Calm Before the Storm

I’ve been primarily incognito, wallowing in filth, and sniffing all kinds of volatile compounds. We’ve been laying down serious hours in the garage, getting Vanessa in tip-top shape for the first leg of our honeymoon.

A few days ago, we were paid a visit by Colin. He is a wandering VW ninja of sorts, the type that converts mere key-holders into full fledged owners of an air-cooled machine. And in a span of 9 hours, Kat and I found ourselves completely transformed, stepping into the enlightened role of Volkswagen owners, taking over the basics of maintenance and tuning onto our own hands. This has been, by far, the greatest preparation we have undertaken for this trip.

Why learn ourselves, you ask? While I certainly agreed in the past that certain things should be left to experts (i.e. hire a damn mechanic), I have come to accept that owning an air cooled VW in this day and age simply cannot be (to a certain degree) entrusted to the supposed experts. With the type of travel we choose, and the situations we typically find ourselves in, there is no substitute for knowing to diagnose and having a basic understanding of your vehicle, when you find yourself stranded on the side of the highway in the middle of the night with no one to call.

Another pertinent example, Colin pointed out that whoever had rebuilt my engine – I had pistons replaced a few years ago – had not bothered to warn me that two very important pieces of cooling tin were missing in the engine, one of which provides air to the oil cooler. If you want it done right, you really have to know, and do it yourself.

I’ve taken Vanessa over several thousand miles since we got her in 2007, and while it’s always a blast taking her on the road, there is a constant fear and worry that sits in the back of my mind the entire time. Is the engine making weird noises? Am I smelling gas? Am I going to get stranded soon? This fear, was really just compounded by the lack of understanding.

And so here we are, with thousands upon thousands of miles of pavement ahead of us. We took notes, tightened our bolts, and did our homework. Let’s do this.

Adjusting ValvesPoints on DistributorBad Vacuum connectorsChloe the 1970 BusGreasing out the Front SuspensionCracked and danger-mouseAssembled Fuel line rail

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