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To Be or to Boogie

By May 12 2016All stories

There’s a place to sleep in it. I think that is the bottom line on what makes vans. I think it is what we can refer to as the “least common denominator.”  After that…can you fit your stuff (surfboard, guitar amp, motorcycle, kids, bean bag chair, fishing poles, dog, riding mower, ect.) in it?  That is probably the next line on the freedom vessel worthy criteria chart. And from that point it goes into how much you need or want in your van.  For some people its reclaimed wood, bamboo floors, home made candles, and a coleman stove, and for others it can go as far as solar power, running hot water, full stove, sink, and ice cube making capabilities.  Regardless of whether your are in an overland Syncro geared up in Patagonia clothes clinching a crafty beverage, or you have a 1984 Boogie Van, a 24-pack of Budweiser and an acoustic guitar, you like to “van.”  

Surrounding yourself with people that have similar interest is something that feels good. So van people gather. It’s a tribal thing. It’s so refreshing for me when I can carry a conversation with someone who can relate about dropping a spark plug into your engine tin on your late model bay window bus, or how it felt that first time you drove a Vanagon with 16-inch tires or the difference between a Dodge Sportsman and a Tradesman. Some van people are so addicted to upgrading their rig that it borders on an addiction, others just toss a beach chair and blanket in the back of a cargo van and go van. Recently there has been a large “following” or interest in Vans and travel, so much that a guy who begins to drive a van around for a year gets a million followers on Instagram and builds a tree house. Other people “share” photos of sleeping in a van and the “likes” begin to flow like the salmon of Capistrano. But the van culture isn’t new, social media is new. 

In the late 1970s, early 80s the custom van craze was “hot”. Automotive manufactures started to cater to the custom van fans and miniature camper conversions were rolling into the marketplace. What’s really cool is the excitement you get when you talk to someone who has been doing vans since the late 80’s, they are so excited because they were lonely for about 20 years, now they are all fired up again. For many of the van community today it is these older vans that best suit our needs. It’s unfortunate, but for today’s American community that wants a consumer ready-to-go mini-camper van newer than after about 1996 their options are minimal and often very pricey. We all can’t buy six-figure Sprinter Airstream conversions or 4×4 Sportsmobiles. Today’s van life requires you to create your own van life, but I guess that is one of the most fun parts to van-ing, or you can drop some heavy coin on a manufactured camper, or get lucky and drive your grandma’s old van. 

Oddly, manufacturers all over Australia and Europe produce small modern camper units, but they are not often sold in America. Our economy doesn’t want you sleeping in your van under the stars. They want you in a chain hotel, watching American Idol with the Air-conditioning on, waiting for Dominoes to deliver you dinner on your two-week vacation away from your mortgage, your car-payment, and taking your prescriptions that are covered by your health benefits. So we tinker, we make older vans new, and develop products that make us stoked on the road. Life is too short to drive boring cars. Companies that produce aftermarket custom parts become profitable, and we gather to discuss our experiences, share some tips with one another, and exchange ideas. Or we gather to just to sit in the dirt outside our van and take turns riding the mini bike. Regardless, there is a community of van people. Find them, gather with them, you will find it fuels the fire you already have going. 

I wear a few hats.  One is as a overly addicted VW Bus fan, owner, and total freak. And another as a fan of the great American road trip and mini-RV lifestyle. The Westfalia concept dragged me in at age 17 and if I ever had a serious income I’d be riding a pimped-out Westy before any other luxury SUV.  Beyond owning more VW vans than I can count, I’ve had some other great van campers like my 1984 Toyota SR5 Mini Van, the 18ft Mini Winnie, the Toyota Sun Rader, the 1963 VW Double Cab, even my moms Dodge Caravan with wood on the side during high school, a Dodge Sportsman, and now my rare 1973 Chevy Balboa.  So I began to evolve beyond the VW Bus community, which I have been fortunate enough to have found many years ago, and branch out to other “tribes.” A visit to an RV and Motorhome expo nearly scared me to death, but the most recent San Diego Vans meet up really got my pistons firing. I hope you’re enjoying taking a look at the rad people and rad vans doing rad things together. More ink and more grease.

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