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A Rocky Start

Aimee Bartee

Despite a rough start to our trip, we have made it to Colorado!  Bullwinkle had a rough go of things, on our first day of travel our exhaust blew apart... first just at the manifold gasket, but as we continued to drive things got worse.  We had stopped to try to do a quick fix at Advance, but without a gasket that would fit or materials to make one, we put a bolt in the one hole available (the other bolt had sheared off at the manifold) and were hoping it would hold us through the hills of West Virginia just so we could make it to Chase's parents.  No such luck.  We had about 45 minutes of slightly reduced noise before things really started to self destruct.  By the time we arrived in Morgantown, WV (at 4am mind you, after being pulled over for... you guessed it.. being too loud and too slow... #vanlife) the exhaust had essentially shaken itself loose all over. We were kind of at a loss.  Without most of our tools and no access to a welder we weren't really sure what our next move would be.  Heading into a holiday weekend, we called around to local mechanics, only to find they were booked 6 days out and they really didn't know what to think about the fact that we actually owned a VW Vanagon from the 80s.  Not the most reassuring feeling.  A stroke of luck came our way.  Through a friend of Chase's family came a recommendation to see a guy named Kelly, who was rumored to be able to fix "anything".  We were willing to give him a shot, after all, what other options did we have.  Chase & I have never had anyone else work on our van.  It was a rather anxiety inducing thought.  We arrived at Kelly's shop.  His face was somewhat unflinching and I couldn't decide if it made me feel better or worse.  He put the van on the lift and we assessed the damages.  Things were worse than we thought, but Kelly seemed to think it wasn't a big deal.  Jokingly, he says " Did he tell you how much I like to work on these vans?"... Chase and I looked at each other baffled... "huh?".  Turns out Kelly was the Morgantown Vanagon guy, without us even knowing.  We had stumbled upon a gem.  An honest, hardworking, vw magician.  Maybe things would work out okay after all...