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Road Trip – Weapon of Choice VW Van (s)

I have been on some epic road trips in my time. I love the sense of crossing vast or significant distances at a steady and incremental pace. I especially love a road trip with a utility purpose – which in my case will have been towing a boat or car for one reason or another.

In the past I have owned two VW vans from new, in 1988 we bought a VW transporter, I can’t find any photos of that rig on the road. It was widely traveled in and when it finally retired from service in 2005, there were 11 different nations recorded in the fuel log book

Epic road trips for “the Slab” as the ’88 Transporter was nicknamed, included a tear in 1989 from London to Lake Como for a European Championship sailing regatta, then another from London to Lidkoping on Lake Vanern in Sweden for the same Championship the next year. There is something mystical about crossing a foreign landscape, particularly when your rig and its cargo are so grossly juxtaposed to your time of day and location. When you are towing a trailer with a disassembled 8m catamaran that looks as much like a crashed sailplane as a fit sailboat, you get plenty of stares. I still vividly remember watching the strange combination of the blunt boxy late afternoon shadow of the Slab trailed by the amorphous shadow of the boat as this was cast onto the grassy roadside of fields in Eastern France, clearly our strange package was traversing the nation, being 600km from the English Channel and 800km for the Mediterranean……

In 2002 we bought a VW Eurovan, logical successor to the Slab – albeit this time with better passenger amenities and double the horsepower…. 


Our first major road trip in the Eurovan was to the 2002 Porsche Parade in Boise Idaho. Memorable as it was the first time my parents had visited us in the USA and the whole experience of crossing the 2600m passes in the Sierra’s and the high deserts of Nevada was not exactly what they expected. This photo is typical of the “trip with a purpose” car loaded on the trailer, definitely still heading somewhere, not arriving. 
For maximum seat time, my solo trip from San Carlos CA to Hesperia CA (845 miles) and back in 16 hours to collect my Dean Jefferies Kyote dune buggy is somewhat of a marathon, but also the day I discovered the Airline Highway, CA Hwy 46, one of the most enjoyable drives in central California, but perhaps not at night with a trailer.  


In 2007 my brother Brett bought the latest incarnation of the fabled VW Van, this time the T5 with the lusty 128Kw 5 cylinder turbo diesel. Yesterday we set out on a road trip, 3400km, ASAP Perth to Geelong in Victoria for the Australian F18 Championships where Brett is debuting the new Windrush “EDGE” F18 design. This time, 3 drivers, Brett, Josh and I – practically traffic and “law” free roads means that a decent legal average can be maintained.

For me the highlight will be my stint last night when I took the wheel at Norseman in central southern Western Australia and with the accurate aid of the GPS set the cruise control to 105 km/hr. I didn’t touch the pedals for 723 km !! The cruise stayed locked on, passing only two trucks and two cars was easy in the moonless night dark. I doubt I have ever towed anything in a vehicle that has over 700km range while towing, let alone stayed locked onto purpose for so long without interruption. To put that into perspective, that would be like pulling out of my driveway in San Carlos, CA and driving almost to San Diego, CA without touching the pedals. Or for the Europeans, Set off from London and drive to Magny Cours without using the foot controls……Australia is a vast country and nights like this are a reminder, Western Australia, considerable larger than Texas, took 15 hours to traverse West coast to the East border.

As I finish this up, we are 22 hrs and 34 minutes into the trip and have covered 2215 km.  That’s a 98.15 km/hr green flag average, not bad for VW van.

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