Erik and Martha have had a relationship with VW buses for a long time and they’ve painstakingly restored ‘Moby’ over the last five years. They enjoy the way the world passes by at a gentle pace in an old bus, taking them up and down the US Eastern Seaboard. They don’t see restoration work and repairs as a chore but simply part of the joy of owning a vintage VW camper. One day, they hope to take a long road trip right across the US.
‘Happy Campers’ is a series of posts featuring camper vans and their owners. It’s designed to offer advice and inspiration to new and existing camper van owners – featuring members of the WildaboutScotland community. To take part, please send an e-mail to me using the the ‘Get in Touch’ form on the sidebar, answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.
1. Introducing myself and my camper van
Greetings from the States! My name is Erik and I, along with my wife Martha and 2 children, am the happy owner of Moby, a 1971 Volkswagen camper. She is so named because of her size, color, and, perhaps, because I have a slight obsession towards the sport of owning old VWs. I’ve been around Volkswagens all my life and have logged many wonderful hours using them as daily drivers, weekend warriors, and excuses to launch adventures. The hours spent under them with a wrench or two probably amount to a significant chunk of time as well, but that’s all part of the joy of owning these vehicles.
We adopted our bus in 2010, following a somewhat regretful period without any old VW. At the time, our children were reaching the age at which they could really start appreciating camping, seeing new places, and they were beginning to take a more active part in family adventures, so my wife suggested that we should consider looking for a bus. Without stopping to consider the implications, we immediately initiated the search. We found Moby within a few months and the kids fell in love with her as soon as we brought her from New Jersey to our Virginia home. To be able to share my own enthusiasm of VW’s with my family has made Moby a very special bus indeed.
2. How do I use my camper van?
Any way I can. She is our excuse to make a last minute weekend getaway, see a new place, take a long drive for no other reason than to drive a bus, eat a weekend lunch in a far-off town, or simply camp in the driveway. She has visited the beach, traveled to several other states, been to music festivals, VW shows, camping, and even carried construction materials for home renovations. We look forward to taking her on many more trips, both short and long, in the coming years.
3. Best thing I love about my van?
It’s a bus, what’s not to love? I think my answer falls beyond the bus itself, and sits squarely in the community that surrounds old Volkswagens. Over the years, this hobby strengthened friendships, created new ones, and introduced me to a wide variety of people whom I normally would never have met. In today’s world, this even includes a few people I’ve never actually met in person, but communicate with via VW forum, club, blog, or other virtual social outlet. If I were to pick one specific aspect of this that rises above the rest, it would be my family. Being able to participate and share adventures, whether small or large, with my wife and children has been an absolute joy for me (not to mention the small but important role a former bus played in my then future wife acknowledging my existence).
4. Pet gripes?
Gripes? It’s the idiosyncrasies that make our bus endearing! The lackadaisical driving manner supports a more relaxed driving style, one which makes it is easier to stop and “smell the roses” and appreciate the scenery (it takes so long to pass by, you can’t help but notice it). I don’t share the oft heard complaint that these vehicles are underpowered. Once behind the wheel of Moby, the aggressive nature and stresses of driving brought on by big powerful engines can’t exist and that, to me, is a bonus. Breaking down once in a while just adds to the sense of adventure. We’ll get where we’re headed…someday.
5. Favourite accessories?
I’m going with the drive-away tent. Designed to attach to the rain gutter and under the sliding door, this canvas tent provides a lot of extra room and remains free-standing when the bus is driven away. It does have a few drawbacks, such as weight, the amount of space it occupies when packed up, and it isn’t very cool in the summer, but the colors are awesome and it looks fantastic set up next to Moby.
6. Best tip for new owners?
Get to know the way a bus works. Nothing wrong with having a shop perform maintenance, but these are old vehicles – they will break – and you can’t take a shop with you. In the very least, invest in a high-end towing service because sometimes, it just isn’t getting fixed in the town down the road. Knowing the mechanics of my bus has allowed me to keep rolling countless times and I enjoyed many trips long after they might otherwise have come to an abrupt end. When the problem was bigger than what I could handle on the side of the road or in a store’s parking lot, the tow people got me to a better place.
7. Best trip in my van?
They’ve all been so much fun, but if I must put one above the rest I’ll pick our trip to Altamont, New York for the Old Songs Music Festival. Why? Mostly because it was the farthest away from home, but the festival was a ton of fun as well.
8. Dream trip?
Our dream trip in this bus is a long road trip across the States. Hopefully, we’ll get to it in the next couple of years. We’ll see….
9. Favourite campsite?
The more remote the better, but most of the time it’s the one in which I just parked Moby.
10. When I’m not camping I’m …
….teaching geology, spending time with my family, or wrapped up in an unreasonable number of hobbies for one person. You can follow our VW-related exploits at Zero to Sixty…Eventually.