We were really looking forward to getting away over the Christmas holidays this year, not that that’s really any different than any other year, but this year we had A PLAN. We were organized, sort of.
The Plan: Drive down the west coast of the US, camping at various state parks, to San Diego, where we would stay with friends for a few days before heading home.
We started out on a Friday afternoon with a ferry trip to Port Angeles. Once we were through customs, we took a quick detour to the supermarket to buy food, and then we drove off into the dark in search of our first campground – Sequim Bay State Park. The weather was pretty squally, not yet raining, but windy for sure, so Patrick attached our newest van accessory – the Wasserstopper – which is like a tent fly for the pop top. That worked a treat, keeping us dry and warm all night.
The next morning we hit the road heading south. A storm had swept in during the night and the rain was bucketing down, so when we plowed through a particularly deep puddle and Ginger started to misfire, like the engine was going to die any minute, we figured some water must have got into the electrical system somehow.
All the way down highway 101 we talked through the possible causes of the misfiring, keeping our fingers crossed that it would either sort itself out or we’d make it to Olympia where there were mechanics and vanagon parts if we needed them.
By the time we got to Olympia we were pretty hungry, so I navigated to the Trader Joes and picked up some lunch, while Patrick went next door to the Barnes & Noble to use the free wifi. He’d decided that the problem might be with the distributor cap, wires and spark plugs, and thought we could find an automotive shop to see if they had the right parts.
Sadly they didn’t and there were no mechanics open on a Saturday afternoon, so we had to decide what to do next – carry on south and hope for the best, or stay in Olympia until Monday and get a mechanic to check Ginger. We chose the second option and found a hotel in town (yay for smartphones and mobile data plans!).
On Sunday, we had fun exploring downtown Olympia, with a coffee and treats at the delectable Bread Peddler (if you’re passing through Olympia, I highly recommend stopping in here!) We’d been hoping to have plenty of opportunities to get out for a walk, so having a whole day to wander round wasn’t such a bad thing, and anyway, we were ON HOLIDAY, so it was all good!
By Monday morning though, we were ready to hit the road. We got up early and arrived down at the mechanic’s shop at opening time – 8am – and lucky for us, Pete Lea was obliging and took a look. His immediate diagnosis was that the distributor cap needed replacing, as did the rotor underneath it. He said he could order the parts and get them fitted by lunch time. Two thumbs up! So we headed back to the Bread Peddler, of course, for coffee and more treats, and to read our books.
At lunch time, Pete called to say that the parts had arrived and that he’d fitted them, but that Ginger was still running rough. I can’t remember the exact order of what happened next, but by 4:30 he called us back to tell us the sad news that there was nothing more he could do. The thermostat needed to be replaced, but the nuts holding it in place were frozen and even heat couldn’t loosen them, and the oxygen sensor was also not working properly.
“I strongly recommend that you drive the van back to Victoria,” Pete said.
“Hmmm,” we said. “Maybe we’ll just leave Ginger here, rent a car for the rest of our trip to San Diego, and then pick her up on our way home.” Which wasn’t a bad idea, except that there were no cars available to rent until late on Wednesday. “Hmmm.” I’d promised our friends we’d be in San Diego by December 27, so we had to do something. Maybe we should fly?
To be continued…