Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Big Blue's Christmas Gift

EP worked hard on new curtains for Big Blue last night and this morning...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hippy Holidays!

This was the final e-card we sent out with Big Blue in it...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The elusive "Bus Bus"...

Most VW nuts have seen pictures of the elusive "Bus Bus", but to see one in person is a rare occasion which inspires a respect for the "Bus Bus" creator. This is a story I eluded to a few weeks ago as it happened on Big Blue's Coastal Trip.

We were playing Frisbee Golf at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville when I saw it. Way in the back by the 5th hole, through the trees, was an elusive "Bus Bus". Shocked by its appearance, I handed the backpack to EP, pulled out my camera, and started toward the beast.

There was a barbed wire fence in the way, but I couldn't let that stop me from the chance to see the "Bus Bus" up close. I duck-waddled under it Rambo-style. While doing so I became caught! Struggling to get to the other side without detection, I gave it one last push and something let go and I was through!

On the other side now, I started toward the "Bus Bus" and, without warning, noises at the farmhouse which guarded the beast! Not much time. I snapped a quick picture, stopped and admired the work, and hustled back under the fence...

EP was waiting on the other side. She pointed out damage to my sweater. Damn, my favorite fall-weather sweater...

But here is the picture of the "Bus Bus".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New curtains!

We have been meaning to change the curtains on Big Blue for a while. EP has been scouring the fabric stores without luck until this Sunday. At Bed, Bath and Beyond, we happened across a duvet cover by Roxy that we liked. Turned out there is enough material in a duvet cover to make all the curtains we need for Big Blue, so we spent Sunday night cutting. Here is the curtain history:

Pattern put in by California Road Runner Campers shortly after the bus was new.

Pattern as it is now. It was replaced at some point during Monty's ownership. We are thinking it must have been in the 80s.

EP working on the new curtains last Sunday. We should have enough material left over to do matching pillows for the bench seat.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Picked up wood to begin the inside...

Today, EP and I went to San Rafael Lumber to pick up the 2 5'x5' sheets of 1/4 inch Baltic Birch they had ordered for us. I was able to drive, even with the broken hand, so no lessons for EP as of yet.

The wood looks good and I can't wait to get started, although this broken hand is slowing me down. It is shocking how thin the wood is...

Here are some pics...

Big Blue meets the lumber store.

A fearful EP who knows once her husband enters the lumber store, all other projects for the day are forgotten.

Big Blue's full belly.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Outtakes and a broken thumb...

Well, I had planned on doing some of the woodwork on the interior - the kick panels and door panels - this weekend. There are 2 5'x5' 1/4 inch Baltic Birch plywood pieces waiting to be picked up at Rafael Lumber. But last night, while playing some tag football with the guys from work, I broke my thumb. After a trip to the ER., it is now resting nicely in a giant bandage that goes up to my elbow.

The worst result of the injury is not the fact that I will most likely need surgery, but that I can't drive Big Blue. With no power steering and a manual transmission, driving it one handed would be rather tough. So I guess I am going to use this as an opportunity to teach EP how to drive him.

But for now, I leave you with some pre-broken thumb outtakes of our holiday card. We had the Frog take these last Sunday...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More memories from Big Blue and Monty...

We are still going through Big Blue's insides cleaning and cleaning. We found a few interesting things from the previous owner in the last few weeks...

EP has a new coffee mug now! She found this in the fridge and fell in love with it...

Lots of memories from the Reno Air Races. More of this to come.

Perhaps someone who knows a little more about high class joints knows what these are. I hope it involved hamburgers being delivered by the The Point Hilton Staff...

These little planes decorate the awning that came with the bus. Memories of the air races? We are leaving them on as a nod to the bus's history...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Reflectors: Need your opinion....

While Big Blue was just a wee blue panel truck on the assembly line in Germany, they drilled 4 holes into his sides, one behind each front door on both sides, and one behind each back wheel. The back reflectors were red, the front orange.

40 years later, 3 remained. The fourth, the rear passenger one, had rusted through so badly, that it had fallen out (see picture). Only 1 of the 3 remaining was relatively rust free as the seals collect and keep water against the paint. Now the reflectors are off, sitting in a zip lock baggie, cleaned and the old seals have been thrown away.

So here is where I need your opinion; Should I put them back on after we paint Blue?

Consider this: some states require reflectors on the side to pass an inspection by the DMV. Some don't care. They were placed there as safety devices, but are they really still needed with today's headlight technology? And, aren't they just going to rust again?

A parent's opinion counts as half as we know you lean toward safety over looks anyway....

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

California Road Runner History

Okay - so Big Blue is a California Road Runner Camper with a Riviera top added by ASI later. Here is some info about the California Road Runner Company, although there is not much to go on out there. Also, not sure why we didn't get a plate on the side of the bus like the both the bay window and the split window below seem to have...

Front side of the brochure that was in Big Blue - we seem to still have the entire package - even the awning outside!

The back of the brochure from California Road Runner Camper.

Another camper advertised as a California Road Runner Camper, notice the green name plate above the reflector by the passenger door.

Our interior is really different than this one.

Updated January 15th, 2008:
Martin sent the link to his California Road Runner pictures, so I thought that I'd post them here. His is exactly like Big Blue, except he has a back passenger side window and blue seats up front. Other than the condition (his is awesome), they are long lost brothers...

Check it out:

Updated 3-1-09 - some pics of a bus that may be a California Road Runner. The windows, the color of the table and the closeness to San Francisco lead me to believe it was a California Road Runner:

Monday, December 3, 2007

Big Blue's Coastal Roadtrip - the video!

Big Blue's Coastal Roadtrip

This past weekend, EP and I decided to put a few more miles on Big Blue to test him in terms of distance and comfort. It was the first time that both of us traveled in Big Blue for an extended period of time (on the Napa camping trip, EP drove the MINI up to meet me as she was in class) and I am happy to say that he passed with flying colors.

The first part of the trip was a short one, over the hill from us to Bolinas. We went later in the evening to avoid the traffic as we both feared the speed that Big Blue would climb the coastal hill on Highway 1. This is the curvy part of US 1 that you always see in the tour books (like Big Sur, only less killer drop-off).

Big Blue took the hill in second gear (max 20mph) with an occasional flat out run of 3rd gear (guess 35mph) but all in all, it wasn't bad. We had to move over about 4 times to let cars by but it was a lot less hassle than we feared.

Bolinas, a little surf town just to the north of Stinson Beach, a more popular destination, is well hidden from the tourists, and that's the way they like it. There are rumors of them spiking the road with nails to keep tourists out, and there is no sign for the turn-off to the town since the people kept tearing it down until CalTrans finally gave up (one sign hangs hidden in Coast Cafe). All this anti-tourism usually isn't thrown against us as we do a pretty good job of fitting in to places like this - and I thought Big Blue would help.

But our last few times at Bolinas have been weird experiences - the people seem to be a bit rougher and a bit more drug-induced. While the home owners are increasingly rich San Fran folks (One of the owners in the company I work for has a 2nd home there), the beach bums and bar flys seem to be more downtrodden. On this trip, we parked Big Blue away from the downtown and walked to Smiley's for a drink. The bar was rocking with a pretty good Irish/ska-type band, but the people outside the bar were very strange (not in a cool NorCal way, but a follow you into a dark alley and take your pants sort-of way). When we left, a stumbling woman followed us for a block before we sat down and waited for her to wander off. After that, we went back to Blue, locked him up and tried to get a decent night sleep.

We awoke to a car pulling up behind us. Not sure of the legalities, we stayed quiet as more and more surfers pulled in around us and were waxing their boards. I pulled back the curtain a bit, wiped off the moisture (it had gotten quite cold that night) that had collected on the insides of Big Blue's windows and saw, parked directly behind me, the customized MINI that Mike Shine, the owner of the agency I work at, drives. Mike wasn't around when I got out, but I must think that I am possibly the only person in the world who has slept in a VW Bus and woken up to his boss's boss waxing a surfboard next to him...

Big Blue parked in front of Mike Shine's MINI.

Big Blue covered in frost Saturday morning.

We didn't waste much time getting on the road and heading north up US1. Taking us through towns like Point Reyes Station, where we had an excellent breakfast, Marshall, Inverness, Tomales, Valley Ford, Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock filmed The Birds), Jenner, Sea Ranch, Gualala (home of author Denis Johnson), and, finally, Point Arena (rumored to be the biggest pot producing area in America), where we would cut off. This ride takes you right along the lesser traveled coast where the views are beautiful and the highway has cattle guards.
Brett paying respects to Big Blue along Highway 1.

At Point Arena, we turned away from the Pacific and headed up over the mountain range to come down into Anderson Valley. On that climb we would go near Buck Peak and over Sugerloaf and Dry Bridge Mountain and Big Blue would spend most of the 30+ miles in 2nd and 3rd gear. Not something to overlook is that the ride down moves about as slow as the climb up.
Big Blue meets a tree bigger than him at Indian Creek Campground.

The floor of Anderson Valley is vineyards and orchards. Boonville, the unofficial "hub" is home to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company and every year they hold a big beer festival in the summer. As before, we found a spot at Indian Creek Campground ($10) and headed into Boonville, to the brewery, for some cold beer and, a first for us, disc golf. Now, I know what you are thinking, VW bus, microbrew and disc golf? What are we, deadheads in or senior year of college? Maybe, and it is a ton of fun.

Getting ready for some disc golf at Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

After wrecking my sweater trying to climb through an electric fence and then watching a pig get attacked by a pit bull (whole other stories for another time), we headed back to our site and found out that we had the entire park to ourselves. We were able to pull Big Blue right up to the campfire, which is dream-like camping for me.

Three great things: EP, campfire and Big Blue.

Big Blue at our campsite Sunday morning.

Awake early. We never really know what time it is when we are camping and Big Blue has neither a clock nor a radio, so that is cut-off. If our phones are off, we are at the whims of ourselves and nature. We leave the site to go to the Philo Apple Farm. And the rain starts coming down.

The apple stand is cash only (note for future travels) but we load up on organic apples and fresh made cider - great stuff. And then off to Boonville again for some breakfast at the Boonville General Store (not a store at all, but great local foods and a great breakfast). Then, heading east out of Boonville we come to the Yorkville wineries - only 3 - so we try 2. The first is Maple Creek Winery. While a wonderful drive up the hill to the tasting room and the artwork on the label is great, the wine is not so good. The 2nd winery, Yorkville Cellars, proves a delight - with wonderful atmosphere, a great person pouring (Dave?) and great wines (we walk out with the Malbec and a sweet Malbec, a dessert wine).

We turn Big Blue south onto US 101 outside of Cloverdale - the rain is coming down pretty good now and Blue handles fine in the rain (seeing speeds of 60 mph!). We are headed home.

All in all, a great weekend filled with tons of good times. This is exactly why we wanted Big Blue, to take us out of our elements a little - to give us camping spots without reservations, and to bring new experiences along the way. Well done, Blue. Well done.

Our route.

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