Thursday, October 4, 2012

Irvine Classic 2012

I went to the VW Classic in Irvine last year. This year, I was back in L.A. for the same weekend, so I made sure I went again.

There are 116 photos in this set. Peruse at your leisure. Otherwise, read on.

Did you say you wanted donuts? I know I wanted some. This bus obliged. (No seriously, there were donuts inside, they just weren't made using the equipment. I'm fine with Krispy Kreme.)

You can hack a VW motor into anything. I'm not sure you'd want to, but you can.

This is a Barris classic. You could even get a Revel model for this car.

Ummmm. What?

Ahhh. Here are my people.

Yeah, that's what the inside should look like.

I was short on time, so I didn't get to spend too much time in the vendor aisles or talking with like minded folks. The Bay Window and Eurovan crowd has come into theirs own and proudly display their vehicles now - I remember a few years ago when we were the red-headed step children. We were allowed to play quietly, but they didn't want us at the table around dinner time.

Kelley Park 2012

The Golden Gate Chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America has been hosting the Kelley Park show in San Jose for (ihavenoidea) of years. It's a show I have always wanted to attend, the best and brightest of the VW scene are there every year.

I had camped out with the Syncros the previous night, so it wasn't that far a drive up to San Jose. I think part of the fun of going to shows like this is meeting the people in line. I was waiting in line behind this guy.

People shine their vehicles to mirrors for this show.

It's a well organized show - they try to keep cars in the same class parked together.

I liked driving through this crowd so I could park Red with the rest of the Bay windows.

There was this couple, observant people will notice the picture of a certain Camper Family bus on the side. It's big and it's blue.

Pristine. Seriously

Red was cleaned up, and looking good enough for people to pose with it.
More Pictures can be found here

Also in attendence was Carole of Yes we can camper van.

I met the usual group of fine VW folk, Mark Merrill was there again winning awards, I took home one of my own.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Buses Gone Wild!

That is all.

Actually, that is not all - Big Blue likes Marcos Syncro, so here is one more pic of the Magnum PI bus. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


There is nothing so small that can't be divided into something smaller. Take for instance, the subgroups of VW owners. Bus/Buses/Ghias/Other. Split the buses, and you get splitties, bays, type IV, watercooled, etc.
Continue on and on ad infinitum. (Click here for the best joke ever on subdivisions.)

Syncros are their own special class of special - and I do mean "short-bus special". (See what I did there?)

They have their own language, their own special clubs, their own income bracket, and their own events.
Syncrofest is held every year in Hollister at the OHV park. This year, they were showing the Bus Movie, I wanted to see it, so I snuck in. They looked at me suspiciously, asked where my second drive train was, ignored my answer, and let me in anyway. I was only planning on staying for one night.

It's ok, I wasn't the only one.

Syncro owners are their own special brand of crazy, and I mean that in the best way possible. They have the obvious off-road drives and roads to take, but they also do stuff like this. (Future campouts - take note, we should try this...)

Fill this bowl with a predetermined amount of water.
Now, drive around the dirt track, as fast as you can with one hand, while holding the bowl out the window with the other. Your total time is determined by that actual time you took, + 10 seconds for each 1/4 cup that you spilled.
Marco didn't do so well. :)

Go Westy was a big sponsor of the fest, did you know they have an inflatable jumpy thing with a giant westy on it?
Their event trophies are exactly what I would expect from this particular crowd.

They customize like no one else.
And just because they are living in the lap of air-conditioned luxury doesn't mean they aren't hippies at heart.

They were kind enough to look out for wildlife before they hit the trail.

I will admit Syncro envy - I want to go to some of the places they do, and with the same level of comfort. One day maybe. Not now.

Thanks guys - looking forward to next year.

The winding road

It curves right and then goes up a hill, and then when you think you can drift downhill, there is a sharp left turn. Brake early, and then it veers right again and it's back up another hill. Watch out for the cliff around the corner, you won't have time to admire the view, just pay attention to the road. There are rocks and strong winds. It might rain today.

That's a road I know. And it's been my life for the past few months, so in order to try an regain some normalcy, I'm going to get caught up on my VW blog. Apologies to my smal list of subscribers - I've been behind.

Since my last update:
-Bus City
-VW Classic Irvine
-Several road trips
-Mark's museum again
-Kelley Park - San Jose
-Syncrofest (yeah, I cheated and snuck in)
-One really big road trip, not in the bus.

I'll get try to do this in Chronological order. I may mess up.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vintage photos

Big Blue posts them often. Me, not so much.

But since the Golden Gate Bridge turned 75 years old, I thought this photo would be appropriate.

I'll figure out how to embed other flickr photos later.

Sorry for being gone for so lone, it's been a busy couple of months.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tour Bus

Living in San Francisco comes with the added benefit of everyone wanting to visit. It's picturesque, there is excellent food, and an incredible array of museums and beautiful places to walk through.

I am usually the tour guide. My bus is often the tour bus.

Some friends from Los Angeles were here a couple of weeks, ago, I took them to twin peaks, and around various pretty parts of town. Their daughter drew a picture for me. I'll frame it and put it next to my other VW related pictures.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pulley Problems, A tale of four generators.

This is going to take a while, and is somewhat tech heavy, so if you want to skip to the end, I won’t blame you.

In October of 2010, I drove out to Colorado and back. Around 100 miles outside of Reno, my red warning light came on. I pulled over, checked everything I could, and found that I just wasn’t charging. (A.K.A. the belt was fine, so I didn’t need to be towed) I made it to Sacramento before I couldn’t drive anymore, and left the car at a mechanics.

They replaced the voltage regulator, and the generator. I made it fifty miles before the red light came on again – bad generator. They replaced it again, this time I made it 100 miles before it froze up. Again, bad generator, I replaced it this time at home after pulling it out in my garage.

My third new generator lasted me until a week ago when the fan started to rub against the housing. This is where my warning tale begins.

I “tweaked” with the fan housing – slight adjustment of the screws, repositioned the generator strap etc. None of the tweaking would keep the fan from rubbing. I reached behind the fan housing, and grabbed the fan with my fingers. It lifted and lowered and rattled each time I pulled gently on it. No amount of tweaking was going to fix the problem, chances are pretty good the bushing in the generator was bad.

So I pulled apart the engine as much as I needed to and remove the fan-generator. The generator has been replaced, and all is back and working. It cost about $100 for a generator and misc parts, and about 6 hours of my time.

Then there was the nagging question – why did the bushing fail? I could assume that it was assembled poorly – based on previous experience, this wouldn’t have been a bad guess.

However, Dr. Watson, let’s examine some other evidence.
-I had been replacing the fan belt far too often. It kept stretching beyond normal. For some reason, I didn’t think too much about it.
-The startups had been unreasonably shaky. The engine shook more than it had previously. Again, I didn’t think much about it as it became smooth once the engine warmed up.
-During my last long drive, I noticed a resonance, a pulse if you will, at various RPM’s. Again, didn’t think much about it.

But what should have slapped me in the face was the pulley. The pulley had been a problem ever since I got it replaced from the shop back in 2010. The metal was softer than it should have been. It bent each time I removed and replace the fan. I never used more than 2 shims even with a new fan belt. This should have been an ugly warning sign, but in my haste to go back and forth to L.A., I just didn’t pay attention.

Here’s a picture. Notice the gaps in the metal where the pulley front half slides over the armature. The two halves of the pulley rattle back and forth – there should be no movement – it should act as one solid piece once they pulley screw is tightened.

So in order, let’s deduce another possibility.
-The pulley is loose, rattles, and because of the soft metal, it heats up.
-As the long consistent drives wear on the pulley/belt, the rotation of the engine reached a point where a consistent resonance is starting due to the speed of the belt and the vibration of the generator
-The resonance begins to gouge the generator bushing – ever so slightly – but enough to cause the bushing to fail.
The fan then begins to rub, and the problem becomes apparent.

Another note about pulleys and poor-performance parts.
You can buy a pulley for about 8 bucks. You can also buy one for about 20. I am going to assume that the difference between the 8 dollar one and the 20 dollar one is the quality of the metal, method it was made, etc. For a 12 dollar difference, I could have saved myself an afternoon and a new generator, not to mention all the belts that I ate.
And while I’m on the topic, the generator strap cracked too. I didn’t find that out until I tried to reinstall the new generator. Yet another trip to the parts store.

Lessons learned (again):
Listen to your experience. I knew that the pulley was a problem. I ignored it.
Listen to your engine. I did hear this problem. Glad I caught it before it became too serious.
Buy the best parts you can afford. Seriously – there is no excuse for a crappy pulley, not when it is such a crucial part to the engine operation.
Drive your Bus. This problem was identified after three trips up and down the California coast. Much of it was on a freeway where I had time to zone (zen) out and just listen to the vehicle. I recognized the problem aurally, but like an idiot, I ignored it. Don’t be me.

Happy travelling. Did I mention that you should check that pulley? And your fuel lines?

Post script: While at the VW show at the California auto museum, I ran into the mechanic who has sold me all three bad generators. He sighed, rolled his eyes, and said to bring it back and he’ll cover it under warranty. He also mentioned that I am not the only lucky one, a few people have had this problem. So, in all likelihood, this problem was just another bad generator. However, that doesn’t negate the pulley issue. 
VW people like to mention bad mechanics and bad experience with bad shops. I'd like to mention the other half.

Justin at Kombihouse in Sacramento has been honest, fair, understanding, and has stood behind his shops work from the moment I took it there back in 2010.  Their work has been good, it is unfortunate that the parts have been crap, and not their fault. Highly recommended, consider this an endorsement.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weird California

I had a childhood fascination with all things odd and strange. Of course I liked the things that kids are expected to like - dinosaurs, ghosts, monster movies - but I had a tendency to lean toward the macabre and the unexpected. It's not too surprising that once I had grown enough to put a pedal under my foot and a wheel in my hands, I'd aim my vehicle in the direction that I had already been leaning.

These two guys have taken my hobby and made a career out of it. And this site is unrelated to the book, written by a different guy, but has a similar vein. I am apparently, not unique.

I'm less interested in "haunted houses" and "spiritually connected spaces" and more interested in strange buildings, odd gravestones, unexpected monuments, and places of historical interest.

Griffith Park:
The Curse? Bah, whatever. The weird? For starters, Griffith J Griffith let ostriches be raised on his land, changed his mind about the ostriches, then got shot by the ostrich owner. Taking a cue from his attempted murderer, he decided to try and pre-emptively shoot his wife (who may have been trying to poison him) and failed to kill her. He served two years in San Quentin, and donated the land that is now the park.
James Dean was right, it's the perfect place to see everything. Go get your picture taken next to his disembodied head.

Bubble Gum Alley. See the previous post.

I have never seen the Phantom Cow of Yerba Buena, but I have seen the Doggie Diner heads.

More later. as always.

Brake time - part 2

For clarification on the brake drum removal trick: Do this.

Once you are done inspecting your work, it is time to put the drum back one. Wipe it clean once more, and line up the splines, and slide it on gently.
The lug nuts don't need to be on, I put them there so I wouldn't risk losing any. Now tighten the big hub nut, re attach the wheel, and lower the car off the jack stand - you will need the tire to press against the ground again as you go for 250 foot pounds.

Side note: as long as the tire is off, now is a good time to adjust valves, wipe down parts, check shocks, examine fuel lines, all that kind of stuff thats easy with you don't have a tire in your way. just Saying.

So your tire is mounted and on the ground. Vehicle is in gear, parking brake is on. Good. Put the big honking hex wrench on the big honking nut and cracking it down by hand at first, and then by body. Like this.
Push until you can't push no more, chances are you have put it on tight enough. My cheater pipe put me out about 3 feet, and I weight over 175, I'm pretty sure that I surpassed the 250 ft pound torque setting. As you are bouncing on your cheater pipe, check to make sure you can line up the cotter pin. Like so.
Put the cotter pin in, bend it and you are almost done.
Get that friend of yours to help you bleed the brakes, adjust the rear stars.
Drive it carefully and test your work.

Drink something. I prefer beer. You may have something else.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Brake time

It's Tuesday, and I'm about to head south for a day. I pull the bus out of the garage, go back to close the door, and notice a trail of goop tracked through the garage. Further inspect of the trail leads to the rear tire, which looks like this.

I get on my other vehicle (also german, also horizontally opposed cylinders, but only half as many, and only half as many tires) and make a run to my local parts store. The bus goes back in the garage, and I make a note to buy a couple of these.

I get back, and inspect a little further before the big work begins.
If you haven't done this before, here's the short primer. Get the right sized big-ass socket with a 3/4 inch drive and get ready to break 250 foot pounds of torque. Pull the cotter pin, and get that nut off of there.
I do not have a picture of me standing on the cheater pipe. Note: the car is in gear, the hand brake is on. the wheels are blocked. You need the friction of the tire to get the nut to move. Once that nut is removed, you now have the problem of removing the drum. Jack the car up, put a solid jack stand under it, and release the transmission (shift it to neutral). Release the hand brake.Your wheel needs to be able to move.
The drum won't go willingly. If you have the right tool, you can just connect the lug nuts and turn a crank. Since I don't have the right tool, I have to do it the hard way. Place all lug nuts back in. Get a 17 mm open end box wrench, and slip it between the lug nuts and the drum. Take a soft hammer and tap the wrench so you are effectively tapping the drum. Rotate the drum with every few taps. Again. Again. Again. Again. this may take some time....

One the drum has move forward enough to remove, take it off and you will have this glorious scene, hopefully without the brake fluid all over.
In order:
Remove the spring clips in the middle of the brake - the ones that connect it to the backing plate. It's a quick turn of a small piece of metal, and the springs are free. 
Use a screwdriver and pry the lower part of the brakes off the adjusting stars.
The brakes should be free enough to remove the rest of the springs, and take them out of the brake cylinder.
Remove the long springy cable that allows the parking brake to work.
Finally, disconnect the brake line from the rear cylinder and remove your dead brake cylinder. I use the little black bleeder valve cover to keep the brake fluid from leaking over the floor.
Your naked backing plate should look like this.
You have new brake shoes, and a new brake spring kit, yes? Good. clean off all the parts that you need to reuse: the flat funny looking metal bar that allows the hand brake to work, the 13 and 15 mm bolts that hold the brake pads, and the connecting bar that hand brake pulls on to engage, and the star adjusters.
Put the hand brake lever back on. It will look like this when you are done installing it.

Bolt on the new brake cylinder, put the star adusters in, and put brake shoe that is connected to the hand brake in. Connect the hand brake Make sure the slots for the brake shoes are vertical, you don't want to have to monkey aroung with alignment after the springs are attached. Put the return springs one. the long connected one first, then the small lower springs second. Place the second shoe in the star adjuster first, and use the screwdriver to pull the top of the shoe over far enough to place it in the brake cylinder. Attach the center springs.
Note: the lower return springs will have one spring facing in, and another facing out. 

Bask in the glory.
Torque the cylinder screws again for good measure, and warn a partner that you will need them for brake bleeding in about 30 minutes.

I'll write up the rest tomorrow, when I actually finish the job. For now, I'm going to sleep.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Found on Windshield

IMG_0346 by pjalau

Um... no. Perhaps if you added another zero to that number, I'd talk. Currently, you haven't purchased an engine.

I get these once in a while on my windshield and quietly chuckle to myself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back up the coast

It's January 3, it's 9:00 am, and I've just dropped off coffee with my wife before I hit the road. I'm still deciding on the route as I hit the 405 and roll into the valley in record time. I have to go to San Luis Obispo before heading home, so I take the 101. and head for Ventura.

10:00- Ventura
11:00- Santa Barbara

11:30- Just outside of Los Osos, and I decide it's time for lunch. I pull into the college town of San Luis Obispo and park in front of this place.

Side Note - Weird California
I have a fondness for the odd, the weird, and the obscure. The "weird" series of books is a guilty pleasure for me. So when I have time on my various trips to visit strange locations, I do. More about Bubble Gum Alley can be found here.
Since Weird California is an obvious one, I keep a copy of it in the bus and use it to redirect some of my drives.
I'll be posting more about the side trips soon. In the meantime, feel free to waste your afternoon here.

I am visiting a friend in Los Osos, home of Go Westy, so I stop by his place first, and their place next. There is nothing that I need, I'm afraid that Go Westy has provided me with cool camping gear all too well. So I look around the lot and admire the perfect vehicles.

The back of Go Westy has a pile of buses that are no longer drivable. They are carefully labeled and are giving up their parts so that others may remain on the road. There is something about that idea that is part Zen, and part Wall-E.

And I've decided to take the slow road, and head through Morro Bay, Cambria, San Simeon,

and I stop to look at the Elephant Seals.
This squirrel was as interested as I was.

It's time to put those shocks and that steering box to the test. I head towards Monterey and stop occasionally to smell the sea, the cypress, and the sage.

I'm just outside of Post Ranch Inn and the sun is reminding me why I took this road.

Yes, one hand on the wheel, one on the camera, and my head facing the wrong direction on a twisty road. Don't try this at home.

2011 was a rough year that ended poorly. I took this road trip to spend time with my wife in L.A. and to regain perspective. There is nothing like a long slow drive to focus the mind on wider aspirations. So here I am, January 3, reminding myself what it is all about, and that it is all so beautiful.

Enjoy the ride, don't forget to stop and admire the scenery.

Introducing, The Squirrel

I have another VW. I know it's a sickness. I'm cutting and pasting the post that I put on the samba: The Back story: My grandpare...