I have had two 18-year relationships in my life. My first marriage foundered on my mid-life crisis, which incidentally also happened to be the catalyst for the next 18 year relationship. Not with my second wife I must hasten to add (that only lasted a year and a half), rather it was with my VW Camper. This second relationship foundered on the highway to Whistler cruising down a long hill to Britannia Beach. Suddenly I was powerless; I cruised to the side of a road that fortunately had a broad shoulder, although I did not realize the significance of needing a broad shoulder would be until the next day. Once the waiting and towing back to Vancouver was complete I contemplated what this meant. I had already spent $1,200 the previous week on the injection system and now this. The next day I anxiously awaited my mechanic to call. Finally I couldn’t stand the apprehension any further and called him. “It’s bad news! Your computer has fried and I don’t know why. There is an electrical fault that I have to trace before I can fix it and so far there are no computers available as they don’t manufacture them anymore” I shuddered and realized that perhaps this was the final curtain on a major chapter in my life. Was it time to let go?
My girlfriend Karen and I had picked up the VW in Weidenbruck in Germany. It had been our home for approximately four months. We had driven and camped our way through Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and France. It was then dropped off in England where it spent six months in my brother’s garden in London before being shipped to Halifax and thence by train to Vancouver while Karen and I traveled around the world. Ah what amazing memories. Berlin, Florence, Rome, Paris, Munich, Dubrovnik (just before the war started), Athens, Venice; altogether an unforgettable experience yet by the time I picked the van up at the port it had only 13,000 km on the odometer.
Now it has 287,000 on the clock and has been my companion on many adventures. It was with us when Karen and I got engaged in the campground at Berne in Switzerland; the first person we told was my sister Chris when camping in Bidart in southern France; we spent our honeymoon with my sister, her husband and my niece driving to Las Vegas in the VW, Disneyland and back along the Pacific coast. We were married and separated in less than two years but the VW stayed with me. It has driven through five provinces and twenty-one states. It has been across to Toronto twice and to Kansas City twice. It drove three times through Death Valley, the lowest point at minus 232 feet and also through the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel, the highest at 11,218 feet. It broke down in Sault St Marie, Mammoth Lakes in California (where it made it to the my friend’s driveway when the axle broke.), Chilliwack and Whistler more than once however this is the first time it has stranded me beside a highway in the pouring rain.
We have camped together in spectacular places from the shelter of the magnificent redwoods in California to numerous beautiful beaches; from spectacular mountain vistas to the stark drama and big skies of the desert. We have been companions through many of life’s dramas and at times the van has seemed to be a metaphysical extension of my life. In Sault St Marie the boiling battery seemed to translate into my need to control my energy and indirectly led me to the life changing “Art of Spiritual Guidance” program at Hollyhock. We never had a major accident while traveling and I developed a strong emotional attachment that makes saying goodbye very difficult. It is as though it is not only the loss of a vehicle but the life change that it represents. It is hard to say goodbye to a friend of so many years and with whom I have had so many adventures.