It was all very romantic and it was 1971 when we decided to get married. My then future husband, Mark, had given me a paper back copy of John Steinbeck’s “Travel’s with Charlie” and said he wanted to take me cross country on a trip like that.
So we made our plans which included borrowing his parents 1964 VW camper, outfitting it with 2 spare tires, and rock guards for the headlights. It was going to be a great adventure, leaving Los Angeles traveling north, catching a ferry in Vancouver to Alaska and then driving back on the Al-can Highway.
My mother-in-law made sure we packed everything we would possibly need right down to a picnic basket. We were married and set off, heading north on highway 101. We spent the first night in a rest stop and took off bright and early the next morning, filled with excitement. Shortly before noon in the middle of no where, and only a few hundred miles, if even that, from where we started, the engine suddenly died and we pulled to the side of the road and waited.
Finally a tow truck was called and came to our rescue. The driver Marvin, looked exactly like Robert Mitchum with the exception of a missing tooth! He took us to the sleepy little town of San Ardo, Ca. The town consisted of a 9 room motel on the order of the “Bates Motel”, a Dairy Queen, an Arco gas station and a market or two.
Marvin took us to the Arco, where PeeWee the mechanic decided we had run out of oil and cracked the block. They would have to send for a new engine to come by Grey Hound Bus from King City to the north. After several days, waiting for the engine to arrive and then for the repairs, we knew every inch of San Ardo and some of the residents!
The minute the repairs were done, even thought it was already 4pm, we hit the road! We had used our ferry money for the repairs, so Alaska was out of the question, but not wanting to give up, we decided to go as far as Canada and then down through Yellowstone. When we hit the California Oregon boarder and since we had an old bus with a new engine, our starter burned out!
We didn’t have the money to replace the starter and keep going, and still unwilling to give up, we push started that bus all the way into Canada, down through Yellowstone and home. It was not a matter of looking for cheap gas, or lovely camp sites- it was looking for anyplace that had any slight hill where we could stop the bus at the top. That way when we started up again, Mark would push and I would pop the clutch!
I got very good at popping that clutch, and many times people would see our problem and come to help Mark push. Thirty-nine years later we are still married and RVing!
Submitted by Chris Schwarm of Oakhurst, CA as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.
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