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1964 VW piece o’ crap

April 2, 2015

The customs agent let us into Canada with no hassle, hippie van, my beard notwithstanding. I worried that a smart-ass teenager would say—anything about anything—but nobody did. We drove north through Canada, stopping for oil more than for gas until, like I said, the 1200 cc engine made a racket complete with stinky hot smoke and loose fan belt. Rain. Todd slept in the borrow pit and in the morning he and I hiked out from under the overpass to look around.
Walking toward a fence, he picked up an oval Canadian license plate from Northwest Territories Province sporting an image of a polar bear. In the distance, perhaps 500 meters away, we made out a sign. I thought it said, “Husky.” “Look,” I said to Todd, “Husky! Gas station!”
It said “Nisku” instead. “Nisku Inn.” A hotel. We walked in past an idling airport shuttle. The lady at the desk said the shuttle was leaving, like, now, so Todd and I got on. At the airport we rented a car. First one in my life!
Ten minutes later we pulled up triumphantly to our family and our 1964 crappy piece of junk. The VW van was stopped fairly close to the bottom of the on ramp, so T and I just backed up once we got to the freeway. We had noticed a parking lot across the highway from the hotel, and got permission from the owner to tow and “park” our VW van there for a few days.
Long story short, we bought a rebuilt motor in Edmonton. Well, it wasn’t a complete engine. We had to take off all of the tin, the intake and exhaust manifolds, and the oil cooler from the blown-up engine. Also spark plugs, flywheel, clutch, and fan pulley. I did that in the parking lot on the gravel. We all slept in the van each night. We bought food in Edmonton at a huge store where clerks roller skated up the aisles.
The kids walked over to the Nisku each morning to swim in the hotel pool.
In two days I had the engine back in the van, everything loaded up, we bid farewell to our friends at the parking lot, and P. followed me to the airport to return the rental.
On the way into the airport P. honked at me and flashed her lights. I stopped. Beneath the engine: a spreading pool of oil.

P. photographed me repairing the engine of the 1964 VW van as we attempted to reach Alaska.

P. photographed me repairing the engine of the 1964 VW van as we attempted to reach Alaska.

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