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Trip Report - Death Valley, Mojave, Slab City, Big Sur
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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:44 pm    Post subject: Trip Report - Death Valley, Mojave, Slab City, Big Sur Reply with quote

edit: change 4 pics and update notes to be complaint with thesamba picture rules, I had some pics without a VW in them so they were deleted

Hi All, I was able to do a 16 day 3,500 mile road trip from Seattle through various parts of California around Christmas. This is kinda of a long read so I grouped technical comments together and put the highlights/pictures for the end. Enjoy!

TECHNICAL
-Propex Heater, still the best upgrade Iíve done. Runs great at sea level and I got a chance to test it at 6,400 feet. No problems and plenty of heat.

-Headlight Switch, Iíve heard of headlight switches melting while in use and discovered something new on this trip. While driving Iíd touch the switch now and then and found in general if I dimmed the dash lights the switch would get hot. If I cranked the dash lights up to full brightness the switch remained cool as a cucumber. Not sure why this is but at least I feel better about knowing how to make the switch run cool.

-Slotted and Dimpled Rotors, I went up and down numerous passes so I got a chance to try them out. Surprisingly we did about 6 passes that were between 7,000 to 8,500 feet. Never had a problem but 3 standout where I thought things could get hot but no problems for me.
1. Lake Tahoe, South bound by Emerald Cove. There are a number of downhill corners where you need to slow to 10 or 15 mph to make a 180 degree corner. Maybe driving this at night made it feel worse than it was but I remember applying some pressure on the brake pedal through this area.
2. Lake Tahoe to Nevada, East on 207. Canít remember the grade but itís steep with corners.
3. Eastern California north of Mono Lake, Southbound on 395 the pass north of Mono Lake had my foot on the brake quite a bit.

-Hiccups, sometimes the engine would stumble or cutout like the fuel was bad. It usually seemed to happen at 60-65mph with the cruise control going down a slight down ground. I am not talking about a mountain pass just a slight downgrade would do it. Sometimes taking the cruise off would help or making the engine work by speeding up to 70-75mph would make it go away. I adjusted the Throttle Position Switch a while back and noticed the engine began lurching in 2nd gear going 15-20mph on flat ground. I am wondering if this is somehow connected, Iíve never noticed this until I messed with getting the Throttle Position Switch back in spec. Sometimes shutting down the engine seemed to help too, like making a pit stop at a rest area. Aside from those scenarios I think my Westy likes better gas than cheap gas. I had one tank of California Valero gas that really gave my Westy the hiccups regardless if we were on a flat or going up/down.

-Recaro Seats, we stopped at GoWesty and Van-Cafť on this trip. My Westy has the stock seats and after driving half the day up the coast to GoWesty we sat in that shiny red syncro they have. Those Recaro seats felt really comfortable. It was hard to get out knowing we were headed back to 1,200 miles in factory seats. The simple experience gave me approval from my better half that dropping some money into seats would pass muster. The Van-Cafť guys have a knock-off Recaro seat in their showroom and it looks and feels like a knock-off. They talked about a different Recaro seat that might be a better option than the Recaro seat GoWesty uses. Good to know there are couple options out there if I happen to win the lotto, in the mean time I think Iíll probably go with Eurovan seats.

Carpeted Dash Cover, GoWesty had these on sale so I snagged one. Woo-hoo no shipping charges for a change. It fits pretty good and will definitely keep the sun off the dash when my Westy is between trips. Nice to meet some of the GoWesty folks, they have helped me out numerous times.

SA Grill, impulse buy at Van-Cafť, woo-hoo no shipping. Well at least thatís what I tell myself to sallow the high price for that piece of plastic. I would agree with others that have stated the grill is flimsy. I wish whoever makes these things would pour a little more plastic in the mold. Looking forward to better light though. Nice to meet these guys too, helpful folks.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS
Route, Seattle>Red Bluff>Chico>Lake Tahoe>Death Valley>Mojave Preserve>Route 66>Slab City(furthest point South)>LA>Hollywood Blvd.>GoWesty>Big Sur>Van-Cafť>San Fran>Seattle

No break downs or problems that impacted the trip in anyway. I did stop to help a stranded westy outside of Grants Pass, OR. His fuel filter wasn't flowing fuel so we drove him back to town to pick up a new. Made me think I should be carrying a new one with me on a trip like this. He couldn't find a vanagon filter so he made a plastic Fram filter fit.

Best MPG low 19s,
Avg. MPG around 17ish
Lowest MPG high 14s
Speeds were typically 60-70mph.

Bridgeport at 6,400 feet, the propex worked great. It was also cool to see Lake Tahoe with snow on the beach.
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Death Valley: Wildrose Campground at 4,000 feet. We came in the back way from the west which is part gravel and goes through a wash. No problem the road was in good shape. Probably only a problem when it's raining or right after a heavy rain. Free camping in winter.
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Death Valley: 20 mule team canyon, quick and easy way to see some niffty colored hills. Great place to pull off for some lunch. The road was fine in my 2wd however it looked like fwd cars were spinning on one of the steep hills. Loved the open spaces of Death Valley too.
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Death Valley: Badwater lowest place in the US. Kinda of cool to visit this spot. The white you see is crusty salt. I never noticed a performance difference with elevation changes from -282 to +8,500. I was happy to learn this about my westy.
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Mojave Preserve: It's great to camp in the wild to escape the generators in campgrounds. No one around for miles. I'd recommend the Hole in Wall in the Mojave Preserve to any one passing through the area. If you come in on the gravel roads, expect washboard and plan to air down or rattle your teeth out. First time seeing Joshua trees. Kinda of a weird and cool tree all in one.
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Route 66 south of the Mojave Preserve: Nice to cruise along off the interstate. The owner hopes to get the cafe in business next year. Per the maps they show a cafe so we thought it was open. We pulled up and I was craving a club sandwich and fries. No luck. However they had a good price on candybars and chips.
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Sunset along Route 66: The colors at sunset are so cool. They even make a dirty westy look good.
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Salvation Mountain: First thing you see right before entering Slab City. Interesting what this guy has created. The Discovery channel and National Geographic have covered this. Last year I met some French college kids that saw this in the movie Into the Wild and made it a part of their visit to help paint. It's quite a story here.
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Slab City: I couldn't believe that Fedex delivers here. The driver said he comes in about twice a week. Slab City is many acres of open space with no formal streets. Rather "areas" that are about a few acres in size. Free camping.
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Christmas at the Fountain of Youth SPA which over looks the Salton Sea. I found a string of LED lights that I could run in the evenings to show a little Christmas spirit. You can camp there for about $18 in the "dry dock"(no hookups) and enjoy full use of the facilities which include about 8 hot tubs/spas. The best showers are in the bathrooms by the "dry dock." Everything is super clean at this campground/RV resort.
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Hollywood Blvd./Sunset strip. Did a quick loop to check out the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Blvd. which was interesting. Stumbled across the the Kodak Theatre where they do the Oscars. Hollywood makes you think this is a highbrow area however we found it loaded with tourist and tattoo shops. We checked out a few stars on the star walk and snapped a couple pictures. I was hoping Britney Spears would crash into us so I could get a big settlement and buy the red syncro at GoWesty. No luck. Looks like I'll be enjoying my 2wd a bit longer:-)
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GoWesty: Fun to see what's behind the website. Loved the red westy syncro and seeing it in person. That Tri-Star they have is really nice. I think that was probably the cleanest rig on the lot. The syncro looks like it has some miles on it. Sure they replace parts but the dash and panels here and there show some wear. They are clean and straight no doubt but they are used. That Tri-Star though is really nice. I think whoever had it simply forgot to use it.
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North on 1 by Big Sur: The views were great along the way and the Elephant Seals were active. We saw two pups being born. Pretty cool.
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Big Sur Campground: I forgot to write down how to get to a couple of those wilderness camp spots along the coast so we stayed here.
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Half Moon Bay Campground: No hook-ups so the big RVs had the generators going. It sounded more like a truck stop when we got there but we found a spot that was way from the 40 footers watching TV. I wish they would learn about the peace and quiet of an inverter. Beautiful sandy beach, a great place to enjoy sea. The open views of the ocean are great too.
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San Franciso: Probably shortened the life of my clutch running around China Town. Some of those intersections have some pretty steep hills to get going on. Felt more like I was on a boat launch ramp at times. In the pic there is a maroon westy on the far left without a front license plate. This was taken 12/31 about 4:00pm, was this you?
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From San Fran it was just a run up I-5 to Seattle. These Westfalias are really versitile vechicles. We love how we can wander off road and camp then cruise into a place like San Franciso and park in normal spot by Fishermans Wharf or China Town.

Cheers,
Steve


Last edited by SSWesty on Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:17 am; edited 2 times in total
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peaceful warrior
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a nice trip and definitely looks that way. Great photos.
BTW, you were more apt to have a crack head run into your Westy then Brittney Spears... Laughing ....but then again isn't she a crack head? Laughing
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3konas
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing! Great photos...I'm liking the bike in the SlabCity sign.
Sounds like a great trip and it appears you had good weather.
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joetiger Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like a great trip! Thanks for sharing. Besides the posts that allow me to cheaply upgrade my Vanagon, these trip reports are my favorite.
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FNGRUVN
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple of those pictures would surely make next years Go Westy calendar. Like the other guy said, these are my favorite kind of thread. Glad you had a great trip.
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BlueEscargot
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for sharing, nice pics....

I think I saw you coming in Death Valley when I am coming out. I am in a blue van and I flashed headlight and you waved... Dec 26th I think

Smile
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Vanagon Nut
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great trip report!

Pics w/descriptions are always nice. Good to know your ride behaved well.

Neil.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good post and nice pics. I like your grey water tank, it fits under the van, nice idea.
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NorthernStar
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:55 am    Post subject: Highway question Reply with quote

Hi. Myself and a friend are planning to make a very similar trip from Vancouver B.C. in two Westys (his looks just like yours)! How was the snow situation in the mountain passes? All of your pictures showed great conditions but am just wondering about Grant's Pass in particular.
Thanks a lot.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:16 am    Post subject: Re: Trip Report - Death Valley, Mojave, Slab City, Big Sur Reply with quote

Thanks for the report. Enjoyable read.

SSWesty wrote:
San Franciso: Probably shortened the life of my clutch running around China Town. Some of those intersections have some pretty steep hills to get going on. Felt more like I was on a boat launch ramp at times.


I remember when I was about 7 or 8 I was on a roadtrip with the family in the vanagon. Destination was Yosemite with a stop in San Fransisco. Every time we had to stop at an intersection with those crazy steep hills my dad would get angrier and the smell of burning clutch would get more intense. We were pulling a 1000lb trailer at the time.
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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I too have found trip reports helpful to learn about equipment and tips on places to visit. I figured I needed to return the favor and do a write up on this trip. I enjoy pictures so that part is easy:-) Somehow some pics were deleted from yesterday to today so I restored them in the thread...hmmm.

Few more comments:
-Once we were in California it we were going to make a loop down the coast and up the east side of the state. We checked the weather the forecast the the morning we had to make the decision to do the coast first or Death Valley. The forecast said rain for the coast so we headed for Death Valley first and saved the coast for the return. Avoided rain south of Redding except for rain one night at Big Sur. It was clear by morning to no problem. As for the passes we were about 24 hours ahead of a weather system that hit the Tahoe area. Our flexibility to run the loop either direction kept us dry.

-Grants Pass is really 4 hills that can get a little nasty and they do not recieve has much attention as Siskiyou Pass. Siskiyou pass can have ugly weather but they lay down tons of sand/gravel so it's not bad with compact snow/ice. Aside from timing your passage between weather systems, I have found traffic to be much lighter driving the passes after 7 or 8pm. It's nice to have the whole road to work with if things are slippery.

-That Grey Water works well for me. It's really made well and holds 5 gallons. From the pics you can see that it fits well length wise in the cargo tray.

Steve
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deprivation
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Trip Report - Death Valley, Mojave, Slab City, Big Sur Reply with quote

SSWesty wrote:
sometimes the engine would stumble or cutout like the fuel was bad. It usually seemed to happen at 60-65mph with the cruise control going down a slight down ground. I am not talking about a mountain pass just a slight downgrade would do it. Sometimes taking the cruise off would help or making the engine work by speeding up to 70-75mph would make it go away. .... Sometimes shutting down the engine seemed to help too,

Dude, that is actual, for-real Vanagon syndrome. Have you added the capacitor to you AFM yet? It's a 50-cent fix.
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warloc
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:49 am    Post subject: Awesome Trip Report! Reply with quote

I really enjoyed reading your Trip Report SSWesty, and thanks for sharing!

BTW, you may want to check all your ground connections to prevent stalling and hesitations also known as Vanagon Syndrome. Wink
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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the tips on vanagon syndrome, I think I have a confirmed case. Seems like my symptoms map closely to what the AFM capacitor fix resolves. I'll be curious if that also solves my idle flutter. Even after my best tune-up my idle will flutter 50-75rpms. I'll have put this on my to do list.

Steve
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