Move Over Griswolds!


He quoted National Lampoon’s Vacation before we left.

“Don’t say that!” I insisted, “It’s like throwing fate the finger and inviting shit to go wrong.”

He realized that was true and hoped all would be well – maybe the universe ignored him.


We were about 90 minutes away from our campsite – a site literally on the edge of a lake that was overlooking an amazing mountain peak, when we hit a stop and the VW bus told us to stop.


Oil smoke was coming out the back – it was clear it was hot (95 degrees at 4000 feet) – and we had to find shade and let it cool down.  “We were not alone,” I reassured myself as cars and trucks joined us in the shade.  But three hours laters, we were still there because, while the engine was cool, the VW bus would not start.


A nice tow truck driver (and owner of the company) stopped to check on us having seen the kids.  Between G and this guy, they figured it out and got it going again. Score!

We got without 15 minutes of the site when the shit hit the fan again – we got pulled over by a sheriff who claimed he saw expired tags on the bus.

Let me example why this is funny.  We were there on July 1st – the day Oregon legalized pot.  We were in a crazy VW bus in a conservative part of Oregon.  And, the sheriff as my oldest point out, could not read a license without glasses – glasses he only put on when he got everything and went back into his truck.  Yeah, seemed unlikely he could see a 1×1 inch number on a license plate as we were going 50 mph past him.  Whatever.

Turns out that an old ticket of G’s resulted in his license getting suspended – a double whammy of expired registration and suspended license.  “Do you have a valid license,” the sheriff asked me.  Yep….and I had never driven the bus, so I got to drive it.  Yay?

Problem was – the bus would not start again.  Heat plus other issues caused the issue.  Fuck….again.  G got it going again but only after the sheriff drove by us to ask if we needed anything.  In my head, I thought “no sir, you have done enough.”  I truly had to keep G from saying anything.

He got it going again, then we got lost trying to find our camping spot. We found it finally – got setup just as the sun was setting – and made dinner.

Then I watched as full moon rose from behind the mountain peak and over the glassy lake. Wow!

We went to sleep with a plan.  G would talk to his bus and clean the points – then we would go to crater lake. Perfect.  And it seemed perfect.

Until we got to the first viewpoint – the VERY first viewpoint – and the bus would not start again.


No cell service for us – no shade – just lots of people driving in and out of this viewpoint. A nice couple from San Diego tried to help.  A retired old mechanic offered his advice.  Neither worked.  We finally found someone with a phone with service and called AAA for a tow.  Over 2 hrs later, the truck showed up.  He took us to the nearest town almost an hour away.  He was a good guy who found the part he concurred we needed – then told us the story of his life that included weapons charges (illegal silencer on handgun) as well as his ongoing custody battle with a shitty attorney.  He got us to the parts store where a 4 month old black lab greeted us as though he knew we needed some love.  The part was purchased and installed….

…..and didn’t work.


It was around 6:30pm. The store was closing.  We couldn’t find a mechanic to help – and we were in the most red necked town – and all without a lead.

I called my parents knowing they were 45 minutes from us.

My dad was in the car before I was off the phone with my mom.

He came down – grabbed us – then took us to the campsite for our stuff.  We stuffed his SUV full of our stuff – then drove 90 minutes to their house.  AC – a real bed – a shower – not what was planned but what was needed.

The next morning, G and my dad went to figure out the VW.  After a few hours of fighting, they sat in a Dairy Queen eating and brainstorming when a mobile mechanic pulled into the parking lot.  G was out the door before he stopped and cornered him.  Turned out that no one was eager to work on a VW bus in 100 degree weather but he suggested something to G.  After they finished lunch, they went to the bus parked next to the autoparts store, bought the part, replaced it, and it started.

They arrived back to my parents’ place an hour later.

And we exhaled but wondered what to do next.

100 degree weather was the norm – it was what was expected for the next few days no matter where we were – home or my parents’ house.  We were going to hit hot weather – weather the bus hated.  So we spent the rest of the day relaxing. Then the following day at the lake with my family – really relaxing.

At the lake – a lake located at 4000 feet in the mountains – we waded in the lake then swam and visibly exhaled. G wasn’t feeling great, then stripped down to his boxer briefs and jumped into the water.  From there, you could see him getting to a good place.  DJ was being shy – a girl who picked her swimsuit – a black two piece with boy-shorts – but refused to strip to it and jump in.  When she finally did, she was happy.  I exhaled and jumped into the water to find it cold but perfect.

Three hours later, we went home to my parents’ house – changed, ate, and slept.

This morning, G got up at 4:30 am to drive home.  We got a room for my parents for two nights – and they brought the girls and me several hours later.  The cooler weather meant the bus got home just fine.  G even commented that the bus sounded better than it had when we went to the campsite.  I believe it.  He got home just fine.  We got home just fine.  And I was finally feeling good about things.

Was it the best trip ever? Oh, fuck no.

Was it the worst? Nope.

It was unexpected.  And proved how much we were not meant for the challenge of the VW bus.  I know enough about engines to be dangerous.  But don’t know enough to help him when he needs it. And when push comes to shove, I’m not keen on spending the night along the side of the road.  Yeah , it is what it is – but that’s also important.

I hate we couldn’t stay in our awesome site.

I hate we spent more time along side of a road than at our destination.

It almost made me cry that my photos of crater lake was from one vantage point.

But more – I hated feeling helpless.

My dad commented when he got us Thursday that it was going to get better but only if we let it.  I agreed.  Saturday, we let it get better but only because we went and relaxed and stopped trying to do a lot of shit.  Eighty degrees at a lake at 4500 feet – it was perfect.

I don’t know what will happen to the bus long term.  I had the feeling as did G that maybe it wasn’t meant to be.  We shall see.  All we do know is that if the temp is above a certain point that we need to just keep the bus where it is parked.

Regardless, I’m happy to be home.

I’m really not cut out to be a Griswold.

I don’t punt well.

And that’s OK.

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