Meet club members Howard and Debbie’s bus “Bertha”. (Restricted to club members only).
Following on from a conversation with one of our members, it is time to talk about harsh rides. Remember that ride comfort is a personal choice!
Low = less travel on the suspension = more likely to be a harsh or bumpy ride.
That’s the simple story though!
Some people call them sway bars, but of course they are designed to STOP the swaying as you go around a corner, therefore sway bar is a bit of a misnomer.
As you drive round a corner, the weight moves (Newton’s Laws start to apply) due to conservation of linear momentum and the outside of the van will drop, with the inside edge of the van lifting. To stabilize this, you can attack a bar under the vehicle that restricts both of these movements, leaving the van itself much flatter. Because this is effectively adding stiffness / restriction, going overboard on this bar can make cornering less comfortable.
Above is an anti-roll bar with the graphic borrowed without permission from the Just Kampers web site. Before you head over there with your wallet open, remember that an anti-roll bar is not the answer to the handling question.
Step away from the credit card….
The shock absorber….erm….absorbs the shocks of the uneven road. It did not take them long to come up with the name I suspect.
It is an oil filled tube with a round disk on a rod in the tube that lets the oil move past it slowly, damping the ability of the tube to expand and contract. One end effectively bolts to the vehicle and one to the wheel (yes, I know that’s a massive simplification, bear with me). As the wheel hits a lump in the road, the oil filled tube contracts and absorbs the impact, expanding again afterwards but not with a jolt.
These are consumable parts and do not last forever. The can deteriorate over both time and usage – just because it has only done 10 miles does not mean that your vehicle does not need them replacing. Do not replace them just for the sake of it though.
Taking the shock off the vehicle is quite simple. Jack up the front using the front beam and your trolley jack, settle it down on axle stands safely and securely. Remove the wheel. Depending on suspension height and shock length, you may need to shorten the shock to remove it by just removing the bolts at each end.
You are not strong enough to test it like this, so don’t do it. Those of you who did the above, please have a cup of tea and stop called me names.
Approach the vehicle with the shock absorbers still attached. Grab the rain gutter or open the front doors and grab the B post or A post and wobble the van from side to side. Does it stop wobbling pretty much immediately? If it keeps moving for more than about 1 second after letting go, probably old shocks and they need replacing. If it just keeps on wobbling, definitely change them.
Have a test drive on an uneven surface but don’t speed. If pot holes are unpleasant with a crashing or jarring feel, that could also be shocks.
Find someone with the same ride height as you and the same model. Have a go in theirs. If theirs is noticeably smoother, it can be shocks.
As above, you remove the wheel safely, unbolt the shock, fit the same length shock from a reputable manufacturer and reassemble in the reverse manner. Only ever replace both left and right at the same time. Expect to pay about £50 per shock plus around an hour labour for the pair. If you buy a cheap pair, expect that you pay for! We bought Sachs Boge heavy duty ones for our Crossover which fixed our crashing ride. Kyb and other manufacturers are available from leading stockists.
This should now give you a good ride on bumps and generally. If you also have problems with body roll on bends that makes things a trifle hairy, now start thinking about anti-roll bars.
The “standard” anti-roll bar is around £20 and will make a small difference. The heavy duty anti-roll bar is about six times as expensive but can make a significant difference to the roadholding and stability of a vehicle, especially on corners.
If you prefer a bigger delivery of parts, you can opt for a suspension handling kit which is a new shock absorber in all 4 corners plus front and rear anti-roll bars. This is a LOT more money – last seen over £400 but will transform tired suspension. Remember that this will not address problems with the beam, torsion arms and other standard parts that need reviewing first.
Going off piste
For the ultimate in change, you can remove the front beam, the shock absorbers, steering and replace it all with twin wishbone coilover suspension and rack and pinion steering covering a lot of bases in one brand new kit. This however makes your bank manager cry and means that you have to hide your bank statements for a while. Last seen at £2,800 fitted for a Bay window, £4,000 for a Split screen, and later vehicles work differently so cannot get this option.
If your ride height is not standard, please consult a professional as the above is a guide based primarily on standard ride height vehicles. Lowering a vehicle is something that I want to learn about and will feature in a future article if I complete that little task!
Following on from last week’s article, this week we are talking about improving fuel economy.
Now that you know how to calculate fuel economy, let’s look at ways to improve it!
Improvements before you start the engine
- Remove anything in the vehicle that is not required. Lighter vehicles use less fuel. Take it out!
- Pump up the tyres to the manufacturers recommended pressure. Soft tyres create friction and use more fuel.
- Ensure that the engine is well maintained and running well. Properly adjusted points / electronic ignition uses the fuel better and wastes less, good carb adjustment uses optimal amounts of fuel. It all adds up!
- Similarly the drive train / brakes / hubs / wheels can create friction and drag slowing down the vehicle taking fuel to overcome it.
- Remove the top box or roof rack if you do not need it. Aerodynamics makes a big difference even to a vehicle shaped like a loaf of bread!
Improvements once you are rolling
- Drive safely and conservatively.
- Stay within the speed limit.
- Slower is better – every 10mph above 50mph will reduce your fuel economy by 10% on average. Enjoy the journey!
- Find a route where there is constant speed – a few miles more around the outside of town with no slowing down is probably less fuel overall than going through the middle with the constant speed changes.
- Accelerate smoothly without taking the engine to the red line.
- Try not to accelerate up a hill if it is safe to do so.
- Accelerate down a hill up to the speed limit if it is safe to do so. Remember being on a bicycle and how you used to get up speed downhill ahead of that big hill? That is the same principle of conserving energy!
- Keep a diary of the fills. Monitor how things change through the seasons.
- Observe any big changes and understand why – does one driver have a “heavier foot”? If so, is your biggest fuel saver asking them to be a passenger?!
If EVERYONE makes just a 1% change to their fuel needs, it will save 10 litres per person per year. 1% sounds like nothing but that is 3 billion litres per year in the US and 7 billion litres per year across Europe.
If you are spending £1,000 per annum on fuel, a well thought out strategy and a £200 service can actually work out cheaper overall but reducing the fuel used / money spent. Drive sensibly, maintain the vehicle well. Not only are you saving fuel and helping the planet, but you are also keeping the vehicle in better shape, making it last longer and stay in better condition.
You have a vehicle. It does not have “fuel economy”.
You have fuel. It ALSO does not have fuel economy.
Put the two together and you do have fuel economy.
Did you know that electric vehicles actually pre-date petrol / gasoline vehicles? The major downside even a century later is that electric power does not have the same energy density as a gallon of fuel. Your starter battery in your vehicle, whether it is a 2 seater light weight sports car or a large 4WD truck, will be somewhere between 20 to 50 pounds in weight / 10kg to 25kg.
Put that battery into an electric vehicle and even the most modern and lightweight electric vehicle will travel no more than about 6 miles. (Modern vehicles are approaching 150Wh per mile) and that is very optimistic. Take that same SPACE occupied by the battery and a petrol / gasoline engine will travel 40 miles / 60 kilometres conservatively. Take that same WEIGHT of the battery and you will travel far further. A starter battery of 50 pounds in weight (25kg) in a modern petrol car could travel more than 300 miles!
Due to this energy density, oil based vehicles, either petrol or diesel have dominated the market. They are however not overly efficient.
The above diagram of a passenger vehicle using the American EPA Urban cycle definitions shows that only 12% of the energy from the fuel ends up driving the wheels. A massive 62% of the energy is lost as heat.
Checking fuel economy
Fill up your tank as full as possible (initial fill). If you are using a classic vehicle, avoid supermarket fuel as some owners have found reduced fuel economy and other issues. Choose the RON fuel for your engine as applicable. Note the first odometer reading.
Drive normally and at a suitable point – ideally later in the tank not sooner to reduce the error margin, fill up again (second fill). Note the second odometer reading.
For those of you in America, you just filled up in gallons. For those in Europe, if you want to stay in litres then great. To convert to UK gallons, divide the number of litres by 4.56. So 45.6 litres is 10 UK gallons. Gallons are smaller in America!
(Second odometer reading) – (First odometer reading) is the distance travelled between fills. The fuel added in the second fill is how much fuel you needed to travel.
(Distance travelled between fills) / (Second fill) = Fuel economy.
Talking about a Volkswagen transporter, the older vehicles will be towards the 15 miles per UK gallon (12 miles per US gallon) or 1.6 miles per litre. More modern vehicles can get towards 50mpg (40mpg in the US or 11 miles per litre) and custom engines can make a big dent in this figure!
Some modern calculations are litres per 100 km / 60 miles. This is also valid but for this, the lower this number, the more efficient! MPG means a higher number is better.
Next week, we will be discussing improvements in fuel economy.
Following on from last week’s article about air cooled heating, let’s get on with adjusting it.
Tools and parts
- Items similar to – scissors, wire cutters, Stanley knife, pliers and other cutting, pulling and squashing devices
- Axle stands or other way of lifting the vehicle enough to get underneath safely
- 6mm spanner or socket
- A friend, they won’t get dirty or need to roll underneath
- Protective items for clothing, gloves, goggles / safety glasses
Get the vehicle far enough and safely enough in the air that you can crawl underneath and still safely operate tools.
Disconnect the battery. This is optional but safe.
Take ALL of the tools with you otherwise you end up doing a lot of sit ups going to fetch the above items.
Between the rear wheels at the back of the Y shaped J tube and heading into the heat exchangers, you will see two flaps, one on either side. These control the hot air coming forwards from the engine into the J tube and up to the front of the vehicle. If required, have your friend sit in the front and move the red levers up and down – look for movement underneath!
When both levers are moving, you should see a thin metal cable moving a flap that is about 50mm long and there should be a spring and a bolt. The arm should be moving freely forwards and backwards. Most commonly the cable is either missing or jammed.
If the cable is missing, get a new set! If the cable is jammed, get some lubricant on it and try again later. Manually move the bolt using pliers and see if the cable is free but the bolt is jammed. If required, detach the cable and verify which piece is jammed. Once all is moving, check that the control arm is as far forward as it can go when the cable has the slack taken up and the level on the dash is fully open. Similarly the level at the other extreme on the dashboard should allow the bolt to fully close the flap.
Adjust the slack on the cable using the 6mm spanner / socket, release the bolt, use pliers to take up the tension and tighten again. This actually needs doing regularly.
Thank your friend kindly and let them get on with something less interesting than fixing the heating on your vehicle.
As you are under there, don’t forget to wire brush and the loose dirt, muck and other unwanted bits then paint and underseal, especially on the heating pipes.
Follow all along from the front of the heat exchangers, along the J tube, the main tube in the middle, up and over the beam and up to the totem pole. Look for holes, leaks and missing insulation. Fix them all.
Crawl out from under the vehicle, stretch, curse if required, dust yourself down, get the axle stands off, reconnect the battery and celebrate by moving the levers on the dash of your working heating.
Remove the socks from the air vents on the dash (a popular way of stopping the draughts in the 90s), start the engine and feel more heat than before. If it is still not HOT once the engine is up to temperature then you still have air leaks in between the heat exchangers and the cab. Troubleshoot every join, seal every incorrect hole and check every flap. Come along to a club meeting and we can all take a look together!
This article will help those with an air cooled vehicle from a Split screen through to the early T25. If you bought a water cooled engine, then it does not apply!
Do you own a VW that you cannot use in colder weather without travelling in a big coat, bobble hat, thick socks and blue fingers? It is a great and effective system but with 39 years since they stopped producing the late Bay and nearly 60 years since the introduction of the Split screen, inevitably there will have been a small amount of wear and tear.
In this article, we are going to cover some of the important parts of getting some of the lovely heat from the engine up to the people at the front. That’s you.
The engine produces heat and a lot of it goes out of the exhaust system. Part of that exhaust system is the “heat exchangers” and that literally means a sleeve around part of the exhaust pipe that heats up the outside air. Once that air is warm it can warm you but it is currently underneath the engine at the back of the vehicle. We need to move it from there up to you without losing much of it.
The big fan above the engine cools the engine (air cooled – the clue is in the name) and there are two big ducts / funnels, one of either side in the engine bay. These go through the metal tray around the engine, underneath, into the heat exchangers and can then enter the heating system. From there, a control flap can be opened to funnel that heat along a 90mm / nearly 4 inch tube along the middle of the vehicle from the gearbox up to the front wheel line. From there is jumps over the front beam in a squashed tube then turns up at the front at the totem pole for those of you with that funny looking piece of metal.
The first place to look – the end game
If you can get heat into the van, you want to keep it there. Windows need to be able to close fully, doors need to close with no draughts, door seals need to be good. Any original flaps, sliders and other ways of getting air into the van need to be able to seal, otherwise that good, warm air will leave very rapidly. these are all visible and easy to track down. Make sure that the roof has similarly no big holes for heat to leave.
Now focus on the insulation. If you have zero insulation in the walls, the heat is going to leave really quickly – not only when you are travelling along but also in the evenings when you are sitting quietly, drinking wine and playing scrabble. Other excitement is available. Remove the wall panels and insulate – that is an article for another day, just don’t use rockwool which absorbs moisture in something that you squash into cavities pressed against metal bodywork. You may as well just drop the whole vehicle in the sea and let the salt water rust your pride and joy!
For evenings, consider curtains which will help insulate too.
Start at the start
That big doghouse fan noted above. Does it turn freely, helping to cool your engine? Ensure all is good in there otherwise you will have a hot engine and cold passengers. From there on both sides are holes about 3 inches / 70mm diameter – check they are not rusted and letting out that precious heat. From there, they warm air goes into stretchy concertina plastic tubes that pass through the tin tray around the engine and underneath. These should be tightly attached to the fan at the top using good jubilee clips – these are inexpensive and will really help.
Now get under the vehicle, safely (disconnect the battery, use axle stands, tie back long hair and loose clothing, your health and safety officer should be standing by and so on). At the bottom of those two concertina tubes they should connect to the heat exchangers, these are boxes on either side of the engine forming part of the exhaust system and do not touch them if the engine is warm. Again, the connection from one to the other should be free or rust, rot and holes and should be sealed well by the jubilee clips.
Then the heat itself
The air from the engine has now flowed underneath the vehicle and has been pushed past the exhaust, getting hot. Both heat exchangers flow the air into a Y shaped tube, curiously called a J tube, although replacement parts may mean this works slightly differently. From there, that lovely hot air enters the tube running along the middle of the vehicle. Once again, the join from the J tube or similar into the middle heating pipe needs to be sealed and not allowing the air out.
That big tube running along the middle of the vehicle needs to be free from holes. Originally from the factory, it is a heavy steel pipe with a jacket around it. that jacket is often missing or otherwise less than perfect. Check it, refit it, replace it. Even a heavy coat of underseal will give you some thermal help as well as reducing the air loss due to holes.
Just in front of the B posts (between the front doors and the sliding door) that tube joins a flattened pip section that jumps over the front beam and up to the front of the vehicle. That can have holes and is tricky to fix. From there you are almost up into the cab area and once inside, there are usually few issues.
Opening the system
The levers on the dashboard that are red are for the warm air. The green or blue ones are for the cool air. Next week, see how to get the red ones operating as they were designed.
Following on from last week’s post about brake shoes and drums, this week is about hydraulics. They sound scary, but are less so once you know a little about it.
The brake cylinder is the….erm….cylinder at the top.
Is it leaking or otherwise not in good shape? It is bolted through the back of the hub with a 13mm bolt. Inspect the hose as well, they need replacing after a while, especially if you see any lumps, bumps, bulges or splits. These are replaced by undoing the 11mm nuts, remembering that you will need to plug the rest of the system to stop all of the brake fluid from dropping on the floor and that stuff is slippery. I normally use a plastic golf tee pushed into the hole then cling film / food wrap over that and the pipe / bracket and some insulation tape to hold it all in place. You won’t keep the air out totally and will need to bleed the brakes at the end.
If you change the cylinder, it attaches with that same bolt. If you change the brake pipe, just do up the nuts. Paint the metal, copper grease / anti-seize anything that isn’t the drum and shoe and reassemble as noted in last week’s article (link is at the top of this one). The more attention you spend now on greasing and anti-seizing the nuts, bolts, holes, springs and so on is going to save time in the future, let it all last a lot longer and reduce the chances of problems.
Don’t forget to do the other rear wheel too!
Hello everyone, the date coincided with a well known event, so today’s post had to be about brakes. There is not much humour writing a weekly post about maintaining a vehicle!
As we start the 2019 season in the UK, you need to think about the important things for your vehicle. Engine, fuel, ventilation, warmth, power, torque. They are all irrelevant – if you cannot STOP, that’s the only important thing you need to ensure is working!
Today’s post is about the REAR original brakes on a split screen, Bay window and T25. These are drum brakes and the principle is similar across all manufacturers and we are going to look only at the shoes in this article.
A jack to lift the vehicle
Axle stands – good sturdy ones, for a change they do not need to be enormous
Hubcap removal tool if you have standard steel wheels. You can improvise with a thick wire coat hanger!
Sockets – 11mm, 17mm (early Bay), 19mm (late Bay)
Taking it apart
Put the vehicle in gear and let the clutch out so that the vehicle isn’t going anywhere and the wheels will not turn. Remove the rear hub caps using the removal tool or a coat hanger suitably shaped to fit into the two little holes on the side. As you yank, keep your feet against the tyre as a hubcap catching device otherwise you will scratch the expensive and shiny cap!
I find either gloves or a screwdriver to go around the removal tool makes the job much easier, so I am pulling the screwdriver not the thin bit of metal.
Loosen the wheel nuts on the two rear wheels by half a turn as it makes things far easier. Then jack up the back of the vehicle using the rear beam (the big thick tube between the rear wheels) high enough to get axle stands under that beam. Let the vehicle down onto the axle stands slowly and safely. Ensure that nothing is loose, about to fall over or anything else that could impact your safety.
Now remove all of the wheel nuts and put the two rear wheels somewhere safe. Under the vehicle is usually a popular place.
Crawl underneath the FRONT of the vehicle and start heading backwards. Towards the rear of the cab section you will see the handbrake cable coming from the front and there is a mechanism that has a cable from there to each of the rear wheels. Slacken off the bolts here to loosen the handbrake cables – you will need to adjust the handbrake anyway and the handbrake if often the reason you cannot continue and get the hub off. the bolts that you need are square and 11mm but could have rusted, take options on the tools required!
Now sit in front of one of the rear drums. There is a backing plate, understandably at the back of the circular drum. At the back of that are the adjustment screws – loosen them with a screwdriver once you expose them by carefully removing the rubber bungs. Get those bungs out, inspect them for damage and put them somewhere safe. If you pried them out, look for damage as they harden with age and may need replacing. If you got the bung out and there is no screw behind it, you took out the optional lining inspection bung. Two bungs – adjustment, four bungs – only remove the bottom two.
The screws go ANTI clockwise to loosen. They rust, so be prepared for both swearing and replacement.
Now that you have removed the bulk of the tension from the parts inside the drum, let us have the first attempt at removing the drum. There are 2 11mm bolts, they may also be rather stiff but a decent socket will normally get them off. Once those two are off, the only thing holding the drum on is rust and anything inside that should have moved and did not.
Grab the drum firmly and pull. Heave. Have another go. Wiggle it, wobble it but keep it at the same parallel angle or you can jam it. If it does not move, and if it hasn’t been off in years that is likely, hit it with a hammer – either a “dead blow” hammer or a piece of wood and a big hammer. A mallet just isn’t enough. If you still cannot remove, start adding penetrating oil and more of the hammer until it all gives.
With the drum off, review the state of your knuckles and measure the inside of the drum circle with a tape measure. As you move around, if it exceeds 253mm diameter, replace the drum. Also check it is consistent as a variation here is what causes the shuddering braking where it is on/off which is inefficient, dangerous and disconcerting.
Now look at the “shoes”, the curved pieces on either side of the middle. The outside of the curve is the brake pad, there should be 6mm on a new pad and 2.5mm is the minimum point where you need to change them.
Replacing your shoes
Remove the handbrake cable, remove the spring holding the shoes together, pull the shoes apart and remove them – you WILL get dirty. If you have anything else in there like springs, separating bars or anything else, get a picture before, during and after to be safe. With everything disassembled, clean it all and replace anything worn to the limit or rusty.
You can buy the drum kit (no, not annoyingly noisy music gear) quite cheaply from a motor factor or your chosen VW stockist and some of the parts in the kit may not be needed, don’t worry about leftovers!
Doing more brake work
If you want to tackle more, don’t reassemble things, read next week’s article.
Understandably, reassembling is the opposite exactly. Put the new or cleaned parts back in reverse order. Tighten the bolts and adjusters down so that the shoe just about touches the drum.
Make sure that from the original you have nothing left over, everything has been copper greased on all bolts and that no grease is on the shoe or drum. I quite like to sand the outside of the drum and paint it but it is never seen and not overly expensive to replace, but everyone is different.
Once the drum is back together fully and adjusted in situ, tighten the handbrake cable such that you can turn the drum with no handbrake but you have minimal travel on the handbrake lever to stop the wheels turning. That can take a few goes!
Jack the vehicle up, get the wheels on, add the wheel nuts, tighten them, let the vehicle down and torque up the nuts.
Test the brakes fully and feel proud. You did that.
Many of us suffer from that indistinct, rather sloppy gear change. In fact, fixing it is a bit time consuming and will make you a bit oily but is not as tricky as you might think.
This video is for a VW Beetle but a split screen, early Bay, late Bay, type 25 and type 3 all have a similar mechanism. Buy the right parts, have a wire brush and some degreaser like Gunk handy and it can transform you gear changes!
In fact, she said, people have been “open and kind and welcoming” everywhere
they’ve gone on this odyssey. “You hear bad things in the news, but overall
people are willing to help. They’ll drop everything they’re doing and invite you
Vought was quick to ascribe their cordial reception to the vehicle. “It’s the
bus,” he said. “People in all countries seem to love the VW bus. They’re already
kind of looking at you anyway, and when they see the bus, it’s like instant
smiles and instant friends.”
The bus at “Mano de Desierto,” a large sculpture of a hand in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Dillon Vought and Tessa Ely didn’t know each other when they attended Service
High School at the same time. Big school, different classes, different crowds.
You know how it goes.
But they’re plenty familiar with each other now. For the past year, they have
traveled 26,000 miles throughout the Western Hemisphere in a Volkswagen
Westfalia pop-top camper bus.
“We just got the idea that we wanted to do some long-term travel,” said Vought.
“We did a few road trips around Alaska and it sort of evolved into this.”
The Alaska Dispatch News contacted the couple in Tierra del Fuego, the
southernmost part of South America. Ely said the place felt a little like
“There’s free camping everywhere,” she said. “It’s very safe. And everyone’s
Vought, 29, got a degree in marketing at a college in Reno, Nevada, before
moving back to Anchorage, where he has worked in logistical support for the oil
industry. Ely, 27, studied at UAA and became a special-education teacher with
the Anchorage School District. Of course, for the last 13 months they’ve been on
what can only be described as an extended leave of absence.
“It’s more like two years,” Vought said. But during the first year of the
adventure, the bus didn’t go anywhere as they rebuilt it.
They bought the broken-down 1975 Westfalia for $500. “It was the only one for
sale two years ago,” he said. They found it slowly weathering away in Hope. It
took a year of busted knuckles and “a lot of duct tape” before the thing was
ready to roll. In the process they added insulation, an RV furnace and changed
the horrible orange paint to a classic green and white two-tone.
Most important, they replaced the old air-cooled engine, a 1960s design, with a
modern Subaru Boxer 2.2 water-cooled engine. The original could churn up 66
horsepower and was famously underpowered, particularly on hills. The Boxer
produces 100 horsepower or better and is more fuel efficient than the vintage
It was time well spent, Vought said. “It’s really a blessing that we rebuilt the
entire thing, because now we know what’s going on with it. We can do most of the
fixes ourselves. You don’t need to worry about finding a good mechanic.”
They had considered taking a year to drive around Asia, but decided South
America would be easier, more right-in-the-neighborhood. “Tessa knew some
Spanish,” Vought said. “It was a more reachable trip.”
The journey began with a long drive down the West Coast. “We were hoping to ski
quite a bit,” Vought said. “But it was a bad year for skiing all over. We didn’t
actually get out and do anything until we got to Vancouver Island. And then it
was surfing. In February.”
They did manage to find snow in Montana. Then they joined a couple of other VW
buses for a mini-caravan drive down the Baja Peninsula, where they spent a
month. From there, the couple ferried the bus to the mainland, headed down the
west coast of Mexico, cut over to the Yucatan and proceeded through Central
America, surfing and camping on beaches as they went.
The Panama Canal brought a gap in road travel. The bus was shipped to Colombia
and the travelers followed by sail. After another month in Colombia, they
continued into the Andes, traveling through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
The southern terminus of the trip came at the end of the Pan American Highway,
just past Ushuaia, Argentina, latitude 54 degrees and change. It’s sometimes
referred to as “the end of the world.”
“We considered going further by boat to Antarctica,” Vought said. But “the
cheapest tour would still have been $5,000.”
Though the trip has been decidedly frugal, it hasn’t been free. The travelers
are already contemplating their return to home and jobs.
“We’ll cruise around Patagonia for a few months, then ship the bus to Florida
from Buenos Aires,” Ely said. While the bus is on the boat she’ll come back to
Alaska to work and Vought will backpack. They’ll reconnect with their trusty
transport in mid-June and drive through the U.S. and Canada “and see how long we
can make our money last,” she said.
The last logical leg will come after they return to Alaska, a run up the Dalton
Highway to Prudhoe Bay.
“I think we’re going to do a photo book,” Vought said. “But we probably won’t
actually complete it until we’re back in Anchorage.”
They’ll come home with a log-book of white-knuckle experiences. “Bolivia has the
worst roads,” Vought said. “We came out there with suspension issues. I’ve had
to replace the shocks and replace the clutch cable five times now.”
“And we’ve gotten a few bouts of stomach illness,” he continued. “Times when you
have to hole up in a hotel for a while and just pray you’re going to get
“I was getting pretty sick in El Salvador,” Ely said. “Dealing with hospitals
and the language barrier is something I don’t want to relive again.”
“The good part is that the local medical care people know how to treat the
common ailments in the area,” said Vought. “They can help you get well, even if
it seems like the most horrible thing.”
The payoff has been the people, Vought said. That goal was at the top of their
reasons for making the trip.
“We wanted to get more engulfed into the culture, go places that the tourists
don’t go, talk to the locals,” he said. “It’s been great. Every time we have a
question or a loss, you don’t hesitate to ask anyone because everyone is so
willing to help. You ask someone for directions and they ask you to stay at
One question they get asked a lot is whether they want to sell the bus. The
answer is always no. “It’s our baby!” said Ely.
“Besides, if we have kids, they’re going to see pictures of this trip and
pictures of the bus,” said Vought. “And if we don’t still have it, they’ll kill
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