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Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia
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22manybugs
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:44 pm    Post subject: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

I always enjoy reading about camping/road trips in buses, so I thought Iíd share my recent trip.

I bought a 1971 Westfalia Bus a couple years ago and have wanted to go on a long camping/road trip ever since. But I first spent time working on the bus and taking shorter drives and short camping trips to gain confidence that it was ready for the trip. I finally went on my camping trip a few weeks ago.

Trip route:
The trip north started in Yorba Linda, California to Yosemite Natíl Park; cross over to hwy 101 north of San Francisco; travel north almost to the Oregon border; cross over hwy 197/199 to I-5; Silver Falls State Park, Oregon; Columbia River Gorge, Oregon; Spokane, Washington, Coeur díAlene, Idaho; and Bothell, Washington. The trip back went through Astoria, Oregon; then stay on hwy 101 all the way along the Oregon coast, through the California coastal redwoods, down to Paso Robles; then home. (I had to change the route north - more about that later).

Stats:
Total trip = 19 days. Left home May 26, 2018. Returned home June 16, 2018.
Non-travel days: 7 days. 3 days in Yosemite National Park; 1 day in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon; 1 day in Coeur díAlene, Idaho; 1 day in Bothell, Washington (suburb of Seattle); 1 day in Paso Robles
Total travel days: 12 days
Total miles: 3836 miles
Average miles on travel days = 320 miles
Total gas used = 196 gallons
Average MPG = 19.6 MPG

Trip:
The plan was to make the trip late spring/early summer before the summer heat Ė no air conditioning, after all. I targeted sometime around Memorial Day to start. I got really lucky in January and was able to get campsites in Yosemite for four nights starting May 26, so that became the starting date of the trip. (Getting a campsite in Yosemite is a whole Ďnother story, I got REALLY lucky!) The plan was the trip north would be inland, just me and the dog, my wife would fly to Spokane where I would pick her up, then visit friends in Coeur díAlene, then visit her sister in Bothell, then travel all the way down the coast and stop at my dadís house in Paso Robles, then home. My wife isnít much into camping and she still wasnít sure about the bus, so only doing half the trip - the half that was along the coast and the half where we stay with friends and family a lot of the time - was much more appealing to her.

Once I had reservations for Yosemite, though, our son and daughter-in-law wanted to come up for the last three nights at Yosemite. Once the kids planned to go, well then, of course the wife wanted to go too. So I drove up May 26 with our dog; then the kids, wife, wifeís sister, and the kidís dog all came up the next day.

The first day of the trip, May 26, driving to Yosemite was the worst part of the entire trip. This was supposed to be early before the summer heat. It didnít work out that way. There was a heat wave that day, it was 95 degrees going over the grapevine on I-5, and as soon as I dropped into the San Joaquin valley, it was 98 degrees driving for four hours. That was miserable. At that temperature, using vents and windwings to blow air on you doesnít really help. The dog and I went through a half-gallon of water. I kept stopping just to take a break from driving. It was such a relief to finally get into the mountains with cooler temperatures.

Me and my travel buddy:
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Yosemite was awesome! Weíve always visited Yosemite in August Ė itís hot, itís crowded, the waterfalls are drying up. This was just the opposite, it was so relaxing and enjoyable. Well, maybe still a bit crowded, but nowhere near like August. For the six weeks before the trip, the weather forecast was perpetually ďrain-rain-rain-snow-snow-rainĒ, and I have to say we were getting worried. Even a few days before the trip, the forecast was a couple days of rain while we were there. But we got there and the weather was great the entire time! We loved going in May!

I had one campsite for one night, then a different campsite for three nights.

First campsite (just me and the dog for the first day):
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What rain?
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Second campsite:
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A few Yosemite photos:
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Mirror Lake:
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When we got to Mirror Lake, I thought I had never been there before. But my wife said we had been here except it was in August and the lake was dry. This was completely different.

Yosemite Falls:
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Dinnertime. Everyone looks so cold, but I don't remember it being cold.
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Me, the wife, and our dog at the entrance to Yosemite. Bridalveil falls to the right. The rainbow effect in the waterfall was very cool. The effect started at the bottom of the falls, I thought I was seeing things but then everyone commented on it. It moved up the waterfall over about 20 minutes, then disappeared at the top. We happened to be there at just the right time.
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Looking over Yosemite valley from Glacier Point. Yosemite falls on the left, Half Dome on the right.
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Remember it was so hot on the way to Yosemite? Well, the day I planned to continue north on the I-5 was another heat wave and it was forecast to be 102 degrees the entire way up to Castle Crags SP where I was supposed to camp, and it would still be 102 degrees at the campground. Uh, no. (I know some of you write about going long distances in 100+ degrees, but I would rather avoid it). I decided to cancel the reservation and cut across California to pick up hwy 101 and stay more along the coast. I left very early to get through the San Joaquin valley before the heat really set in.

Leaving Yosemite:
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Half Dome in the rearview mirror:
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The drive out of the mountains to Sacramento was great: mountain roads, great views, and cool. Between Sacramento and hwy 101, the temperature ramped up and there were three different construction jams I had to get through. It was still in the 90s when I got to highway 101, but at least it wasnít in the 100s. As soon as I got about 100 miles north of San Francisco (past the town of Cloverdale), the weather cooled down, then stayed cool the entire rest of the trip.

More to come...
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

I dig your cargo box. Nice bus!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:12 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Man, thatís great! TotalWestyJazz!

It is nice to see such a good looking Westy in a great place like that. I just did some of my first ever Yosemite hikes last week. I HATE crowded parks/campgrounds, but there is something about that place where Iím fine with it. That is a world class destination, and I can only guess you got your campsites because someone canceled.

Love to read more of your trip report!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:02 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

It looks fantastic! I've always likes the brilliant photographs of Yosemite taken by Ansel Adams.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:56 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Looks like a wonderful trip and that picture from Mirror Lake is like a dream. Thanks for sharing your adventure.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:08 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing your trip. Looking forward to reading the rest. Popcorn
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:33 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Great trip report.
Thanks for sharing.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

That's awesome, thanks for sharing!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Yosemite is where I want to take my 71 Westy once I am finished with it. I am preparing to install the interior in it this weekend.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 4:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Looks like a beautiful trip! Just amazing country we have here, and to be slowing the pace to take it all in, more praise to you sir!
You are living man, thank you for sharing the images and tales.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Great pictures and trip report. It's always nice to see that a well looked over VW that's been gone over mechanically is a reliable vehicle.

Look forward to the rest of the story.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Thanks for all the comments.

TomWesty wrote:
I dig your cargo box. Nice bus!


The cargo box worked great! I had water, dog food, propane canisters, camp stove and grill, some extra emergency gas, and some other things I didn't expect to need frequently. Between that and the awning mounted to the side (instead of lugging an EZ-up inside), it really decluttered the inside of the bus.

I planned to buy a canvas/vinyl cargo container, but most were too big for the 3 ft x 3 ft cargo area on top, and all opened on the side, meaning I would need a stepladder to get inside the container. So I built this one that opens in the front - I pop the top, unzip the rear opening in the top, and reach the box from inside the bus. Also I am happy to report it kept everything dry - the drive between Coeur d'Alene and Bothell rained most of the way, and there was no water inside at the end of the day.

wcfvw69 wrote:
It's always nice to see that a well looked over VW that's been gone over mechanically is a reliable vehicle.

Yep, I am very relieved I had no big issues. I spent a lot of time going through the bus and sorting everything, but there's always something that can go wrong unexpectedly or something gets missed. I just had a few minor issues I'll cover later, but I have a lot of confidence in the bus after this trip.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 12:13 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

The trip continues:

The next three days after Yosemite were long driving days. I barely had time to stop, take a few photos, and keep moving.

I stopped at a grocery store in Eureka, California for supplies. The store was a few miles off the highway. I tried looking for the main street just like in the TV show "Eureka" but didn't find anything remotely close. Was I just not in the right spot, or was it a fake street made up for TV? Hmmm... Think I drove past several New England / Cape Cod style houses that were gorgeous, but badly in need of fixing and refurbishment. So sad. Regretfully, I didn't think to take pictures of the houses at the time.

"Trees of Mystery" in Klamath, Northern Ca. Paul Bunyon and Babe with the bus. I wish I had more time to look around, it seemed like there was a couple hours worth of sights, but I had to keep moving.
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Before the Oregon border, I picked up hwy 197, then hwy 199 to cut across from hwy 101 to I-5. That was a beautiful drive, one of my favorites, but I didn't get any pictures that do it justice.
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Myrtle Beach off hwy 199:
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I finally made it to Oregon!
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Once I got to I-5, I found a campground (nothing special) and did some thinking about the next part of the trip. I had planned to drive over the mountains toward Bend, stay at a campground in the mountains, visit Bend the next day, then back over the mountains the next day and stay at Silver Falls State Park. But after the last couple days just driving, I realized that schedule was too aggressive, so I decided to head straight to Silver Falls and spend two nights. I wish I could have visited Bend but I'm glad I didn't push so much. That'll have to be next time. There was plenty to see at Silver Falls: there is an 8-mile trail that passes 10 waterfalls, the hike took the entire day.

The Silver Falls campground was one of the nicest campgrounds I've ever been. The setting is nice, sites are large, and the bathrooms and showers are the cleanest ever! And the showers are FREE!! (Everyone from California is going "whaa? I don't comprehend showers and free in the same sentence." Just try finding a free shower at a California park. I was prepared with my roll of quarters in the bus to feed the shower meters, and I didn't need it!)

Silver Falls campground:
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I guess if I'm at Silver Falls State Park, I should show a couple waterfalls:
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Does this count as a waterfall? Seems like a stretch...
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Awww, such a pretty girl in the flowers!
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"C'mon, you're moving too slow. Give me the keys, I'll show you how it's done!"
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(Right after that photo, I had to dive to catch her from jumping out the window. That's why she doesn't ride anywhere near fully open windows.)

I came into Silver Falls SP on hwy 214, then I left on hwy 214 going the other direction. Hwy 214 was another favorite drive.
Can you spot the deer?
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Next up: Columbia River Gorge.
Unfortunately, the Columbia River Gorge was kind of disappointing. There was a fire last year, most of the scenic highway and many of the waterfalls are closed due to concerns about the ground giving way after the vegetation had burned off.

Vista house (viewpoint and visitor center):
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I finally got a "bus parking" photo!
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Multomah Falls (can take pictures from the bottom, but can't walk up the trail).
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Starting the drive from the Columbia River Gorge to Spokane.
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After this, the drive to Spokane was loooooonngg with nothing to see.

More to follow.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 7:55 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Spectacular pictures and adventure.
Have a great day.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

The trip continues:

I picked up my wife and her sister at the Spokane airport and drove to our friends' house in Coeur d'Alene. Whew, it's a good thing there were no problems with the bus so I could pick her up just when we planned to meet. When I started, I still wasn't completely sure I would get that far with no issues.

The time in Coeur d'Alene and Seattle was meeting with family and friends, so very few bus-related pictures. I missed some photo opportunities like taking a picture at the Idaho border sign, I just wasn't thinking about it, hopefully there's another chance on some other trip.

With friends in Coeur d'Alene:
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(Y'know, Coeur d'Alene is a very hard name to spell and type, they should shorten it, how about CodA?)

It was cold and rainy most of the way from Coeur d'Alene to Bothell; the bus stayed dry, the heat worked, the windshield wipers worked. The work I did on the bus before the trip paid off. (The last fix a did the day before leaving on the trip was the low-speed wipers. I realized just a few days before the trip that only the high-speed worked. It turned out to be an easy fix, the wire for the low speed wiper was disconnected and taped over. It took a couple hours to figure out the switch connections and trace wires, but the fix was simply plug in the disconnected wire).

In Bothell, after visiting with family all day, my wife and her sister wanted to go wine tasting. There's a winery, Chateaux Ste Michelle, less than 15 minutes from the sister's house. My wife checked their website and found out there was a Jethro Tull concert that night at the winery. Jethro Tull is one of my favorite bands since college, I got tickets in 1984 (cough, that long ago?) to one of their concerts, but the concert was cancelled becuase the lead singer got sick. I never had another opportunity to go. I didn't even think they were still playing. How's that for serendipity? So we went to a Jethro Tull concert completely unplanned. Turns out this was their 50th year in concert, I don't know if the bandmembers are original, but Ian Anderson was singing and he's got to be in his 70's. He still sounded good.

From the Jethro Tull concert:
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We headed to Astonia the next day. Pictures from Astoria:
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Looking down from the top of the Astoria Column. Spot the bus:
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On the pier:
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From Astoria, we followed hwy 101 all the way south. Wow, the Oregon coast is spectacular! This is another case where pictures just don't do it justice.
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Looking back from the trail to Haceta Head lighthouse. Another spot the bus.
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Camped at Seal Cove RV Park, that is a very nice private campground (and the dog could walk on the beach):
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More Oregon coast:
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Back to California in the Coastal redwoods:
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After that, it was another couple long driving days to finish the trip. I didn't get much photos. We spent a couple nights at my dad's house in Paso Robles, then arrive back home Saturday June 16.

Unloading the bus at home:
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It was a great trip! I could have easily gone five weeks for the same trip, I had to skip things to get done in three, but that's all the time I had.
And the best part: after the trip my wife told me "you know, that was really fun." Yes!
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

You know, as much as I enjoy climbing all over my bus like a worker bee fixing this and that, I like the term Iíve read here ďGerman jigsaw puzzleĒ, I have to think this is really the ultimate goal for most of us. To get out and enjoy our bus.

I also believe you can find beauty almost anywhere if you try, but those places you went are serious jaw draggin on the ground drooling beautiful. Not hard to see the magic on those roads.

Thanks for taking the time to post, I enjoy seeing folks out sharing war stories. It gives me hope that it can happen for me and others.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

WildIdea wrote:
You know, as much as I enjoy climbing all over my bus like a worker bee fixing this and that, I like the term Iíve read here ďGerman jigsaw puzzleĒ, I have to think this is really the ultimate goal for most of us. To get out and enjoy our bus.

I also believe you can find beauty almost anywhere if you try, but those places you went are serious jaw draggin on the ground drooling beautiful. Not hard to see the magic on those roads.

Thanks for taking the time to post, I enjoy seeing folks out sharing war stories. It gives me hope that it can happen for me and others.

Yeah, you get it!, and the bus doesn't have to be perfect to do it either as long as it's reliable, it may not look as spectacular in the pics like that one, but you can't see the outside from the drivers seat anyways.

Great pics 22manybugs, that's one trip I never got to schedule in while my kids were little, I'm still going to do it one day even if they don't want to be seen with me anymore, F'-em, they can stay home.

Many of those pics don't include a VW of some kind in them and are at risk from getting deleted by the gallery police (bring a small toy bus along next time you hike to a waterfall to place in the foreground of the pics), you may have to rehost them on an external site, but please promise to maintain that account so they don't become boxes with X's in them in a few years.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Man, this does my heart good! Thank you so much for sharing....
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Some final thoughts (no pictures here).

Orange County to Oregon is a long, long drive. I want to take more camping trips to Oregon, but any trips up there have to be a serious trip of at least two weeks.

What I learned over the trip:
I can drive 65 mph all the time, no problem. That was my typical highway cruising speed. I can drive 70 mph on a cool day with no problem, but on a hot day the oil temperature creeps up and up until I finally start to worry and slow down. Driving much faster than 70, the bus starts to feel unsteady and hard to handle, so I don't go over 70 typically. That's with a 1915cc engine and "freeway flyer" transmission (65 MPH equals about 3,300 engine RPM). The speeds are according to GPS, so it's the real speed.

On long drives in other cars, I usually spend most of the drive listening to music or books on tape because the drive is so tedious. In the bus, I often found myself just listening to the engine and enjoying the scenery much more. I donít know why, but it didnít get boring.

I had no major problems, just some minor ones:
1) In Spokane, the engine started making a ďticka-ticka-tickaĒ sound at low RPM under heavy load, but the sound went away at high RPM. I did a valve adjustment in Coeur díAlene, but still heard the noise the next day driving to Bothell. The engine was running fine. In Bothell, I thought ďmaybe itís an exhaust leak?Ē, looked underneath and immediately saw the exhaust nut that had come loose. Duh. I tightened that, no more noise.
2) While doing the valve adjustment, I noticed one of the gas lines looked wet. I checked closer and the line was soaked in gas. After removing it I found the rubber line was split open about halfway around. This was the german-style braided line, and the braiding was the only thing holding it together. I had replaced all the fuel lines less than two years ago and never expected any problems with that. Some people on the Samba have commented that the german-syle line nowadays is crap, now I have experienced it. This was the line connecting the metal tube from the fuel tank to the fuel pump, and runs right above the distributor. Iím so thankful I saw that when I did. I replaced it with US fuel line from a local auto store. I need to replace all the rest of the fuel line.
3) On the first day driving when it was so hot, the starter would struggle to turn over the engine. I always got it started Ė usually by connecting both batteries together (the bus has two batteries with a selector switch) Ė but a couple times were real iffy. It never acted up the whole rest of the trip when the temperature was cooler. Iím still not sure what to do about that since I havenít been able to duplicate it.
4) Sometimes the engine did not want to start. The starter would turn the engine fine, but it wouldnít fire up. This seems to be random except it never occurs at the start of the day when everything is cold. Most of the time, it started when I connected both batteries together. If that didn't work, I always 100% of the time got it started by connecting a wire from a battery directly to the coil, and it started immediately. My guess is something to do with voltage drop when the starter is pulling down the battery voltage. Maybe coil, maybe ignition switch? Maybe it's tied to item 3 - the starter is weak/partially shorted, drawing too much current, and on hot days it can't crank well (does that make sense)? It seemed/seems to be getting more frequent and Iím still trying to isolate it now that I'm home.

I'm glad those were the only problems, there was nothing major that interrupted the trip, and I'm thankful I caught the fuel line when I did.
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Lon

1969 Karmann Ghia convertible
1971 Westfalia camper
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bus guy
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Joined: November 13, 2002
Posts: 727
Location: Southsea, UK South Coast
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:18 am    Post subject: Re: Camping trip in a 1971 Westfalia Reply with quote

Looks like an amazing trip!
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