E's dead baby...E's dead.
As our friends depart for the airport, we drive north on I-5. Originally, we thought about going the other direction from napa and taking the coastal route through oregon home, but we're really excited to get to portland and spending a few days with friends just made that decision easier. The beauty is...we're now in easy reach of home, so it doesn't feel like we're giving anything up that we can't hit in a "weekend" road trip. We drive straight into a steady gusty headwind all day and the bus feels like we're driving uphill. I'm not sure whether to blame it on the vehicle or the wind, but we have almost no power in 4th gear. Our drive is slow and we only make it about 100 miles up the road before we pull off looking for some wifi and a place to sleep. We try a local hotel bar but opt for the pizza joint instead where we head inside to share a pie and crash in the parking lot outside. In the morning it's bitter cold. Right around 30degrees outside the bus and not much warmer inside. This returning north thing is tough to do, and we are still far from acclimated.
We grab breakfast and i tweak the carbs again and top off the oil. I removed the hose from the breather in case that's somehow responsible for our loss of power in 4th gear. Our fuel pump also seems to have lost the clip that holds the pump lever in place (how do these things happen?), so i fashion one from an old lock washer we have in a spare parts bin. Looks bad but seems better than losing our fuel pump in the middle of I-5 north. We hop on the interstate but the wind is still gusty and we're still weak in 4th gear. We just cant figure it out but about an hour into our trip we don't have to.
My stomach tightens, I turn to jen and ask "did the sound of the engine just change to you?", knowing that it did... and already turning off on the exit that we almost just missed. We coast into the gas station just off the exit and as we slow down we can hear it's very clear we have a problem.
The "Idiot's guide" very clearly describes that with your old VW there are cheap noises and there are expensive noises. This, we were pretty sure... was one of those expensive noises. Shit!
I get out and run back to look at the engine and it's blanketed in oil. It's literally everywhere. Dripping from the ceiling above the engine, running down the walls and pooling up on the floor next to the motor. It's looks more like the set of a cheap horror flick than an engine compartment and my heart sinks. I check the dipstick thinking that we must have lost enough oil that the clanking means we've run completely dry but we're still above the bottom line. Regardless...we aren't going anywhere with that sound. A quick call to a mechanic friend back home confirms it's not good and we likely blew the engine. Suddenly that missing clip and a bit of oil that we were focused on this morning sound great.
We sit in the cold wind for a while in pause taking it all in as we wait for the tow truck to arrive. For a moment I curse the fact that this is happening now. After more than 17k miles we break down less than 500 miles from home? Couldn't it have waited just two more days and we could decide whether to replace the engine or to rebuild it slowly myself and learn along the way?
But as I sit here feeling the bus blow back and forth in the wind, I look up and watch jen chasing a loose page from our dilapidated "idiot's guide" around in the swirling wind in front of the bus. She steps on the page and grabs it, but from somewhere under the bus a second page blows by her and takes flight. As I watch her jump up and down, arms flung above her with the page fluttering a few feet over her head i cant help but start to laugh.. and i slowly realize that I'm actually relieved.
For the past few days of driving I've been stressed out every moment behind the wheel and waiting for what seemed like certain impending doom hanging over our head.
Now it's here. It sucks, but we'll deal with it. Easy enough. Don't get me wrong, in the back of my mind I'm still adding up the dollars we don't have and trying to picture the mechanic we haven't yet met, who we will eventually give those dollars to to solve a problem we don't yet know the extent of... But, now I can also picture us driving home, relaxing and enjoying the ride along the way instead of constantly wondering whether the next 10 miles are the ones that see the engine die.
Now that question has been answered. It was the last 10 miles.