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Owings Mills, MD
Miles Traveled: 293
Days on the Road: 6

New Eurovans spotted today: 1
Sticker price: about $30,000
new eurovan
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And They'll Know Us by the Clouds of Smoke
N 39°23.878 W 76°48.807
Thursday, Feb 6, 2003 - Day 6

Deciding to do this trip in a VW Vanagon was no mistake. In fact, there was never really another option. What other vehicle offers an upstairs, downstairs, dinner and card table, refrigerator, stove, sink and two swiveling captain's chairs yet doesn't give off that retired birdwatcher vibe? Instead of washing it regularly, we show our fondness for the Badunk by offering it its very own web page on the site. Turns out it's a good thing we made that page to track all the travelin' car repairs because it's already coming in handy.

I can recall the day when we oh so casually joked about how the trip really wouldn't be complete without the occasional breakdowns and part fallout. Ah yeah...good times. Well what was funny then is, well, not so funny anymore.

About a month ago the engine started making a disconcerting clunk, something similar to the sound of an anvil dropping on cement. Refusing to hear that and its attendant high-pitched rattle as a cry for help, we just kept on driving, unwilling to let a little engine-knocking deter the epic travels that lay ahead. As you've probably guessed, we didn't make it far before deciding we'd be wise to have a good mechanic take a look and a listen.

You know those little yellow worst-case scenario handbooks that are so popular at bookstore checkouts these days? Well, if they made a Vanagon edition, this would probably top this list. Wayne, our mechanic, says we need a whole new engine. Yikes. I don't even want to tell you how much it's gonna cost for all the parts and labor. About three grand, baby. Can you believe it? Yikes again.

Although these cars are notorious for expensive and frequent repairs, somehow I believed ours would be the exception, the chosen one, the favored nation. Now I just feel like a disappointed and guilty parent, wondering if we should've done something different, sent it to a better mechanic, bought fancier upholstery, taken it on more luxurious vacations? Now the situation is out of our hands, and into the hands of Wayne.

Funny as it may be, I know I'd feel much better about dropping all this cash if the engine were completely dead. It's still chuggin along though, suggesting a slim chance we could make it through the states as is. And there's the rub -- that small Thelma & Louise chance that we could get away with it. Maybe we oughta just hire someone to rough it up a little more so we can rule out that option and instead, do the right thing, and drive out of here confident with a new, clunk-free engine.

It's snowing here tonight!

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yesterday tomorrow