After the Timothy Lake camping trip, we felt pretty confident in our new little camper, and planned another trip right away. Three weeks after driving up Mt. Hood, we planned a trip to Cape Mears State Park. We had heard that there were interesting birds and other wildlife there, and the park wasn't as crowded as the Cape Lookout State Park just south of there. I followed the old axciom of "if it ain't broke, don't mess with it" approach to preparing Hapy for the trip. I continued to drive him to work every day, and he performed great. When the day to leave arrived, we loaded Hapy with all the usual camping stuff for a Summer weekend on the Oregon Coast (so we brought plenty of warm clothes) and hit the highway.
We took Interstate 5 to OR217 to US26 - our usual route when we drove other cars. We hadn't driven as far as Hillsboro before Hapy started some odd misfires. I verbally wrote it off as bad gas or the engine being cold to my wife, but I started obsessing about it. Thoughts of "I shoulda done a full tuneup" started crowding into my mind. Everyone else was enjoying the view out the windows while I listened to the occasional misfire and grimaced. The Coast Range passed and we could start to smell the ocean when Hapy started to really fail. I had to finally pull over on a straight stretch of road to see what was going on. Hapy died as I pulled to the shoulder, and the feelings of anger and disappointment started to really take hold. On top of that, I had to appear on top of things for my 2 very young kids who knew right away something was not quite right.
I popped the engine door and looked around. Nothing looked wrong. I checked the hoses and plug wires. Everything looked normal, but felt pretty warm. I tried the old oil dipstick test (if you can touch the oil without it hurting, you're not too hot), and it was HOT. Drat. I checked the fuel filter, even changed it, but that didn't do anything. I resolved to let the engine cool and then try to get us to our destination, but my wife was not too hip for that. The passing semi-trucks were making us both rather nervous, so we were hoping the bus would cool off fast. Luck smiled on us in the form of a passing unencumbered tow-truck heading into Tillamook - same as us.
The tow truck driver told us we were about 10 miles from Tillamook, and that he knew an old VW mechanic in the next town north: Bay City. Although I wanted to wait out the cooling engine, I knew the kids weren't safe on that narrow shoulder with the passing trucks. I knew we needed to go this route; knowing our camping trip was effectively over before it began. We all pilled into the tow truck (it had a crew cab if you can believe it), put Hapy up on the platform and drove to Bay City.
Now, if you've never been to Bay City, it doesn't have a traffic light, nor any kind of downtown, but there is a mechanic that knows air-cooled Volkswagens: Klingelhofer Auto Repair. Crazy. The name even sounded old-country. By the time we got to his shop, which was also his home, it was getting late in the afternoon, and he couldn't get to it right away. He had the tow truck driver drop the bus near the garage and then we all had a beer. Yeah, that's right. Me, the tow truck driver and the mechanic. Klingelhofer said we were more than welcome to "camp" in his driveway, and pointed out where the ocean was from his place. It turned out to be about 300 feet from his driveway, so while he fixed the bus on Saturday, we walked the Bay City beach/coast line. Because of time delays, we were unable to leave Satruday night before we lost our camping reservation, so we spent Saturday night at Klingelhofer's too. We had a big ol' barbeque with a bunch of his friends, rode around on his quad and played Frisbee.
Before we left on Sunday, we settled the bill, and he explained that the coil had gone bad. This explained the weird misfires, and really couldn't have been diagnosed until it finally died. When a coil fails, it doesn't always give you a warning, so its a good idea to carry a spare. When it starts acting funny, swapping a new coil takes 5 minutes, and you're on the road again. The alternative is getting towed to a garage and camping in their parking lot for the weekend. Considering our experience, though, that alternative wasn't really that all bad. In fact, it was kinda fun.
Until next time--