I’m so excited! I’m leaving in a few days to travel up to Cumberland Maryland to ride the GAP, the Great Allegheny Passage, with my sister and brother. Well, my brother isn’t riding the trail with us, but he’s driving the “support wagon” and will be meeting us every night at our next stop to set up camp.
So, what is the Great Allegheny Passage? It’s a 150-mile long trail that connects Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It also connects to the C&O Canal Towpath which goes from Cumberland, to Washington, DC. The path is a rails-to-trails conversion, meaning it was once an active train track. The rails and ties have been removed and the remaining rock path has been crushed, flattened, and compacted. It’s a beautiful traffic and vehicle-free route through some really scenic country side. The trail is mostly flat, with only a slight 2% grade leading out of Cumberland up to the Eastern Continental Divide. From there, it’s a pretty smooth ride into Pittsubrgh.
This year Joy and I spent Christmas at her parents house in Choctaw, Oklahoma. We left town a day earlier than we had originally planned because there was a big cold front coming through and we didn’t’ want to get stuck on the interstate like we did one year. We left on a Thursday evening and stopped in Little Rock, AR for the night. In the morning, we met some of Joy’s cousins for breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel and then hit the road for OKC. When we left, the temperature was a balmy 70° in Little Rock. As we drove towards her parents house, the temps steadily dropped. When we finally arrived about 5 hours later, it was raining steadily and the temp had dropped to 30°! It’s a good thing we decided to leave early because it was pretty nasty out the next day. Here’s what our car looked like the next morning:
Needless to say, we spent most of Saturday just lounging around the house watching TV and playing games. On Sunday, most of the roads had cleared and there were only a few icy spots left, so we were able to make it to church. Joy sang a solo during the service and I stood with her and her family for a reading and lighting of the Advent candle. Late Sunday night, we were all getting pretty tired and were getting ready to turn in when just a few houses down there arouse such a clatter. I leashed up the dogs and went to see what was the matter. There were dozens of cars and a valet down the street. Thirty minutes later we began to hear this rhythmic beat. The reason OKC was so cold that night, Vanilla Ice was performing just two doors down to the right! Joy told me that the guy living a few doors down is a concert promoter or something and he had Vanilla Ice at his house to perform for friends and family. I didn’t believe it at first, so I went to Ice’s Twitter page, and sure enough, he was in Choctaw, OK!
The next day we decided to head down to Pop’s on Route 66. This landmark features a 66-foot tall soda sculpture out front and features a record-breaking selection of over 600 ice-cold sodas and beverages! I have a few favorites that I always look for whenever we’re in OK. Sadly, they only have on of my faves so I bought a six-pack. One of my friends, Ben, wanted me to grab an assortment of sodas for him and I made a deal with him that I’d buy 5 of whatever he wanted if he’d let me pick the 6th soda and he had to drink it in front of our friends. So while at Pop’s, I went to the Sodagusting aisle and took a picture of 5 of the nastiest sodas I could find and I told him to pick his poison.
I didn’t actually pick one the above sodas. Instead I grabbed one called “Pirate’s Piss” and I didn’t notice it until I gave it to him a few days ago, but it was a banana flavored soda. Trooper that he is, he still finished the entire bottle. Christmas was awesome because we got to watch our 2 year old niece Nora tear open and enjoy her presents. Nora is just the cutest thing and quite a handful. She loved our dogs. Greta was extremely patient with Nora, gladly accepting every hug she wanted to give, but Gabby was a little less thrilled with some much attention.
In fact, I think by the end of our stay, Gabby was ready to head on home.
For Christmas, I bought Joy a new monogrammed Egyptian cartouche made of silver and this sweet T.A.R.D.I.S. decal for her Macbook Air. Joy bought me a copy of “Rocksmith 2014” for my PS3. My father-in-law let me borrow one of his electric guitars and I got to try it out briefly, and I gotta say, it was pretty awesome! I guess I know what one of my New Year’s resolutions is going to be now.
Last weekend my friend Todd and I drove Pokey up to Effingham, IL for MidAmerica Motorworks 15th Annual Funfest. I had never been before and I’ve always been curious to see what this show was all about. It was going to be a bit of a trek, about 421 miles each way–that’s about twice as far away as my previous road trip in Pokey to Carrollton, GA.
We’d planned to stay at Camp Lakewood in Todd’s VW camper van “Daisy”, but rain was forecast for our trip up and Todd said that if he drove Daisy in the rain, there was no seal under the fiberglass top and our sleeping are would get soaked. So I made reservations at a hotel and both rode in my car. I think we were both a little nervous at first, since I had just finished restoring Pokey about 2 months ago and the longest trip he had under his belt was to Birmingham.
The drive up to Illinois was pretty smooth but we did have a few interesting things happen along the way. We were just outside of Athens and following a semi when one of the semi trailer’s tires exploded in front of us. Thankfully there was no one in the adjacent lane and we swerved over to the left and avoided any tire shrapnel.
As we got closer to Nashville, it started to sprinkle. That’s not unusual in itself, but we started noticing dark blue rain drops on the windshield. I don’t have a windshield washer tank, so it wasn’t leaking from me. We pulled off at the first exit and noticed this blue fluid was all over my hood too! We quickly wiped it off with some shop rags and detail spray and then headed back onto the highway.
As we were driving through Kentucky, the needle on my speedometer starting dancing back and forth about 5mph. About 15 minutes later, I looked down and the needle was stuck at 0. The speedometer cable must have broken at some point.
We made it into Effingham about 3:30pm, dropped our luggage in the hotel, gassed up Pokey and headed over to MidAmerica’s HQ to line up for the Fun Run. Thankfully the rain held off for the rest of the evening and we enjoyed a scenic 12 mile cruise to the Effingham town square. I’d never been in cruise with over 50 Volkswagens and we even had Effingham police blocking off interections for us!
Once everyone got to the square, we took over every available parking space! There were food vendors and giveaway tents and Todd and I had a “Flaming Goat” burger from Gabby Goat. It’s a beef patty with goat cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, and Sriracha sauce. It was probably the tastiest thing I ate all weekend! We ran into some friends we knew from our local VW scene and after the cruise-in, went to a local pizza joint for a late snack.
Then the severe weather started to roll in. We ate pretty quick, paid our bill, and went back to the hotel. We dodged most of the heavy stuff and just got a lot of rain. On Saturday morning, after we washed Pokey, we noticed that the passenger side of my floorboard was soaked. We dried it the best we could, left the windows cracked, and went out to enjoy the show at MidAmerica.
There were lots and lots of beautiful VWs at the show. We were told by a few people that the turnout was actually pretty light because of the threat of weather. It certainly didn’t keep a lot of the dune buggy owners at home! We found a tent where they were showing a documentary on the VW Bus and waited out the rain there. Then we went to the Fun Dome where you could buy VW swag (t-shirts, books, and water bottles) and found three of the movie Herbies!
They also had Frankenstein’s car from the original Death Race 2000 movie that David Carradine drove!
Saturday night we met up with our friends again and ate at a great place called Firefly grill. It was very fancy and very pricey. I had a $13 cheeseburger topped with Saint Andre cheese, bacon, and a fried egg served on a pretzel bun. It was almost as good as my Flaming Goat burger. Almost. We also sampled Poutine before our entrees arrived. This dish is very popular in Canada. It’s french fries covered in gravy, bacon, and cheese sauce. It was practically a meal in itself!
On Sunday, we got up late, ate breakfast, and hit the show one last time. Since Pokey was all shiny, we took advantage of a few of the photo opportunities they had in front of the MidAmerica HQ and then hit the road.
With no rain, temps in the low 70’s, and the speedo cable still broke, we had a very cool, almost zen-like, laid-back trip home. We couldn’t tell how fast we were going and we really didn’t care. There was some road construction in Kentucky and a pretty nasty dip in the road that we hit at 65 mph. It would’ve been pretty jarring in any car, but in a lowered Beetle, it was downright teeth shattering. Luckily it don’t do any damage but Pokey did use his framehead to take a large bite out of the asphalt. I think there’s still a few pieces of Kentucky blue asphalt stuck underneath my car!
I was so proud of Pokey for doing as well as he did on the trip and I think Todd was pleasantly surprised too. It’s too bad more folks from the NAVWC didn’t join us. We had a great time and will definitely go back to another Funfest, maybe when clear skies are forecast.
Saturday I met up with some guys from the NAVWC and we cruised down to Birmingham for Pokey’s first car show since getting restored. The show was held in Tannehill State Park so this it was going to be a good chance to put some highway miles on him and shake out the bugs. The only bug that shook out was a slight oil leak somewhere in the engine compartment. I think the dual-post oil pressure sending unit in the side of the case has a crack in it or a hole, because there was a thin film of oil on the left side of my engine compartment.
The oil dripped down the engine tin and eventually exited a small hole for rainwater to drain. Unfortunately, this hole sits right on top of my header, so as the oil dripped on my hot exhaust as I was driving, it smoked. It wasn’t but, like a James Bond smokescreen, but it still made me nervous at times.
Aside from my oil leak, the rest of the trip down there was pretty uneventful. We did stop in Cullman for one of the guys to get some gas and he over-filled his tank. The gas didn’t come out the filler neck like you might imagine, but through a small overflow hose that I don’t think he knew about. As he was getting back into his car, he noticed there was gas pouring out from under his front apron! After he lost about $2.75 in gas, and he was sure it wasn’t leaking anymore, we were back on the road.
I think the threat of rain this weekend kept some of the VW-owners at home, but there was still a pretty nice turnout for this first annual event. There were lots of great looking in cars there, like this gorgeous orange dune buggy:
And this slick electric Beetle:
The NAVWC was well represented with 5 cars. We actually took home the trophy for most represented club!
As you can see in the picture above, I’m holding a trophy of my own. I’m quite pleased to say that Pokey won 1st Place in the “1968 and later Beetle” class. I don’t wanna brag or anything, but usually that class is further divided into 1968 and later stock and custom, and there are usually Super Beetle Stock and a Super Beetle Custom classes, so I was lumped in with ALL the other Beetles. I was just glad that Pokey made it to Birmingham without a major incident but to take home a first made my day.
I enjoyed hanging out with the club and planning our summer events and cruises. It was also neat meeting other VW owners and discussing our cars. I got several compliments and answered more than a few questions about my build. One onlooker asked if Pokey was a 2007 model. I know I had streamlined him and gave him a more modern look, but I didn’t think I had shaved 35 years off his appearance!
After the show was over, we hit the road for home. The rain stayed away all day, until we hit Cullman. At first, there was a light shower which felt wonderful. I had the windows cracked and for a few moments, a cool breeze and the delicious smell of rain drowned out the burnt oil smell from Pokey. Then we hit a short gulley-washer about 15 minutes later and it was all I could do to keep Pokey on the road which I could barely see. Thankfully my wipers are working great.
Now that Pokey is back home safe and sound, I guess my next project is to track down and fix that oil leak. I’m still planning to head up to Effingham, IL at the end of the month for Mid-America Motorworks “Fun Fest.” With a drive that long, a small oil leak could turn into a big problem!
Joy spend last week and the weekend with her mother and sisters in Oklahoma City for a Women of Faith conference. She had an amazing time, both with the conference and with getting to spend some quality time with her family. Well, today Joy flew back home aboard Delta Airlines. I left work a little early and picked her up at the airport. As we were sitting in front of the baggage claim chatting, the carousel came to life and started spitting out our luggage. It wasn’t long before we spotted my wife’s suitcase and I leaned over to grab it. As I flipped it around and put the wheels to the ground, I noticed that the top of the suitcase was un-zipped. The two zippers were about 8-10 inches apart. I didn’t think much about it and preceded to walk it and my wife out to our car. We went home and settled in, making dinner plans and unpacking.
Since it was Joy’s birthday, I decided to call her favorite restaurant to make reservations. Then I heard it. Joy let out an anguished “Oh no!!!” and I ran to her side. It turns out the reason her suitcase was “ajar” was because some Delta cretin or TSA troll had pilfered her suitcase and stolen her jewelry! The odd thing is they didn’t even bother to take her little jewelry case that it was all in. They simply popped it open and took her rings, necklaces, and bracelets. All they left was about $0.55 in change and a button (It’s almost like adding insult to injury).
I didn’t know what to do. I felt her anguish, especially after she told me that a lot of that jewelry was bought during her trip to Israel several years ago. There were two cartouches with her name on them, one a gift from me and the other from Israel. I think that’s what hurt her the most… not the monetary value of the items, but because they had strong sentimental value and they were a “little” hard to get. We both knew she shouldn’t have packed them in the luggage, but you’d expect with heightened Homeland Security and the increased fees for checking baggage, that maybe, just maybe, her stuff would be safe.
Flushed with anger, Joy immediately called Delta’s “customer service” line and explained the situation. Without fail, every service rep she was transferred to told her that Delta was “not responsible for lost and damaged items.” It was almost as if each rep had that plastered on top of the monitor in their cubicle. What a great corporate philosophy!!! I can understand the freak accident where a baggage cart might smash your suitcase, but it’s pretty damned low to claim you’re not responsible for the very thing you now charge us MORE to take care of!!! Hiding behind that phrase just gives some crooked baggage handler or luggage screener a carte blanche to help himself to your niceties.
She was told to fill out a Damage/Pilferage Claim Form and attach copies of her receipts and other proofs of purchase. I doubt we’ll be able to produce any such items, but even if we did, she’ll probably get a canned response with some garbage about “tariff rules and the ticket contract covering your travel excludes responsibility for jewelry, cash, camera equipment, electronic equipment, or computer equipment contained in checked or unchecked baggage” which basically says “we’re not responsible for protecting the most valuable stuff you trust us with because, hey, we might like to get some of dat!!!”
I think what disturbs me the most about the whole situation is the general acceptance that flying these days involves contact with highly unethical, immoral and/or criminal people. Everyone seems to just accept that theft will occur and work around it. We should be more outraged at airlines and airline employees that allow this behavior to occur. WE’RE the ones treated like criminals… arriving earlier and earlier for increasingly invasive personal checks, paying larger fees for luggage and yet no one is bothering to check whether an employee in the baggage area is going home every night with pocket fulls of jewelry and electronics?!? Where’s the metal detector in the employee area???
After thinking about it, and reading similar tales of woe on the internet, I bet the TSA is to blame for this. The baggage handlers probably barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone pilfer your suitcase. They’d have to be pretty good at spotting the luggage with valuables in them too. The TSA, on the other hand, has x-ray machines hidden in the bowels of the airport and have every right “in the interest of homeland security” to examine any and every suitcase they want. In fact, the TSA’s site specifically says not to put valuables in your bag. Apparently they know their $8.00 employees will steal them.
Oh well, lesson learned. I just wish it hadn’t happened on her birthday. From now on, anything of value will be carried on, or if it’s too big, shipped home via Fed-Ex. That way at least our stuff would be safe home on our door step and not in the mitts of some greedy goon.