Fantastic Moyage

Maiden Voyage + Moya = MOYAGE!!!!!

It all began with a big dream and a bigger desire to get out of New Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad place to live; there are fantastic sunsets and everything is within a thirty minute drive, but when you live in a Volkswagen Vanagon, the summer heat can get to you. After two years of working without a vacation, my significant other, Jeremy and I hit the road chasing cooler weather and new adventures.

We left Albuquerque on Monday, June 11th after we cashed our last paychecks from Turtle Mountain Brewing Company, one of the best breweries in the greater Albuquerque area. We headed north on I-25 to Santa Fe where I spent my last night in the state of New Mexico with my best friend Stephanie Alm. We had tacos and beer and sang show tunes until midnight. At nine the next morning we were on the road headed for our new life.

Highway 84 took us north through the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests where we said goodbye to the landscape we knew so well and don’t want to see again for awhile; after seeing the desert on fire last year, we couldn’t bear to see it again. As we journeyed, dust plateaus and tumbleweeds gave way for the lush green mountains of the San Juan forest. Mother Nature laid a beautiful blanket of road before us and we ran with it. Highway 84 came to a fork in Pagosa Springs Colorado and we turned west on Highway 160 toward Durango. The Rocky Mountains were nothing but breathtaking with their massive cliffs and lush valleys and water; I only suppose that it’s hilarious to watch two people from the desert when they see water.

We arrived in Durango around three in the afternoon, parked Moya to rest and started wandering downtown. As a snowboard enthusiast, I’ve been to Durango quite a few times  but somehow it looked different when it wasn’t covered in snow.

After walking a few blocks and eyeing some menus of local restaurants, I was determined to find Steamworks Brewery. A U-turn and a few blocks back in the opposite direction I found our destination on Eighth just off of Main Street, which happened to be across the street from where we parked.

Taking up temporary residence at the bar we sank a few beers and noshed on a smoked salmon flatbread appetizer. The two I.P.A.s were a little too malty for Jeremy but the Colorado Kolsh was delightfully refreshing and smooth. Everything was great, although it was painful for Jeremy and me to pay full price for a beer since growing accustomed to paying a dollar a pint at TMBC when we worked there; nevertheless, we enjoyed our break.

We also met a very nice guy named Josh, or 3JVJ as his friends call him, who offered to let us stay at his place. With thanks, we declined because we wanted to stay at a campsite. A few miles out of the city limits we came to Hermosa where we veered off Highway 550 and followed mountain roads, as directed by the gas station attendant, and found free camping. We set up shop, cooked dinner, and enjoyed our night in the Rocky Mountains.

We awoke with a chill that was more than welcome; anything is better than being woken up at seven in the morning by the New Mexico sun in a puddle of sweat, especially when half of the puddle was made by someone else. No matter how much you may love someone, it still isn’t pleasant to wake up in their body juice. We made hash browns and oatmeal with dried fruit for breakfast and walked down the path to the forest map to decide whether or not we wanted to stay for a while. After a nice walk and some deliberation we decided to hightail it to Washington. We had just enough money to get us there so we packed up and headed out.

 We left around ten in the morning and the Rocky Mountains that surround 550 were nothing less than glorious in the cool light of the morning. We knew Moya, our van, would have some trouble going up steep hills so we made sure to prepare for it before we left New Mexico.

As prepared as we were for the uphill battles, we really undershot our level of preparedness for the downhill coasters. We felt like we were in a soap box derby in San Francisco. The drive was terrifyingly breathtaking. Narrow roads, steep cliffs, and no guardrails combined with steep inclines makes for one hell of a ride in a VW that wants to go speeds she should never reach. We stopped for a photo opportunity and to fill up on gas in Silverton Colorado, which again I’d been to before but still looked different to me without snow.

More twisted mountain roads took us further into the Rockies and to our lunch destination, Ouray Brewing. One of the regulars from TMBC, Chris Ksanznak, told us we had to stop and have a beer there and we are glad we did! I had a wonderfully smooth red that had hints of caramel and Jeremy had another IPA which was again too malty but still good. The best part about this bar, besides the open air, rooftop patio is the swings at the bar. Yes, you read that correctly; there were wooden swings that hung from industrial-sized cables, like the ones on ski lifts. It was the coolest thing we had ever seen and the other couple at the bar agreed. Forgetting what a change in altitude can do to sobriety caused us to walk around the town for awhile before we could get back on the road. To save some money we had a picnic in Moya instead of paying for food and then got back on the road. The plan was to make it to Highline Lake and spend the night and then try to make it through Utah in a day. Moya had different plans.

We were cruising as the mountains gave way to another desert-like landscape. I was dying for water to swim in so we pressed on. We stopped for gas in Loma, Colorado and Moya didn’t start back up. There was no click, no whir, and no rumble; there was nothing, not a sound. We were seven miles from our destination and we died at the gas station, the only gas station. In fact, it is the only building in town besides the “old” school, which I really wanted to break into and take pictures but was advised against.

A wonderful woman we met at the gas station, Robin tried to help us out but we couldn’t figure out the problem. It wasn’t the battery or the alternator. A few hours later, Robin’s friend Jerry came to our rescue. It was the solenoid. We learned how to jump start Moya by using a screwdriver. He advised us to get it looked at so my mom came to the rescue by finding a shop for us online. After we got started we headed about ten miles back to Grand Junction to Kustom Coach Werks.

John and his wife Gretchen were nothing short of angels. They had just gotten home from a VW show in California but took us in. Their house was on-site at the shop so they let us park in the back lot, so we wouldn’t be on the street. John said that they would get to Moya first thing in the morning and to make ourselves at home. It was pure luck and we were riding high, then they let us use the shop shower, which we needed badly, wash all our dirty clothes, plug in and use internet, and then to top it all, off Gretchen gave us a plate of homemade brownies. The world fell back into balance for us and we fell asleep with clean bodies and full tummies.


Thursday at noon we were back on the road. Interstate 70 carried us over the border into a landscape that looked a little too much like New Mexico. The plateaus of Utah were beautiful but we missed the color green. Interstate 70 is uneventful. Long flat roads apparently can give me vertigo so we switched drivers so I could sleep and relax a little. It probably didn’t help that the western sun cooked whoever was in the driver seat either, but Jeremy was a trooper and drove for a few hours before we switched back. We veered off Interstate 70 to highway six which took us to interstate fifteen. We stopped at a hotel in Provo to ask directions to Utah Lake. We found a nice little spot and set up camp for the night. We wandered around a bit and got a lesson in bugs. They seemed to be everywhere and when the sun began to set, they only multiplied. It got so bad that we ended up having to lock ourselves in Moya for the night. The bugs sounded like rain drops hitting the van. We decided to get an early start in the morning so we went to bed before the sky was taken by the stars.


We woke up with the sunrise around five in the morning and got an early start on the day. This is the part of the journey that is a little boring but it sets up for a great climax I promise. We drove until the heat of the Idaho sun began to beat down on us in Jerome. We went to the local Wal-Mart and picked up some provisions and found a dirt lot with some truckers and took a much needed nap. We woke up, ate and got back to the open road around five. While on the road we kept seeing signs for a truck stop called Boise Stage Stop and decided that since we hadn’t stayed at a truck stop that tonight we would try it. We pulled in a little earlier than we expected and had more than enough time to relax. We ate dinner and played card games until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.

It was another early start on the docket for Saturday, June 16th. Interstate 84 took us west into Oregon where we suddenly felt at home with all green. Mountains, hills, valleys, lakes, and real rivers surrounded us. I say real rivers because back in New Mexico we didn’t have one. We have the Rio Grande and although it may mean “Big River” they failed to mention that it’s a big muddy river that shouldn’t really be swam in. Giardia isn’t fun.

We stopped for our lunch at Dead Man’s Pass, one of the actual stops along the Oregon Trail. Moya was hotter than we thought so after lunch we took a small hike trying to find the “actual ruts in the earth from the wagons” but failed to find any.  Moya was still hot and after all the mountain climbing we didn’t blame her so we pulled out the frisbee and took to playing in the grass, which we also do not have in New Mexico. We played until we were tired and by then Moya was ready to go again, or so we thought.

We pushed on along 84 along the Columbia River toward Portland, our intended stop for the night. We were happily driving along when Moya started to smoke, badly. We pulled over and found an oil leak which we fixed the best we could but sat on the side of the road for two hours because Moya was hotter than we had ever seen her. We tried pressing on and Moya said “no”. We pulled over again and waited. We passed the time with more card games as well as a memory game called “I’m going to the party”. If you ever need to kill an hour of time this game is great; all you do is say “I’m going to the party and I’m bringing” at which point you go through the alphabet using each letter to start what you are bringing and the first one to forget something loses. Our party would have been one hell of a time. The sun finally set and again we tried to push on. No more than ten minutes down the road just past Arlington we found an overlook point for the river where we parked for the night. We didn’t know why she was overheating so badly but decided it was the hills in combination with the strong headwind we had. We went to bed early again so we could drive in the cool morning air.

We arrived in Portland with a little smoke from Moya so we parked near my friend Lisa’s house and took off on foot to meet her and Ali at the Saturday Market. Don’t get me started on the fact that it was Sunday and the market was called Saturday Market because it drove me nuts, but that’s a different story.

The first thing we did was grab a beer from the infamous Rouge Brewing Company and sat riverside taking in victory. We spent the afternoon wandering the shops and vendors set up along the street and went to dinner at the actual Rogue building; I had a burger and Jeremy had fish and chips. Everything was fantastic and we stumbled home and went to bed early.

Monday morning was spent at the Rose Gardens and Holocaust memorial. I started off taking pictures of every flower I could, as it had just rained and perfect water drops were sitting on every petal, until Jeremy pointed out that we would be there for a week if I kept it up, so I broadened my view a bit–just a little bit.  Two hundred and fifty something pictures later we said goodbye to Lisa and ventured across town to see Aaron, meeting him for lunch at a place called BJ’s. [I giggled too.]

We had a mozzarella salad, bread bowl of clam chowder, and jambalaya as well as a couple of beers, of course. I tried the red and Jeremy had the pale ale because they were out of IPA and both of us loved everything. If you ever have a chance to go to a BJ’s, I would highly recommend it! The only sad part is that they don’t brew their beer on-site but since it was a small chain we looked past the matter.

After Aaron finished work, we visited another local restaurant that served homemade comfort food; meatloaf, mac’n’cheese, cornbread and the likes. We all had the meatloaf and with the portions they give you, meatloaf sandwiches for leftovers were in our future. We spent the next two days playing on the southeast side of Portland checking out the area, hanging out with other deserters of the desert, and getting Moya an oil change. Everything was going so well.


On our drive to meet Lisa and Ali at the beach on Sauvie Island, Moya started smoking like a volcano before erupting. We pulled over at the grocery store just over the bridge to check it out. There was oil everywhere. It was all over the entire engine and the breather tube had popped off. We had no idea why that would happen until we saw the machine clamps the guys at the shop put on our engine. We took off the brutal mistake, filled her with oil and headed back to the beach without incident. Did I mention that it was a nude beach?

It was our first ever and it was great. We didn’t go nude but I did go topless and I’ll tell you one thing, when people don’t care how they look, everyone is a friend. There were young and old, clothed and naked, all hanging out on the beach, fishing, playing fetch with their dogs, playing volleyball, and just enjoying the sunshine. It was a liberating experience. I did make one observation while at the beach and that is that although the female anatomy looks basically the same from woman to woman, the male anatomy on the other hand was extremely different from man to man. After a day of fun in the sun we tried to take of north to Everett when Moya started smoking again. We drove back to Portland and stayed by Lisa’s spending the night and morning finding a mechanic.

We rolled into Always Vee Dub when Moya died. Ashley, the owner and head technician, came out and took a look and immediately he told us it would be a few hours before he could diagnose the problem so we grabbed our backpacks and took off for a day in another new area.

We wandered around and found the Hawthorne Hop House which had free Wi-Fi so we set up shop to wait for the call. It was bad news when it came. We needed new head gaskets as well as a short list of other expensive items to get Moya running again. When all was said, our total was looking like one thousand and five hundred dollars with parts and labor, which was eighty dollars an hour. We were devastated.

Aaron came and picked us up and took us to the shop where we pulled our belongings out of Moya and sadly said goodbye, leaving her in the care of a stranger that we hoped would take care of her. It was Friday afternoon when we got more bad news from Ashley. He was irritated at the job our prior mechanic had let our engine go out in that he was going to have to fix a lot more little things and that now our bill was closer to two thousand and that he was keeping Moya until Tuesday.

With heavy hearts and light bank accounts we started trying to figure out what to do. Aaron told us that we could stay at his house until we got Moya back but it was the money problem that we were more worried about. We had just enough left for maybe one more day in Portland and gas to get to Everett and now we needed two thousand dollars. Thankfully, Aunt Lou and Carol both donated to Moya which kept Jeremy and me fed.

I called both banks repeatedly being transferred here and there until I got to a representative in a department that could finally help me. USAA had given me a credit card with a large enough limit to cover Moya and then some, the only problem was I didn’t have the card with me. I worked with the shop and they took the information and input it manually for me. Now all we had to do was wait.

Days got longer and spirits lower, but we did the best we could to kill time and stay entertained. Thank heaven for Netflix and their wonderful Anime selection, without it I think Jeremy and I may have gone insane. Cabin fever set in badly by Monday but Tuesday finally came. When all was said and done we had almost thirty new parts and a bill for nineteen hundred and forty dollars. I hated signing the credit card slip but to get Moya back, I would do it again.

The reasoning for the problems was that the mechanic who originally built our motor did a terrible job; he used wrong parts and cheap tricks to get it done which caused us to overheat like we did. We got on the road once more for Everett. Moya was a whole new car. Once we stopped at a light and she didn’t shake or rumble and I thought she died on us again but Ashley and his guys fixed her right so she no longer had braking or idling problems. There was no smoke and no threat of volcanic eruptions. The headache I had for three days disappeared the moment we entered Washington.

Interstate 5 was happily uneventful and rainy. One of our windshield wipers gave out but luckily it wasn’t the driver’s side one so we pressed on, stopping in Seattle for lunch at a place called Americana on Broadway. The roasted tomato soup was delicious and Jeremy’s chicken sandwich wasn’t bad either but mine was better, especially because it came with a chopped salad with cucumbers, beets, peppers and more veggies with a lime cumin dressing. I totally won that food war! Less than an hour later we were parked in what would be our home for the time being.

We are now in Everett, Washington happily camped in the backyard of Jeremy’s Aunt Lou. The plan now is to get some jobs and pay off our debt so we can take off for another great adventure before it starts getting cold!

Check out Moya’s Facebook for more pictures, videos and updates!

The road of life mirrors that of the open road; there are always ups and downs and long boring stretches but no matter where your destination, it is always getting there that you remember.


“The world is an open book, those who do not travel read only one page”

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5 pings

  1. Lori Smith says:

    Great beginning to a wonderful adventure! Your description was breathtaking. I visualized your journey through your words. Awesome! Miss you!

  2. Kerry says:

    So fun! Who knew that I was related to a hippie? It sounds like such an awesome trip. And I loooove your writing. I have a hard time reading a lot on a computer screen, but I had fun reading and finding out what happened next. Can’t wait for the next adventure.

  3. adam says:

    Sounds like you two are having a great time. Love reading The Adventures of Mia & Jerm.

  4. Lou says:

    Sounds like a start of a great adventure. Oh, to be young again and have such great partners to travel with.

  5. Myra says:

    Awesome, great writing I could easily visualize the adventure! I especially love the last quote “The world is an open book…”

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