Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Big Blue on Google Maps

This is where Big Blue sat for about 7 years. Redwood City's docktown marina. It was in the storage unit there. That light blue mess of a car just to the north is an old vw bug.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Big Blue meet Big Sur

I'm pretty confident that this was not Big Blue's first trip to Big Sur. I'm betting Monty, the previous owner, took him down there before given the proximity and, well, it's a VW bus after all, and Big Sur was made for such a vehicle. Below are some pics from our recent trip down there. We used our polaroid in honor of the end of polaroid film.

Our stop at the Henry Miller Library.

I know I look drunk in this, but this was an hour into the trip. Stone sober, just happy.

EP brushing her teeth in the "bathroom".

The hazards of polaroid. A blurred campground.

EP looking quite tough.

Another trick of polaroid - there was full sunlight out in this picture, but we were below trees.

EP and I hiding from the rain with booze.

One more polaroid issue - that's my head that it cut off. This is inside Big Blue.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

VW Bus as Collector Car - an update

An update on the post from March 6th where a bay window VW bus (Westfalia or not) was in the Kruse Del Mar auction. It went for a cool $19,000. Must have been a hell of a bus...

In the same auction, the '78 bug went for $6100 and the Thing, probably a good deal, went for $7500.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bus from the deep south

We spent New Year's Eve in Louisiana and Texas and while I was down there, I saw one Thing - the only VW I saw the entire time. The place was void of old VW buses of any kind. Thanks, though, to some keen eyes, I received proof last Thursday that there are, indeed, buses in the deep south. Or at least passing through...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

VWs back in their time...

I found that ebay "photograph" section is a great place for finding old original VW bus photos. It's cool to see them all new and proud and in their original environment.

Here are some that are available on ebay right now...

Monday, March 10, 2008

VWs in Death Valley

We took a quick trip to Death Valley this weekend (leaving Blue at home since we only had three days). I did see some VWs there, so thought I would share...

We saw this guy a few times. The bug was in perfect condition (that's a bra on the front).

At Scotty's Castle.

This last bus was a couple and they looked like they had been out for quite a while. Good to see it being used for what was intended.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

VW Bus as Collector Car

Look who's with the big boys.

Growing up, I spent a good deal of time reading my dad's Hemmings magazine. It is the car collector's bible of sort. Lately - it's added color and become slick with actual articles, but back in the day it was parchment brown with ultra-thin newspaper print that the ink smudged on as you read it. It contains classified ads full of cars from around the world. And it is read all around the world.

Old Hemmings before they went slick.

In the front of each issue, were the auctions. Where cars that were either super rare or super expensive were going up for bid. The average auction may have a '63 'vette or a Cord or a 70s muscle car. The grandaddy of these auction houses were the Kruse auctions, as they seemed to bring the great cars in.

Well, I was reading the Auto Trader last night and stumbled across an ad for a Kruse auction in Del Mar, a beachside community north of La Jolla, CA, and advertised in the middle of the ad is a 1973 VW Westfalia. Now it may not have been uncommon to see Split Windows - especially the 23 window model - in these auctions, but never have I seen a Bay Window gain such an elite status.

Here is the picture and description at their website:

1973 Volkswagen Camper Westphalia [sic] Pop-Top in great condition and very vintage! New tires, shocks, brakes! Fully serviced and needs nothing!! This is the nicest unrestored vintage camper I have seen in a very long time! 75,000 miles are believed to be original, and probably are based on the condition of this VW. 4 cyl with a 4 speed transmission, power brakes, new tires, tinted glass, pop-top. All camper equipment is mint to perfect condition. The camper features a gas stove, ice box/refrigerator, hook up for outside power, sink, all side curtains, bug screens, fold out bed, table, bike rack, propane tank, plenty of storage and closet space. This camper is ready to go - it needs nothing! Drives as good, or better than new. It is rare to find one this nice with no rust. It is solid and dry top to bottom with beautiful paint. It is quite obvious this car was well cared for its whole life and garaged as well! Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

There is also a Bug and a Thing for sale at the same auction.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

VW bus as art...

One of my favorite local painters, Timothy Horn, often uses old cars in his paintings. I tracked down a few of them online that use VW buses. Alas, no bay windows painted yet, but I'll keep waiting...

Monday, March 3, 2008

VW bus as the perfect wine country cruiser... Day Two in Russian River area

Big Blue waking up in Liberty Glen Campground, above Sonoma Lake.

Big Blue atop the hill outside the entrance to the campground.

Blue at the Dry Creek General Store.

After hitting a few wineries on Saturday, and finding a great place to camp Saturday night (read about Day One here), we were excited to get started. We made a quick stop at the really cool Dry Creek General Store for breakfast. Try the sandwich, not the burrito, as it was much better. It's a neat place with old fashioned soda and tons of high-end wine. There's a bar in the back that wasn't open (it was 10:30 am) but that looks awesome...

A. Rafanelli Winery was our first winery of the day. We turned into the driveway which was quite a large uphill, gearing the engine down made it run loud up the hill. By the time we got to the top, about 20 people were looking to see what type of car could possible sound like that. In the land of BMWs with their tops down or Lexus SUVs, I think people were a little surprised to see the duct taped front end of Big Blue crest the hill. Once we did, the guy parking cars put us in the spot closest to the winery. When we got out, three people, including the owner were at Big Blue to great us. One guys asking us if we were selling firewood (since we carry our firewood in the rack on the front), the owner (the wife) commenting about the McCarthy sticker, saying that it was the last time her husband had supported the right candidate for president, and the guy who parked us in the VIP spot quietly said, "I have a '63 bus myself." Ah, the nod between owners...

Word is, this is some type of insiders secret winery and all their wine sells out. Wine and Spirits magazine said of their Zinfandel, "Rafanelli is a zin legend in Dry Creek, and this wine clearly demonstrates why. Get on the mailing list"

We tasted a Cab and a Zin from the barrel and it was great, but the place was cash only and EP and I had said we weren't to buy any wine this trip. So we moved on, thanking our VW friend for the prime spot as we left.

Armida - skip it - too many gimmicks, not enough good wine.

Our next stop was Armida Winery. We were halfway up the long driveway before EP and I realized that it was this very place we learned about the barrel tasting over a year ago. We had pulled in with some friends and figured that perhaps we could get some wine for free since the place was crazy. I was dispatched to the tasting room to get free wine but the plan didn't work, as the person pouring immediately asked for my wrist band. I played dumb, but have no doubt they were on to me...

Their wines were a disappointment. We tried a Chardonnay, which was so unremarkable that I don't recall how it tasted, and a Pinot and 2 Zins. Skip this place unless you are looking for a party.

Robert Young can thank his grandfather for the warmest spot in Alexander Valley.

Our next stop was Robert Young. For four generations, the Young family has been located in the old house here on the property. Originally, the great grandfather came out for the gold rush and ended up settling on some land at the north end of Alexander Valley, northeast of Healdsburg. They continued to mine the hills between Napa and Sonoma for silver, but also planted the land they owned with prunes. In the 1960s, Robert Young decided to plant grapes instead, and the rest is pretty much wine country history - they opened the winery in the late 80s or early 90s (I forget) and now specialize in a Bordeaux-style red called Scion. They chose the name Scion because of the whole double meaning of grafted grape wines and them being the fourth generation in the business. Sort of a Family vine rather than a family tree.

We met a few of the Youngs, as it seemed to be all family members that were working there. All very nice and -- getting on to the wine -- all pouring great wine. We tasted the 2003, 2004, 2006 (still in the barrel) Scions along with their Chardonnay. The 2003 was fantastic, but I'm pretty sure any of them would have done just fine.

On to Hanna Winery. Wrapping around Healdsburg, the winery sits northeast of downtown on highway 128. The tasting room is great - nice, but not too much. I sat this one out for the most part, but the wine I did try wasn't mind-blowing. EP liked it a lot.

Hanna Winery had a really nice tasting room.

We parked Big Blue in the "Bus Parking" at Hanna.

Our last winery of the day was Davis Family Vineyards. Guy Davis, the owner, was pouring and man, does he know his wine. The tasting room is a warehouse a few miles from their vineyard, but they source a lot of grapes as well, and seem to try new things often. (They were pouring a wine they had made in New Zealand and, in the past, worked in Mendoza, Argentina to make a Malbec)

They were barrel tasting a Riesling that we will go back for in 2 months when they bottle it. It was fantastically floral without the honey taste that usually consumes Riesling. He was also barrel tasting 2 Pinots, same French oak barrels, same grape, grown about 20? 30? miles apart. One grown in Russian River and the other grown over the mountains closer to the coast. The result is what you may expect. The coastal grapes need to be tougher than the ones near the river, so they have thicker skins, resulting in a more full-bodied wine. Both good, but the Russian River Pinot had a smoky finish that was pretty fantastic.

EP ended up joining their wine club and braking our rule that we weren't going to purchase any wine on this trip since the cellar is full as it is. But it was probably a good idea. Especially if they include that Riesling in the club shipment.

The warehouse that is the Davis Family Winery just on the outskirts of Healdsburg.

The barrel tasting aftermath - the stained red barrels at Davis Family Vineyards.

And that was it. We gave our glass to an old guy who wanted the anniversary glass and pointed Big Blue home. He ran great, and with the back country roads, was very comfortable with the speed of traffic. Not to mention how many people commented on him, waved, or gave us a smile. Big Blue may be the perfect wine country car. That, or the wine I drank made just me think that was the case.
The trip route.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

VW bus as the perfect wine country cruiser... Day One in Russian River area

This past weekend, we took Big Blue to the 30th Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend in Russian River. That area of wine country, specifically Dry Creek Road area, is an spot that EP has explored a few times but I had yet to see.

We headed up on Saturday afternoon. On the way, we stopped at Willi's Wine Bar. Don't be fooled by the Santa Rosa address, Willi's wine bar was awesome. Great food that they serve on "small plates" that you can share with your co-pilot.

EP brought us to one of her favorite food spots in Sonoma County, Willi's.

After lunch, we hightailed it north on the 101, cut over to Dry Creek Road north of Healdsburg and secured a spot at Lake Sonoma's Liberty Glen Campground. We have camped all over northern California, but had somehow missed this camp area until now. I had no idea how great it would be. The sites are on the top of the mountains between Alexander Valley and the coast, giving you a great view of the mountains surrounding you. It was quite a climb up for Big Blue, involving 2nd gear a few times, but he made it just fine.

Liberty Glen at Lake Sonoma, which is currently first come, first served because the campground has no water.

Big Blue resting at Liberty Glen Campground, above Lake Sonoma.

Once a camping spot was established, we turned around and headed back south on Dry Creek road stopping at Dutcher Crossing. After meeting both the wine maker and the owner, we tried some fine Zin from the barrel and a Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah that was from the barrel, and also mixed at a 75/25 ratio to give you an idea of the future wine it will be once combined. It was a very interesting tasting.

First stop: Dutcher Crossing.

Big Blue among the vineyard at Dutcher Crossing.

The barrels at Dutcher Crossing.

After that, a quick stop at Pedroncelli Winery on Canyon Road. Here, we were able to taste Syrah and Petite Sirah (that spelling is not a typo, they are spelled differently) side by side. What's the difference, you ask? Sort of obvious, Petite Sirah is a smaller grape. What is not obvious is that it is actually a stronger wine on the palate, as more sugar is concentrated in the smaller grape. Their wines weren't fantastic, but it was a great little stop.

That sign says, "Pedroncelli Tasting Room. Their wine wasn't bad, but wasn't great.

After a quick stop for provisions, we hit our last winery of the day, Fritz Winery. Fritz is a place EP has been tasting the day before, but wanted me to try as the Chardonnay was great. We also tasted some Zin and Pinot Noir from the barrel which was excellent. If you go to Fritz, take a moment to try to understand the building you are in - the pictures behind the tasting room's bar will help. Built into the hillside in 1979, the building itself was built and then covered in dirt (like making a cave the easy way). It's a pretty cool place that served excellent wine.

A small one-lane bridge just beyond this sign keeps the buses out of Fritz.

Then, it was back to the campsite, where Big Blue, EP and I hung out, had an oddball 2006 Syrah from Broc Cellars, which seems to be located in San Francisco, but this Syrah used grapes from the Paso Robles region. When I say oddball, it was because the wine was strong but has tons of flavor all the way through. At $50 a bottle, it is hard to make it a common purchase, but we always save our good wine for camping anyway, and this was a great call.

EP getting ready for relaxing in Big Blue.

Me, watching the sun set outside Blue's port side.

Dinner was Annie's Mac & Cheese, with tuna mixed in and a dash of Sriracha.

At some point (all time gets lost when the sun sets and cell phones are off) we made some awesome mac & cheese and played Phase 10. Because of the cold, we left the top of Big Blue down and slept on the Z bed in the back.

All in all, a great "day one" of cruising wine country. More to come...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Big Blue and the ladies...

The ladies love Big Blue...

EP and the Frog before Friday's bocce season opener.

Leap Day Burrito Run...

When we can get a break, a few of us from work like to take Blue up to Lucinda's in Strawberry Village (about 5 minutes up the 101 from Sausalito. Here are some pics of Friday's adventures.

Amanda and Brian digging in.

Sean, who drives a VW Ghia around, getting ready.

We are always a curious sight to the other people going to the restaurant.

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