I have been in
the depths of Volkswagen hell trying to get ROADCOW ready for Spring
Break. The ol' trusty bus hadn't "mooved" a foot since our trip to
Baja last Christmas/New Year. I finally had it towed to the Elk
Garage, pulled the VW engine (Pre Toyota) to assess the damage. I
found the crack in the engine case, as expected, and thought about
buying a new case to wrap around the innards. As an after thought I
decided to pull the heads and see how they were doing. I discovered
both cylinder heads were cracked between the intake and exhaust
valves. The valve seats were loose and it is amazing we made it back
from Baja at all.
I just happened
to have a spare bus that had been used as a office by a friend of mine
for several years and since he had recently moved into better
surroundings and didn't really need it any more I towed it to the Elk
Garage and pulled that engine out too.
bus was one that had belonged to some folks from Kentucky. They were
traveling along the coast near Greenwood/Elk when the fuel line broke,
setting fire to the engine compartment. The carburetor was melted into
a puddle of aluminum along with the generator, fuel pump and all the
wiring. The battery was a sorry mess but the basic block and heads
were okay. I had repaired it enough to make it into a running bus just
before it wound up as an office..., till now.
So, out with
that engine too.
Between the two
engines I had enough parts to make one "good" engine with an unknown
number of miles on it plus I had a pile of parts left over. I
installed the "new" engine.
starts. It runs. I guess it will make it to the north end of Death
Valley and back during our upcoming Spring Break.
"Son of ROADCOW,
part two" the Adventure Continues.
Why do I love them?
Suzanne, and I have just returned from our annual Spring Break
vacation. It was spectacular as all trips, involving VW busses, should
be. The first night we attended a Beer and Garlic bash in Mendocino.
We fortified ourselves for the upcoming trip and finally just crawled
into the busses and camped for the night. Maybe too much garlic?
morning, after sufficient quantities of coffee, we are ready to go but
my bus wouldn't start; dead battery. No problem, that is why I carry
Of we go to
Ukiah. We stopped at our friends, Doug and Jan, for a short visit.
Finally, ready to leave, my bus won't start; dead battery. Well,
enough of that! Off to the battery store. I knew I should have
replaced that battery before I left home. With the new battery
installed we headed east on Highway 20. We were finally off on
the official portion of Spring Break.
hundred miles into our vacation, as we approached the first stop light
in Yuba City, I noticed the oil pressure gauge start to fluctuate. I
called Ed on the CB and told him to find a place to pull over, quick!
We pulled into a bank parking lot and got out for a look. The first
thing I noticed was the trail of oil leading up to where I had parked.
I looked under the bus and there was a growing puddle as oil drained
End of vacation.
Why oh why did I ever cast aspersions on Yuba City.
After laying on
our backs a while and pondering where the oil seemed to be coming
from, Ed and I decided it must be the main crank oil seal behind the
flywheel. Lolli and Suzanne made coffee on the Coleman stove while Ed
and I went over to a Jiffy Lube Shop to talk to those folks and see if
they knew where we could get equipment and parts. We got all the
information we needed from them and headed off in Ed's bus to the
recommended Foreign parts house to buy the oil seal and then to a tool
rental place to rent a transmission jack.
Back to the bus.
I added a quart
of oil to get us over to a vacant blacktop road next to where a farmer
was busy disking a field. We parked the busses and got out our tools
and the tranny jack. Suzanne and Lolli got out their respective novels
and folding chairs. Ed and I attacked the bus.
Each time the
farmer made a pass, the bus was further disassembled. First bumper,
then sheet metal, then engine, clutch, flywheel, and finally, oil
Then we put it
all back together in reverse order. In two hours and ten minutes we
had pulled the engine, removed the seal, replaced the seal, replaced
the engine! The farmer was still disking. The bus was up and running
with no leaks and good oil pressure. The folks at the Jiffy Lube, the
foreign parts house, and the tool rental store were all friendly and
helpful. I will never cast aspersions on Yuba City again.
out-a here!" Vacation continues!
us on the far side of Reno, Nevada.
The next day we
zoomed down 395 to Big Pine and then left the security of blacktop and
headed east for Eureka Valley
on a rough dusty
We spent our
second night camped in the Last Chance Mountains,
nothing, except desert wild flowers and silence. The next day we drove
past Crankshaft Crossing and headed for the Ubehebe Crater. There were
too many people at the crater for my taste (at least five) so we
pressed on for the Racetrack and the "moving rocks". Once past
that was the end
of the crowd! After visiting the Racetrack we reached the Lippincott
mine and the turnoff to Saline Valley.
I had heard
about this approach to Saline Valley five years ago. It was said you
might be able to go down it, but you could never get back up. "The
road is too loose and too steep." We pulled up to the lip of the
canyon and gazed down into the distance. Saline Valley shimmered
I noticed previous tracks going over the lip!
hollered at Ed over the CB, "somebody went down, the road must be
We shifted into
first gear and started down the rut, winding around and over large
rocks and soft sand.
According to the
map it should only be about five miles down through the canyon to
reach the bottom. At the second switch back the ladies elected to
walk. Just as well. Ed and I needed someone to move rocks out of the
way, fill in the washouts, and explain what happened to us if we
slipped off the edge, that is, if the ladies ever found their way back
I had just
turned fifty two the day before and in all the rambling and poking
around I have done over the years, this little road turned out to be
the most exciting road I have ever traveled; better than Baja, better
than Alaska!! Ed said it was more scary than sky diving. It definitely
held our attention!
Five miles and
two and a half hours later, we finally reached the alluvial out flow
of the canyon, found a relatively level spot to park, called it a day,
We were so glad
to be alive and undamaged that we stayed put for a day and a half and
just read our books! Ah, what a vacation!
The rest of
Spring Break was relatively tame. Out the south end of Saline Valley,
on a more sane road, two nights in Panamint Valley. A visit to friends
in Darwin. One night at the Pinnacles in Trona. Then, up and over
Walker Pass and home again, stopping off for a fine dinner at the
Basque Restaurant in Winters.
Break in the bag.
repair and maximum bad road.
It's going to be
tough to top this one!