It’s always an adventure…

(Note: I’m writing this in the past tense because I didn’t actually write any of this while I was on my trip.)

Last day, headed home.


We had gotten exactly this far onto The Bridge when… *pfft*I lost all power to the engine.  The radio worked, the hazard flashers worked, but I had no power to the ignition coil, the oil and alternator lights, the turn signals, the fuel injection, nothing of importance.  I flipped on the hazard flashers and, thankfully, we were far enough back from the toll booth that people could go around me.

Carefully, I climbed out of the driver’s seat and ran around to the back of The Bus.  I fiddled with the wires on the coil, they all looked okay and appeared connected.  I ran back up to the front, flipped on the ignition switch and still had no lights.  I had Emily lean over and told her “if you see either of those lights come on yell really loud!”  I ran back to the back, with the key on, and fiddled with the wires some more; nothing!  I ran back to the front and turned off the key.  I ran to the back again and popped open the tailgate, it was there that I found a large binder clip.  Back in the engine compartment, I unplugged the wire that used to go to the second “camping” battery from the relay; that had a nice slide-on terminal on one end so I plugged that onto the positive side of the coil where the wire from the key would normally connect.  I fished the other end through the engine compartment, out of the way of any spinning things; the other end has a ring terminal on it, so I clamped that to the battery positive post with the binder clip and saw some sparks as I did: EUREKA! I HAVE POWER TO THE COIL!  I quickly closed up the tailgate and engine compartment, ran back and jumped into the driver’s seat, and looked disappointingly at the oil and alternator lights that were still dead.  I announced to Emily and Liese, “I just hot-wired the coil to the battery, I still don’t have any warning lights, lets hope that binder clip holds, we just have to go five miles!,” then I cranked the starter and drove up to the toll booth.  I gave the toll booth lady $9 and said “this is for me and the car behind me,” then started to carefully drive across.

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We made it to Mackinaw City and pulled off the first exit and into the first parking lot we found.  I immediately un-hot-wired the ignition, dug out the technical manual (not to be confused with The Book) and found that all the systems that weren’t working (ignition, turn signals, oil and alternator lights) went through connector T8.  I jacked up the back end of The Bus and started trying to trace wires.

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I had some trouble tracing the wires all the way, but Liese suggested I check the fuses (and I was tired of crawling around on the ground), so I looked at the fuse diagram in the technical manual and found that fuse #11 runs all of those same systems.

Now let me tell you about Volkswagen fuses.  Normal fuses are glass-enclosed which helps keep the fuse’s conductor safe from vibration and fat-fingered installers.  They’re usually rated at 5, 10, 15, 20… amps.

Glass Fuse

VW fuses, on the other hand, are external-wound fuses; meaning that the actual fuse material isn’t encased in anything.  This makes them highly susceptible to breakage due to vibration, age, and (of course) fat-fingered installers.  Also, they’re rated at 8 and 16 amps.

VW Fuse

Now, I know for a fact that VW put a spare fuse in slot #7, just so the haplessly unprepared owners might have some prayer of getting back on the road, should they blow a fuse.  I also know that I’ve never successfully changed one of these fuses without breaking at least two of them in the process!  Anyway, I oh-so-carefully removed the fuse from #11 and it was, indeed blown.  Then I very, very, very cautiously pulled the fuse from #7 and, with help from Liese (who held the equalizer out of the way for me!), I very gently put it into slot #11.  I turned the key on and, voilà!, the oil and alternator lights came on!

Liese and Emily put away the jack, packed up all the crap we’d removed to get to it, and off we went.  Liese got to relax on the ride home in her Sultan pants…

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Flat Tire!

(Note: I’m writing this in the past tense because I didn’t actually write any of this while I was on my trip.)

Day 6: Tess, Rita, and Liese went rock hunting down at Lake Superior; I guess they were looking for agates, whatever those are.  I don’t really have an appreciation for rocks (after all, I went to public school), so Emily and I got volunteered to head into town with the strangest grocery list ever: yeast, sugar, ice (cubes), ice (block), batteries, and (of course) beer.

We rounded up all our items and headed back to camp down H-58.  Now H-58 is paved, but at the county line it turns into Luce County 408 and the pavement ceases.  So I was cruising down the dirt portion of the road and had slid around a couple corners when I thought to myself, “hmm… what’s that burning rubber smell?”

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Well, there’s your problem!

I pulled out the spare tire and it looked fine, except it was flat.  So here we were, five miles from town with a shredded tire and a flat spare.  Emily and I both turned on our phones; mine had absolutely no service.  Emily’s phone worked if she stood on the South side of the road, but not the North side; I guess Verizon really does have the best coverage.  We called Rita and got her voicemail, then we sent her a text, and then we left another voicemail.  Rita and the others were busy picking through rocks, so I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t answer; but the problem was that we had no way to know that they’d even gotten our messages.  A few cars drove by, but eventually someone stopped and asked if we were okay.  I explained the situation to him (a spare with no air) and asked if I could get a ride back to town to pump it up.  He agreed and helped me get the tire into the back of his Toyota, and off we went.

Peter and Nancy were absolutely lovely people, they were retired, and their son had just gotten married earlier that week.  They showed me pictures of the wedding, which was a real simple affair that they’d held outside on their acreage down near Traverse City.  On the way back to town, Peter and Nancy showed me the cabins where they were staying; only $50/night with a fridge, a cooktop, satellite TV, even WiFi, and it’s only a few hundred feet from Lake Superior; seemed like a good deal to me.

We finally got back to Grand Marais, stopped at the gas station, and pulled up to the air hose.  That’s when I saw the sign “Air Out of Order.”  I went inside to ask the station attendant about the hose and she said “Oh, give it a try, it’s probably fine!,” and she was right.  We pumped up the tire, I got a can of Fix-a-Flat (just to be safe) and back we went toward the bus.

The rest of the story goes as you’d expect: I swapped out the tire, threw the old, shredded tire in the back, and drove oh-so-carefully back to the campsite.  The end.

On the Move…

(Note: I’m writing this in the past tense because I didn’t actually write any of this while I was on my trip.)

On Day 4, we packed up camp and moved from Emily Lake to Blind Sucker #2.  On the way we stopped at Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette for about 90 minutes (and I didn’t get any pics from there, sorry).  Moving from site to site took the whole day and there’s not much of a story except “We drove, then drove some more, then kept driving, and kept on driving, and then we drove some more.”  So instead, here’s some nice pics we took along the way: Continue reading On the Move…

Copper Harbor

…uhm, actually Horseshoe Harbor.


(Note: I’m writing this in the past tense because I didn’t actually write any of this while I was on my trip.)

Like all good stories in the U.P., this one starts with “so we packed up and drove…”

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We got to cross the impressive-looking Houghton–Hancock Bridge.

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…and drive some more…

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We stopped at the Keewenaw County Snow Thermometer:

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Then drove some more:

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And we finally arrived at Copper Harbor Horseshoe Harbor! (Also, I think we might have been looking for the Wizard of Oz.)


At the shore, everybody played in the rocks (and skipped a few) while I took pictures.

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Liese decided to go rock climbing (and I tested out my zoom lens).

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Then we headed back to Copper Harbor (the actual town this time)…


…We stopped to check out the beginning of US 41…

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…And look what we found when we got back to town!

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We drove back to the campsite…

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…and definitely didn’t make a wrong turn and wind up at the Eagle Harbor Light Station.

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Guess what? More driving!


On the ride back, Emily kept us entertained:

U.P. Bound!

I’ve never intentionally held up traffic before, but sometimes you just gotta’ do what you gotta’ do!

(Note: I’m writing this in the past tense because I didn’t actually write any of this while I was on my trip.)

So I started my 10-day vacation on Labor Day, Monday September 7th.  My Niece, Emily, and I set forth northward toward The Bridge and The UP on Monday morning.  It just happens that the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk was that day too (go figure).


Most people, I suppose, would’ve considered the traffic to be a hindrance and a bother, but not us; it just turned into a one-vehicle parade!  All the walkers were flashing the peace sign at us, taking pictures of The Bus, and Emily was leaning out the window and high-fiving everyone!  It took us 45 minutes to cross the bridge, mostly because I was only going about 5 MPH; I hope the cars behind us understood.

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Once we crossed The Bridge we stopped at the rest area/welcome center in St. Ignace to wait for Tess, Rita, and Liese.  Emily finally got to take her first step in the U.P.!


When everybody else arrived we ate lunch, then started driving… and driving… and driving.

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We finally arrived at Emily Lake Campground by early evening.  There was still enough light to get camp setup, get a reasonable fire going, and wrangle up some dinner.  Normally this would be the end of the story, but while we were sitting around the fire we noticed that the sky to the North had a green glow to it.

We ran down to the boat launch where we could get a clear view of the Northern sky and, lo and behold, the Aurora Borealis were out and dancing for us!  I’ve never seen the Auroras before; they were amazing, a sea of green and purple, with some columns shooting into the sky.  They waved, they danced, they faded a bit then came back; it was truly amazing to see.  Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures, my camera isn’t quite good enough. Tess has a DSLR with a tripod and a remote trigger and all the gear you need to get some Aurora pics, so if I can get some pics from her I’ll share them.

Truly amazing and definitely the best first day of vacation I’ve ever had!

New Points!

Well, it seems the new points and condenser (don’t forget the condenser, he’s important too) have helped quite a bit.  I suspect that re-gapping the old points would’ve helped just as much, but now I have a known-good spare set to take with me.  I also re-re-adjusted the fuel mixture some; richened it up a bit, but nowhere near as rich as it had been.

It still doesn’t idle, but I can hold my foot on the accelerator and it’ll keep a steady speed now; and that’s good enough!  One of these days I might just have to break down and take it to a professional to assess my idling issue.

Oil Cooler, Part III

The oil cooler is in, the pieces are all reattached and… there’s no more massive puddles of oil!  Oh, sure, it still leaks a couple drops here and there, but that’s normal; I can live with a couple drops.  I leaned out the mixture a bit too and that got rid of my backfire.

Now I need to solve the next issue: why I can’t accelerate past 55.  I advanced the timing a little and that helped, but something tells me I need to re-gap the points and/or install new points.  I can’t say why I think it’s the points, I don’t have any solid reasoning to claim the points as the culprit, but I just have a feeling about it.

Well, that’s Saturday’s project, I guess.

Oil Cooler, Part II

I managed to finagle things apart enough to get to the oil cooler.  Here’s the old one, note the lovely puddle of clean oil on the bottom of it; folks, I think our suspicions were true.20150825_130535

And behind that leaky old thing, lots of parts soaked in fresh oil:20150825_131803

Long live the new oil cooler!


Unfortunately it started to rain before I got everything back together, so still no official results.  Still to reattach: driver’s side exhaust header, 3 rear-most pieces of cooling tin, oil filler neck, alternator light connection, alternator ‘sense’ wire, secondary electrical system bypass connection, alternator positive to battery side post (aka positive battery cable), ground connection to battery (aka negative battery cable), coil, engine compartment seal.

To be continued…

Oil Cooler, Part I

So, I’m still leaking massive amounts of oil.  The Book has a perfect description of my leak on p. 90 and it says it’s the oil cooler, so I guess I get to replace the oil cooler again.  FedEx dropped off the new one this morning.

The Book also says that you can’t change the oil cooler on the Type IV with the engine in, but I’ve done it a couple times before so I know that’s not true.  Maybe they’re talking about the actual Type IV car — Squareback, Fastback, Notchback — instead of the Type IV engine?

Ah well, here I go, updates later!