[This article appeared in Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine Vol. 8, No. 6, Issue: 46 November/ December 2019. Some pictures and captions have been added on this page. To order or subscribe to the magazine, print or digitally, go to vintagecampertrailers.com. The pictures and story may not be used without my permission . . . ].
Before It Was Vintage: 1966 ROAD TRIP IN A 1961 VW BUS
This animated cell was designed by an animator who made two of these — one for each couple. We still have these in our homes today and may not be copied or published without permission. You can see we taped the cells onto the window of the VW during our trip.
Mike, Shannon, Toni & Chuck are all packed and ready-to-go!
It was the Summer of 1966. We and another couple, our best friends, took our first major road trip not realizing at the time it was the first of many. As a matter of fact, we did not realize the influence it would have on subsequent journeys throughout our lives, until recently, when we were discussing one of four Volkswagens we would own for brief times over a span of 55 years.
When we attend vintage trailer rallies and shows, we always seem to gravitate toward VW vehicles, vans, and campers. The conversation and history we learn from the VW enthusiasts always tickle our memories — and we only recently realized why that happens . . .
In an article from a local paper in November 1966 titled, “Sylmar Families Tour — Make Friends — Plan to go again”, getting to know you was our unofficial theme for the 2 1/2 month, 7,000 mile journey. The itinerary included the Pacific Coast, Canada and Mid-Western states. The purpose of the trip was to view scenery, make new acquaintances and friendships and to enjoy the opportunity to do anything we wanted to do . . . we didn’t step foot into a restaurant for over two months. We fished, crabbed and dug for clams for many of our meals along the way
Chuck designed and molded the fiberglass boat to fit the top of the VW bus . . .
After moving and storing all our possessions into the other couple’s garage for three months, we traveled northward in a 1961 Volkswagen 1200 cc Transporter, not a camper special; but we loaded it with camping equipment, two Honda 90s secured on the back of the bus, and a fiber-glass fishing boat Chuck designed and custom-made especially for the trip to fit the top rail of the bus; borrowed a 5 horsepower boat motor from our friend’s father and tucked a live worm farm for fishing bait under the back seat.
Do you remember wearing and sleeping in these huge rollers in the 60s?
Our nightly shelter consisted of an umbrella tent or just roughing it in sleeping bags under the stars. Bears often provided us some anxious moments; but the real problem, if any, was encountering hungry mosquitos.
Digging for clams
The guys weaved their own net for crabbing . . .
Highlights of the trip included a salmon charter in Trinidad, California; a private observation of dirigible logging in Oregon; the rain forest in Olympic National Park in Washington; discovery of a forgotten graveyard in British Columbia; lovely Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada; ghost towns in Montana; Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; and endless trips through museums, exhibits, guided tours and antique shops. We recorded the trip on 8mm film, black and white polaroids and most likely on an old Kodak camera.
Dirigible logging…………………………………….Trout fishing
We decided to drive down to Mexico but got diverted. Even with all we’d accomplished, one of our most vivid memories was the breaking down of the bus in 115 degree weather in the desert near Las Vegas. We took down the Hondas to ride to get help. It was the hottest ride ever! I asked Chuck and our friends to put me in the nearest wash under a rock and if I still was alive to pick me up on the way back. They did not do that, of course, and a tall iced-lemonade at a little roadside store reinvigorated me to stay the course. We rode our Hondas into Glendale, Nevada. In those days, folks would lend you tools for a whole day trusting you to return them based solely on your word; how thankful and appreciative we were to find that generous person.
A couple quotes we made after the trip were: “We will never forget the friendships we made, nor the scenery nature provided . . . It is a worthwhile experience to explore the endless roads and paths our own western United States provides.” The four of us believed “proper traveling was an art”, so we continued to expand our traveling and camping skills over the years while acknowledging, “There’s no place like home.”
Fifty-three years later, we’re still taking road trips, camping and rallying in which are now considered vintage trailers — and making new friends along the way.