Then and now.
Everyone’s a little older. A little more weathered.
Maybe a little wiser.
A family of three drives an old VW bus from San Francisco to the tip of South America.
Then and now.
Everyone’s a little older. A little more weathered.
Maybe a little wiser.
The same day we were in Alameda, we got an email from Cameron and an offer to meet up for lunch. He’s already been off on one roadtrip to South America that was cut short by a car wreck. Now, he’s back home and prepping for a second attempt – this time in a Westy. There you go – now there’s at least two Westy trips to the end of the continent(s) that started in Alameda: Overlander Central.
The funny thing is we were on our way to go see some overlanding friends in Eureka and Arcata that same day.
We first met Lorna and Steve in Peru, and then crossed paths again in Chile. Now they’re back in California and thinking about the next trip. They still have the Landy – it barely made it back from Santiago – but are planning a more comfortable ride the next time around. Maybe a Sprinter.
Ten miles away in Arcata were Luis and Lacey. These guys left California in a Landcruiser about he same time we did and returned home about the same time as well. We found each other through other travelers a few years ago and were sure we would meet on the road at some point… but that never happened until today. Super cool folks who are also itching to get back on the road. We’ll meet up again somewhere. Baja for Thanksgiving? We’ll figure it out.
We had to climb a 24% grade on Hwy 4 to get up and over the Sierras on the way here, but it was easy coasting down the other side to the Bay Area. And hot. Still really hot.
We’ve spent a few days visiting some old friends, eaten firehouse pancakes and meandered around the the bay. It’s strange to be back here and driving around in the bus. Good, but weird. Next, we head up north for a bit to catch up with more folks and then point the bus towards Mexico.
Back in Colombia, we got the news that our tenants had bought a house and would be moving out on September 1. It took all of about 5 minutes to dismiss the idea of moving back into our old house and back to the cubicle. Luckily, through word of mouth we were able to find new tenants within a week without either of us (me or the new tenant) actually being in California.
Last week we made an efficient trip back to California. We did some maintenance on our old house and met the new tenants. Jason worked, we ate lots of sushi and ice cream, and most importantly, we spent every opportunity we could meeting up with some old friends and meeting some new ones.
It was fantastic to see everyone. And as if to reaffirm our decision to avoid real life while we can, we found more of our friends over-stressed, over-scheduled, getting sued (!), and even battling some major health issues. It seems to be going around. I guess it’s mostly our advancing age, but this year seems to have taken it’s toll on too many of the people we love. Scary stuff. We wish them luck, recovery and health in the immediate future.
Speaking of valuing every moment – Bode and I spent a shaky four hours at the Dept of Motor Vehicles. Years ago, we’d removed the month and year stickers from Red Beard’s expired plates, and we were told that it now wasn’t possible to re-register the expired classic blue plates. But, a couple of weeks ago I made a call to confirm, and was told to send in $14 for the suspension fine, and $72 for the new stickers. On the form we filled out to accompany this, we used Jason’s Texas ID (which we got last year knowing our CA driver’s licenses were about to expire) and had to write in a note that it was from Texas.
We were pretty sure this wasn’t going to work, but I thought it might be worth heading to the DMV to find out if there was anything more I could do… including renewing my CA driver’s license. The thing is, when we got the TX licenses, we had to prove residency, which was fairly easy considering we had changed our mailing address to Texas. And, although we own a house in California, we didn’t have any documents that would prove we live there, because well, we don’t live there.
There were no appointments available at any DMV in Northern California for three weeks, so I loaded up with snacks and books, Bode and I headed to Pleasanton and arrived as they opened. We weren’t the first ones. It took 45 minutes just to get a number. Bode killed it reading Call of the Wild for an hour and a half before standing up, stretching and asking to play games on my phone. The young man next to me, reading some Star Wars novel commented to him that he liked his shirt. Then he says, ‘I noticed you’re reading Call of the Wild, my great, great uncle wrote it.” So, we met Joe London. Bode moved next to him and they talked for the next hour. Only in California.
At about the three and half hour mark, it was finally my turn. With a quick computer check on our vehicle, the kind employee told me the stickers had been issued and we would receive them within the month. No further information or payment necessary. It was all just too easy – no extra fees for reinstatement of expired plates like we had been told previously. We don’t want to jinx it, so our fingers are crossed until they arrive.
I decided to try my luck at renewing my CA license anyway, since it would be nice if one of us had a license from the state our vehicle was registered in. I told them it was expired and I didn’t have it, could I renew? A few clickity-clacks later, and I was asked if I had surrendered it. Well, yes, in Texas where I had gotten a license while visiting since my California license was expired. Same address? Yes. OK, $32 USD. Line up for a photo and a test.
Test, what?!!! I sweated that one out, wishing I’d been studying all that time I was sitting on my butt. In the end, I skated by and should have a new DL being sent to our new tenant’s place in a few weeks.
Of course, our successful trip was still a bit short. So, I’m trying to convince Jason to get to work on Red Beard so we can road trip back to California later this year.
Announce to all your friends and family that you are going to do something preposterous.
This serves a few purposes. You can hear yourself say it and explain it out loud enough times that it starts to make sense… or it might help you realize you’re completely full of sh!*. In either case, you’ll probably learn something valuable.
If it’s just crazy enough (and you live in a small enough town) you might get some attention from the local paper. Maybe they’ll come interview you. Maybe they’ll put your picture in the paper. Smile! Somehow, we ended up on the front page.
Assuming your hometown is small enough, you might send them an update after a few years to let them know you actually went through with it and haven’t been kidnapped or dissolved your marriage. They might even have a feature in the paper where they publish photos of people ‘reading’ their paper in other parts of the world. Take along your front page spread, big shot.
Lest you think we’re major narcissists, we haven’t been carrying around newspaper clippings of ourselves for the entire trip. We came across the paper when were purging more of our belongings from Angela’s parent’s house over the holidays. It was either chunk it or pack it. It was small enough – we packed it.
And, many thanks to Mike C. for providing the newspapers clippings/scans!
Your know your car has character when it plays practical jokes on you. Today was the day we finally moved out of our house and literally the first time I have ever ridden in this bus. We made it about, oh, 20 miles or so before the horn came on… and stayed on. We had to pull over and disconnect the wire to the horn. Classy.
We’re not really the honking type, so we probably don’t need it anyway. One interesting observation: At first, the people around us turned to look at us in disgust… assuming we were an impatient jackass blaring their horn at a little old lady. Once they realized it was coming from the old red bus, they all just shrugged it off – like it was either expected or excused coming from an old VW. When I was in high school I inherited my grandfather’s old truck. It would honk whenever I turned left… that’s character.
Anyway, getting that far down the road was a feat in itself.
Now would be the time when we thank our new tenants. We appreciate their patience while attempting to move their beloved possessions into their new home, but waiting for their new idiot landlords to get their heap packed and out of the driveway. Did I mention Jason has a PhD in something really impressive? You would never guess if you were to judge by today’s display. Think Beverly Hillbillies.
Aside from the frantic last-minute packing and shoving-off, we will be floating around the Bay Area for a few more days until we sell one last car. It’s a bit of an anticlimactic start, but we see it as a blessing. We’re now relaxing at the home of a generous friend and hope to take a few days to ease into our new life, run some more errands, re-pack under less stress, and maybe do some local sightseeing before heading out.
Speaking of generous friends… thanks to all the people who have helped us get it all together in the past few weeks. There are old friends like Doug who helped play Tetris with our furniture in our storage room, Breean who not only helped clean up the house but also dyed my hair in the front yard (the house was already cleaned out!), and Sarah, Jennifer and Julie for feeding Bode sorbet and keeping him entertained while we packed everything up. There are also new friends like VW guru Kris who has come over at least 4 times to help tweak up the bus, donate parts and bent over backwards to help ensure we could leave successfully (note: inspect the horn next time!)
We were most surprised by new friends and some complete strangers who were interested enough to come find us and share their well-wishes and experiences. These are the types of people we hope to continue to meet along the way…
Apologies for not posting recently, but we’ve been beyond busy . There are house projects, packing, storing, selling stuff… and the van still isn’t ready. We are also making every effort to see our friends, and that included a very fun party Friday night. We did manage to clean out our liquor cabinet, but ended up with more food than we started with.
Speaking of ending up with more, yesterday was not very productive. Jason’s new VW buddy, Chris, was kind enough to come over for the ‘final’ tune up. Now the the van is running great. Meanwhile, inside the van Bode was playing with tools and tore several holes in the back seat’s upholstery.
Later, when we occupied him with computer games, he downloaded viruses that took Jason 3 hours to clean up. Needless to say, he was frustrated. A bit exhausted, Jason laid down (collapsed) to rest for a while and got an unexpected nurse. In perhaps his first ever significant sign of empathy, Bode sat down next to Jason and began rubbing his back… followed by a big hug. It worked.
Jason has had to work all week, so things at the home front are moving slowly anyway. Thanks to the help of several of our friends I am still hopeful we will be out of the house when the renters move in on Friday. No, we will be out. Whether we get the van ready and sell two cars will determine if we get to leave the Bay Area.