A mythical backwoods retreat, Camp Westfalia seeks to inform, inspire, and compel owners (or future owners) to explore and appreciate the endless possibilities of traveling and camping in a Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper van.
Like its predecessor, Vanthology, the new and improved Camp Westfalia delivers a growing collection of helpful technical and travel articles, maintenance and camping product reviews, a photo gallery, and links to other travel- and camping-related web resources.
Camp Westfalia was founded and is edited by Jeffrey Lee, an avid roadtripper, camper, and shade tree mechanic. He is an apprentice tinkerer, and is currently enrolled in the continuing-education auto-repair program of the Institute of Bloody Knuckles.
When he is not rolling down a blue highway, Lee can be found in any number of northern forest campsites, either replacing a recalcitrant diesel glow-plug relay or abusing a guitar beside the campfire. Beyond that, he’s just some guy in the Internet … Drop him a line using the Contact Form!
A Man …
Like many in this vast and autocentric nation, my earliest introductions to cross-country travel were spent in the back seat of the old family station wagon or a two-door Chevy Chevette, crammed together with my siblings and a large dog. With a plastic K-Mart clamshell luggage box strapped precariously to the roof, a lapful of coloring books and a shared can of Pringles potato chips, our family filled the tank and ventured forth to see the world.
The long highways were often hot, the drives cramped and tedious. The food was often cold, the soda lukewarm, the nights buggy. But what made it all worthwhile were the wonderous sights and sounds, the strange new places and events, and the interesting characters we met along the way.
It was years later, as a young adult on a similar roadtrip, that I truly noticed a Vanagon Westfalia camper van for the first time. Nestled among the pines at the foot of the majestic mountains of Glacier National Park, her top was popped, her sliding door opened to reveal the cozy and functional kitchenette, her elderly owners enjoying a hot meal at the campsite table. I briefly chatted with them, they gave me a quick tour of the van, and I strolled away with the seed of desire planted within …
Though I often wished for such a camper van of my own—admiring them in campgrounds, watching wistfully as they motored past on the highway—it was not until many years later that my wife and I were cut off in traffic by the Westfalia that would soon be ours. Through voluminous clouds of diesel smoke I noticed the prophetic “For Sale” sign taped into the rear window and jotted down the phone number. Within a couple weeks we were proud, first-time owners.
… and His Van
Born somewhere deep in the hallowed assembly lines of Volkswagen’s Hannover production plant, which had formerly built the popular Type 2 MicroBus, our Vanagon rolled out through the factory gates and into the wider world sometime in March of 1983.
Her first proud owners drove her around Germany for a bit, as part of VW’s European Tourist Car Delivery Program, then turned south. The van enjoyed her first 1000-mile checkup in Zurich, Switzerland. After touring more of Europe for a few weeks, she was loaded aboard a cargo ship in Luxemburg and delivered to New York and finally reunited with her owners in Wisconsin.
All records indicate she led an easy and well-fed life, racking up an average of only 4500 miles each year, primarily on vacations and trips, and was kept comfortably garaged in between. In 1998 she was sold to a couple of German foreign exchange students who wanted to “see America” while attending the University of Wisconsin. Christmas and spring breaks, summer recesses were all opportunities to hit the road and visit farflung places: the Grand Canyon, Boston, Yosemite, Toronto, Seattle. Between such voyages, she did daily battle on the mean streets of a university town, and when it was time for the Deutsch kollege kinders to return to das Vaterland for jobs at BMW, they offered her up for sale, we agreed upon a price, and I excitedly took the keys.
Even after numerous vacuumings of the interior, and many nights with doors and windows flung open to the evening breezes, there persisted a certain and distinctive ‘German frat-boy funk’. Since then, the mysterious aroma has either faded or I’ve simply grown accustomed to it. My wife and loyal traveling companion, however, insists there remain the lingering scents of liverwurst and cheap hand lotion …
After poring over the owner’s manual and familiarizing myself with the myriad features and functions of this ingenious transportation device, we embarked upon our first overnight trip to a nearby state park. Similar roadtrips turned into longer weekends further from home, and eventually to extended cross-country journeys.
In the years since, our “Westy” has carried us innumerable miles and has served as our ‘home’ for countless nights, endearing herself as an integral part of our family …