Monthly Archives: June 2015

Give Me Shelter

fawn under busI think it’s safe to assume that most people getting behind the wheel of a VW Bus have an eye for nature, after all, half of the people I run into refer to it as a “hippie van.”  Often, we’re pretty close to nature when we park the Westfalia to pop up the camper-top and enjoy time away from more civilized trappings.

Today, however, nature found my bus.  With it out of commission while waiting for my alternator to be rebuilt, it’s been in my driveway up on ramps.  As I pulled into the driveway in my car, I saw this little guy taking shade from the hot sun under my bus.  I zoomed in from ten feet or so behind my bus.  When I got right up to the bus, he took off into the woods.  I’m glad he has that sense because I’d hate to think that it was that tame.

fawn 48 hoursI think it’s the same fawn I saw just a few weeks back.  Then, it was easily the smallest guy I’d ever seen up close.  It couldn’t have been more than 48 hours old.  I say him coming through our back woods, still shorter than most of the undergrowth.  It took shelter under the roots of a fallen tree and I was able to get a picture.  I had not seen it since then, so part of me was happy the little guy was still around.

fawn MinnieWe have lots of deer around our house.  Last June we had a similar close encounter where our dog Minnie got curious with a week-old fawn.  As much as we hate the way they eat our shrubs, flowers, and even a few plastic plants, you can’t help but love the chance encounters with the fawns.

I don’t know if the green color of my bus made it seem more natural for it to take shelter under.  Part of me wants to think that it’s a providential sign and part of the good aura of such a vehicle.  Realistically, I drove up in a quiet car, at the right time, and in the right frame of mind that I looked around to happen into an experience worth writing about.

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State of the Bus 2015

bouncin-busKeeping a 38-year-old vehicle on the road is not always easy.  Cars from the 1970’s did not have the rust-proofing nor quality pain and clear-coating that is available today.  if my bus had not lived its entire life in Pittsburgh, it would probably be compost at this point.  Luckily, it’s West Coast upbringing and barn hiatus the past two winters have kept the body from degrading too quickly.

bus panel replaceBut it is time to repair some lower body panels before the damage becomes severe.   The Bus Depot sold me lower body panels at a very reasonable price.  They’ve been there with parts throughout and make this whole venture possible at all, so I’m thankful for their service.  Those body panels will save me the expense of custom fabricating or really bad patching.  Now with the help of some friends with a knowledge of body work, I hope to get them in place and primed to halt the most serious rust.

Unfortunately, it’s not just body rust I’m fighting.  I have a slight exhaust leak in the manifold off of cylinder 1.  Samba exhaust systems went in a couple of directions in the mid-70’s and the ones in the states differ from those in Europe, making some parts hard to find.  Most aftermarket parts are styled to work on the European models where since the numbers were greater there, combined with the same parts used in the rest of the Americas.  It means that I may have to convert my heat exchangers and exhaust for models made before 1975, so some creative adaptation may be required.alternators

Then there’s the alternator.  It went and upon ordering a replacement, I found out a previous owner got creative and used a 70 amp alternator instead of the standard 55 amp one.  Good if you think about having added capacity to generate electricity, but bad if he did not also use the right pulley with a fan blade for increased cooling capability.  That may be why I had to have a local company rebuild it and find a proper blade/pulley combo. (Thanks Boulevard Generators).  So now I’m set with a well-rebuilt alternator but spent double the price for a 55A one, but still $100 less than asking price for the 70A variety.

silk tail linerFinally, I continue to tweak the inside little by little.  When I over-reached while belted in the car and tore a silk shirt I’ve enjoyed for 20 years, it ticked me off.  But when I was able to give that fabric new life covering the tail section of the headliner, I was rather pleased with myself. Now to get all of those old torn jeans into sections large enough to make the inner door panels more presentable.  I’m looking forward to my old back pockets being spare storage on the various doors they’ll go onto.

The toughest thing is lasting through the dry spells where I can’t drive it.  When I drive in it and get the smiles from other drivers and kids, it fuels me to keep it running and forget other stress.  Passing by it on the ramps waiting for the right part or time/finances to fix it can be hard.  Still worth the cost of admission though 🙂