GWB: Estes Park Road Trip

Great White Bus
Estes Park

I had been planning a trip to California for the week of October 16, 2005. But for financial reasons couldn`t pull it off. So I tried to think of short trips that we could take instead.

I came up with Cheyenne, WY. Only 120 miles from here, yet we could say we went to Wyoming . Just crossing state lines provides a sense of excitement that traveling further within a state lacks. But after posting to the Type 2 List, I was told just how boring the city was. I kind of suspected, but still had hopes. Besides, the drive itself would be worthwhile... The idea was to drive up on Wednesday, stay for two nights, and drive home on Friday.

But after being convinced that Cheyenne would bore us to tears, we were told Estes Park would be a better choice. I wasn`t up for camping with the kids when it`s cold, and our money was worse than I expected. So we decided to do a day trip to ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway instead.

I packed all my camera gear, including my medium format TLR, broke out the electric cooler for lunch goodies, packed the family, and was on the road around 9am. We took our time, stopping for lots of potty breaks for the 2 year old.

A little before noon, we stopped at Estes Lake for lunch. Note that there is a $5 parking fee, if you head that way. But it was worth it to have a relaxing lunch.

Once we finished eating, we drove the last few minutes to the tramway. Only to find it was closed!!! The website states: "The Estes Park Aerial Tramway operates daily 9am-6:30pm." But if you aren`t paying attention (as I obviously wasn`t), you miss this: "2005 Season May 21 - September 11" Now, to me, "Daily" does NOT equal "Seasonal". So it didn`t occur to me to look for that season information.

Prevented from riding the tram by a "Closed for the season" sign, and extremely ticked off, we start to head back in the direction of home while discussing what to do next.

Mapquest directions had us take I-25 to CO-66 to CO-36. And that`s the route we took to get there. Google Maps just goes I-25 to CO-36. That`s the way we headed back. I think I liked the CO-66 route better... Takes you through a farm community that`s VERY picturesque. CO-36 takes you through Boulder.

Shortly after leaving the Boulder city limits on CO-36, the (G) light came on. Thinking I finally snapped that antique alternator belt I`ve been running, and knowing I had a spare on hand, I casually coasted off the freeway and shut the bus down.

A quick check turned up a loose belt, but not broken. Hmm... Why is it loose? That`s when I found the fan was also loose. The bolts weren`t screwing in. I pull the belt off and the fan off and find this:

Yep. The bolts were all sheared off. Now, one of the bolts was snapped when I got the bus, but the other two were fine. I can`t imagine the thing would just suddenly snap off the other two bolts. Only thing I can think of is something got caught in the fan and stopped it spinning. When the bolts snapped, it knocked loose whatever it was that caught.

I carry most of my tools with me, including some NOTSOeasyouts. And I should have had a cordless drill in the bus. But it wasn`t there. I had a regular power drill, but no place to plug it in on the side of the road. Sigh.

I call #ROAD (roadside assistance through my Sprint phone) to get a tow to a local shop to have those buggers drilled out.

"Sorry, sir, we don`t show you as a member." So, after doinking around on the phone for an hour calling various customer service desks I finally get it straightened out. A tow truck will be there in 90 minutes. It`s nearly 4pm at this point. "Would you like the phone number for a taxi service as well?" Why would I want that? "The truck can only carry 2 passengers." Crap. I was hoping that wouldn`t happen to me. Sigh. Because we were like 100 yards from the onramp of a street with a Chuck E Cheese, the wife took the kids there while I waited for a tow truck. Here are some pics I took while sitting there:

10 minutes before 5pm the truck arrives. The driver apologizes profusely. Apparently AAA gave him the wrong location so he went driving around looking for me. A highway, a mile marker, and an offramp obviously weren`t enough for them to get it right. 2 closed shops and we finally find a shop on the 3rd try that even had a VW geek for a mechanic there. We chatted for a few, but they all refused to work on the bus last night. Since it was after 5pm and all. (Since when do mechanics work banker`s hours?)

I walk back over the freeway to CEC and talk things over with the wife. A few quick calls tells me a taxi home would be around $100. But there`s a hotel 2 blocks from the shop the bus is at. La Quinta Inn. Not bad for $79. I would have been happy with Skank`O`Rama for $29 if that`s what was nearby.

We stay the night after a quick Target shopping trip for toothbrushes, shampoo, and shirts to change into.

Bus was ready at 11am the following morning. $82 in labor. No parts. I hauled butt home after that because I didn`t want to stop anywhere and take a chance something else would happen. Sigh. Wife swears she`s not going on another roadtrip in the bus again. Ever. Ever. (Ok, that only lasted a day, now she wants to go again... hah!)

My daughter at the shop that fixed the GWB:

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