Monday, March 08, 2010

Live from Portland, Oregon: A frustrating week. . .

So I should be done with Angelology by now, but I'm only about 2/3 of the way through it. My husband and I are down in the US after buying a new VW Westfalia in Chico, California, last week. Yes, we bought it last week and WE'RE STILL HERE.

We spent four days keeping our new van in the driveway of a Vanagon-list friend in Chico while he and my wonderfully patient husband worked on fixing the issues with the van. We'd expected needing to make one or two fixes--hoses needing to be replaced, etc.--but when one was fixed, another cropped up. We'd pre-ordered some hoses and other bits in anticipation of needing to fix them right away or along the way, but we had to go in search of other things or find machinists to fix broken but practically irreplaceable parts. It's actually been a pretty educational experience.

After we finally left Chico, we discovered another problem--air in the coolant hose. Every 15-30 minutes, the engine would start to overheat and we'd have to stop and try to bleed the air out. We had this problem after we replaced the engine in our old van (I miss that van ever so much), but it cleared itself up after driving through a particularly hilly town. No such luck with this; no matter how much air we bled, somehow it managed to suck up more. In a start-and-stop manner, we made our way to Medford, Oregon, where another Vanagon-list friend lives; this guy is one of the go-to guys when van owners encounter a problem with their vehicles. After working on the problem in his yard for a few hours, they took it for a test run and declared it ready to continue homeward.

While they were tinkering and tweaking, I sat in the car, reading and playing poker on Facebook and petting the cat whenever she felt like she needed some cuddling. I was asked to get food from a local Mexican restaurant, but my GPS device led me astray and to a restaurant by the same name in the next town north. And then, although I knew the GPS was wrong on the way back and managed to recognize the exit I did need, I couldn't find my way back to the yard where they had expected me with food quite a bit earlier. And there was a root beer explosion on the way--and you know root beer spilled all over a front seat (endangering a borrowed laptop, our CD player, our Fountainhead discs, and drenching the last of my clean clothes) did not help me to stay calm and patient.

I looked forward to a night at an area hotel I had enjoyed before, The Rogue Regency Inn. Whenever we pass through the area, we at least stop to grab a bite in the restaurant. We were concerned a couple years ago that recent roadwork that made the hotel difficult to get to would force its closure, because we knew they were struggling. In fact, last week on our way down to pick up the new van, we'd stopped and enjoyed a night in one of their rooms, which now supply cute spa-style robes.

But when I asked for a room, I was told that we could not have our cat with us. The hotel has a policy against cats. I pointed out that it wasn't a problem the week before, and they said that it was a fluke that we'd been allowed to have the cat with us. I returned to the vehicles (I was driving the car we'd driven down from Canada) and promptly burst into tears.

We decided instead to try the nearby (well, technically--the strange roadways made it harder to get to) Quality Inn, and from now on, that is where we'll be staying when we pass through Medford. It was as nice as the Rogue Regency Inn (albeit without the robes) and managed to cost less, even with the pet fee, plus it provided a free breakfast with some of the best yogurt I've ever had. And it's less complicated to get to when you get off the highway. Bonus: I was able to wash some of my sticky clothes in the guest laundry facility.

So things were looking up when we managed to drive the next morning for a while before the engine overheated. And after a few more stops, about 200 miles south of Portland, there was suddenly a lot more steam pouring out the back of the van. Coolant hose busted. We called for a tow (I love AAA--or as we have in British Columbia, BCAA) and made it the rest of the way to Portland, where we parked both the van and the car at the Rodeway we'd booked while waiting for the tow truck, and the next morning when my beloved husband was replacing the coolant hose, he found a problem with the head gasket, which, as I understand it, shouldn't have been a problem at all considering that the engine was rebuilt a couple years ago and has less than 1000 miles on it. So we had it hauled to a local Westy repair shop that was highly recommended by our knowledgeable Westy-driving friends, and the verdict came in today: the engine is fried. And it sounds to me as though it was a sloppy rebuild job to begin with.

So we've rented a truck and tomorrow we're driving down to Sacramento to get another engine from another highly respected Westfalia repair place and we're bringing it back. It's going to be a long day. Sound crazy to go get it ourselves? Well, to ship it same-day would cost $1500. The rental is less than $400. Besides, we'd just be driving around Portland, which though fun would also be inevitably expensive. And it will take the shop three days to install the new-to-us engine, so we'll have at least a couple more days here.

And of course the obvious perk of being kinda stuck in Portland for a few days? I know some people here we might have dinner with. And Powell's. We were there today. $300 later, we have 27 more books for our shelves and a new calendar for my mother-in-law. Amongst the books we bought for me:

I guess I'll have something to read while we wait.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, what a week! Motels can be such a pain with pets. The last time we moved, we had a hard time finding somewhere to stay with our dog. I would explain that we had moved from out of state and wouldn't close on our new home until the next day and they couldn't have cared less.

A trip to Powell's sounds divine!

Valerie said...

Aww, I'm sorry. My grandpa lived in Medford and I grew up in Sacramento, so I can picture the route you are taking. At least it isn't summer time when it's hot; more stress on the vehicles.

Of the books you mention, the only one I've read is "Ten Little Indians" and the first story in that one was my favorite.

Zibilee said...

It sounds like you have had a rough time on this trip and that there have been problems around every corner! I am at least glad that you got to stay in a nice place and got to visit Powells for some new books. I hope the last leg of your trip takes a turn for the better and that you are home soon!

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