I decided to buy the 1972 VW bus. Katy calls it the Flaming Biscuit or something like that. It’s a beautiful machine, but its “Lotus White” paint job does resemble a biscuit. Add the flames on the side and you have “The Flaming Biscuit”. I flew to Las Vegas with Big Hondo on Friday morning (4/19) with a hunger for adventure.
27 minutes in the Las Vegas airport was half an hour too long for us. We found Avis and picked up our Full Sized rental car and high tailed it south (through California) to Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
We first laid eyes on this beauty at the Lake Havasu City Airport. Actually, we heard it coming into the parking lot and it was a wonderful sound.
I presented more than seven dozen One Hundred Dollar bills to Mike Weber who joyfully counted them out in the back seat of the Biscuit as I admired her unnoticed. Mike gave me great operating instructions and tips for our journey AND a 2500 mile warranty. Sounds like a great test drive was at hand. With great remorse, he waved good-bye as we drove off to Hondo’s 40 acres, just a few miles north east of Flagstaff.
We found the elusive Leupp Road exit where we proceeded north a few miles into the sunset. To our shock and surprise, the Biscuit stalled out after a short, but thrilling ride down an uncharted washboard road dodging jack rabbits and tumble weeds. After a futile attempt to figure out what was wrong, we camped roadside, wallowing in our horrific circumstance as we grilled a 2 lb sirloin and some baked beans under a perfect moonlit sky. Our new charcoal grill and cooler full of refreshments eased the pain as we cried, “Someone please rescue us from our misery!!” Hondo made a place setting for two in the tailgate of the bus. A fancy table cloth, paper plates, paper towels, a fork and a knife, (I had to whittle a stick since I forgot my fork) and a great battery operated light that shone upward and created a perfect ambiance. We were serenaded by a lone coyote. It was one of the best steaks we’ve had in years!!
Then it got cold. Really cold. 28°F just about froze us to death as we tried to get comfortable in the cargo area of a non-camper bus. I brought my sleeping bag and Hondo had his blanket from Vietnam. He soon realized that 97° in Vietnam and 28° in the back of a VW Bus were of no comparison. Both our feet were numb when we woke up a few hours later, but the morning came quickly with the sun shining at 5:30 AM.
(4/20 – Saturday) We woke up, got dressed and got ready for mountainside auto mechanics 101. Knowing that the Good Lord was on our side, we soon found a loose wire on the coil that slipped back on and the Biscuit started right up again. We were two happy guys when we heard that baby fire up like only a VW fires up. Vrooooommmmm Vrrooooommmm!!!! Niceshhhhhhhhh!
We made it the final 2 miles down the cinder road to the property where we originally intended to spend the night. We found the southwest corner of the 40 acres using the iPad and the long/lat coordinates that Hondo had. We met our neighbor Phil who had an ancient Hopi map of the land where we confirmed our coordinates and were informed of the most recent events of this land. Some lame California hippie artist stole all of the government issued property markers claiming his art was way more important than the property lines of the people who purchased the property. No one knew his name so it seems he was wrong.
(See the bus way off in the distance just beneath Hondo’s outstretched hand). We saw such beautiful land and sky, but we weren’t here to hang out, so after about 45 magical minutes, it was time to move on. A few photos, a few geological samples and we were on the road again. Our next destination is Waco, Texas…
(Merriam Crater in the background, Hondo Hernandez in the foreground). We decided to fill the tank every 200 miles. Stretch our legs, give the Biscuit a little breather and get our minds wrapped tightly around the next 200 miles of our big journey. This image is from our stop in Moriarty, NM where Hondo claims I spent an hour in the gift shop buying Navajo artifacts for my wife and kids. Funny how the gas receipt say 3:23 and the receipt from the store says 3:28. I also managed to use the bathroom in that 5 minute span/shopping spree. I found a sweet Navajo baby doll for Ruby, a hand made arrow for Hondo and some “authentic” turquoise and silver heart shaped ear rings for my Katyraven. I also grabbed some onyx burrows and some arrow heads for filler. While I was inside shopping, Hondo was outside giving wrong directions in Spanish to illegal aliens. They thought he was a local. He told them how to get to Valrico.
With an average speed of 65 mph we’re cruising. Eyes on the temperature gauge, the oil pressure gauge and the tach. Everything has been consistent and smooth running. We were scheduled to stop in Amarillo, Texas for our 200 mile fill up, but Hondo insisted we go a few miles beyond Amarillo to our next exit off of I-40 – Highway 287. He’s from Texas so I trust he knows what he’s talking about… we drove about 30 miles into the darkness of Highway 287 when we started to worry. The gas gauge was on “R” for “Reserve” for the very first time. We could only guess how much gas was left. We finally rolled into Claude, Texas where we found a Shell Station and then a Dairy Queen about to close. It was the only light on in the town! We ordered a couple of burgers and asked about a place to park and sleep for a couple of hours. The burger flippers suggested the next town – Clarendon. We boogied there to a small rest stop and parked behind a tractor trailer for a few hours. It wasn’t 28° this night. It was probably in the 40’s. Still a bit chilly, but Hondo was the only one suffering from frost bite this time. I was quite comfortable, considering I was bent like a coat hanger on the hard metal floor of a non-camper VW bus.
(4/21 – Sunday) We woke up quite a while before sunrise and headed towards Waco. We saw the sun rise in Quanah, Texas. We spoke about Quanah Parker and the Comanche people that Hondo probably descends from. Neither of us has finished reading that book. Mary? Where is it?
Well on our way to Aunt Virginia’s ranch in Gholson, we exited at West, Texas, only days after there was a fertilizer plant explosion that killed several people and destroyed homes for miles. There were at least 200 cars crowding the Shell station where we wanted to get gas. We opted to continue on to Gholson and look for gas there. Luckily for us the bus was a real treat to the rubber neckers. They let us pass right through the crowded lanes of traffic and on to the beautiful country roads to Aunt Virginia’s. Blue Bonnets and Indian Paintbrushes lined the road way while rolling hills of green acres flanked us. It was Sunday afternoon and Cousin Kristy and her family were anxiously awaiting our arrival. Finally, we get to stop for more than a fill up. There was a big homecoming planned for Hondo with home cooking and not enough Anheiser Busch products on hand.
I still needed to get gas so I took Kristy with me to the local gas station/country store where I filled the tank at a clickety-clack analogue gas pump with the flipping metal plate numbers. Barney Fife filled the tank for me. It was fantastic.
While we were there, we bought a “Snack Pack” – A ziplock bag with slices of salami, a big chunk of cheddar cheese and a dill pickle wrapped in Saran Wrap. This photo was taken after we woofed half of it’s contents. It also came with a handful of individually wrapped saltines. I love this concept! The same guy that pumped the gas packed the Snack Pack!
It was quite a party – some “locals” showed up for the occasion. We went to the peaceful Brazos River just before sunset (via high speed ATVs), came back and listened to Rick’s band play, while Aunt Virginia prepared the very best Carne Guisada ever made. She also made fresh flour tortillas and Kristy made an unbelievably killer hot salsa. I was sweating with every delicious bite I took! They made me a jar of salsa to take home, but I think it melted through the floor while we “slept”.
We stayed up talking until after 1:30 AM when we decided to crawl into a bed for some fast sleep. Hondo kicked me out of our bed with all his might around 4 AM.
(4/22 – Monday) We got up, had Chorizo and more freshly made tortillas for breakfast and we split for Florida.
We blew through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama hoping never to have to return there for anything, ever. About 800 miles later we made it to Florida. We decided to stop just after Pensacola at a cozy and clean rest area. Florida knows how to welcome its visitors. We were happy to be back. We “slept” for about 2 hours or so and decide to hit the road before the darkness quit.
(4/23 – Tuesday) It’s 3:30 in the morning and as we are “waking up” we spot a VW Vanagon has parked beside us with full blown camper gear in operation. It was a very cool thing to see, especially at this time of the day. We were jealous for sure, but on the move.
Hondo sacrificed his very last 5 Hour Energy drink shortly after we left the rest area. I have my sights set on Valrico. As the sun rises on the fourth day of our journey, my average speed has now increased from 65 mph to 70 mph. Is my mind pickled by the wear and the tear of the road or am I anxious to get home? I think my mind is pickled. On the horizon I am certain that I see another “Biscuit”. Low and behold, mere miles from our last exit from I-75 south we see a twin Biscuit!! This has been such an exciting adventure. It was a fast trip, but Hondo and I now share a special kinship with the other Road Warriors out there pushing their machines to their extremes simply to get from Point A to Point B.
We pulled into the driveway at 2503 miles – only 3 miles beyond the warranty. Looks like I’m stuck with the Flaming Biscuit. We kicked the tires and feel satisfied with our little “test drive”.
Finally, Thanks to Big Hondo, my Navigator, who didn’t need no stinking maps to get us from Las Vegas to Valrico in 5 short days!
Welcome home boys. Where are we going next?