Buying a one-way plane ticket to ANY destination is a unique experience. The moment you click the ‘purchase’ button and receive confirmation for your seat, your mind starts chugging forward like a locomotive on an unknown track. As it picks up speed, you wonder what’s around the next bend? Will you encounter a straight-away? Will you encounter a sharp turn? Will you be able to put the brakes on in time to avoid a catastrophe?
The possible outcomes of our trip were [thankfully] less severe than a derailed train, however we were still a little nervous. If you read our last post, you know that we located a 1964 Clark Cortez, a classic motor-coach that looks like a combination between a VW Westfalia and a mini school bus. It’s 8000 pounds of steel, complete with sleeping capacity for 4, a bathroom/shower, an oven + 3-burner range, and a propane furnace. It’s an amazing vehicle and it’s quite rare, less than 3500 were made.
Our contact was a man who called himself ‘King’, and when he came around the corner of the passenger pick-up area at PDX behind the wheel of the Cortez, we were shocked. The pictures we had seen of the coach he lovingly would refer to as Tezarae didn’t even come close to doing the rig justice. The silhouette instantly screams classic 60’s. So do the colors. So does the fuel and vinyl smell that clings to the interior. Not to mention the 8-track player. I instantly accessed memories of my best friend’s father’s Cutlass Supreme; it smelled exactly the same.
We spent a brief 24-hours with King. He let us sleep in ‘Tez’ one evening, to make sure that we really liked her. He also took the better part of a day going over all the nuances of the coach, including changing the propane tanks, emptying the black water tank, lighting the furnace, and other minutiae. It was an enlightening and terrifying experience.
King was an excellent host, taking us out to two of his favorite spots to eat in Portland, a bar-b-q joint as well as a breakfast spot. He entertained us recounting his experience leaving his farm in Iowa to drive out to San Francisco during the summer of love accompanied by a run-away and some other interesting characters. During his road trip, the Iowa farm-boy met up with some far-out cats, stole wheels off a car to outfit their beater which they drove to Mexico to buy drugs, etc. etc. etc. It was a classic story, the likes of which Kerouac has described in any of his beat-generation novels. We weren’t sure if it was 100% true, and were enthralled either way.
Ultimately we said yes and handed over the cash but I think our minds were made up the day before, when Tez came rumbling around the corner at the airport with King behind the wheel. We’d looked at a lot of vans before finding Tez and her character and uniqueness instantly won us over like no other vehicle could. We have to give a special thanks to King for taking such good care of Tez all these years. She was manufactured in 1964, but still runs strong thanks to King’s mechanical expertise and love of classic vehicles. Another thanks to Stephan at Epoch Restorations, who we found through Instagram, and who spoke with us for at least 30 minutes about his experience owning and fixing up another Clark Cortez.
It’s amazing that our desire to simplify our lives and move into a van [vintage motor home] brought us to Oregon & Washington, where we made friends with a retired diesel railroad engineer who was himself building and living in tiny homes back in the 80’s. Maybe that’s why we all got along so well: we’re kindred spirits. We share a love of life’s simple pleasures.