Travel Dates: 2/6-2/15
After some mechanical woes plaguing us we finally made it to the city of Seattle to meet with friends, however after a few days of driving in the mayhem on I5 we were more than ready to get out of the big city. We planned the christening warm camping trip to be a night of camping on Bainbridge island with some fellow Alaskans. As we were on our way to swoop them up, we noticed that the bus'engine was overheating. We pulled into a TMobile parking lot to assess the problem. The plus side of us doing the full bus restore ourselves is that we (Dillon) know it inside out. He was quickly able to diagnose the issue: a hose from the radiator popped off. In true Seattle fashion, it started pouring rain right after Dillon crawled under the bus to start wrenching. After dropping the radiator and a few hours of repairs (while a friend and I sat inside the bus dicking around, utterly useless) we realized there was no way we would make the ferry for our first true bus camp out, so we embraced the city life for one last night and tore up the town, including a ride home in a stretch limo (somehow it was cheaper than a taxi).
It didn't take us long on the road to realize something, we couldn't move. Although there are a few cabinets for storage we had way to much gear. We knew some of it had to be unloaded, but the other reality was we had to buy a gas mileage sucking rocket box. It took a few attempts before Dillon was able to reference his childhood Tetris skills and completely stuff the thing while still being able to close it.
The next morning we headed north for Canada. With hopes of skiing Whistler we pointed her towards the border. As we approached the long lines at the border crossing, the bus completely died. Hoping it was a fluke, we cranked her back up, for it to turn off 5 seconds later whenever we let off the gas. The process continued for the next few minutes as we inched up in line. Having detected misfires in 3 of the 4 cylinders, we limped up to the customs window where we pretended to turn the bus off (as it died) while we spoke with the customs officer. In this less than ideal situation, we appreciated each others ability to simply crack up at the predicament. As we have learned time and time again during the last 9 months of the restoration project, VW's teach you very quickly that your agenda and need for structure and planning is far inferior to the "go with the flow" mentality that is the VW bus. 20 yards past the border it died again. We unpacked all of our gear out of the back to access the engine. A large vapor hose had proven to be too short to stay connected where it needed to. Without a spare of this extremely specific hose we did what any Alaskan would--reach for the duct tape. We have visited many auto parts stores since and have not yet been able to find a suitable size replacement hose. Alas, duct tape has been a longer term solution than anticipated, but so far so good.
We planned on staying a night in Squamish then heading out early to ski. Unfortunately the ski conditions were garbage so we chose to spend more time on Vancouver island. The thought of changing our plans based on the weather conditions is something that is extremely foreign to
me as an Alaskan. You change your clothes, not your plans. But the bus life has allowed for a different approach. They say that the freedom of the road is an unmatched sensation. This is what they say for a reason. As cliche as it sounds, having our lodging and vehicle all in one unit and the freedom that comes with that feels better than I could have imagined. With absolutely no stress of where we will stay or changing or making reservations, we have been able to follow any and every impulse.
We are finding it easier to wake up early knowing that adventure awaits. It might be due to the fact that we are exploring new places or that we are slowly crawling out of our Alaskan winter hibernation. Regardless, we have had some full days of roaming new areas, waking at 4:30 am in Squamish to hop the ferry to Vanvouver island. The coastal surf towns of Ucluelet and Tofino did not disappoint. We wandered through old growth forests, strolled through quaint down towns, and sampled the microbreweries. Dillon surfed the freezing waves while I worked on my ukulele skills and did some beach yoga. We felt quite at home, as the people were friendly and active and the scenery stunning and similar to Southeast Alaska.
Vancouver island was simply stunning and offered many opportunities for adventure, but we did experience identical weather to that of Southeast Alaska; lots and lots of rain. Ample amounts of gear in a little space, plus us trying to sleep in that 80 square foot space, lead to a pretty grouchy Tess. I love Dillon more than any human could love another person, but the clutter and tiny space in the rain was getting to me. Fortunately, Dillon's patience is one of his greatest attributes. On the ferry back to Washington, with the anxiety of going back to the city approaching, I may or may not have had a bit of a breakdown fearing that I am not suited for bus life.
After we decided to do this trip we researched other people that are doing similar adventures and were surprised to find that 'van life' is what all the hip kids are doing these days. I have quickly learned that it's not quite as glamorous as I had imagined it for the last year leading up to our trip. A hotel room and an organizational pep talk later, plus ditching the space hogging inflatable stand up paddle boards, I am thrilled to be continuing on the bus journey.
We made it to Bainbridge Island for a night. While I was on a run I said hello to the sweetest, tiniest old lady who asked if I had time to help her move a few things in her apartment. Having absolutely nowhere I needed to be, an hour passed of hauling stuff and hearing her rich stories, the lesson of the road of not having an agenda was learned. After all, the best part of this form of travel is slowing down enough to match the pace of your surroundings, even if the pace is an elderly crawl. We then headed to Leavenworth, WA to stay in a rental mansion with 30 people (many Alaskan pals) for an 80s themed ski weekend.
From there we headed to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho where we were welcomed by sunshine and a hotel room right on the water for Dillon to rest up in and beat a bad cold. Turns out sleeping in a cold bus after surfing in even colder water is not always the recipe for perfect health.
After two days, antibiotics and a lot of vitamin C we were ready to hit the road again, still not completely healed but well enough to feed our anxiousness to continue the trip. Thank god it was the off season, $50 3 star hotels are easy to come by, but by April the price will quadruple. Off to Montana we went..