Volume Four (New Mexico)
Howdy there. We last left our story with us heading into New Mexico.
We decided to head down into the Southwest corner, to Roswell, to visit the
UFO museum there. On the way, we passed through cow-land, a hundred or so miles
of flat Texas highway, with nothing but cows on both sides. Quite the pleasant
aroma, for a few hours. However, we did see a spectacular sunset that evening.
We also drove beside each other and conversed between busses, as there were NO
other vehicles on the road...
We spent the night at a tiny rest stop by the side of the road. A picnic
shelter, really. And, as we found during the night, beside some railroad tracks
as well! The rest areas were proving to be our friends however. It seems that
out west it is accepted and almost encouraged for travelers to spend the night
at rest stops. This was rather nice, as it provided us with free places to
sleep with facilities as well. This is in contrast with eastern rest areas,
where they greatly frown on hippies...
Anyway, We arrived in Roswell, and stopped to inquire directions to the UFO
museum. Roswell is the site of the 1947 UFO incident, where a rancher found
remains of a UFO crash after a huge lightning storm, and the Military
immediately took over and silenced everything. They had some interesting
information there, and a couple of the people involved in the incident still
live there and host at the museum. Kinda makes you wonder. It also makes you
feel really sorry for the aliens. Imagine traveling for light years, only to
crash in a cow pasture, and get dissected by the government! Bummer indeed...
From there, we began the long, mountainous, desert journey to Albuquerque. I
had been there last summer with my family when we rented one of Tom
Brouilette's Westfalia campers. I had a great time, so we decided to return to
some of the nifty places, and say hello to Tom as well. Albuquerque also has
some really nice rust free busses.
The day was rather hot, and we were taking it pretty easy on the busses,
stopping at intervals of less than 100 miles. We pulled into a rest area about
20 miles outside Albuquerque, and I noticed my engine smelled a bit smoky. So,
we stayed extra long, to let everything really cool down. However, as we pulled
out, I heard a rather nasty knocking noise. We immediately pulled over and
changed the oil, which was black and nasty, despite being well under 1500 miles
old. However, upon starting again, the noise was still there, and we decided it
would not be wise to drive on.
Luckily 3 of us had AAA, so we agreed to get towed into town. Tom recommended
we get towed to a local junkyard, where we could check the engine in the
morning. Arriving at the junkyard, we bedded down for the night. Apparently,
strange, brightly colored busses were nothing unusual in the parking lot, as no
one said anything to us the next morning. Finally, we got the head mechanic to
come out and give us a listen. Unfortunately, he only confirmed our hypothesis-
this was indeed what St. Muir referred to as "expensive noise". Argh, we had
rod knock! And only hundreds of miles from home.
NEATO, however, saved the day. A NEATO member worked at the junkyard, and he
and Tom hooked us up with another member, who was "the man" in Albuquerque. We
had the bus towed to his house, in a quiet suburb. His neighbors all looked on
as we arrived. They couldn't have been too surprised, though, as he has a '63
double-door panel van, and against his garden wall, the perfect side of a '65
or so standard, that the other side had been smashed in. Quite the garden
Also, lurking in his garage was a '51 bus, all primered up, and waiting for
body work! It was the first barndoor that several of us had seen, although I
had had the privilege of riding in Tom's super-wonderful '53 Deluxe the year
So, we proceeded to remove the engine and tear it down. As it was a fresh
rebuild, we saved the heads, pistons and cylinders, but found the #3 rod
bearing was beginning to seize. (I still have the offending bearing as a
souvenier) We took the case and crankshaft to the local machine shop for
inspection and work. It turned out that the case had already been machined, so
this was it's last time. Also, the crankshaft was too worn to be reused, so we
had to get a new one. we left the parts there, and went home to a friendly KOA
downtown, where we proceeded to live it up in the pool and hot tub. Ah, the
life of luxury!!! (they even had laundry facilities!)
The next morning, we met Tom for Brunch at a lovely coffee house, with the
best croissants I've ever had. A couple of the people I was with were going to
join NEATO as well, but then realized they had no address! (or money either)
We talked about busses, and about Tom's camper rental business, which is doing
well. Afterwards, we went to a nifty bead store on the next block, to supply
the jewelry makers among us.
Then, back to the bus. We retrieved the parts from the machine shop,
including a new oil pump, and the total was only $300. Not bad for a bottom end
rebuild! According to the man at the machine shop, some case sealant had gotten
into a crucial oil galley, which had cut off the oil flow to part of the case.
Let this be a lesson to you, kids, and be REALLY careful when sealing up those
Reassembly took a bit longer, as this was my first bottom-up job. Luckily we
were well supervised, and it all went smoothly. We finally got it back in and
hooked up around 1 am, and joy of joys, it ran! Yay! As our host had to go to
work before sun-up, we all turned in.
As a random side note, our host (I won't mention his name, since I haven't
asked him) works as a head cereal engineer for General Mills Co. Ladies and
gentlemen, he is one of the men responsible for gracing us with Berry Berry Kix
cereal! He also works with Cocoa Puffs, and S'Mores Crunch! Yumm, yumm. He
loaded us up with sugar goodies, which we had been lacking as of late. Anyway,
you can all safely buy General Mills cerals without fear now, as you know one
of us is there making them. We are everywhere indeed...
Anyway, the next morning, we headed up the trail for Pecos, a small town
where a friend of ours lives. As a point of interest for all you White Zombie
fans, she is the sister of the Bassist for them. Anyway, they graciously put up
for us for a couple days, as we drove into Santa Fe, and did that tourist thing
for a while. They also showed us a couple points of interest. It certainly is
beautiful country there. I must say New Mexico is becoming a favorite place of
mine to visit...
I did my 50 mile oil change and tune up, and the valves were all doing fine,
so I was hopeful for the engine...
So, we were then prepared to head on up the road to Colorado, which will be
next week's topic. Till then, enjoy your busses.
I'm off to look at a really cheap Vanagon that a dad is selling to punish his