Day Three, Four and Five of Sixteen
Miles Traveled: 414

With a solid nights rest beneath the redwoods in Big Sur, we hop back on PCH around 10am. Low hanging fog shrouded the highway as it hugged the coastline, making every passing car a prime candidate for a car commercial. Unfortunately it made it impossible to check out the Bixby Canyon bridge and other iconic views along this stretch of the PCH, but even with the thick fog it still maintained it’s reputation for one of the most beautiful roads we have collectively ever traveled. We stopped briefly in Carmel by the Sea for a much-needed chai and refrigerator magnet for our growing collection.

The drive between Monterey and Eureka is not particularly scenic, which in conjunction with some moderate to heavy drinking can be attributed to our lack of photos. I promise you’re not missing anything!

We stopped for lunch in Larkspur, a tiny community just north of San Francisco next-door neighbors with San Quentin prison. Despite the locale it was a pretty awesome little town, and of course we ended up at Marin Brewing Company for lunch and brews.

All of us left in a complete food coma, and I had to delegate the driving to Nathan so I could pass out on the couch. We pulled off for gas in Petaluma, and quickly learned why there is an ice cream flavor called Petaluma Pothole. After hitting more than a few potholes at speed, we noticed a new noise coming from the bus’s engine bay. We pulled over and investigated and concluded that there were a few potential sources but nothing that would prevent us from carrying on. So carry on we did, passing countless small towns on the 101 that brought back good memories of driving to Ferndale as a kid to visit my grandparents.

The sun fell below the treeline just as we began the avenue of the giants portion of the drive – a windy, steep section of the highway that serves as the entrance to Humboldt county. We had booked a spot at the Eureka KOA and we all we could talk about was how excited we were to hit the hot tub. After 2 hours or so of white-knuckle driving, hunched over the steering wheel trying to spot the next curve, we were finally coming up on Eureka.

“Did we hit gravel or something? That sounded weird.”

“I smell something burn-y”

“Probably just our stereo wiring”

Turns out the “gravel” we hit, which sounded a bit like marbles being shot out of an artillery cannon at the asphalt, was in fact the bearings from the tensioner pulley for the belt responsible for powering the engine fan, air conditioning, and plenty of other relatively important components on the bus. A few minutes passed, and just as we started down the final pass into Eureka the dash lit up like a Christmas tree.

With a very obviously overheating engine I immediately pulled the bus over to the [very narrow] shoulder. It didn’t take long for us to realize that not only had the belt shredded completely, but the entire assembly was missing from the engine bay. $#&%. We called AAA, and we were quoted about 45 minutes to get a tow to a repair shop. 45 minutes quickly turned into “Someone will probably be there in the morning”, so reluctantly we hung our hammocks and tried to get a few hours of sleep. Each passing semi would shake the bus violently. A few hours would be conservative.

The next morning AAA showed up with space for only one of us; so Zach, Nathan and I hopped a barbed wire fence and ran to catch a bus at the nearby Indian casino into Eureka.

The tow truck dropped off the bus at Johnson Auto Electric in Eureka, next door to a lumber mill in the hardcore industrial area of town. We were told by AAA that we would be reimbursed for hotel/rental car/etc. due to trip interruption, so we looked around for a place to spend the night and make the best of our crappy situation. Out of quite literally hundreds of hotels as far as 70 miles south…everything was sold out. As it turns out it was move-in weekend for Humboldt State University, and every single parent was in town helping their kids get settled in. $%&#. To make matters worse the owner of the shop recommended against leaving the bus unsupervised, and told us about a homeless person who had used an axe to cut a hole into one of their trucks and lit a fire inside. $^#&.

Justin and Jared establishing relations with the homeless dudes. Hacky-sack is an excellent icebreaker.

So we spent the day in the bus, waiting on word from the shop who was having trouble locating the parts we needed. Things were looking up for a moment when a shipment of belts arrived, but with none of them matching our rig it was becoming clear that we would be spending the night in the parking lot. We walked through Costco to kill time, made pasta and watched the latest Bourne movie. We went to bed hopeful that we would be out of there in the morning and, by some miracle, would make our reservation at Gold Beach, OR.

The next morning we were disappointed to learn that the second set of parts they had received also didn’t fit. The shop was still optimistic that we could have it fixed that day so we walked into town to drown our sorrows at, you guessed it, the brewery. Lost Coast Brewery to be specific. And it was awesome!

As per usual, Justin took a little nap at the table. After lunch we walked back, still no word from the shop on whether or not we would be spending another night in beautiful Eureka. We got back just as they were wrapping up the belt installation. We took the bus around the block and it was still overheating. $%#&. We return back to the shop just as they are about to close and explain the situation to the owner. He was awesome enough to stay past closing and wire us up a temporary solution so that we could continue on our journey.

And within an hour we were finally back on the road and heading towards Oregon. The 101 between Eureka and Cave Junction, OR had us all hanging out the windows taking photos. Something about low lying fog on a two lane road in the Redwoods I guess.

We got into Salem, Oregon around 2am, took our first showers in several days, and passed out for a wink. In the morning we will head further north through Portland and Seattle to Vancouver.