I Fart In Your General Direction

Howdy, long lost pals! After a mild hiatus, I'm back to blogging. Pardon my brief departure, but girlfriend got a job! Gone are the days where I traipse about town looking for something to do all day (watch musical dramas at the library). I'm a busy lady these days. So forgive me...

We've been back in our Winnebago for almost a month already and we've adjusted splendidly. Pretty easy change after that dreaded slightly cramped Astro Van, though. It's like we live in a mansion now! Only in our mansion, there's no escaping the farts. Or the PMS...

ANYWAYS. Last weekend was a busy one. After 10 straight days of work (for both of us), Pete tried to convince me to go on a 20 miles bike ride with some of his co-workers. His point: "There will be drinking!". My counter-point: "I can drink right here on our friend's comfortable couch while watching The Wedding Date starring Debra Messing on TBS." I won. And then I fell asleep on said comfortable couch. 

Pete, along with Mark and Mike suited it up and their best reflective gear and booked it to the San Jose Bike Party. 


Thank goodness Jess (Mark's GF) and I stayed behind, because they were running (er...biking) late and our lack of thunder-thighs would have really slowed down the pack. Win-win! 

The following afternoon was a scorcher; our hottest yet with temperatures near 85 degrees. After Austin, that's like patty-cake. But since we got rid of our air conditioner (yes, the one we Pete and our friend Josh oh-so-painstakingly installed on a hot summer day in Austin), it gets muggy in the Winnie pretty easily in hot weather. 

Seriously, though, that AC would have been useless out here in Mountain View. (And a waste of gas to get it here- talk about wind resistance!). Nowadays, we're boondocking (living without hookups), so we don't even have power to run an AC unit. And soon, we'll have additional solar power, and therefore be able to utilize our two vent vans more often (which is all you really need in the Bay Area). 

Also, I'm convinced that if we had that giant AC on our roof during the roadtrip to California, we would have never made it. It's unnecessarily heavy. 

Anyways, that scorching Saturday was spent resting tired muscles, overcoming hangovers and people-watching from open-air bars. We were dressed in our grubbiest as we sauntered through ritzy Palo Alto. 

Sunday brought us to San Francisco. Being that it was Earth Day, obviously we saw a bunch of naked dudes riding bicycles.  I expect that there were some sore grundles. 

Crack kills, y'all. 
Moving on, we perused a small farmer's market and reminisced on what it was like to actually cook (an activity we no longer engage in due to free access to food these days). We miss it...kind of. But cooking ground turkey tacos was never really that thrilling to begin with, so there's not much to miss in our case. 



Afterwards, we hit up the city's Earth Day celebration where we not only saw a Tiny House...


...but also a couple of polar bears struggling to stay afloat on a melting iceberg:


So sad!
From there, it was time for the main event! We headed down the street to the Orpheum Theater where Monty Python's Spamalot was having its final performance of this season's national tour. Based on (rather, "loving ripped off from") the 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this musical is...just plain awesome. Go see it next time. 


More importantly, however, was the fact that my BFF from middle school (and not just any middle school...but The Banner School!) was in the cast. Introducing Jesse Palmer in her national touring debut!


We didn't get much time together, but those few precious moments together are cherished. We've shared a lot of hilarious (but mostly embarrassing) moments together. The middle school talent show, for instance. Aren't those always a hot mess?

After the show, we decided to head towards Little Italy for drinks and dinner. We (Pete) parked the VW bus on a steep decline (which is no small feat, I'll have you know) and before you know it, we had an unmanned motorcycle skidding towards us. 

Mere seconds after parking, we witnessed a dude lay his bike. Thankfully, he was alright. Also thankfully, he was traveling uphill, and therefore his bike lost a crap-ton of momentum and stopped short of our bus by just a few feet. 


Pete and some skateboarding tweens helped the guy move his bike. Overall, it was surreal, but not too icky due to the lack of blood or bodily dismemberment at the scene. 


Before dinner, we sauntered briefly through a waning craft fair and admired all the cutsy little thingy-ma-bobs we'd never really want (or have space for, in fact). 


Afterwards, we popped next door to one of our favorite bars in the city, Vesuvio, for a quick drink. Vesuvio's great for all the cool historic shit they have on the walls in a non-Applebee's sort of way. 


We warmed up on a heated outdoor patio at Calzone's for some bomb Italian cuisine and some excellent side-by-side sitting. (No, we're not an obnoxious couple on our first date. This was the only option). 


A bottle of wine later, we decided we weren't quite done with San Fran so we moseyed over to the oldest bar in city, The Saloon, which recently turned 150 and showcases some of the best blues bands around. 

Back in the day, the two floors above The Saloon operated as a whorehouse, which was frequented by the city's firefighters. The building caught fire as a result of the 1906 earthquake, and those same firefighters made it a point to save their beloved whorehouse. Priorities, people. 

And thus it remains. Local wackadoos, PBR and stellar jams abounded. The cracked-out bartender and friendly saxophonist were a nice touch, too. 



Oh, we'll be back. Maybe I'll even get Pete to dance! (Don't hold your breath, Kara). 

Operation Westbound Winnie: Day 4

Documenting our road trip from Austin, TX to Mountain View, CA with a 1985 Winnebago Lesharo and a 1974 VW Bus. Intro, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Oh boy, oh boy! We're so close! Can we make it!?

After a chilly night at a rest area 75 miles east of Bakersfield, CA, we arose to another windy morning. Holy Santa Ana, when will it end?

At least the two-way traffic was behind us, so we could blow back and forth between lanes without a semi heading straight for us. Continuing on Route 58, we were headed right towards the Tehachapi Mountains. And in the distance was some serious weather.

From afar, it looked beautiful and serene. A vast expanse of white clouds hanging over the mountain tops, slowly inching their way towards us. Crystal blue sky above that. Extensive nothingness beyond that. 



And then we started getting closer. And those puffy white clouds started to look a little meaner. The wind started whipping harder.


And naturally, it started to rain. 


Visibility was extremely low and the road was quite curvy, weaving around regions of the mountain range. 


We stopped about halfway through the mountains (approximately 15 miles) to fill up and it started sleeting slightly. We witnessed cars coming from the other direction covered in snow. I couldn't stand up straight from all the wind. 

And then, all of a sudden, the sun peaked out. And the precipitation ceased. And it was instantly a bit warmer. Back to the road!

Although an improvement, the rest of the drive through the mountains was still minimally treacherous. The scenery, however, was wonderful. What an interesting place to live...



Jonathan, Pete and I all agreed that we were glad we stopped when we did the previous night. Conditions appeared to be far more severe the night before. And adding to that, darkness and sleepiness, we would have been doomed. 

Exiting the mountains, it was time for the last long leg of our trip: I-5. Thankfully, I-5 is not terribly hilly. Sure, there are some ups and downs, but nothing like the three days prior. 

Perhaps the only notable aspect of the I-5 drive is Harris Cattle Ranch, the West Coasts largest beef producer, which supplies hamburger meat to In-N-Out Burger and beef to grocery stores. 



Nicknamed Cowschwitz, this ranch is known for its "ripe, tangy odor of cow manure." Or as I like to call it, "cow shit." It's nauseating. And you know it's coming, too, because you can smell this ode de "cow shit" from miles down the road. 



Apparently, this place also operates an inn and restaurant, which are both perplexingly popular. In fact, the restaurant was the 57th busiest in the United States in 2008. Ba-what!? Who sees 100,000 cows, smells a lagoon of cow shit and decides, "yea, I think I'm in the mood for lunch right now."? Very strange. 

Anyways, we made it out of there, and off of I-5 in no time. After another small stretch of two-way highway (less scary in the daytime, but still horrific), we were on the 101 and oh-so-close to home!

We stopped for gas one last time and then Pete and I took the lead!



By 5pm on Sunday, we were reunited with our old pal, Astro Van, who I'm sure is feeling some disdain for her new, more popular neighbor. 


What a relief! We made it to Mountain View! With the Winnebago this time! Quite a weekend getaway if you ask me. All that in only four days. Can you believe it? It would have been nice to not be so rushed, but that's not really an option for us right now. Holla for a dolla, ya know?

Honestly, I'd like to do this for the rest of life. Retire now. Breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Figure it out. (Well, maybe get Jonathan to figure it out. I'll just write about it). 

So yea, feel free to donate lots of money to our nomad fund. I'll be sure to write more about pooping in bags... 

Operation Westbound Winnie: Day 3

Documenting our road trip from Austin, TX to Mountain View, CA with a 1985 Winnebago Lesharo and a 1974 VW Bus. Intro, Day 1, Day 2

The whole gang woke up refreshed on Saturday morning, ready to put down some serious miles. We lost a significant amount of time on Friday, so we really hoped for a day of smooth sailing to make up the difference. To start the day off right, we decided to ignore the small puddle of coolant underneath the Winnebago...


Honestly, we couldn't have asked for a better morning. Both the Winnie and the VW felt healthy and maintained a solid speed. We were shedding miles quickly and we all had some newfound confidence.

It felt pretty reassuring to leave New Mexico, where the majority of our troubles have been housed thus far. Of course, that only meant we'd be entering Arizona, the location of all our previous troubles. Whatever the case, the scenery was becoming increasingly more interesting. 




Ah, Arizona! So nice to see you again...


Our first gas-up in Arizona was of little note except for a Lesharo sighting at a gas station. Good to know that our fellow Lesharo Lunatics are out enjoying all the glories of this French machine. Jonathan suggested we leave quick before they sniff him out a master Renault mechanic and we have to spend the rest of the day at that gas station. 


Continuing on, we could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. Beautiful from a distance, but what trouble would they present when we had to drive up some of them? 


At our next stop, we prepared lunch. Yes, prepared. Sure the Winnebago has a kitchen, but we had loftier ideas in mind. We're road folks, so cooking on an engine is a must. 

In fact, we didn't really have to cook at all. Merely heat. Jonathan foiled up his leftover burrito from Sadie's in Albuquerque and affixed it to the top of the engine so that at our next stop, it'd be hot and ready to eat. We individually wrapped some tortillas as well and warmed them off to the side. 


Burrito
Tortillas
With our food safely in place, we continued on through Flagstaff. We took the scenic Route 66 through town, a place I had never been before. We all wished we could have had more time there, but alas, we had to keep moving. If only we had made our deadline the night before we could have enjoyed dinner and breakfast in Flagstaff. Another time, I suppose...


An hour and a half later, it was lunch time. We pulled off in the tiny town of Ash Fork, AZ (population: 457), "The Flagstone Capital of the USA". To get settled for lunch, we parked next to the train tracks and Jonathan fashioned a table out of an old wooden spool head. It was like something you'd see on Pinterest. Or for sale at Pottery Barn for $500. 

We gathered our crappy camping chairs around and had ourselves a lovely roadside picnic. 




There was enough leftover chicken burrito available to make five fairly decent tacos. We had purchased some pico de gallo in Flagstaff to add to the mix and fill 'em up a bit more. They were freaking delicious. And yea, they were the perfect temperature. 


And then like that, we were back on the road. 

Flagstone


We were moving along just fine, all the way through Arizona and into California. Yes! We made it out of Arizona complication-free!

And then we started approaching longer and longer stretches of uphill highway. 


Jonathan, driving in the VW, was pretty far ahead of Pete and I in the Winnebago. There was no way we were catching up. After chuggin' along for a number of miles, the Winnie had had enough. The uphill climb was just too much. We had already been driving for over an hour and a half before this breakdown and she was tired. 

Ugh! The day had been going so well!

Once again, the fuel line collapsed. It started pulling a vacuum and we were slowly losing power. Pete and I decided it was best to pull over as soon as possible before the Winnie shut down on its own. Luckily, we found a spot with an extended shoulder so we wouldn't be mowed down by a big rig.  


Lovin' that madness. 


Eventually, Jonathan, realizing that we were no longer in sight, pulled over and called us. He was about a mile ahead of us. He told us to hang tight and he'd find a way to get to where we were. We expected to have to wait a while, being that there were very few exits and turn around points.

But, like a G, Jonathan put the VW Bus in reverse and BACKED UP along the shoulder to our location. He showed up in no time. Seriously, he's just too much awesome. 



The Winnie was hot from all that damn work (you know the feeling), so we decided to feed her some cool gas from the VW Bus to bring Winnie's gas temperature down. Again, VW for the win!

Pete and Jonathan took the fuel line supply off of the VW engine and disengaged the bus's starter electric supply (so when the key was turned, it would start the fuel pump but not the engine). We filled our handy dandy gas can that we (thank goodness) needed to retrieve on Day 1 when the VW humorously ran out of gas before we left Austin.   

The guys added about two gallons of gas to the Winnie as she sat with her hood open, blowing in the gusty wind. Oh, that wind!




To my surprise, we weren't waiting on the side of the road for very long. It seems that "Tori BH" had broken down in this very spot not so long ago and had copious amounts of time to write her name in rocks. 


The sun was setting and it was time for us to rally on. We swapped vehicles, so that Jonathan could get an idea for what was going on in the Winnie. And also because that thing was about to give Pete and I a freakin' heart attack.

The terrifying wind never ceased to abuse us. Jonathan said that he had never seen wind like he did on Saturday, even driving through the Mojave Desert in November and December, when the region has peak wind gusts. The bus is hard enough to drive as it is, but under a wind advisory, it's a hardcore workout. VW's are notorious for their poor handling in high winds. You tend to see them upside down on the side of the road. Fantastic visual.

It was scary. Especially going downhill, which much of our next leg was. I don't think my butt could have been clenched any tighter. Pete kept informing me how horrible the whole ordeal was. I continued to picture the van being picked up and blown off the side of the road while shouting, "Is this real? This isn't real!"

Video:


After our minor breakdown, we made it a point to stop every 50 miles to give the Winnie cool gas, which seemed to prevent the hose from pulling a vacuum again. Our first stop post-breakdown was a lovely little oasis in the middle of nowhere with reasonable gas prices:



I take it they get a lot of complaints:


I was fairly tempted to buy little license plates for the gang, but figured I had already spent enough money at this stop:


Fifty miles later, we stopped in Barstow, CA and grabbed some dinner at Mega Tom's Burgers on Route 66. It was starting to rain a bit and the wind wasn't letting up. But we were determined to carry on, despite the fear factor. (For me, mostly, and I have no say because I wasn't driving). 

We were finished with the three-state long, I-40 part of the journey. Now it was on to smaller, more petrifying thoroughfare. On top of the heavy wind gusts and rain, we were now facing two-way traffic, blinding headlights, slick roads, oncoming big rigs and the possibility of drunk Saturday-night drivers. Great.

I was pretty much an anxious mess. Pete too. That VW Bus is not really up-to-snuff on all its safety regulations, ya know? Why is my seat belt so saggy!? Where are the airbags in this thing!? Why is my door about to blow open!? I tried to keep my head down as to not look at all the frightful things happening out the front window. Not that you could really see any shit through the scratched and dead-bug laden front windshield: 


With my anxiety off the charts, I was hoping to breathe in enough gas fumes to just kind of forget about what the whole thing.

Isn't that ironic? We've got one vehicle that can't get enough gas to the engine and another vehicle that has way to much gas coming out of it! Hilarious, really...

Anyways, Jonathan and Pete were not only dealing with the mental stress of driving old/classic vehicles; they were also physically worn out from three straight days of intense steering and clutch maneuvering. Those vehicles are hard work to control, especially on days like this. They were both suffering from sore necks.

Finally, we were over it. There was a new rest area up ahead that was not indicated on either of our maps. So, naturally, we pulled off for the night. Doesn't that sound like the beginning of a horror flick? 

It was a cold night due to all the wind, but we were all pretty tired and passed out rather quickly. Perhaps we were all just high on gasoline.

Although our plan was to be in Bakersfield, CA for the third night, we had made up for quite a bit of lost time after all the fuel repairs on Day 2. We were only about 75 miles off target and had our longest drive of the road trip yet. 

It had been a long time coming, spending the night in the Winnebago in California. We had hoped for that milestone three and a half months ago. We were so close we could taste it.

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Operation Westbound Winnie Continues: Day 4

Operation Westbound Winnie: Day 2

Documenting our road trip from Austin, TX to Mountain View, CA with a 1985 Winnebago Lesharo and a 1974 VW Bus. Intro, Day 1


Let's just say that Friday wasn't our favorite traveling day. We were off to another slow start after six hours of sleep in Clovis, New Mexico.



Our first night back in the Winnebago was stellar. We passed out instantly and slept like rocks. Jonathan, on the other hand, did not fare as well in his slumber. His night in the VW Bus was cold and full of noxious gasoline fuel. He's a trooper though. And way cooler than we'll ever be. A motel was certainly in order for night two. 

Day two began with a trip to the auto parts store where we (Jonathan and Pete) installed a fuel pressure gauge (utilizing parts from the VW) in order to get a better idea for the cause of Winnie's horsepower troubles. 


After a bit of driving, it was clear that the fuel pressure was fluctuating below the appropriate PSI. Fuel pressure was clearly the culprit. But was the problem centralized solely within the collapsing fuel hose? Or was the fuel pump not getting enough volts. So many questions. So little time. We were gonna have to Nancy Drew this bitch.

With Pete at the wheel in the Winnie, we traveled through a number of small towns on I-84W. Now there's some small town America. One intersection. One gas station. A food mart. Perhaps a motel. And then it's gone.  


Entering a long stretch of I-84, Pete started to notice the fuel pressure gauge dipping dangerously low. The Winnie couldn't maintain speed, despite the gas pedal being fulling compressed. We pulled over and informed Jonathan. 

The whole situation was rather stressful. 



But thank baby Jesus for some zip ties. The ultimate mechanic, Jonathan was able to temporarily remedy our collapsed fuel hose, forcing it to remain open (circular) with a few zip ties that, luckily, Pete and I always keep in our "connector" bag (a bag full of materials used to connect one thing to another: bungee cords, duct tape, zip ties, etc).  


At the same stop, Jonathan hooked up a voltemeter to determine whether the fuel pump was receiving enough electrical power. He jacked wire from the VW in order to connect it. Thank God for that VW, right? 

With all our newly rigged gadgets, it started to look as though the Winnie's dashboard was a patient on the brink of death at the Intensive Care Unit:


And so we kept on truckin' towards Albuquerque, where we planned on a better fix. We stopped several times along the way to let the engine and fuel pump cool, sometimes by dumping a bunch of water on them. Occasionally, we added more zip ties to the softened fuel line. At one stop, we met a guy named Fish.

The scenery was becoming increasingly rocky as we barreled westward and continuously increased our elevation.


The weather was fairly warm, which is less than ideal for the Winnie's engine. She likes it cool. We had to stop at least every 2 hours, lest we risk overheating. Had we made this journey 2 or 3 months from now, we'd probably be screwed. Well, we'd be screwed if Jonathan wasn't around. He's terrifically resilient. 

Jonathan has driven along I-40 countless times, in all sorts of weather conditions. He's driven a 50's Renault through 116-degree desert with no air conditioning. A gallon of water to drink. A gallon of water to pour over his head. He drove an Astro Van (!!) in similar conditions, but parts of the heat shield protecting his legs from the engine were removed, causing his feet to feel as though they were boiling. A crafty man, Jonathan found some sort of pipe to fashion into a wind tunnel from outside the passenger side window and down onto his feet. On the other extreme, he drove an old, leaky VW pickup truck back from San Diego with an old lady in temperatures below 10-degrees. That truck had a number of problems, so much of their time was spent outside dealing with it or chuggin' along at 35mph. Dude's a badass. 

Anyways, we made it to Albuquerque in tact. First, we needed to grab some parts at the auto store for our fuel line fix. The clerk provided a number of different hoses for Jonathan to take a look at, but he need something a bit sturdier. Prompted by this request, the clerk invited Jonathan to “come to the back and feel my stiff hose.” He obliged and, two minutes later, came out with 4 feet of stiff hose. What a sale!

Next, we ate dinner at a local spot called Sadie's which serves the finest in New Mexican cuisine. Basically, they've got massive burritos with spicy regional chili sauces. Some of us weren't feeling right after that meal, but I'll skip those details for ya. Jonathan was wise and saved 2/3 of his burrito, which we planned to eat for lunch the next day. 

Afterwards, we made our way to the RV breakdown mecca, Walmart, where Jonathan speedily and secretively replaced that mushy chunk of fuel line that kept collapsing when it got too hot. Before he could begin, Jonathan needed some wood blocks to prop up the front tire so that he could have room underneath to complete the job. Naturally, Pete asked, “you wanna go inside and take a look at my wood?” It was a sexual innuendo kind of day. 


Getting a grip on the situation.
Below you can see that overused bit of fuel line that Jonathan wisely rigged with zip ties. Our trip would have been over had Jonathan not devised this temporary fix. He didn't cease to remind us of that either (or the fact that we would have never come up with it on our own). Have I told you how awesome this guy is?


The new chunk of fuel line proved to be a success. The Winnie definitely had much greater power now that the appropriate amount of fuel was reaching the engine. Of course, this was only a temporary fix as well. But we didn't have the time or means to mess with dropping tanks and full fuel line replacement. This would have to do for now. 

We'd still have to stop fairly frequently to rest and cool then engine, especially since we were utilizing quite a bit of power going up so many damn hills. And the wind! Friday was just the beginning of colossal winds.  

We stopped in Gallup, New Mexico for the evening. Although we wanted to make it as far as Flagstaff, AZ, we were finally feeling a bit more confident with the Winnebago's abilities. We were certainly slowed by this day, but discovering the problem and providing the best possible solution was a far more intelligent move than continuing forward without addressing the situation.

Jonathan and Pete were starting to feel the effects of driving these 25+ year old vehicles for long periods of time. Their arms were sore and necks stiff. (Yes, stiff). For Jonathan, we booked him a room at the Sleep Inn to rest his bones. The VW is anything but comfortable currently. As for Pete and I, we picked up some Happy Camper IPA (fitting, no?) from Santa Fe Brewing Company and a couple of Buzz Ballz, which are 20% alcohol mixer balls with the sole purpose of giving you a quick buzz. It's like a 5-Hour Energy drink, for when you're having that 5:30 feeling.  


Not gonna lie, that shit works:



Buzzed off our ballz, we chuckled about our snacks that turned into little flotation devices due to the high altitude. 


It's the little things, people.

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Operation Westbound Winnie Continues: Day 3, Day 4