GWB: CA to CO Road Trip

Great White Bus
California to Colorado

Please note that this is currently incomplete. The original was lost when Ripplehost went south and this is all I had backed up.

The Plan

As of this moment (6am on 2/5/05) I plan on taking the southern route via I-40 through New Mexico, then swing north on I-25. Why? Because it appears to have the most gentle grades of the various ways to get there. Only one serious pass to deal with, and altitude is maintained for a while after entering New Mexico.

I`m figuring on a total fuel cost of $205. That`s $2.50gal x 82 gallons. Figure $100 per night for hotels and $50 per day for food that`s $655. Obviously way high, but I`ve budgeted much more just in case. The funny thing is that I`ll be doing this trip again 4 weeks later, but without the bus. After spending 3 weeks in a hotel in Colorado for house hunting and working, I`ll be flying back to Cali to pick up the family. We`ll be loading a moving truck (a shared semi that costs around $95 per trailer foot) then all hopping into either the Volvo or the Acura for the same drive, but with the family. So another $655-ish will be spent on that trip as well. The bus will be waiting for me in Colorado, either at the office or at whatever residence I find while out there. Depends on the situation.

The reason we don`t know which car is going to Colorado: The Acura is from NJ, and my brother-in-law who brought it back lost the bill of sale and title. He never registered it under his name. So if the registration issues aren`t resolved by the time we`re ready to leave, the Acura stays in Cali. I`d rather sell the Volvo and keep the Acura, but it all depends on that registration. CA DMV isn`t being very helpful. So far all they`ve done is yell at my wife for bringing the car into the state. Sigh...

The idea is to take 3 days to get there. I know it could be done in two, or even one really long day, but I want to take it easy, and keep my wits about me, while driving this 30+ year old vehicle. The bus is running well, has good compression, and is, like me, itching to get going.

Arrrgghhh!!! I still have a week to wait!!!!

Leg 1

Leaving on the morning of 2/12 I should be able to make it to Flagstaff, AZ, the first day. A 460 mile trip. Averaging 45mph (giving myself LOTS of time), it will take me about 10 hours and use approx 30 gallons of gas (assuming an average of 15mpg).

Leg 2

Leaving Flagstaff, I should be able to easily finish the run to Santa Fe, NM, a run of only 385 miles. Less than 9 hours, and 26 gallons.

Leg 3

The run for the finish line!

From Santa Fe, NM, I`ll head north on I-25 and go straight along the mountains to Englewood, CO. Another 385 mile run, so again, less than 9 hours, and 26 gallons of fuel.

Trip: Day 1

All the following information is taken from memory due to the loss of the original. I`ll hopefully find the photos I took on the trip soon as well...

I left later than I had hoped, mostly due to family wanting to all say goodbye. It`s nice, but irritating when all you want to do is get on the road.

On the way out of town I stopped at AutoZone to pick up a set of snow cables. I doubted I would need them, but it would be better to have them than not. Besides, $30 near home or $60 near snow is the way it usually works.

The drive was beautiful. I hit traffic a few times on the way out of Orange County, and over the hills, but nothing too serious. Once over the hills it was wide open. The bus did well, maintaining 60mph on everything but the steepest grades.

Lots of beautiful scenery, a few friendly waves, and then that night I pulled into Williams, AZ. I decided to make an early morning Grand Canyon run from there so figured it was worth it to stop early.

I stayed in the "Route 66 Motel" in Williams. It was cheap (like $30) and not too horrible. Skanky, but ok.

Bus definitely lost power once at altitude. It also decided it`s not gonna idle anymore. I decided the times I need to idle are going to be so few on the trip that I`d leave it until I get to Colorado.

Trip: Day 2

Woke up puking. I got the flu. Achey and miserable. I decided to forgo the Grand Canyon visit and just plow on.

I don`t remember much from that day, being sick and all. I remember Williams had snow on the ground, but it had been a couple days since it snowed so the roads were clear. It was a long miserable drive.

After cresting the looooong hill on I-40 right before the city limits, I pulled into the first hotel I saw. A Microtel Inn. It was around $40 for the night, and was a suite. It was big and comfortable! I slept like a baby!

Trip: Day 3

Man, that is one LONG drive from Albuquerque to Denver. There`s this forever stretch of plains that never seem to end. To top it off there was a 30 mph crosswind. I had the steering wheel cranked 90 degrees!

There really is nothing to see but fields and plains. Then more fields and plains. With an occasional barn. I`m not kidding. Until I pulled into Raton, NM, I was worried I`d fall asleep at the wheel.

I took a long lunch in Raton, expecting the drive over Raton Pass would be a nightmare. Even this California boy has heard of Raton Pass, so I had this image of a brutal drive with switchbacks and sheer drops and 40% inclines.

I went to Denny`s first, hoping for a relaxing sit down lunch. After standing at the hostess station for 20 minutes waiting to at least be acknowledged, I gave up and walked next door to Arby`s. Took my time eating, reading a book, and generally relaxing. Then I walked around for 30 minutes or so to let my body stretch.

Finally, I fired up the GWB and headed North.

I passed the NM/CO border before I realized it. There was a turnout right at the top of the pass where I parked and took some pictures.

Did I mention that this was like 20 minutes after leaving Raton, NM? I completely overestimated what the pass would be like. It was nothing! Mild grades, smooth turns, 4 lanes, etc. Bah!

After clearing Raton Pass, I kept going. Seeing Pueblo, CO, was a shock. My only exposure to the city of Pueblo was the old TV commercials for consumer pamphlets from the US Government. Remember those? "For your free pamphlet on why buying Japanese is bad for your sex drive, send a self addressed stamped envelope to: Bad Sex, PO Box 6969, Pueblo, CO..." So I pictured this city of government offices, clean streets, etc.

The reality was quite different. At least from I-25 as I was driving through. It looked like a dead city. Closed steel mills were visible from the freeway. Run down houses. Beatup cars. Nothing to match the image I had in my head. It was shocking. I found myself thinking I was happy I didn`t need gas...

In Castle Rock, I pulled off for gas. I was only a few miles away from the exit I needed to get to the hotel I would spend the next 2 weeks of my life in. I went to check the oil and found my engine compartment COATED in wet oil. The oil cap had either blown off or (more likely) I left it off the last time I topped off the oil. After searching I found pieces of the oil cap in the cooling fan. (I didn`t have a screen over it at the time.) The fan had chewed it up and made it completely useless.

Well, I couldn`t continue without an oil cap. I must have been leaving a trail of smoke and wet oil for miles. The gas station I was at obviously wouldn`t have a matching oil cap, and it being Sunday evening, nothing nearby was open. Time to get creative.

I pulled out some duct tape I had (green!) and went into the gas station to buy a large hose clamp. I layered and criss-crossed the tape over the filler opening, then put the hose clamp over that to hold the tape in place. It wasn`t perfect, but it worked enough to get me the rest of the way.


I`d do the trip again in a heartbeat. No doubt about it. I loved the solitude of driving alone. Our nation is beautiful, and even the hours of driving through the northern NM plains were nice, if a bit dull.

Aside from the oil cap, the bus did great. The idle was caused by loose intake manifolds in addition to needing minor adjustments to the carbs for altitude. I believe the leaky intakes led to the demise of my cylinder head several months later due to a sunk valve seat.

If you ever get a chance, take a long solo drive. It`s a great way to relax and get to see a piece of the United States.

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