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Preflight Mayhem

Posted in Vanagon, Road Trip

How do you cram three mutants and all of their belongings into a 15’ x 6’ steel box?

It sounds remarkably like the setup to a crummy joke, but in the month of April, year of our lord 2014, that’s the exact joke (nay, riddle… or maybe a zen koan) we find ourselves deciphering.

In less than 2 weeks, we’re moving into our 1991 Westfalia (aka. Vroomhilde) for four months. With our 5-month old kid, Grizzly. And driving to California (and back) over the course of 4 months and change.

We must be batshit crazy.

Good crazy, maybe, but crazy—bonafide crazy—nonetheless.

So how did we wind up here?

Well, it’s complicated. But the most linear explanation that I can give is the one you’ll likely expect, and that’s that we (A and myself) have been chasing the dream of doing some extended travel together for more or less the entire duration of our relationship (9 years thereof), and while I’d be dishonest if I claimed we’d not been on a heap of adventures over the years, we’ve still not managed to pull together the kind of extended nomadism that we’ve been envisioning and romanticizing throughout that whole period.

Something always comes up. Wonderful things for the most part: other projects and distractions, or splashing through pacific archipelagos in kayaks, or starting new businesses (and the all-consuming grind that comes with that), or just plain letting loose for a week in the desert every couple of years. But distractions, diversions, and detours abound nonetheless.

So, finally, just over a year ago, it was on the verge of all coming together: a 6-month trek through India, and SE-Asia, and who knows where else. Leave of absence, lined-up: check. Clients notified of the impending email auto-responder: check. Pregnancy test positive: check!

Dark Kitchen Portrait

That last point, which we became aware of moments before pressing the ‘buy’ button on our plane tickets to India, utterly rearranged our… well our everything.

So—sparing the gory details that intercede that moment of realization (and accompanying sense of the floor dropping out of the room, and all of the air being sucked out simultaneously) and the moment we find ourselves now, I’ll simply say that somewhere along the line, amidst much consternation about how to drink in more of the world now that ‘we’ meant ‘we three’, we had an epiphany:

This is why we own a Westfalia!

All of a sudden, the vehicle that we’d primarily envisioned as being a getaway van for short excursions, or camping trips, or blitzkrieg missions to Seattle to catch good concerts, became something more: a Gypsy wagon. A portable domicile for extended family living.

Hell, I even own the requisite tiny stringed instrument (a goregeous little ukelele, heretofore underloved) to enable me to conjure a reasonable approximation of ye olde travelling minstrel dad.

Let wanderlust reign supreme!


Of course, then reality starts setting in. Extra contracts are lined up to pay for the trip (and to offset the ensuing reduction in T’s income), subletters are arranged, and the sensation of that ol’ floor dropping out from under oneself starts hitting us again as we come to a barrage of very stark insights:

  1. We’re moving from an already difficult situation with a kid who lives in the same room as us (since we don’t have adequate space to give him his own room yet) into a tiny box. With no rooms. The already eardrum-rending power of his extremely impressive vocal cords are bound to be immeasurably louder when contained in our rolling echochamber. We’re actively working on sleep training this kid in order to buy ourselves some increased sanity under our newly cramped quarters, but we become effectively vagrants, cast into pseudo-rolling-homelessness in under two weeks: whatever state things are in at that point, that’s what we’re stuck with.

  2. We have 2000 hours of things to accomplish and 500 336 hours to do it in.

  3. We have about 20,000 (likely more) unique items to organize, depatriate from our house, and cast into some oubliette for 4 months. In other words, we own way too much crap, and have to put it somewhere before the subletters show up in 14 days.

  4. I have about 200 hours of contract work to wrap up.

  5. We have about 10 different fairly esoteric repairs that need to be undertaken on our van in order to get it ship-shape for the road.

  6. This is going to be tight. Tight like your jeggings the morning after Thanksgiving.

So what’s the whole point of this’ere bloggo, boyo? Well, really it’s just going to be a sporadic chronicle of what happens when a pair of mutants take a micro-mutant on the road, and the trials, tribulations, and victories that beset them along the way.

On top of that it’s hopefully a bit of a living memoir of the search for the way back from a life that’s gotten altogether too frenzied and relentless, and the search for the time and space to appropriately experience and absorb the moments we’re passing through. And most importantly, the search for how to bring that home from the road once all’s said and done, and the van turns North again.

And, of course, it’ll also serve as both a tribute and a lament about the love/hate relationship that is the care and feeding of a Vanagon, and the souls trundling along inside of it.

Maybe a it’ll provide a bit of useful insight and innovation for other van travellers if we wind up having any moments of particular cleverness, too. We’ve certainly been the anonymous recipients of a great deal of other wisdom collected from out there in the æther; we’re not undertaking a new thing. Really, it’s a very old thing… a tradition we’re excited, and proud, and terrified to join.

And most importantly of all, when Grizzly is old enough, with any luck we’ll not have been remiss in our chronicle, or in its maintenance and preservation, and it’ll be a thing for him to read and know.

Here’s looking at you, kid.


blueberry clone

The chronicle of three mutants of varying size, and their adventures in Vroomhilde, the rolling Space Rhino.

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