Well we made it to Cali. If you’re reading this blog for the first time its a bit backwards to read so here are some handy links. You still have to start from the bottom of the page and read up… one of these days I’ll flip it all around.

Days 1 through 6, Florida to Mississippi

Days 7 through 12, Onward through Kansas

Day 13 to the end

Mark S.
email: marksch @ outlook.com

Ole Blue, at home in the driveway.
Home in Redondo in my driveway

Lenny’s crew at West Coast Custom VW’s did an amazing job on the upholstery and headliner.
Interior complete

Interior

I detailed the motor once we made it home. I think both Mark’s are a little surprised it made the journey without a hitch.
Motor Looking Pretty!

About an hour outside Salida, still on the 50 we were starting to do some serious climbs. That’s when we started noticing flashing road signs warning of snow and ice. Huh? That’s not good! As the we got higher and higher we began to realize we were on the assent to Monarch Pass. The bus got slower and slower. Early on Mark put the pedal to the floor in 4th but the bus just got slower, so we went to 3rd which worked for a while but soon that too wouldn’t hold speed so he dropped it down into 2nd as we limped up the mountain at 20mph. Every 1,000 feet or so the scenery would change dramatically until we rounded a corner about 9,000 feet up and saw snow and the cloud layer right in our path! Things got a little nervous after that. We had the emergency flashers on as visibility dropped to just a couple hundred feet or so. Snow was everywhere on the ground but thankfully non was actually falling. Then we reached the summit! 11,312 feet on top of Monarch Pass. A pretty cool accomplishment for I must say. To take every nut and bolt off a 50 year old vehicle, put it all back together and reach the top of The Rockies is something to be proud of I must admit.

It was well below freezing so I hopped out, took a quick photo of our feat, hopped back in and we headed down the mountain. We found a pace car you could say in a weighted down semi-truck that was nursing his way down as well. We just followed him all the way down in low gear where eventually the sun came back through offering us some stunning evening views for our effort. We reached the first town we came to called Gunnison just as it got dark and retired for the night.

Uhhh really? We’re going over that??
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Its hard to read the sign but it says “ICY SNOW PACKED ROADS.” Not what we were looking for.
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It’s cool the way the entire landscape changes every 1,500 or so feet as you make the climb up Monarch.
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Around 9,500ft we hit the cloud layer and more snow.
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It just got worse from there. Keep in mind foot is to the floor in 2nd gear going about 25mph.
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11,312ft on top of Monarch Pass!!
ContinentalDivide

On the way down the sun came out again for a brilliant sunset.
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We finally got to the base of the other side, what a view!
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I woke up early in La Quinta Inn’s not-very-comfy bed and Mark was nowhere to be found. I went outside and saw the engine lid for the bus open in the parking lot and him crawling around on the ground. Being 7,000ft up the air-cooled VW motor needs a special tune to have a hope of dealing with the mountains. Its not the air-cool part that’s an issue it’s the thin air robs a ton of horsepower from a motor, when you have around 36 horsepower to begin with every little bit counts! Normally you time a stock VW motor to 7-1/2 degrees, in the mountains we learned from Mike that you need to advance the timing 5 degrees to 13! It seemed to work though. The bus was wayyyy low on power driving around Colorado Springs but the quick adjustment to the tune and we had a noticeable amount back…good thing for what was in store for us later that day.

I started the drive in the morning as we headed down Colorado state highway 50. The 50 is an amazing drive, lots of hills and beautiful fall scenery to enjoy as the road makes it wasy along a fast moving river. As we were enjoying the stunning views I happen to notice a little turn-off and make a quick exit. Immediately we were blown away. Within minutes a pack of deer were standing right in front of us! WOW! They just starred at the bus wondering how they could get one too im guessing. As usual the road turned to dirt but we kept going. Seemed we were on a road to some small ranches or something, all I know is it was spectacular. We hopped out and started taking photos, of course I had to give Ole Blue a quick detail job for the occasion! We burned an hour snapping photos before we got back on the 50 blown away by what we saw. What a great little detour!

Back on the 50, we took the advice from our new buddy Mike who told us when we get to Salida to take a stop and drive around the old part of town. Once again he was right, a cool little historic town where we enjoyed a fantastic burger and picked up some gear for the cold weather that was ahead.

In the background of the town was a fairly tall mountain with a big S for Salida on the side of it. Some locals told us you can drive up the spiral to the peak for a great view… then mentioned they doubted the bus would make it! HA! So on the way out we hit the dirt road spiral that brings you to the top where Ole Blue easily made it. While up there we learned why the town is called Exit in Spanish as mountains seem to end into a large prairie. Im sure back in the day on horse it was quite a relief to exit the mountains.

After stocking up on supplies weren’t quite sure what to do after that. It was about 4pm and the next town was at least a couple hours away. Since the bus is a 6 volt system the headlights are nowhere near as bright as a modern car so we really don’t like driving it at night. We sorta looked at each other and decided to make some time and just hit the road. I turned the keys over to Mark and off we went…no idea what was in our future! I’ll save that story for the next post.

Highway 50 sure is purdy!
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On the way to Salida we pulled over for a quick photo op. You’d swear the bus was winking at us!
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We pulled off on a side road and were immediately greeted by a pack of deer! Check it out a dozen or so right in front of the bus!!
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This is right outside the bus window!
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A little further down the small road and things got even more pretty.
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It was so good I decided the bus needed some detail spray and a wipedown stat!
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Oh yeah!!
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The back road just kept giving and giving!
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Livin the dream! hehe
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At the base in Salida, “the bus wont make it up there!” HA!
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On the peak with Salida in the background. It seems everywhere we go someone has a VW story…even on the top of a mountain.
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Same Place, different angle
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We finally left Kansas and made it to Colorado Springs where in the morning we would meet up with Mike from Bulli Klinik. Mike saw I was traveling through town from some photos I posted on the VW enthusiast website TheSamba.com and told me to stop by his shop. I’d never met Mike before but after hearing he had VW restoration shop and some advice for getting through The Rockies we thought we should stop for sure. Holy crap, what a stop!

So we show up to his shop and see a sweet 59 panel bus as well as a couple other old split-window buses in the parking lot. We walk in the door, shake hands and immediately he hands me a 6 pack of Mass Transit Ale which is a Colorado Springs microbrew that uses a VW bus for their logo. Next he hands us a couple t-shirts and we start chatting about this and that. After a while he wants to know if we can grab a beer and some lunch. Surrrreee! So we have some lunch and are thinking it’s around noon and he probably needs to get back to work or something so we get the check and head to the buses to go head out. Mike has other plans though and asks if we have time for a tour of the Colorado Springs first. Well, if Mike has time we have time so sure why not!

With Pikes Peak in the background, Mike points up to a little road and says we’re going up there. Wow, really? We haven’t gone up or down a mountain like that in the bus yet so while I wasn’t THAT nervous, it did make me gulp. So we left the bar and followed Mike’s bus until we reached the entrance of the Guanella Pass. We started driving up and immediately the scenery went nuts. Crazy beautiful trees, a city below that kept getting smaller and smaller, even a couple short tunnels carved into the mountain, all on dirt roads of course. This was easily the coolest drive in the bus so far without a doubt! Mark was snapping photos as we cruised around in two beautiful old buses. After that amazing drive we went to Garden of the Gods State Park across town. By now it was 3 or so and we figured we should let him get back to work. Nope, he wants to get another beer in a trippy little town called Manitou Springs so of course we did. Hard to describe the place we went other than eclectic, a perfect place to roll into with the buses. At the end of all that he wanted to invite us over to the house but the wife had some car problems so hit the road…to the closest hotel! What a great day and once again amazing hospitality! Thanks again Mike!

Crusing around with Mike and his sweet 59.
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A shot of Ole Blue from Mikes bus
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Some cool rock tunnels at Guanella Pass
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Colorado Springs was an awesome stop!
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Awesome!
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Just another day and another dirt road!
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On the way into Colorado Springs we did all we could to avoid the maniacs on Interstate 25. Didnt work out so well!
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Day 15 – Getting out of Kansas

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Sorry for the lack of posts, internet has been hard to come by up in the mountains. Heres the news from a few days ago, more posts soon! Some amazing photos to share too… After finally getting out of Kansas- …