Friday, July 28, 2017

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 grandparents lived in Redding, California. My early memories are of my grandfather in his Studebaker Hawk, driving on the dirt road while his black labrador retriever chased us. It was his evening ritual when we were around. The dog’s name was Tucker - he was always a car person. I may have gotten the same bug (pun totally intended).

Our neighbors had a 1967 VW Bug, Savannah beige. It was the car that all the kids rode around in. We were small, and 5 of us could squeeze inside. Seatbelts were not required back then, I think we all just drove slower and gave each other some distance.

In 1997, the neighbors moved to a quiet place in the foothills, parked the bug, and there it sat for the next 20 years. I recently reconnected with them, they told me they are moving to Idaho, and they wanted to make sure the bug went to someone who would appreciate it. I’ve been driving a 1970 Westfalia Camper since 1989, they knew I could work on it. So they offered it to me.

My VW friend and I drove the truck and trailer up to their place on a hot day (105 degrees). We cleared the oak leaves off, and tried to push it onto the dolly, it didn’t move. The tires were frozen. We pulled out the jack and removed the wheel. Sitting in the brake drums were dozens of acorns that the local squirrels had been stashing. Sadly for them, they were never able to get them out. In their honor, the bug now has a name: The Squirrel.

The passenger side of the car seemed to be favored, the wheel wells were completely full. A shop vac removed enough of them to get the tires moving, and after two hours of coaxing tires, acorns and dirt, the Bug was now sitting on the dolly, strapped down, and going back to my place.

We didn’t have brakes, so we used blocks to push it down the ramp in small sections and inch it into the garage, return the car dolly, the truck, and pat ourselves on the back for the long drive.

Incidentally - while driving it back down to the SF Bay Area, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the passenger rear window waving back and forth. I pulled over and carefully lifted it up out of the channel, and placed in on the rear seat. After 20 years of sun and cold, I’m sure the window rubber became hard plastic and just broke apart as part of the vibration of the move. I’m glad I caught that.

My neighbors purchased it in when they were living in Torrance, CA. I still have the license plate frames. It shows 52 K miles, but probably has 152K miles. The engine was rebuilt in 1997 just before it was parked. New tires were also put on it, they still have their 20 year old nubs on them. It also comes with:
Original manual - slightly water damaged
Original radio, a Sapphire AM only, though another one is currently installed.
A copy of the Jud Purvis book complete with dust cover.

Time to get to work - Day 1:

The Acorns were still in the wheel wells, so I removed the front tires and readjusted the brakes. The rear wheel nuts were on pretty tight, tight enough to break my breaker bar, I’m going to have to take care of those later.

I removed the leaves, dust, spider egg sacs, moss/dirt clumps, spare pennies, gum wrappers, lolly pop sticks, old receipts, and any other junk from the wheel well, engine compartment, ashtrays, glovebox, and battery tray.

Speaking of battery tray, this one is rusted through the floor as expected. My first round of things to order are:
Fuel lines
Spark plugs
Battery tray replacement panel
Fuel filter

There is no brake fluid in the reservoir. None. Does that stuff evaporate?

The engine has full compression and moves like it has been oiled recently. The fuel coming out of the fuel pump smells like kerosene - sign of very old fuel. I’ll be removing the tank and cleaning out the old syrup at the bottom before I refuel it.

More to come…

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wolfsburg - The VW Museum

I started this blog years ago with the intention of documenting and sharing my travels. I thought I'd be in my bus for most of them. It turns out that most of my recent travel has been on airplanes. 

But that doesn't mean that I don't drive places when I can. I'm sorely lacking in VW content, so I'm going to go out of order and jump to the VW museum in Wolfsburg. 

I had a few days in Berlin, and had to drive back to Amsterdam for my flight home. Yes, It was a strange route, but that was on purpose. It gave me a chance to stop in Wolfsburg.

It's unassuming, you would almost not notice it if you weren't paying attention. If this were Ford, or BMW, there would be a theme park wrapped around it. This is the humble VW, so it gets a more subdued treatment.

The museum is on one floor, and has no special lighting, no interactive displays, and nothing but cars. 

As expected, there are rare bugs, Ghias, and they have the 4 wheel drive bus. There are a selection of cars that I would refer to as the "questionable choices" cars. 

Like this wooden bug.

And the ugly 80s interior that looks like someone ate all the colors and puked them on the upholstery.

The entire photo collection can be found here.

Personally, I was most impressed with the Kubelwagen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


I like cities. I like their energy, their design, the flow of people, the opportunities they present. They show the best and worst of humanity, often next to each other. Amsterdam is beautiful, chaotic, and filled with stunning architecture. I'm mostly impressed by the beautiful dance of bicycles, cars and people. It's effortless and hypnotizing when you look from a distance.

I've rented a houseboat for the company team. It's less expensive than a hotel. We have visitors.

I'm a little tired from the travels, the jetlag, the incredible beer. Daynapping is a good option.

In between meetings an sessions and talks, I get some time to explore the city. The building all lean in just enough to appear like they are swallowing up the streets behind you, or in front of you.

The conference is in an old castle. The conversations are always accompanied by beer and cheese. It's a beautiful place. I''l be back. More pictures here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Vegas and St Petersburg

It's February 2014, and I am about to get on a plane to Vegas. The conference is at the Hard Rock hotel. Disneyland goes through excessive effort to make sure that almost every angle of the theme park is photogenic. This hotel has tried to do the same thing, it's all in the details. As much as I like the themed ATM Machines:

I'm more partial to the Rock N Roll Memorabilia, like Lita Fords outfit or the infamous Britney Spears Hit Me Baby outfit.

It's a three-day conference, I'm only there for two. I have an early flight out to St. Petersburg the next morning.

Before my flight, the Russian cab driver tells me that whatever I do, don't get in a cab without a pre-agreed price. It turns out that this is the best advice I have gotten. My hotel sends a driver for about $20 US, my co-worker arrives after being fleeced for close to $140.00 for a 3 Km ride.

St. Petersburg is cold, as expected, but beautiful and filled with Soviet era artwork and statues.

I have a short window on my last day there to see the Hermitage. It was the winter palace of the Czar, and after I walk through it's oppulance and extravagance, I understand why it was overthrown. They lived like *that* while their people were outside starving. It was only a matter of time.

However, the remains of the palace is an incredible museum filled with the spoils of war, and the work of masters.

It's early and it's winter, so I am mostly alone in the rooms of Picassos and Gaugins with only a short woman glaring at me telling me not to touch anything. I smile at her and try to say that I know not to touch it. But that doesn't keep me from examining the final brush stroke flourishes, or the barely noticeable details.

This piece is the works most complicated and ornate clock. Rather than describe it, I'll refer you to this explanation which is pretty thorough:

The rest of my pictures are here.

I have to leave earlier than I want to, I probably should spend at least two days there. But I have to be in Amsterdam that evening.

Monday, April 10, 2017

London, Seattle, and the 2014 Chili Bowl.

It hasn't been a month with the new company, and I'm already traveling. I'm in the U.K. and have already taken the underground to downtown. The iconic cab takes me across town to an AirBnB - I've never used one before, but my co-workers insist on it.

It's a cute apartment, about six block away from the conference location and about 1/4 the price of a conference hotel. I arrive, it's raining, my cellphone isn't working, and I can't find the apartment. So, I do what they do in the U.K., I go to the pub.

This was delicious, and necessary. I hear a familiar sound, and there are my co-workers who have had the same idea and picked the same pub.

Bangers and Mash, something with peas, and one more beer. We head back in the rain before spending the next two days with conference people.

There are evening parties, and business to be done, and new people to meet, but I find time to make sure I am able to stop and appreciate reflections and interesting views.

This never gets old:

I'm there for a week, and just get back for about one day before I'm told that I need to be in Seattle. I'm getting used to rain.

Some people will know what I was doing there just by this picture:

I find time to escape the meetings and the discussions and visit the REI store. If I didn't have a VW Bus, I might have a cricket camper.

But I do. And it's superbowl weekend, which means I get to camp out with my VWCamperFamily people and cook Chili for each other. This time we are in Rio Vista, and it's sunny and beautiful.

I even manage to get a smile out of Gene.

I don't think I've ever written about Gene. Gene is somewhat new to the group in that he has only been camping with us for about three years. He set himself apart be arriving early at all our campouts. He has to drive half-way across the state to camp with us, so he makes it early each time so he has more time to sit with a glass of Whiskey. (Not wisky, wiskey. He has made that very clear. His bottles have pronounceable names.)

My favorite Gene story: We asked him what he does that gives him all the free time. He tells us he is retired. We ask him where he learned to do all the leather work and the knife work that he keeps with him. He says "in prison". We all look uncomfortably at each other, wondering who is camping with us while we sleep. One of us asks how long he was there. He says "20 years, plus or minus." Again, our eyes look around at each other somewhat nervously. Gene sits there with a smirk, waiting for that to sit in just long enough to be awkward, and perfectly times the next statement: "Yup, I was a prison warden for 20 years." Collective sighs and laughs. He knew he was doing. We would have thrown things at him, but none of us knew what kind of friends he made in prison. We still camp with him.

John has set up the tent.

The Chili pots have been set out for tasting.

And I have a cold beer and a warm fire.

It was a nice little refresh before the next round of travel.

Texas Trip - Home

Here I am up early in a ridiculously beautiful room in Vegas. The full suite is bigger than most one bedroom apartments. Two bathrooms, a formal sitting area that overlooks the fountains, and my "guest" room that has it's own hot tub and a spectacular view of the dessert.

We are driving home today. Vegas of SF is about 10 hours, but I don't think I'll notice.

Road trips are beautiful things. They reveal character, they help determine who is the tourist, and who is the traveller. You find out who your friends are, and what they aren't. I find myself a little more each time I'm someplace new, and as of the end of this trip. I'll be in some place familiar, but very very new. This trip is the end of several parts of my life, and the beginning of another.

It's been three years since I update this blog, and it's a new world for me. I have decided to start writing again, and here I am, back at posting. I'll try to be here more often.

I got home and started the next day with a new company.

San Francisco did what it always does - gave me a beautiful sunrise to get started.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Texas Trip - Route 66 and beyond.

We are leaving Albuquerque. That should be a title of a song:

The truck is filled and I'm leaving Albuquerque,
The sun is rising time is O dark thirty,
and highway 40 isn't going far north
enough for me.....

It's a song in progress. give me time.

Time - we don't have much of it today, we have to reach Vegas.
We do have enough time to stop in one of the towns used as a reference for Radiator Springs.
Holbrook Arizona - a town known for being the town that's known for being a town.

There is a bit of nostalgia in the neon and pink and strange souvenir stores. What the town is more known for is the hotel.

It's still working, you can still rent one out. Here are some pics for the curious.

We have a few laughs and do one more drive by on our way to Winslow.

Sing it with me: "I'm standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It's a girl my lord in a flat bed ford slowing down to take a look at me."

Moving on.

Jackrabbit. Its nothing more than a store. There may have been a truckstop there once. For now, it's many signs pointing out the Jackrabbit. You find yourself saying it a lot. Jack Rabbit. Jack. Rabbit. Jackrabbit.

Back on the road - curiosity satisfied.

Side Note: Have you seen a greyhound bus recently? More importantly... have you notices that the logo for greyhound is pretty damn nice? As far as logos go, this one is pretty much artwork.

We stop at the meteor crater - because its awesome.
This rock:

Made this hole:

(Those two people are my travelling companions)

We haven't eaten for a while, so they suggested that we go find something. I suggest we stay where we were. In the back of the fridge, I have stashed bar-b-cue from Texas. We fire up the microwave (because we have one!) and eat ribs on the side of the crater overlooking the plains. Not a bad way to eat lunch.

We move on to Vegas, and stay at the Cosmopolitan. The view from my room is perfect way to end the day. It's about as blurry as my eyesite.

Tomorrow - heading home.

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...