Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bikes, Buses and Bunkum - 2009

Once again the last weekend in April was Buses, Bikes and Bunkum, held at an undisclosed location near Placerville. Last year was fun chaos, with over 50 bikes showing up for the event. This year was a little more tame, with many of the usual camping friends. This is the type of event that reminds you why you chug 2+ hours in a vehicle that looks at hills with fear. Great people and great times in a great location.

Big Blue was back after getting checked out last week, as we had hit the 500 mile point since the engine work last fall. As readers of this blog may know, the work that was done didn’t impress me too much. I lost power, and couldn’t go faster than 50 on the highway. The slightest hill took the bus down to the high 30s, requiring shifting down to 3rd on almost any incline.

I had expressed my unhappiness to the place that did the work, but they seemed confident in their work. Part of the engine work included bringing it back to them in 500 miles for a free check-in to make sure everything was okay. I had done a valve adjustment at about mile 400, and was not happy to find that the #1 exhaust valve was tight and couldn’t be loosened. I vowed that I would take it to them for the #1 valve issue and have them fix it for free and that would be the last of it for them.

That was last Tuesday night. I picked up the bus Friday night and drove it home to pack for the campout. We were going to head up Friday night, but the prospect of going up hills at 38 mph at night on the highway made the decision to go in the morning a little easier to make.

Once on the road Saturday morning, I quickly discovered something was off with Big Blue. It was running great. Accelerating faster than it ever had. Going through the slight hills in Napa county, I discovered Big Blue climbed them with gusto – these are the same hills that slowed progress and resulted in backed up cars on the Rio Vista campout earlier in the year. I was shocked and happy, as EP can confirm, by my good mood and the lack of cars waiting to get by Big Blue. We were actually keeping up with traffic and the hills took the normal amount of momentum out of our forward progress. It was a good feeling. Out on the highway, we got up to 65 mph without too much trouble. Big Blue was running better than ever!

Lunch on the road.

Big Blue's booming system.


Once we got to the campout, we pulled in next to PJ Alau and Static and the Tentmaster and began to relax. A few quick theories about the better performance of Big Blue was:

1. something finally spit itself out of the carb
2. the garage, when they had it back, determined something that was not tuned right, and fixed it.

The 2nd point is impossible to confirm. When I talked to the place on Friday, they said that all they did was top off the oil and put some spacers into the valve to make it adjustable. They were very happy that the work they did in the fall seemed to be holding out.

Either way, it was great to be moving along at highway speed. And even better to park among friends and set camp, have a great meal, talk all night long, get to know Carl a little better, and hang with some of the motorcycle guys from the previous year. The conversation went everywhere, from right-wing talk show hosts to old vinyl records to quitting your job to go sailing, or to become a teacher. The type of campfire talk that reminds you that you are lucky to know the people you are around. Did you know it’s bad to feed a horse alfalfa? Apparently, it is.

PJ Alau's 1970 bus.


Carl found a quiet spot for his 1985 Adventurewagon.

The VW crew.

Followed by Ginny.

Melissa's 1982 Westy.

Settling in for the night.

Sunday morning EP took a turn at driving as she is going camping with a friend in the bus this coming weekend. She did great. Learning how to use the gears to slow the bus on hills, finding reverse and taking 90 degree turns. Very well done. Look for her report on this coming weekend’s trip next week as she has promised to document the adventure.

Big Blue's [new] Driver.

On the way out, we drove to the nearby house of Gene, who's 1971 bus (see pre-fire pic here) exploded on him while going down the road in Oakland last fall. AAA plus had towed his poor bus back up to his house, where it has sat as a reminder of what can happen. The fire started when his fuel pump blew a hole and started spraying fuel all over his engine. Since he was still moving down the highway, the pump continued to spray gas as he tried to pull over. The fire department came, but the damage was already done. Not much left of it.



My uneducated guess is for 2.

Good to see EP taking the reins. Get back there and enjoy the ride; the camper is one of the few vehicles it's just as fun to be a passenger in as it is to drive.


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