Here’s the story (from Kristen):
John (26): Graphic Design Major/Barista
Likes making leather things, cooking the best food, taking care of creatures, exploring, being the best photographer ever, tinkering, buying old books, wearing cool boots.
Kristen (24): Fine Arts Major/Barista
Likes arts ‘n crafts, bothering John, singing at the top of her lungs, buying note cards, being a sous chef, exploring, making dream catchers, being hilarious.
We met a few years ago in a completely romantic office supplies store in our small Pennsylvania town for a brief moment..that became pretty much a sudden infatuation for both of us and after a chance class together, we ended up becoming fast friends. We started dating in October 2011 and had the greatest time of our lives going on adventures and making crafts and cooking and laughing together.
We got engaged in July 2014, which then really opened up the scary questions of what our future life was going to have in store for us. We both graduated from a small state college with artsy degrees and ended up working in coffee shops, thinking that maybe one day we’d like to follow that path together. But first we knew that we were going to have to do something crazy. We both had fallen into a rut of sorts, and collectively have been to like, 8 states..we kept talking about getting a Volkswagen and driving across the country. But that was something that seemed like a pipe dream--not any sort of realistic option. It was always a huge dream of Johns to get a VW Bus-- but it’s not exactly something to seriously consider, especially since we are just baristas who have barely taken life by its horns yet. But when we got engaged and we were starting to seriously talk about our honeymoon and our future life, we kept coming back to the bus.
We started looking into it and researching whether or not this was totally doable or if we were just crazy. We started finding blogs and Instagrams dedicated to folks who were doing exactly what we were talking about. There were forums dedicated to Volkswagen buses and people who were willing to help you wherever you are. We were starting to feel a little less crazy, but we knew it was still an idea that our parents wouldn’t respond well to. We knew we wanted to do this trip, but we still didn’t have much confidence in the idea. It became something we would casually say if someone asked what we were planning on doing for our honeymoon, and they would usually just laugh and give us a look like “well, good luck with that!”
As the months went by we were looking online for buses and saw a few here and there, we were coming to realize that all of the good ones were on the West Coast. It was harder to come across one that was reasonably priced and in decent shape nearby, especially in the midst of winter. We decided to wait until the snow cleared up to start seriously looking, but that A) Is scary because that would only leave us with a few short months until our trip and B) Caused people to lose a little faith in our idea because we were “figuring it out” for so long. Most people we told were on board with our plan and thought it was romantic and wonderful, but it was becoming hard for ourselves to believe in it when we still didn’t have the vehicle. We found one online that looked perfect, but was pricey. We decided to go look at it because if it actually was in perfect condition we could have justified paying the price.
It was a citrus green ‘77 bus with a yellow pop-top and the classic plaid green interior-- basically the dream. When we went to see it though, there was a lot going wrong. Everywhere you looked was a scratch, something falling off, something rusty, a tear, and most importantly, an obviously serious transmission problem. We knew that when you buy an old vehicle like this that has most likely been used and adored by its previous owner, it’s bound to have some imperfections, but for the price they were asking it wasn’t nearly as wonderful as we had thought. I definitely felt a little defeated after that one. That bus was being looked after by a guy named Kent-- he had an earthy green Vanagon that was totally gutted and fully restored, with brand new cabinetry and lots of custom touches. It totally opened our eyes to how much more practical they can be as a daily driver and traveling vehicle than the old buses. That ‘77 was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but after 2 hours of trying to get it to start, it felt like we were driving a rattly old tin can (Kent also had the coolest German Shepard ever, in case you were wondering).
The quest continued..there was less than 4 months until our wedding and our trip and there was still no Bus. We starting thinking of other vehicle options, none which were all that great but were doable if we really got to that point of desperation. One night John was checking one of our usual websites for listings and he found a ‘85 Vanagon (which, I was starting to like because I think they look like robots). We decided to go look at it because it was pretty close by and less than half the price of the green bus. I wasn’t super excited about this one because it was brown and looked a little sad. When we got to the house we met Mark, a big happy guy with hands that looked like they knew their way around VW’s. We walked around the corner and saw the Vanagon sitting in the driveway-- I was less than excited to see it. But after opening up the doors and seeing how nice the interior was, suddenly the “brown”-ness of it didn’t matter to me as much. After a very long time of John circling the van and asking questions and poking and prodding every spot of rust he could find, we decided to go home and think about it. The tables turned and I became the one trying to convince HIM to get it. The price was right, the interior was nice, and it left us a good cushion for repair expenses and sprucing up.
A few days later, after much thought, research and tentativeness, we ended up back at Marks house to buy the van (notice I’m not saying “bus” anymore because technically it’s a van, says John). It was one of the scariest things we’ve done, but I’m really glad we did! We stopped at Sonic for our first meal in our new home to celebrate! She ran great on the trip home, and we were so excited ((The guy we bought the van from had named it Chance, but that seemed lame to us..we decided it was a girl..and after some deliberation and discussion we decided to name her Penny. Cause she’s our old lady, and she’s kinda penny-colored!))
We finally felt that sense that our dreams were about to become a reality. After all those months of talking about this trip, we finally had our “Volkswagen Bus” and that meant that things were about to get serious.