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Category Archive1977 Campmobile

VW verse Airstream

“But how many run?” 4 words that mock me.

I am getting a little frustrated, or depressed, or just plain hazy lately… It’s fall in my pinky of the world. October has been an amazing month. The weather has been quite cooperative for those of us who don’t want to see the summer be chased by the pending snows of winter. The temperatures have been holding and we had what many agree was the most perfect weekend of the year. Indian summer is a magic time. Unlike the Dog Days of August or the still crisp June days filled with mosquitoes, Indian Summer has an air of excitement with pending changes of weather and no bugs. The leaves are turning, grapes are in their crush and the autumn harvest is winding down. It’s a stealing moment, a final hurrah.

My lovely wife had to travel to her childhood home to tend to a sick father, and I had a date with a campground. My children have an annual fall festival at school, and we were asked to join a elite group of people who camp out the day prior to the event. This was yet another perfect chance to show off the Westy. We loaded, chopped the firewood, and headed across town to the campground.

Since we are a Midwestern destination for recreation, going to a commercial campground no matter how nice, is a synthetic experience. But with it’s proximity to our prized Vasa trail, this one was acceptable.

We arrived, and opened up the bus. I escape for an hour on my bike, and return just in time for the first growlers opening. Handcrafted beer solves so many of life’s problems. I am sitting in my easy chair, with my beer; Heavenly.

As the evening progresses, the kids worn down from the endless games and tags, and rides, and runs… They head for bed. Quiet and calm (and more beer).

It is at this moment with it’s blend of euphoria and intoxication, that we are joined by the evening’s buzz kill. SHE (it’s always a she) and her happy go lucky hubby join us at our fireside. We continue on with conversation and my life’s work comes up in conversation. I begin rattling off my crop of OG metal when, as if subconsciously, SHE utters the words… “But how many run?”  Those words, so sweetly uttered, hit like a bullet through my heart. An uncomfortable silence sucks the air out of our little circle. Quickly (recognizing my complete moral devastation), one of the more socially skilled in the group makes a conversational right turn. The subject never resurfaces.

What is it? Why does my hobby scare them? I didn’t suspect her of being that way. SHE doesn’t drive an over inflated SUV. SHE has sweet kids, and a great husband. But in one moment, like bad news from a cop, my weekend is soiled. Fortunately, I was well oiled. I was able to let the comment slide down my back.

It’s not the first time, sadly; these people with the lack of insight, lack of imagination, lack of adventure. What is wrong with rust and dirt? Are we so septic a society these days that such beauty as a VW is worthy of mocking. This has me looking at the Hoodride movement in a whole new way, (but not for very long).

The 1977 Campmobile (Westfalia Deluxe Transporter)

My first air cooled VW I graduated college with a double major and a job already lined up. My life as it were was shortly ending. I needed an escape plan. Enter the concept: A Bus. The search began. I had some cash burning a hole in my pocket, and I already had all the suits I would need.

My girlfriend, now wife has a sixth sense about buying cars. It has seemed when ever she finds a car, it’s A) What we want, B) it runs, and C) it’s affordable. The only 3 lemons I have ever owned were aquried by be for less than 400 dollars. I pride my ability to never buy expensive cars, (excepting the daily drivers). To date (prior to buying my heap) I have owned 24 cars. VW, Audi, Subaru, Toyota, GMC, and One big assed dodge van I used to paint houses during college.

So Lynda and I are in a resort commuity west of Grand Rapids MI. She knows I am looking for a bus. She spies an ad at a grocery store. “VW MICROBUS CAMPER, 1977. Needs muffler and brakes, $2500 OBO. We call. He’s home. After a day of fun on the beach we drive the 30 miles to his house. There is the driveway is a Sage green bus with decent paint and fiberglass. The interior is imacculate, and everything works. It even has a gas heater and A/C. I drive it around a little (I have no idea what I am expecting to determine, because in my head, it’s already bought). I get back to the guy’s driveway, and we start to talk.

“Those brakes sure need replacing”

“Yeah they do”

“That muffler is really loud”


“I’d pay you the asking price minus the cost of those repairs”
He starts thinking about it. Finally we debate and agree on $2100 (a cost I would later double in a rebuild and paint job). I head to the ATM and leave him with $250 and a bill of sale. The rest of the money I will have to fork out when I can get to my bank the next week.

I return the following Friday with a certified check. He tells me how many people have offered him his asking price while I was away, but he honored my deal. Then he gives me the tour. As he shows me every detail, I can tell this guy has a relationship with this bus. Like the need I have for the freedom it represents, his selling of this bus is the surrendering of his freedom. I ask the question I wish I hadn’t.

“Why are you selling it anyway?”

“My wife has cancer and we need the money. You know, we lived in that bus for two years. They were the best two years of our lives.”

What do you say to that.