We woke up reasonably early the next day. The noise from the main road we were parked next to was quite loud in the pop-top.
Believing that we were quite close to a breakthrough with the sliding door, we decided to play around with it some more, hoping we could find the correct adjustment to allow us to shut it from the inside.
Closing it to observe where it was going wrong, we were shocked to find it shut the second time of trying.
A couple more attempts later and it seemed to work fine, as long as you pulled it a certain way. I reckon by the time we had refitted the door the previous evening, we were so desperate for it to work that we were just slamming it too hard.
Ecstatic, we set off back to Jack’s law firm, for our dinner date with Colin, excited to share with him the erotic experience I could now have with my own door!
We had lunch a couple of minutes from Jack’s, at a place named Hub Stacey’s, and discussed our future plans.
From Stacey’s, we headed back to the vans. We had agreed to test drive each others vans. Colin was eager to share with us the experience lucky VW owners would have had when originally buying a vehicle brand new.
Starting with his van, Colin drove us down the interstate, me chilling in the back like royalty.
He then pulled over and invited Willow into the driver’s seat. After giving her a prep talk about how to drive his van, he guided Willow as she drove us around the streets of Pensacola.
Soon enough it was my turn, and after the same guidance it was my turn to drive us back along the interstate.
Driving Colin’s VW was almost alien compared to Ruby, the two vans couldn’t be more different!
His van was the equivalent of a ballerina on ice. Majestic. Smooth. It glided down the interstate, just about keeping pace with the other traffic. Ruby on the other hand is more like a burley hockey player. Clunky and loud, but with a lot more power to get around. Each having there merits depending on what you want from them.
It was intriguing to watch Colin drive Ruby; and a little odd to be sat in the back of my own vehicle whilst somebody else drove it.
Now he didn’t say this, but deep down I am sure he was a little excited by the power at his disposal!
Eventually we returned to Jack’s, thanked Colin for sacrificing his time, and potentially his sanity fixing our battered door.
It was finally time for us to leave Florida.
We left with heavy hearts, as we had some of our best experience to date in Florida state and made some exceptional life long friendships.
From Pensacola, we would drive down the i-10 towards New Orleans. We had identified a few few parking sites just outside New Orleans, where we could park up and finish our drive the next day.
We had been driving more about two hours, listening to the Game of Thrones audio book when it happened…
A lorry merged in front of us, and without warning, our entire windscreen exploded. Something hit it with such force that it had a hole the size of a fist about a foot away from my face.
Willow’s initial concern was my safety, asking me if I was alright. My initial concern was the cat.
‘Fortunately‘, the accident happened only a couple of minutes away from a rest area, so we were able to get off the i-10 before our windscreen completely caved in.
More shocked than shaken, we got out to access the damage.
As you can see. The glass was tempered, but not laminated, so the entire pane of glass has shattered, with parts starting to buckle inwards.
This was probably karma, as we had recently been complaining about how much we wanted to change the windscreen due to the deep scratches on it from the window wipers. Ruby has a way of sulking if we speak ill of her.
Willow jumped on the phone to call our insurance to check whether our policy would cover windscreen damage.
Whilst she was on the phone, a lady and her family came over to speak to me.
Completely oblivious to our windscreen, she went on to enquire about the age of the van, where we came from, what our plans were and where we had been so far.
In the end, I had to excuse my self, pointing at the windscreen, telling her that I needed to see how Willow was getting on with the insurance company.
When I returned, not only did she fail to ask if we were alright or show any real concern, she continued to question me about our plans.
A few more people visited us after her, showing caring levels of concern after initially coming to look at the van. One lady however asking to take a picture as it was ‘so beautiful!’.
I knew Willow had finished the call to the insurance when I heard a large amount of foul language coming from the back of the van. Apparently, they informed her that they would cover $500 of a $2000 replacement. I don’t know what planet they are living on if they think anyone would pay $1500 for a replacement window.
Not sure what do next, we sent out messages through social media, telling people of our predicament, and then set about calling local glass repair companies, only to be told that they couldn’t do anything.
Willow’s post spread like wildfire, with lots of people recommending suggestions. Ian and Colin were working relentlessly, calling around all of their contacts, trying to source us a replacement.
Eventually they located a potential replacement from a guy named Wild Bill. It was getting late however, and none of us really wanted Colin to go out by himself to try and salvage this window. It would also have required him to do a big round trip from Pensacola, and as much as we wanted it fixed, a night parked up in the rest area wouldn’t have killed us, so agreed to sleep on it and see where we got to in the morning.
A lady who maintained the site gave us a large bin bag to cover the window up. A heavy rain had been forecasted that night, and I think it would be safe to say that our window was not very waterproof anymore!
When we had left Jack’s,he had kindly given us four large bottles of wine to take with us. With nothing else we could do, we opened a bottle and made ourselves something to eat.
Just as we were about to eat our meal, we heard the distinct sound of an air-cooled engine park up alongside us.
Peaking through the curtain, I was shocked to see a VW Square back parked up besides us.
We got out to greet a couple who looked a similar age to ourselves.
Sam and Samm had heard about the accident through Facebook. I think it was Sam’s dad who had contacted Sam following Willow’s initial post.
I became a bit confused when Sam saw the windscreen…
“Bloody hell!” He exclaimed.
I thought it a strange expression for an American to use.
After chatting to them both, we learnt that Sam was initially for Telford, England. Literally under an hour from our city, Birmingham. He told us how he followed his Dad over about ten years ago, and how much he has enjoyed living in The States ever since.
After he described his life (and the daiquiri drive thrus in Louisiana), we could see why!
Sam said that he may know somebody with a spare windscreen from a van they had cut up a few weeks back.
A quick phonecall later, and we were in luck. The guy still had the window lying around and so Sam agreed to go and collect it.
We were both in shock. What were the chances of a guy who originally lived less than an hour from us, turning up in his VW to save the day?
Just over an hour later, the two Sam’s had returned, windscreen in tow.
Here’s were it gets even crazier though!
It turned out Sam does a lot of work on VW windscreens, and so on the way back, he had grabbed a few things and was going to replace the window for us.
Me and Willow have worked on a few of Ruby’s windows during the respray, and although we would have got the windscreen done eventually, it was a lot more reassuring having someone to whom this was his ‘bread-and-butter’.
Whilst Sam prepared the new windscreen with a new seal and some string, Willow and I set about removing the redundant window, which was an incredibly messy job.
As I currently write this two weeks after the incident, we are still finding bits of glass around the front cab!
Old window gone and new window prepped, I held the replacement in place whilst Sam pulled on the string in the seal, resulting in it pulling the window into place. He made it look so effortless, and within a few minutes the new window was in.
Refusing to take any money for helping us out, Sam informed us that two local VW groups were gathered at a nearby state park for ‘vansgiving’, asking us if we’d like to join them, he offered to take us there; we just needed to pop to his house on the way to let his dog out and collect his own van.
Following Sam in his Square back, we made a few stop offs. First, at a petrol station as we were running desperately low on fuel, the second was a surprising stop off at a daiquiri shop to try our first Louisiana daiquiris.
It was a hard call deciding between a 6oz or a gallon, so we settled on a 16oz cup which would fit nicely in our cup holders!
We pulled into Buccaneer State Park quite late to a round of applause from some of the VW campers. Parking next to ‘Wild Bill’, who had kindly offered a replacement glass early on in the day, it was a strange turn of events. We had gone from preparing to spend the night in a gloomy rest area on the side of the i-10, but had ended up in a camp site with a load of VWs and showers! Lady luck sure had changed her tune!
We introduced ourselves to some of the ‘merry’ vdubbers still up drinking, and met and we introduced to a Mexican alcoholic eggnog. I started to see why they were so merry!Shattered from the days events, we ‘hit the sack’. It seemed our window incident was the talk of the town’, and so we imagined we would have a lot of faces to remember in the morning.It rained throughout the night, but fortunately it had passed by the time we woke the next day.As always I was awake before Willow, who was still cocooned in the duvet, so I popped outside to make sociable tea and set Aimee free to explore the campsite around us.Some of the other VW club members were awake also, Wild Bill was outside brewing some coffee, which seemed to be the go to point for some of the other campers. I spent the first part of the morning admiring Bill’s love of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Camped directly next to us as well, was a couple named Jeff and Shannon, who were at the event with their friends Heather and Troy. Troy introduced himself with an interesting attempt at a British accent, which he continued to work on for the remainder of the weekend!
Eventually, Willow was forced to forage outside the van in search of tea, an event which she did not thank me for!
Getting to know our neighbours better, Jeff earned my instant respect when he donated a Texas beer for me to try. It was a festival gathering of sorts, so early morning drinking is allowed right? I am sure it’s a law!
Throughout the rest of the morning, people started to move their VWs down to the main pavilion, where the ‘vansgiving’ meal would take place.
We were both honoured that our first Thanksgiving event would be with our VW family.
Aimee was creating quite a stir around the van. Darting around with energy the rest of us could only reminisce about having. She was definitely enjoying her new VW family!
Eventually we ‘followed suit’, and moved Ruby down to join the other VWs down at the Pavilion.
Parked amongst a gorgeous selection of vehicles, we let Aimee out, so people could view the vans interior and then we about eating, drinking and socialising.
I was particularly taken with Brian’s curry and Renee’s toasted artichoke bread. Not a bad way to spend the weekend!
We were formally introduced to Sam’s dad, who played a part in the Ruby S.O.S the night before.
I was still having trouble coming to terms with meeting fellow Brits, who lived so close once upon a time.
When we let Aimee out, we are normally content to let her do her own thing of her lead. She has never once strayed too far from us or the van. However, That doesn’t mean we don’t like to keep an eye on her whereabouts from time to time.
Returning from the loo, I asked Willow if she had seen Aimee recently, as she was no longer hanging around the wheel arches of the van that she was before I had left.
This led to a small search, to try and locate her, in case she had managed to get herself once again stuck up a nearby tree.
A quick vehicle check later, I was starting to get a little bit worried, when a guy named Joseph, who’s van was parked right next to Ruby, called out to let us know that Aimee what taken a shine to the back of his van, and was sound a sleep.
Nice to know she shares our love of all VW!.
With Aimee located, Sam’s dad asked us to present Sam with a trophy for going ‘above and beyond’ with his late night rescue.
Obviously, we graciously accepted, and awarded him the prize when we returned with gallons of frozen daiquiris.
When the meal ended, everyone packed up and headed back to the main camp ground, to continue vansgiving socialising.
Apparently, this was the first of hopefully many events, and so, it was a great chance for everyone to get to know each other better.
The rest of the evening was spent calmly chatting to people, making plans around a fire.
We did have one minute of madness, when we brought Aimee out on her lead, and people got a bit distracted, causing her lead to retract. It was another repeat of Wilderness Landing, with again her bolting off and luckily getting caught up on a car before she had a chance to run of into the darkness. We put her away after that!
There were quite a few people from around New Orleans, and as we were heading there next, it was useful to have some local knowledge and some offers of places to stay.
We have definitely learnt the value of following local recommendations, that way we have been able to avoid the dreaded tourist traps that are expensive and not especially that enthralling.
In the morning, everyone started packing up and headed back to their normal lives. We decided to stay put and take advantage of the facilities one final night before heading off to New Orleans.
Once everyone had left, we took our bikes for a ride down to the local Walmart. Willow had been told that she could by some awesome looking dungarees for $3.
I personally am glad we made the venture, because I was able to buy this tasteful jumpsuit which Willow was not impressed with!
Back at the van, we spent an hour collecting some fire wood, so we could chill out one final time in front of a roaring fire.
The weekend had been such a blur, we had met so many people in such a short amount of time since our windscreen blew out; but I was kind of thankful it did.
It was almost as if Ruby knew we were destined to be at ‘vansgiving’.