a transport business, we can only do weddings and funerals (believe it or not!). So, it was a huge let down when the messages and phone calls started to come in only to request a price on proms! It was getting to the point where we just didn’t want to answer the phone anymore only to be foiled again by another prom inquiry!

Finally, people started to get the message when we changed our Web page by specifically stating our limitations. This was the turning point for us. Wedding related date requests started to pour in, and the prom seekers slowly diminished.

 

One of the other life changes we needed to make was to find a house that could adequately store Dorothy from England’s moist weather.

 

The Dallas Express, the ship that brought Dorothy to the UK.

The Dallas Express, the ship that brought Dorothy to the UK.

The prelude to shipping Dorothy:

We cruised the web for several months in search of the perfect house for Matt, his youngest son, Sean and me. Something that was big enough for the three of us, my two cats I had shipped from the US and garage big enough to house Dorothy and our two motorbikes. This would not be as big of a problem if we were doing this in the states, but here in England, garages are few and far between, especially two car garages.

 

Finally, in early February of 2014, I spotted a house in a little village outside of Stafford. The pictures looked really good, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to selling something on the internet. We took a ride to take a look and it was perfect for what we needed. A quaint, but larger house with a sizable English garden front and back and a two car garage! We had not gone back to the US as this time to ship Dorothy back to the UK, so we had no way to know if Dorothy would actually fit or not, but we were confident she would—-she would have to because the house was perfect and time was running out!

 

Dorothy all dressed up in her wedding attire in the UK!

Dorothy all dressed up in her wedding attire in the UK!

September 5, 2014 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus, Vintage Volkswagen Bus Travel Story, Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dorothy’s blog in chronological order:

Dorothy’s blog in chronological order:
The plight of a little 1970 Volkswagen bus known as Dorothy – Page 1
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/the-plight-of-a-little-1970-volkswagen-bus-known-as-dorothy/

The plight of a little 1970 Volkswagen bus known as Dorothy–Page 2
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/the-plight-of-a-little-1970-volkswagen-bus-known-as-dorothy-page-2/

The Plight of a Little Volkswagen Bus Known as Dorothy — Page 3
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/the-plight-of-a-little-volkswagen-bus-known-as-dorothy-page-3/

Day 1 – Dorothy’s Blog – A One Way Ticket to Wichita.
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/day-1-dorothys-blog-a-one-way-ticket-to-wichita/

Day 2 – Dorothy Takes to the Open Road
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/day-2-dorothy-takes-to-the-open-road/

Day 3 – Is This The Way To Amarillo?
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/day-3-is-this-the-way-to-amarillo/

Day 4 – Albuquerque and the Watermelon Mountains
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/day-4-albuquerque-and-the-watermelon-mountains/

Day 5 – Dorothy Has a Drinking Problem

https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/day-5-dorothy-has-a-drinking-problem/

Day 6 – Four Corners and Almost 7 Days Ago
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/day-6-four-corners-and-almost-7-days-ago/

Day 7 – Dorothy Has a Thing for the Beatles
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/day-7-dorothy-has-a-thing-for-the-beatles/

Day 8 – Turning Another Page
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/day-8-turning-another-page/

Day 9 – Look, But Don’t Touch!
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/day-9-look-but-dont-touch/

Day 10 & 11 – Viva Las Vegas!
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/day-10-11-viva-las-vegas/

Day 12 – What a difference a State Makes
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/day-12-what-a-difference-a-state-makes/

Day 13 & 14 – There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home
https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/day-13-14-theres-no-place-like-home-theres-no-place-like-home/

Dorothy – As Days Go By

https://motoette.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/dorothy-as-days-go-by/

Bon Voyage Dorothy

https://motoette.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/bon-voyage-dorothy/

March 10, 2014 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus, Vintage Volkswagen Bus Travel Story, Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Family Affair – Dorothy’s New Home in California

A picture paints a thousand words!

A picture paints a thousand words!

It’s been an interesting 2 weeks since our triumphant trip, traveling almost 2,500 miles from Wichita Kansas to San Francisco California in a 1970 Volkswagen bus named Dorothy.

Just two days after we arrived, we took Dorothy to a small VW gathering called the Deutschland Dubs 2nd Annual Air-Cooled Roundup Picnic at the Presidio just over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The picnic was to be held at Crissy Field, but again, being tormented by the National Park closures, the organizers had to relocate the small group.

We were very excited to be able to attend and hang out with other dedicated Volkswagen owners just weeks after purchasing her. We were also a little hesitant to go because Dorothy had not been running well. she was stalling anytime we would apply the brakes to stop in the last few hundred miles of our trip.

Bus gathering overlooking the SF bay

Bus gathering overlooking the SF bay

In the end, it was taking both of us to drive her. One person to keep their foot on the brake and one person to keep their foot on the gas so she wouldn’t die. It was really becoming tiring and concerning. She also didn’t sound good, her idling point would constantly vary, so anytime Matt tried to adjust the idle it would soon change. Clearly, it was time to give Mike (my mechanic) a call.

Regardless, we went ahead and took Dorothy to the meet up. It was a rare clear, glorious sunny day in the famous foggy city. We pulled into the parking area at the Main Post where twenty to twenty-five other Volkswagens were parked. We saw a bunch of bugs and several bay buses with three splittys. Two of the bays looked just like Dorothy. Almost immediately Kim and Bob came over to Matt and I to say hi and ask about Dorothy. We explained to the nice couple from Sacramento about how we acquired Dorothy and our recent epic adventures driving half way across the country. They loved the story and then digressed into their personal “bus “ story when we asked about the history of what looked to be the brother to Dorothy.

Kim's bus as she found it at the wrecking yard.

Kim’s bus as she found it at the wrecking yard.

Kim literally rescued “Wes” within hours of being dismantled for parts in a wrecking yard two years ago. Kim knew she had been given a rare opportunity and spent these last few years rebuilding the engine, replacing parts and injecting some good ole elbow grease to clean him up! Matt and I were very impressed and happy to say Kim is now a fellow VW compatriot on earlybay.com and a Facebook friend.

Kim, Bob and Wes

Kim, Bob and Wes

We parked Dorothy next to an early sixties single cab splitty owned by Lloyd and Diana from San Jose. Not long into a friendly conversation, Lloyd told us he found his prized rustic relic from a convicted ax murder, who apparently liked to collect vintage Volkswagen’s when he wasn’t hacking people up! Obviously we thought Lloyd was joking, but unfortunately (for his victims) he wasn’t!

Lloyd and Diana from San Jose

Lloyd and Diana from San Jose

I loved what Lloyd did with the single cab, by giving it a “rat” look, which is the new term used to describe retaining the original rustic patina that is becoming so popular with vintage bus owners. The unique feature to this single cab, was he had retro fitted utility bars on the flat-bed that included a retractable awning, a removable table off the tailgate complete with a mini Weber and a Tepui tent folded neatly in its own case on top next to the sun deck. I was thoroughly impressed with his creativity!

Matt and I really enjoyed talking with the cute couple and was sorry when they finally had to leave after having a full weekend of camping. Hopefully, our VW’s will bring us together again sometime in the near future!

Lloyd and Diana's cool single cab creation!

Lloyd and Diana’s cool single cab creation!

As the morning progressed into the afternoon, we met more interesting Volkswagen owners like Jason who owns a 1973 convertible bug. He had done quite a bit of work to the engine, which was very impressive considering our current situation with Dorothy. I noticed a Hawaii license plate attached to the bumper, something owners do to indicate where the vehicle originated from. So, of course I asked the obvious question thinking I would get the obvious answer “oh, so you brought this bug all the way back from Hawaii?” His reply (to my surprise) “no, I’ve just been there 23 times!” Another new Facebook friend!

Kyle, another bug owner (and Facebook friend) apparently had one of the original “Herbie” cars from the famous 1960’s Disney movie. This bug was immaculate and amazing in its preservation. The glossy cream bug with the off-centered red, white and blue stripe was definitely in its element with a backdrop of San Francisco and parked in the same vicinity as the Disney Museum, founded by Walt Disney’s daughter exactly four years ago this month.

Kyle's "Herbie"

Kyle’s “Herbie”

One of the last bus owners we talked with that had another interesting story was a guy who had purchased a 21 window splitty sight unseen from Colorado about nine months ago. He told us he found this bus on eBay. The seller was a widow trying to sell her husbands bus which mainly sat in a garage for most of the years he owned it. Looking at it, I could see it was in really good shape, but that there were little things that needed doing.

He went on to tell the story about how he bought it. How he sat there for what seemed like hours, holding his finger over the “ buy it now” sign, contemplating whether or not to pay the thirty thousand plus sales price. He said he kept asking his girlfriend if he should do it? Her boisterous reply was “just do it!” So he finally did….seconds later, to his disappointment the screen displayed “ bidding closed for this item”. He was crushed!

Splitty bought on Ebay from Colorado

Splitty bought on Ebay from Colorado

He continued on, explaining to us how a light bulb went off in his head several minutes later to send the seller an email in his new-found overwhelming desire to buy the vintage bus, just in case the bus came up on auction again. Within a few hours he heard back from the seller, informing him that indeed the original bidder couldn’t come up with the money and the bus was up for sale again. Needless to say, the rest is history!

Matt and I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon sitting next to Dorothy in our red folding chairs basking in the autumn sun talking to people who passed by us. Our good friend Jan rode up on his BMW motorcycle to check out the action and to visit some of his VW friends. Jan has been an avid VW collector and fan, owning two rare models. A late fifties split window barn door bus and a split window bug, along with a small fleet of other Volkswagens in his drive. It was great to see him – Jan gave us a lot of information about Dorothy’s engine while all three of us sat at her back side, taking inventory of all her parts!

Matt, Jan and me

Matt, Jan and me

At three-o’clock we pulled out and headed home, extremely pleased with the events of our day. We met some great VW friends that will continue on with the aid of Facebook and gained valuable input from seasoned owners with our moonstruck goal to revitalize and maintain these delicate metal creatures.

I guess a person could be wooed by worse…like a Studebaker or an Edsel!

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October 24, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus, Vintage Volkswagen Bus Travel Story, Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 3 – Is This The Way To Amarillo?

DSC00249 (Mobile)There are two things you will notice about Liberal Kansas right away, the overwhelming amount of flies, (because it’s a cattle town) and second, the lack of restaurants that offer beef. The third thing you might notice the next day, if you are lucky enough to have stayed the night, is that the sun takes forever to come up! I think we finally saw the sun at around 7 AM. Weird!

We packed up soon after “Liberal day-break” and loaded Dorothy up once again, ready to hit the road on another picture perfect day, heading for Amarillo, Texas. It’s always a good idea to get an early start with air-cooled Volkswagen buses in order to capitalize on the cooler temperatures. This was beginning to be a concern for me because of the delayed day-break. Everything was in the bus by 9 AM and we were just about to jump in to take off when Matt noticed the brake fluid reservoir that sits at the driver’s feet was almost empty. We both looked at each other and sighed.

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Both Matt and I were not too worried about the little set back and went in search of a local garage that could help with the problem. We were directed to Weaver’s down the road about a mile from our hotel and was greeted by a friendly face right away. Matt explained the problem and the owner of the garage came out to take a look. It was evident he was not totally familiar with Volkswagen buses, which gave me a giggle, but I could tell he knew his craft well.

Within minutes he had replaced the seal to the brake fluid reservoir and had Dorothy up on the lift to bleed the brakes just in case there was air in the brake lines. This gave us a chance to see her underbelly as well. With VW buses they are prone to rust, making it almost impossible to find a vintage bus without some traces of rust. Dorothy looked in to be a great condition, but Matt and I could now see where she would need some attention in order to keep her fit for another 43 years!

DSC00273 (Mobile)Brakes done, fuel tank filled and tire pressure checked, we were on our way at 11 AM. We continued on through Kansas on route 54 heading southwest and into Oklahoma. The flat dry landscape manifested into more dry landscape (if that was possible) only showing greenery and trees when we were approaching a small town, which I found to be interesting. We continued to follow the interstate train track, where on occasion a train would pass going the opposite direction. The first one tooted his horn at us, which surprised both Matt and I. The second one, we decided to wave our arms out the window at him and right on cue, he returned the gesture with his echoing horn. We both turned and smiled at each other.

Not more than 50 miles passed and we were through two states and heading south on route 287 from Stratford entering Texas. We had stopped in Stratford to check Dorothy’s oil level and while we were there another local traveler stopped to ask about Dorothy. This was becoming a daily routine, but one we could definitely get used to!

We stopped at a Walmart in Dumas Texas to buy some items we were going to need for camping, if that day should arise. Up to this point, I just kept talking Matt out of it in my aversion to basking in the great outdoors. We observed some interesting sights in there, a gun cabinet with shot guns for sale, which Matt found photo worthy and a cowboy complete with a Stetson and spurs on his authentic cowboy boots! Only in Texas!

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Continuing 70 miles south, we started to notice the scenery changing again with more rolling hills and shrubbery. One thing I should mention, all the towns we passed through seemed to be almost temporary. There were no historic buildings or even anything made out of bricks and mortar. A good portion of the housing would be mobile homes and businesses were built from those metal modular kits. It was really strange to us.

Once in Amarillo we went in search of the Cadillac Ranch. A famous row of 10 old Cadillacs’ buried halfway in the middle of a barren farming field, apparently at the same angle as the pyramids in Egypt. Matt and I stopped a hundred or so miles prior to buy a can of spray paint to decorate the unison cluster of vehicles. Doing some investigating we learned that this was encouraged by all visitors. Surrounded by empty spray paint cans we approached the graffitied cars with a few other people.

As we walked up the 200 yard or so path to the technicolored Cadi’s, Matt started a polite conversation with another couple in passing. Matt noticed the guy he was talking to had paint all over the back of his shorts. Curious, Matt asked what happened? The visitor explained that he had heard a Bruce Springsteen song called The Cadillac Ranch and supposedly Bruce had instructed visitors (in song) to lay on their backs to get the full effect of the colorful phenomenon. Clearly, its best to put something down if you are to attempt this or come sporting your favorite painting overalls.

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The Cadillac Ranch is perched on Route 66, so this gave us a nice lead in to the historic highway. At first we were not sure if we were actually on it or not, but the frequently posted signs confirmed we had made it! It was interesting for several reasons, this particular section of Route 66 starting from Amarillo was the best preserved portion of the famous road and that it also paralleled the newer hwy 40. We surmised that the state of Texas felt it important to hang on to this little bit of history by incorporating the on and off ramps into yield signs whenever cross traffic would arise. Weird, because we always felt like we were going to merge into oncoming traffic on hwy 40!

We also realized how perfect the antique road was for Dorothy. She was happiest going at a nice cadence of 50 mph and there was no traffic to been seen, which meant no one up our backside…at least for a while!

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We arrived at the Midway point, where the also famous Midway Cafe sat. Our plan was to stop and have a slice of their just as famous pies, but that idea was squashed after pulling up to discover it had closed for the day just two hours before we arrived. Damn!

Another observation I took in along Route 66 was the several ghost-town remains of all the hotels and service stations left behind from the days when the hwy was in full swing. It was nothing short of eerie and yet I felt a huge pang of sadness at all that was left to die a slow death by the elements. I could almost picture what it must have been like when the now decrepit neon signs were lit and brightly flashing to try and tempt passing motorists to stop in for the night.

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The rest of the afternoon into the evening was pretty uneventful, another 70 miles and we were in Tucumcari New Mexico. We pulled up to a Quality Inn after attempting to book into the famous Blue Swallow Motel, but they were closed too! Damn!

Matt and I had another quick bite at our second choice hotel. We were beyond exhausted, but still anxious to start another day! Tomorrow Albuquerque New Mexico.

Footnote: The title of this blog is compliments of Laura Paines! Thank you Laura, this song will now not leave my head!

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 2 – Dorothy Takes to the Open Road

Dave, Sherrill, me, Matt with Dorothy

Dave, Sherrill, me, Matt with Dorothy

Matt and I were to meet Dave outside our hotel at 10:15 AM sharp. The original plan was for him to drive Dorothy over from his house, 20 minutes away and we would travel back with him while he demonstrated how the bus worked….and didn’t work! But, that changed with a text message from Dave saying he was at the back of the hotel parking lot waiting for us.

I scanned the parking lot until I finally saw Dave standing next to Dorothy. I can’t tell you what a strange feeling it was seeing her for the first time in person. She actually looked better and even brighter, if that was possible!

Matt and I immediately poked our heads into her innards, taking in all her details. She looked great for an old girl, but her age gave her away by that distinctive “old car” smell. It took me back to my grandmother’s gold Buick Skylark. It was the car I first took my drivers test in when I was sixteen.

Dorothy at the Land of Oz

Dorothy at the Land of Oz

We spent the next hour or so going over how things worked on the bus while we waited for Sherrill to arrive to pick Dave up. Matt was growing more enthusiastic about taking Dorothy out, while I was getting more nervous.

Matt finally could not hold back any longer and blurted out “can I start her up?” Dave tossed him the keys and Matt hurriedly ran around to the driver’s side and jumped in. I found myself cringing subconsciously as Matt turned the key, anticipating Dorothy to do one of her little “idiosyncrasies”. Matt turned the key and she started right up without a hiccup and we all let out a simultaneous sigh of relief!

It was tough saying good-bye to Dave and Sherrill after we were just getting to know them. I was also struggling because I was feeling very bad about taking Dorothy away from Dave. He had shared with us that he and Dorothy had a “little talk” on the way over to meet us about the parting of ways after 5 wonderful years. My heart sank for Dave and his silent, but obvious struggle in giving Dorothy up for good.

Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road

Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road

It was decided that Matt would take the wheel first, so with waving arms of good-bye out the window, we were off, heading west down Hwy 54, but not without circling the parking lot once to get the hang of “her” before the challenge of the Hwy.

There are several things that we noticed about Dorothy right away, first was the brakes. You practically have to put your foot through the floor to actually get them to work. It’s the original drum braking system that Volkswagen installed back in the day with all their models. I said to Matt, if I hit the brakes this hard on my Audi, we would go right through the windscreen! Second, was the gear shift. There are only 4 gears and you have to shift with a light hand, but deliberately. Meaning, you need to get the gear stick in exactly the right place or she will throw a fit!

We drove about fifty miles out of Wichita to Kingman to stop for fuel and something to eat. We no more pulled into the station and we noticed the attendant coming towards us. I rolled down the window to see what he wanted and the first words out of his mouth was “ What year is she?” Matt and I both laughed, thinking we had done something wrong and was being reprimanded for it. We chit chatted with him for a few minutes and told him all about our plight with Dorothy. He loved the story, telling us about his long relationship with Dorothy’s sibling, the Beetle. This was the first of many smiling eyes that followed on our 209 miles to Liberal. At one point, we had a Jeep full of teenagers waving the peace sign at us going the opposite direction. It was clear, Dorothy was turning heads!

"There's no place like home!"

“There’s no place like home!”

After we filled her tank, we pulled over to White’s food store, just a hundred yards off. We were all set to go in and was making sure to lock her up to secure all our valuables inside. In a panic, we were discovering all, but one lock did not work! You could lock it from the inside, but you couldn’t unlock it from the outside. Ah, this was going to be a bit of a problem, so I text messaged Dave to see if there was another key he forgot to give us. The answer came back a few minutes later as a no and we were left to come up with a plan “B” in how to secure Dorothy.

Prior to leaving California, I had bought online The Club and a dummy set of security alarm lights to help ward off any potential intruders. I had them sent to Dave’s and was feeling a bit better about the times when we would have to leave Dorothy unattended. But, now with the new-found knowledge in her locking system, we had to figure something out and fast.

The fact that we could lock the back tailgate and lock the other doors from the inside gave us an advantage. Matt came up with the idea to find a store that sells bicycle locks and lock the sliding door to the passenger door by wrapping the locking cable around both door handles. It was a brilliant idea and we soon found a local Alco store to solve our pending dilemma.

Motoring down the primarily two-lane hwy 54 we were passing a growing number of big-rigs. This was becoming quite challenging with Dorothy’s lack of steering capabilities. The large amount of play in the steering combined with the big gusting cross winds from the trucks was proving to be a potential hazard. The drivers concentration was essential in keeping the bus on the right side of the road! This was also a problem because every time another big gust of wind hit Dorothy upside the left side-panel, it also knocked the wing mirrors out of alignment, which totally left us blind to the rear of the bus.

Matt's high tech security solution!

Matt’s high tech security solution!

Another stop in Pratt temporarily fixed the wing mirror problem with a tightening of the nut that held the mirrors in place, but a few gusts later and we were right back to sticking our hand out the window to readjust. We need to work on this!

The concentration that it took to navigate Dorothy was surprising to me, but very reminiscent in riding a motorcycle. You have to constantly keep your eyes on the road and stay alert, no matter what! I also had to laugh at how many times Matt and I would pull over to check on Dorothy, like two doting parents, to see how she was doing on her first real road trip in many years.

The stick straight hwy carried us on and into more flat and barren farmlands with maybe a few sparse towns in between. At 6:30 PM we arrived at our destination, Liberal Kansas. Apparently its claim to fame is being the “home” to Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ. We found the little Wizard of Oz museum and pulled Dorothy over and posed her so we could take several photo’s of her in front of the various signs posted. Matt and I found this to be really fun, but Dorothy was getting tired and she was telling us she needed to rest with her hesitation in wanting to start. We took the hint and rounded the corner to the Southwind Hotel. We chose the hotel mainly because we could park Dorothy outside our room to keep a close eye on her. If we could we would have parked her in the room with us!

Matt and I walked down the road a bit to a local steak cafe on the suggestion of our hotel receptionist. I have to say, its strange being in Kansas. The people in Kansas are very nice and friendly, but the atmosphere is nothing like where I’m from in California. But, you know, variety is the spice of life!

Tomorrow, we need to sort out our navigation system with an electrical system that looks like a map of the Tube stations in London!

Onward and upward!

September 30, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus, Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 1 Dorothy’s Blog – A One Way Ticket to Wichita.

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I think Matt and I woke up before the birds did on Saturday morning excited and also behind on all the packing we needed to get done before the taxi arrived at 8:30 AM. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the good sense to mail the tools, bus manuals, travel books and an assortment of engine lubricants on to Dave prior to our enterprising journey. Needless to say, this caused a slight overload in our weight allowance with our cases! Oh well hindsight, we just made it work!

The taxi ended up arriving 30 minutes early, but we were pretty much ready to go, so we hopped in the Prius taxi and silently coasted down the hill to the air-porter, ten minutes away. An hour later we were at the San Francisco airport and things were pretty uneventful until we got to Las Vegas where we were to meet up with Sherrill, Dave’s wife.

As I mentioned before, Sherrill was coming from a two-week stay with friends and family in San Diego and her connecting flight was the same as ours in Las Vegas. Right on schedule, she called my cell and we met her at our gate. We said our hello’s and retired straight on to the bar where we treated her to the promised vodka and tonic while we got to know each other.

The three of us chit chatted about all sorts, including Dorothy while sixties music reverberated off the narrow walls in the crowded airport bar. When I first met Dave and Sherrill at Eric’s house last April, I didn’t get to spend any time with Sherrill other than a brief how-do-you-do, so it was refreshing to find myself conversing with her like I did with her husband. Definitely two separate people in their own right, but both radiating that same open and friendly energy.

All three of us ended up sitting on the plane together on our final flight into Wichita. Matt dozed off for an hour or so, still fighting off the jet lag and a relentless cold that wouldn’t go away. This gave Sherrill and I some “girl time” and we didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity. We talked about everything from the transition in moving from her home town in San Diego to Wichita to the TV show Top Gear, trying to name all the “best of” shows we could remember! I had fun and it made the short flight seem even shorter with our extending conversations.

Soon we were on the ground to be greeted by Dave, who stood leaning against the far wall sporting his favorite suspenders, as we approached the baggage area. Again, we said our hello’s as we progressed to the baggage claim area and continued to get to know each other as we waited for the pint-sized airport to spit out our luggage from behind the rubber curtain. Sherrill, Matt and I were growing weary from traveling all day, so it was a smile of relief on our faces when our bags came out in procession a short time later.

Dave and Sherrill kindly gave us a quick lift over to the Hilton Double Tree, located a stone’s throw from the airport entrance….and I’m not joking when I say, a stone’s throw! We parted for the night with the plan to text message each other in the morning about plans for picking up Dorothy. Matt and I literally threw our stuff in our room and went to the restaurant in the lobby for a quick and light meal. They were serving an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. I don’t know if was because I was so tired or that I have issues with eating sea inhabiting creatures that can’t be found no less than a 1000 miles from Wichita! Thank you, but I think we’ll pass.

Scanning the limited menu (because we were not sea going folk) we managed to find some soup selections. Our tired eyes lit up when we read “ Yorkshire Meat Soup, a British favorite”! Well, after a good, laugh, Matt insisted on trying the Yorkshire soup, since he grew up there and for all those adolescent into adulthood years, was never aware that it actually existed and was a “British favorite! He found it to be tasty and certainly filled a vacant spot, but said upon me impatiently asking, “well, how was it?” His reply, “It tasted like Oxtail soup.” Feeling a little ridiculous, we both couldn’t resist and took pictures of the mysterious soup with our iPhones!

Now that we’re here, I have to admit, I’m very excited and amazed that this moment has actually come to fruition, but nervous and a little scared at what the future might hold for us. Not to say I don’t have positive thoughts on how our incredible trip will go, but I guess that’s just part of being human…and part of living life. Regardless, you just have to go for it!

Tomorrow, will certainly be another day!

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized, Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plight of a Little Volkswagen Bus Known as Dorothy — Page 3

Twenty three split window bus

Twenty three split window bus

After 3 1/2 glorious summer months living with the love of my life and his beautiful family in midlands of England it was time to contact Dave in Wichita. Both Matt and I felt good about all we had accomplished in the last few months in regards to our numerous field trips out to the local bus fests and visiting several mechanics, who specialized in vintage VW buses. It can’t go without me saying how welcoming the mechanics were. Arriving unannounced, they would consistently invite us back into the bays were their past and present projects sat, openly giving us the history behind each vehicle, like a proud parent!

Ron, the first mechanic we visited said “welcome to the family” upon our arrival and introduction as a soon-to-be bus owners and rightly so! With each step we took, we felt more and more like part of a family, only without the child!

I emailed Dave a few weeks before I was to leave for the US, just to confirm that we were still “on” with the purchase of Dorothy. As always, Dave was quick to reply back saying yes to wanting to go forward with the transaction. I brought him up-to-date on my travel schedule. I decided the best way to break the news to Dave about our change in plans from transporting the bus to driving the bus back to California was to call.

Via email I arranged a time (UK to Kansas) for all three of us to have a chat. Matt and Dave had not formally met, so it was a nice ice breaker into dropping the “Driving Miss Dorothy” bomb! My evil plan worked and Dave took the news exceptionally well. I reassured him that we were aware he would be in no way responsible once Dorothy left his drive. Matt and I went on the tell Dave that we hoped for the best, but would be prepared for the worst…meaning, well, anything! Which involved bringing spare parts, fire extinguishers, multiple mechanic manuals and of course, updating my AAA card! We made a special request to have the oil changed and a general check-over before our departure half way across the country. The delicate nature of the air-cooled engines requires a 3,000 mile oil change, unlike modern cars of today, which can go triple the miles or more. So, needless to say, this was a must do on our check off list.

Dave not only obliged to our request, but went far and beyond with what sounded like a major overhaul to me! Saying “I’m doing it for a friend of my best friend (Eric) from college”. Wow, with a comment like that, I couldn’t help but wish I had more friends like Dave! I was so impressed by the statement. Honestly, how many people do you know that would say something like that (with no exchange of money) and mean it?

Panel split window, with VW's version of an air conditioner! (chrome cylinder)

Panel split window, with VW’s version of an air conditioner! (chrome cylinder)

After another painful and tearful goodbye to Matt, family and friends, I was back in California on August 29th. Here I was again, desperate to get back into the groove of things after settling into a very comfortable lifestyle back in England. Of course I missed my family, friends, coworkers, clients and most definitely, my two kitties, Moxie and Milo! Still, it was a hard pill to swallow being thrown back into what felt like a past life from so long ago. Where is the theme song to “The Twilight Zone” when you need it?!

For the next four weeks after my arrival state side was to be a busy one. Booking flights, hotel, arranging auto insurance, maintenance manuals, tools and shipping everything we couldn’t carry on the plane to Dave in Wichita.

In the process, another “call it fate, call it destiny” sidebar story; I sent Dave our date and time of arrival to Wichita, thanking him for referring us to a particular airline with good rates. He replied back to ask if we were on a particular flight. Scanning down the email, to my surprise, I saw our flight details. I immediately wrote back asking how he knew? Apparently, Sherrill, his wife was booked on the same flight! Thinking about it, what were the odds of that happening??! She is returning from a visit in San Diego and, just like ours, her flight passes through Las Vegas and then on to Wichita. It has been requested (by Dave) to make sure to treat Sherrill to a vodka and tonic on our brief layover in Vegas. With pleasure Dave!

I picked Matt up from the airport on the Tuesday before we were to fly out, so that only gave us three days to prepare. It was a little more stressful on Matt suffering from jet lag and the beginnings of a cold, which might have originated from his last visit with Rory, his 2 year-old grandson. But, with his contagious giggle, platinum blond hair, peaches and cream skin and big baby blues that could melt your heart, Rory could give me a cold every other week and wouldn’t care! Matt would have to man-up and fast!

A few days before we were to leave, Dave sent out a check list (“Parts, Location & Idiosyncrasies’ List”) it included two pages of Dorothy’s idiosyncrasies or as I like to call it Personality flaws. Let me tell you, at first glance, I was a little taken aback, thinking maybe Dorothy needed therapy or an old Volks home (a little Volkswagen humor!) But, later, after reading it over again, it was really just a lot of small stuff. Dave wrote: ” Occasionally, (hasn’t happened in the last month) when you turn the ignition key nothing happens…and “Sometimes the dash indicator lights dim, sometimes not.” He went on to explain. “The red levers on the dash are for heat and do nothing.”  My personal favorite, “the glove box has a door, but no box behind it.” Meaning anything you put in the glove box is going to end up landing on your toes! Note to self: Find alternative location for traveling rock collection!

DSCF2975At the top of Dave’s list, subtitled “Parts & Location of “Stuff”” he had listed just that, all the additional parts, he had gathered and thrown in, including 2 award plaques won by the previous bus owner.  Another favorite of mine from this list was “stool for sitting at engine compartment and staring at it”!

Giving just another example of how caring and generous Dave was as a person, a person I had only briefly met once. At the end of one of his last emails to me he wrote “look forward to next weekend, this project has been great fun for me.” I couldn’t agree more!

As I close on this final preface page and merge into the diary of our day by day journey, I would like to share with you some facts and figures from 1970. This inspiration comes from one of the “personality traits” from the Dorothy list, where Dave wrote: “Choke setting, give the accelerator pedal one complete stroke and let off the pedal, turn the key and start.” If you were born in the 60’s, as I was, this one sentence should automatically bring back some driving preparation memories. In the days before fuel injection, I had to press the gas pedal to the floor as a standard procedure to start my car. Laughing to myself, I had completely forgotten about those days!

So, in light of this new found awareness, below are a few highlights from 1970, the year Dorothy was born.

  • Aswan High Dam in Egypt was completed
  • Beatles break up
  • Floppy discs were introduced
  • 747 jet makes its maiden voyage from London to Australia
  • Concorde makes its first supersonic flight
  • 100K people demonstrate in Washington DC against the Vietnam war
  • First Earth Day is celebrated
  • Jimi Hendrix dies
  • Janis Joplin dies
  • Ziplock bags were created

Cost of living in 1970:

  • Average income $9,400
  • Average cost of a home 24,450
  • Average cost to rent $140
  • Cost for a gallon of gasoline .36 cents
  • World’s population 3.63 Billion
  • Average cost of a car in the US $3,542

“….Kansas glories in her days to be, in her horizons limitless and vast, she has no gray that men revere. Her time is now her heritage is here.” Harry Kemp

September 27, 2013 Posted by | Volkswagen bus | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The plight of a little 1970 Volkswagen bus known as Dorothy–Page 2

This whole bus ownership “thing” was looking a little more involved than just picking out a car and buying it. Matt and I needed to get a brush-up course on VW buses and fast! If you talk to anyone who owns a vintage bus (and we did our share at the bus fests), they will talk about it as if it’s a person, with all the “aches and pains” and little idiosyncrasies, unlike any another of its own kind. Not to mention the commitment of time, money and love that each and every bus owner bequeath upon their prized investment.  It’s no wonder dedicated bus owners typically name their bus a female name. Like Daisy, Flo or even…Dorothy, to authenticate its individual existence!

A barn door  23 window VW Bus

A barn door 23 window VW Bus

Now if you are like me, I wasn’t aware of the bus “lingo” amongst the family of vintage bus owners. For instance; a splitty or a split window refers the pre 1968 model bus. It has the two separate windscreen windows at the front of the bus. It has also been written that the “V” design on the nose of the bus and front roof-line was designed for aerodynamic purposes, because, it basically…uh, well, didn’t have any!

The bay window refers to the post 1967 model and has a standard one-piece windscreen. All VW buses have an “air-cooled” engine at the rear (adopted after its older sibling the Beetle) and a displacement smaller than most average motorcycles! It wasn’t until the mid-70’s when Volkswagen started (to some people’s dismay) improving the engine dynamics and brake systems.

A “barn door” bus is a splitty with a larger engine compartment door and 11, 13, 15, 21 and 23 split window buses, refers to (obviously), the number of windows it has. The more windows, the more desirable it is. I have discovered that the 23 window Deluxe rag top splitty is probably the most expensive bus on the market, ranging from $50 to $100K in excellent refurbished condition. Serious split window buyers will not hesitate to lay down 10, 15 or 20 thousand dollars for a rusted old skeleton of a bus which was most likely sitting buried in the back of a barn for 30 years or more.  With our growing knowledge of valuable information, it was evident; these vintage buses were now considered an investment, than a form of transportation.

As we dug deeper into the Volkswagen bus’ ancestry, the more we discovered the fundamental foundation for its individuality started in the factories themselves. Not just the Volkswagen factory in Germany, manufacturing the original models, but camper converting companies like Sundial (out of CA) and Westfalia (in Germany). To put their own touch on the stock buses, by converting panel buses and deluxe models with sunroofs into pop-up campers, just for an example. This created a never-ending assortment of one-off VW bus models and designs so illustrious bus owners could advertise their true inner-authentic beingness…or something like that?? Anyway, I am aware there are other manufacturers out there, like Riviera, Road Runner, EZ Camper and Dormobile, but I know I will invariably leave a few out only because I’m still in the learning process. Feel free to help a girl out 🙂

A Riviera camper conversion

A Riviera camper conversion

 

As for Dorothy, it was strongly suggested to us, by Dave, (the owner of Dorothy) to have her transported back to California. This suggestion came from a sense of responsibility by him, whom I had total respect for; after all, he knew Dorothy and her capabilities better than anyone. Matt had endorsed Dave’s strong encouragement as well to me, until one afternoon while Matt and I were hanging out in the back garden suspended in our new “gravity” chairs on a warm English summer’s day. I don’t know if was because we were so relaxed and enjoying the rareness of a sunny day, but I brought up the idea of driving the bus back to California again to Matt and he went for it! He didn’t even argue with me! Okay, so I did sugar coat it a little, by saying we could drive back by way of route 66. Let’s face it, how cool would it be to fly to Wichita Kansas, pick up a vintage VW bus and drive sections of Route 66 and 1,800 miles back to California?? Now we only had to convince Dave!

More to come…..

“The Wizard of OZ says; look inside yourself and find self. God says, look inside yourself and find the Holy Spirit. The first will get you to Kansas. The later will get you to heaven” Max Lucado

 

 

September 20, 2013 Posted by | Volkswagen Bus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The plight of a little 1970 Volkswagen bus known as Dorothy – Page 1

Dorothy

Dorothy

Well, I think I stated way back when that the purpose of this blog was about living life in forward motion and this ongoing story will definitely be another example and hopefully, not disappoint.

I think everyone can recall a Volkswagen story of their own and I certainly have mine with surprisingly vivid memories of three separate buses throughout the years during my childhood. When I reflect back on how much they were a part of my family and the contagious love my step-dad instilled in all of us, with his obsession for the giant tin boxes, it shouldn’t surprise me that I have come full circle in purchasing my first bus 40+ years later!

A snapshot vision of my dad from the back of the bus (as my sister and I drifted in and out of sleep), watching him navigate with his right forearm leaning across the big steering wheel with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, as we drove back on a Sunday night from our summer-house in Russian River, listening to old radio shows like “The Shadow Knows”.

I never gave my past experience with VW buses a thought until last March when a good client of mine started chit chatting about his history with Volkswagens, more specifically a square back he drove until the wheels were about to fall off! How he sold it to another guy for pretty much what he paid for it and months maybe even years later, to his amazement, he passed it on the road….”The damn thing was still running” he exclaimed to me, eyes wide-open, as though he had just witnessed the square back cruising down the road again!

Eric digressed on to tell me about an old college friend who owned a 1970 Westphalia (Westy) living in Wichita Kansas. He continued on to say that his friend, Dave of 30+ years, wanted him to transport the bus back to California to sell it for him. Saying that he felt the bus would fetch more money here than in Wichita. Eric went on to describe in detail how the bus looked, what great condition it was in and how it had a unique fireplace feature…..”What?” I said. “Hold on, did you just say a fireplace?” Eric laughed and nodded. “Yes, it’s where the sink should be. It’s a full size gas fireplace.” He said, saying it like he was trying to convince me he wasn’t pulling a fast one. Needless to say, I requested pictures!

 

Dad (on the right) and our 1969 VW bus

Dad (on the right) and our 1969 VW bus

This single casual conversation sparked a life altering experience for me (and my fiancé, Matt) and to all those involved.

I’m not sure if it was the fireplace that “got” me or the nostalgic idea of owning a four-wheel childhood memory, but I had to have that 1970 Volkswagen bus that resided in Wichita Kansas, come hell or high water!

As luck would have it, Dave was coming into town at the end of April, just a few weeks before I was to go back to England to live with Matt for four months. Call it fate, call it destiny and I would agree with you, finding it a little strange after a few emails to Dave enquiring about the purchase of his bus, he and I would be soon discussing the transaction face to face. We met on a cool early spring evening at Eric’s house not far from my salon. Dave was a big guy with a kind face and I instantly liked him. I was also introduced to his lovely wife Sherrill, who politely retired to the living room, soon after I arrived, to read the last few pages of a good book she was dying to finish. Eric, Dave and I exited out the back slider and made ourselves comfortable as we got to know each other on the deck around a glass circular table munching on tortilla chips and salsa.

Dave and Eric talked about their personal history which subtly transcended into their love for Volkswagens. Dave went on to say how he acquired his beloved bus on eBay from a guy in Pennsylvania, who paid way too much at an estate auction. “I really bought the bus for my grandson, so we could camp out together, he explained.” He loves sleeping in the hammock that hangs over the front seats”.  I had to admit, after hearing the heartfelt story it made me feel a little guilty about the possibility of taking something precious away from his grandson! But, with Dave’s reassurance in his desire to sell the bus, we talked money and the time frame in which I would be able to actually purchase the bus with my upcoming extended trip.

We agreed that if he still had the bus when I was ready to come back to the states in late August, he would sell it to me.

While in England, Matt and I had discovered from a request by his future daughter-in-law, how popular vintage buses were as a special occasion transport. This sparked our interest. What was to be a nonsensical sentimental buy was starting to have money-making possibilities!

Matt’s oldest son, Chris was getting married at the beginning of August and his fiancée, Helen had wanted a vintage Volkswagen bus to escort her and her granddad to the church on her wedding day. We had no idea this was even possible, moreover, how ridiculously expensive it was, once we found we actually could rent one! Needless to say it further peaked our interest, followed by several visits to local bus fests (yes, they have a lot of them!) and bus mechanics to gain as much knowledge as we could on how lucrative this could actually become.

Westy fireplace!

Westy fireplace!

 

“Kansas is no mere geographical expression, but a “state of mind”, a religion, and a philosophy in one.” Carl Becker (1910)

 

To be continued….

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Volkswagen bus | , , , , , | Leave a comment