Motoette -in forward motion

Day 6 – Four Corners and Almost 7 Days Ago

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I could probably go without saying it was not a comfortable night staying at the less than adequate Travel Lodge in Farmington, NM, so I will spare you the details in how uncleanly the room was with walls so thin I could hear the conversation in the next room…all night long!

Matt and I finally woke up at 5 AM, because we just gave up trying to sleep. We waited until after day break to go downstairs to see how Dorothy was doing and how she was going to behave for the day. I heard Matt start her up from the open hotel door and I could tell right away, it wasn’t good. She was misfiring and stalling, something she had not done before.

Matt played with the fuel mixture, hoping that it might be the thinness of the mountain air, but she just wasn’t cooperating. Becoming more frustrated from dealing with Dorothy and her petulant moods for the last three mornings, we both decided to let her sit there in the car park and think about what she had done and go have breakfast!

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We went back to the friendly Village restaurant next to the hotel to weigh our options on how we should handle the situation. We would be heading for Monument Valley today (Thursday) and the weekend was closing in, which meant if we needed a mechanic in the next few days, we were going to be screwed!

I decided to ask our “southern” waitress if she could recommend a local mechanic for us? We summarized on the details of our vehicle, explaining to her it was a 1970 bus. She smiled and said “Oh, is it that white one out in the parking lot? We’ve been talking about it here at the restaurant.” She came back a few minutes later and gave us the name of Rick’s Automotive, located just around the corner.

Dorothy coughed and spluttered her way to Rick’s garage and right on cue, we were becoming the center of attention. Rick, the owner came out to greet us and took Dorothy into the his garage almost immediately. Dutifully wearing his tie-dyed shirt that I made for him, Matt had a good laugh with Rick, filling him in on Dorothy’s plight as he assessed her issues. He moved around the engine with subtle confidence and I knew right away, Dorothy was in good hands. I was growing more and more impressed at how friendly everyone was in Farmington.

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Rick worked his masterful magic and got Dorothy purring like a kitten in about an hour. We were so grateful that we slipped him an extra tenner to go out and have lunch on us. By the time we pulled out of the drive, Dorothy was singing a totally different tune, which brought on a simultaneous sigh of relief that waved over both of us.

Heading west on hwy 64 and 170 miles from our next destination in the majestic Monument Valley, we stopped briefly to fuel Dorothy and grab some lunch for us later in the day. Again, drawing more attention. Matt and I had actually gave it some thought if we could recall seeing another VW bus similar to Dorothy on our trip and both agreed, we had not.

I took the wheel once again and spent the next 100 miles coercing Dorothy up more hills. The expansive scenery changed with every hill we climbed or corner we rounded, so much that I found myself leaning into the windscreen to see if I could get a quicker glimpse. Massive rock formations started to arise from the scarlet desert plains, it was an incredible sight to comprehend. How did these rock formations happen in the middle of nowhere and how long did it take?

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Before we achieved our final destination to Monument Valley, we took a 5 mile detour to the Four Corners. This is where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all meet in a four-way corner. The Navajo Indians have a big presence in this region and own several landmarks, four corners being one of them.

The scant landmark set us back $6.00 to look at a circle with the four states stamped on it, seriously! Matt and I took a bunch of pictures of the circle and then went and popped the camper top and had lunch with Dorothy, it was more interesting by far!

An hour later we were driving through Monument Valley, all I can say is holy cow, what a beautiful sight! I can’t even imagine how to describe the panoramic vision. Just jaw dropping gorgeous is all I can say! As we delved deeper into the valley the winds began to blow crimson sand across the tarmac with such force, little Dorothy was struggling to keep on her side of the road. I was starting to get worried that it would grow to be too much for her large angular body and suggested to Matt that maybe we should wait until the next morning to come back out.

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He convinced me it would be okay and we kept on driving another 20 miles until we crossed from Arizona into Utah by following the billboards that seemed to escort us to the visitor’s center and a hotel called The View, located in the center of the valley.

With the exception of a few nights, we make no arrangements for lodging, we basically just wing it. This is huge for me, because I have spent a life-time always planning where I would stay in my travels. To wrap my head around just “winging it” five years ago, would not be an option, so I was surprised at how comfortable I was becoming at the spontaneous idea.

Matt and I pulled up to this hotel, The View was surrounded by the most spectacular compilation of high rise rocks towering into the heavens , we just had to stay here. I was holding my breath as we walked up to the front desk to make the impossible request. To ask for a room with no prior reservation at 5:30 PM in the evening. I think a bead of perspiration perched itself on my brow in the long pregnant pause as we waited for the desk clerk to give us the bad news. Finally, she turned to us and said, “we have one room left”. Wow, that was now two nights in a row we heard that being said and like the night before, we jumped on it.

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Because it was the last room, it was the least desirable to most because it lacked the outstanding view, but to us it was perfect because we could park Dorothy just outside our window and keep an eye on her.

Being the photography nuts that we are, we quickly grabbed our camera gear and went back out into the blustering wind to get our much awaited sunset shots of the elegant gigantic stones. Matt and I had a blast shooting off hundreds of shots, one turning out better than the next as the sun’s rays cast ever-changing light on our long-awaited subject. The sun soon was gone and we were getting hungry, satisfied that we achieved what we came here for.

We ate dinner overlooking the stunning view as the sun finally dove behind the western ridge, indicating to us that is was time for us to retire for the evening. With no sleep the night before and navigating Dorothy all day, the time came not a moment too soon. What an incredible day!

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Footnote: Reading all the words of encouragement and the support by friends and family from California to the UK and everywhere in between, I wanted to say thank you. It has been so cool to see all the positive attention and encouragement from everyone in regards to Dorothy. That a little 43 year-old Volkswagen bus could evoke so much attention is just overwhelming to Matt and I. We love it and we love you for your caring words to keep her going to make that next 800 miles. We have gone 1,100 miles in 6 days and we fully accredit it to all the people who showed an interest in her.

I say this with absolute sincerity, Dorothy couldn’t have made it this far without you!

October 4, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 5 – Dorothy Has a Drinking Problem

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I woke up to another gorgeous day, the fifth one in a row and joined India, Pete and Matt in the kitchen to say a cheerful good morning. The four of us were to go on a brisk autumn walk along the Rio Grand to start our day, so I was feeling excited at the prospect of getting some much-needed exercise in. But, what I was greeted with instead was three faces of shock and disbelief of the news that our US Congress decided to shut down the entire nations state and recreational parks in a ditch effort to save our financially deteriorating country! I was in complete shock at the ridiculous prospect. How could this ever save the dire economical condition of our country?
I immediately thought of the man we met in Texas at one of the many petrol stations we would visit. He was telling us about his sole trip to the Grand Canyon he was in route to and how excited he was about it. I felt so bad for him and all the other travelers who were trekking great distances to see some of the great wonders of this country.
Then I thought of Matt and I and how we had planned into our trip to visit the Grand Canyon, it was to be Matt’s first visit. Needless to say, we were very disappointed.

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To add to our day, Dorothy was not a happy girl. Matt and Pete opted to do some work on Dorothy before we were to set back out on the road later in the day, while India and I went on with the scheduled morning walk. India and I came back to more bad news with the bus and how she did not want to start. To be more specific, the events of the morning concerning Dorothy are explained in better detail in Matt’s own words below:
Today:
“Major problems!!! 8.00am checked on bus. Oil leak wasn’t too significant but the tray under the car was full of petrol, with a steady dipping coming out of air inlet, and to cap it all the engine wouldn’t turn over on the starter.
With thoughts of a carb rebuild, Pete gave me a lift to an auto shop to get a fuel system cleaner for the tank, a stop leak additive for the oil filler and a battery booster pack.
On attaching the booster it appeared to make no difference. We tried to bump start instead, but drawing up the clutch just stopped the car in its tracks the engine didn’t turn over at all.
Fearing a seized engine, i attempted to rotate it using the fan belt pulley. It turned fine! Confused, I went up to the cab and, with complete amazement, on turning the key she fired right up – with a huge plume of unburned fuel ejected from the exhaust.
We can only think that one of the cylinders must have filled with petrol, jamming the cylinder, our rotating of crank must have opened the exhaust valve and allowed the liquid to drop into the exhaust.”
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I can’t help but think there is a god up there looking over us as we make this unique journey. For a good portion of this trip, we have been on some pretty wide-open space hwy with little to no services, especially from Amarillo to Albuquerque. To think about how fortunate we have been with our little “episodes” with Dorothy and the timing in which they come up is just amazing to me. It could have been so much worse sitting on the side of the desolate highway waiting for hours in the hot sun for a tow truck, not fun! Something told me early on our way to Albuquerque to just keep going and not take our usual frequent stops. These are the times when you have to think there has to be a greater power out there, looking over us.

With sad good-bye’s, we pulled out of Pete and India’s drive about 2 PM. With the change in our schedule of events, we decided to do a short 170 miles north to Farmington, on the breath-taking 550 hwy. It was a sight to behold as we continued to push Dorothy up another several thousand feet into the giant mesas of New Mexico. The magnificent grandeur of the scarlet carved mountains, designed by hundreds of years of erosion from the intense desert rains was just a vision to behold. Each mountain more interesting than the next, I couldn’t stop hitting the shutter on my camera as Matt enticed Dorothy up and then down the rolling hills, climbing further into the indigo sky.

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I expected Farmington to be a quaint little town nestled atop of the gorgeous Southwestern plateau, but it was run down and even kind of unnerving to be in. We had to make the best of it, because the next town was an hours drive (by a normal car!) which meant several for us. We finally found a cluster of low-budget hotels and stopped in at one  to book a room. I was shocked to hear the girl at the desk say she had no rooms available. It was a Wednesday and we were in a town that would be last on my list as a must see vacation destination! What the hell was going on here!

We finally caved-in to a beat-up Travel Lodge across the street, taking the last (smoking) room on the third floor! Nice! The clerk was kind enough to hand me a bottle of Fabreeze to help with the stale odor. I was laughing with Matt about it, trying to find the humor in our tiring day.

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We went next door to the Village restaurant, a down home type of place where all the waitresses had a southern accent. Strange, the more north we went, the more southern the locals became?? I had to laugh at the idea of it.
Regardless of how they sounded, they were very friendly and had the best selection of homemade pies. A full dinner for two with dessert for $20, I’m still trying to figure out how they can survive charging those kind of prices. They even threw in our two coffees to-go for no charge. I was growing more impressed with the shabby little town’s hospitality!

It should be mentioned that Dorothy continues to receive attention daily from passing motorists and chit chatting with people along the way. We had stopped in Cuba New Mexico to fill Dorothy’s hungry belly up when I heard “WOW” from the other side of the bus. I walked around to find a slight dark-skinned older man staring at Dorothy with a big grin on his face. He wanted to know all about her and with most everyone we met, it would always morph into getting to know each individual. He was no exception. By the time we pulled out, I knew he had just retired from the oil company, how long he had lived in Cuba and that he had a tractor!
Matt and I are really enjoying all the attention Dorothy brings and with our “Cali or Bust” sign hanging in the back window, it brings waves, peace signs and honks from all the vehicles that pass us, and let me tell you, there’s a lot of them!
It’s a pretty special day when we get to actually pass another car!

As is stands, we are still smelling gas, but can’t really tell where it’s coming from. All leaks have been stopped, but she still is having a hard time starting after the engine has been running for a while. Next on the list, is to have the spark plugs changed and both the air and fuel filters changed. Dorothy is a temperamental girl with a heart of gold, but that is to be expected when she has only driven 4,000 miles in 5 years.

October 3, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 4 – Albuquerque and the Watermelon Mountains

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To me, Tucumcari, New Mexico is kind of an eclectic town with its obvious mixture of present, middle and past. It has some interesting tourist attractions, from an antique car museum to a restored train station. Apparently these places were a must see from the locals, unfortunately, we missed both. But what we did see was a long stretch of the intimate town’s main street, which is also Route 66, lined with old abandoned hotels. One after another just left as they were forty years ago, aging in the harsh desert sun.

Our next destination was Albuquerque, 170 miles of undulating smooth hwy. We were to stay the night with our good friends India and Pete, who had just moved to the Albuquerque area a few months ago from the Bay Area. This was basically Pete’s home town, so it was like going home for him and India was enjoying her newfangled Southwestern surroundings.

For the duration of most of the 170 miles, Route 66 paralleled the I-40 like a well-trained dog healing by his masters side. Matt wanted to get off the main hwy at different points to once again drive the historic road, but something told me we needed to get to Albuquerque as soon as we could. We did stop once at Cline’s Corner, an over-priced souvenir emporium where we bought some over-priced souvenirs for the family. We then became a little hungry, so we bought some over-priced sandwiches before we put some over-priced fuel in the bus before descending into Albuquerque! (I bet you thought I was going to say “over-priced” again!)

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This portion of the trip was the first with altitude. Our first introduction to hills was when we entered into Texas, but it had leveled out somewhat when we came into Amarillo. Now we were putting Dorothy to the test in how she could handle the steady ascending mountains and the thinning air. I had been warned about VW buses and their fear of heights, not to push the engine and use low gears when climbing. My friend Vicky, who is proud former VW bus owner told me “don’t forget to get a running start up the hill”! Her words kept running through my head as I would approach the never-ending hills we had to climb to the 7,000 ft peak.

Luckily, it was downhill into Albuquerque and straight to India and Pete’s house. Matt tooted the distinctive VW horn to let them know we had arrived and soon the door opened to be greeted by smiling faces. It was so good to see two familiar faces, it was like going home for me, even though we had only been gone for a few days.

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India took me through their new home and it was just spectacular! A one level beautiful modern house with the most amazing views of the Watermelon Mountains with the Rio Grand in the foreground. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the stunning composition! I got my camera out later, as the sun set and found out why the call it the Watermelon Mountains with its exquisite colors of red and orange that glisten from the dwindling light of the sun’s rays and vibrant green foliage imitating the rind.

The four of us had a delicious dinner at a cozy southwestern restaurant, compliments of India and Pete. We headed back to their beautiful abode, where we just sat back and breathed in the wonderful atmosphere until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. India and Pete gave us some Mexican Jumping Beans, which I subconsciously placed next to my nightstand. I kept thinking I could hear a clock ticking during the night, until I finally figured out it was the damn jumping beans! Obviously, they were relocated in the wee late hours of the evening!

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October 3, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW 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

Motoette; continuing on in forward motion

To all my limited, but valued readers,

I sincerely apologise for my lack of entries since my last MotoGP report at Valencia back in November, 2011. Just to give you a little insight into the last eight months, I no longer write MotoGP race reports for Girlracer.co.uk (as if you didn’t notice), but still contribute casually, on occasion.  I am now doing travel blogs for travel adventure author Carla King’s MotoSFO.com. Happily working with five other talented writers, as well as guest writers, enlightening  Northern California’s visiting and local motorcyclist where to find the best routes, delicious food,  comfy lodging and fun events to try when you get there!

I won’t lie, it’s going to be difficult giving up living the glamorous motorcycle racing life, by portraying a professional photographer and reluctantly having to give up my press pass status that allowed me access to the best seats on the circuit. It will be interesting when I head down to Laguna Seca Raceway, in Monterey CA in the next few weeks, arriving with nothing more than a general admission ticket and a limited paddock pass!

I sound like such a snob, but the reality is, the special privilege came with a lot of work to be accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, it was heaven on earth, but it was also a lot of hard work. My boy friend and race colleague, Matt, is looking forward to going to the races as an ordinary spectator, to just enjoy the race and the festive surroundings. I guess I should too!

Moving on to MotoSFO.com, does not mean to imply that I have given up attending and photographing motorcycle races. On the contrary, I will blogging about my maiden voyage to the Isle of Man TT race, this past June. A spur of the moment trip of a life time, that basically fell into our laps by happenstance… and good timing on the part of my better half!

As I mentioned earlier, I will be making my annual trek down to Laguna Seca at the Mazda Raceway in the extraordinarily beautiful seaside town of Monterey, CA. In staying with tradition, I will be swinging by BorrowLenses in San Carlos and picking up my favorite fixed 2.8 200 G-lens for my Sony A65 DSLR, to get up close and personal with the racers. But,  having a 5’4 stature, I think I might throw a small step stool in,  just to ensure I can clear the cyclone fencing! what will be new to the mix is my BMW F800ST! Riding the 3 hour+ coastal hwy one byway for the first time in my five years of attending the majestic race.

I look forward to hopefully seeing you down there, I shouldn’t be hard to find amongst the zealous mass, just look for the short, blond girl with a ridiculously long camera lens and a step stool!

Cindi

July 16, 2012 Posted by | BMW motorcycles, girlracer, Infineon Raceway, Isle of Man TT, Laguna Seca, MotoGP, motorcycle racing, motorcycles, MotoSFO.com, Red Bull, Sony A65 | | 2 Comments