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So for those of you who have checked out my video from the road trip I did to Burning Man in 2011, you will have noticed that the hippie van broke down half way to Nevada.
It was on a Saturday night, three days and 2,300km into our trip from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on our way to Black Rock City, Nevada, USA when I started to notice some issues. Mainly I felt a lack of power in the already relatively low powered 79′ four cylinder air cooled VW engine.
One common issue that could cause this, is a leak in the engines vacuum lines. After pulling off and checking the engine, there didn’t seem to be any obvious leaks in the vacuum lines and everything else seemed fairly normal (from my limited amount of knowledge). We trudged on for a couple more hours at which point we turned-in for the night at a gas station off the side of the road. We later found out that gas station and small cabin was the town of Buford.
Buford, Wyoming, holds the title for both, the highest geographical elevation (at 8000ft. or 2438 meters above sea level) between New York and San Fransisco as well as the title of ‘The Smallest Town in America’, with a bustling population of ONE!
Sunday morning when we woke up, I tried starting up the van. Now it wouldn’t start at all. This was not good. We were suppose to be arriving at the Burning Man festival on Monday and I had three others relying on me and the little hippie van that could.
I called CAA/Triple A (a roadside assistance service, you pay for on a yearly basis). They came and towed the van to Laramie (about 30 minutes away). The whole trip we were driving alongside our friends who were in a rented RV (RV=Recreational vehichle/motor home). Luckily for that, this ended up saving the day in the end, not to mention adding a whole lot of fun to the trip. When I got the tow from the AAA, the rest of the crew jumped in the RV and followed to Laramie.
Upon arrival in Laramie we realized that it was a Sunday, we were in the ‘Bible Belt’ of America and pretty much every garage was closed. What was the only place open in town? Walmart. Did they have a mechanic on staff? Not on Sundays. We considered the options. Leave the van, pile into the RV, and pick the van up on the way back. Would we have enough room in the RV for the added gear of four people? Probably not. Rent a second RV? Dam that would have been pricey and again everything was closed until Monday.
The most important factor in this all was staying calm and not freaking out. I somehow got this idea, ‘tow hitch’. I remembered often seeing RV’s on the highway towing cars behind them. Usually people with RV’s, that live in them, also tow along their cars as it is not practical to drive around in the RV all the time when your traveling and want to see sights and such. I B-lined it through the Walmart to the automotive section. After scanning two of the automotive aisle, there it was. A beautiful black bar of solution. At only $100USD or so it was a no brain’er. My friend Clayton who rented the RV was more than happy to hitch us up as long as we all split the gas costs, which we were happy to do.
Within 40 minutes of purchasing it, we had the van hitched up. We piled all nine of us into the RV and we were on our way.
The moral of the story, when you hit a road block, stay calm and just work it out, because if there is a will there is a way, and that way is much easier to figure out when you are calm.
On a side note, after getting to Burning Man, I made my way over to the VW Bus Camp (a theme camp for VW bus enthusiasts). A couple of the guys offered to help me fix the van. Within 20 minutes it was fixed. It ended up being something incredibility small, ‘the points’ in the ignition system were fried. A $10 piece that could be changed in a matter of minutes. As a result, I am planning to replace my ignition system (the original standard system) with a new electronic ignition system that doesn’t use points, thus removing the possibility of this specific issue coming up again.