Motoette -in forward motion

Day 13 & 14 – There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home

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We left Tehachapi at around 11:00 AM, our next target point was Monterey, CA to have a quick over night visit with my 99 year-old grandmother. She still lives alone (I know, scary thought!) and is always up for some last-minute company.

Descending down the 4,000 ft drop from Tehachapi, we drove through hills that looked strangely like a huddled sleeping litter of tan sharpei puppies. Soon after, we leveled out into Bakersfield, a large farming town with (to my surprise) wineries popping up here and there along the long and arduous hwy 58. I had always heard Bakersfield was not the prettiest of towns and I have to agree. It had an industrial influence with clusters of unattractive suburbs surrounded by a lot of dry, dead, brown weeds!

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We pushed on traveling hwy 99 for a short distance and then redirected Dorothy west, onto interstate 46, which would connect us to hwy 101 eighty miles later. If you have never had the pleasure of visiting the southeast portion of the golden state of California, I can tell you as a native of northern California, you will know you have crossed the state-line by the bad, beat-up roads, high gas prices, ugly inland terrain and aggressive rude drivers! It was seriously the most uninviting state we had been through until we reached Monterey.

We arrived at my grandmother’s at just after 5 PM and had a short visit before going out for dinner. We had to get my grandmother’s petite, five-foot-nothing frame in the front seat of the bus, which was quite a picture! She couldn’t get over why we bought such an old vehicle and kept asking the question “why is it squeaking so much?” Matt and I just laughed not knowing exactly how to answer such an obvious question.

DSC00787 (Mobile)We had a nice visit, Matt fixed a few items for her, we spent the night and we’re gone by 9 AM the next morning, our fourteenth and final day.

We took off under typical coastal overcast skies heading north on hwy 1 before connecting back onto hwy 101 for the crowning 160 miles to San Francisco. It was no doubt a rewarding feeling for both Matt and I, but at the same time, a very sad moment knowing the next few miles was to be the conclusion to an epic and life changing journey.

We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge at lunch time and decided we needed to have a picture of Dorothy with the famous landmark, so we drove her down to Fort Baker a the base on the Marin side of the bridge. We posed Dorothy just right with the massive brick-red spanning arch behind. Before we could take our long-awaited photo’s we had a group of Chinese tourists come up to ask if they could have their picture taken with Dorothy. Matt politely obliged and accepted their camera for the unique photo opportunity.

DSC00798 (Mobile)Matt no sooner finished and a group from Holland approached us asking all about Dorothy. He explained happily one more time knowing it would probably be our last while still on our trip.

Twenty minutes later, after we managed to get our own pictures of Dorothy, we jump back in and made the short decline down into the picturesque town of Sausalito. Sausalito is perched right on the bay and the first town just after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, a place I know very well from growing in Mill Valley, which resides just next door. It’s an area that is very foreign to me now because of wealthy people moving in and an over abundance of tourists visiting all year-long. Remarkably, both towns used to be total hippy hangouts, so driving through with a 1970 VW bus was apropos. It’s just too bad no body would get it!

We stopped at a little Italian place for a quick bite just outside of the harbor town that Matt and I frequently go to when passing through. A mile down the road we voted to make a surprise visit to my sister, Barbra while she was at work to show her and her co-worker Eva the famous Dorothy.

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They both couldn’t stop giggling over her and what we had just accomplished over the past two-weeks. For my sister, seeing the bus really took her back in time to our dad’s VW bus growing up. She kept repeating the words “ It’s so small inside, I remember it being so much bigger!” Clearly reenforcing that everything looks bigger when you’re a child!

We talked her into taking Dorothy for a spin around the yacht harbor she works at. She excitedly hopped in and started Dorothy up. Putting some muscle into it, Barbi turned the 18 inch steering wheel navigating her slowly around the parking lot and harbor, waving and honking that distinct Volkswagen honk as she passed everyone she recognized. She couldn’t get over how difficult Dorothy was to drive, which (I think) gave her a more real understanding of what we went through in transporting the bus such a long way.

Soon after our little cruise through the parking lot, we said our good-byes to make the last 5 miles to San Rafael. Pulling in the drive, Matt and I both looked at each other and without a word we both embraced, silently comprehending and appreciating our great accomplishments over the past fortnight.

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Two weeks, 8 states, 130 gallons of fuel. 4 fuel additives, 1 litre of oil, 1 litre of brake fluid, 1 fuel filter, 1 set of points, two visits to the garage, 2,468 miles, a wedding and an incomprehensible amount of messing with her backside and we made it!

We know that Dorothy couldn’t have made it without the love and support of family and friends to encourage her along the long path back to California.

Matt and I would like to personally thank Dave, the previous owner for being a wonderful guide and mentor throughout our trip by text and/or email to help us pilot Dorothy to her destination. His last text to us upon arriving in San Francisco, “I am frigin’ crying! I love it and so proud of both you crazy people! Drive on!!”

Also to Pete and India in Albuquerque, NM for treating us to a delicious dinner, a cozy and beautiful place to crash out and Pete’s help to get the ailing Dorothy back on the road! Love you both! Everyone on Facebook, family on Viber and comments on the blog, your words of positive encouragement were overwhelming and so amazing in helping us to keep the faith to make our goal. Thank you from the bottom of our (and Dorothy’s) hearts!

Love.

Matt, Cindi and of course, Dorothy!

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October 13, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus, Vintage Volkswagen Bus Travel Story | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 12 – What a difference a State Makes

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It was a great two days in Las Vegas, mainly because it played a huge important role in my future with Matt. But, I’m not a gambler, I have an aversion to large crowds of people making fashion faux pas’ and paying way too much for, well, EVERYTHING! We were both ready to move on and deal with Dorothy’s “moods” once again.

Under clouded skies, we departed Las Vegas heading south on I-15, one-hundred and fifty-two miles from our next target point in Barstow, California. As I had mentioned on several occasions, we had been blessed with exceptional weather, waking up to glorious sunny skies accompanied by mild autumn temperatures. We were seriously spoiled!

The good luck with the weather, was more important for safety in transporting Dorothy, than for us. Bad weather could mean impending danger for both Matt and I.

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Less than fifty miles on the road and we crossed the California state line and into the Mojave Desert National Park region. Beautiful beige desert land scattered with a variety of indigenous cactus plants with a backdrop of the Nopah and Providence mountain ranges, encircling the arid foreground.

With each mile we drove, the merciless desert winds grew with intensity. We passed a sign flashing a “high wind” warning sign enforcing what we already knew.

I always thought of a Volkswagen bus as kind of a big vehicle, but parking next to trucks and mini vans, I could see by comparison, that the VW bus is quite petite. The tall, blunt, square shape of Dorothy just made any type of aerodynamics null and void and with the combination of wind, the vague steering control and four narrow tires, we were continually fighting to keep her in our lane.

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Semi trucks and big rigs became our enemy soon into our journey, especially when gusty winds were present. Dorothy just did not have the capacity to keep up with the monstrous trucks and so that meant we were always being passed by them. I would see them coming up in the rear view and would prepare myself for the violent shift in wind as they would pass. The worst part was when they would pull back into the slow lane, which would create a vortex of air that would make Dorothy shiver, shimmy and shake. This was an on going occurrence throughout our day trips, which meant more intense concentration in controlling her. It was a very unnerving and an exhausting process!

We did find entertainment driving the mundane straight road by listening to music and having an intermittent laugh by the honks and waves of passing motorists responding to our “just married” sign hanging in the back window of the bus!

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The topography continued to morph into flat volcanic desert sands with the most interesting array of Joshua trees, It seemed the further we went the bigger they got and then with a blink of an eye, they were gone!

We pulled into a gas station in Baker, CA to take a much-needed break and refuel Dorothy. The minute I pulled into the Chevron station this middle-aged man pulled up in a Cal Trans truck with a grin from ear to ear. It was also starting to rain, so Matt was at the front of the bus applying RainX to compensate for Dorothy’s slow and incompetent windscreen wipers. The Cal Trans guy, laughing as he spoke started to tell Matt and I about his 1968 automatic VW bus, repeating the words “ I loved that ole girl!” several times in our dialog. He explained that he had her for 12 years and finally gave her up to a neighbor’s daughter for $500 after it had been sitting in his drive with a blown engine. I said to Matt later, that I actually thought the guy was going to cry after seeing us with Dorothy.

Again, reconfirming how much deep untapped emotion a VW bus can bring out in the lives of people they touch. I can’t tell you how incredible it feels to be able to bring out those fond emotions.

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Once we reached Barstow, we decided to keep going despite the increasing bad weather. It had now gone from wind, to wind and rain and you know how much Dorothy loves the wet!

She carried us on and at one point in Mojave we could see ahead we were heading for the biggest black cloud we had seen in a long time! Our goal to make it another 60 miles to Bakersfield was probably not going to happen. We babied Dorothy up another hill and down into a small town in Tehachapi, CA. It was wet, it was getting dark and it was unbelievably cold! We could actually see snow on the hill tops!

Dorothy got us there and she was done!

We pulled into a La Quinta motel and got a room. The young girl at the front desk could see Matt adjusting the idle again just outside the front glass doors. She asked me what he was doing? When I explained the differences from a modern-day car to a 43-year-old car, she was amazed at what I told her. That with a seventies car, especially a VW, you don’t just jump in and drive it!

I think Dorothy, in her moment of sheer exhaustion, still managed to entertain yet another onlooker!

October 10, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 10 & 11 – Viva Las Vegas!

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I hope you don’t mind, but I decided to combine days 10 & 11 together for….well, obvious reasons! Matt and I got hitched!

We broke camp and left the picturesque town of Virgin early Monday morning, opting to skip breakfast and power on through for about an hour. We wanted to arrive in Vegas no later than 3:00 PM so we could check-in at the Mandalay Bay hotel and relax by the pool of a while before attending the Cirque du Soleil show called Love later that evening.

Frustrated and hungry, we pulled off I-15 at St George, Arizona to find a quick place to eat and deal with Dorothy and why she insisted on stalling every time we came to a stop. Pulling into a random parking lot after having no luck finding food, we noticed a pick-up truck come up beside us. We watched as this 40 something guy got our of his truck and with smile on his face came up to Dorothy’s driver side, where Matt was standing.

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The first words out of his mouth was “I have four of these!” Matt explained to the fellow stranger about Dorothy’s idling problem and proceeded to the rear engine compartment. The friendly stranger was somewhat helpful, but of course had to tell us his VW bus stories accompanied by pictures. This was definitely becoming a daily routine on our journey and we loved it!

We carried on south, down I-15 after finally finding some much-needed nourishment. We passed up and over another dramatic mountain range coming out of Arizona and into the desert sands of Nevada.

It was strange coming into Vegas, because we had spent the last week and half driving on one or two lane highways connected by relatively small towns. It was more intimidating than I expected and people were surprisingly rude and impatient to Dorothy’s slow speeds and even slower starts from a full stop. We got attention, but not in the positive way we had been used to. I suddenly couldn’t wait to get out of Vegas and we had just arrived!

The other side of the coin was we needed a break from Dorothy. On a daily basis, she is a lot of work to drive. She can’t take high-speed, high winds, and tight corners, or even a slight bend for that matter! She is very sensitive, she doesn’t like cold, she doesn’t like hot, she doesn’t like wet, she’s hungry all the time and she goes (and stops) when SHE wants to! She is easy to hot wire, easy to steal and therefore, we have to babysit her all the time! Who needs kids (or grand kids) when you have Dorothy! We were looking forward to having her sit in the hotel garage for two days while we rested from her demanding personality!

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We checked-in to our beautiful suite on the 14th floor with an amazing view of the strip. We spent our first day just wandering around the casino and showing Matt a little bit of Tinsel Town on his maiden visit. During the two-day visit and no Dorothy, we found ourselves going to a Beatles Show (Dorothy’s favorite group) playing the slots on a “Wizard of Oz” gambling machine and bringing her name up every hour on the hour! I think the bright lights finally got to us…or was it Dorothy?

On October 8 at 6 PM Matt and I had an intimate ceremony at the Little Church of the West and exchanged our eternal vows of love to each other. It was crazy, it was spontaneous and it was perfect! We hired a Town car to pick us up a the hotel and escort us to the historic church and back in time for a very romantic dinner to celebrate. We both couldn’t be happier and we thank our friends and family for their love and support in our decision. We love you all!

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October 10, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 9 – Look, But Don’t Touch!

DSC00718 (Mobile)We woke up to another brilliant sunny day, the temperatures were noticeably back on the rise, which meant we could put our shorts on! Still feeling a little disappointed from the day before in our choice to drive all the way out to Page, Matt and I decided to take advantage of the complementary breakfast at the hotel, in order to make our quick exit out-of-town.

The confining eating area was filled with lodgers, who most likely had the same plan as us, because it was standing room only at the Corn Flakes counter! This actually gave Matt an opportunity to start chit chatting with two couples from Kent, England, who had also been left to rethink their travel plans due to the government shut-down. They enlightened us on a few scenic viewing points we could go to in order to not make our trip a total loss.

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On our way to the recommended viewing sites, we passed a do-it-yourself car wash and decided Dorothy needed a bath. Matt lathered her with bubble gum pink suds in an effort to remove the accumulated road debris from her pug face and wide girth (don’t tell her I said that!). It was a two-person job to clean her up, but twenty minutes later she was a sparkling beauty! Matt went to start her up and she wasn’t turning over. We both looked at each other with the same expression of “uh oh”. Four or five clicks of the ignition and were now really getting concerned. It was clear, Dorothy did not like having a bath.

Finally, Matt was able to turn over the engine, I kept my foot on the accelerator while he went back to her hind quarters to douse her contacts with WD-40, which we think got wet from the intensity from the sprayer.

Wiping another bead of sweat off our brow we putt, putted down to the viewing area to find a car park full of tourists. The minute we pulled up we were accosted by at least 10-12 people all wanting to know about Dorothy. There was a couple in particular from Michigan who asked if they could have their picture taken in front of the bus. Matt offered the option of sitting in the bus, but they were happy to stand by Dorothy, explaining that the picture was for an ongoing family joke.

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Another woman we talked to from Australia reminisced about how she rode Route 66 back in the 70”s in a VW bus with a group of stoned hippies. Seeing the glow on her face as she relived the story, I could tell she was enjoying the fond memory. It was very cool!

Several minutes after we came back to see what we came for, the dramatic Glen Canyon with the Colorado River below, being held at bay with the enormous Glen Canyon Dam. The small canyon was surrounded by these really interesting layered rock designs in a lush red tone, which made it even more authentic .

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Back on hwy 89, retracing our tracks from the day before, we traveled the eighty miles back to Kanab and hung a right still on 89, heading north to hwy 9 to Mt Zion National Park. A few minutes of climbing, we reached the entrance to the park, where we were greeted by a ranger. He told us because it was a public road we could drive through, but under no circumstances could we stop. Along with his stern instructions came a white sheet of paper echoing the same words stamped in bold black ink. I proceeded to drive Dorothy as slow as I could in order to fully take in the incredible colossal terra-cotta mountain range. There is just no decent way to describe the stunning views we encountered. The famous park gave the feeling of intimate closeness within the tight peaks and valleys, but with the most immense mountain ranges I had ever seen.

Twisting and turning slowly descending downward, we were immersed in the most exquisite deep rich cayenne red forest of towering rocks for the next 5 miles, even the road was a beautiful red clay color. By not being able to stop was like giving a child candy and then forbidding him to eat it! It was seriously difficult not to do. Matt took as many photographs as he could out the window. When we exited the park we were able to stop and take a few more.

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We continued on for a few more miles to the town of Virgin, where we (and I use the term loosely!) decided to camp with Dorothy for the first time. I actually resisted and was a little relieved when we were finding it difficult to go forward with the original plans to camp because of the parks being closed. I thought this would actually benefit my reluctance to want to camp. But, I was sweet talked into it or maybe it was more like being quilted into it from making Matt wear the tie-dyed shirt I made him! Either way, I consented!

We got a nice spot nestled in the Zion palisades and made a fire and then cozied up for the night in the van. It was actually pretty fun and I would definitely do it again, especially with Matt!

October 8, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 8 – Turning Another Page

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One of the really cool things about being on this road trip (among many) is the variety of interesting people you meet from all over the world. When we were staying at the The View, in Monument Valley, we met a retired German gentleman. He and his wife had shipped their camper over from Germany six months ago to tour the states for a year. Matt and I thought that was just amazing story. He had suggested to us that we go to Glen Canyon in Page Arizona if we couldn’t get into the Grand Canyon. He went on to say he found it more interesting because it was smaller and you could see more of the unique deep, broad curvatures of the canyons.

After our disappointment with trying to enter the park, we decided to take the Germans’ advice and head for Page Arizona in search for a pseudo Grand Canyon. Starting from Marble Canyon, this meant going up and around the Vermillion Cliffs in an almost two-hundred mile detour.

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We coaxed Dorothy up to 8,000 ft to Jacob Lake, she was not happy about it! Making the climb the scenery changed again from scattered tuffs of cactus to tall slender pine trees, very reminiscent of Lake Tahoe. Passing another closure sign for the north ridge entrance of the Grand Canyon, we finally spotted another VW bus, which looked to be a late 70’s Westy. Matt and I almost came out of our seats with excitement, waving out the window and honking at them at the surprising sight of a fellow vintage VW owner. We must have laughed about it for a mile or more.

Making our descent into Fredonia AZ, we stopped to gas Dorothy up. It was a combination Chevron gas station with a deli. I noticed a car pull up stop take a picture and then drive off. I looked over my shoulder to see the hand-painted sign over the store saying “Lotto, Guns & Amo”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that too much where I come from!

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We, hung a right on to hwy 89 after crossing the border into Utah. Eight miles or so and another state line crossing, we arrived in Page, AZ. Matt and I were growing more and more frustrated with every National park entrance we passed blocked off; Jacob Lake, closed, north rim, closed, Lake Powell, closed, Wahweap, closed and Glen Canyon closed!

By the time we reached the Glen Canyon dam, just outside of Page, we were tired, it was late and we now felt like is was total waste of time coming all the way out. We sat on the edge of Dorothy’s sliding side door and made an executive decision to stay the night in Page and try to make the best of it. We took our chances again on a Travel Lodge, grabbing one of the last remaining rooms because of the influx in diverted park visitors.

We walked up to the Page Steak house and treated ourselves to a drink and an over priced meal! The price of fuel and food was definitely on the rise from being spoiled with the lower prices we experienced in the previous states we went through!

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In regards to Dorothy and how she is doing; She is running a lot more lean since her visit to Rick’s Automotive in Farmington, AZ. She struggles to warm up in the morning, but seems great out on the road, having noticeably more power climbing the grades. We joke that Dorothy has a drinking problem, soaking up the fuel, oil and brake fluid. I swear, if she had a radiator she would siphon that up too! But, everything is at a minimal (except for the fuel!). We gave her a bath and she didn’t appreciate the gesture because she wouldn’t start! Matt doused her with W-D 40 and that seemed to put her back in a decent mood. It’s funny, we talk about the bus as if it’s a person, but honestly, with all her individual personality traits and daily “mood swings” I feel like we’re dealing with (as Matt would say) a petulant child!”! But, I think she is beginning to know who’s boss!

October 7, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 7 – Dorothy Has a Thing for the Beatles

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This morning we were up and ready by 5:00 AM, but this time was purposefully in order to be prepared for the magnificent sunrise that would soon come to light behind the massive statuesque crags.

Matt and I sat in the lobby waiting for a few minutes until we started to see the sun begin to peek its head up. We ran out to the overlook where we were the night before, shooting the same scene in the setting sun. I was surprised to find several other people out as well. But then thinking about it, why wouldn’t they?

It was absolutely freezing out to the point where I started to lose the feel in my finger tips. It was an unexpected temperature change from the past week wearing shorts and t-shirt. It must have dropped 30 degrees from the day before! We hung on for as long as we could, enduring the unfamiliar frigid atmosphere until we were satisfied with our photographs.

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We fired up Dorothy around lunch time with no issue other than her stalling a few times before she was completely warmed up. Matt and I are convinced she is an attention seeker, always wanting to be dotted on first thing every morning. We gladly accepted the minimal demand and made our way back to Kayenta and west on hwy 160 hoping to get into the Grand Canyon, a hundred or so miles away.

Driving a vintage VW bus is not like driving a modern car. We found ourselves envying other drivers with advanced technology cars…like power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning! If one of us was only able to drive the long trek, it would have been a major problem, because of the concentration and strength to maneuver her around. She is exhausting!

DSC00617 (Mobile) It was my turn to drive and we decided to play the 60’s & 70’s play list on my iPod I had downloaded for the trip. I made a compilation of the Young Bloods, The Guess Who, Beatles, Santana and others. There were approximately 72 songs on the play list. On shuffle, the first song that came on was Get Back by The Beatles, second song, Strawberry Fields Forever, The Beatles. This went on for 4 or 5 songs. Matt and I both looked at each other and started to laugh, convinced Dorothy was controlling the music selection on the stereo. Dorothy almost exclusively played every Beatles song on the list before any of the other songs played…..hmmm?

Later I was thinking about it, 1970 was the year Dorothy was born and it was also the same year the Beatles broke up…..Coincidence? I don’t know, you be the judge!

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Twenty miles into our journey, the scenery slowly morphed from a beautiful silhouette of mountain ranges into more of a desert landscape. At a steady 5,000 ft, we started to climb another 1000 ft before reaching the Desert View entrance to the Grand Canyon. Earlier, we had been informed by several different people that the Northwest entrance was run by the Indian Nation and that it might be possible to enter the park.

We arrived to find a park closure sign. Disappointed, we retraced our tracks back up 89A , passing our original turn from 160 and up into Echo Canyon. What an incredible massive display of sienna stained cliffs that seems to go on forever. It made little Dorothy seem infinity small in comparison. With some of the most gorgeous backdrops this country has to offer, both Matt and I found it interesting that the towns and scattered dwellings appeared to be owned by communities with little to no revenue. The small run-down town of Tuba, AZ was filled with beat-up mobile homes perched on dirt lots. It was difficult to imagine what life would be like living there.

Passing the scattered small rectangular shaped fabricated homes, we noticed spare tires as a commonality on the roofs. We could only surmise that it was a local economical technique in preserving their shelter from the harsh seasons from the desert.

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Unexpectedly, we had to travel another 13 miles off course because of a road closure at the gap on 89, due to a landslide last winter. Twenty minutes later we pulled into a Chevron station at Marble Canyon. A dot of a little town, if you want to call it that. There was a hotel there, so we both thought it best to stay for the night. I had to go into the gas station in order to book a room, very strange..

We were literally in the middle of nowhere, engulfed by the most spectacular cayenne colored cliffs I had ever seen! This also was where Lee Ferry & Glen Canyon National Park entrance, which was directly beside the Navajo Bridges. Two magnificent bridges (pedestrians and motor vehicles) that overlooks a gigantic gorge to the Colorado River below.

After checking in and unloading our gear into the hotel room, we took a walk down to Marble Canyon to take pictures of the awesome views. We noticed a large gravel parking lot full of what looked to be a make-shift campsite. We thought it strange but carried on walking until the penny dropped after seeing the big red sign that read “ Glen Canyon closed after a lack of appropriations”.

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We learned early the next morning after hearing some of the campers talking with other travelers in the local cafe how there was a combination of rafting and hiking groups that were stranded because of the government closure of the National Parks. We heard a young guy telling this couple about how he knew of people in his group that had been planning their trip for over a year. He also went on to explain, because the group organizers had planned out meals based on the daily stops while on the trip, the guests were having to ration out their own food supplies as a result of being stuck in a parking lot.

We had talked to a few people from the hiking group that had planned to stay a few days in Marble Canyon and then head into the Grand Canyon, but those plans were obviously squashed because of the National Park closures as well.

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In the beginning, the closures had only inconvenienced us with our plans to visit the Grand Canyon, but now we were starting to get worried hearing all the sad tales of other people’s disappointing experiences. We were excited about visiting Zion National Park, but we now had to start rethinking that idea and the rest of our trip…..

October 6, 2013 Posted by | 1970 Vintage Westfalia VW Bus | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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