It seems impossible when I think of it…but the last time I owned a VW bus was back in 2003 – it was that beautiful rust test in progress I lived in on Kauai which I had named Paradise. When I left Kauai, I signed the title and put it in the seat with a note congratulating whoever found it. If my memory is right, she was a 1968 Riviera Pop Top with a full Westphalia package inside. I had to tarp over the top to keep the tropical rain out and the side panels were layers of rust that crumbled when you touched them. The floorboards were covered with plywood to keep my feet from popping through. Still – she ran and provided me a home steps from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world in Kapa’a. I tried to sell her but no one was willing to give me even the $420 I had paid for her – that sounds impossible too in this era of VW buses and Vanagons having become San Francisco millionaire trophy cars. I was leaving Kauai though and had nowhere to store her…and as a result I have no idea what happened to her.
Back in 2001, I had been on my way to Hawai’i – I was flying out of San Francisco and no one had wanted to pay the $1200 I was asking for my 1974 Westphalia Pop-Top bus, Turtle. I hadn’t spent a lot of time trying to find a buyer but time was running out – I had a flight. A guy named Dane contacted me through Craigslist and offered to trade me a fully upgraded year old laptop for Turtle…at that time, laptops were still pretty expensive and I aspired to write novels – so I agreed to the trade. The next part of this story is what hurts…a month later when I was trying to establish myself in Hawai’i – the city of San Francisco contacted me about my impounded vehicle which had been abandoned (and never changed out of my name) – if I had been able to get to the mainland – I could have gotten Turtle back, but I was still trying to get my island legs under me and I had no money. I sent them a copy of the bill of sale and Turtle disappeared forever. She might have been the best $100 I ever spent.
My first VW bus was Belle, a bright red 1977 Transporter that I got through Tradio when I worked at 92.9 FM in Bellingham. I traded my TV and VCR for a bus that wouldn’t start and with the help of a friendly listener – a VW mechanic named Steve – I got her running and outfitted with a Westy package interior. I lived in her from Northern California to Juneau, Alaska and then – in a silly move – sold her for $1200 when I left Juneau. I also owned a couple of parts buses along the way.
It was extremely hard to find good buses while I was living in Hawaii up until 2008. I lived in a Ford minivan, but it wasn’t even close to the same ( I called the van Pig). There was no chance to buy a bus while living in Morocco or Turkey and when we came back to the USA in 2013 – my focus was on taking care of my family and getting us established – even though the first vehicle I looked at upon arriving was a brightly painted hippie bus for $2500 – it just wasn’t a practical idea – so I bought a 1995 BMW for $1200 and later my 1994 Jeep Cherokee Sport for $900.
Fast forward to a few days ago – I was towing a badly packed trailer with the Jeep to an antique show in Coburg – I lost control on I-5 and I am quite certain – should have died but through some miracle did not. After that and during the Coburg show where I slept under the stars on a buffalo hide looking up at the stars and the wind blowing in the trees – I realized that there were three important things in my life 1) My family 2) My friends and 3) Bringing a VW camper into my life again.
I looked at Craigslist and found an ad that had just gone up for the Westphalia Pop-Top Vanagon I had been dreaming of – one of the problems with buses is the pain in the ass of adjusting the valves every oil change – Vanagon solved that with a hydraulic water cooled engine. The owner of the Vanagon I looked at wasn’t asking those millionaire trophy prices for his VW. She was clean and well maintained. I called. I was the second caller. I explained that I wouldn’t be able to see it until late the next day. I think he and I connected on the phone. He started to get so many calls after that, that he removed the ad. I showed up with cash before the first caller.
I am, once again, a VW Vagobond. I would like to introduce you to Missefrou (Miss-a-fru). a 1987 VW Vanagon Westphalia Weekender Wolfburgn Edition. Her name is deeply meaningful…I wanted to let my daughter Sophia name the van, but her suggestions – while cute – were vetoed by me or the van. We enjoy watching Doctor Who – and my wife, Hanane, suggested we name her after a character or place on the show – the episode we watched after her suggestion featured Missy, a timelord villain who has regenerated into a rather naughty Victorian lady – we all liked the name Missy, but it wasn’t quite right. Hanane had also suggested we give the van an exotic name from her country like Merzougha – but the truth is, aside from some trips there – we didn’t have a huge connection with Merzougha. I thought Ouarzazate was fun ( prounounced almost like Where’s Us At?) but Hanane and Sophia both vetoed it. I almost forced the issue because it was two days and she had no name (The previous owner told us he never named his vehicles) but I gave it a bit more time. I was driving her and at a stoplight and suddenly I heard a beautiful voice in my head “My name is Miss Sefrou, but it’s said all at once like this ‘Misefrou’, but you can call me Missy.” Just as had happened before, the van had named herself. I knew it was right. My wife was born in Sefrou, Morocco. Every year they crown a Miss Sefrou at the annual Sefrou Cherry Festival. Misefrou is a dark cherry red bordering on burgandy. Although our relationship is only beginning I can tell that she has a similar personality to Missy the timelord. And, since Sefrou is the place where Hanane’s family still lives, where we have many dear friends, where we met, where we lived after getting married, and was Sophia’s first home – Sefrou holds a place in our hearts. We miss Sefrou.
And now, our adventures begin. We are a VW Vanagon family. Christopher (Vago), Hanane, Sophia, and Misefrou Damitio. We are the Vagobond Family and we look forward to sharing our adventures with you.