With our second adventure in our VW camper, Primrose, behind us, it’s good to be home.
Before the trip I had a good friend “freshen up” some of the 30-year-old systems on Primrose. I’ve read too many stories, and have had a close friend lose his camper because of old fuel lines letting go. Seeing a van driving down the road on fire never has a happy ending!
Let me say that planning on traveling in a 30-year-old vehicle is not for everybody. And a VW van just makes it more of a challenge. Unlike its little brother the Beetle, neither parts or mechanics are easy to find. At times, I find myself asking is this really for me?
Just because a mechanic can fix a GM or a Honda, doesn’t mean he can repair a van. Not many mechanics out there understand the idiosyncrasies of a VW van. And those who do are few and far between, usually working in some little shop that most people don’t even know is there.
The day after leaving Primrose at my friend’s shop, the calls began. “How long have you been adding fluid to the clutch?” I told him never, and he told me that the reservoir was empty and there was no clutch at all. Which had me giving thanks that it had not given out on our last adventure at our friend’s little cabin. Losing the clutch at the wrong end of his 1-1/2 mile jeep road driveway wouldn’t have been pretty!!!
The next call was an issue with the popup fiberglass, the rubber goods, and then the suspension parts crumbling away. Each time he called, I cringed, and my checkbook felt lighter.
I finally realized “yes, it’s an old vehicle” and anything he’s replacing should last another thirty years. Once it’s done, we shouldn’t have to worry about it for another thirty years.
One by one he checked problems off the list. What I’m learning is that anything made off plastic has become brittle and will crumble or break with the slightest touch. Or just by looking at it long enough.
After long days and late hours working on Primrose, my friend called and said to pick her up on the next afternoon. To avoid driving an extra couple of hours moving cars around, I made arrangements with my good friend Steve for a ride to my friend’s shop. When we arrived he was still doing some last minute reassembly.
Running a little late, I loaded all the camping equipment and everything needed for a week for us to live in the van, and headed up the road. Before leaving the side road from his shop I noticed that the speedometer showed I was traveling at 85 mph, something that I don’t believe Primrose could manage. Even with a huge tailwind and going downhill….
A quick call and u-turn I was back at the shop. One of the two-piece speedometer cables had snapped (back to those 30-year-old flexible parts). There was no way to fix it without ordering a part.
With no way of knowing my speed, I headed north on the back roads towards Ocala, slowing way, way down as I came to those small towns with 25, 35, and 45 mph speed zones. When you’re following someone else it’s no problem, if you’re hoping that their speedometer is working and they are also trying to avoid making a donation to the local economy. But driving alone without a speedometer struck fear into me.
After driving all my life, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles, last December, a fine member of the constabulary presented me with my FIRST ever speeding ticket for failure to not heed the speed limit sign. As he was hidden behind an oak tree around a curve, where the speed limit suddenly dropped ten miles per hour, myself and three others were given the opportunity to donate to their cause. After all these years of a perfect driving record, a warning would have been nice! But then again, it wasn’t about the highway safety, it was about the revenue.
Arriving much later in Ocala than planned, and well after dark, I was a bundle of nerves. I may sound like this happy-go-lucky guy wandering around all these cool places in an antique camper van. But deep down inside, I’m a worrier! Every little squeak, rattle, or thud sends me into a mulitude of ‘what ifs.’
Heading out the next morning to rescue a couple of friends who were hiking the Florida Trail, Bogey & Bacall, I was armed with our little handheld GPS. It fits nicely in the space in front of the non-functioning speedometer. Taking them to the north end of Gainesville gave Primrose and I another first adventure together, Traffic. Downtown Gainesville on a Gator National Weekend!
After bidding Bogey & Bacall a safe trip back to Tennessee I headed for the YMCA camp and the annual Florida Trail Association conference. Check in was quick and easy. Primrose and I headed for the open field to find a place to camp in the shade. Waiting for Sandy to arrive later in the afternoon, I watched our fellow travelers arrive. Big RVs and small RVs, pop-ups and travel trailers. Our neighborhood was growing. Clustered together on the other side of the open field, the tent camp was growing at the same time. Like us tin-top campers, they ranged from family sized to backpacker size.
After spending Friday evening seeing old friends and meeting new ones, we headed back to our little home away from home. I’d forgot that on our last trip we camped with the top down. It was cold and raining so we kept it down to hold in the warmth. With the top up, there’s plenty of standing room. The passenger seat swivels to face the interior which gives the two of us plenty of room. Plus we each have our own little table. With the gear stowed above the lower rear seat easily folds into a comfy little bed for two.
The conference was as expected, with those attending having a good time. And it was a great second adventure in Primrose. I headed back to Ocala while Sandy stayed for the business meeting. Primrose, myself and the GPS keeping an eye on our speed.
Stay tuned as I try and find 14 inch truck tires for Primrose before we start our third adventure, heading across Florida to the Panhandle Trace hike near Pensacola.