Saturday, March 1, 2014

The first adventure in the '71 Adventurewagen!

    The weather forecast for yesterday and this weekend said, "rain, rain and the biggest storm in history". It never rains in LA! We've had maybe two days of sprinkling all winter. This year it was so dry we had been told, more than ever, to conserve water.

    What do I decide to do?! Drive 6+ hours along the Sierra Nevadas to pickup a little present to myself. ... I think I deserved a present to myself. ;)

     I talked my mom into coming with me on this road trip since I would need some help.  Boy, did was I glad she came along!

We made it out of the LA traffic to Lancaster! Yay! So far it was looking really great!
     In Lancaster we picked up essential fix me parts just in case. These included chains for both cars, fuses, a voltmeter, batteries for the flashlight, filters etc.  Now that my errands were done it was nap time!  Haha! This would add the few hours I had had all night.     I woke up a couple hours later to roll over and discovered snow!  This would make the trip much more interesting!  It was 32 degrees fahrenheit and zero degrees celsius. We were already at a high elevation and still had hours to go and a summit to get over to reach our destination.  Everything was still looking good though.  We hadn't seen much rain.  At least, not that I'm aware of!  :p
Snow in the desert looks so weird!
    Shortly after this it started raining.  Then it started snowing.  Luckily the roads had already been plowed and we managed without putting the chains on.  The pass wasn't nearly as steep as it could have been.  It was still 7,142 ft elevation.    After the pass the snow let up.  We got to the other side, the rain stopped and the sun even came out.  Well, for a minute, at least!
Less than a mile from our destination!

Yay! Tonopah,  Nevada!

      There were various places in town with amazing names!  These include the Humbug Flats apartments/lodging,  Giggle Springs gas station, the senior thrift store and the Clown Motel.
This motel kind of looked like a circus!

   We made it to town and to their house!  It was time for a test drive!
My momma' drove it first, of course! This was her era and all.  ;)
    (That hole in the seat is where part of the kitchen goes. Most of the interior is original!  This makes me happy!)
      The bus started right up! Off we went around the block!  The roads were all dirt and the houses were stacked on the hill just like an old village.  Maybe that's because it used to be a silver mining town.  It was so cute!     After giving her a spin myself I went inside to do paperwork.  The clouds were getting darker, it was getting colder and had started to rain!  How the heck were we going to get this vintage beauty home in the SNOW?!  I wrapped up the paperwork as quickly as possible and we were off!     My mom and I were already freezing! The good news was I brought cold weather clothes for both of us.  The not so great news was that the bus didn't have a strong generator or any heat.  I decided to drive the bus and let my mom take her car.  I was excited and I didn't want her to freeze!!     While driving two short blocks to the gas station I thought to myself, "Self this is really dangerous.  You can not see a thing, the headlights don't work and... is that ice on the windshield?!" (I'm from Southern California.  I have never actually driven while it's snowing!)  I calmed myself down.  "It's all going to be fine.  We'll get gas and if you continue to feel unsafe we will figure out a solution."  Great thinking Nicole! You have such great ideas! ... I think.  Yeah, great ideas! That's it!  I kept myself positive.      We gassed up.  My mom told me to try to use the windshield wipers as little as possible to save the battery since the generator was questionable.  Yeah right! If I needed them, I sure was going to use them!
       Off I went in my new treasure!  I was still a bit unsure about driving it because I wasn't used to it. The daylight was limited.  My headlights still didn't work!  I was cruising along at 60-wait a minute! I was doing 80?! ... while trucks were passing me?!  My speedometer was wacky!  I figured out that 0 was about 35 and 80 was 45 mph.  This makes everything a little bit more fun!       I'm still cruising at a cool 45 mph and the sun is slowly starting to disappear.  My phone was dead which meant no calling my mom behind me to communicate.  Some how we figured out I was going to hug the outside line and she would stay to the left side, the inner side of the lane.  This way her headlights would shine in front of me too.  Genius!      Everything is gravy.  We got the bus, we have a system and we're cruising at 45 with license plates that don't mean anything! :D      I'm singing to my new bus because there is no radio having a jolly time when I see the Fourth of July light up... not in my rear view mirror, because it has fallen off!... not in my side view mirrors because they move with enough wind... but on the white of my headliner.  I thought for a second someone had surprised me with a disco ball and was along for the party!     We are in the middle of no where! We hadn't made it back to the summit yet.  I'm not sure why but my mom is out of her car already.   Doh! Mom! C'mon!! You gotta' follow the rules of staying out of trouble with cops!  She walks up to me and tells me the game plan.  Then I tell her the final game plan. ;) Then, she goes to the cop her final game plan.      She walks back towards the cop car. All I hear is the cop say, "Hang on a minute.  I'll be there in a minute."  Well, hey! He sounds nice!
     He gets out of his car and asks us what we're up to.  You know, just two ladies buying a VW bus six hours from home, taking it over a snowy pass with no headlights.  Haha!  No.  Well, kinda.  We said the headlights had just gone out and we were trying to find a safe place to pull over.  He smilingly took our IDs and told us what we were doing was unsafe. By now the sun was down.  His solution was to have my mom drive first, me follow her and him be in back in case we had an issue.  Since he had "lights". Haha!
    We made a U-turn on the two lane highway which had almost no one on it.  Just ahead there was a junction that had a large parking lot.  He said we could sleep there if we needed but if we moved the car without lights he would tow the car.  I guess that's a really nice way to say that ugly word "impound".  He'd impound the car.
    It was still beyond freezing!  My toes were dead-feeling.  I still had my California clothes on.  My mom pulled her car up in a way so the lights hit right under the dash.  She checked the fuses while I charged my phone and put on long johns, thicker socks, my koala hoodie which is ultra warm, the biggest scarf I know and my 8 quid leather gloves.    Two minutes later the headlights worked.  Fuses!  You tricky sons!  That was the best news I had heard all day!  Headlights meant not sleeping in the frozen van or trying to cuddle with my mom in the back of her little hatchback.
    We were off again! Four hours of frozen Nicole and anything but the radio later we had traveled what should have taken us two hours.  The truth is I felt like I was doing 90 and I couldn't see my wacky speedometer to see how fast I was actually going.  I didn't want to blow the engine on my new baby going over the summit.    As I'm pulling up to the first light into town the V-dub poops out.  This wasn't a big deal.  I just needed to turn it off and turn it back on again.  I couldn't get it into first! What the heck! Why not?! As I'm trying to start it I roll back.  For some reason my mom is two feet behind me.  Who knew?!!    I'm trying to get the van in first!! The thing just wants to keep rolling back!! There is a semi behind her honking!  She's right on my tail!  I'm going to hit her again! She won't back up!! I'm screaming inside the van, WELL BACK UP!! WHAT THE HECK!! YOU WANT ME TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY THEN --- MOOOOOOVE!!! I know she can't hear me, really. I'm throwing my hands up thoroughly frustrated!  I hadn't hardly eaten all day!  I'm freezing!  I didn't get a full night's sleep!!     "Whoa, Nicole! Get a grip! What are you doing right now?", I say to myself.  "Okay, just calm down.  Being frustrated isn't going to help any of this. Wooooo-sssssuuuh."  I calm down.     Boom it goes into first and makes it up the little bitty hill I was trying to overcome!     I go through Bishop, cops scoping what i'm doing the whole way. I get the van into a lot just to talk to my mom for a second and figure out where we're going to eat.  She wants me to leave the van in the parking lot I pulled in to.  I insist on taking it with me.  We take it a few blocks and..... it just won't go into first.  It won't go into second.  Maybe I'm frustrated so it's me, not the car.  Okay momma' can you give her a shot?  She tries it. Nope.  Nothing!  Now we're blocking traffic on a small street of the main highway.  The cops pull up! (OH NO!).... to help us push it out of the way!
     We park it, grab a VERY handy book that my best friend bought me at a garage sale and go to.. breakfast? what time was it? dinner? ... eat.  We went to eat.  I thawed out my toes again, had some hot chocolate and some nourishment.  My mom said it's possible the clutch went out. We discussed our game plan and I apologized for being a goober. Also, for backing into her car.
     Momma grabbed a couple boxes from the grocery store to lay on so she could crawl under the bus.  With a some extra juice in the van's battery and little jiggle hear and there I seemed to have first gear again.  The book explains how once you have first you're well on your way to fourth gear and home awaits you.
      First gear worked. Second?  Second gear was tricky.  So I would have to rev it up and throw it in third.  Or sometimes first gear wouldn't work.  I would start it in second, then go to third and fourth.  Now, I felt like I understood a little bit more what was happening.  The windshield wipers and lights would kill the generator.  This was necessary...  Well, I have theories about how it works at least.
       Hours and hours later, a couple fuel stops, some free coffee, a keychain light to check my speed, a sleeping bag to put over my lap to keep me warm, some original tunes by yours truly and we made it back to Lancaster. I realized the bus needed to charged again. The van was coming out of fourth gear every once in a while on the freeway. I was unable to put it back in gear without stopping. I would have to put it in first or sometimes second gear and to get it back up to speed.  Maybe it's just me but the gears seemed to work better when she is charged.
    I found a well lit Costco parking lot with our name on it.
Charging up her beautiful battery
I introduce to you, Shelby the Adventurewagen!

     Momma' slept for all of 15 minutes and apparently thought it was a good hour or so.  She woke up wondering where I was and how much time had passed.  Haha!  Poor thing, had been driving ALL day and also didn't get a full night's sleep either.  We packed up the van and hit the road again!  Only two or three hours more on v-dub time.      As we came over the mountain that separates the Antelope Valley and the San Fernando it just started to POUR!  I MEAN POUR!  Like, a LOT of water COMING FROM THE SKY!
     I gazed down at my gas gauge only to realize it was BELOW empty! I was almost home. Dang!!    I put some gas, got back on the freeway and the bus well.. I had to pull over on the shoulder of the 405.  It looked fine but it was FLOODED!  Due to the flooding I didn't see a massive hole or dip in the shoulder. It jerked my top heavy van to the side wall vigorously! My cat like reflexes kicked in and compensated. How? I'm not sure. I should have taken out that wall and the side of the van.  I didn't.
    Every guarding power the universe must've watching out for me and my mom on this trip. Overall, everything could have gone wrong and didn't. I could have had the car impounded at least twice.  The snow could have blocked the pass making it impossible to get home.  The headlights could have been something much more complicated.  The clutch could have just told me to take a hike.  The rain could have totaled my car and ended my life.  The list goes on and on.     We left Los Angeles Friday at 10 am and arrived back in one whole piece Saturday at 7 am.  It was a wonderful adventure.  I am grateful that I was able to score the bus from the seller, spend some time with my momma' and make it home with a big smile on my face and a story to tell.
Still smiling after 21 hours of freezing cold adventure!

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