Learning how this one thing moves that other thing that is connected in a very complicated way to some round thingy…

Our engine is air-cooled and fuel-injected. Do you know what that means? Well yes, it means the car is cooled by air and that fuel is injected into our engine, but do you really know what it means? As in, how these things work with the engine and all the other parts to eventually get the motor running and make our wheels go round? If you do, congratulations, you know more about our Bus’ engine than I did last Saturday, before we got a visit from the Bus God, Colin.

Colin is a traveling genius who knows more about buses than I know about Sven. He spends his summers in his bus going from client to client helping them improve their old VWs. He was around here last year to see my dad and Big Emma, and we decided a nice long visit would be a life-saver for our coming trip. Over the last few days, our heads have been filled to the brim with useful to essential bus information of varying sorts.

To understand what this visit was for me, I need to do a bit of explaining. See, I’m not the engine-dude of the two of us. I don’t really even know anything about machines or physics, let alone something as complicated as a car. I am not even particularly interested in cars. Which means that, although I have learned a bit over the last few years through various breakdowns and bus emergencies, I’m usually the one handing Sven the tools or trying to look up how something works in one of our how-to-VW books. It takes my brain a long time to process and actually understand this stuff. Which means that during a visit like this I need to pay as much attention as possible. I did.

Colin worked with Sven, myself, and my dad for a full two and a half days (and we always got homework). He quizzed us on our trip, our knowledge of driving, our Bus, and the many different parts of the engine and what they do. He is a patient teacher, and always manages to explain things even when my only answer is a hesitant “uhhh….”. When we got a look at Big Emma – and turned her on only to find that our fuel pump (the thing that gets gas from the tank to where you have to mix it with air) had gotten disconnected – I learned very quickly to be completely unafraid of laying down underneath the car (jacked or not) and get to work. Colin did not fix things for us. He explained them and showed us how to do it ourselves. Some of the things he showed us we will be able to recreate better than others with our limited knowledge, but some of these will save us from some very expensive repairs in the future.

Emma adjusting the left rear brakes

I learned how to change out our front wheel bearings (the things that make the wheel spin independently from the front axle). I learned how to inspect, take apart, and adjust the rear brakes (drum brakes, different from the disc brakes on the front). I learned what a CV joint is (the thing that allows the wheels to move independently enough to go over rocks and potholes and stuff while still maintaining the force that the engine is creating). I learned that gearshift (the stick thing you shift gears with) on VW buses are not actually super loose and soupy, as I always thought they were, but of course can be much more tightly adjusted (duh, Emma…). I learned how to try to think diagnostically to try to figure out what is wrong with my vehicle. I learned and I learned and I learned.

All in all, the last few days have done us and Big Emma a ton of good. Colin is a great teacher and a fun guy to be around. He worked us hard, and we fell into bed exhausted every night. But we also woke up excited to continue the next morning, and I cannot describe the importance of the time he dedicated to us.

More than ever before, it has really hit home that one of the activities we will be spending the most time on is fixing things on our Bus. We’ve known this all along, but somehow it sinks in a bit more when your hands are covered in grease. There will be plenty of times when I have no clue what is wrong with the car. I may not be able to fix it myself, but it sure does help to have seen it done and see how the parts work together. One amateur road mechanic will not get us through this trip. But two just might.

If you guys think Colin is as cool as we do, check out his site (and his post about us) here.

Cheers to the Bus God and an epic roadtrip


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  1. Hello Emma, your journey as of this morning, should be at Day One or Day Two. I hope the road greets you with the promise of just experiencing The Timeless Day that I have come to adore. I have come to anticipate the adventures that slyly overwrite the best laid plans with their own ideas. Enjoy the Adventure! PM me on the IAC if you have aannyy questions about Big Emma, and I hope we get to meet up at some future point. There’s driving to do, must get to Elgin Minnesota this morning!

    • Thank you Colin! This makes it Day Two now, with absolutely no problems with Big Emma. As far as we can tell, she is running beautifully 🙂 We are in Owen, WI now and headed west. Enjoying it we are! We will message you soon about a meet up – that would be amazing, if we can figure out the timing! Again (a million times over) THANK YOU for all your help and support!

  2. Very exciting….I am a friend of Deborah’s, another “fiber art” artist…
    I have heard a lot about Big Emma, from it’s inception…thrilled you two get to travel in it.
    Enjoy and be safe!

  3. Great! I would loved to joyned you guys.. I have still a lot of to learn. The way you learnt about Big Emma sounds like the right way. Interessting story…

  4. Hi you great 3 adventur-guys (includ big emma ????) this is kim’s mum …. your story touches my heart! being very excited about your following stories! i wish you all the best for everything what’s coming up to you! keep your health, take care of you and have so much fun … take all adventures you’ll find ! good luck ????????????

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