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.


Operation Westbound Winnie Continues: Day 3, Day 4