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Road-tripping it old school style, in a 1977 VW Camper on Two Lanes. Come along for the ride…

Day 1 – On my way…or not… ?>

Day 1 – On my way…or not…

I was off on my first long distance vacation in the Westy. I had tried to make sure I had packed everything I needed and that the Westy was in good mechanical shape.

I headed out late – after lunch, with no real itinerary, just knowing I was heading east. No GPS, no maps (at least for today). I headed south on Ontario Highway 404 out of Newmarket and east on the 407. I was excited that the extension to the 407 had just opened today, which was a by-pass to the busy Toronto traffic of the 401.

As I was on the new part of the 407, approaching the new 412, the bus started to lose power. I pulled over to the shoulder, thinking to myself – “Well THAT was a short vacation.”

I got out and opened the engine lid and checked to see if a vacuum hose had come off, but everything looked good.

I pulled back onto the highway and after about 200 yards, the bus started to lose power again. I pulled over again and stopped.

I then thought to myself – “I think I might have run out of gas.” I knew the gas gauge was not working and had been keeping track of when I last filled it, but in the excitement of leaving for vacation, it had slipped my mind.

I pulled my Moleskine notebook out and checked to see that I had gone 256 miles since my last fillup.

Luckily, I always remember the motto of the first school I attended in Edinburgh, Scotland (Daniel Stewart’s College), which was “Never Unprepared.

I had brought along a jerry can of gas, strapped to the roof rack with bungee cords.

outofgasA quick pit-stop, and I was on my way. Problem #1 – solved!

I got down to the 401 pretty quickly, but realized that the gas would not take me too far, so decided to get off the highway in Oshawa to fill up.

The exit I picked was not the best one – I ended up down by the GM Assembly Plant near Lake Ontario, with no gas stations in sight, so ended up doing a circuitous route through a suburban neighborhood before finally finding a gas station.

I filled up, then got back on the 401 for a while. It had been my intention to stick to the “Blue Highways” – the two-lane roads as much as possible, but I needed to put some miles behind me, so stayed on the 401 (Freeway) until Port Hope, where I went off to use Highway 2 – the old Toronto-Montreal road.

I stopped for groceries in Port Hope and bought myself the requisite Hula Girl for the dash!


HulaGirlThe trip along Highway 2 was relaxing – sun shining, wind in my face, and a nice drive parallel to the shore of Lake Ontario.

I passed by the Bay of Quinte Golf & Country Club – the location of my cousin David’s wedding many years ago, and thought how I had not been on this road since then. We all have tended to abandon those old roads for the speed of freeways, missing out on both the relaxation of the two-lane drive and the finds along the way. My preference is the two-lanes in the rural areas, in the built-up areas, they can be less satisfying with traffic lights and changing gears with a clutch that tends to get a bit temperamental when it warms up, and finding 1st and sometimes 2nd can be a bit of an effort.

At Belleville, had I been using a map, I might of headed into Prince Edward County to find a place to camp for the night – it is beautiful there, but I kept pushing on, wanting to make my first day a productive one, still not in the mindset to relax and enjoy the journey, but still thinking about the destination.

Not long after Belleville, I got back on the 401. Storm clouds were clearly brewing to the north and heading closer. It was a typical Ontario late afternoon summer thunderstorm caused by the humidity. Those kinds of thunderstorms can get nasty and as it turned out, there were severe weather warnings and in some places tornado watches.

Time to find a place to stay.

I was familiar with the KOA in Kingston, having stayed there before, so headed there.

I arrived just after the office had closed, but the guy was still there, and opened it for me, giving me a nice RV spot for the price of a regular campsite.

I just pulled into the site when the storm hit. It was a good thunderstorm, with high winds and rain, so I did not pop up the top. The good thing about VW campers is that you can just park and that’s it. You don’t even have to get out in the rain.

I opened the jalousies as much as I could, but it was hot and humid, so I turned on my inverter and put on my vintage fan.

fanThe fan was awesome – a great idea – it really kept me cool.

I slept on the bottom bed, which was not bad. I woke up in the middle of the night when a blinding light hit my eyes through a gap in the curtains.

moonBelieve it or not, it was a full moon, which had just moved into the perfect place to wake me up.

All in all, I thought, not a bad 1st day. The rain had stopped and the forecast for tomorrow was warm and sunny.



Wedding! ?>


Before I headed out for my Westy vacation, my daughter got married, and asked if she could use the Bus for photos. Of course I agreed!
Heading out to a nice natural ravine area that is part of the Toronto Don Valley for photos.

wedding_lo_4A perfect tranquil spot to park the bus and take some photos.

wedding_lo_4-7Photo credit for these beautiful photos goes to Inna Yasinska Photography.


Grey Water Tank ?>

Grey Water Tank

I decided to install a small grey water tank, to avoid the original design that just let the sink water flow out the bottom of the camper onto the ground (or into a small bucket if you put one under there).

When I used to camp in my 79 Westy back in the mid 1980’s it wasn’t unusual to dump grey water onto the ground, but now it is really frowned upon, and in some parks they won’t even let you camp in the boondocking sites with a VW camper if it does not have a grey water holding tank.

I happened to see a post in the Vanagon section of The Samba Forum with a nice description of making a homemade grey water tank:

I decided to follow that design, since it seemed simple, unobtrusive and with parts that were easy to find.

I removed all of the old trap/drain/vent pipe and replaced it with a clear hose that went down through the old drain hole (I drilled a hole in the drain cap the diameter of the new hose).

I used a length of black ABS pipe for the tank, and put the inlet at the top at the front of the tank:


You can see the clear inlet hose which curves under the tank, creating the trap needed to stop any smells from coming up into the sink, since the original trap was removed.

At the rear of the tank, at the top is a vent nipple. This will have a clear vent hose added that will go up in the right rear fender to vent the tank.

greywatertankrearAt the bottom is the drain pipe, which goes to a male hose connection with a shut off valve. This allows a hose to be attached to drain the tank.

The tank is attached to the bottom of the bus by strong zip ties which hold it securely:

greywatertank1Here you can see the drain hose curving under the tank, creating the trap.

The tank runs between the cross-members. It is not that big, but enough to store water used for minor weekend stuff.

As you can see, from the side of the bus, it is virtually impossible to see without bending down to look.


All in all, a fairly quick and easy mod that will be nice to have when camping in natural areas where you don’t want to dump grey water on the ground.



It’s the journey, not the destination… ?>

It’s the journey, not the destination…

ontheroadAs I make the drastic transition from urban commuting to ‘Bus Life’, I am faced with the realization that I have become used to the frantic pace of the city, and the expectations of immediate responses which leads to and breeds impatience.

The best vacations I ever had were those that were not planned at all. Being a planner however, I always seem to convince myself that it would be stressful not to plan. I worry about where I am going to stay for the night, or how my reservations and plans will all fail if something goes wrong along the way that delays me.

Getting out of that mindset is going to be a huge challenge, but one that I know I need to do.

My trip last weekend was a good example. I planned where I was going, I reserved the campsite, and as soon as I was on the road, my focus seemed to be on my destination.

I didn’t enjoy the drive as much as I might have if my focus was not on getting there. I would have stopped more and explored.

What if I didn’t really have a destination? How would that change things?

I am planning another trip in June – in about 3 weeks actually – to Vermont and New Hampshire. I think I am going to bite the bullet and just hit the road. I won’t put a destination in the GPS, and I’ll try to stick to the Blue Highways as much as possible, stopping along the way when I see something interesting because I won’t have any pressure to get somewhere on time.

I want this trip to be more of an adventure that unfolds as I go – living in the present and not thinking about where I need to be, or when I need to be there.

I’d like to document my adventures in a more personal and hopefully interesting way – more short videos of me exploring and stopping to meet people and find cool things along the way.

I also struggle with letting go of technology. I would rather use old fashioned maps than GPS, although I figure it wouldn’t hurt to bring the GPS along just in case. (See what I mean!)

Did you know that maps are really not that easy to buy anymore? I was dumbfounded when I asked at a large Gas Station if they had maps on my last trip, and they said no.

If the GPS system ever goes down (and you know it will one day), you better hope you still have your trusty maps handy.

I am learning as I go, and growing as I learn. In a way it feels like going back in time, and that’s not a bad thing from my perspective.

I hope you follow along, and I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. You can leave them below.

– Doug