2014 Summer Cruise: Tucson to Tahoe in an Air Cooled VW – Part 1
How true is that?!?!
The Second Annual Chirco.com Summer Cruise took me through more “pages” than even the 2000 miles suggested it would. Looking back, I do kinda feel like that astronaut gal a few years back that drove all those miles wearing Depends Under Garments and tossing back energy drinks like there was no tomorrow. I’m not gonna admit or deny the whole under garment part as I believe how a person chooses to travel is their business and perhaps I find the padded rear cushion to be comfortable and somewhat reassuring.
You know, It seems like I read 3 whole “books” on this trip St. Augustine, so…I think I’ll post about it in 3 parts.
The 2014 Summer Cruise was laid out like this:
- Tucson, Az to Lake Tahoe, CA/ NV and back in my 1958 Type 1 VW.
- ~970 miles each way with a 200 mile air cooled VW cruise thrown in for good measure.
- Stop in Lake Havasu City to hang out with some friends.
- Stop at Elk Grove VW to hang out with some cool dealership cats.
- Stop at CB Performance, cause that’s just cool period.
Here’s how it went down. (Queue the ambient background music. Get popcorn.)
Day 1: Tucson, AZ to Lake Havasu City, AZ ~6hours
I woke up at about 4:30am cause I was silly excited. I brushed my back hair, kissed the fam, and hit the road about 6 am. My Chirco.com built 1904cc engine felt good and strong. Senior Mechanic Bob spent a couple days giving my car Mistie a good checkup. Valves adjusted, brakes checked, clutch cable, throttle cable, heads torqued, carbs synced, oil change, some fender genie rubbing (I didn’t ask), and Bob also made sure I had a box of extra everything just in case.
Mistie purred across town. She loves that cooler morning air. I don’t usually make note of everything that happens but on my way out of town I did come across a fatal accident scene. Peace and love to the motorcycle rider and his family. I was just about to enter the freeway and the scene stayed with me as a reminder that I needed to make sure I was careful and sensible on this trip. If you know me, that second item can be a challenge. I did good though.
Making my way up I-10 was sweet. Oil temp was about 180, perfect! I stopped at a little place named Toltec about 45 miles outside Tucson to get a little breakfast and just check stuff. My super cool friend Jon P. Wood texted me…“DUDE! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!” I told him I was in Toltec. He said he lived a mile and a half away and he wanted a Man-Hug!!!
(VW people are amazing.) I prepared to wait but it was like an episode of Bewitched or somethin! POOF!! Jon was there! We laughed and hugged, hugged and laughed (see video of the drive up below) and then I hit the road…feeling loved. Thanks for that Jon.
I shot up I-10 doing the speed limit about 75 or so and I took the Phoenix bypass route. You avoid the city of Phoenix but you are out in the middle of nowhere for about 80 miles until you get to Buckeye, AZ. There is a mountain that looks like afro-puffs to me but other than that, there’s not much to see. I ripped this chunk off with no issues. The car was in tip-top shape and it was still under 100 degrees out so I was pretty comfortable. My buddy Ed loaned me his thermador swamp cooler for the trip and I was itchin to use it, but I decided to wait a bit.
The next stretch was about 90 miles to the town of Quartzite, Az. I don’t know what Quartzite is supposed to be known for but I think it’s chief export is sweaty back and crotch. By the time I got there, I was ready for the cooler. I bought a bag of ice and just filled the cooler up. I poured some water in the top, gassed up and was out of there. Oh…I did meet a cool family that had a lot of cool stuff to say about my car. The young son was an artist too and he showed me an eagle he drew that he won the school art contest with. His work was pretty good! He better not try to take my job though. I fight dirty.
The next piece of road was really beautiful. The cool cool air from the thermador was whipping through my bald locks. The soft subtle sounds of thick funk and hard pounding sub-woofer driven bass filled my cars’ interior as well as my soul. I mentally started planning the video I was going to make and just cruised. There’s a certain beauty in the ruggedness of the desert landscape. The variations in the browns and the sharp edges of the rock formations are always fun to look through. Before I knew it, I was rolling into Lake Havasu City, AZ.
Now…at first I couldn’t find the London Bridge, but eventually I managed to drive over it and get to a brewery. (Oh yeah….make no mistake. It was noon somewhere. ) I called my great friend Cory, famed owner of The Screamin Eagle Bus, and he said he was on his way! I carried the thermador into the brewery because it’s valuable and I wouldn’t want it to get stolen…plus somewhere around Parker, AZ I think I asked it to marry me. It was easy to just stick my forearm in it and carry it by a crosspiece on the inside. Admittedly it looked a little weird. It reminded me of the leg-gun Rose McGowan had in Planet Terror, or maybe like “Edward Thermador Hands”…anyway…as soon as I walked in a female customer at the bar yelled “OH MY GAWD!!! IS THAT A BOMB!!!” Now everyone in the brewery is staring at me like I’m EF Hutton, anxiously waiting for an answer to her exclamation. I paused and in a very calm voice I said, “Noooo. It’s an old style swamp cooler for a car, don’t worry. However I do have to go out there to use the restroom, do you mind watching this thing for me?…I’ll be right back….I promise.” I set the thermador down on the floor by her. I gave the bartender a wink, and walked away gingerly. The look on the lady’s face was priceless.
It was real nice chillin there for a while. Lake Havasu City is hot but there are a lot of VW people there. The famous event Buses By The Bridge is held just up from where we sat. The cutest couple in the world, Bob and his amazing wife Mona joined us. We had a blast! Bob and Mona would prove to be even more special than I thought as the trip unfolded. Later I got to stay in Corey’s fifth wheel and pretend to drive his boat and see the drawing I did of his bus and go see a funk band and laugh and dance with even more Havasu friends! It was a special day.
Day 2: Lake Havasu City, AZ to Grass Valley, CA ~a bajillion hours (14 hours)
The next morning I was up at 5. The night before Bob and Mona decided they would spend their 39th anniversary on the Tahoe Cruise, so they brought over their Dodge truck w/camper shell and said they would follow me all the way up! There is a big difference in traveling alone on the freeway in an old VW, and having more cars with you. If you have more than 1 VW, you’re something to look at, traffic slows to see how awesome your candy-cane colored hotness is. When you’re the only air cooled VW on the freeway, you’re just the “slow guy”.
I am eternally grateful to Bob and Mona for that act. I did have people along the way on standby, but knowing they would be with me all the way up made me feel so much better.
<3 You guys.
We hit the road and immediately I start humming “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed. I was totally like the Bandit and Bob didn’t know it until I told him 18,000 times that they were like The Snowman! I think my enthusiasm for Smokey and the Bandit gave Bob some concern, but he’s a smart man so he just let me “play through.”
Our first stop was Needles, CA for some breakfast. We had eggs, my phone broke, I cried, then we set out across the Mojave Desert. My oil temp was a little higher, up to 190 but the car was very smooth. I drive with the top open, windows down but even over the groovy Slapbak tunes and my Smokey and the Bandit humming I could hear the engine running like a red and white road rocket…or Zola Budd….I can’t decide. It was 2 hours to Barstow, CA but still too early for the cooler. The Mojave looks like a place things go to die. There are long long stretches of nothing but rock and hot. It occurred to me that this is probably the place all the lost socks end up. I had time to reflect, it was good.
We stopped at Barstow to gas up and though it was only 10am…it was flippin hot!! Once again, cooler to the rescue! I checked my oil levels and cleaned my windshield and I talked to random strangers because I do that. I think me and this one guy are BFFs now. I’m not sure but I know we love each other. Anyway…
The next piece was another 2 hour drive to Bakersfield, CA. This was actually pretty fun. You get to drive past Edwards Air Force Base which I call the home of plausible deniability because there’s no reason that base should be there unless they got aliens and wild haired doctors walking around with overly eager NASA rejected fighter pilots and Jeff Goldblum. Just sayin.
The other cool part of this piece was the Tehachapi (Tuh- hatch-uh-pee) Pass. All of a sudden you go from this desolate place of lost socks to this big hills with grass and trains snaking in and out of storybook tunnels built through the mountains place! It was tremendous! Some of the grades were pretty steep but I have a freeway flyer tranny and my engine is pretty tourquey so I was able to pull the hills easily. Bob and Mona commented that following me was a lot different than following VW buses like they are used to. I was able to maintain speed and just cruise. Chirco built.
Coming out of the pass you slope down into Bakersfield, CA. Now Bakersfield is kinda industrial. It was a little like sliding down a beautiful grassy hill on your tummy and landing in dog poo. I’m just kidding. I know there’s much more to Bakersfield than what I saw. It was busy though and the harsh reality that I was on a freeway smacked me right in the face. Hands at 10 and 2! Signal, change lanes! Watch your mirros! Watch your spacing! Is that my throw out bearing?! (mama) It was kinda like that. We had thought to stop there but instead we pushed past, made a quick gas stop then we stopped in Delano, Ca for a bite to eat.
By now me and the Snowman had it goin on. When I needed to pass someone, Bob would move over and block traffic so I could get in. I was still humming at this point and all was good. We stopped in Merced, CA to gas up and really the drive was perfect. Bob and Mona split off around Stockton, CA to go and see our friend Don. I was in a driving zone at the time so I looked up and realized they were no longer behind me. It was all good though. They had helped instill confidence. No fears.
Heading through Elk Grove, CA just outside Sacramento, CA I saw the VW dealership I was going to visit from the freeway so I exited, got lost, got re-lost then found them. I had a quick visit with the sales manager and we scheduled the big visit for the following week. Great guy btw…his name is Sammy…we hugged.
The final leg was pretty cool. I have been to the area before so I was semi-familiar but for some reason it was waaaaaaaaay better in my car! The temp had dropped to about 77 degrees outside and my car was still perfect. I got on Highway 80 in Sacramento and drove a few miles then all of a sudden the road signs started saying I was on I-5 and all these other numbers and hieroglyphics and stuff! I felt like Pee-wee looking at all the curvy direction signs so I pulled off the freeway and went into a restaurant to ask directions. Turns out I wasn’t lost at all, just needed to stay the course.
Here’s the directions the guy gave me:
“Whatcha wanna do is leave here and Turn Left. Go that way 1 block, then turn Left. Go 1 more block, then Turn Left. Then Get back on the freeway.”
…I felt a little stupid, but I was still grateful.
After one more getting lost looking for gas episode and getting directions to my friend Jill’s place in Grass Valley, CA with literally only 1% juice left on my phone, I made it!
Jill’s 17 year old son Brock was waiting for me at the door. He’s like 6’5″ and he’s this big baseball crushing musclely thing so it was cute to see him jumping up and down like a 12 year old Bieber fan all clapping and shouting my name….we hugged too…twice. It felt good to make it up there.
The car stats? My gas mileage was lower than last year, it got better as the day went on and I ended up about 22mpg. The oil temp never got above 190 at any point on the trip up. The thermador was incredible!! No weird noises, no broken cables, no randomly falling off door handles or bumpers. It was perfect. I need to thank the Chirco mechanics Bob and Joe for making sure Mistie was ready. There’s a lot of kidding around that goes on here at Chirco, but when it’s time to get work done, these guys really step up. I felt proud for them. Great job fellas.
So…here’s the video I made of my trip up and back. I filmed bits and pieces and just strung them together real quick. This is just the driving part.
In the next blog post I’ll tell you about the actual Dubs Around The Lake: Lap 4 cruise. Imagine 39 air cooled VWs on a 200 mile cruise, over Donner Pass and around amazing Lake Tahoe! It is the best air cooled cruise in the U.S. IMO. You can find out more info about it here.
So, there ya go St. Augustine… 1 book down, 2 to go. Thanks for following and supporting.
Stay tuned for part 2.