In what I hoped to be my triumphant return to The Road I decided to head up towards Seattle, so on a wonderfully sunny morning I drove up I-280, onto 19th Ave, across the Golden Gate bridge, and onto US 101 heading north. On my way out of town I stopped in at the Boudin bakery to pick up some oh-so-wonderful sourdough for the days ahead. Yum!

Just outside Cloverdale I split out onto CA 128 towards the coast. The road wound its way through hills covered in vineyards and pastures that were almost comically lush and green from all of the recent rain. Soon I found CA 1 and started winding my way up the coast. Just south of Ft. Bragg I stopped at the Cabrillo Pt. Light Station and went for a walk through some trees and sage to the edge of the continent. The weather was absolutely perfect and the deep blue of the ocean, highlighted by brilliant white where it came up against the tan rocks, contrasted wonderfully with the green of the coastal plants. All of the colors seemed super saturated and I felt like I was living inside an old Kodachrome slide.

Scenes along the coast

After Ft. Bragg I had to take some mountain roads to avoid closures on CA 1, but easily made it up through Eureka and on to Crescent City, where I spent the night in a Walmart parking lot.

I awoke too early the next morning, care of some very loud lawn mowers, and was soon on US 199, into Oregon, and onto I-5 heading toward Seattle. There’s not much to say about Oregon, it rained a lot and was very grey besides. A few hours later I was in Washington.

Right around mile marker 66 in Washington things got a bit interesting. With basically no warning Van Halen’s engine shuddered and died right on the interstate. With the engine dead the brakes and power steering stopped working, but I was luckily able to maneuver to the safety of the shoulder. I certainly felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, but my helpful insurance agent was able to arrange towing to a shop only a few miles away, in Napavine, WA. It turned out the shop actually was in the middle of nowhere, but the very nice owner said I could sleep in the parking lot and they would try to fix Van Halen the next morning. Fortunately, a complete failure like I had experienced is usually caused by something obvious so we were optimistic that I would back on the road soon.

The Astros are notorious for a difficult to access engine and to save some diagnostic time the next day I took it upon myself to remove the engine cover, which is actually inside the van. Check it out: Weird.

Yes, that's the engine inside the cockpit

To cut to the chase, the problem was a bad crank sensor that was replaced by 10 am the next day and I was in Seattle not long after that. Sometimes bad things happen, and plans rarely survive contact with reality. But on the other hand, the word is full of good people and solvable problems so things usually work out OK.


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