I’m out of town, away from my laptop and photo processing software, so this post is exclusively made up of iphoneography. I’m lying on a hard mattress in a stinky Motel 6 in Sun City, California. The room reeks of stale cigarettes as well as a paltry attempt at covering it up with what I can only guess is Febreeze.
My family and I flew to Palm Springs in order to purchase a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia Camper. The vehicle was to be our passport to a traveling lifestyle, one in which we would embark upon in a little over a years time. This was supposed to be the first step.
We really liked this one, it checked all the boxes. It has a straight body, no rust, all of the camping equipment is there. We liked the color and we were told by the owners mechanic that it was a “solid rig.”
The timing was right, the savings were sufficient to make the purchase so we thought we would put our faith in the seemingly trouble free history of the vehicle.
I was skeptical at first because we found it on Craigslist and the guy we bought it from lived in the desert. Part of the deal was that he would need a ride home if we decided to purchase. I was very paranoid at the thought of driving a stranger to a remote desert area after giving him over $8,000 in cash. I even posted a notice to all my Facebook friends advising them of our situation. Just to be safe.
I didn’t want to give him a ride at all. It seemed more than shady to me. My ideal transaction would have taken place in an all neutral location. As it turned out his need for a ride home was our saving grace, because we did purchase the vehicle after a quick verification that everything seemed to be as advertised.
He wrote up a bill of sale and we gave him the cash. The drive to his house was supposed to be the last interaction we would have with him. We were to drive from Palm Springs to Lancaster, CA, about an hours drive.
On the way to his house, the vehicle dumped virtually all of its fuel all over the highway. It happened in the worst possible spot: a sharp curve going up a steep grade. As you can imagine, the previous owner was mortified. What was surprising was his kindness and willingness to help.
The vehicle was already signed over to us, the cash and title were exchanged. He didn’t HAVE to do anything. Instead, he insisted the vehicle be towed to his mechanic who had just recently replaced all the fuel lines less than a month ago. It put a crimp in our plans but we were willing to wait an extra day to see if it was an easy fix.
As it turned out, it was, by 1:30 pm the next day we were at the mechanic picking up our new van, our bellies filled with the free lunch the previous owner bought for us while we waited.
We started it up, drove it about a mild down the road and filled it with gas. We decided we would take the opportunity to bring our daughter to see the Pacific Ocean for her first time.
We drive it back down the hill and just as we are about to leave town the engine just completely overheats. We are talking weird smells, tons of smoke, and bubbling coolant. We didn’t get more than 20 miles away before this happened. So Maizy called the guy and once again he was completely apologetic and offering to help in any way he could.
He called us a tow truck, offered to tear up the bill of sale and gave us our money back. All things that he did not have to do. We are defeated, deflated, exhausted and heart broken but otherwise unscathed.
I feel horrible for the previous owner. We contemplated what we should do for the 2 1/2 hours we were stranded on I-10 mile marker 62. I struggled with the notion that maybe I was somehow responsible for all these issues that came up so suddenly (according to the previous owner the van “ran like a top” for the last three and a half years).
I suppose that’s how these type of problems manifest themselves, in a sudden and violent manner. While this could be seen as a very unlucky trip, I think if it as just the opposite. We were extremely lucky on multiple occasions during this adventure.
We didn’t get killed on the worst part of a highway you could breakdown on, we never drove it enough to be accused of any negligence or wrongdoing on our part, and the owner of the van was a good and decent man.
I’d like to remain friends with him. Like Maizy he is a cancer survivor. He works in the film business as a freelancer, something that I admire about him very much. On the outside he took the whole thing in stride, as did we, but I think on the inside all three of the adults in this situation are pretty depressed about all of it. We had the keys to our dream car, he had $8500 in cash in his pocket, but the van just didn’t cooperate.
My prediction is the head gasket is blown. I only say that after hours of scouring the internet and reading a large number of similar stories of people running into the same issues as we did.
Our part in this story is mostly over. We dodged a bullet, but the other guy ended up with the proverbial nuclear explosion. A vehicle that may be completely dead all of a sudden after three years of loyal service. It is a good possibility he will have to replace the engine.
On the outside looking in, I think it might look like a case of “nice guys finish last,” big I have my fingers crossed for him that the problem isn’t a serious as I fear.
After all we have been through together these last few days, the man deserves a break.
So far our family trip to California to purchase the VW of our dreams has been a whirlwind tour of Palm Springs retro hotels,Best Westerns, Motel 6s, two run ins with the California Highway Patrol (one in which a state trooper pushed our vehicle up a mountain with his own cruiser in order to remove us from harms way) swimming pools and movie stars.
Now if we could just find that Texas tea.
I felt compelled to share this experience for x couple reasons. One is to keep the blog going, I don’t like missing a day. The other is to further illustrate that the capacity for human kindness is just as great as our capacity for evil.
In these days of the psychopathic internet troll becoming prevalent in our society (see any internet articles comment feed) it is refreshing to run into a person that still seems to hold onto the notion of having good morals and doing the right thing.