1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have a camper van. Driving the coast to explore surf breaks, wander the US National Parks, fly fish the many streams we have and just all around good times has been calling my name for years. In June of this year, I decided to make my dream come true. The first thing I had to do was sell my mint 2006 BMW M3 (Manual 6SP, Black Coupe) which felt like I was selling a child. I owned this iconic M3 for 5 years and it is only fitting that I replaced it with another icon, the 1991 Volkswagon Westfalia. I am a big fan of the final production year of great vehicles (I also own a 2002 Toyota 4Runner Sport).

I have a process before purchasing a vehicle and it involves a boatload of research. There is so much information online. In the Westfalia’s case, I found TheSamba and GoWesty the best resources for learning everything about Westfalias. I also found myself spending a ton of time on eBay and Craigslist so I can get a pulse on market prices and availability. Just because a person is selling an item for “X” price, that does not dictate the value. What someone will pay for the item is what the value is. So do not get dismayed by what a vehicle (or anything for that matter) is selling for.

I decided to target the years 1986-1991 on the Vanagon Westfalias. Mostly because those years speak to my soul. They also have the silver/light interior and the water cooled engines. I liked the Weekenders but my heart was set on a full camper. I also decided that I was going to find the lowest mileage I could and one with absolutely no rust (In hindsight, I wish I would have focused more on a good foundation instead of low miles–I could have saved money on the purchase, and put that money towards the restoration). Low miles are not as important because you are likely going to want to replace or rebuild the engine as well as many of the other components.

After many phone calls and emails, I decided on a beautiful 1991 Vanagon Westfalia that was living in Denver, Colorado. It had 79K original miles, white original paint and in great condition. It also had some nice upgrades (Rocky Mountain Westy Twin Peaks Front and Rear Bumpers, GoWesty Solar panels, Engel MT45 fridge/freezer, Inverter and some other nice additions (including a medium sized box with a bunch of new parts from GoWesty that they just did not have time to install). Two days before I was set to fly to Denver I was able to speak with the mechanic who worked on it for the past 7 years. When I asked him about the minor oil leak disclosed by the seller he replied, “All Volkswagon’s leak oil” in a raspy sailor voice. That comment gave me caution. Had the owner not been so trusting and authentic I probably would have bailed. Each time I spoke with the owner, he had regret in his voice that he was selling it (for a larger RV) and ensured me that he took very good care of it. I concluded that I would get to the bottom of the leak and moved forward with the trip to Denver.

My plan was to fly into Denver first thing in the morning, inspect the vehicle and the records, exchange the funds, etc. and leave Denver by noon.  We planned on taking 5 days to drive it back to Seattle (You can read all about that trip here). We arrived in Denver and the owner picked us up at the airport. The whole experience was rather surreal. I love having a dream, formulating a plan to make it come true, executing and realizing it. It is a process that I continue to repeat in my life (personally & professionally) and it brings me much happiness and joy.  My heart smiled as he drove up and picked us up. We proceeded to drive to the bank which was about 20 miles away from the airport. This gave me time to ask all of the questions I prepared prior to the trip (“What things would you address if you were to keep the vehicle for a year?” “What would you do to prepare the vehicle for a cross-country trip?”, etc.). By the time we got to the bank I started getting really excited. We spent about 30 minutes formalizing the transaction and soon I was shaking his hand he started to get choked up. “Send me back the plates when you get new plates, would you (I plan on it, I have them ready to send)? Send me some pictures and keep me posted ok?

It was nearly noon as we headed out. First stop was the grocery store and then the gas station. We took 5 days to travel back to Seattle and had a wonderful trip! The van made it with one small issue (fuel line that was leaking, easy repair). The former owner kept in close contact with me via text to ensure we made it safely.

What I have learned in the past 45 days of owning a Westfalia? I am much less stressed driving this car than any other car. It is hard to get upset when your horn sounds like the Road Runner (meep-meep). I literally want to buy every part for my westy and I spend hours of my free time searching part pages and forums with an ultimate goal of completely restoring it (it is like having your first car as a teenager). I never knew how many cool ass Instagram pages there are about #vanlife #vanagon #westys #westfalia #wanderlust and it goes on and on. It is the coolest thing ever!

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2017 Solar Eclipse Seattle

I just returned from viewing the Solar Eclipse and I wanted to quickly jot down some thoughts. First of all, David Baron’s Ted Talk on the Solar Eclipse is spot on (thank you SJV). It is something that everyone has to witness. If I could summarize the experience, I would say that such an event will remind you that you are very insignificant in the scope of things.

My partner and I made Solar Eclipse boxes last night in anticipation of the event. It took all of 5 minutes to make them and they worked like a charm. I was fortunate enough to have access to Solar Eclipse glasses (Thank you, Jesse, Grace, Amy, and Matthew) and let me tell you, totally worth whatever they cost. I would highly recommend them for future viewings as they allow you the ability to stare straight into the eclipse in crisp detail.  I used our homemade boxes, the glasses, and my iPhone 7S (in selfie mode) to record the event.

Our office is a stone throw away from the Olympic Sculpture Park so that was the venue of choice. It was packed which was super for people watching.

What I will remember most about the eclipse was the significant temperature change (it was about 10 degrees but such a drop in a short period of time is kinda eerie which is why it qualifies as significant in my book). Additionally, the lighting was dim and a bit apocalyptic feeling. I wished I would have made plans to see the total eclipse in Oregon but Seattle did get about 92% of the eclipse so it was still special. The next total eclipse in the US will be in 7 years on April 8, 2024, through Texas and the Northeast (Map on the linked page) and I will make sure that I will be there if I am fortunate to still be roaming this earth!

Surfing on Whidbey Island Fort Ebey State Park

 

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The view from the Tower

Can you surf on Whidbey Island? Is it worth the drive from Seattle? Are their locals to contend with? What is the surf break situation? How consistent are the waves? What are the best conditions? Read on to find out!

How to get there: Whidbey Island is a short jaunt from Seattle. From Seattle, you take I-5 northbound to the Mulkiteo Ferry (about 40 minutes North of Seattle). The Ferry ride to Whidbey Island is about a 15-minute ride. Once on the island, it is about a 40-minute scenic drive to Fort Ebey (watch out for deer and speed traps!). Ignore Google Maps trying to take you all the way north on I-5. Seattle-Mulkiteo Ferry-Whidbey Island is the way (unless you are coming from Bellingham or north). Fort Ebey State Park is well marked from the main highway. When you enter the park, you will pass by the ranger station where you will present your Discover Pass (if you do not have one, there is a station to purchase a daily pass ($10.00 at the time of this writing) in the parking lot. If you do not have a Discover Pass you will get a $ 99.00 ticket, guaranteed, so don’t chance it.

How to get to the Surf Break: There are two parking lots, an upper and a lower. The upper parking lot has decent bathroom facilities and access to the coast but is less desirable than the lower parking lot, which is a short walk to the surf break. The lower parking lot has about 12 spaces so it is best to get there early and claim one for the day. If the lower lot is full then the upper will do just fine. From the lower lot, you will be able to see the water. Walk straight out from the lot to the waters edge. From there you will go left about 75 yards to the point. This is where the left point is (there is also a shipping marker up the cliff that marks the spot you will sit while in the line up). About 300 or so yards to the north is a right point.

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This is the tower you use to line up on the point

 

The Surf: The left is a left point over a rocky reef. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to slice your feet off if you touch the rocks lol. Also don’t get intimidated by the rocky bottom, just respect it and be aware. Don’t fall head first. When you fall, fall backwards or sideways. Don’t ride a wave all the way in, kick out (or fall smartly) before that point. The best swell for this spot is an 8’+ WNW swell on the incoming tide (though my last surf was on a solid W swell and it was just fine). The water was 47 degrees. I wore a 4/3 full suit, booties, gloves, and a hood and if it were not for my leaky booties I would have remained warm the whole time. The take-off zone for the left depends on the tide/swell but you can use the shipping lane marker as a guide and line up there or just a smidge north of the marker. With the right swell, the waves are super fun, consistent, and have an excellent shape. On an 8′ swell, you can expect shoulder high sets. You may even happen upon a small barrel towards the inside section. The right point had some nice sets coming in as well but I surf goofy foot and I was having too much fun riding the lefts. There were a few regular footed surfers surfing the left point too so perhaps the left is the better of the two. You can check the swell, wind, and tide forecast here. I would not make the trip unless it were a W or WNW swell direction with a minimum of 8′ but I would gladly welcome a larger swell. During my session, the wind was 15-20kts and a combo of side shore and offshore. At one point the conditions seemed completely blown out, but as I was waiting for a set wave to ride in, the winds changed back to offshore and I surfed for another hour. In summary, if you go when the conditions are such, you are going to catch some fun waves. Important to note, this is not a spot for beginners. A beginner will have a miserable time here solely because the rocks. You should only surf this spot if you can consistently pop up on a wave and ride it. Otherwise, you are not going to have fun here.

The Locals: If you do a quick search on Google you will get misinformation about localism on Whidbey Island. In short, there are no locals. There are just a bunch of friendly surfers that welcome you with open arms. During my session, there were 3 obvious locals surfing. One local in particular, I think his name was Rob (surfed a fun board with several strips of tape on the nose, regular footed), went out of his way to make me feel welcome. Rob was cheering me into waves and complimenting me on my surfing. He chatted with me about the surf break and was perplexed that more Seattle surfers did not come to share the spot. When you do come to surf Fort Ebey, please make sure to keep an eye out for Rob and give him a big hello from his new Seattle friend!

Grinds: Not a lot of obvious options for after surf grinds. However, the espresso business just south of Fort Ebey (in the gas station) had an array of organic and healthy treats in addition to tasty coffee. There are also a few grocery stores. Otherwise, pack it in, you are not going to find many fast food choices here.

Final verdict: If you live in Seattle you should be surfing Fort Ebey, Whidey Island, every chance you get. It is a short drive from Seattle, and the trip is a mini surfari. Fort Ebey State Park has numerous trails with amazing views. There are also many options for picnic’s and the State Park is dog-friendly (keep them on their leashes though).

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Gus approves of this surf destination

 

Can you remember all of the live concerts/shows you have been too?

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Taken at Deer Lake Park, BC (one of the last White Stripe shows)

I can, kinda. I have been wanting to keep better tabs on the live concerts I have seen for many years.  In addition to being daunting, it was equally frustrating because I know I am leaving out shows. That said, I think I have done a pretty good job with remembering most of them. If you add up the estimated ticket cost and merchandise I bought, you would have a pretty nice retirement plan.  Then again, the memories of these shows are priceless!

10,000 Maniacs
30 Seconds to Mars
ABC
Aqueduct
Arctic Monkeys (Bad ass show)
Bad Religion
Bauhaus (very depressing)
Beck
Built to Spill
Chris Cornell (a freak)
Chris Isaak
Cold War Kids
Dead or Alive
Death Cab for Cutie
Depeche Mode, Music for the Masses Tour, Rose Bowl (epic)
Dixie Chicks
Duran Duran
Echo and the Bunnymen
Electric Six (At the Croc, great show)
Ellie Goulding
English Beat, Redondo Beach Pier (KROQ show, 21+, worse fake ID ever but it worked)
Everclear (bandmate sister hitting on me the whole show)
Fine Young Cannibals
Foster the People
Franz Ferdinand (saw 2x, both great shows)
Garbage
General Public (great energy)
Harvey Danger
Howard Jones
Ice Cube (such a bad ass show)
Idiot Pilot (wild, great energy, reckless, my kinda show!)
Jack White (so much talent)
Jason Mraz
Jet
Jonas Brothers (kids insisted)
Kaiser Chiefs (solid)
Kanye West (great artist/entertainer)
Kendrick Lamar (legit)
Kings of Leon
M83
Marina and the Diamonds (Good energy, fun show)
Metric
Miley Cyrus (Children insisted, kinda fun)
Modest Mouse (killer show at Lake Union)
Mudhoney
Muse
Neon Trees
New Order
New York Dolls
Of Monsters and Men
Of Montreal (fun band to see live)
OMD
Passion Pit
Pearl Jam (many times)
Pet Shop Boys
Phoenix
Pink Floyd
Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three
Ramones (Hollywood Palladium. I was 15 years old and went by myself. So fast, so raw. This was a great show. First taste Hollywood, as a teen).
Reba McEntire and Ronnie Milsap (first concert)
REM
Sheryl Crow
Shiny Toy Guns
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Sleater-Kinney
Squeeze
Stryper (La Mirada High School)
Sweet Water
The Alarm (Irvine Meadows)
The B-52’s
The Beastie Boys (at the Crocodile!)
The Black Crows
The Cult
The Eurythmics
The Fixx
The Gap Band (great show, under the Space Needle)
The Killers
The Kills (so great to see them live)
The Lumineers
The Pixies
The Presidents of the United States of America (drummer got bounced from stage by security)
The Raconteurs (1st show in Hollywood plus several others)
The Shins
The Smashing Pumpkins (sat in sound booth with son)
The Strokes (killer show)
The Subways
The Thompson Twins
The White Stripes (at least 15x)
The Who
Tom Petty
U2
UB40
Vampire Weekend (the end show, they canceled the Marymoor show)
Van Halen
Violent Femmes
Visqueen
Wilco
Wolfmother (raw, great show)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs (met Karen-O backstage, Fever to Tell just came out. One of the best shows I have ever seen)
Ziggy Marley

Alright, I already remember one that I missed!  The Fastbacks, JayZ, and Beyonce.  My biggest regret is not going to SFO on New Years Eve and seeing The Red Hot Chili Peppers/Pearl Jam/Nirvana show that my friends Mark Jimenez and Jimmy Gherke had invited me to.  Talk about an epic show!

Use Negativity to Empower You

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Finding negativity in your everyday life is easy to do.  One does not have to look far.  We all have friends and acquaintances who offer the negativity “gift” on a daily basis. What you do with this gift is what counts.  You can choose to accept the gift and re-gift it to others in the same wrapping paper (probably the most innate action), or you can choose to accept the gift and change the wrapping paper before you re-gift it, and/or keep the gift for yourself.

Negativity is an opportunity. When you are faced with negativity from another person or a situation, it is completely within your control how to accept it or not accept it. Some may challenge you to not accept the gift at all, and that is a fine action. However, why let that gift go to waste? Why not accept that gift and create an opportunity?

If someone tells me with negative tones that I dance like a robot, I would probably laugh first. Then I would thank them for their astute observation. Then I would take their gift and do two things. The next time I was dancing I would make sure to rock the robot like no one has ever rocked it before. Then I would make it a point to compliment my dance partner on her great moves or offer that same compliment to another on the dance floor. The recipient feels good, the sender feels good, and I am also rocking the robot. Can you say win-win?

Don’t let negativity dictate your energy. Use negativity to empower your actions and choose happiness.

Guest Post: Mahatma Gandhi

gandhi-300x257Mark, thank you so very very much for allowing me to have a guest post on your most amazing of blogs. I have been a fan of yours for a long time and especially enjoyed your post on Surviving Road Rage.

Now listen to me Mark, because I am going to give you some solid advice. Do not spend your precious energy on things that are out of your control. Show up. Be the awesome person you are and do not spend your time worrying about things that you cannot control. Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes. Continue being happy Mark. It looks good on you.

Why I Picked The FitBit Surge over the Apple Watch

Untitled-Flickr-Photo-Sharing--263x300.pngIf you have arrived at this blog you are probably on the fence about which device to get, the Apple Watch or the Fitbit Surge. I spent a lot of time wondering the same thing so I thought I would share my thought process in hopes of helping you.

About me. I am a mid 40’s guy in pretty good shape. I work out 5-6 days a week, mostly CrossFt, a boxing class, surfing and some P90X for good measure. I have had the Fitbit Flex for over a year and like the idea of it but did not like that I had to manually set it to track my sleep, and also that it did not track other metrics I was interested in (Heart rate, exercise, etc). My girlfriend, who is also active, has one of the first Fitbit trackers that I’m pretty sure has a hamster on a wheel powering the thing.  It works though and she constantly crushes me in steps.

When the Apple Watch was announced I was super pumped and already counting the days until I could get it. It sounded like it was going to give me everything I ever wanted in a fitness tracker plus all of the additional communication channels that an iPhone gives me. I devoured every article I could on the subject and was in virtual line, awaiting the opportunity to make the purchase.

However, the closer the date came to pre-order, the more I started second guessing the purchase. I then read a review (cannot find it to link) about a gent who opted out due to the constant notifications. I know you can disable them, but isn’t that one of the benefits of the watch? As the day grew closer I was getting ready to order them when I started paying more attention to our behavior with our iPhone’s.  Anytime a notification would come in we were both on it, instantly.  Then I imagined how that would look by adding the Apple Watch (aka Ball and Chain) and I knew at that moment that we were not getting Apple Watches.

We are both very active and the main reason for the Apple Watch in the first place was to track our fitness better.  That is when I started looking into alternative trackers which led me to a familiar brand, Fitbit.  After learning more about their new offerings, I was torn between the Fitbit Surge (top of the line fitness tracker) and the FitBit Charge. My girlfriend decided on the Fitbit Charge (no HR). It is sleek, and it gives her way more metrics than her first Fitbit. I honestly think she would have been happy with a Fitbit Flex to replace her ancient tracker! I opted for the Fitbit Surge because I read so many positive views on it.  We are still in the honeymoon phase with our new toys but we both have nothing but positive things to say about them.

What I like most about the Fitbit Surge:

  • It is a Fitness Tracker first.
  • It still notifies me of text messages, and phone calls, but not in an invasive way
  • It tracks my sleep automatically
  • It tracks my heart rate quite well
  • I like wearing it. It does not even feel like I am wearing anything.
  • I like being able to check the time, my messages, and metrics without having to lug out my iPhone.
  • It looks nice and I can wear it while going out for a night on the town without it looking scrappy.

We are both happy with our purchases.  Now I just have to figure out how to start getting more steps than her (she is so competitive!!!).