With a year and a half on the road, we were left with quite a few crazy stories. One even involved a tornado. This is that story..
Gurt had sat in an auto wrecking/repair shop for 8 years before we found and saved her. In this time, she withered away quite a bit. Accumulating some rust, a smashed back window, a lot of mold and a watered down gas tank (which caused the tank to rust).
We got her for a steal of a deal, mainly because she had sat taking up space in this wreckers yard. That low $1,500 price tag doesn’t mean that she was cheap. Any westfalia owner knows how much these little vans end up costing. In total $5,000 was spent getting her engine rebuilt and fuel pipes replaced before we hit the road.
Oh, how the spending didn’t stop there.
About a month and a half into our van-living we started to notice that the gas tank wasn’t working. We thought it may have been the crappy gas we were buying in America so we started fueling with premium (an expensive and virtually useless switch). We would hit the gas pedal and hardly move. I’m not talking our usual 60 km/hr, I am talking we literally didn’t move.
Ok, so we have a car that we KNOW something is wrong, and we are typing our little fingers away so that we can take what we know is going to be an expensive hit at a repair shop. Stuck in middle of nowhere Ohio we decided to head into a bigger city where we can find a mechanic for cheaper. All we needed was a full tank of gas….
After fueling up and hitting the road we noticed the sky start to get angry. Moody weather is my favourite weather – bring on
the thunder and lightning. A couple seconds further of driving and we find ourselves in a cold downpour. As our van has minimal heat we got incredibly cold quickly. So, we decided to stop in at a rest stop for some coffee.
The rest stop was so crowded it was hard to find a parking spot, our first warning (that we completely ignored). I jump out of the van with the dogs for some amazing photos of the lightning not even phased by the downpour of rain (our second warning).
I’m from Vancouver, what’s a bit of rain?
In a matter of seconds Myles is RUNNING back outside (with no coffee in hand) screaming for me to get the dogs in the car. He doesn’t love wet dogs dancing in the rain as much as me for some reason.
I follow him into the incredibly cramped rest stop where I find tons of people gathered around TVs. Apparently we had unknowingly drove right in the middle of a tornado. No not one tornado but three.
It is worth noting that our little van doesn’t have radio so we travel basically everywhere completely blind – something we typically love.
People were huddled in blankets with their dogs everywhere. The coffee lineups were out of this world (of course this is what we were worried about).
Not wanting to stay inside helpless, we realized we had all of our gear in our van, literally everything that mattered most to us, hell it was our home. The mobility the van offered to us was our favorite thing about this lifestyle. We weren’t going to give that up for a simple tornado, or three…
Still not fully convinced of the severity we thought “naw we got this, its a bit of rain.” Oh, how young and stupid we were.
Minutes later we hit the road again ready to speed past this tornado and get to a safe zone. Yes, we thought we could outrun this tornado. About 15 minutes down the road the weather started to get really bad. This is when we started to actually feel nervous, so I got out of my chair to get our portable radio hoping I could tune it to some weather reports. As I get to the backseat Myles pushes the gas and it stops working.
After a couple seconds of pure panic and only a couple choice words I jump out of the now stopped car to see if I can see anything (luckily no tornado in sight). It’s not some light rain at this point, it’s like standing under a waterfall.
So there we are on the side of a busy highway with only a small shoulder in the worst conditions in terms of visibility in a WHITE van. I open the door and our panicked dogs follow me out. I truthfully don’t think I have ever screamed so shrilley for them to get back in the car in my life. Luckily they all listened and hopped back in. They are so comfortable in the van and were completely oblivious to our circumstances.
It took me about 5 seconds to realize the problem. The DOOMING problem….
When we had filled gas up this morning, we must have forgotten to replace the gas cap. Water had been filling in our gas tank this whole time. Lost somewhere on the highway I had to think fast as it was filling more with every second. In the pouring rain I shout for Myles to pass me a ShamWow, yes, the absorbent towel you’ve all seen on the terrible infomercials. I stuff it into the tank to hopefully plug the whole and I climb back in. Problem solved, right?
Myles turns the car on and pushes the gas. With some stroke of luck we are able to get her going.
Every couple seconds the gas stops working and we have to pump it a few times in order to get going again. Moving at probably close to 30 km/hr we were out running a tornado (barely). I honestly think it was dumb luck, but we’ll call it outrunning…
About an hour down the road we pull into a Starbucks to steal their WiFi. Oh yes, it is definitely worth mentioning that at this point we didn’t have an American cell phone plan. Not the best scenario when facing a tornado.
Literally zero ways of contacting anyone.
A quick google search and we found the closest mechanic. Unfortunately for us they weren’t open. So we logically decided to sleep in his parking lot over night so we could see him first thing in the morning.
The next morning we woke up to some guy knocking on our window. We watched as he laughed at our ramblings of all that happened the day before.
A couple hours and many hundreds of dollars later, we drove away with a new gas tank, a new fuel pump and filter and a serious need for a nap. After all the stress we had just experienced we looked up to realize it was a beautifully sunny day. So we got our dogs in the van and did what we do best, headed to the beach.
Have you ever been caught in a bad weather situation? Let us know in the comments below.