Motoette -in forward motion

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

DSC00779 (Mobile)

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!

DSC00776 (Mobile)

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.

DSC00804 (Mobile)

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.

DSC00770 (Mobile)

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!


Matt, Cindi and of course, Dorothy!

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

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.

DSC00719 (Mobile)

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.

DSC04806 (Mobile)

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 .

DSC04804 (Mobile)

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.

DSC04805 (Mobile)

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

DSC00661 (Mobile)

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.

DSC00667 (Mobile)

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!

DSC00672 (Mobile)

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!

DSC00691 (Mobile)

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 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.

DSC00258 (Mobile)

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!


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.

DSC00289 (Mobile)

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!


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.

DSC00295 (Mobile)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow, will certainly be another day!

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

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

Twenty three split window bus

Twenty three split window bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost of living in 1970:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Dad (on the right) and our 1969 VW bus

Dad (on the right) and our 1969 VW bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westy fireplace!

Westy fireplace!


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


To be continued….

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