Gertie’s Windshield Wipers

The wipers on the van have been non-functional since Day 1. I’ve taken the dashboard off a few times now for diagnosing and exploration. I eventually determined that the wiper motor needed to be replaced. I put the new motor in but the wipers still wouldn’t move, though the shafts and rods didn’t appear to be broken as I could move them around manually, or so I thought, but I had to put the dashboard back on because I was moving and the van came in handy with this.

So the dashboard has been off again for about two weeks. Between moving and two weeks ago, I brought the van down to my mechanic in the city to diagnose the engine. It was running at 75% so I was worried a valve was dead, but it ended up just being dirty. With the engine fully functional, I took my first long journey to western mass on a sunday morning where I found trails to mountain bike, hung out at a local pond and drove around winding side roads. It was glorious!

After returning from that I ripped the dashboard off, for hopefully the last time, checked that the wiper motor was set correctly and eventually diagnosed a seized left wiper shaft. I ended up completely breaking it while trying to bang it back into the dash from the outside because of how seized it was. I ordered one and within a couple days, Gertie had two fully functional wiper shafts and, thankfully, no broken wiper rods. I used a washer and a wavy washer in order to obtain enoguh friction on both wipers. WIthout the wavy, the left wiper kept falling down after some heavy wiping, I believe this is because the  inside of the wiper is pretty worn, even though the shaft is brand new.

So now I can drive her in the rain! And while the dashboard is off, I plan on doing a few more things:

  • Greasing all electrical components
  • Changing the ignition switch
  • Re-Wiring for a modern stereo!


Gertie’s Coolant System and Exhaust

The expansion tank in my 1985 Vanagon (Gertie) blew a few weeks ago causing the engine to overheat. It doesn’t seem like much other damage was done – one can only hope – and the expansion tank is a plastic $30 part that is easy to be replaced. After replacing the expansion tank, the coolant system needs to be bled, since air has gotten into the pressurized system. Somebody recommended lifting the rear of the van and opening the bleeder valve on the radiator for easy bleeding. This was indeed pretty easy until it came to to put the screw back in, which is when I discovered that the valve had become cross threaded.



New Expansion Tank and hose

Chasing the valve should have been a very easy job since the radiator is made of brass, which is a soft metal. The threading, in fact, WAS very easy, but getting to the the valve was not at first. Due to lack of space, it is recommended to drop the radiator so that you can fit the tap above the radiator and rethread. Dropping the radiator requires removing the spare tire out of the way, which then revealed two metal bars that start from inside the front bumper and end in a small clamp towards the middle of the van. The metal bars seem to stabilize the tire on its rack and also conveniently hold my radiator up as the radiator brackets are completely rusted through. After trying to pull the bars through the bumper, I realized it would be easier to remove them from their clamps first. After some hammering and lubricration, that part was successful, but I still could not remove the bars from the bumper. Yet another mystery.  While under there, I cleaned up the bolts holding the nearly non-existent radiator brackets and almost uncovered some real metal. I will have to keep working on them. I did give up on dropping the radiator though, since I couldn’t remove the tire stabilizer bars and clearly could not get the radiator brackets off. I managed to move the radiator’s left corner enough to get the tap on straight and chased the thread enouh to get the original screw with a new washer back on. I am happy to say my coolant system is finally closed, and maybe fixed (for now). I plan on replacing the hoses asap replaced the overflow to expansion hose and will probably replace the fan thermostat switch as routine maintenance.

I also had the exhaust system replaced last weekend by a good friend. The exhaust was rotted, full of holes and extremely loud. I would have replaced it myself except I couldn’t get any of the bolts off, so everything had to be cut away. She sounds OUTSTANDING now, with the new exhaust, but has revealed that there may be some misfiring, now that the engine can be heard on its own. I’ll be doing a standard tune-up this week to see if new spark plugs, etc help at all.

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I’ve fallen in love. There, I’ve said it.

There’s a place somewhere far away that I think of, dream of, every day, and every night moments before falling asleep. I’ve been devouring maps for weeks, maybe even months now. Guide books to help guide my dreams into new uncharted territory (for me, anyway). New England is beautiful, and perhaps I only feel such great love for Washington because it is so different – but it is my different, and it has tormented me and left me shivering, completely unprepared for the following hours. I don’t know how else to describe it, but there’s this great unsettling feeling when you are sitting alone in the middle of a glorious alpine meadow with sounds you seem to recognize but still unnerve you and a wave of crash dark grey clouds are approaching from the West, so you pack camp quickly and make way towards the marmot kingdom that is whistling louder and louder as you approach nearer and nearer.


There is so much to be learned from the gusts of wind and the glistening, beaming, brilliantly blue lakes below every glacier. Like what does it mean to really be part of this earth and of this land? Why are we afraid of our own thoughts, and why does a land such as this seem to pronounce them so much more greatly? My thoughts ring, sting, burn my ears. I weep and yell at the uncross-able streams. I lay in the grass under light, soft rain and sing with the owls. I run with the deer.

I wonder if I attach myself to such a place because I know I can’t have her. Suffering is eternal in the mind of a despicably relentless, bored soul. The fact is that no one should have this place, and I’m glad. But visiting will force you to give her a piece of yourself. Slowly she becomes you, you become her, you are hers.

Phelps Creek – Trinity Trail Loop





See you soon

10 Tips For Backpacking With Your Dog – By Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa

Ruffwear Blog | News, Events & Adventures

Since June is National Trail Month and many of us are turning our attention from winter sports to camping, we asked one of our friends for some advice. Ruffwear Ambassador and president of the American Long Distance Hiking Association – West,  Whitney LaRuffa (who also goes by the trail name of “Allgood”) was happy to share his top 10 tips for backpacking with your dog with us.

eliot camp

As summer descends upon us, it’s time to dust off the backpacking gear and hit the trail. Here are my top 10 tips for making sure you and your dog have a fun, safe and responsible trip to the backcountry.

  1. Keep it Fun – What might be fun for you in the woods might not be so for your dog. I always watch my dog’s body language for signs that hiking is still fun. If his ears are forward and floppy, tail…

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Patagonia Refugio Backpack – REVIEW

The Patagonia Refugio has been my go-to pack for a couple of years now. I use it on day hikes and for my daily commute to work. It is super comfortable, roomy, and conveniently designed. resize The side water bottle pockets are extremely roomy but retract well for smaller items. The side straps allow the pack to be compressed really effectively and there are loads of smaller pockets placed in logical spots for everything from keys to padlocks to maps. The chest strap is great for hike as well as keeping the pack close to my body while motorcycling. Unfortunately, it looks like the newer 28L Refugio’s no longer have the front-most zipper, which is my favorite spot for my mail and other flat documents.

rantings of a depraved twenty-something

Maybe I’m suffering from a common case of restlessness, ungratefulness, or young-adult angst, but can someone explain personal fulfillment and what it implies? As a twenty-something with a promising career, quiet apartment, economic car, and loads of hiking gear, I expected to feel something by now that would indicate that this is the right path to have taken. Maybe, this is probably a better explanation, I am suffering from the classic case of a young adult first world-ism: I have it all but I want to suffer. Just when I can finally save more than $20 a week and still dine out and go to shows in the city, I dream all day of giving it up and tramping.

Sure, I could be stressed by the daily responsibilities and long term goals society expects me to maintain. Stressed by the fact that I won’t ever be able to retire and blah blah blah. But after further thought, I’ve realized that my internal conflict resonates more with lack of purpose, lack of goals, lack of interest. That’s why I gave up most of my belongings a couple of weeks ago with the exception of what I consider necessary to continue being an apartment dweller. I didn’t give away everything and I don’t expect or wish to be commended for it –  I honestly just got sick of looking at it all: the shoes that I might need for some dinner in five years from now, the extra snowboard that was such a good deal at the time. I’m just no longer interested in nesting, in making my home into a pile of objects for which I spend all of my money. At the same time, now that I’ve adopted a semi-aggressive money-saving regimen and pretty much only spend my money on food, bills, gas, and the occasional article that would be considered ‘gear’, I still can’t find any meaning to my madness. Why am I so careful with my spending? What am I saving for? A house? A newer car? A new motorcycle? (well, I actually would like that).

Giving it all up and tramping is irresponsible and unreasonable, though. Hundreds through-hike the Appalachian Trail every year and return to society six months later, reintegrate, get married, work, and eventually retire. But this seems like an extended vacation to me, which is not really what I dream of when “cubicle land” becomes too much. An extended vacation can be explained in an interview for a new job. I wonder if I ever want an interview again.

Not only do all of my useless possessions appear meaningless, so does work, sometimes. I think many would agree that the primary motive for maintaining gainful employment is money, regardless of whether or not they enjoy what they do. So work is un-fulfilling, we just deal with it. Spend our weekends and PTO doing the things we really want to do: watching TV, spending time with loved ones, having picnics in parks. I constantly wonder if this really should be the way we spend our very limited time. When you’re on your deathbed and think back to what you’ve done throughout your life, is it really satisfying to remember the fact that you only spent 1/5 of your life actually doing what you wanted to do?

After further reflection and continuous discussions with a number of people with different beliefs, I’ve concluded that money is a necessity and we may not be able to do what we want everyday, but the alternative is not optimal nor reasonable. Life doesn’t have to end when we get a job, though, further pursuing greater and better things should be a constant battle. Experimenting with new hobbies and continuously meeting new people will only broaden one’s horizons. Taking big risks can have big payoffs. Reading more and talking more can challenge even your most solid beliefs and change you frequently.

Personally, I wonder if I will ever be content with what I have – but rather than looking at this in a negative light, I have and will continue to take this frustrated energy and use it to my advantage by trying crazy new things and developing new passions and relationships. I attribute most of my success thus far to my wild ideas and sheer boredom experienced sitting at home wondering what to do next. Day-dreaming about another life where I live in a van in the arctic tundra will always be a fact and perhaps one day become a reality, but for now I take comfort in learning new things and challenging myself physically and intellectually everyday.