Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ruby's Delivers

I'm a kinesthetic style learner.  I can read detailed instructions and maybe eventually figure them out, but one good picture or better yet, let me watch you do it and I've got it.  Miss Peacock patiently tried teaching me music theory and sight reading, but it didn't take - however, listen to a piece a few times and I can usually play it on keyboard or guitar.  I can figure out by estimated MPG and odometer reading how far a given vehicle should be able to travel before re-fueling, but seeing exactly where the needle is pointing when it runs out really drives it home for me.  My Outback will happily roll on another 100 miles or more after the needle points to E.  Not so for Westly.

The point where Westly's tank runs dry
The thick mark just right of center indicates about 10 gallons used of the 15.9 gallon capacity
After Van Kid and I left the Spring Cruise-In at XXX Root Beer Drive-In in Issaquah, we continued East on I-90 toward Snoqualmie Pass.  I wanted to test Westly's mettle after having done some fine tuning on the injection pump and Van Kid wanted to play in the snow.

Westly, making use of every one of his 68 ponies, was willing to charge up the grade at 60 mph, but I backed off to 55 to keep the oil temperature down to a reasonable 230 degrees f.

We didn't have tire chains, so followed a forest service road before the summit as far as the plow had gone, parked and hiked in a short way.

The end of the road
Van Kid checks out a freshet

Time to hit the road

But first, a snack
After becoming thoroughly chilled (not really having dressed for the snow), we had a snack, then headed west and stopped at  Snoqualmie Falls .  This time of year, a lot of water is going over this 268 ft falls (as opposed to being diverted for hydroelectric purposes). The trail down to the base of the falls was closed for repairs, but we had a grand view of the falls from the observation deck.  From the falls, we continued on Hwy 202 toward Fall City, then cut over to Preston and returned to I-90.

Lots of mist comes up from the falls to obfuscate the lens
Just past exit 20, Westly hiccuped, continued on another couple of hundred feet, coughed, then shut down.  I steered to a turnout on the right and hit the switch for the 4-ways.  One thing I like about the older diesels is their simplicity - no ignition system to troubleshoot.  Barring some major engine catastrophe, which I was pretty sure had not taken place, there is either fuel or not. - if there is not, it doesn't run.  Lots of air was visible in the line, so I could see right away the injector pump wasn't getting fuel.  I didn't initially think the tank was dry because the needle was not yet buried in the gauge.  I figured maybe the fuel level had gotten low enough to pick up a bit of muck from the bottom of the tank, so I proceeded to drain the fuel filter.  It has a little valve underneath which makes this an easy task.  Just a dribble.  Now I thought perhaps enough muck had been pulled up to clog the filter.  I always carry an extra and could easily swap it.

Of course I had in mind that we had joined AAA Washington last fall, but I'm a hands-on kind of guy, so I gave it my best before calling for assistance.  We had selected the Premier level membership which allows towing of up to 200 miles, no charge for fuel delivered and other useful (if you have the bad luck to need them) benefits.  AAA, to it's credit, considers the Westfalia camper to be a passenger van rather than a motorhome which keeps the annual fee reasonable.  When it was all over, I figured this episode alone would have cost at least 1/2 of the membership fee if paid out of pocket.

After messing around with the filter, the engine still wouldn't start and the battery was beginning to weaken so I finally did call.  The operator was very thorough and gave me a choice - either have fuel delivered, or a flat bed could come and take Westly to my choice of locations (including home - about 25 miles).  I liked having these options, and chose the fuel.  Within a few minutes, Doug from Ruby's Towing in Issaquah called and gave me the same options, adding that I could have fuel in 15 minutes, but the flat bed might not arrive for an hour or so.  Van Kid was excited about riding in a tow truck, but again I chose the fuel.

Ruby's delivers - Thanks Doug
Fifteen minutes later, Doug showed up with four gallons of diesel fuel ($18.20 worth).  He dumped it in the tank and hooked up jumper cables to provide a little boost.  After some cranking to fill the lines and filter, and a fit of spluttering, Westly's engine roared to life with a brief puff of sooty smoke.  We thanked Doug and continued on our way.  If you ever need towing or other assistance along I-90 in the vicinity of Issaquah, I highly recommend Ruby's Towing (425) 391-3867.

Now, this is unusual for me, but mind if I rant for just a minute?  We were at the side of the freeway for over an hour with the flashers on , the back hatch up and the engine cover off.  During that time among the thousands of cars and trucks that passed by in our direction were three vanagons, including one Syncro Westy with skis on top and no one stopped to offer any help.  Sure, this time I had it under control and didn't really need more help, but what if I was stuck somewhere remote like Bummerville, CA?  Would anyone stop to at least say "Hi, nice van - uhh...why is that big puddle of oil underneath?".  Isn't that in the unwritten code of ownership?  C'mon, where's the love, man?  This served to strengthen my resolve to always help out another stranded Vanagon or classic air-cooled driving Sister or Brother.

See you on the road...

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