Baja in my Westy: driving to Mexico in an '87 Volkswagen bus

Hello from Pea Soup Andersen's, en route to Baja California, Mexico, from Marin County, California. I made it this far. I have to admit I haven't always been so sure. I've been hoping to find myself sitting right here, writing exactly this post for several months.

It all started early last December. I'd failed to realize, after many years of owning air-cooled VWs and Porsches, that the battery/alternator light on my water-cooled VW Bus should not be ignored. If you're into Volkswagen vans, you've heard it before: I overheated and blew the engine on my beloved 1987, Dove blue, Vanagon GL Westfalia. On the water-cooled version, that light means the cooling system isn't circulating. Within a day I read an email on one of the various VW mailing lists I follow about a trip to Baja to see the calving gray whales. I decided that I'd fix her and go!

Her engine was dead. The cooling system needed to be replaced. The gas tank had developed a weird problem and was only letting me use 8gal of a 16gal tank. The automatic transmission needed a rebuild. Everything rattled and shook.

She was towed to Valley Wagonworks, in San Rafael, CA. Paul there is amazing. He really has as much of a feeling for these vans as he does an understanding of how they work. We talked a lot about motors. He recommended the GoWesty 2.3L. After a lot of reading I said lets do it (Samba Readers: I'd have loved to try a tencentlife/vanistan engine but I had no time!)

Once the motive power was taken care of, I went through the bus with a fine-toothed comb. Paul helped me find new seats for the ones that were too squished and old. New seals for windows and the pop-top. A new yellow acrylic three window tent. 16" wheels. Then I got crazy and added a third brake light, a jump seat and new bumpers! GoWesty plate steel bumpers look and feel tough!

I went about refreshing my entire camping set! For years I've used old cooking stuff in the van, and I'd never really bothered to assemble a complete kitchen. I added a bbq that I can store in the bus and attach as needed. Sought out the perfect sized cast iron cookware. All the bits and pieces I could think of.

And today, the trip began. I'm about 300 or so miles out of the Bay Area and headed to Los Angeles tonight. I'll be on the road for about 3 weeks, and while I am, I'll be reviewing the camping kit, the toys I've brought along (I assembled a solar kit with which I plan to power them all), I'll post some photos …and hopefully, I'll have no stories of mechanical drama to share.