Saturday, April 28, 2012

PNW Springmeet 2012 Pictures

...and I was, both

PNW Springmeet  
Volkswagen Show & Swap
Bellevue College
[Bellevue, WA]

A little dark in that parking garage, and I'm not the greatest 
photographer, but here they are.  I've noticed there have been a lot more page views than picture views.  So, in case you're not familiar with this, you click on the triangle in the middle to start the pictures.   Just sayin'...

Pictures of Northwest Volkswagen Club Spring Cruise-In
XXX Rootbeer Drive-In, Issaquah, WA           03.18.12

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Really Bad Day

A really bad day for some Westy owner....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lake Smokiam

By mid April, Westly and I were ready for some intense sunlight.  We had enjoyed a handful of partly to mostly sunny days in Seattle so far, even one where the mercury soared to 70 deg f (the previous spring our first 70 deg day was not until mid May).  What's the quickest way to bask in sunshine in Western Washington?  Trick question - the quickest way most of the year is to travel east for a few hours.  Eastern Washington is a completely different climate zone.  As you descend from the Cascade range across the alluvial terraces into the Columbia Basin and beyond (the Intermontane climatic region) the average rainfall plummets from 40 to 180 (Olympic Rain Forest) inches per year to 25, 15, 10 and in some areas even less.  I had been planning a trip like this all winter, and now was the time.

I packed some food, clothes, hiking boots, and - this time I remembered to bring a camera.  After work Saturday morning, I picked up my friend Redwood, and we headed east on I-90 toward Snoqualmie Pass.  This was the same pass where Westly had run dry a few weeks earlier so I made sure the tank was topped off.  The cloud cover was thinning as Westly charged up the grade.  At Hyak, near the summit, several feet of snow still bordered the road.  Keechelus Lake lay beside us, flat and gray until a late morning sun-break set it to sparkling.  By the time we reached Cle Elum (a somewhat loose translation of the Kittitas Tribe word for "swift water") it was time to shut off the heat and watch for the Indian John Hill rest area.

Finally feeling the warmth at Indian John Hill
Greatly refreshed, we continued on, descending into the Kittitas Valley, through Ellensburg, and then through some lower foothills and down to cross the Columbia River.  Across the river and up the hill at Vantage is an art installation titled "Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies".  You can see it easily from the freeway, but if you have the time I advise taking the first exit up Frenchmen Hill out of the river gorge.  From there it's a short, but steep hike up to visit the herd.  This string of 15 wild horses, cut from 1 inch steel was created by artist David Govedare in 1989.

An very succinct video clip from Mikes Road Trip 

Back on I-90, the terrain levels out into the Columbia Basin.  Just past George (average annual rainfall just 8 inches), Hwy 283 cuts off in a North-Easterly direction, intersecting with Hwy 28 near Ephrata.  Not far after, Hwy 17 heads North to our destination, Soap Lake.

View Larger Map

Soap Lake is located at the South end of the Coulee Corridor which was formed around 11,000 to 17,000 years ago by a series of floods that ended the last ice age.  The floods eventually emptied glacial Lake Missoula, sending more than 500 cubic miles of water at an estimated 15 times the combined flow of all the rivers currently in the world.  It rushed across parts of Washington, Idaho and Oregon carrying along billions of tons of earth and rock as it went.  The Grand Coulee and Channeled Scablands of Washington, the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and Oregon and the Willamette Valley in Oregon are all the result of these floods.

The lake is unusual in that it a meromitric lake - two layers of differing mineral composition that have apparently not ever mixed.   The Grand Coulee was a sort of highway for Native American tribes to access the Columbia river basin.  They would camp and stash supplies in caves along the way, and they valued the water and mud of Soap Lake for it's medicinal properties.  They referred to the lake as Smokiam which means "Healing Waters".

Downtown Soap Lake
No traffic signals
The city of Soap Lake is populated by around 1,740 highly individual people.  Redwood and I met with his friend Lady Smokiam who lives nearby.  After downing some deliciously cool glasses of water, we all walked downtown for a snack and a visit to the Soap Lake Art Museum.  Here SoapBlake regaled us with his grandiose visions such as erecting the worlds largest lava lamp in downtown.

How groovy would this be??
We also learned that there is a somewhat divisive issue about the name of the lake (not the first time, by the way - it was once known as Siloam).  Some of the residents would like to change it to Lake Smokiam to honor the ancient history of the lake and so potential visitors won't mistakenly think that it's suffering from some kind of grey-water run-off problem.  Others think the name Soap Lake has been fine for the past 100 years, and don't you even think about messing with it.  Well, what's your opinion?

Update:  04/28 - Now the Yakama Nation, having been defined by an 1855 treaty as the indigenous people of the Soap Lake area have requested that the name be changed to Cheem-Ti-Wa-Tum (no translation given) which is what their elders called it.

The following poem is from the back of the Don's Restaurant  "Dining With A Western Flavor" menu:

There is healing in the waters and the sunlight - by the lake,
Here your ailments and disorders could dissolve without mistake.
You must try this awesome wonder if you ail and might be cured...
'Tis a miracle of nature...half-again plus all you've heard.
In the past our redskin brothers met beside Smokiams's shore,
And they bathed here and they healed here...this was in the days of yore.

Never man was offered bounty like this spa in desert sun,
Ultra-violet shines upon you, breezes cool - when day is done.
You must come to see the wonder of this mineral water spa,
And the truths you'll see around you all are part of nature's law.
Mineral water is our treasure, come and sample if you'd care,
You may find that life awaits may find your answered prayer!

By Joyce E. Conklin, November, 1981

Anyway, we came here to camp and hike, so let's get on with it.  Lady Smokiam suggested we could  camp on a lot she had at the North end of the lake and as the day was about spent, we took her up on the offer.  The late afternoon wind continued to hang around into the evening, whipping the pop-top canvas into a mesmerizing percussive beat.  I pulled Westly around into the lee of some neglected out buildings to gain shelter from the gale.  After feasting on pasta fettuccine and V8, we dozed peacefully.

Shelter from the wind
Morning brought a symphony of melodious bird song under scattered clouds.  After breakfast we visited the city park which has a sandy beach along the South end of the lake with playground, showers (summer only) and even a small campground (I stayed there last summer while camping with my Outback - nice but a little close to the highway).

Art in Soap Lake City Park
Remember when playgrounds had swings and a merry go round?
At Soap Lake, they still do
The water was still a little too cold for swimming, so we met with Lady Smokiam who had promised to lead us to view some native petroglyphs (after coffee).

Redwood prepares for the trek
We set off on what turned out to be a close to 12 mile hike up canyons, through draws, across mesas, past long abandoned homesteads, and finally to the petroglyph rock.

On the trail
Basalt cliffs
A busy bumble bee shares a flower with a tiny spider
Click to enlarge
Cistern at an old homestead
The petroglyph rock
Mock Orange in bloom framed by a cave
Upon returning to town and freshening up, we strolled to Don's Restaurant to replenish lost carbs.  This is a real cowboy steakhouse, and bonus - you can purchase Indian Princess dolls and/or bundles of firewood at the cash register.
Fine dining in Soap Lake
The sign must have been neon at one time...
Soap Lake House
Canna Street South
Soap Lake house made of basalt rocks
Being thoroughly sated, we scouted out a remote campsite amongst the sagebrush, made some music for awhile, and called it a day.  Early next morning, a light mist was swirling about as we reluctantly made our way back to Seattle.

Making camp in the afterglow

Below - Westly moves it.  Thanks Redwood for putting this video together

Redwood also sent me these images he created on the trip:

Westly in the Wild Horse Monument parking lot
Found on the curb behind Westly
Tagged Pony
Sunday Morning calm at Lake Smokiam
Prepared for rough riding

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Looks a little apprehensive about it's future, doesn't it?

Photo: Foster Huntington

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vanagon Windshield Replacement

Driving with a cracked windshield doesn't bother me all that much.  In the state of Washington, a crack is not a ticket-able offense unless it impairs the driver's vision.  Contrary to what the radio commercials tell you, a cracked windshield is not likely to suddenly fall in your lap, shower your loved ones with glass shards, or blow out all over the road.  It doesn't affect the structural integrity of your vehicle - I think that's what all that metal is there for.  It can affect the performance of the airbag in certain types of accidents, so that could be a concern, but no Vanagon's were equipped with airbags.

I did lose a windshield years ago driving a 1974 bay window panel.  I was driving along Badwater Road in Death Valley when a motor home passing in the other direction kicked up a rock about the size of an orange.  I think it may have been lodged between the dual rear wheels and launched out, but I'm not sure.  Anyway it struck at face level on the passenger side (luckily I was driving alone) made a large hole and shattered the entire windshield.  I stopped by the gas station at Furnace Creek, removed all the remaining glass and deposited it into their dumpster.  I was about 300 miles from home. As you might imagine, driving without a windshield on the freeway produces a high degree of wind turbulence inside the van (and an accompanying huge amount of drag). Rummaging around in back, I was surprised to find my full face motorcycle helmet. Wearing this bright red helmet allowed me to drive with my eyes open (preferable to the alternative) although it also made me the subject of some finger pointing accompanied by guffaws. A little rain fell on the return trip, and upon reaching home I was amazed at the diverse collection of bugs crawling about in the back of the bus.

Westly's windshield was cracked and had a couple of "bulls eyes" as well.  The crack , about 27 inches long with a 3 inch branch upwards was a nuisance to passengers as it lay directly in their line of sight.  When freezing weather came, it extended another 12 inches toward the driver side and then I knew it was time to search for a replacement.

New glass is relatively easy to find (comes out of China now), but I checked on Craig's List first and found just what I needed - a windshield from a '90 Vanagon, including the rubber seal for $50.  I hightailed it over to Leschi to take a look.  No cracks or pits, just a little scratch from scraping it on some other parts while wresting it from the loft of a backyard storage shed.  It had the upper tint (my original did not) which seemed horribly blue when the glass was sitting in my shop, but now that's it's been installed, I don't really notice it. The rubber seal was pliable with just a little blue paint on the edge from a careless masking job at some point.  Bonus - it didn't have the chrome plated plastic trim that was common to the older seals which after 30 years is cracked and rusty brown looking.

The "new" glass  (upside down) - the blue tint doesn't
seem that dark now that it's installed
We struck a deal and I made plans to install it with the help of a neighbor who reportedly had some experience with the task.  This turned out to be a very good plan, as he not only knew how to do the job, he also had a large, heated shop into which we could drive the van and close the door.  The van is too tall to fit in my tiny shop, and the weekend forecast was threatening freezing rain and snow.

We removed the wiper arms, cut the old seal and pushed out the cracked glass from the inside. This was fun - scrunch down in the seat, put your feet up on the glass and push!  Rust in the lower corners of the windshield frame can be a big problem, requiring repair before proceding.  I was relieved to see all the supporting frame was in perfect condition.

No rust!

After cleaning the frame, we applied a little KY jelly around the corners ( the most difficult place to seat the seal). Preparing the seal involved pressing it into place around the glass then inserting a polypropylene string  into the groove with a loop of string left at the top.  I was inside with a blunt instrument (so as not to poke through the seal) and worked around the windshield starting at the lower middle, one hand manipulating the seal with the tool, the other hand pulling the string out as the seal slipped into place along the frame. My neighbor was on the outside pushing gently on the glass and giving me all kinds of helpful advice interspersed with dire warnings about the glass cracking if I made one false move. It took about 15 minutes of this to fully seat the windshield.  I later squirted a little polyurethane caulk under the edge of the seal because some water was seeping in - not while parked but while driving in heavy rain.

Windshield successfully installed!

After finishing the installation, I took the opportunity of being in the large heated space to raise the pop-top and waterproof the canvas.  A couple of 14-oz cans of Kiwi Camp Dry sprayed in two coats (had to turn off the heat and open the door for ventilation) seemed to be enough  - we'll see next rainy campout.  I also washed and hand waxed the entire body.

The same week, while perusing Craig's List I found a local Vanagon owner offering a set of four wheels, tires and hubcaps for a very reasonable price.  He had recently purchase a new set of 15" wheels and tires from GoWesty and wanted these out of his garage.  The tires were fairly new with hardly any wear, and most importantly were the correct load capacity for the Vanagon.  These vans are heavy, especially when you add the Westfalia conversion.  Finding 14" tires with a load rating of about 1,600 lbs is not that easy (which is one reason why the 15" or 16" wheel conversion is so popular - many more tire choices).

Someday I'd like to find some 15" wheels like this for Westly
Original equipment on 2000 Mercedes CLK
We met by the Fauntleroy ferry terminal and made the swap - his unwanted wheels and tires for my cash.  The deal included a set of GoWesty hubcaps and valve stem caps with tiny VW emblems on them.  After a half-hour or so of Vanagon talk, we parted happy.

Ready to go - but first, a couple of weeks of freezing weather
A small electric heater kept the inside warm and dry
I do have a cover - but didn't put it on in time 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Video of Vanagon Production Line

Video of T3 (Vanagon) production line in Hanover, Germany from the late 1980s.
Now I can see why these are still so tight after 20-30 years and hundreds of thousands of miles.  The camper cabinets (and all the stuff inside them) keep up a constant din of rattles and buzzes but I've never heard a peep from the chassis (except for one time when a front shock came loose).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Deception Pass State Park

Wow, three followers now - the pressure is on to provide a steady stream of quality content!  Did I just hear someone ask when the quality content would be commencing? Hey, I'm doing my best.

In early February, Van Kid, Westly and I were hankering for some adventure.  The Wet Westies were gathering at Deception Pass State Park, and we made plans to join them.  We could leave Friday evening and have two days and nights of camping!  Alas, we were thwarted in our plans.  I was scheduled to work early Saturday morning, and Van Spouse issued a decree that income tax preparation must take priority over recreation.

As it turned out, we didn't leave home until 7pm on Saturday.  Opting this time for a more direct route, we headed north on I-5.  After admiring the twinkling lights of downtown Seattle, we continued on through Everett and Marysville.  It was a cold and misty night.  The camp ground was at least a couple of hours away.  Did we want to pay $21 just to sleep there in the van?  Nope - this was an ideal time for some Stealth Van Camping.  We pulled into the Smokey Point Rest Area, walked around a little, picked up some litter, had a snack and called it a night.  We awoke Sunday morning to be teased by the sun; rays of light were filtering through the trees, but they brought little warmth.  The temperature inside the van was around 34 degrees f. (it was 3 degrees warmer inside the fridge).  I lit a stove burner to heat some water and not too long after the indoor temp was up to a balmy 50 degrees.  After a warm breakfast, it was just a short drive to the Park.

View Larger Map

On approaching the tulip-centric town of Mt. Vernon, we veered west on Hwy 536, then merged with SR 20 toward Anacortes (where you board the ferry to Sidney, British Columbia).  At Fidalgo Bay, we took a left turn and continued on SR 20 along Similk Bay, past Campbell Lake, Pass Lake and finally to the Deception Pass Bridge.  The bridge actually crosses Deception Pass and Canoe Pass with Pass Island separating the two.

Van Kid sprints over the railing...
To view the bridge (still a little morning mist)...

And impishly returns from the precipice

Deception Pass was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792.  Looking for passage around the myriad of islands, bays and straights, he discovered a certain land mass to be an island, not a peninsula as he had supposed.  He felt he had been deceived, thus the name.  Apparently those early explorers were a bit touchy.   The pass is located at the north end of Whidbey Island, the 4th largest island in the contiguous United States.  The bridge is one of the more popular photo subjects in the state. We stopped to look before crossing and it's easy to see why.  The twin spans soar 185 feet over the water and afford expansive views from their flanks.

After crossing, we drove down to West Beach, a long sand and gravel beach laden with drift wood.  Nearby Cranberry Lake is just a couple hundred feet from the shore.  It was once a salt water inlet but the spit eventually closed completely and now it's fresh although they say there remains a deep pocket of salt water. Kind of strange, huh?  I wonder if some snails or something live down there forever cut off  from their ocean dwelling kin.  The lake and dunes are abutted by a very slow growing old growth forest where many of the trees are not more than 15-20 inches in diameter.  Each year, decomposing vegetation adds to the scanty topsoil, providing a bit of nutrient.  A trail runs through the dunes and the forest with interpretive signs explaining all kinds of interesting things you probably learned in school but have forgotten.

Van Kid is temporarily dazed in a thicket of Salal
Another trail winds back along the hillside to the pass bridge where you can then traverse the span on a sidewalk separated from the two lanes of traffic by a little handrail.  No fishing is allowed from the bridge, in case you were wondering.  Your bait would probably be picked off by a seagull long before it ever reached the water anyway.

West Beach parking - picnic tables and grills, no fire rings
Van Kid explores a hollow drift wood stump...
And scans the coast for pirates
A gnarly 850 year old Ponderosa Pine

Overall, West Beach was very clean, but we were inexplicably captivated by this collection of bright blue objects, all found within a short distance from one another.

The entire park covers over 4,000 acres and includes some small islands with miles of salt and fresh water shoreline.  There are several camping areas (some accessible only by boat)  and 40 miles of hiking trails, some through expansive stands of old growth forest.

After a full day of hiking and exploring several driftwood forts along the beach, we remembered the Wet Westies camp out.  By that time of course, they had all departed but I must say, they left a very tidy campground.  I heard later that a good size crowd of Westy's had been there including several new members and was sorry to have missed it.

View Larger Map

On our return trip we took a detour off Hwy 20 up Farm to Market Road to visit the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  This intertidal bay is home to 8,000 species of eelgrass, a very important part of the local food chain. There is a smallish camp ground, the Breazeale Interpretive Center is informative, and miles of trails wind around prime wildlife viewing areas.  The late afternoon was fraught with cold, gusty winds and we were expected at home so, sadly, our time here was curtailed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Unloading Volkswagens

            Unloading VWs at the National Harbours Board wharf on 
                      Burrard Inlet, Vancouver, BC in the 1960s
         Source: Photo by Clyde Herrington, via
               Reblogged from a man. a woman. a plan. a vanagon

Terminal Island, Long Beach, CA early 60s
Source:  TheSamba
Aerial view of Terminal Island lot taken from Goodyear Blimp, 1969
Photo: John Malmin
Source: Los Angeles Times
Port of Everett, WA 1963
Source:  The Samba
The Volkswagen Ship
Photo: Alan Bogarth