A test drive in the VW Westy

We’re now in Morro Bay, just over 100 miles north of Santa Barbara, and have some great photos to share from today, but before we do, we looked back at some earlier photos and videos. What we noticed was that we are so far behind in sharing these with you … but unless you’ve done this yourself, you may not realize it takes quite a bit of time time to edit and post, especially video.

And we need more comments from you to know what you like and what you don’t like.

So here’s a taster, a video taken just over a month ago and edited a few hours ago.
Go to our youtube channel and find the one entitled “A California Test Drive in the Westy” ….. Darron drives Carole’s 1971 VW Westfalia for the first time and chooses to test her out on the hairpin bends near his home in California. Climbing up the hills to Canyon, in the Oakland hills east of San Francisco Bay, they encounter sun, showers, cyclists and some tough driving. 
We hope you enjoy joining us on the drive.

There are other videos on our youtube channel, too.

Keep checking as there’ll soon be one of us crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Chile earthquake – the earth is moaning

Photo courtesy of New York Times article - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/world/americas/28chile.html

Another earthquake, this time in Chile.
Is this one important enough for us to take notice?

When are we going to start moaning to our governments that we need to take more urgent action on environmental issues and climate change?

Are we yet listening to the earth moaning?

Memories are made of this

It’s ironic that the last post I wrote on Tuesday in Monterey mentioned Alfred Hitchcock and his movie Vertigo. Shortly after I left and started the coastal drive on Highway 1, the weather worsened and I found myself being buffeted by head on winds and driving round hairpin bends in pouring rain. Watching the waves crashing below me on the right and watching out for mudslides on the left, I felt caught in the middle of a Hitchcock thriller myself. No wonder he had chosen this coastline to make a movie of that name!

Hours of driving around tight 20mph bends and through narrow stretches where road works were clearing up mudslides, made me incredibly tired and also very hungry, so imagine how pleased I was to finally find a place to stop.  Ragged Point, so aptly named (for I am sure it wasn’t only me who’d felt ragged on arrival) had a safe area for parking in front of its welcoming restaurant.

After some delicious chicken gumbo soup and finding there was no room at the inn, I decided to park on Highway 1 just a few hundred yards down from the restaurant, where there was a small pull in between the mountain range to the east (my left) and the road drop off to the ocean on my right. The howling wind and crashing waves below were not that conducive for sleep, but I thought that I’d challenge myself by sleeping in the van in such inclement weather, for I could not expect fair weather skies all across America, now could I!

Also there was nowhere else to stop, for there are no roads off Highway 1 south of Monterey, until you reach the area just south of San Simeon (north of San Luis Obispo). At Ragged Point, I was still one and a half hours away from San Luis and I couldn’t drive one more minute, I was that exhausted. I had no choice but to stop and rest on the edge of the cliffs.

After taking hours to get to sleep (too much adrenalin in my blood stream from the hairy drive) I awoke to find it was only 03:00am!! Laying in bed listening to the rain hitting the roof above my head, meant I could not get back to sleep, so I decided to get up and continue driving. It seemed a good idea to reach a town sooner rather than later and find a nice place to stay. It seemed sensible to me … but it turned out not to be so.

A little while later I wondered what kind of madness had intervened as I encountered the worst point on the coastal drive south. It was a very dark night, with no moon, yet I could feel my campervan gently descending and when the road became straighter and wider, it was at first a real relief from the ups and downs of the hairpin bends around the steep bluffs. But suddenly in the pitch blackness, huge waves appeared just in front of me and came crashing down on the road ahead. I hadn’t known that the sea was beside me until then. I will not write here what I screamed out, but my foot hit the pedal like nothing else! Until that moment I never knew the van could go that fast.

A few miles further on, when I saw a sign for Hearst Castle and could see lights in the distance up a hillside , I turned left in the hope that I could find a safe haven. After a few hundred yards, gates appeared. I thought about stopping outside the castle until daylight but the sound of the rain and wind were not at all relaxing. Looking at the map, it appeared the worst of the drive would be over, so I decided to carry on. This time it was a better decision.

I arrived in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday at 05.00 in morning after a day and a half of exhausting driving. I had no hesitation this time in whether or not to stay in the van. I had to find a safe and warm place to relax and rest and after some research on the internet, I drove south to the Inn at Avila Beach. I am pleased to say the Inn lived up to comments made by previous guests and I was met with the warmest of welcomes by manager, Edward.


The one advantage of wet and cold weather in California (did I mention that the winters of the last ten years have been warm and dry) is that there are lots of rooms available. My room on the second floor overlooking the bay was just what I needed: cozy, decorated in warm colors and with a comfy bed. The flat screen TV and video/DVD library was a perfect addition, the only question being whether or not to chose a Hitchcock movie ……

Hitchcock thriller

‘Vertigo’ starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak was filmed on the shore close to where I am writing this post. How do I know this?

Well, I was still sitting in MacDonalds watching the rain, when I got into conversation with a delightful lady about what it’s like living in the Monterey area. She asked if I was going to go through Pebble Beach to look at the mansions and I asked her if the admission fee of $9.25 was worth it. She replied “maybe not in this weather, and in any case you can see it in the Hitchcock movie.”

So for your delectation here is a trailer from the 50s of one of Mr Hitchcock’s finest (with thanks to youtube)



see next blog post for what happened on our drive along this dangerous section of route 1 south – Memories are made of this !!!!


Barking Mad in Monterey

Hi from one of the wealthiest places in California and the whole of the USA. I’m in Monterey and Pacific Grove, close to Pebble Beach.

This morning as I took an early morning walk along a scenic park by the ocean, admiring the beautiful homes and manicured lawns, I wondered why I tend to get mesmerised by such ‘things’. I love buildings and architecture, and views of shorelines, but I did find myself once again wondering could I live here. In my search for meaning and happiness, when am I going to realize that aesthetically pleasing buildings and views do not make a spiritual ‘home’?

Later as I explored other parts of Monterey, I found the commercial wharf – home of fishermen, seagulls, and pelicans. As I walked closer to take some photographs, I heard some strange sounds. Was that barking? To my delight, as I leaned over the wharf guard rail, I saw a seal … and then another … and another. They appeared to be swimming in pairs. Maybe it’s mating season, since Spring seems to come early here in California.

Lots of photos … of pretty flowers, trees and creatures (great and small) … are on the camera waiting to be downloaded.

Photos and video coming later, promise
Maybe some more musings on searching for meaning, too.

What’s possible – another CamperVan

GREAT STORY FROM AMERICAN STATESMAN …… there’s some hope that we may be able to convert our bus engine …

Reproduced from http://galleries.statesman.com/gallery/weaver-bus-011110/54211/#54224
copyright Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dave Weaver and a friend decided to retrofit an old school bus and converted VW Van into their personal traveling RV as they criss-crossed America from their home in Washington state to their final destination of Austin, TX. after college graduation. Weaver converted the engine to run on vegetable oil and talked a friend into parking the bus in his backyard so he could reduce his carbon footprint and live in the vehicle. The bus comes complete with a sun deck and privacy fence.


A cutout hole in the roof of the bus allows entry into the VW van for another bedroom.

Our lives matter

From my friend and Harvard Divinity School Graduate, Katherine Peil, my thanks for a wonderful quote by Martin Luther King, Jr:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


Carole wishes we could find a way to convert the VW Van’s engine to take biofuel or some kind of other eco-brew …

Found in California - one of Carole's favorite fuels - not while driving of course!

Please send us your ideas or tell us about any VW engine conversions that you know about. THANK YOU!

Inspiration – kd lang at the Olympics

Ever since I read about k.d. lang in ‘All you Get is Me’ (and saw her at Heathrow airport the day after I bought the book), I have been inspired by this woman whose integrity is of the highest calibre.

Last night, as I sat at my friends home east of San Francisco and watched the Opening Ceremony of the 21st Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, I had no idea that I was to be yet again stunned by the incredible voice of this legendary artist. As she sang Hallelujah, a song written by fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen, the huge crowd were stunned into silence.

On waking this morning, the memory of the night before beckoned me to search for a recording of her performance. On the web I found several interviews that I had never seen of KD on British TV and I added these as favourite’s on my youtube channel (you can find these by selecting the Youtube link in the left column).
I also discovered that Google had received more searches for KD’s performance at the Olympics than anything else. Thousands of people were looking for her recording. After much perseverance, including finding it at some sites where it had been later removed due to copyright, I located the official NBC version (I’m writing this in the great United States of America).

You can view kd’s rendition of Hallelujah by going to http://bit.ly/cXDXN0

If you would like to be even more inspired by her philosophy on life, you can view some interviews with kd under my favourites on my youtube channel. There you’ll see a selection that I made from those available. Like the ‘No Impact Man’, whom you will also find there, kd Lang is a prime example of leadership in a world where many people have lost their connection to nature and their spirit.


[For my favourite’s on youtube: https://yeswecanjourney.wordpress.com and then click on the YouTube link]

P.S. There is an amazing interview of kd lang on PBS (PBS = public broadcasting service in America, a bit like the BBC).  Ernie Manouse has a wonderfully intelligent interview style. Find his interview on PBS at Inner VIEWS with Ernie Manouse.

No Impact Project

After Colin Beaven’s book was published and he’d received interest from most big media in the USA and around the world, he was contacted about starting a project to spread his example further afield. The No Impact Project was born and if you watch the video below it explains how you can join the NO IMPACT EXPERIMENT and work on lowering your impact in only one week.

Once you have watched these NO IMPACT videos, please add your comments and let’s start a conversation.