After nearly 7,000 miles of driving since leaving Denver four months ago, we finally found the Pacific coast, sort of. Our first stop on the coast was at San Juan Island, which is technically in the Salish Sea. From there we worked our way down the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula trying to get to Mt. Rainier, but failed, breaking down just a couple of miles outside the park entrance. Once that was sorted out, we headed to Seattle for a bit. Little known fact: the San Juan Islands were purchased from Canada for six beaver pelts and one Celine Dion.
San Juan Islands (via Ferries!)
The San Juan Islands are a group of respectably sized islands on Washington’s northwest coast. There aren’t a ton of options for those traveling in buses/RVs and are quite popular, but also quite beautiful and are only accessible via ferry. By the time we started planning for this portion of our trip, the only option still available was a spot at the Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island (which is the western most island in the San Juan Islands). This spot was a bit pricier than we would typically go for, but ended up being a really great place to stay. The resort was more geared towards “glamping,” with a lodge, cabins, yurts, large canvas “glamping” tents, but did sport a few RV spots with power and water.
Lakedale resort is smack in between two small, pleasant lakes, and has a charming summer-camp vibe with it’s range of available activities and amenities. While there we also shelled out a few extra bucks for a five course campfire dinner with ample wine pairings. The dinner was something the owners put on a few times a year with well-known chefs from Seattle and we had a great time enjoying the ample wine with the two other couples at our table.
One of the most exciting parts about this part of our journey was the fact that we got to take Vicaribus on a couple ferry rides. The round-trip ticket for San Juan Island from the mainland was a bit more than I had anticipated, at $200, but a pretty neat experience none-the-less. We ended up taking a third ferry ride from Whidbey Island over to Port Townsend on our way south, and on all three ferries we ended up in the exact same spot with only one large vehicle in front of us blocking the view out over the water. Having a the front spot would have been cool, but we spent a good bit of time on the top decks anyway, eating Chaco-Tacos and walking around.
On our ride from San Juan Island back to the mainland, much to our mutual surprise and delight, we ended up behind another skoolie! This one was a full size school bus and was still undergoing the final bits of it’s conversion. During the crossing, it’s passengers came back to our bus and hung out and chatted for a while.
During our three night stay on the island, we did a good bit of exploring outside of the resort as well.
We went over to Lime Kiln Point State Park to (unsuccessfully) watch for some Orcas and other whales.
We spent a couple of hours walking around a sculpture park.
And, we spent an afternoon on the scenic South Beach, with its views of the Olympic Mountains across the straight.
For all photos of the San Juan Islands, click here.
After returning to the mainland, we spent a night at the fantastic Deception Pass State Park, where we caught an excellent sunset – as one does at Deception Pass.
For more photos from Deception Pass, click here.
Failing to Reach Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier National park is a couple of hours southeast of Seattle and is a 14,410 foot behemoth that can been seen from damn near anywhere in the state. I was very excited to make it to this park and this mountain, and we damn near succeeded too.
We had a few days to kill before our planned time in Seattle visiting some friends. While Rainier was a bit out of the way, considering it was a couple hours south of Seattle – which we were already north of – this ended up being the best time to squeeze it into our Washington plans. We opted to head down the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula instead of the more direct route through Seattle. This gave us a chance to spend a couple extra nights on the Peninsula on the way down to Rainier, before we returned to do the rest of Peninsula after Seattle. I’ll cover this part of the trip on our next Vicaribupdate about the whole of the Olympic Peninsula, but now let’s get on to the breakdown.
We did not have reservations anywhere at Rainier, but had plans to hopefully snag a spot at one of the many first-come-first-served sites within the park for a night or two. We had about a three hour drive to get there from our last stop on the peninsula. Approximately two hours and 57 minutes into this drive we were presented with the lovely smell of burning engine oil, accompanied by a tremendous cloud of whiteish-blue smoke trailing the bus.
When one smells and sees such things, one immediately pulls over, even if one has to pull over in front of the only scary house in the middle of nowhere with a loud chained up dog out front who clearly has a keen desire to be involved in one’s mauling. Upon exiting the bus and seeing the large and ever-growing pool of oil under the bus, I astutely arrived at the conclusion that something had gone wrong. Popping the hood and seeing every inch of the engine bay covered in oil only strengthened my confidence in this conclusion.
It was possible to determine the general region from which the oil had escaped its hot, metal prison based on the spray patterns. It seemed to be coming from somewhere near the high pressure oil pump or it’s reservoir. I had a vague memory of opening up the bolt on top of the reservoir to check the oil level in it in the previous week or so, and thought/hoped that maybe I had failed to tighten it enough. I tightened it, cleaned up a bit of the mess, and carried on to see what would happen.
About a mile down the road I came upon a gas station, which I pulled into to see if we were still leaking – and leaking we were (gushing even). I had Heather run the bus for a second while I watched to see if I could accurately locate the point of failure. It appeared to me that it was coming from the high pressure oil pump itself, perhaps even its gasket. No matter the exact problem, we were certainly not driving anywhere without getting this fixed, and thus began the drama that would be our next 18 hours in the parking lot of the Ashford Valley Grocery gas station.
In attempt to make a long story short, I am going to just provide an annotated timeline.
Thursday, 4:30 PM: Bus explodes.
Thursday, 4:45 PM: Called Good Sam Roadside Assistance with the gas station’s phone, since we had no AT&T service there. (The attendant was very sweet and helpful.)
Thursday, 5:00 PM: Reach a human who says that we will receive a call from an RV tech to approve our tow.
Thursday, 5:01 PM to 6:28 PM: Chatted with the clerk while we waited for Good Sam to call back on their phone. She informed me that she had seen people stuck here for hours, I laughed.
Thursday, 6:29 PM: Discovered our Verizon hotspot had a little signal and learned how to make WiFi calls from our AT&T phones using the hotspot.
Thursday, 6:30 PM: Grew tired of waiting, called back on my phone, told we were on a list, they were very busy, and wait another hour and a half before calling back again.
Thursday, 6:31 PM to 7:59 PM: Researched local tow companies and mechanics (“local”, not local, closest were 40 miles away)
Thursday, 8:00 PM: Called back, we were never on the list, they decided that they would go ahead and have us towed based on my description of the problem.
Thursday, 8:15 PM: Lost connection with Good Sam agent who was going to have us towed to a Walmart since all mechanic shops were closed at this point, and then tow us to a shop in the morning.
Thursday, 8:45 PM: Made contact with another Good Sam agent who let us know that they were not going to tow us because we were “in a safe place” and they would figure it out in the morning.
Thursday, 8:50 PM: Informed this new agent that we did not feel comfortable here and would still like to be towed that night. She suggested we call the police for a tow.
Thursday, 8:51 PM to 9:30 PM: Did more research.
Thursday, 9:31 PM: Had a very odd conversation with a local that knocked on our door to let us know he would protect us if anybody tried to mess with us over night, including bringing an arsenal to take them out.
Thursday, 9:32 PM: Locked all doors and windows.
Thursday, 9:33 PM to Friday 5:59 AM: Attempted to sleep and not get murdered.
Friday, 6:00 AM: Called Good Sam to start the process over. Told they wanted to tow us to a ford dealership 30 miles in the opposite direction of Seattle, we politely asked to be towed to a different spot (that we had already talked to) in the direction of Seattle instead.
Friday, 8:30 AM: Process completed, tow truck on the way to take us to the mechanic of my choice. Our portion of the $1,100 tow bill, $360.
Friday, 10:30 AM: Tow truck arrives.
Friday, 11:00 AM: One hour tow begins. Miles forced to stay in bus during tow due to “company policy”.
Friday, 12:00 PM: Arrive at Equipment Experts, Inc. near Tacoma.
Friday, 1:00 PM: Mechanic returns from lunch, quick test shows that the leak was actually a high pressure oil line that had let go, fix should be possible that day or the next day.
Friday, 1:30 PM: Got rental car, drove to friend’s place in Seattle (with a quick stop at the hotel/waterfall from Twin Peaks (TV Show)).
Saturday, 10:00 AM: Was exploring the Microsoft campus when I get the call that the bus was done and that I could pick up at noon.
Saturday, Noon: Paid $800 for parts and labor, picked up bus and drove back up to our friend’s place in Seattle.
For more pictures from our breakdown, click here.
We spent three nights at our friend’s place in Seattle (technically Kirkland). Two of those nights Vicaribus got to sit in their driveway!
Leading up to our arrival, our friend’s graciously allowed us to send a, um, “few”, packages to them.
They were terrific hosts and spent a couple days showing us around the city. It was good times for all and we quickly came to really like Seattle. We happened to be there when it was hot and sunny and were instructed to return during the winter before making any complete determinations on our feelings for the town.
After our time in Seattle, we made our way back to the Olympic Peninsula, which will be the subject of our next Vicaribupdate coming soon!
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