Friday, May 30, 2008

Magnolia in Big Blue

I gave a ride home to a friend from work a few days back and we brought her dog, Magnolia, along. It marks the first dog ride since we bought Blue. Magnolia was so confused by the moving apartment, that she sat right up next to the stick shifter.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Random VW bus in Sausalito

Not sure if it has a Porsche engine in it our not, but it's a pretty rust-free 69 or 70 bus...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Preview: Coming Soon

Details coming soon on how you can get this t-shirt...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Random Bus picture...

I found this picture somewhere recently and really liked it. It's actually my desktop image right now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A gift to the nephews...

Another picture from my trip to Denver. I found some pretty cool toys that were pull-back and go VW Split window buses (it said they were 1962 on the bottom). The boys loved them and we even had them calling them buses...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Splitty Beer

On last weekend's trip to Denver, I tracked down some beer I saw there last year that has a Split Window Bus on the label. It is put out by Bristol Brewing Company of Colorado Springs. I brought 4 bottles back with me to give to Paul at Valley Wagonworks, but took a picture for the site. The beer wasn't half bad...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One more item from Monty's adventures...

Getting down to a few of the last items of Monty's time in Big Blue. This spare tire cover was in a crate in the back of Blue. Inscribed, "RENO AIR RACE 1996!", it must have been one of the last times Big Blue went to the races.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Like a mid-70s angel...

Last Tuesday, after I had a little trouble with the battery, I talked Big Blue through the commute the next morning. I was quite scared about the 5-10 minutes I spend each morning in stop-and-go traffic, thinking that if it would stall anywhere, it would be during that traffic.

As I coaxed Blue through the traffic, this blue bus came on from the on ramp and stayed in front of me until traffic picked back up. Then he promptly exited. I am used to some of the VWs I see on my way to work, but I had never seen this one before. I was happy to see him that day, figuring if I broke down, another VW guy would be right there to help... Not sure where he was off to with all those sombreros...

Monday, May 12, 2008

2008 Boonville Beer Fest - VW Bus as crash pad

This past weekend, EP, Big Blue and some friends all headed about 2 hours north of the city to Anderson Valley's Boonville Beer Fest. We went to this event last year, and it ranked in our top 5 California moments. This year was no exception. Great weather (hot with a good breeze), good beer (again, with the 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat) and good friends. Big Blue got quite a lot of attention in the campground there, and, even though we aren't allowed to have campfires, even the camping was pretty fun.

Todd at a break in Cloverdale.

Todd and Adam. This was the first time Big Blue had travel guests for a longer trip than the beach run.

The road to beer-ville.

Big Blue takes a spot...

... right next to this guy.

Another VW. This type of event is made for the VW bus.

The line to get in was long but went fast. This is the line behind us and we were a good 1/4 mile from the entry at this point.

The beer is flowing.

Adam and Todd enjoying the beer.

If you break your glass, the crowd cheers, then you have to go buy another.

I'm in line for beer. The lines are never that long even though it seems like it would be. There is always beer to be had.

The area band always plays for festival goers.

Not much changes from year to year here. The left pic is EP from last year's fest, the right pic is from this year.

The more north you go in California, the more hippy the beer gets.

EP and I and the Boonville Bear.

Our friend Noah with an extra glass just in case...

Back to camp, Big Blue is waiting.

These are the moments that we live for when camping.


Sunday morning coming down.

We have hit this place a few times while in Boonville. Good food and good people.

On the road home.

Our route.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

VW images on the web

Some people have been busy gathering up VW images on a few sites. Check them out for all your vintage VW viewing pleasure:

and one is even set up like a game:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2 random buses from Petaluma

Friday, May 9, 2008

Big Blue turns 40 today!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Big Blue's 40th birthday is May 9th, 2008

In honor of Big Blue's upcoming birthday, I asked Monty Finefrock - the previous driver of Big Blue (for almost 38 years!) to answer some questions about the origins of his interest in Big Blue. Below are his responses. Sounds like he had a pretty good time...

1. What drew you to buying a VW Bus in the first place. Did you look at other buses, or just Big Blue?
In 1969. I was in the Air Force reserves as a medic. I worked full time in the bay area, drove to Travis Air Force Base and performed my medic duties with an air evac unit. We worked odd hours, I partied with friends in Davis and then came home Sunday evenings at the end of an Air Force weekend. Sometimes I was pretty tired. One time I fell asleep in my regular car. Decided to get a VW bus which was becoming a craze then (3 of my friends bought buses also). I went to a vw dealer, saw big blu, drove it, bought it right away and starting on a journey that lasted for 200,000+ miles. And a change in lifestyle. Now I could sleep by the side of the road. I didn't even have to leave my parking spot at local bars. Just move my tool chest from the back deck, pull the curtains and sleep (or "crash"). Did you know that if you can find a drive-in movie these days, you can go in, park car in a spot backwards, open the rear window and watch the movie. Fall asleep and wake up to no one there!

2. What did your wife think of you buying Big Blue?
I was single. My girlfriend (and subsequent first wife) loved it. We travelled all over in it. Subsequently, I took it to Mexico multiple times with friends and another wife to be (I have been married to my third wife now for 20 years. She too loved big blu). Back to my first days with my girlfriend. She really enjoyed camping in it. we had many adventures. Some included utilizing all the amenities of a bedroom without roommates in the house I shared!

3. How did you come up with the name Big Blue? Did you come up with it, or did someone suggest it?
My second wife did and subsequently got me the license plate. As you can tell by the sequence, big blue, big blue one and two were taken already!

4. Did you ever own any other VWs? What was your first car?
My first car was a new 1964 aqua blue vw purchased by me with paper route money. My parents picked it up in Germany, new. That was a big deal then: fly to Germany, buy a car (preorded for factory pickup), drive Europe and ship it home. Getting your driver's license was a big deal with my two older brothers and I followed their tradition: on your 16th birthday, skip school in the morning, drive down and get your license then drive to school. It was exciting.

5. Did you know a lot about engines and cars prior to buying Big Blue? How was it learning to work on Big Blue?
No. I just started working on it and other VWs I owned. Since VWs were a lifestyle at the time, the idiots guide to VW repair came out and with the help of a local hippy VW shop, I kept it running. Biggest unsolved issue was oil cooling. Never did get it satisfactorily figured out.

6. Was it "too hippy" for you? Did you consider that when buying the bus? Or were you a little bit hippy yourself?
I'd say I was a hippy in it. At least according to my definition.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A sad bus from Texas...

Spotted near Cameron, Texas, May 5th, 2008.

I asked the in-laws to buy it and put it in their garage. Told them I'd work on it next time I'm down there but I didn't hear back.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mysterious stalling and dead battery

I had a little trouble on the way home last night. But I should back up and walk you through it.

Last Friday, going down the highway and then slowing down, Big blue stalled. I was able to start him on the fly and keep going, thinking that perhaps something was up with the timing - something I want to learn how to adjust this coming weekend.

On Sunday, a big work day on Big Blue, it stalled on our beach run once more. Again, it stalled while letting off the gas after being in 4th gear for a while.

Monday morning, I was feeling around the dash, trying to find where the bulb goes in to light up the instrument cluster, and I touched the wire that lights up the generator light and it went flickered off. I'm thinking that I knocked something but can get to it later (still never found the bulb for the panel). But then I couldn't check the generator from then on out by the idiot light.

Then, yesterday, coming home and getting off the highway, after running the headlights and the wipers because of some light rain, Big Blue stalled again. Again, I started it on the fly, moving the timing check procedure to the top of my list. At the next light, Big Blue stalled again and I couldn't get it going on the fly, so used to momentum to pull over. The battery was completely dead (although my lights didn't look any dimmer).

Big Blue has a VDO gauge to check the volts in the battery (voltometer?) which read nothing (but sometimes it does that anyway). I called EP who drove the few miles from our home and jumped Big Blue, who started right up. I drove it home and went over everything in the engine compartment to make sure nothing in the electrical system was loose. I tightened a few things and began to wonder if I could drive Blue in the morning.

So today, I woke up early, started Big Blue up and drove the 20+ miles to work without any incident. The volt gauge reads strong now. When I got to work, I cut the engine, waited a minute, and fired him back up without problem.

I'm hoping that something was loose and I got it by going through everything. But that makes 2 "breakdowns" in a week (last week was the wheel bearing).

Here are pictures of the recovery effort:

EP saving the day until...

... we realized that the hybrid has the battery in the back.

Started right up on the jump and drove since then without trouble.

Monday, May 5, 2008

My first valve adjustment...

This past Sunday, instead of going to a NorCal Bus Fest in Vallejo, I decided to do some work on the actual bus. The first thing I wanted to do was a valve adjustment. Something VW owners are familiar with and have probably done often. This was my first time doing it. My first stop was for two new valve cover gaskets and some glue at Viking Foreign Auto Parts, in Novato. This place is a VW mecca with all sorts of cool parts hanging on the wall. After leaving there, I stopped at Kragen for some wheel bearing grease to put on the head side of the gaskets when installing.

Ready to go.

Take off the distributor cap to check top dead center of the valves.

I won't walk you through the step by step, but it went well and was, as every VW owner who has done one says, pretty easy. The whole thing took me about an hour, but I was reading the Muir Book the whole time and triple-checking my work.

The passenger side valve cover.

The valves exposed (cover off). On the right the first two are for the first cylinder. The left 2 are the 2nd cylinder. The right is the front of the vehicle. I am underneath the back, passenger side.

Bad picture, but you can see the feeler gauge checking the gap.

Valve cover, cleaned of the old gasket.

New gasket glued on. I put a thin coat of wheel bearing grease on the face of the gasket that you see there.

Back where it started.

I also decided to take care of something else I had been meaning to do - remove the water tank from under the back-facing seat (right behind the driver's seat).

I had the hack saw the drain off since there was nothing to unscrew.

This is the old water storage tank that I removed...

...from here. Years of road grim is what you see there. That hole where the dirt is is where the drain went through.

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