So, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado trying to focus on this blog post rather than stress about my keys lost in one of 20 shops I visited in the last two hours!! That will be a fun treasure hunt when the time comes. UGH.
Back to the point of this post…..As everyone should know by now, the Life Bus is obsessed with camper vans – retro in particular, though all vans pretty cool. I have fantasized about owning one forEVER and have spent HOURS and HOURS scouring the net looking for deals on VW Vans. Mind you, I have never rented one or know anyone who owns one. With that, what business do I have even thinking about buying one?!! I figured I needed to actually experience the retro van life before jumping into such a large investment. So, Sean and I broke down and rented a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon (Pinky) for a week over 4th of July.
Photo: Meet Pinky 🙂
We loaded Pinky up with everything you could possibly want or need – our sweet pup Yogi, fishing poles, mountain bikes, speakers, paddle boards, puzzles, games, solar string lights, beer, wine, and whiskey – and food – lots of good food. I wanted this experience to feel like home on wheels, to see what it would be like to travel like this more frequently.
Photo: Poor Yogi was buried in the back – sweet pup!
We thought it was a great idea to have all of our future wants and needs at our finger tips, until we realized we could only drive 20 mph (literally) up the mountain passes on I-70 West outside of Denver, Colorado. Yep, we were one of THOSE people. We were going so slow, people were passing us on the RIGHT side – the actual shoulder of the freeway. That part was not so much fun, I thought Sean was going to have a heart attack. One can only assume he was mad at me for putting him through this – but – as sweet as he is, he never said a word and went along with my fantasy adventure. (I forgot to mention, the van broke down right out of the parking lot when we were leaving the rental office AND there was no A/C. Yep, it was starting out to be a real dreamy experience. They replaced the battery and off we went not really knowing what was going to happen next.)
Photo: Sean remaining patient on our 6 HOUR drive to the Flat Tops – love this guy!
We FINALLY made it to the East Flat Tops Wilderness (EFW) – Southwest of Steamboat Springs. The whole ride took us nearly 6 hours – any other car would have taken a little north of 4. Not only was the van a little bit of a challenge, I had no idea where we were going to land – this part of CO was untouched, at least by me and I had no idea what to expect. Sean took a huge leap of faith to trust me on this one!
Photos: Our hikes did not disappoint!
We found a great campground that didn’t take reservations – Bear Lake Campground – those always scare me a little, because you can’t tell if something is going to be open when you get there. Turns out, there aren’t many people who make their way to this part of Colorado. Probably because there is no connectivity what-so-ever and there are no stores around. You have to know what you are doing to spend more than 2 days out there. Pinky fit right in. She was small enough to fit anywhere we took her, with little or no fuss, nothing unwieldy to maneuver, not obnoxiously too big. We hung our solar string lights on her every night so she could shine when the sun went down – she was a beauty!
After a few nights in the campground and getting to know Pinky pretty well, we decided to try a different camping experience. We jumped on our bikes found the perfect dispersed camp spot over looking the valley with the winding Yampa river below. The views were outstanding, with the swirly orange/purple sunsets and stars filling every inch of the sky at night (there is a song that says stars are really angels taking their cigarette breaks at night – I love it!).
No-one was next to us, so we could play music as loud as we wanted and could dance like crazy people! We backed her up with her tail facing the valley so we could wake up every morning with the most beautiful views. We stayed in that spot for 4 days…it was magical.
The only thing un-magical about it were the dang mosquitos – good lord, there were seemingly millions of them. Luckily, I had bought some citronella candles that managed to keep them at bay. Only regret is the natural insect repellent – what a bunch of junk – no less then 50 bites on each leg and arm. I say go for the deet – what harm could it be to use it just a few times a year?? I’m at home right now swatting at my arms – PTSD from the swarms of mosquitos!
Photos: Our beautiful campsite
Even though Pinky didn’t have AC, she stayed pretty cool all day long as we kept the tent flap up and open all the time – a nice breeze was always present. We would come back from the days’ activities and she was very comfortable and inviting. The bed was easy to set up and pretty comfy – we brought some cozy blankets and sleeping bags with us, and our favorite pillows to keep our heads comfy. We spent a TON of time inside – more than you would expect – playing games, reading, napping, eating, etc. and we loved every second of it.
Photo: Nap time!
We kept most of our food and bevies cold with the solar powered fridge inside the van – but we also had our Yeti cooler – that thing is badass – kept everything fresh for at least 4 days. We met a really sweet gal who brought some ice back for us from Steamboat – she saved our bacon as the fridge in the van worked great – but wasn’t large enough to keep ALL of our stuff cold. The only challenge we had with food, was that we did not have a bear box outside the campsite, so we had to bring all of our dry food into the van at night. This is fine, but we kept losing stuff trying to keep everything organized – as stupid as that sounds – Pinky was just not that big to accommodate all of our stuff at all times!
Photo: Look at that pile of stuff to manage – too much? I think not.
After 6 wonderful nights in Pinky, we decided to head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado – about 1.5 hours from where we were in the EFW. Lunch and exploring the town was in order as it was Sean’s first time there. We spent our time laughing about all of our favorite things that happened over the past week – our nighttime music and dancing, all of our gorgeous hikes, catching trout, playing games (Sean kicked my ass at Yahtzee every time – how is that possible? Its a DICE game), paddle boarding around Bear Lake with Sean fishing off the front of the board, mountain biking at night with our headlamps on with the star-filled sky… the list goes on and on….Once we were done, we jumped back into Pinky ready to head back down to the front range for one last night with her….then it happened…
She broke down AGAIN. Sean put the key in, nothing… Mechanics came to look at her…no luck bringing her back to life. It took us several hours to sort through all the madness and find a rental car and a tow-truck to take all of us back to Denver. A few things about this – yes, it was stressful and pretty much ruined our last day with her, however, we didn’t lose her in the wilderness where we had no connectivity, we had a great day in Steamboat, and we didn’t have to drive 20 MPH uphill on I-70. The owner of the van felt so bad about it all, I’m pretty sure he started to tear up when we said our goodbyes. He loves Pinky and wanted us to love her just as much as he – we did, we fell in TOTAL love with her.
Photo: Goodbye sweet girl
In the end, I am glad we had the experience we had – it was FANTASTIC. I learned a few things in the process – vans ROCK and are a super fun way to travel. However, without knowing how to fix mechanical issues, etc., sadly, a retro van is probably not in my future – I’m glad my obsession with this idea is over! I am good with renting for a while – buying a van of any kind right now probably doesn’t make sense. Retirement is on the horizon – maybe then… Until that point in time, we will think about Pinky every day, and miss that girl – maybe we will see her again :-).
Cheers from the LifeBus!
P.S. I found my keys – thank goodness.