Counting Down to Launch Van Go

In three weeks I will be hitting the road in Van Go. Each morning I wake, tossing and turning with a list of to dos – make sure you have the right sized containers, call the mechanic, check the windshield wipers, get an ax, go over all of the mechanics of the van, check on how to put oil in, get extra oil, send the birthday card, take the dogs for a walk, don’t forget maps and dry ice.

You know how it is.

The logistics of getting ready are clogging my brain cells and on occasion, in a moment of downtime I consider what one of my students said to me, as she spent three months in a VW Van, solo, after her kids were grown.

She said, “It will change you.”

Of course I don’t know how it will change me. But I know it will.

The whole trip is about inviting in change. Owning those parts of myself that are not so well developed and leaning into becoming the woman who wears a red bandana on her head, who totes an ax, who calculates miles and gas consumption and read maps like its second nature.

She is the adventurer, unafraid of the unknown, the sounds of moose stepping through the woods, the hoot of the night owls, the roar of the bear just yards away.

But right now I have little time to contemplate these things. I’m racing to the finish line of logistical prep, stepping towards the discomfort of these lessons to come.


VW Tattooed on my Back!

Tiny beads of sweat form on my brow and on my forehead. It’s early June and I’m standing in the shade at ArtFest, a yearly art adventure in Spokane. You know, those art festivals with booths lined all around the park featuring everything form handmade soaps to 8X6 foot original paintings, to mugs and plates, and glass blown shapes to float in your water element in the backyard?

I plan to buy nothing.

I don’t really need anything. In fact, I’ve been purging for the last 2 years and I’m just about to hit the road in a VW Camper Van for 4 months.

No, I tell myself. “Don’t by any THING.” I feel the pinch of pride rise with my resolve. I know I will walk away with nothing in my hands.

Until I see the table of watches.  I don’t even WEAR a watch. But these are recycled silver plated spoons, made into watches with a magnetic clasp.  I am like a bee to sweet nectar dripping from jasmine. I enter the trance as I stand in front of the table with at least 60 watches on it.

I pick up the one with a square face and bands made of recycled silver spoons. I have to have it. It’s the sliver spoon. It’s my childhood, cleaning silver. I come from silver spoons and table settings, thank you notes and gloves, and the right purse to match your outfit.

Yes, I have to have it. For my trip. I noted the irony immediately – a watch to be out in nature on a “chillin’” kind of trip.

I lift my head up out of the daze to focus on the woman behind the counter – Colleen. I tell her about my upcoming VW Camper trip, and mumble something about the sliver spoon, and my childhood and to my left, a man in his late 30s with two missing back teeth is listening with his whole body. Then he booms,

“VW? I’ve got it tattooed on my back. Big. Used to own a VW mechanic shop.”

I smile and feel the desire to turn away and continue my shopping extravaganza. But he doesn’t let go. He starts in with a line of questions – what year, water or air cooling, where am I going?

I’m with a friend and I don’t feel like answering his questions. He talks on, clueless that I’m not that interested.

“The ’82, well that’s an air cooling system, in ’84 they changed to the water cooling system. Hard to find parts when you’re out there on the road. Better take an extra belt. Yeah, an extra belt. ’80 to ’83 was a short window of the air cooling system,” he says as though talking partly to himself and not caring if anyone is listening.

I stop what I'm doing and turn to him.

“What’s your name?” I ask looking him right in his eyes.


“Matthew, ok, tell me more. I’m listening.

He has my full attention. I realize he is a gift – a messenger. It's one of those meetings with someone who drops just the right piece of information into your world that you might need later. I open up my iphone to take notes as he rattles on about the belt, the cooling system, the magazine I should pick up with all of the info about VW camper van meetings around the country.

I buy the watch. It fits perfectly. Matthew waits to talk to me more about the van and closes out saying, “Well, when you have VW tattooed on your back, you could talk about the vans for hours.”

I knew he could. And I knew he would if I were into listening to his vault of knowledge on the vans. But it was hot, and I was tired already. But I found that sweet spot in my heart full of gratitude for this quirky stranger whose passion far exceeded my own about the Vans, even though I would be leaving shortly to experience life on the road.