After a few days at home it was once again time to climb into my 69 Econoline and drive to Ohio to the largest Custom Van gathering in North America. We (as in my van and I 🙂) started out Wednesday morning on a hot and humid day that was to be a 7 hour tour but it would be a full, and I mean full 24 hours before I would arrive. I am going to mention before I start the story of my journey that my 69 Econoline had started and ran perfectly since Karl fixed that loose wire. This time though I was prepared with tools, the only thing I was missing was a jump starter but I had CAA which would cover me in the US and I would grab one while I was down there.
I planned my trip which was mostly highway driving and would cross at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. After a 30 minute wait in line, I was sweating profusely but her temperature gauge did not rise near as much as mine did. After a few questions we were through and on our way. My first stop would be Cracker Barrel in Erie Pennsylvania. After a good meal, as always, I went to start her up and nothing. Now I am going to mention as I was going down the highway I could feel a slight hesitation every once in awhile. Not enough to overly concern me but enough to make me go hmmmm. I have owned this particular van for 12 years. I know how she sounds and feels. Something was off. I did not realize it would be the whole van that would be off. Lol. A call to CAA, who transfered me to AAA for a boost and a very helpful young man named Mike showed up. He put the booster cables on and the van started. He looked at me and said turn the key off. I then showed him the keys in my hand. Hmmmm that’s pretty weird. He called his boss who dabbled in old autos and he told him to tap the starter solenoid lightly with a screwdriver. It worked and she started right up. I had no idea how long I could run like that and I still had hours to go. I went to Walmart to pick up a jump starter and googled an O’Reilly Auto Parts to get a solenoid.
I must say this the first time I have been at an O’Reilly and the experience was wonderful. I told them my problem and they had a solenoid in stock. They put the battery on charge as it was almost out again and I decided to change the solenoid since it would take a couple of hours before it was fully charged. Did I mention it was 95 degrees outside? It was hot and now I was going to get greasy. This was not what I had in mind for a 7 hour tour to the Nat’s, as we affectionately call them.
I could not get the old solenoid off the firewall as that would require removal the dog house which also requires removal of the passenger seat. I was not going to try to do that in this heat, in a parking lot. I mean I would if I had to but really not what I wanted to do. I put it all together, they brought the battery out, and nothing! Darn! I took it all apart, cleaned all the terminals on the old one with a little sandpaper, and the connections and she started right up. Great! I had about 4 hours to go. Armed with my jump starter I headed off. No stopping, straight there. The nice thing about the engine in the 69 it is mostly mechanical. Once you have it running it does not use a lot of electricity to run. I got this.
She was running great. Window open, a beautiful evening, cool wind in my hair (you sang that eh 🙂), when dark skies appeared. A few flashes of lightning and a roll of thunder. Uh oh! I was just coming into Columbus Ohio on a four lane highway, as I looked ahead I could see brake lights, then hazard lights. Before I knew it I hit litterly a wall of water. There was no rain and then there was so much it created a river on the road. This style of Econoline is famous for hydro-planing. Up on top of the water she went. I now had no control. She was drifting toward the shoulder. There were two lanes of traffic between me and the shoulder. Everyone was slowing down as visibility was near zero. I took my foot off the gas, put the van in neutral and put my hazards on. All I could do was wiggle the wheel a little and try to break through the water barrier on the road. As she started to move over the traffic seemed to sense what was going on and moved out of my way or they slowed faster than I did. Which ever it was, I was grateful. Once I hit the rumble strip on the side of the road she broke through. I had control. Phewww! I pulled over when it was safe to do so and took a couple of deep breaths!
FYI…I do not like boating. I especially do not like boating when I am driving my van. Lol
The rain had let up but now I was using my lights and wipers. That battery will only last so long. As I tried to decide what to do, do I gamble my battery will last another hour or do I find somewhere to pull over? Just then the rain started to get harder. That made my decision for me. A Pilot Truck Stop was at the next exit. It was time to rest. Tomorrow was another day.
The next morning the sun was shining and a beautiful day awaited. After a shower and a coffee to go I held my breath and turned the key. She started right up. Good girl. Let’s go play!!
Carla Rappa was working the gate and what a wonderful surprise! I have not seen her and her husband John in three years. It was so nice to hug her. They have a sweet purple 1973 Ford Econoline. I just love them and their van! It would take me two days to find John! Lol.
To say it was packed with vans already is an understatement. There were vans as far as the eye can see. Oh Yea!!!! By Saturday a total of 817 Vans would come through the gate. The highest total for the Van Nationals in years. So many friends to see and hug that I have not seen for a long time and a few new ones I have only talked to on social media but never hugged. As you drove in there was a large wooden structure in the main area with of course a van on top. The theme was Burning Van. This should be interesting. Off to find my friends Bonnie, Jim aka Kooba, and Sandy who I was parking with.
The fairgrounds in Old Washington Ohio was hot and hilly. Lol! I have been there a few times and parked on top of the hill. I was so happy to find Jim and Bonnie at the bottom. It has to be the only park I have ever been to that you always seem to be walking up hill. They did have a small shuttle you could ride around in but I never did seem to be able to be in the right place at the right time to catch it. Lol.
Down to vendors row to see Bonnie and Joe from Florida. I love vendors row as you never know what they will have. From pins and patches to shirts and hats as well as artisan artists strutting their stuff. Food vendors often have a different or surprising types of foods. One of the food vendors was a donut maker but you could get milkshakes. What was adorning the straw of the milkshake, a warm soft delicious donut. Maybe those hills will come in handy. Lol.
Friday was the cruise. One of my favorite parts of the event. Unfortunately I just did not feel confident my van would work properly so I did not participate this year. As they lined up I was feeling a little sad but also in awe of some of the beautiful vans. The first picture of the blog is a perfect example. Kelsey Bloom and her beautiful Pink Panther van was just one of over 300 vans that would cruise to the beach.
The Nationals is a perfect example of why you need to look at your Bible. For those that do not know, it is the listing of events within the event. When and where the bands are, Demonstration events, such as Bonnie and Sandy’s Tye-dye demonstration teaching people how to tie the material to make certain shapes, and the process that is required to create some of the beautiful tapestries and clothes that they create. If you ever need any tye-dye these are ladies you need to contact.
Friday night is also Bright and Shine. After dark the grounds light up with vans. Some of the lighting that people have created is just incredible! There is no engine running allowed so people have to pack the power. As a person that lives on minimal power I know how much power it takes to run those light. Just ingenious!
You cannot forget about the little vans
There was so many things to be entertained by, I mean not just each other. Someone did a chainsaw carving as well as these fire dancers. Something for everyone, everywhere you turned.
Some of the vans you see are so different and cute. Some of my favorites I seen!
Ok so I have to share something with you all. I do not cook, well I try not to cook. Bonnie had this cool little egg sandwich maker and she actually got me to cook with it. What a cool little machine. It was so easy. It is definite add to my favorite camping accessory page
Saturday came and I had still not seen a number of people. One person in particular I wanted to hug was Kirsten and her husband Uwe from Germany. I have chatted with her so many times on Facebook and she seemed like such a beautiful amazing woman. On Saturday we finally found each other. What an absolute joy to hug her. She was every bit as beautiful inside and out as I expected. Uwe was such a very nice man and gave great hugs!
Saturday night was the last night of the Nationals. The Burning Van that was in the middle of the fairgrounds was very special for a couple of reasons. Not only was it constructed by the vanners themselves but also held inside a Vanners Memorial. Remembering all those vanners that we have loved and lost. It was a very special place inside that little walkway. Where you touched a name and felt you’re heart swell, a funny story, remembering the good times and the good people that blessed our lives for a little while.
The burning of the Van and those represented inside was preceded by a spectacular fireworks show. What a send off to those vanners and great ending to a beautiful 4 days.
What a fabulous weekend spent with fabulous friends. Hats off and hearty thanks to Vans on the Run and Truckin into Tomorrow vanclubs and The Nationals Board for a most awesome event.
On the way home I caravaned with my friend Bonnie. We drive well together. I am pretty sure that with trouble I had coming down I was not leaving without her. I am very blessed!
All went smooth and it was a wonderful drive home!
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.
Starting next week get ready for some strange and interesting places in Ontario and a sneak peek at what will be in my new book! 🙂