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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.
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!
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 easily 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.
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.
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.
Taking this van into the Baja states of Mexico will see us fulfill a promise we made in 2013 to return to this part of the planet with our own set of wheels. In that year we hitchhiked the length of the Baja 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 one day 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?
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.
- Transportation and shelter are rolled into one – and roll as one!
- We can see so much more.
- Administrative/legal bullshit if there is a wreck or theft.
- Possible repairs.
Riding Off Into the Sunset
I 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!
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.