Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tales from the Road

Julia here with Erin taking over somewhere in the middle.

Well, the first part of our road adventure has come to a close. We arrived in Santa Rosa, CA on Monday after many days anchoring out in the weird and beautiful spots of Oregon and California. We took so many random pictures that we put them into an album you can link to from the Flickr icon on the right side of this blog.

Let's see if I can recount some of our journey from where we left off on the last post. We spent the weekend before this last one out on the Rogue River just outside of Grants Pass. We thought we would stay at this one free BLM spot, but after we got back from town that Friday, our amazing isolated paradise had been inundated with drunk guys. So we decided to suck it up and pay out for two nights at a nearby state campground, Indian Mary.

It was a pretty silly place with many gawking RVers but it was good to not worry about drunk people messing with us and fill up our water tank. We learned that the park used to belong to "Indian Mary" herself and it apparently was famous for being the smallest reservation in the country. Her father was granted the land when he snitched out his tribe's planned attack on a nearby village. She ran a ferry for settlers across the Rogue River for a time until they built a bridge and put her out of business. The bridge fell within a year (wonder why?) but they built a new one. Then the state took her riverside reservation and made an RV park out of it.

After two nights there, we moved to another free spot further up the river on Sunday night, above Rand Boat ramp. Had the place to ourselves. First thing Monday morning, we headed over to Pacific Truck and Trailer just before Merlin Rd. hits I-5 and got our air brake hose fixed. Super easy. $50 installed. From there, we headed down to Grants pass to try and score a California Atlas - we've been having lots of fun with our atlases. Walmart et al was sensory overload after being in the woods for days. We got out of there in a hurry.

Before choosing our destination for the night, we briefly entertained the idea of visiting one of the women's land farms in Oregon. We found a listing for one called Womanshare outside of Grants Pass. They were very nice on the phone but said that 32 feet is pushing it for their turn-around. Next time we really want to plan our trip around women's lands but it didn't work out this time. Onward. We broke off at Grants Pass onto the 199 S. that would eventually hook up with 101 S. We made it as far as Cave Junction that first day and parked behind Puff n' Stuff to stock up on food, diesel and ice. Never seen so many methheads in one grocery store but, hey, they had organic tortilla chips.

We took the Oregon Caves Hwy for a few miles and camped at Grayback campground for the night. The campground host was pretty awesome and filled us in on some of the local history. We learned that there was a huge influx of hippies that came to the area in the late 60's to set up "mining claims" up and down the river. We've been hearing for a while that getting a mining claim was (and is?) a cheap and easy way to get a piece of land. The forest service wasn't too enthusiastic about the homemade cabins springing up along the river so in 1968, Johnson wrote the Wild and Scenic River Act. I think the Rogue River got included into it in 1971. They took away back-to-the-landers spots and hired other hippies to burn down all the cabins and scatter all the stones from the fences. I had never heard about this kind of thing before and thought it was pretty interesting. Yet another example of the system polarizing two issues to keep the movement down: environmental protection vs. alternative living.

The campground host who told us all this history had his cabin burned down, too, even though the old time miners "took a shining to him" (his words) and assured the forest service that he was actually in the creek panning everyday and that he was producing enough mineral to be legit according to the prudent man act. All true. Fast forward - now our gracious host is a world renowned camp ground host and mushroom expert - check out his website:

We did a lot of thinking about all this history as we continued our journey. We decided to camp just past Grayback up a forest service road for the next night. I did some sewing to bulk up stock and get ready for a website update and we listened for passing cars. You could hear them coming miles away from where we were. The second night we got spooked by two drunk guys in a pickup truck driving like maniacs, whipping around the forest, passing us and slowing down and speeding away up a split road, racing back down and cruising us again.

We camped at Grayback again and then left in the morning, picked up ice in Cave Junction and decided not to go to the Hope Mountain Barter Faire for lack of funds. Then we cruised down into CA and stopped at a free campground called Madrona, next to the Smith river, where we met Micheal and his bus. Micheal's been living in his bus for the last 30 years and it is a life work. He was a really awesome guy and a total inspiration to us. We have renewed bus building energy and got a lot of good ideas on bus decorations and destinations from him. Seeing Micheal and his bus really reaffirmed our passion for buses and bus people. We feel lucky and blessed to have gotten the opportunity to meet an old timer who hasn't given up or forgotten joy. Thanks Micheal!! Oddly enough, Micheal also talked about mining claims and noted better times for busfolk before "our rights were taken away" by the Forest Service. I guess we were not the hardcore hippie historians we thought we were because here was a huge hole in our historical knowledge. Fellow novice hippie historians take note. More research to be done?

After swimming in the Smith River and hanging out at Madrona for 2 days, we moved on to the redwoods. We camped first at Prairie Creek and then at Burlingame in the Humbolt Redwood Forest. The redwoods are completely amazing - not even gonna try to describe them here. We even saw elk! AND Wowie! CA campgrounds are so much fancier than OR campgrounds. Hot, spa-like tiled showers? Free maps, information brochures and adequate (excessive?) signage that actually tells you what is happening on trails? PHONES? Visitor's centers? Recycling bins? It was all great until...$8 firewood?! $10 6-packs?! Ahh, California. How I'd forgotten.

We got more and more anxious as we drove closer to the Bay Area. People started cutting in front of the bus, using any old lane for passing and generally being silly drivers. The roads were the worst we'd seen on the whole trip - rutted and bumpy doesn't really cover how they feel in the bus. And then, getting closer to Santa Rosa - dead stop on the 101 in the middle of the freeway. I forgot that's normal.

The trip in a nutshell: most fun we've had in a long time. Bringing your home with you wherever you go is mindblowing in ways we didn't expect; the bus makes a lot of people really excited and happy and when it doesn't its pretty funny; there is a significant portion of the middle aged population who respond to the bus with an instinctive peace sign; bus people love to see other bus people; hitchhikers feel totally entitled to a ride on your big hippy bus and take it pretty hard if you reject them; diesel is cheaper in CA.

Anyway, we are very excited to get to Santa Cruz on Monday and start in on our veggie conversion so stay tuned! Many veggie details to come....

Friday, September 12, 2008

On the Road Again...for the First Time!

Day #4 of our adventures in goin' south!

Right now we're in an internet cafe in Merlin, OR outside of the Rouge River BLM land near Grants Pass, OR. We're having an awesome time - it feels so good to be out and about experiencing our home in all these different places. Much relaxation happening.

I'm also getting lots of driving practice in! She can sort of keep pace with the semis on the I-5. The only fatalities so far are the many bugs caught in our radiator.

Here's our first camping spot on the North Umpqua river off of hwy 138.

We were planning on taking 138 through to Crater Lake and hooking onto the 97. Unfortunately, there's a big wildfire up in those parts and the road is blocked! Travelers take note!

While we were there we hiked up to see the "McDonald homestead" was 4 miles uphill but it was worth it!

After camping there 2 nights, we went up to the road closure on the 138 to figure out what the heck was going on with all this smoke, fire and closed road rumors. We thought they would tell us that the road would open in a couple days. We were wrong. They told us it might be weeks before the road opened because the fire was only "8/30 contained" (whatever that means) and to turn around and backtrack back to the I-5 . We turned her around and sent our best wishes for a safe and swift end to the fire. The folks up in Dry Creek are worried about losing their homes to this thing.

So we backtracked and drove a couple hours south on the I-5 to the Rogue River BLM land outside of Merlin. Awesome! Washed my hair in this river. =)

Our sweet parkin' spot....

The bad news is that we need a new air hose for our front left brake. We were idiots and let it get worn on this loose access flap that should have been secured better. Ooops. Now we know what "that noise" was. Its not leaking air (yet) but we want to get it fixed. Tried to do it here in Merlin but we were told it would be best to go on to this truck stop in Medford where they can make up the hose for us on the spot. We're going to stay over here for the weekend until Monday and make an early morning push then for Medford with a watchful eye on the air pressure. =)

We are really wanting a 12v fan in the cockpit right about now.....

Thanks all for the encouragement! xoxoxoo

Will keep ya'll updated.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Preparing for Departure

Ooooo-ooo: prudy new tires and wheels!!

Annnd....we got our first tag! Thanks for nothing "husk."

My fellow Americans, I ask you: When will we stop selling fatty sharpies to rouge middle schoolers?

Anyway, we're going to paint it over (white) and paint all our lovely "chrome" (read: sheet metal) accents to match at the same time. We want to get it done today before we leave in an effort to make the bus less scary-looking.

In addition to getting new tires, we took the bus to Schweitzer's automotive to get the rear differential oil level checked and also have someone look at the transmission. It was acting weird...maybe?...we weren't sure so we thought it might be prudent to have someone look at it. The rear diff thing was Spencer's idea. The guys at Shweitzer's turned out to be very cool. The rear diff was fine (we could have checked it ourselves....oh well...just trying to be cautious this first time around) and the tranny was fine except some anonymous idiot (me) over-filled the fluid. Good to know. =)

Enough about other people messing with our bus. Back to us monkeys. In addition to painting those less desirable parts of our bus today, we are also going to replace our hood support wire. You can see in the pic here that its just hanging on by a thread...

Yesterday we replaced our engine temp gauge. Here's the broken one:

Here's the back of it...turns out that the wire coming into the bottom of it isn't a wire at all...its a tiny tube....filled with ether?!....that can be really nasty if you cut into it. (Thanks for letting me know, friendly Knechts guy!) Guess who came ::this close:: to cutting into it before she knew better? Just goes to show...if you don't know...don't cut it.

Here's where that ether tube connects into the back of the engine.

So we bought a replacement gauge at Knechts. The tube and the gauge are all one thing - they can't be disconnected from one another. That means we had to replace the whole thing.

We struggled for a while to try to get that bushing on the engine undone but eventually gave up...goddamn it was tight and in a *&^%ed up spot...and we didn't have the right sized wrench...(note to self: get complete wrench set NOW) ...luckily there happened to be a house guest staying with Julia's mom who not only had the right wrench but was also stronger than us. Yay.

But once it was installed, we weren't sure if it was working. Rev the engine as we might, it wasn't moving.

So we took the bus up over the hill out to Lane Community's sort of a pseudo-freeway to get out there so that was good practice. We topped out at about 30 mph going up that hill. (Seriously.) I see a lot of driving-in-the-slow-lane-with-my-hazards-on in my future.

We also got to test out the lower gears. Don't ask me why they designed it like this but it's a stretch to reach the gear shifter from the driver's seat. I felt lucky to have such a competent co-pilot next to me because Julia was shifting gears for me like a pro. (Don't forget, its an automatic, folks!)

Lo and behold, sometime during the drive the engine temp gauge sprung to life. We were hovering around 180 degrees the whole time which seems good to me.

So once the sketchy parts of our bus are painted over and that little wire is replaced, we'll be good to go. I finally caved to the pressure and agreed to get a pre-paid cellphone for emergencies. (I hold it 3 feet away from me and use it with the speakerphone on....and keep it turned off the rest of the know they can't prove it's dangerous....but they can't prove its safe either!) Also on our to-do list: clean the garage (total disaster area), sort out our tools, load up extra stuff we need to take down to CA for storage, clean cockpit (its covered in a good layer of grease/dust), install the bike rack thingy on the back of the bus, buy a decent CA/Oregon atlas and go food shopping.

Our estimated time of departure from Eugene is tomorrow or the next day depending on how fast we can get our stuff together.


A quick word from Julia: We're planning on driving east from Eugene on Hwy 58 and then hook up with hwy 97 so that we can check out Eastern Oregon a bit on the way down (and avoid some of the intense mountain passes on the I-5). That route hooks back up to the 5 around Weed. We want to take our time and do a little tripping around, so if anyone knows of any cool spots to stop on the way down we'd love to hear about it! This will be our first experience taking the rig on the road, finding places to park over night, and hopefully even doing some nature boondocking. Let us know if you have any tips! thanks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Out and About

So, after battening down the hatches, we moved the bus out of what we have lovingly called "the hole."

This is a view from the hole...looking down the 90 degree bend in the driveway and out onto the street, where we have temporarily parked the bus.

As some of you know, this is what happened last time I tried to drive up this driveway:

(Note: Our fellow bus friend, Spencer, deserves a shout-out for his heroic manuevering skills that got us out of the hole in one piece this time around. Thanks Spencer!)

After taking her out of the hole, we went straight to Green Eye Automotive in Eugene, OR to have them give us an estimate for doing the veggie conversion. Spent the night. Turns out the dude who owns it sucks. Not only was he trying to rip us off ($3,900?!?!?!?!?????) but he made a point of being a flaming asshole to us while he did it. It was very disappointing to see so little respect for the ladies at such a "progressive" and "enviornmentally friendly" local business. F you, Clark! We're keeping our money and we decided to do it our own goddamn selves. And speaking of bullshit: before we drive it down to CA, we are going to need a new vent cap for the composting toilet. We discovered the hard way that driving with a vent open in 360 degrees causes a back draft. Imagine that...

So yeah, the new plan is to get new wheels and tires ($2200...yikes!) tomorrow at Wyatt's and leave Eugene and make it to CA on regular old evil diesel. It's not ideal. Truth is, we don't have the time or place to convert it here and we've got friends who are interested in helping down in CA so that would make it more fun/educational.

In other news, turns out the stovepipe industry is trying to poison you. After spending a lot of time last winter wondering "what's that other smell?" when I lit up my wood stove, a family friend (thanks, Greg!) let us know that they've recently started painting black stove pipe with nasty paint that releases noxious fumes when it gets hot. Real intelligent. When Greg was installing his wood stove, he spent a day calling around to find what he called "blue pipe" (the old school, non-noxious stuff that got replaced with black pipe) and was unable to find it anywhere. He settled for black pipe and spent an afternoon going over his new pipe with his propane torch to try to do its nasty thing before he put it in his house. After that, the smell went away.

We didn't think we could have enough patience to go over every inch with our torch so we decided to have a bonfire.

We left the pipes in there for a couple hours and made sure that every part of them glowed red by moving them around with sticks every now and then. Boonie, our spiritual leader/kitty also participated.

In still other news, the water mains up the street broke and created a river for a couple hours underneath our bus. Thank goodness for wheel chocks. Never thought I would see water move an asphalt street up 5 inches in the air or see an asphalt water volcano. It was pretty awesome. We also got to see a pageant of the city's International trucks in action. Very exciting.

Tomorrow: new wheels and tires! Bye-bye split rims.