Van Gods. Shit. Brakes.


I bled my brakes today. You’re thinking, oh that’s cute! I thought the same thing when I busted open my manual this morning.

Step 1. Insert clear tubing into bleeder valve and mason jar filled with brake fluid.

Step 2. Open bleeder valve.

Step 3. Have assistant work brake pedal.

Step 4. Stop when brake fluid ceases to flow.

Step 5. Close valve.

Step 6. Repeat steps 2  3, 4 , & 5 till there are no more bubbles in line.


Before I begin telling you about the shitshow under the van, let me back track seven months ago. It was February 13th in a little town called Dillon, Colorado. I had just picked up a couple of kids off Craigslist, with a destination of Slab City in mind. We never made it. Actually we never made it to the highway. About a half a mile away from getting on to I-70, the worst scenario imaginable happened. My brakes went out…at the top of a hill…leading into an intersection.

My  passengers in the back were chatting away, while I’m screaming oh shit silently to myself. I’m pressing my foot as hard as I can to the floor and  praying to the van gods to not this happen.  Then, reality set in. I’m going to die. I was completely convinced I wasn’t going to make it out alive. So, we are barreling down Route 9 headed for impact, no brakes and not a clue what to do.

Why didn’t she pull the parking brake you ask? At the time, I wasn’t as physically strong as I am now. The frigging parking brake takes two hands and all of my might to pull. Nope, that’s not an option. Throw it in park? Well, I contemplated this the entire time. I estimated we were going about 40-50 mph & wasn’t exactly sure what would ensue if I had done this. No one other than me was wearing a seat belt & I had a theory we would flip.

So, I went for it. There were four lanes, with only the far right completely open. I aimed for the lane successfully. I look up….a god damn red light. Are you kidding me right now? Green, I need green!!! As I’m headed into the intersection a shiny spankin’ new 2013 gold Yukon  gracefully pulls out, attempting to make a left turn. They were going at a steady speed & I was sure I was going to miss them. Can you guess what happens next?

The last thing I remember before impact, was the driver’s face. He was in utter panic, a hippy missile was headed straight for his beloved rental. I still don’t understand why to this day he stopped dead in his tracks. I mean he literally saw me coming and didn’t move. The poor guy was like a deer in headlights.

I attempted to swerve to the right, but the van gods had other plans. The Van met the Yukon smack dab in the middle. I only have lap belts, so my head and the steering wheel had a blast. My passengers? No longer in the back. All of my gear and belongings? Everywhere.

We all confirmed we were yes, okay & alive. The two stumbled out, but I couldn’t move.  All I could do was cry. I don’t cry often, but when I do….I do it over Dos Equis. No, but for real I hate crying, especially in front of people. I should have been lucky to be alive, but my van was toast. Or so I thought.

I spent the next month hitch hiking, gathering up money to save The Van. I would not let this be the end. I don’t fail. I won’t fail. Surprising myself, I got her back on the road. Ignoring everyone’s input of getting a new van/hanging it up/call it quits, I did it.

So, now you can see why this wasn’t just a simple task today. The brakes almost killed me, in many shapes and forms. Steve had the honor of being my assistant or should I say Steve was the victim in my full out bitch mode. Hey, I’m a girl, yes a happy nomad girl, but we all know it only takes a little push to flip the bitch switch.

My job was under The Van, while Steve’s was to SIMPLY press down the brake pedal. I should have known what was to follow when I couldn’t locate the correct size wrench to begin with. I made do anyhow, we call this, Van Life.

I did the right back brake perfect, then came the left. In the middle of bleeding, the resivour ran dry of brake fluid. I had to start all over again. I’m covered in oil and laying on gravel, wondering if I’m even doing it right. Round two.

Same exact thing happened, only this time I ran out of brake fluid. Come on, really? By the way, this is a two man job. I’m thinking Steve was a bit hung over because he failed to mention when he depressed the brake pedal all the way to the floor at least 30 times. I’m under The Van screaming, ” Is it down?!.” I was beginning to think I was a parrot.

I pulled my snazzy collapsible bike out from storage and took her for a spin down to the “Need More Convenience Store.” I bought three bottles, completely unnecessary, but I was not in the best mood. Perfect day for a bike ride I might add. These Southern Indiana trees were booming with fall cover and the sun perfectly kissing my face. I bombed the hell out of this hill leading up to The Van, I mean I was going like a bat out of hell. More like a girl on a damn mission from the van gods.

When I returned, it was as if the first two hours had never happened. Well, Steve was still having some terrible major communication skills, but we did it. In total, about three hours, all one hundred and eighty minutes had at least a hundred and eighty “fuck” & “goddammit” remarks squeezed in.

You know what? I did it, as hard as the whole job was, I got through it. I can’t stand failure, I’m just not programmed to say,”Okay, well at least I tried.” You fall off the saddle and get back on the horse…. goddammit!

So many times, I mean so many times, I contemplated ending this whole journey. Just throwing The Van in park & going home with my tail between my legs. This life isn’t made for everyone, everyday isn’t filled with flowers & lemon drops. I mean, I  recall having it being 100% necessary to poop in a bag at one point. Shit will happen.

Bottom line, regardless of the path you choose to take, don’t give up. Refuse to give in to failure. I know if I had, I wouldn’t be sitting in a van with a crushed up fender looking at a map of the U.S. picking my next destination.