Volume Two - Alabama
Howdy all. As we left our intrepid bussers, setting out about the country in a
'67 and '70 bus, they were in the scenic mountains of NC.
I neglected to mention that when the '70 bus crew finally caught up with us
Sunday evening on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the bus could barely cough her way up
the road. As it was near dusk, we decided the problem would have to wait until
we could see to fix it. Bright and early the next morning, we dug in. The
valves were all fine, so the timing was next to check. AHA! the distributor
clamp was loose as the steering on a 30 year old bus. It was one of those
cheap, chrome clamps, and it just wouldn't work properly. Finally, after much
coersion, we got the timing set, and the distributor firmly in place. The
journey was finally about to start...
Uncle Joel had kindly agreed to let us visit him in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, so
that was where we headed. After a day of driving, it became apparent that we
were not going to make it that night, so we called him from a pay phone to tell
him that he could rest easy, as the hippies would not be invading his driveway
for another day.
The next day, we got an early start, and rolled into the lovely metropolis of
Tuscaloosa in mid-afternoon. After pulling into his serene driveway, in a
peaceful neighborhood, we beeped the horn, and all piled out of the
multi-colored busses, ready to make the neighbors complain. After introductions
and such, we were led into his house, a treasure trove of VW literature from
all over. We pored over all sorts of books, and he let me log into his computer
for a bit...He also showed us his model collection. Having made my share of
messes with model glue, I was amazed with the collection he had built, to the
extent of kitbashing a vanagon crew cab from a plain vanagon kit. It looked
He gave us a tour of Gus, his heavily-gadgeted '88 Vanagon. He had all sorts
of nifty things installed, from super foglights, to a CB, to a nifty trip
computer which calculated mph, mpg, and other such wonders. (In metric as well)
To match the round foglights, he had installed an earlier Vanagon front grill,
with the round headlights.
We also checked out his super-clean '68 crew cab, as it sits waiting for me
to buy it!
It was in very good shape, but needed engine and brake work to get it up and
However, soon we had to get down to the dirty business of tracking down the
oil leak in the '70 bus. We pulled the engine, and discovered a pinhole in a
pushrod tube, and creases in another on the same side. So we stripped it down
to the longblock, and removed the head. After agreeing to get parts the next
day, we cleaned up and headed to a dinner buffet at a local restaurant. After
previously dining sparsely on vegetables, the buffet was a welcome
smorgasboard. We amused all the locals, who were trying to figure out what a
respectable man like Joel was doing with 6 hippies. No doubt a probation
officer taking his charges out for a treat!
After a tour of scenic Tuscaloosa, we turned in, agreeing to make an early
morning of it. Joel mysteriously decided that it would be more fun to go poking
through VW junkyards than go to work, so he would be our chauffer the next day.
Early the next morning, we set out in search of parts. After once again
playing get-stared-at-by-locals in Hardee's, we set out in search of pushrod
tubes. We found some things we needed at the FLAPS, but still needed to head to
a VW yard out in the country. We arrived to find a heavenly assortment of old
Bugs and Busses. While Joel and Nicole took care of business, the rest of us
wandered about in a daze through acres of early 60's bugs, and a ton of late
model busses. I nearly cried at the sight of several busses sitting there that
easily could be on the road. There was a PRISTINE '76 westy, just begging to be
traveling. Another unusual sight was a '76 panel van, also in good shape.
All to soon, it was time to go. We had the parts we needed, including a
better distributor clamp. Back at Joel's, we set about re-assembling
everything. This proved to take longer than expected, and soon it was dinner
time. Joel's nephew joined us for dinner, having never seen a split-window bus,
or a bunch of hippies.
After dinner, we decided it was too late to set out, so we agreed to leave
first thing in the morning. In the meantime, Joel regaled us with a slideshow.
He had all sorts of pictures of his busses through the years, starting with a
brand new '71, then a '73, and then his 3 Vanagons...There were also slides of
his trip to the Grand Canyon years ago. I must say, he is a splendid
photographer, and videographer as well. A while back, he had mounted a
videocamera in a bus, and we got to watch action footage of him truckin' around
in the snow. We then made him show us some of his drawings, which we had seen
slides of. Wow, I know who I'm getting to design the next t-shirt!
Bright and early (and I do mean early) the next morning, we all set out, as
we followed Joel to work, and then hit the highway.
I must thank him again, as well as all the other unsuspecting bus folks who
had the pleasure of having us do engine work in their driveway.
A ways outside Tuscaloosa, on our way to Memphis, we turned 1000 miles of our
trip so far.
Ok then, I shall leave off at this point. Tune in next week for "Hippies
visit the King" or "Travelers find Memphis taken over by vicious mosquitoes"