Joined: January 06, 2007
Location: Moretown, VT
|Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 1:45 pm Post subject: 1970 Campmobile Wedding and Honeymoon
|So I meant to post this story roughly 4 years back when it happened but I never got around to it. This is probably going to end up long winded but skip along to the pictures thats what everyone is here for anyway right? Anyway we used my bus, a 1970 tintop camper as part of my wedding and then left for a honeymoon trip from Massachusetts to Glacier Montana and back via the southern route and up the Blue Ridge Parkway. My old 1600 was pretty well beat and though it was still running with over 1/8" of play in the crank forward and back I wasn't taking this thing on a trip like that. So I spent the year beforehand putting together the motor I always wanted to have I built what was the closest thing I could come up with as a type 1 version of a camper package motor. Thick wall 88mm pistons, lowish compression,DRD ported heads, etc, There's various threads pertaining to that build if you search. Back then while we were still living in Massachusetts I had no garage. I built the motor in a 12x12 shed set up as a workshop. I remember a few days in February working on the motor when it was 10 degrees outside but with a 60,000btu kerosene torpedo heater it would be around 115 degrees inside the shed. Unfortunately with no thermostat on the little rocket it was all or nothing heat and with no insulation and a lofted shed as soon as you turned it off all the heat was gone. So I just sweat and built it. Then came the body work, the bus was part of the wedding ceremony so I wanted it looking its best. Long story short like most projects end up with good intentions to finish early and work the bugs out the bus got wrapped up and put back together by the skin of my teeth in time for the wedding. So on to the real story...
The day of the show:
The plan was to have all the bridesmaids, and ultimately the bride exit from the bus into the wedding, and down the aisle. The place we got married was outside and there was a small dirt road loop around a section of grass where the wedding was all set up (you know chairs, arch, guests all that good stuff). My buddy a groomsman, and also just about the only person in the world I trust to drive the bus, was to drive in and around the loop, parking at the top half at the top of the aisle. The whole thing was a slight slope so you had to go down the hill and back up to the top. He did a couple practice loops earlier in the day. I tried to explain that when he loaded the thing with 6 bridesmaids a bride and himself it was going to take a bit more gas to get around the corner and back up the other side of the hill. Well sure enough moment of truth, when he comes around the corner he stalls her. A quick start a little too much gas and too quick clutch and a nice rooster tail of gravel later back up the hill and ready for the bridal party to exit. Actually it all almost looked rehearsed like we planned it that way. Rest of the wedding went well my wife and I drove off immediately after the ceremony to do pictures and all that fun stuff while everyone filed down to the reception tent. We parked the bus down by the tent during the reception and the videographer guy (we didn't pay for his service he actually randomly found us and did the wedding free to help build his portfolio) ended up doing some cool interviews with people in front of the bus as a surprise thing when we got the video back which was pretty cool.
Exiting the bus down the aisle
staged breakdown picture
Well on to the honeymoon story...
All ready to go in the driveway
We headed out on Route 20 which you could get on about 20 miles from my old house and follow all the way to Oregon if you want (and I have once on a motorcycle) pretty cool 2 lane back road way to get across the country for anyone looking for a trip.
Our traveling companion Gus. He isn't allowed on any furniture at home but its grey area in the bus as he is allowed on the seats in my truck and wife's car so is it a seat or furniture? Anyway we let him slide. He still slept on the floor under the bed at night though...
First real destination stop was the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We camped at a free remote area on the outskirts of the park. The dirt road to get there was about as washboard as you can get and we lost a hubcap on the way out there. Never did find that hubcap....we got to camp amongst a heard of Buffalo though. A bit ominous when the giant Bull would just stand and watch your every move when you walked over to the composting toilets.
At night a few walked within hair pulling distance of the bus.
Somewhere in South Dakota I believe
of course also while in South Dakota we made sure to stop at Wall Drug second only to South of the Border as must stop tourist traps.
From South Dakota we traveled up to Teddy Roosevelt National Park up in North Dakota. Most people I talk to have never even heard of this park but it was pretty cool similar landscape to the Badlands with more green things growing. To get up there in the most direct way we had to take something like 80 miles of dirt road. It hadn't rained in over a month and there was a dust trail for miles behind the bus. When we got to the park the bus had what seemed like an 1/8" layer of dust on every surface inside and out. I cleaned up the engine compartment as best I could and did an oil change and air filter oil change simply due to the dust. From here I think we traveled to Glacier Montana to the national Park and spend a couple days. Its truly beautiful there and anyone that hasn't been should try to make it.
I am not sure if this picture was actually taken in Glacier or at Yellowstone. Most of the good landscape pictures don't include the bus.
Always try to get pictures next to giant roadside attractions
We passed through Chinook, MT I forget if on the way through or the way back. Gus is a Chinook (rare sleddog breed originally from NH) breed dog so we snapped a ton of pictures next to things in town that said the word "Chinook" on them. This one I particularly liked because it also said Plymouth which is my home town (Plymouth,MA).
We went on to Yellowstone and the Tetons crossing the continental divide a couple times. Note; the hubcap lost back in the Badlands. I carried lots of spare parts but this wasn't one of them. By the way the new engine kicked ass up and over the mountains.
Hanging upsidedown over the top of the world somewhere...
The Grand Tetons
We camped again at a remote place where you could camp for free just outside of the Grand Teton Park on some national land. I cant recall the name beautiful spot though overlooking a red rock valley landscape. Well it got down to the 30s that night and when I started up the bus in the morning to leave from camp I was still running 20w50 oil. I had actually planned to stop and change it the day before to a lighter weigh as the weather was considerably colder at elevation and we were about due for an oil change anyway but we hadn't passed any auto parts stores so I put it off one more day. Well the spin on oil filter (setup I have installed has no overpressure bypass loop) exploded with the cold oil in the early morn. As I pulled out of the camping spot I took a last look in the rear view and saw most of my oil on the ground. I immediately shut her down and got out to find the problem. So easy fix and shut down before any real damage done but I didnt have another oil filter with me and only a couple quarts of spare oil not enough for a fill. So had to call for a tow. Only problem was no cell service and no buddy else around. A car hadn't passed us all night on the road. I remembered passing a ranch about 5 miles back or so, so we hiked back there to ask to borrow a phone. Turns out the place was a painted horse breeding ranch owned by some Senator (Wisconsin I think?) or so the hired help told me. They let me into the most gorgeous log cabin I have ever seen and I called for a tow. No one offered a ride back so we made the 5 mile hike back to the bus we had the time to kill anyway waiting for the tow.
A truck got there and the driver was very cool. All sorts of stories he was into back country skiing and had learned to ski by taking horses up the mountains and letting them free. He said it was winter and the only hay was back at the barn so the horses would always walk back home while they skied down. We had him tow us to Jackson Hole where he showed us a tiny one room cabin he used to rent that he said would get so over heated by the woodstove they would have to leave the door open all winter. One time a deer walked right in while he was drinking a beer. The guy was great and so was having a AAA gold membership... never leave home without it.
One minor mishap that could have been major. Gus rode in the bus. when we were unloading in an autozone parking lot from the tow truck I let him out. Somehow in a freak turn of events Gus jumped off the tow bed as it touched down on the ground and his foot went under the bed at the same time. So the bed had his foot pinned to the ground with the pressure of the ramp bed. I thought for sure his foot was already broken but he was thrashing so badly I thought he would also snap his leg in two. So I grabbed and bear hugged him to keep him from snapping the leg all while trying to yell to the tow driver over the sound of the diesel to get the bed up. He was on the other side operating and had no idea what was going on. I didn't get bit so much as the dogs took just caught me as he trashed his head around in pain, but either way it cut me deep. I have the scar to this day on the back of my shoulder.
But turned out the dog was fine he limped about 10 minutes then you would have never known it happened. luckily we unloaded on gravel not on pavement or he may have lost the foot.
Back on the road. We headed through Colorado hit this cool place called Strawberry Hot Springs, and met up with my Buddy Ian who owns an aircooled VW shop in Denver and checked out his shop. We also stopped at Rocky Mountain National Park which was pretty cool.
A typical campsite somewhere or another.
This is supposedly the last remaining steam shovel that dug the Panama Canal. The thing is huge. Not sure how it ended up in the middle of America. I can't even remember exactly where it was.
The wife tried her best at being the navigator this trip but map reading was never her strong suit. I refuse to use GPS on trips like this and always plan them out by map. Only a few times did I have to pull over and take the map myself to figure out where we were...
When we ran out of CDs and radio stations got real thin convinced the wife to read a book outloud while I drove. Who needs books on tape anyway.
Went back home via one of my favorite places in the country, the Blue Ridge parkway starting at Smokey Mountain National Park and taking it straight up through the Shenandoah.
Only one more break down on the way home. We made it to Pennsylvania and driving along it sounded like a bucket of bolts rolling down the road. I immediately pulled off and into a gas station parking lot we got off and to the side before the right rear break totally locked up. Somehow the internals has grenaded and basically ruined everything. The larger issue is I didnt realize till this happened that I left my rear axle socket at home. So we got another tow this time to a sears that said online they had the socket in stock. Got there and no socket anywhere in the store of that size. Luckily there was a Harbor Freight within walking distance who had one that fit. I ended up plugging the brake line with a bolt that fit and taking all the guts out of the brake. We drove it the rest of the way home on 3 brakes. Other than that and the oil filter the bus did just fine on this trip. Whats an adventure without a few good break down stories anyway.
Well that's enough rambling on for now. We made it back to the driveway at home, for one of the last times, as we moved up to Vermont a few days later and started new lives and new jobs. Here is a picture just after arriving back at home in the driveway admiring probably the coolest wedding gift I got. a 10 gauge (blank) cannon custom built and designed by the guys at the machine shop I used to work at.
Fast forward about 4 years later and I haven't driven the bus in probably 2. Baby number 2 is due anyday. Life comes at you fast. But we love it up here in Vermont and I am just finishing my 1800 square foot shop once that is done some much overdue repairs happen to the bus and hopefully the kids first camping trip vw style happens next season. Anyone still reading is pretty dedicated hope you enjoyed.
Joined: January 06, 2007
Location: Moretown, VT
|Posted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 7:44 am Post subject: Re: 1970 Campmobile Wedding and Honeymoon
|I remembered one more breakdown, or almost breakdown, story from this trip that was probably worth adding. Heading I across some remote stretch I forget where, but it was in the middle of nowhere, we passed a gas station I remember looking down and having a less than a 1/4 tank on the needle but there was another small town on the map what looked like about 25 miles ahead so I figured we could make it there and they would have gas. Well about 10 miles or so from here I get the telltale spitting and puttering to a stop consistent of running out of gas. I looked down and the gauge now read empty. Turns out the drain plug from the bottom of the carb had come loose and fell out. Miraculously the engine did not catch fire even though everything in the engine compartment was spewed with gas from it dripping down onto the crank and flinging up off the belt. Also miraculously the drain plug was sitting on some of the engine sheet metal and even still had the washer on it. So I thanked my luck and put it back together extra tight. Only problem was I was now out of gas and 10 miles from the previous station and atleast 15 to the next one. I did however have 1 gallon of coleman white gas in the bus for my lantern and camp stove. I poured this in the tank I think this stuff is about 75 octane but otherwise its basically gasoline with zero additives put into it. So I retarded the timing a little bit and drove back to the gas station filled her up set the timing back to speck and away we went. We did eventually need to pick up more white gas to keep the dinners hot...