Soon, your Drifters will be hitting the road again for quite some time. Staying forever true to our style, we cannot say exactly where we will head to first or even how. One strong possibility at this moment centers around my 1999 Volkswagen Eurovan and whether or not it will make it to the Baja States of Mexico. If I decide it is road-ready when we do decide to travel again, Fiona and I will drift cross-country, taking a bit of a lazy route to the San Diego/Tijuana border.

As mentioned, this Volkswagen van is from the year 1999, which means it is not even of this millennium! I do not think Prince had this van in mind when he recorded that seminal album, but the irony is sweet. So what would possess us to undertake such a daring attempt? Well, I have had this van for 14 years and, for all the foibles that any 18-year-old vehicle will present with from time to time, I have confidence in it. Beside, I have done a lot of work myself on this vehicle, so I guess I have some confidence in my ability to keep it rolling as well. By myself over the years I have replaced the starter, the tension pulley and the belt, the mass airflow sensor, the spark plugs, the oil and fuel filters and worn out hoses. I proudly figured out the reason why my cooling fan was not working, and had enough sanity left over to do the repair myself.

euro van Mexico

There may be another thing going for the Volkswagen van since we are on the topic of an extended road-trip; it has low mileage for a 1999 vehicle. Going against my fear of sounding like a used car salesman, I will proudly state that this Volkswagen Eurovan has been driven only 8,700 miles per year! Add it up over 18 years and you come up with a figure just north of 155,500 miles, but there it is!

The Details

This is a basic model Volkswagen Eurovan that is kitted out with a bench seat that extends into a bed as well as a nifty little table that pops up. What it lacks in achieving full camper van status  – pop top, burner, sink, toilet –  it handily makes up for with ample room to provide us a solid, comfortable sleeping arrangement. The interior is clean, and we have slept out in it before.

Plenty of Room
Plenty of Room
The Dining Car!
The Dining Car!

The cruise control seems to have packed in quite a while ago, although I cannot say when. My air conditioning system blows ambient air through the vents, making it unbearable in the Summer months unless you roll down the windows, which seems to suit us just fine. Some clear-coat is peeling off from the roof and from the hood, and a bit of rust pops up in a few spots like a gin blossom on the nose of an old drunk.

Battle Damage

In the brutal and punishing Maine Winter, I lose the digital display stored on my tripometer whenever I start the engine; the numbers reset back to zero – no big deal. The numbers on the odometer, however, remain a true testament to the Eurovan’s low, low mileage! Those Maine Winters and the insults it hurls are responsible for those gin blossoms, too; road salt does some serious damage to the metal. On extremely cold days I know not to open the sliding side door, for it will not latch shut the way it was designed to; something to do with temperatures that are cold enough to warp and shrink metal. Past experience tells me Mexico will never burden the Volkswagen with these offenses.

When my Volkswagen has sat too long – in any season – the front passenger-side tire lets a bit of air escape to the point where it looks nearly flat, so I keep a sweet little air pump handy that I can plug into the cigarette lighter. Once I fill the tire up I can drive on it until it has once again sat for a bit too long, say a week or so. A true mechanic will no doubt find a bunch of things that are wrong with Little Elvis II (The name of my van!), but I remain proud as punch that I can keep LE II on the road.

The Promise

Taking this van into the Baja states of Mexico will see us fulfill a promise we made to one day to return to this part of the planet with our own set of wheels. In 2013 we hitchhiked the length of this peninsula and certainly wished we had the freedom to see more by taking whatever road we fancied, for this is a stunning corner of the world. While there in 2013 we were lucky enough to have made a friend who let us borrow his tandem kayak and decided we must return with wheels and a kayak. The used kayak we recently bought just for this occasion fits quite nicely on the roof of the van, so why put it off any longer?

Kayak Sea of Cortes
Not Bad for $165 !

Pros and Cons

Fiona and I have discussed travelling with a vehicle before, and indeed we drove this van from Seattle to Portland, Maine, giving this Volkswagen van one cross-country trip under the belt already. This trip will be full of other considerations quite different from our last epic journey, for there will be a need to get rid of the van after our visit into Mexico. It can be sold to someone who sees the potential in LE II, or sold for the scrap potential.

Pros:

  • Transportation and shelter are rolled into one – and roll as one!
  • Road-trip!
  •  We can see so much more.

Cons:

  • Administrative/legal bullshit if there is a wreck or theft.
  • Possible repairs.

Riding Off Into the Sunset

do know this van, and I have muddled through a bunch of things with it that would have caused more rational people to get rid of the friggin’ thing a long time ago!  Also, I should point out that should we choose to drive LE II down to the Baja, then this will be one hell of a send off!

Whatever way I choose to get rid of my van, I think about letting this Volkswagen go out in style, living out its final days in the manner in which it was designed. My opinion is that the van is worthy – in a mechanical sense, and the adventure potential alone is enough to make me check my passenger-side tire for air and hit the road right now as I type these lines!

Volkswagen Van Portland Maine
Road-Ready

Travelling long-term has certainly instilled in me the wonderful realization that some of these crazy fantasies we carry around in our daydreams deserve a long, second look. Drawing up a list of pros and cons for these crazy dreams may or may not help in the end; maybe they do no justice to your dreams whatsoever, setting you up instead for a fatal bout of analysis paralysis. Perhaps just being aware of something you have always wanted to do is enough to do something about it.

 

12 Comments

  1. Hey Jerry –

    I wonder if I remember Little Elvis I? In my mind it was the year 2000 and the van was white, it took us across the Cascades between Packwood and Seattle. We had only just met, but you were good enough to pick me up on the recommendation of another of your friends (Eilidh!). We agreed that Ozzy had something of a voice and that seemed to settle our getting on… (I also remember another journey in Fiona’s Skittle where you pointed out that I had just claimed yoghurt was sentient, but I cant for the life of me remember why)

    I hope Little Elvis II makes it across the border. It couldn’t be taking two friendlier, kinder and finer people on the adventure of a lifetime. I’ll be thinking of you often and wishing you the best of luck and enjoyment, Love to you both from England!

    • Allan,
      I remember everything you have mentioned, even telling you about an old episode of “In search of…” that backed your claim that live cultures experienced emotions! How can i forget meeting you?!
      Thank you so much for your support, and for being such a good friend, even though time and miles have seperated us. It means quite a bit knowing you still remember meeting in Washington state. That white van was Little Elvis.
      Wish Eilidh a belated birthday and give James a big hug from myself and Fiona. Again, I do thank you for your wonderful comment. Take care, Allan!
      Your Drifters, and your friends,
      Jerry and Fiona

  2. I just spoke to my VW mechanic and he agrees with me that you should email”” VW of America”” and see if they would sponsor LEII. You know your Elvis inside and out and maybe it could be a fun PR for VW using a 1999 on the road. They could be part of the blog and show that you can count on VW and their longevity of their vehicle. Nostalgia! You know. I mean Fiona you can sell ice cream to the Eskimos..It is worth the try, only a few words on a computer.
    I will follow you and miss you at the same time! TAKE CARE!

    • Ginette,
      That is not a bad idea… Sadly, I think VW would gasp in horror if they saw how much my van has aged in appearance! As you say, the fact that a 1999 Eurovan is still strong enough (we hope!) to make one last epic journey is the stuff of legends, and Volkswagen should be proud of Little Elvis II – because I am. If Volkswagen is interested, they know how and where to find me!
      Thank you so very much for your sweet comment, and letting your mechanic in on our adventure! Fiona and I wish you all the best; we both will certainly miss the community that exists at PWM. We consider ourselves very lucky to have spent 3 years there alongside some truly wonderful people.
      Take care, Ginette
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  3. Jennifer McConnell

    Jer Bear,
    When we spoke today, and I asked you how the van was doing I had no idea there was an homage post about it here on the blog! So nice to read, and I hope for the best for the trip!

    • Jen,
      I really do have confidence in this van, and we cannot think of a better way to let Little Elvis II belt out a swan song. I hope to feature a few more posts about our road trip, so please keep following our blog. Thanks so much for wishing us well on this epic road trip, and beyond!
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  4. Kristen Bergeron

    We have been gone from Portland ME for 5 years now (!) but when I see a van like yours on the streets here I still think, oh, Jerry! Have even waved at a couple of folks before I catch myself and realize where I am. Happy trails however they happen. Miss you both so much!
    Kristen

    • Kristen,
      It is so good to hear from you, and so good to know you associate me with any Volkswagen van you see! As I am learning, you are not the only one to do so; refer to the humbling comment from Bill on this post. I can once recall driving down Congress Street here in Portland, Maine on a fine Winter day. I spot a shock of red hair and know it is Marley, and she spots a burgundy Volkswagen van and knows it is me. We both wave and smile and then go about our day, feeling as if we both belong in this little corner of the world somehow, and totally digging the fact we are KNOWN here as well. We both felt a wonderful sense of community in that fleeting moment. What a great thing!
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  5. What better way to give the van perhaps its last hurrah by taking it across the country and into a different one with its faithful people aboard! Besides, if there are any two people that know how to navigate the world without a vehicle it is you two and in the meantime you can enjoy a decent night’s sleep. My hat is off to you on your travels!

    • Barbara,
      This van will certainly sign-off in a blaze of glory! It is so nice to read your comment and know we have your support. The vehicle has been a good one, even though there have been some repairs done on it here and there. What is so sweet about this whole story is that we are now, more than ever, seeing the full potential in this old van and it is time to give our full potential, as well. Again, thank you so very much for following along with us.
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  6. I have spent many years sitting on my porch watching the VW drive up the street, slow down a little, & then back into a driveway as if nobody was looking where they were going. To this day I ask myself. How the hell does he do it? I will miss the VW and the backing up and most importantly the Drifters. Bill

    • Bill,
      We are so touched by this comment, and we cannot thank you enough. For as much as we are looking forward to this adventure, we will be very sad as we drive away, for Portland is an amazing place to be and you are a fantastic neighbor. Each time we head out for our walk we look to see if you are on the porch or outside with Lilly. Please keep us up to date with news from the neighborhood while we are gone. Bill, you will be missed as well.
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

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