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Our Newsletter

Camping - Know Before You Go

Posted on 19th Jun 2014 @ 9:59 PM


Ah yes, camping. How many of us can remember going on a camping trip with our family, whether it was a short or long trip, it was somehow memorable to us, especially if it was in a Volkswagen. Well, I decided it would be fun to christen this summer with a camping trip in our 1971 Westfaila equipped with tent and some other old tyme goodies. After agreeing to go with some friends whom had been to this campsite in the past, we were set to travel 100 miles outside of Orange, California and then after passing a very small lake we were to find a sign marking the entrance to a fire road (dirt, 1 lane road) that we would travel on for 5.5 miles. Taking into consideration that I would basically be loading up the most precious cargo of my life into the bus including Yoda (shop dog), I made darn sure that the bus had an oil change, valve adjustment, brake check and e-brake adjustment, brake fluid topped off, lamp check, tools on board, extra accelerator cable, clutch cable, cap, rotor, points, consdenser, and a tight fitting gas cap. I wanted to make sure the bus was as ready as it could be to meet most anything on the road. While having it on the lift, I found that the brakes were in great condition, but the left tie rod was actually bent and therefore it was replaced. Feeling confident that the bus was more than roadworthy with 2 month old General Grabber AT tires, I was ready for the open road. Loaded down with the tent, a cooler filled with 3 days worth of food, water for a family of 4, camping gear for 4, firewood on the roof rack for 2 nights, and a bunch of toys for the kids, and of course a full tank of gas, needless to say, the bus was pretty fat. We set off on the Calfornia freeways, the 55 to the 91, then to the 60 and onto the 10. The bus was doing quite well. We exited onto HWY 243 and began our ascent toward the top of the mountains. After traveling upward in 2nd and 3rd gear, we made it to Lake Fulmor and from there knew that we had 2 miles to go before hitting Black Mountain Rd. which was to take us to our final destination, Boulder Basin Campground. About a mile into the fire road excursion, we quickly realized that the "off road" part of our trip was a little steeper and bumpier. We bottomed out once and from that point on, I slowed the Westy down and went up in 1st gear the rest of the way. Little did we know that the 5.5 miles ahead of us would cover a 2000' ascent. Ah yes, a good incline but the bus was handling it well. With the bus rocking back and forth a bit and a 4 and 10 year old wondering if we were filiming Indiana Jones, we forged ahead and made our way toward our destination. One thing that we weren't prepared for however and unknowledgeable of.......was the condition of the road. With part of the road being slightly washed out and some part of paved road, it created a nice ledge that I figured would rip the front beam off of my bus. I slowed down a bit and decided to take it ez and at an angle, but nature wouldnt let us escape so easily. Nope. Suddenly, I felt the rear wheels spinning and the clutch just not really grabbing. Not good! Considering that there was no guard rail, I had the family, minus myself, evacuate the bus. After 30+ minutes, a nice guy with a Suzuki samurai came by and attempted to tow the filled Westy, but no luck. In fact, we broke the tow straps! The bus just weighed too much. Well, after 40 minutes, I had 3 cars behind me and I sure didn't have a problem asking for a push, and with that said..........9 people pushing, while I was under gear, and the Samurai was functional, I got out! What and experience. Finally made it up to camp, set up, and relaxed a bit. Note to self........know before you go.