The good, the bad and the broken

Today was a day I was pretty excited about. From the day we bought our van nearly 5 years ago, the sliding door has been a constant source of aggravation. When we initially purchased Ruby, it wouldn’t even open. After much persuasion and dropping it on the floor, we managed to get it to slide a bit. Since then it has operated badly but passably. It’s never been possible for us to shut it from the inside of the van which is very annoying, especially in bad weather. When we met Colin, as our paths crossed on I-10, he tried to open our door and looked fairly traumatised by the experience. He offered to take a look at it for us if we stuck around in Pensacola until he got back from his trip.

Today was the day.

We meet up in the car park of a law firm, where Colin is friends with one of the lawyers, Jack. He kindly supplied us with coffee and even gave Aimee some cat food, while we removed the sliding door to have a look. After looking at Colin’s door, it was now obvious that our to roller was not the right part, and further investigation showed it to be a bolt that someone had ground the edges of and not a roller at all. This doesn’t surprise me as some many bad bodges have already appeared on Ruby’s door that another was almost expected. For example, here was the rear hinge when we bought the van, note how someone has hack sawed the back of it in half.

It also turned out that we were missing a rubber guide on our locking mechanism and that the bottom bracket was incorrectly aligned. Basically everything was wrong and we needed some parts.

76714110_10157334007424713_8754026897035231232_oColin said he knew someone who had parts but we had to wait until he finished work. In the meantime we set about adjusting the bottom bracket as it was catching on the runner. We then heard that we cold go get some parts from Don, and after temporarily refitting our door at headed over to get some more parts.

Door off again, I swapped out the locks for the new one with rubber guide and had a look at the top roller. This was not a straight swap as they had drilled out the bracket so the proper roller wouldn’t fit, this meant modifying the new bracket to fit the holes in our door, also in the wrong place. We were now loosing the light, but before too long had modified and fitted the top roller. You can see here where we have had to drill an additional hole, as suppose to using the correct one., which on our door has no captive nut.

The door was then refitted but while it alot much more smoothly and freely in its runners it still didn’t want to shut. The rear latch mechanism was also pretty worn and so is the hinge itself, but Colin thought that the main problem was cable adjustment. We spent some time playing around with the cable length and eventually got the door to slide and shut properly, most of the time. It was now dark and late, so we called it a night, saying we would meet up for lunch the next day. We thanked Don for his parts and headed to Pizza Hut for some well earned food while we decided where to camp that night.

Lee found a free campsite around 20 minutes away and we headed off. Once we got there we couldn’t find the road or any kind of entrance and we started to think this was a tent only campsite you had to hike to. Looking on google, I spotted a small track which was nearly impossible to spot in the dark, and we pulled up here off to the side of the road for the night.

Colin agreed to meet us at the same time and place that morning so that we could get lunch. We walked down to Hub Stacey’s for a beer and some food. When we got back it was time to have a drive of each other’s buses. Firstly we went out in Colin’s, which has the same engine as Ruby would have had if we had stayed stock. Colin drove first and then pulled over to let me have a go. His bus is beautiful and everything feels very precise, especially the gearshift. I did feel a bit mean driving it as compared to Ruby going along at 50mph the rpm is so much higher and it really feels like the engine is working. Then Lee had a turn and drove us back. We handed our keys to Colin for a drive off Ruby and I think it was safe to say he enjoyed the higher rev limit. Although he did say something didn’t feel right with the front wheel which I had also started to notice. The van is pulling a bit to the left and there is some kind of lateral movement of the chassis at low speed. There was a bit of wear on the outer edge of the tyre too. Something is going to need fixing soon…

Once we had returned again it was time to say our goodbyes. We were now heading west out of Pensacola and into Alabama. We didn’t fancy a long drive that afternoon and settled for a Walmart to the west of the city. Once parked up we went inside to use the WiFi, only to realise that this is one of the rare occasions that you can get signal outside the shop. We moved the van up to the walk of the shop on the edge of the car park, and enjoyed the luxury of Internet inside the camper for probably the first time so far.

In the morning it was time for another drive. We are now leaving Florida behind and at started our way back on I-10 into Alabama. We had picked a campsite in Mississippi just north of the interstate and within striking distance of New Orleans for the weekend. We had driven about an hour and a half when a lorry overtook us and as it merged across in front there was an almighty bang as the entire windscreen exploded. Something had clearly been thrown up by the tyres and had smashed our entire windscreen. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a problem with a modern windscreen, but it turns out that our one is tempered glass, but not laminated. This meant that on impact the glass shattered across the entire windscreen, and was also not held in place and covered the dashboard. 75429516_10157339672934713_2290588286105681920_o

Fortunately, we were only around half a mile from a rest area and managed to pull over without the entire windscreen imploding into the car. Naturally this scared us half to death, especially when I looked up and saw a the massive hole which was around where Lee’s face was and wondered if he’d been hit in the face by what came through the windscreen. We were both ok though, but a bit unsure of what to do. I called the insurance company to see if the windscreen was covered, they told me that it was covered but that I would have to pay the first $1500. Considering a new windscreen is more in the $200 mark, this was utterly pointless.

I put a post up on the BayPride forum on Facebook, to see is anyone had any ideas on what company to call. A few replies came up with some glass companies, which we tried to phone without any luck. They didn’t cover the area, or they didn’t cover a vehicle that old. We tried the local glass company down the road, and they said they could get one but it wouldn’t be there until Monday, this was a Friday evening. We also spoke to Colin, who said he might be able to get one of someone called Wild Bill, and bring it to us. This was very kind of him, but would meant we had to spend the night in the rest area (not really a problem) and that he would have to drive all the way over to us the next day which didn’t seem fair. Soon enough, we resigned ourselves to a very noisy night and parked up. A lot of people online were trying to help us, but there isn’t a massive supply of these windscreens around and certainly not close to us.

We even had a go at fixing it ourselves.

What also didn’t help is that our US phone wasn’t quite working so we were trying to swap SIM cards in Lee’s phone between UK and US. This meant that we were missing some people trying to contact us. I was trying to keep up with posts on the Facebook group, but my phone is old and a bit glitchy with reception and wasn’t always helpful. A guy next to us had also broken down and I gave him a a hand patching up his coolant pipe. Soon he was back on the road and we started making some food, deciding to see what would happen in the morning. We had been told that there was a VW meet around 40 miles away, so the back up plan was to take the windscreen out and limp our way over there in the morning to see if anyone could help us.

We were just about to eat, we heard a definitely air cooled engine and looked out of the window to see a definitely not a Ghia but a squareback (thanks Sam) pulled up next to us. Two people got out and introduced themselves as Sam and Sam. They said they should be able to hold a a windscreen for us and after several phone calls had one sorted out. They were heading back east past Mobile, and said they would be back in around an hour with a replacement. This was pretty amazing, but we weren’t sure how we were going to fit it as we didn’t have the necessary string!

It took a bit longer than an hour, but sure enough they were back and had a windscreen. They had also stopped off and got some cord and cleaner in order to be able to fit it. Apparently Sam is a glass guy, and normally fits these windscreens by himself so we started smashing out and cleaning out the remains of our old windscreen while he cleaned the new one and fitted the seal. Soon enough we were good to go, and I was relieved to see that there wasn’t a load of rot under our old seal. In a matter of minutes we had a new windscreen in, just like that.

After refusing to take any money for his rescue service, Sam then agreed to drive with us to the VW meet. We stopped off on the way so we could let out his dog and swap to his bus. We then had a brief stop at a daiquiri shop as we had yet to experience theses. The lady gave us a load of tasters as we had no idea what to order. I can’t believe you can order a gallon of daiquiri to go, we settled for a medium cup which is still 2 pints! Soon enough we arrived at Buccaneer State Park which was where the meet was located. We parked up in a space next to Wild Bill. The good thing about VW buses is that you can fit two in one RV space! We walked around and met people, including the person who very kindly donated their windscreen, but it was weird to arrive somewhere where most people already knew who we were.

We met a load of new people, and also got to try eggnog moonshine which was amazing. We let Amy out on her lead, and as normal, she was pretty popular with our fellow campers.

The night was pretty rainy and led to a damp morning. Lee decided to make tea and leave the kettle outside which meant I had to leave my warm van cocoon and speak to people which is not an activity I enjoy before caffeine.

We met some more of our neighbours, including Jeff and Shannon in the RV next door. As with all good festival activities the beer drinking started just before midday and the sun was starting to break through the clouds and warm up the proceedings.

Early afternoon, all VDubbers headed down to the pavilion for the cook out. We all parked up our vehicles food everyone to have a look around.

A load of food was in the pavilion for everyone to dive in to as well as a portable daiquiri machine. I recommend this recipe to –

We spoke to Sam’s dad who had made him a trophy to acknowledge his ‘above and beyond’ effort with our windscreen the previous evening. He asked if we would like to present it him, which was pretty cool. We also managed to get a picture of everyone involved.

Amy decided she preferred someone else’s bus.

And I spoke to a lot of people about Subaru conversions, while being plied with multiple beverages which was very difficult.

We got the award for furthest travelled too!

After a while, we moved our vans backs up to the campsite and fires were lit and more beer consumed. It was a great day and we met so many more nice people. The VW community here really is extraordinary, I never imagined that from a post on Facebook I would end up being rescued the same evening by a complete stranger and spend another whole weekend free camping! We even managed to blag a sneaky extra night after everyone else had left the next morning. We also had several invites for places to stay further down the road in our next stop, New Orleans.

As a side note, it is important to add to this post that I got told I could by $3 dungarees from Walmart which I felt obliged to do. What didn’t need to happen was Lee to find the clearance sections in the men’s and buy this jumpsuit –


1 Comment

  1. What a pair of nuts you pair are. I’m glad you enjoyed your time here with us and look forward to reading the further tales.
    Just beware going north into the snow and cold and need any warnings. American winters can be deadly to the unprepared… Especially out west. Good luck☺

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