Sunday, November 12, 2006

Good morning. My next story: the van.

Roger used to have a '68 camper van that he converted to a Westfalia pop-top himself. (He often says he wouldn't do that again.) He called it the Tin Can Tourist; that's a picture of his van to the right. He loved this thing; he enjoyed learning how to take it apart and fix it himself. Even the van's lack of heat is remembered fondly. This van somehow (I forget all the details) ended up broken down on a highway in the US because his ex-girlfriend hired someone to drive the van to Atlanta, and he never checked the oil, and ditched it on the side of the road. Roger was none too happy when he learned his beloved van had been lost so carelessly. And he's been dreaming about owning another one ever since.

I hadn't really considered VW vans prior to Roger's coming into my life. I don't even remember seeing them in movies, let alone on the road. I probably never saw/noticed them on the roads for two reasons: on roadtrips my nose was always in a book unless I was driving and old VW vans don't hold up as well in Midwest winters as they do in saltless winter areas. There are, however, a surprising number of old VW vans being auctioned on Ebay from Michigan.

We looked at the vans listed on Ebay for a very long time. Not the Eurovans. Roger thinks they look/are too scrunched to be as good as the old camper vans. There were a few he was very interested in. I, having had no experience with these vans, had no opinion other than that I didn't care to remodel one; I preferred to buy one that was already all there, or almost all there. (An amazing number of these vans have been gutted, mostly by people selling the parts to people who bought gutted vans.)

One magical day, there was a van being sold from Oregon. Diesel. Perfect condition. But we couldn't figure out how to pay for it and then import it, so we had to let it go.

And then, a month and a half later, Roger picked up a copy of Auto Trader and low and behold, there was a turbo diesel 1989 VW Westfalia in Victoria. Turns out, it was imported by a German family who had gone to Germany to visit family and learned that it was going to be cheaper for them to buy this vehicle used than to rent a vehicle for the six or eight weeks they were going to be there. The plan was to sell it again when they were ready to leave, but they loved the van so much that they decided to go through the hassles of importing it to Canada. (The picture shows the Westfalia cabinetry. Hidden is a sink, a fridge, and two propane burners.)

The German family turned out to be quite a piece of work. There were some horrible moments after we had bought the van. One of the bank drafts we had paid for the van with had been wrongly imprinted with $100 even though the handwritten portion said $1000. They tracked us down somehow in the city (or maybe they really did just happen to drive by us) while we were looking for a Sears, and made a big deal about not believing that any of the drafts were any good. Roger offered to exchange the wrongly imprinted draft with cash (we had stopped in a bank parking lot, and though the bank was closed because it was a holiday, there was an ATM).

The sale had already been completed--the registration and insurance was all in Roger's name. Anyone else might not have tried so hard to assuage their fears (really, we think it may have been more like seller's remorse--the only reason they were selling it was because the wife wanted an automatic). Yes, just about anyone else around here would have told them to go to hell. That's not what we did. What we did was agree to let the van sit on their lawn until the next morning when they cleared the bank drafts at the bank. We did make them drive us around, since we'd already spent far too much on cabs out to their suburb to look at the van.

This is a picture of the poptop. With the poptop up, we gain another bed, so the van can sleep, as Roger says, four people who are getting along, or two people who are fighting.

Long and short, the van is ours now, no questions. We try to laugh about the inconveniences the sellers brought about. We had intended to leave the city first thing in the morning, but because we had to wait for the bank to open, we didn't leave until that afternoon, and we just barely made the last ferry back to Powell River--we were literally the last vehicle on. We hope that their bad karma didn't rub off on the van--VW vans are, after all, the sort of vehicle that picks up on karmic waves.

This would have been a nice van to have for the road trip to Edmonton. (I haven't blogged that yet--it'll be mostly pictures.) Roger had brought along a tent, but it got cold at night and I'm a wimp who hasn't been camping since Girl Scouts. Fortunately, this camper van has a thermostat that you can set at night to keep the inside cozy. Keeping it warm all night will take less than a liter of diesel. (And yes, she gets great mileage.)

Gee, this is going to be fun.


Lauren said...

Jena - the scenery is GORGEOUS...rather like Ohio, wouldn't you say :) We miss you!!

abbey said...

Jena, I am so envious! Have I ever told you that you rock? I applaud your courage to envision your future and to make it happen. I miss our chats so much. Take care, enjoy xmas.

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