What Happens When Your Van House Breaks Down!?!
We had almost one full month of fun, and traveled to five states, before we encountered our first mechanical issues on the road. Back home car issues suck because they can make you late to work, make you miss important meetings, cost a lot of money on top of rent/mortgage, and are generally an inconvenience.
Van life mechanical issues present an entirely different set of concerns. While you may not have a ton of meetings to attend each day, or rent to pay, when you take your van to the shop, you are literally taking your HOUSE to the shop.
We were in San Luis Obispo the first time that we had to leave our Vouse (Van-house) at the shop. We don’t have much in the vouse, but the few things we brought along are everything we have. We were 300 miles away from home, and on top of finding a mechanic that would do a great job on the van, we had to find a shop that we could trust with our domicile and all its possessions.
After tons of phone calls, assessing in-call personalities, and of course incessantly reading Yelp reviews, we found a perfect place. Dave at Dave’s Automotive said we could bring the van right in. He was busy so he couldn’t guarantee that he would be able to get it done, but he understood our situation and he would try his best to get it taken care of.
Our situation...the fact that if our vouse wasn’t completed we would have to pick it up so that we could have a place to sleep. On top of car expenses we definitely could not afford a hotel last minute. Anyhow, we dropped off the vouse, and walked away. We had a basic idea of how we would spend our day, but with no transportation, a toddler, and a dog, we knew the day was going to be long.
When your car is in the shop and you have a house to go to, or you plan on having the car fixed while you’re at work, the day is rather easy. We didn’t have a shelter necessarily but like I said we had a general plan. We started off our walk by heading for the closest YMCA. We (Me and the hubby) wanted to workout a little, enjoy the AC on the super hot day, and give ourselves a moment without Bishop, so that we could talk like adults about our plan of action going forward.
After the Y we headed downtown to busk. Busking was one of my top to do list items during van life. I had never done it, and was super excited to have some street corner fun. Not having the van gave us the perfect opportunity to get out and make some music. The walk downtown was long (2.2 miles) and hot, but the streets were paved with fruit trees and wild berries, fun statues and friendly faces. We made it downtown and busked for about 2 hours. We made $8 and lots of smiling faces.
After that we headed to the library which was also downtown. It was 3:45ish pm when we got the call that our vouse would not be ready today. The diagnosis. Air Control Valve. Easy fix, not too expensive, but the part wouldn’t be available until the next day. We planned to ride the bus back to the shop so we could pick up our vouse to sleep in, but the driver of the bus was clear that he did not want Kaya (our dog) on his bus.
We began our walk back. Bishop was tired, and crabby by this point. I don’t blame him. He’s 3. He was in the elements all day, and probably overstimulated. Thank goodness for the library or he probably would have melted down sooner!
We made it to Dave’s at 4:58pm. 2-minutes before he closed. He had only loosely placed our engine cover on so that he could work on it first thing the next day. We couldn’t drive far so we headed to a nearby shopping plaza, ate some dinner, and hung out till bedtime. We ended up parking near a few car dealerships not too far away. A great place to sleep when boon docking, especially if your vehicle is unmarked white or black, because it can pass as a fleet vehicle.
We woke up super early and took Hercules Mulligan, our vouse, back to the shop. We were exhausted from the previous day’s adVANture, and Dave told us he would work on our vouse first thing, so we didn’t go too far. We landed at a park about a half a mile away from the shop. We hung out there for about 2.5 hours. Just as we were leaving the park we got a call from Dave that we were all taken care of and ready to be picked up.
We walked back. Picked up the vouse, and were back in action. He made a point to tell us that his technician noticed the transmission was having a hard time shifting from 1st to 2nd. He said he wasn’t a transmission guy, but he hoped we didn’t encounter any trouble. Fingers crossed we drove off. Babying the transmission as we drove away from SLO and onward to San Jose. Thankful to have our vouse back. We made it to Mt. Shasta, Muir National Monument, the Umpqua Hot Springs, Roseburg Or., and Eugene Or., before our transmission started sticking in 1st gear.
What do you do when you’re transmission starts acting funny on the road? We are about to find out!!