Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, right? Its no different when traveling. We can make all the plans we want, and life throws us a curve. We rise up to the occasion…there is no other option.
Well, I suppose we could tuck-tail and go “back home” where life seems more…um…safe? More predictable? But, no thanks.
We pulled off Hwy 101 and onto the very curvy but scenic Hwy 1 heading back out to the coast on its way out to Fort Bragg. We were told by a Park Ranger that our bus could make the journey, warning Everette that he’d be viewing the skoolie’s backend in the mirror for the stretch out to the coast. The rest of the highway would be an easy but windy trip…isn’t that just what one expects when following the coast?
We’re not in a hurry to get anywhere fast so we chose this route. Pull onto Hwy 1 there’s a sign saying that “any vehicle over 40 feet is prohibited”. Yeah, we’re not over 40 ft. We are 40 ft. We can go!! Yippee Yahoo!
After maybe a half hour of driving we popped out of the forest to this…
Wow, I’m so glad we decided to take this route! The colour of the ocean lightened up to a beautiful greens-blue. In spite of the rain I stood outside the van listening to the waves crash; waiting for the bus to join us back on the coast.
Fort Bragg, I was told, is a “quaint, artistic town”. We thought we’d find ourselves an RV park to camp at for the night, anticipating a much needed hot shower. But after driving around town checking out possible RV parks we were disappointed at the towns lack of “quaintness” and we saw nothing particularly artistic to draw us in (though admittedly we didn’t dig deep) so we opted to drive out the other side of town and head to Point Arena. Now figuring on spending another night at a casino and doing sponge baths. Maybe we could win some more money!!
But then Life happened.
Back in my teens I had a crush on Eric Estrada from CHIPS…California Highway Patrol. Shortly after entering California I saw a CHP sign along the highway. My thoughts flashed back to Eric’s big smile and his Latino body swaying on his motorcycle, weaving amongst the traffic in the California sunshine. My hero chasing down a wanted criminal.
Our interaction with a CHiP was completely un-sexy.
We’d been stranded on the side of this California highway for about a day-and-a-half, about a 30 minute drive from Fort Bragg. Yeah, on our way to Point Arena; obviously we hadn’t made it to our destination.
So far, all that had stopped by to see if we needed assistance were 2 people the previous day: a well-mechanic who is also a bus owner who claimed he was stranded 6 days on a highway in another state; and a European-accented older lady who stopped by after seeing us much earlier in the day, offering her cell phone to call somebody for help.
We were engrossed in My Family and Other Animals, the book I was reading aloud to the family. So when there was a rap at our front door it startled us. I immediately stopped reading. Everette jumped up to see who was there.
“What’s going on here?” came a lady’s accusing voice the moment Everette pushed open the front door. As if we just pulled off on the shoulder of the highway to have a morning party.
Hubby proceeded to show & tell her how we had broken down 2 nights previous and were hopefully picking up the ordered part this very morning, getting this rig back to working order so we could hit the road again ASAP.
You see, about 4:30pm on Wednesday Everette had noticed exhaust fumes wafting up in front of the vehicle’s headlamps behind him. He surmised something needed his attention immediately.
He was driving down a windy hill looking desperately for a safe place to pull over lickety-split. Maret radioed me in the van just a short distance ahead saying that the bus was blowing a lot of smoke. Dad was going to find somewhere to pull over.
I found the first safe spot to pull the van over at. At the Junction of Highway 1 and 218.
Many days we’ve been miles and miles apart as we travel in the two separate vehicles, having set a meet-up location further down the highway. But this time the bus wasn’t far behind me at all. Fortunately.
Before I knew it Our Argo was pulling in right behind me.
Everette jumped out, running to the back of the skoolie. I joined him. Smelling raw diesel he shut the engine off immediately. Maret jumped out of the bus and I commanded her to get all the kids off the bus and into the van up ahead.
Diesel was dripping, constantly, from under the bus. Mixing with the raindrops and streaking the asphalt with beautiful rainbows. Not what you want to see coming from your vehicle.
Everette lowered the bike rack to access the compartment holding the engine. With a headlamp and 3 sets of eyes we searched the engine for the source of the wetness, following the dampness upwards until Maret spotted drips from above.
The end of a hose was clean: evidence that the spewing diesel had cleaned the expected build-up of gunk away. The prognosis….the end of a hose broke off at the bolt, letting it wildly shoot diesel all over the engine and drip fervently down the highway.
Getting Help in Fort Bragg
Before darkness was upon us Everette got all the information he imagined he might need about the engine and the part causing the issue, and he jumped into Scout (the van) and was off to return to Fort Bragg in hopes of finding a diesel mechanic before the end of the business day.
He found Gary Lancaster, owner of Fort Bragg Diesel who would order parts in the morning. Hopeful that they would be delivered by Friday (at the earliest).
It wasn’t the worst place to be broken down. Beside the Navarro River where the autumn trees reflect in the still waters. Where traffic whizzes by all day (not too much during the night) because you’re parked at a junction of two highways. Where the night is so black you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Right in an official Bus Stop.
This bus stop isn’t being used any more, according to a driver for MTA that Everette spoke to on our second morning. Great, because its being occupied, full-time at this point!
Useful Down Time
When things don’t go the way you anticipated, there’s usually a silver lining to the situation. Its not always fun looking for it, but it certainly can be helpful to getting ones attitude in a higher vibration!
This turned out to be much needed downtime to deal with some mildew decorating our skoolie windows. So much condensation and moisture from the skoolie being closed up much of the time for the west coast weather. Thanks to YL Purification blend I got it all done and there was a lighter feel to the skoolie.
The downtime also gave me time to reorganize storage space below Maret’s bed. Now that we’ve been living full-time in the skoolie for a few weeks, and the last week-and-a-half with no extra bodies we’re getting a better feel for what works for us, and how we really need this bus to serve us. All this downtime let me figure some of that out and make appropriate changes.
I also find that cleaning and decluttering helps me deal with stress.
Yeah, I’m a little stressed sitting here day-in and day-out while strangers pass by. Wondering if we’ll get “in trouble” for being parked on the side of the highway.
Not like we planned it. Because really, who would choose to camp in a bus stop?
P.S. As soon as the officer drove away a transport truck with a snow plow on front pulled in behind us. They talked with Everette a few minutes, basically shooting the breeze. The officer had seen them on the highway and asked them to stop by the skoolie to give us some absorbent supplies. She had also told Everette to purchase kitty litter to help absorb the excess diesel at the side of the highway…so as to avoid an accident when somebody might try and stop but skid instead.
P.P.S. Everette just got the new hose on…we’ve been here 46 hours. Its sunny today and we’re going back on the road. We’re going to be heading down Highway 1 towards Point Arena to see more of the beautiful northern California coastline.
P.P.P.S. A Park Ranger drove by and stopped. He said he saw us yesterday but the back was up and Everette was tinkering so he figured we were ok. He stopped today right after the plume of smoke dissipated from Everette starting it and all the spare diesel burning off, happy to see we got the bus running. This dude…he wanted to know what travels we had planned, marvelling at going to Baja because he doesn’t “even like to leave the state!”. His second question…how could we afford to travel?
P.P.P.P.S. The bus is running and we’re ready to hit the road. People come out of the woodwork now. A cyclist we passed 2 days ago in the pouring rain on the approach to Fort Bragg just rolled up to Our Argo. He’s a Frenchman on his way to Cancun. He was checking up to see if we needed any help. We’re good-to-go so instead he comes in to check out the skoolie and exchange contact information. We’ll possibly meet up again down the road.
It’s now 47 hours since we broke down. And we’re off to Point Arena.
Oh, I love my life. So much good comes from our serendipitous travels.
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