1978 VW Westfalia

1978 VW Westfalia
Ramblin' Rose

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The End (for now)

November 30, 2010

Hi. Long ago I promised that the final post of this trip would be a summary. It seems like it's taken forever but reality keeps getting in the way. We just had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends, a visit from our daughter Ellie who is now back in California, our son's 29th birthday (27th) at which time he announced that he had offered a ring and a proposal of marriage to his long time Sweetheart, Rebecca. Yes, she accepted! So, we truly have much for which we are thankful. On to the bus trip...

Rose is napping in her storage garage, an earthen floored affair that she is sharing with other classic, old, some neglected, cars and boats. She seems comfortable. I had her out two weeks ago because it was a nice day and I wanted to spread mothballs around her station in hopes of keeping out rodents. Hope that it works.

The point of this post is to summarize the trip in some fashion. I will offer some categories of money spent and a total of these to give a rough idea of what our trip actually cost. The reader will judge if it was worth it, but for me, the experience was, as the commercial says, "priceless".


 Since we were driving a campmobile, it seems only fitting that most of our resting time would be spent in campgrounds, but there were motels interspersed throughout the trip. Sometimes it was because we needed a laundromat, sometimes we were tired of camping and wanted a nice bed (well a bed, anyway) and in one instance the weather was threatening. The following list is of dates, locations and costs:

9/22  Stanislas National Forest outside Yosemite, CA  $0
9/23  commercial campground, Madera, CA                $18
9/24  Sierra Trails campground, Mojave, CA                $23.88
9/25  KOA, Barstow, CA                                            $23.40
9/26  El Rancho Motel, Boulder City, NV                     $71.50
9/27  El Rancho Motel, Williams, AZ                            $65.15
9/28 Grand Canyon campground (2 nights)                   $36.00
9/30  Black Bart's, Flagstaff, AZ                                   $25.64
10/1  Church Rock (Gallup), NM                                 $10.00
10/2  American Inn, Santa Rosa, NM                           $40.00
10/3  Palo Duro state park, TX                                    $22.00
10/4  Foss Reservoir, Foss, OK                                   $12.00
10/5  Overland RV Park, Van Buren, AR                     $17.00
10/6  Tom Sawyer Campground, W. Memphis, AR      $12.00
10/7  Knight's Inn, Memphis, TN                                  $40.00
10/8  Melton Hill campground, Knoxville, TN               $12.00
10/9  KOA, Natural Bridge, VA                                   $42.38
10/10 Home                                                                       0   
Total:                                                                          $418.95


Some of the natural wonders of our country cost money to see. Some were a little cheesy and others were bargains but I don't regret spending money on any of them. This is a partial list because some things we paid for in cash and I just don't remember the true cost.

Yosemite National Park, CA                             $20        
Baldasare Forestiere house, Fresno, CA            $30
Calico Ghost Town, Calico, CA                        $27
Calico Early Man site, Calico, CA                     $20 (donation)
Hoover Dam, Bouler City, NV                          $24
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ                      $25
Meteor Crater, AZ                                            $38
Riordan Mansion, Flagstaff, AZ                         $12
Route 66 Museum, Clinton, OK                        $24
Rock & Soul Museum, Memphis, TN               $18
Total:                                                               $238

Food, Souvenirs and Miscellaneous Stuff

We ate in several restaurants but mostly ate food that we had in the cooler in the bus. Lunch was usually an apple, a granola bar, a sandwich or sometimes nothing at all. In the dry Southwest, we drank more than we ate. Evening meals were typically simple affairs, again mostly prepared from food that we had carried with us from grocery stores. Hamburger helper, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, beans and rice and soups were some of the entrĂ©es that we enjoyed. The food may have been simple but the dinner settings were quite often spectacular. I have never experienced anything like the night sky in the Grand Canyon. Who knew that there were so many stars?! I'd take a glass of wine around the campfire with my wife there over dinner at the finest restaurant anytime!

Anyway, as close as I can estimate, the total of this category is somewhere around $550.

Rose's Food and Apparel

Bless her little iron heart, Rose was reliable as a Swiss watch. We drove 3,650 miles from Ellie's apartment to our driveway. During that time Rose required:

Fuel-188.19 gallons. The price ranged from a low of $2.52/gal to a high of $3.22/gal. I typically fed her unleaded regular but in demanding settings like the mountains or as a special treat I'd get her unleaded plus. The octane ratings were different in the Southwest, with regular being 86. I never gave her that although it would have been OK I suppose, as she has a pretty low compression ratio. She averaged 19.4 mpg overall, with a low in the 16s to a high near 24. Not bad for 68 horsepower pushing over 2 tons of stuff. Cost for gasoline was $498.

Bus Sneakers-1 pair. Rose didn't ask for much on the trip but her old treads were worn out and dangerous. We got her a new set of Coopers at a cost of $212.86. 

Oil-1 & 1/2 quarts. I'd check the oil every morning before we started. After a particularly hard day she'd take a few ounces to a half quart to top off but I always kept her oil level up because an air cooled 4 stroke engine also uses the oil to dissipate heat. Cost for oil was about $5.

I'm sure that there were other things that I have forgotten but the approximate cost of our pilgrimage comes to: 418.95 + 238 + 550 + 498 + 212.86 +5 = $1922.81.

It was not luxurious travel but we felt the heartbeat of America. We live in a beautiful country with outstanding people. Unfortunately, some don't have jobs, some don't have healthcare and some don't have enough to eat while others have arguably, too much. I guess it has always been that way and probably always will but it seems as though those who have and their spokespersons are becoming bitter and unreasonable. As I write this the Congress is squabbling about keeping the Bush era tax cuts in place. One party (D) advocates letting the tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000 per year and the other party (R) was to keep tax cuts in place for everyone. A proposed compromise would let taxes rise only on those who make more than 1 Million dollars/year. This is at a time when the national debt is 14 Trillion dollars! I digress....

I am thankful that Kathy and I had the opportunity to make this trip. Rose will ride again, perhaps to the Atlantic Ocean, then all of the Pennsylvania State Parks then...who knows? Thanks to all of you (Ellie) who put up with us until the bus was ready, vicariously rode along, gave advice and support, watched our dog (Evan, Rebecca and Philly) and otherwise helped us out along the way.

Happy Trails to you, till we meet again.

Tom & Kathy



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Getchr kicks...

October 30. I'm winding this up, really.

These are some of the sights that one is able to see on old Route 66. I had put some  information about this road on a previous post right after we had visited the museum in Oklahoma, so I won't go into that again. Suffice it to say that the old road reminds the traveler of a simpler and more leisurely way of life. Some of the places we visited along the road seemed to have no purpose, other than to cater to the tourist. Some of the, "features", however were neat to see. Some examples:

My favorite, outside Kingman, AZ.
The famous Snow Cap in Seligman, AZ. We tried to get dinner there but it was closed, just guys sitting on the benches drinking beer. They didn't share.
I don't know what to say about this, Seligman, AZ.
This is Rte. 66 through Seligman, considered to be a section of the "unspoiled" part of the highway. Everything closed at 1800, however, and we had to drive to Williams, AZ before we could get dinner.
Eddie's tire store in Williams, AZ. We were told in Kingman, AZ that it (Kingman) was the last town to be bypassed by I-40, in 1978 but the Route 66 Adventure book says that it was Williams, in 1984.
Twin Arrows, AZ. Kind of speaks for itself. I guess there used to be a fuel station, trading post and cafe here but there is not much left but the arrows.
The Jackrabbit Trading Post, Joseph City, AZ. Their slogan, "If you haven't been to the Jackrabbit, you haven't been in the Southwest".
Jack Rabbit in all his glory!
The famous corner, Winslow, AZ.
La Posada in Winslow, AZ. A former Harvey House property designed by architect Mary Colter.
Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, TX. One of the 10 Cadillacs buried here, supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramids of Egypt. I'd didn't sense any energy from the display, just paint fumes from the ongoing graffiti.
The Giant Cross, Groom, TX, said to be the largest in the western hemisphere, at 190 feet tall.
What can I say?

This was pretty much where we abandoned our contact with the old highway. It was a lot of fun and definitely worthwhile to take a few steps (miles) back in time. The next post will be the last, I promise, a summary of the trip. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something about Rose

23 October
Hello to anyone still following this site. Boy, the priorities sure change when a person comes off the road! While traveling, things were reduced to the more fundamental pursuits of life. Eat food, drive, buy gasoline, be tourists, buy food, eat food, camp, update the blog and go to sleep. At home there are many more things to consume a person's time and attention, plus the Phillies are in the playoffs again. I promised a summary of the trip and this may or may not be it depending on how much I personally ramble but I feel that I owe some time to our faithful bus.

Rose is a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia camper. The first camper conversion was exhibited at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1952. Over the years the design and refinement of the camper evolved such that there were several iterations of the interior furniture layout and materials. Rose carries what was know as the Berlin design, where the kitchen is arranged down the side, behind the driver's seat.

Cook top and sink with electric water pump.
Interior design with refrigerator beside seat. A table with a folding leaf fits into the bracket along the side of the kitchen module.

The passenger seat folds flat to create a sleeping berth and when the top is lifted, another sleeping space for two is created in the, "penthouse". A hammock stretches across the front seats to accommodate a child or a, "little person" if you happen to have one. The front passenger seat swivels 180 degrees to face the living area and a stool/storage box between the front seats can be moved to become a footstool.

This is the command center.

Rose has a 4 speed manual transmission. Fourth gear is overdrive so any substantial hills must usually be pulled in third gear. She has power brakes but the steering is unassisted. The big wheel helps in maneuvering. 
Instrumentation is limited to a speedometer/odometer and a fuel gauge and idiot lights. Our fuel gauge gives up after the first 50 miles of filling the 14.5 gallon tank so the little post-it-note in the right hand gauge hole lets us know the mileage when we filled up last. We'd figure 200 miles or so as a target for the next fuel stop. This was conservative as she averaged 19.4 mpg for the entire trip, although any stop and go traffic situations brought the fuel consumption down to as low as 16 mpg. She has a nice AM/FM radio with cassette player (that does not work) and a battery powered clock from Radio Shack under the radio. Twelve volt power for the GPS or phone charger comes from the little round silver plug under the glove box via a special adapter. The round device in the passenger footwell covers the windshield washer, a tank to hold the fluid and a tube with a Schrader valve through which one adds compressed air to pressurize the tank. This last for about half a day before the pressurized air leaks out. We need to get a bicycle pump to keep this functional.

Rose is powered by a 2 liter horizontally opposed 4 cylinder engine. It has hydraulic valve lifters, fuel injection and an electronic ignition module. She had a catalytic converter as built but that has gone missing over the years in favor of a "Bug Pack" exhaust header and glass pack silencer. The engine was originally rated at 67 horsepower. In camping trim with pilot and co-pilot/navigator, she probably weighs 4500 pounds. We were granted honorary trucker status for the amount of time we spent in the truck lanes of the Interstate, and were only given the "Sacramento Salute" twice in California and once in Arkansas (I don't know what they call it there). In CA we were going pretty slow before each incidents but in AR we were clipping right along. The gesture may have been an acknowledgement of our state's role in the civil war or some other "Yankee" type of tribute. Some people!  

Raw Power!

Ramblin Rose is now all spruced up from her trip. Vacuumed and waxed with fresh oil in the crankcase and a full tank of fuel, she is ready to go into storage for a long winter's nap.

Lookin' pretty!

I envision one more post to end the blog. This is planned to summarize the trip, with approximate costs and some observations, hopefully before too long. Until then...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Melton Hill CG and Home

October 8. We departed our cheap motel outside Memphis and started the long drive for home. We had decided to spend most of our time in the West since the closer we got to home, the easier it would be to get back if we missed something. To begin with, Tennessee is a long state, approximately 100 miles North to South but almost 500 miles from Memphis to Bristol. We got as far as Knoxville (actually not quite that far) and the navigator found a nice campground run by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), called Melton Hill.

Melton Hill is on the Clinch River, a tributary to the Tennessee River. It is actually the only facility run by the TVA that is a tributary dam serviced by a navigation lock. The picture does not show it too well but the lock is on the side closest to the observation platform from which the picture was taken, behind the trees.
Melton Hill dam and lock.

The dam generates 72 MW of electricity from two turbines and impounds quite a large recreational pool upstream. The campground was very nice with solar heated showers in the lower bathhouse and large, level and clean sites. It had begun to get cold at night and because of the proximity to water, we had a good fog layer in the morning. This quickly burned off and another beautiful, blue skied day began.
Fog at Melton Hill.

The TVA is the nation's largest public power company, operating a combination of hydroelectric, nuclear and fossil fueled generation facilities. The Authority was created in May of 1933 by congressional charter. It's primary purpose in the beginning was to modernize the Tennessee Valley and improve what was described as Third World agrarian practices of the time. Many of the farmers operated subsistence farms on depleted, eroding soil. TVA brought not only electricity to the valley but produced fertilizer, and had an educational mission to teach farmers about crop rotation and soil conservation. In addition to the agricultural mission, flood control and the recreational areas it created, TVA ultimately provided electricity for aluminum production during WWII and for the enrichment of uranium at Oak Ridge, TN as part of the Manhattan Project. It was at a TVA facility, the Kingston Fossil Plant,where in December of 2008, over 1 Billion gallons of wet coal ash was released from a failed impounding dam, over three hundred acres of wetlands and tributaries of the TN River.

October 9. After departing Melton Hill CP, we had another pretty boring drive. Again the weather was beautiful and Rose performed well, but there just was not much to see along the road. There are always side trips like at Oak Ridge but we were getting a little anxious to be home. Driving now on I-81, we got as far as Natural Bridge, VA where we pulled in to a KOA. Little did we realize that not only was it a long weekend for many folks, it was Trick or Treat night in the campground, which was very full. This campground was the most expensive that we stayed at during our trip and also the most crowded. It was like being in the suburbs, complete with chatty neighbors, barking dogs and screaming children. It was fun, though and seeing all the little kids dressed in their Halloween finery, going from camper to camper for treats was a blast. And yes, Virginia, some campers even bring their inflatable ghosts and witches and pumpkins to the campground for Halloween night.

Rose was in good company for the night but confessed to feeling a bit inadequate, size wise.
Rose at KOA in Natural Bridge, VA.

Finally, just before departing for home, Kathy ceremoniously, actually just threw away, our faithful plastic spoons with which we had eaten every meal that we cooked while on our trip. 
Kathy with the spoons.

We arrived home around 1700 on Sunday evening, October 10 after stopping at a friend's house for a short visit, and our favorite pizza shop for a take out dinner. After unpacking a bit we zoned with the pizza and watched the Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers football game. Good to be home. My next post will be in the form of some statistics and observations. Thanks for your attention and support during our CA2PA bustrip.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To the Big Muddy

Wednesday, October 6th. We had been looking at maps and realized that we were pretty far behind schedule. We had spoken to a lady in the RV park last night who turned us on to the Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis, right on the river, so we made that our goal for the day. That meant passing up Hot Springs National Park, Little Rock and the Bill Clinton presidential library. Another long day of driving but we made it to the river. When we pulled into the access road we were greeted by a sign that said the park was full! We drove up anyway and by virtue of the fact that we need no amenities, we were able to secure a tent site. On our way back out for supplies, we passed a sister of Rose's, a 76 bus, painted caterpillar gut green! On returning to the park we found that they had taken the tent site next to us. They were very nice people from Austin, TX on their way to the Arkansas Heritage and Blues Festival. Rob was tired (from the stress of Debbie's driving) and turned in, but Debbie shared our campfire and we stayed up talking till after our usual bedtime. Very nice people who had owned their bus, Green Dragon for eight years. Rose enjoyed the company.
Rose and friend along the Mississippi.

We ate our dinner along the river even though it was pretty dark. Tugs pushing barges ply the river all through the night and sometimes sound alarms like trash trucks at the landfill, but we slept well.

We had decided, even though behind schedule, to spend the day in Memphis. We drove into the city and found an all day parking lot for $5, one block from Beale Street. We went to the Museum of Rock and Soul that was really very well done, tracing the history of different musical genres, blues, rock and soul with lots of exhibits and music of the respective eras. There were also quite good historical profiles of the major recording labels, Sun, Stax and Hi. After the museum we walked to the old Sun recording studio.
Sun studio on Union St.

This is a pretty unimposing building for the number and quality of artists who recorded here, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis to name but a few. We walked back to Beale Street where it was now happy hour. The street starts to come to life around 1700 and there were musicians playing in the Handy park as well as clubs along the street, which is closed to vehicles. It's pretty much fun. We listened to several groups then had some dinner in a club with a duo of acoustic and electric guitar. As we went into the street there were acrobats doing tumbling routines. These guys were great athletes!
Tumblers on Beale.
Even the young kids feel the rhythm.

After dinner we headed for a cheap motel near the airport. Gotta love the coupons! Back on the road again tomorrow. Memphis gets the big thumbs up approval from these travelers.


Outa Dodge

On Tuesday the 5th, we reluctantly left the Foss reservoir to try to make some progress out of Oklahoma! Our only stop of the day was at the Rte.66 museum in Clinton. It really was a nice museum compared to some of the roadside souvenir stands to which we had subjected ourselves. There were nice displays and lots of information on the construction of the highway itself. This was a nice 55 Ford Thunderbird (for my friend Dan).
55 T-bird, built during the heyday of the highway.

Route 66 was conceived as a way to unify transportation routes across the country that were primarily based on cattle drive trails. The road was dedicated, I think, in 1926 or so. It was the route used for most of the migrants from the dust bowl states to the West coast during the 30s and is mentioned in many works of literature including Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. During the Eisenhower administration, the interstate highway system was developed and many of the towns situated along Rte. 66 were bypassed. Some survived, many did not. The last town to be bypassed was Kingman, AZ in 1978.

Kathy gets to see her armadillo. She was happy even though he was stuffed.
An old, "Splittie" was used to illustrate the type of transportation used by the counterculture (damned hippies).
Lunch time (simulated).

After leaving the museum, we set a goal of getting out of Oklahoma. There really was not much to see, although the Murrah Building Memorial in Oklahoma City was tempting, we were tired of the wind and the boring scenery. Rose did over 300 miles this day which does not seem like much but it represents over 6 hours of driving with the howling wind and no entertainment except Kathy reading to me from the AAA tour books and our feeble attempts to solve crossword puzzles. She'd read me clues such as Canadian Prime Minister Pierre___ and over the wind I would hear comedian, Mr. Pierre ___. No wonder we don't solve the puzzles but, bless her heart, she keeps trying.

We finally cleared OK, pulling in to the Overland RV park in Van Buren, AK in time to set up and do laundry. It was nice since we were able to walk to a local restaurant, Big Jakes, where they showed cowboy movies while the patrons dined. We also filled our pockets with peanuts in the shell from the buckets on the tables. Waste not want not. Later.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Palo Duro Canyon

Yesterday after checking out of our cheap motel in Santa Rosa, we stocked up on some groceries and headed East, always East. Once again, we were back up on I-40 with a steady wind out of the South. A VW bus, for those of you not so privileged as to have ever driven one, is like trying to push a giant Kleenex box through the air. Beautiful as they are, they are not very aerodynamic. The steady wind from the South tries to shove us to the left, overpasses are bad and underpasses are worse as the air flow changes drastically. The only time we seem to go straight is when a big rig is passing on the left (and they all pass) trying to shove us to the right and the wind is trying to shove us to the left and we seem to be in a sort of blissful one second equilibrium. Not that I'm complaining. There are many wind farms out here but there should be a lot more.

I digress. We made our way to Amarillo TX, where Kathy had hoped to see an armadillo but no such luck. South of Amarillo on TX 27 is a state park called Palo Duro Canyon. This is not grand like the Grand Canyon but it is pretty darned good! Whereas the GC exposes rocks down to some 1.8-2 billion year old basement, the Palo Duro (PD) exposes rocks to the Permian, those whose source material was deposited in marshy, near shore or beach environments about 280 million ago. Unlike the GC where you move about on the rim and hike down into the canyon, in the PD you drive down to the bottom of the canyon and hike up, if you so choose. Our campsite then, was along the Eastern portion of the canyon. It was beautiful. Again pictures do not tell the story but I'll put some in anyway.

Surrounding canyon and balancing rock in foreground.
Our campsite from several hundred feet up.

Like so many of the places we've camped on this trip, the night sky is incredible! Without the typical light pollution of cities the number and clarity of stars is amazing. We heard coyotes singing around 0300. During breakfast, we had the privilege of hearing our camping neighbors start their morning off with a bang (or two, couldn't tell). Reluctantly, we broke camp and after checking out the visitor's center, built by CCC workers in the 30's headed back into the wind on I-40. We stopped for some additional Rte 66 weirdness but camped for the night in an Oklahoma state park in Foss, with a beautiful reservoir.
This is billed as the largest cross in the world, found in Groom, TX.
This was our campground for the night. Foss Reservoir is a State Park in (where else), Foss, OK. We were the only ones here until two guys from Philadelphia, on their way to CA, stopped in.

One commenter asked about Black Bart's. Turns out that the restaurant typically hosts bus trips. On the night that we stopped for dinner, no fewer than 5 bus loads of hungry travelers came in to enjoy the food and the singing waiters. One lady at the table next to us passed out and had to be taken away by the local paramedics. Kathy offered first aid but a doctor and a nurse were on the same trip. We hungrily eyed up her dessert which the wait staff served to her empty seat, but we did not take advantage. The campground was just what we needed but there were some semi-permanent residents whose trailer homes could only be described as slums. As with all the places we have stopped, however, everyone we met was gracious.