Van Life

Be careful what you wish for. If you’re life seems a little boring and you’re yearning for adventure, follow me but be prepared. It’s not always fun and games.

My Driver

My Driver

We were still east of Regina when Westie broke down for the first time. The problem was overheating, but the cause was not completely obvious. I travel with both a driver and a mechanic on board. He figured he had it fixed. For the next two weeks, we were to overheat at least twice each day, and usually in amazingly beautiful but precarious places. For Tucker these stops were opportunities, for a walk, a pee but mostly to sniff out new smells.

Westie is 32 years old and has traveled almost 240,000 kilometres in her lifetime.  Some of her parts are just tired, dry and worn out, kind of like … well, never mind that.  The overheating problem was annoying, even more annoying when I found out that every jug of coolant Ray bought cost almost as much as a good bottle of Okanagan wine, but it wasn’t stopping our journey.

My Mechanic

My Mechanic

We made it all the way to Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island, pulling into our son’s parking lot just in time for the nice spaghetti dinner he had ready for us.  We picked out a spot to spend a few nights, but she refused to start. Water in the gas this time. The gas tank in the Westie is mounted in such a way that makes this a common issue when if rains too hard. “Hello son, we’re here forever can you give us a push?”

van lifeSunshine, methyl hydrate and a jerry-can of gas fixed Westie up for the return trip, but we still had to buy a jug of antifreeze at every gas stop. She kept picking scenic viewpoints to overheat at, forcing rests and walks for Tucker. Maybe she doesn’t like being in such a hurry. These stops became the rhythm of this road trip.

We made it to Osoyoos and gave Westie a good rest in son #2’s driveway. While we ate turkey and drank fabulous wine, Westie rested.

Summit Highway

Summit Highway

She seemed to enjoy the short jaunts to the wineries, waiting patiently outside with Tucker while we tasted. She ran like a charm, maybe hoping she was finished, but we still had a long way to go.

Finally, at the top of Summit Highway – at over 1700 metres and with no cell service for miles around, she overheated, then sputtered and died. This time she refused to start again. Is this where it all ends? My mechanic incorrectly (as it turns out) diagnosed the problem as related to the overheating combined with elevation, but in hindsight it seems it was the starter. Is there any part of Westie that didn’t complain on this trip? For some reason, and this is not uncommon with her, she finally decided to start anyway, and it was all downhill from here.

CAA to the rescue

CAA to the rescue

The next couple of days were uneventful – stop for gas, top up the antifreeze, slowly make our way closer to home. We were feeling optimistic when we saw the first Winnipeg sign. At 40 kms to Winnipeg we celebrated briefly, looks like we’ll make it! Westie was doing her very best, but just east of Elie MB the warning light came on and we stopped to feed the hungry rad again. This time she was completely spent. Nothing my mechanic did would get her to start again. I could feel her sadness, her disappointment in herself. I felt like I needed to console her, for trying so hard.

Home

Home

We work as a team on these trips. Ray is in charge of the driving and the fixing, but when we stop I am in charge of making Westie a home, the cooking and bed making. I am also in charge of communication. It turns out we were just inside the 200 kms CAA will tow us for free, so I ordered the truck. It would be at least an hour. We sat in the back of the van, in the dark and the cold. It could have been quite miserable. I made us a couple of sandwiches with the last of our food and opened a fabulous bottle of Petite Claret, from the Vin Amite winery near Osoyoos. No one had to drive any more tonight.

We made it home before midnight, all of Pinawa asleep, no witnesses to watch Westie limp off the tow truck in front of our house. The hot tub was 103 degrees.  Someone is going to get a good dose of TLC in the garage this winter.

The snow-capped mountains
Our little van huffs and puffs
then sputters and cries
 

 

An Unfamiliar Place
Meet Shannon Dee

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