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Day 1: Phoenix, AZ to Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Left Phoenix later than planned, thus had to take I-10. By the time we reached the Colorado River, it was dark. Hate driving at night, but, fortunately, it wasn't too far of a drive to Joshua Tree.


Day 2: Joshua Tree National Park to San Simeon State Park

As is the tasty ritual, we left Joshua Tree in time to make it to Bob's Big Boy in Calimesa for brunch. Following a delicious burger, we stopped in at Arco for fuel. Oops… plastic money not accepted. Damn! Forgot about Arco pulling that stupid move. Thus, drove across the street to Shell. Regardless of the station, gas is ungodly expensive in California!


Due to Highway 1 being in constant state of repair, and for a change of scenery and to avoid the dreadful drive through L.A., we opted for the inland route. The drive was going splendidly until the transition to I-15… turned into a parking lot thanks to CalTrans doing some gardening in the median. Eventually we made it to 15 and continued onward towards Wrightwood on 138, then to Palmdale via 18. Hadn't been to Palmdale in decades… wow, what a mistake that route was! Highway 18 turns into a signal light-infested Main Street. After what seemed like forever, we finally made it to "Highway" 14 (not marked as such), taking us to the continuation of Highway 138, which was a refreshing scenic drive compared to the concrete jungle of Palmdale.


Pushing onward, we made the long journey all the way to San Simeon via Highway 46 through Paso Robles and wine country. It was dark by the time we crested Black Mountain and getting quite late when we pulled into Cambria for a fuel fill-up. Finally reaching San Simeon, we found a spot and called it a night. Unfortunately, I failed to take photos during these first two days.

 

Day 3: San Simeon State Park to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up and headed north on Highway 1. We stopped to briefly watch elephant seals and not long afterward, a Porsche  911 suddenly appeared in the rearview mirror. At first opportunity, said Porsche zoomed past, taking half a dozen more gorgeous Porsches with it. Not much farther up the road, we pulled off to let even more Porsches go by, this time 356's along with a white Westy. The thing about Highway 1, it's a fun drive in a fast car provided there's no slow traffic. We caught up with those Porsches and Westy miles later. We eventually ended up behind the Westy, which turned off at Big Sur Station. Just up the highway was our destination, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Luckily, we had a reservation because the place was packed. Our spot was near the entrance station along the creek; while setting up, the white Westy drove by. After lunch, I put on my hiking shoes and set out for the waterfall. During my walk, I spotted a few more Vanagons (sorry, no photos).


Once at the creek, it was pretty obvious the park sustained major damage during the storms that blew through over the last year: bridges washed out, trees down, camp sites buried.


Day 4: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to Laguna Seca Raceway

Cruised up to Safeway in Monterey to stock up on last-minute items. Arrived back at the van to find a Canadian Westy parked next to Old Blue (sorry, no pic). They, too, were on their way to Rennsport, although they were camping out across the track from us.


Arriving at the track, we found out Rennsport is much more strict on tickets. Only two tickets were purchased, but the nice gentleman at the gate said, "Is that your mom?" (Yes; she's disabled and won't be going to the paddock".) "Okay, go on in." Awesome! But then we arrived at the traffic director. Our gray camping pass hanging from the mirror as instructed, she told us to go right when we needed to go left. I began trying to explain to the girl that gray means up on the hill above turn 11, but she insisted we go right. Great. That meant driving all the way over to the main entrance. But because of the traffic volume, we couldn't hang a U-turn until we wound our way clear over to the paddock entrance!  Thanks a lot you dumb dipstick, who we drove right past about 5 minutes later!


Anyway, Rennsport did not disappoint… Porsches, Porsches, and more Porsches… everywhere! It was Porsche heaven!

Seen enough Porsches yet? All of the above is not even half the photos I took! The last one (at lower right) is the racer 918 out for a video/photoshoot around Laguna Seca's perimeter roads, which proceeded to stall on the hill. It sat there for a good 5-10 minutes before the driver was finally able to re-start it… that car doesn't like driving slow!


Day 8: Laguna Seca to San Simeon… wait, make that Fresno

At this point, I need to backtrack in the story by a few weeks. Mom and Dad have been looking to get some sort of camping vehicle of their own. They looked at small motorhomes and truck bed campers, but nothing seemed to really catch their fancy. Motorhomes were eventually ruled out: Too big and too expensive. That left truck campers. But they're equally as expensive, plus storage was a slight issue. That really left one option: a Westy. Thus, Mom began a search, including setting up a classifieds alert on The Samba. An ad popped up for a white automatic 1990, but it was in Durango. Well, it's not that far of a drive, so we piled into my GTI and sped off to Colorado for a couple of nights. The trip, aside from the beautiful views, was an utter waste of time; the van was completely misrepresented and the seller would not budge on the price, which was too high.

Fast-forward back to Rennsport. Mom opened up her email to see a new ad: Gray '89 with manual trans in Fresno. Since Fresno is basically on the way home (albeit not in the direction of Big Boy), I suggested we stop and take a look… nothing to lose and it couldn't possibly be any worse than the Durango van. Mom called the seller and made a mutual meeting time/place, which meant leaving Laguna Seca first thing Monday morning (after paying the extra $50! camp fee… outrageous, $50 to park on a dirt hill for a night).


Following the GPS to Fresno, we were treated to a rather off-the-beaten path "shortcut" out of Salinas via the San Juan Grade Road, which should be renamed to Landfill Avenue. While scenic, the roadside was filled with garbage: clothes, furniture, trash, toys, etc. Anyway, the road ended at Highway 152, which took us by San Luis Reservoir and over to Highway 99 and on to Fresno. After some confusion on which direction to head from the freeway, we finally found the meeting place where the gray '89 Westy was waiting. After giving the van a look-see, Dad hopped into the driver's seat, Mom into back seat, and seller in the passenger seat. I stayed behind and chatted with the seller's husband. Test drive complete, one final walk-around was conducted, including operating everything but the fridge. The sun was going to be down in a couple of hours and we still needed to get to a camp site. After pointing out all of the flaws, Dad told the sellers, "We'll talk it over tonight and give you a call in the morning." With that, we headed up the road to Millerton Lake, stopping for ice and propane along the way.


Arriving at Millerton in the dark, the campground was eerily quiet and no one was around. We parked in a spot overlooking the lake and conveniently across from the bathrooms, which were unlocked (phew!). We had a late dinner, kind of talked about the van, and went to bed, being woken early in the morning by rain.

   


Day 9: Millerton Lake/Fresno to Bakersfield, CA

Breakfast eaten, Blue dried off, and a park service guy arrived. Amazingly, he was there emptying trash cans, locking the bathrooms, and, eventually, the gates. Yes, we timed that one well! Not only was that the last night of the campground's season until Spring, we stayed for free! Meanwhile, still no serious conversation about the gray van. Dad drove Old Blue back to Fresno to compare how it drives to the gray one. By the time we reached Fresno, it was decided to make an offer a bit less than asking price, given the van's flaws. No sooner did we exit the freeway when the phone rang. It was the seller. Long story cut short, she accepted the offer and we met at the BofA that happened to be in the same shopping center we pulled into for the money/title exchange. After goodbyes and well wishes, the adventure began. There at the bank, we started going through the van to see what stuff had been included: Tools, manuals, cookware, spare fluids… basically everything needed except bedding! Across the street was In-N-Out, where we opted to have lunch before beginning the long trek back home. It was there that problem #1 was encountered: coolant leak. Since we decided to get two-way radios to more readily communicate on the road, we drove across the other street to REI. After the radio purchase, tools were retrieved and the engine lid removed. Problem #2: Hatch wouldn't stay up. Aaah, welcome to Vanagon ownership!

Leak source found and temporarily repaired (busted bleeder ring connection), and a couple of bolts tightened, we were finally eastward bound. Given the time, we opted to stay at a county campground near Bakersfield along the Kern River. En route, couldn't help but notice Dad's arm hanging out the window the entire way. Problem #3: Floppy mirror syndrome!


After popping the tops, a more thorough investigation into the van was conducted, which revealed even more stuff!  And problem #4: Nothing electrical in the kitchen worked (turned out to be a completely dead nearly 10-year-old battery – van sat for about 8 years after the seller's first husband passed away). This van is also equipped with a Fiamma awning and bike rack, 3-window tent, and has a bra (which, like Old Blue's, hadn't been removed in years).

    


Day 10: Bakersfield, CA to Boulder City, NV

Come morning, Dad repaired the floppy mirrors so that they were good and tight. After some cleaning and reorganizing, we were off to Denny's… which delayed us big time because the cooks were agonizingly slow. We flew over the mountain and made a pit-stop in Tehachapi, then made our way to Boulder City, narrowly missing witnessing a major semi crash (and me narrowly missing rear-ending another semi) at Kramer Junction thanks to the trucker in front of me not paying attention upon approaching that idiotic intersection at 395. The guy hit the brakes and swerved into the oncoming lane, coming to rest on the shoulder. He was extremely fortunate that no vehicles were heading west at that moment.


Aside from wind, a tingly right leg, nearly $5 a gallon for gas in Jean, NV, and the GPS sending us the wrong direction in Henderson, it was a rather uneventful drive to Boulder City where we camped for the (stormy) night and met up with my uncle.


Day 11: Boulder City, NV to Phoenix, AZ

After breakfast with Uncle at his favorite cafe in Boulder City, we were off to Meadview to drop off the gray van and continue on to home.


For those interested in Old Gray's, as it's now called, update: Bra and hatch rack removed, paint buffed (original color was Dove Blue; a previous owner had it painted a metallic gray), 16" wheels and BFG tires installed, lift springs installed, new axles installed (upon replacement, CV bolts discovered way loose; van was lucky to make it all the way to Arizona), headlight adjusters replaced, grilles painted, headlights cleaned, new auxiliary battery installed, solar system, hookup boxes and portable fridge installed, carpet and upholstery cleaned, new stove face-plate installed (original had been horribly painted), LED interior lights added, bumpers painted, curtains washed, and more I'm probably forgetting. Still to do: Paint the roof.

Total miles: 1,717

Avg. MPG: 16.1

Adventure 29: Porsche Rennsport Reunion; Monterey, CA                                   September 27-30, 2018