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1981 Volkswagen Vanagon

The Perfect Name.

What's in a name?

Meet Humboldt. The Humble. Our 1981 Volkswagen Vanagon with a Subaru motor and a little bit of rust. On the outside, it's humble.

On the inside, it's home.

Humboldt rolled into our lives in a roundabout way. About five years ago, a friend decided that he really wanted to put a Subaru motor in a Westy, and a friend of a friend had one sitting in a field - it was dropped there after the motor crapped out many years prior. After some tough negotiation (our friend offered $300, the owner countered with $250), it made its way onto a trailer and was dragged to our home. Being a car guy and a mechanical guy, Brandon offered to help install the motor. Things happened, and it was eventually left in our driveway and was mostly (but not completely) his project. Mistakes were made, problems were corrected, and eventually it was running. It's pretty rough on the outside, but it's actually in pretty good shape overall. We actually like how it looks - it's more honest than something with spotless paint, and we won't freak out about little things - branches dragging down the van on a tight trail, for example. Brandon is very much a form-follows-function kind of person, and Humboldt fits right into that theory. Leigh, completely the opposite, wishes it were at least a different color.

THE ROCKY ROAD TO ROMANCE: Leigh was not pleased when Humboldt showed up. This was a BIG project, that was going to take lots of time. (Jealousy isn't pretty, she'll own it.) Plus, it was hideous. In all the ways possible.

Brandon got it running, and Humboldt lumbered away under its own power to live at the friend's house. We later borrowed it for a weekend trip to watch the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. With no grace at all, Leigh loaded it with their stuff, their food, and tried not to touch anything. It was rough, and kinda dirty, and it wasn't OUR dirt, so it was gross. (This site, our blog, and the adventures we're aiming for are every bit as much about the people and personal growth as they are about Vanagon life.)


At any rate, after a night of NOT sleeping on the ground, NOT being eaten by bears or bugs, and resting in tolerable comfort on a mattress in the pop-top, Leigh started to melt. Mix in a few pancakes NOT made over a smoky campfire but artfully whipped up on the civilized stove and then kindly served to her in the loft bed... suddenly, toleration turned to love. The true magic of Humboldt was revealed; it's a tree house for big people. (Adult is a word we try not to use.)


Just as we were enjoying all the comforts Humboldt had to offer, Brandon's phone rang. The van's owner needed to liquidate assets and was offering first right of refusal, since Bran had done so much work. Leigh had just fallen in love when Humboldt was going off to be an eyesore in someone else's neighborhood. NOOOOOOOO! They say money can't buy love, but they're wrong.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER: After many, many improvements (check the build diary for more) Humboldt was ready for a serious adventure. In May 2015, we loaded up and hit the road, finally taking our Honeymoon (almost two years after the fact). We'd always joked that the van needed a name, and somewhere off the side of the road, sheltered by the canopy of those incredible California Redwoods, we found it.

Humboldt, California. Go there. It's where magic lives. Real magic, not Harry Potter magic (though we love that kind, too.) This is the land of Big Foot, and if you don't come out the other side a believer, there's probably something wrong with you. Monstrous Banana Slugs, trees so tall you can't see the top, and a canopy so thick that when it rains at night, you're still getting dripped on in the morning under clear blue skies... Humboldt is magical.


There's all kinds of magic to be found on the road. There's the non-sensical love you come to feel for what is really just machine. And there's the kind of magic you can only find in small places, nests, if you will. It makes for so many intimate moments... the kind of moments that you laugh about later, that you remember for a lifetime, that help you build a strong foundation for your relationship and your family. We had the best time on our trip (and on every subsequent one) because we were together. We became a well-oiled machine ourselves. The small space and constant togetherness makes it easy to do all the things Peter McFadden talks about in Three Daily Rituals That Stop Spouses From Taking Each Other For Granted. When you don't take the other person for granted, when you're thankful for them all the time, it's easier to work through the tough times together, instead of against each other. That's how we made it through our first and it's how we'll make it through our upcoming six month sojourn.


In a word, Humboldt is awesome. For lots of different reasons. There is a qualifier, though - Humboldt is awesome for us. This GoWesty write-up is spot-on. Humboldt is perfect for us because we have more time and mechanical ability than money. If you're not a problem-solver / tinkerer, don't buy a rough Vanagon in need of TLC. You'll pull your hair out, if you have any left.