Operation Westbound Winnie: Day 1

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

We had a bit of a slow start after breakfast on Thursday. The plan was to get on the road with both our Winnebago and VW Bus straight from Kerbey Lane Café. Right after we got gas.

And then hilariously, the VW Bus ran out of gas. 

To remedy this unfortunate circumstance, we first needed to drive the Winnie to Jonathan’s house to grab a gas can, then head to the gas station to fill said gas can, then drive back to the VW to empty said gas can then drive both vehicles to the gas station to fill ‘em up for real. 

Perhaps this hiccough is an indication that the rest of the trip will be smooth sailing…?! We’ll see about that. 

Forty five minutes later, somewhere around noon, we were officially on the road.  Pete and I started out in the Winnebago, with it's newly improved and installed manual transmission. It goes without saying that I won't be doing any driving. Because I'm weak and anxious.

Jonathan took the lead, allowing us to admire our new purchase. 

Jonathan suggested the I-40 route, which he's traveled many a time, so we followed obediently. Clearly, I-10 wasn't doing it for us the last time we attempted this trek, and honestly, we kinda wanted to avoid Tucson, AZ (where we broke down before). We took 183 out of Austin all the way to Abilene, where we hopped on 20W. From there, we took 84W through Lubbock and into New Mexico. 

We definitely see the benefit of this route, especially with two old-ass vehicles. First, there's significantly less big highways with 85mph speed limits and uphill on-ramps. Second, we get to pass through tons of strange small towns, which is far more visually pleasing (even if a majority of the building are dilapidated or boarded up). 

All in all, Thursday's drive was fairly smooth. We gassed up every 120-150 miles, let the vehicles rest for a few and then hit the road again. We killed a crap ton of insects. 

There was also the occasionally pee break with a scenic creek-view. 

Eventually, Jonathan and Pete switched drivers' seats, and thus, I made my debut as a passenger in an old VW bus. Overall, it's a fun, hip ride. But it was a little sketchy at first, as Pete got used to the bus' particular shifting sensitivities. And also, the cab is a bit gaseous inside, causing you to feel a bit woozy. Oh, and it's also rather terrifying, in that roller-coaster type of way. The breaks are worn, the gas pedal is sticky, there are no airbags, and the seat belts are practically useless. But Pete's a great driver. So yea, it's the best thing ever. 

Besides a plethora of small towns, much of the landscape was vast and green. Some cows. A few alpacas. A cluster of goats. Hundreds of windmills. Oil drills. America!

The weather was sublime throughout the day, forcing us to roll windows down and enjoy a heavy breeze. Wind-blown hair is all the rage right now...

In terms of mechanics, the VW Bus is up to snuff. No problems to report yet (besides all the exhaust that's making us loopy). The Winnebago, on the other hand, has caused a bit more drama. 

Later on in the day, Jonathan noticed that it was losing power. Basically, it's ability to maintain speed. He felt as though the engine wasn't getting enough gas. Sure, we had been going up a number of hills and we were at a pretty high altitude (which causes a 3% decrease in power every 1000 feet), but this felt different. At one point, Jonathan turned off the engine while moving downhill, then turned the key back on towards the bottom and the problem went away for some time. Something wasn't right.   

We pulled off at a Subway to discuss. But first, Five Dollar Footlongs! 

After dinner and a lengthy chat about the fate of the Winnie, we decided that the engine was cool enough to continue to Clovis, New Mexico, where we planned to stay for the night. Driving on a cool engine allowed Pete and Jonathan to better understand the severity and complexity of the issue. Most likely, the problem was centralized in the fuel line. It's old and mushy. Perhaps it needs to be replaced? We opted to get some rest and determine the course of action in the morning. 

Pete and I slept in the Winnebago, our first night back in over three months. We immediately passed out, but boy, was it great to be home! Jonathan attempted to sleep in the VW Bus, which was less of a good time. The cabin was still filled with the fumes of gas, but when he opened up the windows to air the thing out, it was too cold. 

A motel was in order for him the following night. We're stickin' to the Winnie though, because that's our baby.


Live Update:  We're in Gallup, New Mexico hoping to get an early start. We've got a few mechanical things to take care of but nothing major (there was a whole mess of Winnie maintenance activity yesterday). Hoping to leave by 9am and get to Flagstaff for lunch. The plan is Bakersfield, CA tonight. 

Operation Westbound Winnie Continues: Day 2, Day 3, Day 4