Meet Buffy The Campfire Slayer, Our New Westy

One year ago today, I did something a little crazy. Spontaneous. Impulsive even. Which was somewhat out of character for me (considering the money involved). One year ago today, I bought a van. A 1983 Volkswagen Westfalia, to be exact.

You see, last spring my husband and I were trying to figure out a family vacation. He’d suggested that it was my turn to choose something that I really wanted to do, and I really wanted to do something “nature-y” again. We looked into renting an RV for a couple of weeks over the summer, as car camping in a tent kind of loses its shine after a few days… but the prices were completely ridiculous. Two weeks rental of the smallest motorhome available, including all the *required* insurance and gear rentals (not including food, campgrounds, gas)… ran close to $4,000!!! Insane! So, I started looking into cabin rentals out on the coast, along various lakes in BC, and even closer to home. Again, as we had left it until only a few months prior to the summer, the selection was picked-over and pricey for what was left. I was starting to get discouraged. πŸ™

And then, during some random internet surfing, I came across photos of a VW van that just might have been my old ZΓΆe, so I did some digging…

I have always wondered what happened to my old 1974 high-top VW, after I sold it a decade ago. You’d think that it would be recognizable enough (with all of those Winnie the Pooh characters on it) to show up somewhere on Google images… but it hasn’t. Even though the one I had just seen on the interwebs looked similar, albeit with a new paint job… the windows were all wrong. Hmm. I guess the mystery remains unsolved.

Still. It prompted me to go on Kijiji and check out what VWs were going for in this day and age. Turns out, I could buy a van for only $1,500 more than the RV rental. Sure, vans that cheap need a bunch of work done, but the revelation gave me some perspective about renting vs. owning, and it stirred something in me to keep on looking. Over the next couple of months, while I researched car camping options, I randomly perused all the VWs that were available… until I stumbled upon this.

Long story short, the vegan t-shirt selling couple who owned the van needed to get something larger, to accommodate a traveling living quarters plus a dog plus a fledgling business. They were in town briefly and were looking to find a good home for the van that they loved, and had spent lots of time + money getting road worthy, but could no longer justify keeping. I made an appointment to go see and test drive the van… just to figure out what was available for under $10,000 these days… and I quite unexpectedly fell in love. β™₯

You can only imagine the bizarre phone call I had with my husband that morning… where things went from being a fact-finding research mission to an all-out family and business investment in under an hour (we could go traveling, not have to rent trucks to move furniture or building supplies, transport giant pieces of art around, etc). πŸ˜› But I remembered all of the amazing times I’d had in my ’74 VW, and I knew a good deal when I found it. The fact that they had named the van “Moose” (my husband and I have been involved with Loose Moose Theatre in town for years) was also taken to be a very good omen, if you believe in those sorts of things. πŸ˜‰

The afternoon was a blur of banking and paperwork and celebratory drives to Canadian Tire and Peters’ Drive In. That night, everyone chipped in and gave the new van a good cleaning, inside and out. Five days later, the van was outfitted and ready for our first trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park (although daddy had to stay home).

We learned a lot over the next two days…

… what the gas gauge really meant (I was very careful to NOT run out of gas anywhere along the way), that cooling down when it was very hot outside was a challenge (some sort of fan would be a huge help), that the bungee cord net was not great for storage (things kept popping out or blocking views), that we needed some kind of bug protection (some makeshift netting was purchased and hung over the door when opened), that we had an awning which was just awesome (but it needed to be set up correctly for it to work properly), that the boys did NOT get along well when forced to sleep in the same bunk (the little one eventually came down from the pop-top to sleep next to me), that the sink and stove worked beautifully and the seats swiveled… and so on.

The biggest lesson came with the rain. It appeared that we had a leak (via the skylight). *sigh* But… it turns out that we could happily amuse ourselves when stuck in small quarters without killing each other. πŸ˜‰ It was a great first trip, indeed. β™₯

After we returned, I set to work fixing up”the joint”, if you will…

First up, the easy stuff: new curtains and removable/washable cushion covers (on new foam, using old pieces as templates for the new). Plus a few decals for fun. πŸ˜‰

Next, a complete disassembly of the seats, rebuilding/replacing of the padding, and reupholstering with colourful fabric + vinyl. I made sure to photo-document every step of the process, again using the old parts as pattern templates, so I could reassemble the seats properly after I was through.

Meanwhile, I also tackled a replacement for the leaky and stinky skylight, plus an upgrade for the crumbling rear-view mirror, replacing the old with a convex golf cart/ATV one that I attached to the original base with epoxy.

In no time at all, we were lookin’ pretty groovy, if I do say so myself. πŸ˜‰

Then my husband and I invested in a special “tent room” for the awning. Not only would it provide a wealth of extra space for us to spread out in (enabling the boys to sleep in separate spaces), but it would also help keep the heat down and the bugs out. Hurrah! With it, and a whole lot of clever packing, we set out on our first family of four, two week camping adventure, touring through southern AB and BC, wherein we had loads of fun… and Buffy the Campfire Slayer was christened as such.

Though that, as they say, is a story for another time. =)

There is still much I want to do before we head out again this summer: figure out a double battery/solar charging system to power fans and electronics and the like when we are parked, repair the thin and broken pressboard on the roof panel and a few wall panels, and make some more substantial screens for the front windows and around the door gaps when they are open for ventilation… not to mention some creative painting of the outside… but all in due time.

Anyhow. Just thought I’d finally share. Happy trails, y’all. =)

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2 comments

  1. Oh my goodness, Kate, I LOVE this!!!
    Truly, it could not be more perfect.
    I also cannot believe how grown up the boys look in these photos.
    It happens so fast, doesn’t it????

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