Staying Positive When Shit Hits the Fan
We’re now over two weeks in and we haven’t produced a single blog post. That goes against almost every goal we set for the blog before we started on this journey. Excuses aren’t really our thing but we’ve had quite the adventurous start to our adventure.
There are many feelings and thoughts swirling around and we’re having a hard time slowing down to let it all set in. Before we left, we were frantically packing, making arrangements for cars, insurance and jobs and saying goodbyes to our friends and homes in San Francisco. Since we’ve been on the road we’ve been sprinting from place to place, trying to get as much out of it as we can in what feels like a limited amount of time. It still feels like we’re trying to cram as much as we can into our two-week vacation before we have to head back to the real world. The reality of our decisions and the longevity of what we’re doing has not really set in yet. This is our real world (at least for the foreseeable future). So stay tuned for when the dust settles and we’re able to actually collect our thoughts to tell you how we’re really doing.
As we get into the groove of life in a van, we’re starting to figure out some of the small stuff and are still working on the rest – how to organize the cabinets, how to keep Vanna clean (impossible), how to fit in time for work and what about working out? When/where do we spend time with friends/family, how do we find time to pursue personal interests and make space to let ourselves ponder? And when the heck do we edit the 7,526,849 photos Matt has already taken? You can already see that this is becoming about time and space, two things that we hope to master by the end of this journey.
The Story of Day One on The Road
We talked a lot about setting expectations before we left on this trip. We wanted to be clear with ourselves that this was not going to all be selfies and sunsets. We knew things would get hard but as we thrust ourselves into day 1 on the road, we were already forced to think about what it is going to take to stay positive on the road when we inevitably run into obstacles.
In true Bay Area fashion, September 1 was welcoming the first signs of the Indian summer with triple digit temps. Our initial reaction was that the van was overheating but there was nothing abnormal about the temperature gauge on the dash.
We pulled over, turned Vanna off and opened the hood to cool the engine down. After a 15-minute rest and restart, Vanna appeared to be running normally again. Until about 10 minutes later when this whole thing repeated itself. Power down – pull to the side – cool her down – over and over. As we continued to limp our way towards Big Sur with frequent stops for Vanna to rest the check engine light came on. I think this is where Matt almost fell apart – although he did a great job keeping it together for my sake.
We decided to try and find an auto shop that could help diagnose the engine light before heading over the hill to the remote coast of Big Sur. We weren’t even sure we could make it over the hill with the current loss of power Vanna suffered every time we sped higher than 59mph or hit the smallest hill.
After calling several auto shops that turned us away on the eve of Labor Day weekend we found a shop in Salinas that agreed to take us on the spot. The mechanic ran the diagnostic code, looked under the hood and told us we’d need a new Turbo for about $1,500. He said it wasn’t urgent if we wanted to keep driving on it until after the weekend was over.
We both looked at each other as our hearts dropped thinking about the new batteries, new radiator and recent check-up we’d already paid for to prepare Vanna for the trip. And now we’re going to need another $1,500 for a new Turbo.
The Show Must Go On
Even though we weren’t sure if we could trust this random auto shop in Salinas we decided to focus on the good – this didn’t need to be a barrier preventing us from getting to Big Sur and enjoying the weekend with our friends.
We were meeting them on the road before Big Sur to do grocery shopping for the weekend. Prior to our departure date, we had been having some trouble with our fridge , but never quite had the time to troubleshoot the problem. We weren’t sure if the issue was with the fridge, the solar system powering the fridge or a combination of both. The fridge was staying cool but was using more energy than we expected. Now, with 100 degree temps outside it was barely hanging on.
Matt was stressed about the engine, I was concerned we would starve, and we were both a little worried we might just die of heat exhaustion in the midst of it all. We decided to make one more stop and pick up a temporary cooler and extra ice for the weekend so we wouldn’t stress about the perishables.
Big Sur is isolated with no cell service and no real civilization. Our biggest concern was not being able to get back out after getting there.
Spoiler Alert: We Made It.
Reflecting back on that moment of stress, I am so happy to be in a relationship with someone who made every effort to stay positive instead of bitching about everything that was going wrong. We expected things to go wrong and we thought we were prepared for that. But what we weren’t prepared for was for something to happen on day one. Even with the first day testing our resolve, we didn’t allow ourselves to get down for long.
Our friends were saints as they slowly followed us up Nacimiento-Fergusson Road chugging along at a snail’s pace and refusing to go ahead in case we didn’t make it.
We Chose This.
We knew that even though it felt like everything was going awry in that moment, we would soon look back at our first day on the road and laugh a little. We quickly came up with five things to remind ourselves of every time shit hits the fan:
- It could always be worse
- We chose this
- This was going to happen eventually, at least we’re getting it out of the way
- At least we still have each other… 🙂
- This experience will pair well with wine (not while we’re driving, ok?!?)
The sun was setting on day one as we safely made it over the hill to Big Sur and the beautiful colors in the sky reminded us why it was going to be worth it to make this road life work.
After we pulled into our campsite, made a campfire and began to prep dinner we were starting to feel a little more relaxed. We had wine, friends and three more days to digest this huge move that we just made before we had to figure out the next steps. So let’s eat!
I opened the fridge to grab the dinner supplies when the fridge door fell off. Off the hinges, off the wall, off the whatever it was supposed to be attached to. The fridge became dead to me. We forced the fridge door back on and made a note to carefully hold it up every time you opened it – but I was already signing us up for a new one in my head as soon as this weekend was over.
The fridge was dead. But we weren’t! It was just another reminder to help us keep things in perspective. This is part of why we’re out here. We want to problem solve, overcome struggles and exercise our MacGyver-like skills as often as possible. We’ll see beautiful sunsets, hike the best trails, sleep in magical places under the stars – but there will also be Walmart parking lots, getting stranded in the middle of nowhere and those times when we have to skip the beautiful river trail to find wifi to make the work deadline.
Shit’s gunna hit the fan again. Consider us ready.
We wrapped up an incredible weekend in Big Sur before we started searching for another auto repair shop that could take Vanna quickly to help us stay on track to meet up with family for a wedding later that week. After a few strikeouts between Big Sur and San Jose, we decided to limp all the way back to San Rafael’s Collie Autoworks, who had replaced Vanna’s radiator less than a month prior.
Collie Autoworks was incredible – they agreed to take Vanna first thing Tuesday morning (closed Monday for Labor Day) and put our minds at ease when they confirmed the issue was with the Turbo Boost Resonator rather than the turbo itself. We were incredibly thankful that this meant we were only going to need to pay $235 to replace the resonator rather than a new turbo for $1,500.
(side note for those interested in Sprinter Van knowledge…)
Through a lot of help from our friend Kris and some research on sprinter-source.com and youtube we found that a crack in the Turbo Boost Resonator is actually a common problem with the Sprinter T1N. As a defense mechanism the vehicle sends itself into this ‘gutless limp mode’ to protect the engine.
Matt always helps me stay positive and keep things in perspective. As we were on our way to Big Sur Friday night we were feeling defeated and probably both secretly questioning a lot of decisions about going on this journey in the first place. But by Tuesday afternoon, Vanna was fixed and we were on our way north as if nothing had ever happened. Vanna was fine. We were fine.
Although we’ve had a few more instances since our first day where we’ve grumbled over the fact that Vanna is a finicky bitch or cursed the man who took some shortcuts on the van conversion – we will not give in and take this adventure for granted or let inconveniences and breakdowns break us. Shit’s gunna hit the fan again. Consider us ready.