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Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner
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HackAl
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:46 am    Post subject: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Random thoughts (and maybe advice for Van-seekers) from a 3rd year, Northeast owner, Family of 3.

My mechanical skill is limited so I donít find many opportunities to contribute meaningfully to these threads. I am far more often the receiver of good advice than the giver. So this is my humble attempt to pay it forward with advice that you might find equally as useless as any mechanical advice I could offer. These are just some of my impressions as a Northeast owner, middle-aged, husband and father of a tween daughter. Maybe Iíll add more tidbits from time to time.

The Motor
After everything I read about how these vehicles are grossly underpowered, I am actually impressed with how well this motor (stock 2.1L, top-end rebuild, 155k miles) has performed. Aside from an alternator belt snafu that sliced a coolant hose, Iíve had no issues with this motor. Yes, Iíve had the occasional ďsticky-liftersĒ and rough idle but thatís about it. We cruise at 70mp all day long. When we see a hill in the distance, weíll take it up to 75 to keep the momentum. Donít let 91 horsepower dissuade you from a WBX. Itís fine, really.

Scarcity of mechanics
Mechanics familiar with these vans are few and far between around here. For routine stuff, Iím not worried. I donít know where Iíll go for complicated issues. I found a great VW mechanic before I purchased it but he retired. It would be a good idea to sort that out before you buy. That said, I taught myself to do the oil changes, change the belts, etc. I installed my own tent, auxiliary battery kit and stereo. These experiences can be as rewarding as they can be frustrating. What are your own inclinations and abilities? Are you willing to learn?

Worthwhile accessories
If you are getting a camper, try to get a three-window tent. Not being able to see what is going on to the left and right of you while camping is a little disconcerting. Having at least a small propane heater can extend your season by several weeks. Get a decent stereo but skip the amp. It draws too much power from your auxiliary battery. Oh- get an auxiliary battery setup so you donít drain your primary battery when camping. Foam mattress topper is nice too. Some of these items are under $100. Some a little more. Let people know what you want for Christmas, birthdayís etc. Then, take them camping.

Donít paint it
I met a guy who painted his 87 van pearl white. I would see him at parks, car shows. He was always hyper-obsessed with little cracks and chips. He spent $6k on this paint job. For me, each chip, scratch, dig adds character and reminds of the time when we camped here or there. Ever see Willy Nelsonís guitar? Instead of paint, get better rims and tires if you want.

Rims and tires
We spent $1000 swapping out our 14Ē for 16Ē wheels. Are they better? Yes. Do you need to do it? No. If my 14Ē tires werenít already 11 years old I would have waited. With 16Ē tires, we sway a little less on the highway in high winds. The van feels a little more stable. Thatís about it.

Expectations/disappointment/lessons learned
Keep your expectations down and you wonít be disappointed. Stuff breaks. You fix it. If you listened to the advice you found here, you budgeted for it. Each hardship is a learning experience. I struggle with this because, as Iíve mentioned, Iím not a mechanic and Iím not rich. So, when things go wrong it can be a time consuming process to make them right. Sometimes you can fix it, sometimes you canít. People are here to help. With patience and some effort, itíll get sorted.

Northeast winters
Like with any recreational vehicle, you have between 16-20 weekends to enjoy it. Thatís assuming the weather cooperates and thereís not some wedding, birthday, baptism or graduation keeping you from a cold beer and a campfire. That van sits under wraps all winter. If you are a cold weather camper, you are driving on salted roads around here. Not good for a 30 year-old, rust-prone vehicle. Winters are painful for me. Sometimes I look at the van and ask how many Caribbean cruises I could get for it.

Camping Locations
When it is time to go camping (assuming you find the time), where will you go? There are some great sites in the Catskills and even better ones in the Adirondacks. Vermont too. There are few campsites on beaches in the northeast. Weekends at these sites are booked months in advance. There is no isolated, pine-tree lined, picturesque, lakeside campsite under a bright starry night with bass jumping out of the water. That only exists in your mind. Youíll find lakeside campgrounds, sure. Site on the water? Maybe, but youíll be 10 feet from people on either side of you. Thatís fine too. Just be prepared when the reality falls short of the ideal and roll with it. Hipcamp.com is a good resource. Check it out.

Actually sleeping in the van
This takes a little practice, especially if others are in there with you. As our daughter is now 11, she doesnít sleep as soundly as she did three years ago. She usually sleeps upstairs with my wife and, unless both of them are really tired, any tossing and turning will wake me up on the bottom. Using two small house jacks to stabilize the van makes it bearable. Point is: donít expect to sleep as well as you do at home when camping, even with a foam mattress topper. It also helps to be really tired and a little drunk.

Westfalia Camping equipment
I have very mixed feelings about all the camping equipment. Without hot water and, with the sink being miniscule, its use is somewhat limited. Most state campgrounds around here offer sinks for washing pots and dishes anyway. We are learning to make the best use of fridge but again, limited. The stove is great and we use it all the time. Point is, if you find a Weekender you like, buy it. You can make do without all the camper stuff or find even better replacement gear, gradually. As cute as the Westfalia camping stuff is, it can be as much of a headache.

All-in-all, this was a good purchase for us. We use the van a lot, even just for week-end day trips to parks which is very enjoyable. I donít see selling it any time soon. Maybe if we need money for college.

Feedback welcomed.
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Last edited by HackAl on Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ahwahnee
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:17 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northest owner. Reply with quote

Congratulations - anyone can buy one of these things, you have learned how to enjoy it.

I agree with all you say.

Of course your 'Winter' and 'Camping' comments are regional views as the Southwest has mild winters (even warm) and camping in and west of the Rockies can be the study in solitude & nature that many campers seek.

Thanks for reminding us briefly about what is important.
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YosemiteBound
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:37 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northest owner. Reply with quote

Thanks for this.
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E1
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:54 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northest owner. Reply with quote

Very, very well done, HackAl, Thanks! Cool
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:56 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northest owner. Reply with quote

HackAl wrote:
It also helps to be really tired and a little drunk.



Perhaps the most sage advice I've ever read here.
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:32 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Drinks/drinking..

while craft beers are tasty and mass produced domestics are cheap.
a slow & reasonable pace of hard liquor will minimize the wake ups and trips in/out & up/down throughout the night. when that denatured water wants out.

look at the old folks in life, they're nursing their highballs for a reason..
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:42 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

danfromsyr wrote:
Drinks/drinking..

while craft beers are tasty and mass produced domestics are cheap.
a slow & reasonable pace of hard liquor will minimize the wake ups and trips in/out & up/down throughout the night. when that denatured water wants out.

look at the old folks in life, they're nursing their highballs for a reason..


I rarely drink wine at home, but like it or a few high-content IPA's at the campsite for that very reason!

HackAl wrote:


Westfalia Camping equipment
I have very mixed feelings about all the camping equipment. Without hot water and, with the sink being miniscule, its use is somewhat limited. Most state campgrounds around here offer sinks for washing pots and dishes anyway. We are learning to make the best use of fridge but again, limited. The stove is great and we use it all the time. Point is, if you find a Weekender you like, buy it. You can make do without all the camper stuff or find even better replacement gear, gradually. As cute as the Westfalia camping stuff is, it can be as much of a headache.


HackAl, your comments about the Westfalia camping equipment are interesting. Most people with the full setup seem to really like it. As I build out my Syncro, I'm pondering a kitchen unit vs. a weekender-type interior similar to what's in our Wolfsburg Westy. We rented a full Westy in Washington last summer and my crew loved the onboard cabinet storage and the sink.
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the lads:

'85 Wolfsburg Westfalia Subie 2.2 "Tatanka"
'86 Vanagon GL Syncro/ supercharged ABA 2.0 "Mato"

'02 Beetle GLS "Bubbles"


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dhaavers
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:44 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northest owner. Reply with quote

HackAl wrote:
It also helps to be really tired and a little drunk.

Indeed! Also handy: melatonin [5mg]...just sayin'.

Great post! You have been assimilated... Wink

- Dave
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E1
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:19 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

5HTP for me and my dungarees.

Full-timing, we'd lose our minds if not for the stove.

Though considering that's already happened, we might bath in the sink now.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:33 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

I, and my wife, sleep better in the van bed than we do at home on our far-too-expensive mattress; no kids,a nice memory foam topper, and full width (no closet) all probably help a lot, but I also think tiredness and bliss of all sorts are the main factors

Great post, OP.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:49 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

it took my wife and i many nights to figure out our sleep system in our Westy... same one we'd had 13 years ago but we've both gotten older and bigger. by about night 5 we had it down and it was super comfy. won't detail it because everyone needs to find their own sleep system.

personally, i LOVE the kitchenette in a full Westy. we use everything, and especially the sink. we bring a couple Rubbermaid tubs that fit under the sink in the cupboard but really just use the sink to wash everything that is stacked up on the table and then put it on the stove rack to dry. having everything right there for morning coffee is bliss and the smells and anticipation of a delicious meal cooking inside the camper is not to be missed. we drink a lot of water when we drive and filling a bottle up just by reaching over is great. we travel with stove lid up just for that purpose. fridge keeps butter and chocolate safe from melting, holds the day's meat cool enough until the next store.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:25 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Great reminder. Thanks for posting.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:28 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

I started loving sleeping in the van when I was living out of my van on campus. I would usually make my bed around 9pm, go to library till 11pm, come out grinning ear to ear knowing I had my bed made and ready to sleep. It was not a level surface - but I still slept great!

Edit: I slept great until fall came, and the leaf blower guys would be out at like 6:30AM. First time it happened to me I thought I was getting towed.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:36 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Outstanding post, HackAl! Itís great to have perspective from someone who has a few seasons under their belt.

I agree on not worrying about the paint. The one compromise I made when buying my current van was that the exterior was only in fair condition (some bondo, minor seam rust, etc.) but that brings the pleasure of not worrying about washing (about once a year whether it needs it or not Very Happy ) or grazing bushes and trees on forest service roads.

As for sleeping, the Vanagon is an amazing one person rig. I just got back from a few days on the road solo and itís a perfect setup. Adding a second requires a bit more coordination and compromise when sleeping but a good nightís still comes more often than not (although the space in a queen at home is welcomed).

As for the kitchen, Iíd never want to live w/out it. I find that built in Truckfridge, stove and sink is unbeatable whether stopping on the road to fix a quick snack, making coffee from bed in the morning or simply having camp set w/in a few minutes of arriving (pull out the chairs and mini-table, drop the door mat, maybe hang the hammock and camp is set).

Hereís my camp two days ago at Mt. St. Helens just after I had a breakfast of mushrooms, eggs, sausage (from the freezer), coffee and an ice cold Bodhizafa IPA from the fridge (itís vacation!). No kitchen to set up or take down.

That said, kitchens are truly where our opinions are is just that and we Each get to decide what works best for our needs.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Happy camping!
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Jim, I swear we stayed in that very site in 2014, end of the loop, a great cascading waterfall a short hike away?
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

joetiger wrote:
HackAl, your comments about the Westfalia camping equipment are interesting. Most people with the full setup seem to really like it. As I build out my Syncro, I'm pondering a kitchen unit vs. a weekender-type interior similar to what's in our Wolfsburg Westy. We rented a full Westy in Washington last summer and my crew loved the onboard cabinet storage and the sink.


Storage is fine. My faucet pump stopped working. The replacement was easy enough but then I discovered it might have been a short all along. (I have a good tester now). Then, I started delving into the mysterious realm of the LP fridge function, the topics for which could be their own message board. Still sorting that out (Thanks Dave, Kamz, etc.). Last year, I must have closed my kitchen drawer too hard because I cracked the city water (back-flow preventer,- white thing) which caused an extensive leak while camping. The city water hookup is messy and hardly worth it. For what? Washing dishes? Use the camp sink, lake or stream with some Tom's of Maine.

Maybe equipment usage requires more adapting on my part. Just saying that you can really, really live without it especially if you are mostly using campgrounds.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

E1 wrote:
Jim, I swear we stayed in that very site in 2014, end of the loop, a great cascading waterfall a short hike away?


E1, there's a good chance of that! This site was in Iron Creek campground on the Cispus river at the end of B loop. Iron Creek Falls are a few miles and a short hike away on Hwy 25.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

For up to one week, the weekender with plastic tubs of camping equipment will be fine. The guts who are 25% or more living in their Bus Van will find a full Westy more convenient.

We do all the cleaning and cooking outside to keep the smell out.

Our Weekenders ( we are now a T4 family but have owned/camped in T1-3 Transporters) gets turned back into the people hauler for 7 by removing three bins and installing one seat, about 3 minutes
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 12:20 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Abscate wrote:


We do all the cleaning and cooking outside to keep the smell out.



Iíve heard this dozens of times but it doesnít register. Cooking a few eggs in a van with the slider and sometimes the hatch open results in undesirable retained odors in the van but cooking the same meal in a suburban home doesnít? I just donít understand this argument against cooking in a van (which with the slider and possibly the hatch open has far many more air exchanges than a typical home).
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:51 am    Post subject: Re: Random thoughts/advice from a 3rd year, Northeast owner Reply with quote

Cooking in the van is SOP for us, as is heating water on the stove and washing dishes in a plastic tublet outside, and we have a handy folding dish rack for drying.
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