Our pride and joy on the California Coast.
Clementine ain’t a young gun, and she ain’t a sports car. She ain’t a luxury vehicle, a whip, or a hooptie. She is however, our pride and joy, and our home. So when she gets into trouble, we get very concerned.
Much like a parent with a child who recently contracted chicken pox… We probably knew it was going to happen eventually, moreover we probably even knew we couldn’t do anything about it, but that doesn’t change how we stress about her, dote on her, and chat to her when we’re ready for bed. Yup… We chat to our van.
She had been doing alright after some minor maintenance in Palm Springs - one of the oil changers in the area had stripped our oil drain plug, and our valve cover gasket was leaking oil. We were literally a smoke-show driving around all the convertibles in Palm Springs… Much like The Mystery Machine.
Juuuust like the Mystery Machine, but the fumes were from leaking oil, honest…
But now we were in Santa Cruz with a blown transmission, and it felt like an exercise in futility for awhile. The transmission blew on the first weekend of March… March 1st to be exact. We had ordered a rebuilt transmission on March 4th, to be sent out to a UPS Store two weeks hence. After that, we would pick it up and get the work done.
Yet when I called two weeks hence to the day, March 17th, they had lost our invoice. They lost our order altogether. No - don’t worry, they didn’t charge anything - however, they had simply lost all record of our transmission order, address, etc. Therefore, no work had been done, and on March 17th, we were… Well… Back at step 1.
I appealed to the owner of Rancho Performance Transaxles, Sam, and laid out my case. To be fair - Sam had no idea what had happened. I had ordered with one of his staff, but seeing as that staff member had lost the order prior to production, there was no reasonable way for me to expect Sam to know about it. He understood my problem, and immediately set to rectifying it.
A new transmission would be built within the day, and shipped to us the next day. Shipping would be paid for, and the core-deposit cost was lowered. I was happy with that - and to Sam’s credit, he got it done.
Clementine on the lift at one of the world’s foremost VW repair shops, Volks Cafe. (Which is also Van Cafe)
At this point we contacted our friend at Volks Cafe, Orion, and he said he could get the work done. We took Clementine in for a little spa day, and to switch out the old transmission with the new… Until, well… Another little hiccup.
Orion was awesome - he got the old out and the new transmission in in record time, but when connecting the shifting rod to the gear selector, he found there was a serious problem.
The new transmission sent by Rancho had been knocked around in shipping (You will rue this day, UPS.) and the transmission was locked in 1st… Unfortunately, the transmission was already mounted. Annnd, it was Sunday. The mechanic shops, including Rancho, were all closed. SO, we parked our sick little van by Folks Cafe, and waited another day out. (VERY reminiscent of Selkirk, Thanksgiving in Sault Ste. Marie, and so on…)
Wanna see somethin’ gross? Our transmission drain plug.
As we waited outside the Volks Cafe, something a little different happened.
We got hit.
Clemmy’s ruffled feathers. She wasn’t happy.
Don’t worry - it wasn’t a big hit, and actually, the guy that hit us was pretty nice about everything. He was driving a big UHaul Box Truck, and was evidently getting used to it’s size… He was trying to park, and nearly took our mirror right off.
To be totally honest, I was less worried about the mirror and more worried about the safety of this poor man. As soon as Kasey saw it go down there was a stream of curses, and it was like she dropped the gloves in a hockey fight… She is going to murder this man, I thought. She stormed out of the van in a flurry of ferocity, walked a quick, deliberate circle and got back into the passenger seat - fuming.
But I stepped out and chatted with Keith, the gentleman, and we worked it out - he bought us a new mirror. We went and had a beer, and were tempted to get whiskey at The Crepe Place…
Oh whiskey oh whiskey please sing me a song…
I digress - we were waiting for Monday to come around so we could call Rancho, and then a mechanic. We called Sam early in the morning on Monday, and (again) to his credit, he got to work fixing the issue.
Enter Greg & Paula, a racing couple. Greg - a VW Guru, geologist, and racing fanatic. Paula - a passionate VW driver, Queen of The Mountain, and artichoke afficionado. They are an amazing couple doing what they want and when they want. Check out their collection here!
Sam had come up with a plan… Greg & Paula would pick us up, and tow our Clementine about an hour south to Sand City, California. There the work would be done in a day, and Clementine should be road ready the next day - Tuesday. Everything would be paid for, all we had to do was wait another hour or so.
It worked out perfectly. Greg & Paula picked us up, we stopped for some french-fried artichokes (AWESOME), and got to Sand City in an hour. We dropped Clementine off and they took us for a tour of Monterey - we saw the Monterey Cannery (where Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row is based), had a couple drinks and went for dinner. Aside from poor Paula & Greg getting into a minor car accident, it was really nice to meet them and hang out with them…
Monterey on a rainy day is better than Fort MacMurray on a sunny day…
It was a strange month, but we slept in our immobile van one more time - thoughts crossing our mind all night long. What if this doesn’t work?Or, What next? Even the thought of selling Clementine once she was running legitimately crossed my mind.
The next day went quick. Pierre, at Just Andy Repair Shop, had Clementine ready at 11am.
He worked magic. Clementine has been a breeze - a sweetheart. She still groans, complains and rattles - but like I said… She’s not a luxury car, she’s not a whip and she’s definitely not a young gun… She’s our home.
Our sweet, sweet home.
HEY EVERYONE IN SANTA CRUZ! NOTE!!
Unfortunately we’ve had to cancel our Saturday, April 5th show at Pono Hawaiian Grill which is heartbreaking. We love that place, and all the beautiful people that keep it such a positive place in Santa Cruz. We will be back to tour in Fall 2014, and Reef/Pono is on our ‘MUST STOP’ list.
In the meantime, catch our LAST TWO SHOWS!
Thursday, April 3rd [TONIGHT!] - The Poet & Patriot - 9PM
w/ The Shrugs - Free Admission - 21+
Friday, April 4th [FIRST FRIDAY] - The Art Bar & Café - 8PM
Free Admission - 21+
Kasey hangin’ on the porch on a rainy day at Bean Creek.
The rain had finally left us. Clemmie had thrown a tantrum and blew her transmission to pieces. We were moving into a beautiful little commune on a floodplain, just North of Santa Cruz. It‘s on the back-side of a horse farm, with organic gardens, free range ducks and chickens, composting toilets and solar showers, with a meandering creek running along the south face of the property. Much of the property is dominated by towering conifers, with freshly grafted apple trees around the main building. Green trim lines the white building, reminiscent of early-century farm-hand hovels, and it sits bedded amongst the trees, stream and caravans. Dream catchers hang from the limbs of the trees, and newly made clay pots, vessels and figures are scattered across the whole property.
Bean Creek, from the road. It’s a hidden little nook… Perfect.
We had to get the van down the Santa Cruz Mountains, and into Felton, so we could get a tow over to Bean Creek. We only had 1st, 2nd and Reverse… So Clementine couldn’t make the trip on her own, unfortunately. We drove her down, and our buddy Gary followed us along the winding roads. We caught a tow from Felton, and were dropped off right outside our destination. It wasn’t more than a couple of hours, and we were settled at Bean Creek, sharing stories with our brand new friends, the Creekers.
Gig at Art Bar & Café.
The next couple weeks that followed were extremely eventful… We learned a single rule to expect and respect in everyday life in Santa Cruz, and that is that everything - no, really - everything is an adventure. Whether we were bussing downtown, organizing gigs, meeting up with The Shrugs, going up the mountains into Felton, chasing friends around Santa Cruz, or even hanging out at Bean Creek, everything became an adventure. There is no travelling from Point A to Point B… The path of travel starts at A, but always has several stops to make on the way to point B. It seems like everyone in Santa Cruz improvises his or her way through life.
This past month has seen us play at 4 separate venues multiple times, visit farmers markets and take advantage of free food drops in the area, jams with several characters, several reading hours, +/- 8 songs written, hikes through Henry Cowell State Park, perpetual trouble with fixing our transmission, a broken driver-side mirror, our music played on the air in town, dozens of encounters with the homeless, hippies, transients, gypsies and tramps, and pulled over by the Scotts Valley Police in a 1978 Camaro Z28…
(Gordon, our driver after a gig at The Poet & Patriot, had switched the plates from his Chrysler to the Camaro – The Chrysler isn’t running. The police ran the plates, and found it was licensed for a Camaro, so they pulled us over, impounded poor Gordon’s car, and made us walk home down a dark, windy road.)
Henry Cowell Park with our buds Gary, Tuff, and Drew.
So again, I reiterate… Everything you do in Santa Cruz sparks a system of wheels and cogs in the world that will take you for an adventure – regardless of what you do. I believe our good travelling friends Karl & Crystal, as well as The Shrugs can attest to this.
That being said, with all of the good and all of the bad, we have had a truly extraordinary time here in Santa Cruz. The amount of Friends-For-Life we met here is overwhelming. Kasey and I have never felt like we’ve fit in so damn well as we have here in Santa Cruz.
Shots of Mishka, Dan, and Clear Conscience at Reef/Pono Hawaiian Grill.
So all of this - each and every experience here in Santa Cruz - has brought Kasey and I here, to the McDonalds in Seaside California on April 1st. Clementine is still in the shop. I spent long hours last night listening to the rain storm and reflecting on our stay, our new friends, all the experiences we’ve had… And this is what I’ve come up with:
A couple of lessons…
The only thing separating where we are and where we want to be in life is ourselves.
Granted, Kasey and I have been greeted by several serendipitous events that have twist-turned our path for the good and the bad. (We’ve even wondered if we’re cursed…) The thing that has kept us going and enjoying our stay has been positivity, and maintaining an attitude in which we can’t be overwhelmed or brought down. We learned to take the world we’ve crash-landed into for what it is, and not what it should or could be. As a direct result, more positive things were happening for us… We booked gigs, ate heartily (NO MORE DOLLAR MENU!!!), rendez-voused with our dear friends The Puglias again (ROUND 3!!!), and even opened up an amazing music avenue with fellow artist (and friend) Mishka.
Newton’s Third Law: For each and every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you’re living simply, eating meager meals, taking things as they come, and living presently – that is, day to day - it is really simple to see the causes and effects, the actions and corresponding reactions. With the addition of jobs, the glorification of wealth, fast-paced hi-tech counter-culture, the convolution of what most people call reality and everyday life obscures this fundamental law. With the myriad of those added distractions, it’s difficult (and occasionally) impossible to see through and feel the natural causes and effects of life. Simplicity has brought me peace, in truth. Things in every day life seem to balance now – the good with the bad. This is what I set out for back on September 29th, 2013, and six months later I believe I’m getting close.
Gary & Kasey at Henry Cowell.
So this is it. We’ve got one more week here in Santa Cruz, California - our new home away from home. It’s high time we tucked our tails and headed North - but that ain’t happening. We’re spending one more week with our new friends down here.
Santa Cruz is a bad eddy - it’s hard to get out. But it’s time to go. In the meantime, here’s our gig schedule for the weekend - please, come see us, and say farewell with us! We love all of you, Santa Cruz.
Thursday, April 3rd - The Poet & Patriot - TBA (w/ The Shrugs)
Friday, April 4th - The Art Bar & Café - 8pm
Saturday, April 5th - Reef Pono - TBA
See you soon Kelowna!
Next Issue: Meanwhile, At The Auto Shop…
Our beautiful 1981 Air-Cooled Westy, Clementine. She’s a sweetheart with a ton of personality. We’re Canadians broken down in Santa Cruz - she threw a fit and blew her transmission to pieces. We think she didn’t want to go back up North to the cold weather, the snow, and the nasty roads.
TONS of personality. But we love her with all our hearts.
Our Clementine is FAMOUS!
Kasey doing her best to not look stressed.
Saturday came along with air light and fresh, and a gentle breeze with that hint of salt that comes with ocean towns. We awoke, packed our van up and took to Pacific Ave, the downtown strip, and began our day with a good busking session.
The night before we had decided to tuck tail and run North to the Canadian border within a couple of days. We needed to get some money together busking in Santa Cruz to help us along the way, seeing as our tax returns weren’t coming any time soon. Kasey was ready to go home, and I was thinking I’d had enough of this rain. It was set in stone: Monday, March 3rd was D-Day and we were bound for Canada.
Our sentiments at the time… Courtesy of http://elyancardigans.com/2009/02/20/
It was a Saturday, and we were feeling much like the weather – dour and overcast. The rain was beginning to wear us out. We hadn’t seen any rain since Memphis, Tennessee, and now we were getting the total of California’s annual rainfall in a week and a half. Regardless of the weather and our gloomy demeanours, it was really nice to get out of the van and into public. We had our largest crowd ever in front of the O’Neill Surf Shop. 30-40 people stopped along the street to listen to our music. Kasey and I didn’t even notice that a large crowd had gathered, listening, on the other side of the street until raucous applause came from behind us. Our moods were starting to change, and we could feel our fortune was beginning to change as well.
We heard about an open-mic down the road at a little spot called The Poet And Patriot. We went down to the Poet at about 1:30, and signed up for the last slot available – the first time slot, at 3pm. We met Brian and Sean, the lads running the open mic and the bar, respectively, and had a pint with them.
Photo courtesy of our Canadian Friends The Shrugs, via facebook.
Little did we know that this would ignite the fuse to the largest series of “happy accidents” I have experienced in my life. (To this very minute, as I type this, the happy accidents continue…) We played our set, and were cajoled to play for nearly an hour as more musicians and locals filed into The Poet. We played celtic favourites like Dirty Old Town and Fisherman’s Blues and burnt the house down… We unleashed our original tunes with a new fervor – and that’s a BIG deal. (We may or may not have been getting tired of some of our originals…)
We met dozens of brilliant, wonderful people. We booked a showcase gig at The Poet immediately after our performance. We played darts, and we had a giant Afghanistan-Style meal ordered for us. (Thanks Mark! Safe travels!) We made plans for the next couple days with all of the locals, and we enjoyed the company of many new friends. We decided to check out a Grateful Dead cover band up in Felton while I got destroyed in a few games of darts. We had beer after beer after beer purchased for us. We were wrapped up in a typhoon of luminous good energy.
We got into Clementine to follow our new friends Pat & Gary up the mountain toward Felton, to check out that Grateful Dead cover band at Don Quixote’s in Felton, CA. We got out of Santa Cruz and started climbing in elevation. I warned Gary that we would be slow going since Clementine isn’t a powerhouse. And then…
Well, there goes 3rd gear we each thought simultaneously. I flashed my lights at Gary’s truck in front of us, so he knew we were struggling.
I once had a Toyota Corolla blow it’s transmission in Ontario. We were driving in 5th, and I was gearing down to head towards an off ramp on a 400-series highway. The sound was similar to this, but unlike the situation in the Toyota, we could still drive in 1st, 2nd, and 4th gears. We limped Clementine up the mountain, and parked her in a Safeway parking lot. She was leaking fluid something fierce, and she was evidently VERY ticked off at us.
This was an odd breakdown. In past breakdowns Kasey and I were not unlike a train-wreck. When things go wrong in Clementine it generally sends us into an impossible tail-spin. We’re irritable at best, nauseous and inconsolable. We are rude to each other and polite to others, which further sets each other off. We’re miserable, hateful and downright ghastly. However… None of that happened in this instance. It may have been the super-high we were on from such a positive group, or maybe the shock never hit us… But we swallowed our pride, locked up the van, and hopped in with Pat & Gary.
We had no idea what to do… Gary picked up a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and we headed up the mountain with them. They had a gorgeous mountain property with a little shed tucked inside a redwood stand… It had a Ping-Pong table, beer, whiskey, herbal remedies and great attitudes. We were really lucky to breakdown with this lot.
Gary & Pat in the shed.
Good times were had all evening, and all-day Sunday. We got our stuff together and brought Clementine up the mountain on another tow truck. We prepared ourselves for the hunt for a transmission. We ate, and shared stories with each other. Herbal remedies kept our stress at bay, although we were beginning to understand what kind of situation we were in.
We couldn’t find a transmission unless we dropped a major upfront cost to get a rebuilt transmission sent to us in a couple of weeks.
We needed a place to stay, preferably close to town so we could busk and work.
And we probably needed to get a clutch kit…
Things were starting to build up, so between Sunday and Monday we were on the hunt. We found the answer for our transmission after 6 hours of work on Monday. That didn’t solve our place-to-stay issues, however… Gary had been really kind to let us stay at his place for the weekend, but the landowner was clearly very uncomfortable with people he didn’t know staying on his property.
(I had a very succinct, uncomfortable, and rude, conversation with this man… I’ll leave it at that.)
Clemmy in paradise, surrounded by redwood stands in Felton, California.
Gary had a lead on a commune that we could stay at, and their house meetings were Monday nights. We went to visit, introduce ourselves and to plead our case. We were willing to pay a small guest rate, and to contribute to the community… We just needed a foot in the door so we could make the rest of this trip work out.
Thanks to Gary and to more good fortune, we were accepted. We were to move down to the Bean Creek Commune on Wednesday… This was one of my dreams since I was little, flipping through the pages of an old ‘Avant Garde’ magazine – a 60s and 70s publication advocating the sharing of ideas, free thinking, art and other liberal points of view. In one issue, I read about orchards and hog farms, and the idea of free love and energy sharing… I was hooked. It has always been my dream to be part of a social, living, breathing commune. You could say being accepted to join Bean Creek was a dream come true.
Next Issue: Bean Creek Family, Santa Cruz, and more Puglia Sightings in California!