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 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 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