I'm sure I'll have comments on this weekend at Kingdom Crusades but every story has to have a beginning. This story is about a 1985 Volkswagon Vanagon. For as long as I can remember my parents have owned multiple Volkswagon Vanagons. My father uses them as work vehicles and given their ages, he tends to lean towards quantity to make up for quality. When we decided to trek to northern Maryland this past weekend my father offered to loan us one of his vans to carry the large and in charge smithing equipment and the rest of our supplies. So this is the story of the Big Blue Van.
Jeremy was very nervous about driving the Vanagon. He had never really driven one before and if you haven't they're not your average vehicle. You have about 2 feet between your nose and the front bumper which can be disturbing at best. And the engine is in the back (waaaaay back) so you can't really hear it idling or know what it's doing (but I'm getting ahead of myself). I reassured the husband that it was going to be fine and that it was only to Maryland and we would easily make it.
Episode one - 295 around Richmond. Sweetpea is driving along and all of a sudden the car does not want to go. We have idling (you can sorta here it waaaay back there over the traffic noise), but when you push the gas pedal the engine doesn't rev. Hmm. We pull over (no bubble mirrors so I'm the little R2 unit who tells him if it's clear to merge). Ah, simple. The cable had popped off the gas pedal. 1-2-3 we're back in business. If this is the worst thing to come of our trip, then we're home free.
Now because of the evening's events we left the house in kind of a rush. I didn't realize it until we came back home last night and saw the aftermath of the bomb that apparently had gone off in the living room where we were staging the packing and sewing. So we were trying to haul German engineered ass as fast as we could to get to site.
Episode two - a rest stop north of Fredericksburg. We begin to leave and the horn starts to sporadically toot. Not really toot, but sort of murt .. murt. Sweetpea looks at me like I'm throwing my voice or pressing some secret horn tooting button behind the arm rest of the passenger seat. By the time we had backed out into the middle of the parking area at the rest stop the van had burst into a full force wail of a horn toot. Waaaaah! Just like that baby in the restaurant who wimpers a bit and then screams bloody murder everyone in the parking lot turns around to see why we're laying on the horm like LA cab drivers. We just look at each other in bewilderment. So Sweetpea pulls the brake, crawls under the front of the van and pulls the wires for the horn. The crying of our vehicle is cut short like it had been smacked in the face. Ah. Problem number two solved. It is all fine. At this point my husband is starting to wonder about this decision. I'm just giggling to myself. It's all fine.
Oh, did I mention that I hadn't finished the banner for the Vigilino(tm) pavilion? I had penned in the sea horse for the second side and brought the paints but we didn't have the 20 minutes it would have taken for me to finish it to spare. By the time I was finishing this banner I knew I could paint an oakleaf in 15 minutes, a hammer in 10-12 and a large seahorse in 20 minutes. Those last 20 minutes would have to come later.
Episode three - 495 North around DC between Van Dorn Street and the Woodrow Wilson bridge. So as some of my faithful readers will attest to there was a bit of traffic there at 6pm on a Friday. I know, don't go to DC in rush hour, but we were short on time all around. It could not be avoided. We're crawling along in first gear with everyone else. Sweetpea found out how nice a 4 speed car is in traffic because first gear has a lot more travel to it and you can pretty much stay in it up to 15 miles an hour without sounding like the engine will explode. Suddenly the van stalls and won't start. Another fabulous thing about Vanagons is that they are very light. So I hop to the driver's seat and Sweetpea heads to the back to push. Did I mention we were in the middle lane and it was a parking lot of cars around us? So the Sweetpea powered van was going about the same rate as the other cars due to traffic. That's my only explanation for why the dumbass in the Toyota truck continued to drive next to us and would not let us over. He just must have missed the big dude pushing the van. Well, he didn't miss it when the big dude (that's my sweetie) started screaming "What the fuck is your problem? Can't you see me pushing this goddamn van?! Jesus Christ! Get the fuck out of the way!" Dude in truck realizes that there's a very burly fellow turning purple with rage next to his truck pushing an older model Volkswagon Vanagon and shaking his fist at him. He also must have realized that in that traffic he didn't have much recourse or route of escape. He quickly rolled up his windows and scooted out of the way and we manage to pull over. I would have happily kept the van moving on my own while Sweetpea waltzed up there to punch in truck boy's hood a few times and perhaps make him wet his seat, but we decided that other priorities were at hand.
Amazingly, ten minutes of troubleshooting and cursing get the Big Blue Box moving again. We are off! Hmm. Still a parking lot. Remember those 20 minutes or so I needed to finish the banner? I found 'em - about 3 miles south of the Woodrow Wilson bridge. At this point, though, we're nearing dusk and I'm running out of daylight. I paint the edges while we're in traffic and fill the rest in by the passenger map light. The map light is conveniently located at lap level for handy evening arts and crafts in the van. As Sweetpea says, those fucking Germans are so efficient. All is well and we make it to site on time. The Vigilino(tm) gets up, banner included. The journey is over and we are not driving anywhere for two days.
Great so far, right? Well, childrens, we haven't even started. Sunday rolls around and we take off with a bunch of Aradd and Eadan's stuff back to Richmond. Did I mention these things hold a lot of stuff? Vanagons are a special breed of automobile. They're like the platypus of cars.
The Final Act - the Hell between Williamsburg and the Chesapeake Bay. We make it to Richmond without a hitch. Spent too long there (or never long enough depending on how you look at it) and it's about 9 by the time we head to Williamsburg. Sweetmom has a knife and some money and some cheesecake waiting for us when we get there and that's a good rest. We all chat for a bit and life is looking up. It had rained a lot on the way (did I mention we had a headlight burn out too?) but we were making good time.
As we pull out of the driveway in Williamsburg to head home the Vanagon is suddenly not firing on all cylinders. It's again hard to hear because of the engine being about 10 feet behind us and covered in various bags of junk and coolers but we can hear it go from 4 to 3 to 2 and then occasionally 1 before it would die. We assume that the rain has made something funky and it will work itself out by the time we get to the interstate. We continue on for about 10 miles but it is only getting worse. The van is now limping like it's been attacked and is bleeding from an artery. We manage to crawl to a Food Lion parking lot. It's about 11:45pm or so now. Sweetpea is now cursing the entire country of Germany and most of eastern Europe at this point. Being a bit more rational at the time I call Dad and explain it all to him. He gathers tools and the dreaded TOW BAR and heads out (he's about 45 minutes from us). Jeremy looks like he's on his last nerve and is hanging on for dear life. He took it out on me a little and I tried to explain that given the fact that this is not the first car I've driven of my parents' with "issues" and I was raised on these strange automotive practices of self service towing and late night troubleshooting he should take all those frustrations and just suck it up. Apologies and fatigue follow.
Dad comes and we attempt to add water thinking it might be overheating. We crawl around on the ground inspecting the new fuel filters. Dad and I do donuts in the parking lot at 10 miles an hour seeing if it's worse going to the right or to the left. Eventually we tow it to the closest gas station (which also was the cheapest) and fill it up hoping that maybe the gas gauge lies and it's a gas tank issue. No luck. So the dreaded TOW BAR is pulled out again and we set off to make it the next 30 miles to the house.
Now, the TOW BAR is a personal enemy to my sweet husband. Imagine driving a Volkswagon Vanagon. Imagine then driving a disabled vanagon bolted to another vanagon with a 6 foot steel bar (the homemade tow bar by Daddy). Imagine then being towed by my father in the rain at 2am where you are 6 feet behind him going 55mph and every fiber in your body is screaming that you're TOO CLOSE! You can't see anything around the van in front of you and whenever you see Dad's brake lights you have to brake *just the right amount* (too little, too late and the vans buck like a German broncos, threatening to crash). And this is all to avoid the $100 it would have probably cost to get a tow truck. Jeremy's. Very. Last. Nerve.
So we get as far as the tunnel and they stop us (didn't see that coming did ya). The state trooper looked at our tow bar and said something to the effect of "now that's quite a setup". They were cordial about it and explain that he has to have a dolly or tow truck to go through tunnel. We must then abandon Big Blue and all stuff at the island and drive back in Dad's van. I think at this moment when my husband realized he would not ride in the blue van through the tunnel while being towed by my father at 2am his heart sang. We got home about 2:30 I think. Did I mention my office keys were in the van somewhere (they fell out of my purse)? This evening was spent retrieving the stuff from the towed van at my parents and staring at each other.
Whenever my father has something go wrong in a Volkwagon he grins at me yells "Hitler's Revenge!"