Chilling with some fellow Brummies and an interview with a VW magazine

Although our L.A camp spot felt relatively safe, as we were fairly high up, our good friend Mr Wind joined us once again and so we tried sleeping ‘downstairs’ for a second time, this time switching positions. We still hadn’t quite nailed our back up sleeping arrangements, so had another night desperately trying to get a decent night’s sleep. For all of the freedom we had living life on the road, a good night’s sleep was still one thing we seemed to constantly be striving for.

Shame about the wind in the night

Even though it wasn’t perfect, we were still relieved that we spent a night undisturbed by people and had felt pretty secure throughout the night.

We decided to spend our Sunday exploring around the Hollywood sign, and so drove around to the main trail car park which was only half an hour away from where we were camped.

Apparently, the sign was a popular place to visit on the weekend, but we managed to find a spot to park in the overcrowded car park. As much as we would have loved to bring Aimee along with us, we didn’t think she would enjoy the crowded route up to the viewpoint, so we left her to sleep in the van. Something she seemed very content to do.

Wearing her new Kombi Chronicles merch

Although it was a high trafficed trail, the sun was shining, so we could at least enjoy some time outside stretching our legs, as opposed to all of driving we had undergone to get to Los Angeles.

Getting higher

The walk to the viewpoint was roughly 3.6 miles, so we would have a fairly decent walk to break up the big city touring, which we weren’t overly keen on.

Lovely views of Los Angeles
First sight of the sign

The majority of the walk was fairly straightforward, however at some point, we managed to take a wrong turn and ended up taking a less traveled route away from the main trail. This obviously made both of us very excited!

Non conventional route

Sadly, we had to rejoin the main trail to get to the final view point, although we were confused as there were groups of people heading in both directions. Originally not sure which direction to follow, we started making our way down the hill to the point we could see below the sign.

Cheesy selfie

We passed other walkers on our way down asking if they were almost there, and so we started to doubt whether we had missed a second view point.

Not wanting to miss what be a once in a lifetime opportunity, we turned around and made our way back up the hill, delighted to find that after about ten minutes, it led to a view point from behind the sign. Definitely not something you’d want to miss after travelling all that way.

Glad me walked around
Spectacular views

After we had taken many photos and caught our breathe, we walked back down to the other view point in front of the sign and took an obligatory selfie. Not feeling the need to stay more than a couple of minutes after that, we set off back to Ruby, as we were starting to lose the light.

The famous sign up close
More cheesy selfies

As with any walk, the walk back was much quicker than the walk there, and we arrived back at the car park within an hour and a half. The sun had now set and so we were fairly anxious to set off and find a place to sleep.

Before heading to L.A, my mate Rob had told me that I should contact a fellow Brummie named Stefan. A guy who’s name was very familiar to me, but I wasn’t certain if we had ever met… At least sober that is!

Stefan had moved to Los Angeles permanently with his girlfriend Laura to grow his specialised performance engine build workshop. I had sent him a message on our way down from San Fransisco, asking if we could possible use his workshop to do some much needed TLC to Ruby. Thankfully he agreed, so we headed off to find a spot close to his workshop, settling on a Walmart thirty minutes away.

We found a spot in the far end of the car park, surrounded by shipping containers, and went to sleep content that we would have any disturbances.

Oh how wrong we were!

About 2:30am, we heard a knock on the window. It was car park security. He informed us that we had to move on. Confused why they would feel the need to let us stay till the early hours of the morning to tell us this, we had little option but to pack away and move on. Driving around for at least an hour, scouting out other iOverlander recommendations, unable to find anything where we felt comfortable staying.

We eventually tried our luck with another Walmart, this one also had a security car patrolling, however after pulling up to us shortly after we had raised the roof, they drove on, hopefully and indication that they weren’t overly concerned about us being there.

No knocks came, and so we managed to get a couple of hours sleep. Waking up fairly early, eager to find Stefan and get to work sorting out Ruby’s rear shock absorber.

We pulled up to Stefan’s workshop ‘Ace Performance Engines’. After a quick chat, he showed us around his workshop, which was something else. He was in the middle of building custom V8s and air cooled for customers all over the world. I would definitely recommend following his Instagram to get an idea of the level of detail that he puts into his builds.

Amazing engine build workshop

With the pleasantries over, Willow set about sorting out the rear shock. She had planned to cut a section out with a grinding disk, so she could weld a new captive nut on, however she had ago tightening a nut on loosely. Managing to get one on, although not convinced it was tightened enough.

Finally fixing Ruby

With that job complete, we sent the rest of the day installing our new LED spotlights, which we had bought for the roof rack. Content with our work for the day, we agreed to meet Stefan and Laura later for a drink and then drove to the beach to watch the sunset. Arriving just in time to watch it sink behind the horizon.

Super lights are coming
Still loving these West Coast sunsets

We then drove further down the coast, parking up to take Aimee for a walk down the boardwalk. An experience she did not appreciate. As a younger kitten, we took her down to the beach without much concern. As she has grown though, she was starting to find the noise of the waves unsettling, and so we dropped her back at the van and went in search of a drink whilst we waited for Stefan and Laura.

When they came to find us, we set off behind them towards a small brewery bar named Phantom Carriage.

Only five minutes into the drive, we heard a loud electrical pop and without warning lost the majority of the front electrics. Frustrated, we pulled over to inspect the fuses, praying that it was an easy fix. Strangely though, we could not find any blown fuses.

The only lights still working were our high beams to flash, and so we drove the rest of journey with me desperately trying to hold the stick whilst steering. Fortunately, the journey was mainly along a straight road.

Pulling into the brewery, we decided to ignore the problem and head inside. Obviously, a few pints of craft beer would help get the creative juices flowing!

The bar had a gothic, horror movie sort of vibe, and had a collection of of delicious (but expensive) beers.

Settling on a chocolate porter, we sat down and looked at the menu, eventually ordering some side plates as we had been more focused on Ruby repairs as opposed to eating.

We spent the rest of the evening discussing back home, L.A and potential diagnostics for our current electrical issue.

As the night slipped away, we requested the bill and settled up. We could have stayed all night chatting over nice food and beer, however we didn’t quite have the budget and Stefan and Laura had a new business to run in the morning.

Back outside, the test light was soon out and Willow and Stefan set about finding the root cause of the problem. Eventually discovering that ignition switch had developed a problem. Not something that could be fixed there and then. It would be a quick, cheap fix the next day with a new part.

To save us having to drive whilst holding the full beam stick, Willow and Stefan temporarily hard wired the lights of another connection that was working. Relieved to have lights once again, we followed Stefan and Laura back to their apartment, and found a spot to park a little further down the road. We did not fancy another repeat of Walmart and they were both fairly confident that we would be undisturbed on the Street. Which we did!

Temporary fix

In the morning, we moved Ruby closer to their apartment block and gave Aimee a walk on her lead… We got a few odd stares when people walked past us standing next to a tree with a lead in it!

Aimee’s favourite morning pastime

Stefan had to open the shop, so we spent the morning with Laura, enjoying salmon cream cheese bagels and their shower. Stefan recommended that we visited West Coast Metric to source a new ignition switch, so we paid them a visit.

Wasn’t prepared for what would happen next

Whilst we were at the desk, a guy named Shin, who was wearing a Hot VWs T-shirt, enquired if we owned the bus outside. We briefly told him about our story and as it turned out, he worked for Hot VWs magazine and asked us if he could take some pictures. Obviously surprised, we were more than happy to let him take a picture, hoping it may work it’s way onto their social media page. Nothing like a bit of free publicity.

We were not expecting what would follow as we walked outside!

As we stepped outside, Shin introduced us to two of his colleagues, who were just as surprised to have randomly bumped into two English travellers who had shipped their VW across to the States.

They asked us if we’d be willing to do an impromptu interview for their Facebook page. We couldn’t believe our luck! Just that morning we had just been discussing with how hard we had been finding it to build our Kombi Chronicles brand, and here we are with a major VW magazine asking us to do an interview with them. Life can have a funny way of surprising you sometimes.

Eddie, who would be interviewing us, told us it would be a quick and casual unscripted interview. So casual, I didn’t even have to change out of my slippers, which apparently I had become quite attached to recently.

Could have at least changed out of my slippers

The interview seemed to happen at lightening speed, and I was desperately trying not to sound like the complete idiot I can come across as. Willow often points out that I ramble unnecessarily, never getting straight to the point of a question.

The interview ended with us talking about our plans to visit Buses by the Bridge in Lake Havasu, and so we left agreeing to meet up again in just under a weeks time.

We left West Coast Metric on a high, struggling to believe what had just happened. The only other time we felt as if we made an impression whilst travelling then US, was when our windscreen exploded on our way to New Orleans. We both desperately hoped that this would be our first step into building a successful VW travel brand, which was now becoming a big priority if we wanted to extend our trip further than twelve months.

We quickly popped back to Stefan and Laura’s apartment to grab our washing and then headed back to the shop, so that Willow could install the new switch.

A quick ten minutes later and we had our front electrics back once more. It isn’t half handy travelling with a mechanic!

With Ruby sorted, we set off and went for a leisurely bike ride along the coast, taking in some of L.A’s gorgeous beaches.

Enjoying ourselves
Just stunning

That night, we spent more time getting to know Stefan and Laura over a couple of glasses of wine. We were so grateful to them both for looking after us during our visit and were really enjoying getting to know them better. Aimee was also having a great time getting to know their dog Benny. Building up her confidence to get close to him, before darting off if he came to close. By the end of the night, she really wanted to play with him, but couldn’t quite handle his enthusiasm to play.

The next day, we stopped by the workshop one final time, Stefan letting me record some of the engine builds he was working on. we thanked them both and hoped that we would one day be able to come back, maybe with Ruby’s original engine, so that we could rebuild it into a badass machine.

Final look around before we leave

Our time in L.A had been a lot more chilled out than I would have expected, but that was a good thing. From Los Angeles, we would start making our way back to Arizona for Buses by the Bridge. Excited for another VW festival.