As soon as the new engine was purring happily, we loaded up the dogs and hit the road, headed north. We had a vague itinerary of driving through all of the national parks from Yellowstone to Jasper with a time frame of about three weeks until we needed to be in California for a wedding and a graduation party. This ambitious plan meant many long days of driving, separated here and there by some amazing fly fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and excellent camp spots.
Driving along the backbone of the Canadian Rockies was truly breathtaking, we were awed by glacier after glacier and milky turquoise rivers running through narrow canyons.
Once we reached the town of Jasper we headed west and then south to Squamish for an awesome two days of climbing. Squamish is such an great area, we were wishing we had weeks to spend there climbing and windsurfing. But we had a ferry to catch and a wedding to attend.
Continuing southwest, we spend a few days on the beautiful west side of Vancouver Island, enjoying the long empty beaches shrouded in fog.
Then we boarded another ferry headed south to the Olympic peninsula.
We did our best to take the most scenic routes down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, given the limited time we had. This allowed us to discover some amazing roads – picturesque, narrow, winding, and mostly empty.
By the time we arrived at our destination in California we were ready for some showers and a few days without driving.
After the festivities we turned east again and drove back to Colorado, this time taking taking the “Loneliest Highway in America” – Route 50 through Nevada, which was an excellent drive. If you ever take this route make sure to stop at the famous shoe tree, a giant cottonwood covered in old shoes of all varieties.
We were lucky to be arriving back in Colorado when the aspens were in full color, so we made a little detour to drive through the town of Aspen, which is well known for its amazing autumnal displays.
So how did Chimera and its new engine do on this ~5000 mile journey? The van was amazing. We had only a few small problems along the way, all of which we were able to fix quickly and even lead to some entertainment. The first problem started almost immediately: at lower speed the engine seemed to be choking for air, causing the van to chug rather violently. This happened particularly badly when we were driving through the swanky downtown of Jackson Hole, WY, full of tourists, which drew many good stares and I’m sure some snickers. Tim easily solved that problem by modifying the routing for the fuel tank breather line. The second real problem we had was a sudden hole in the exhaust pipe when one of the welded flanges came loose. This didn’t cause any problems driving, but made the van ridiculously loud. We had just entered Canada at that point and were lucky to find a muffler repair shop not too for off of our route. True to their reputation, the Canadians that we interacted with were all incredibly nice, and the guy at the muffler shop re-welded the pipe for free.