Tag Archives: Volkswagen Vanagon

Westfalia Road Trip Day 18 – Willits CA to Gualala CA

Well we had a great stay at the Willits KOA including a chance to relax in the hot tub before making breakfast and hitting the road.  As would be expected with a 1 year old, trips to the hot tub happen in shifts but are still worth the effort.  Now that the labour day weekend has passed we anticipate easier access to campsites like we experienced at Willits KOA.  Off we go!

Zucca and Archer ready to roll
Zucca and Archer ready to roll

From Willits we headed over to Fort Bragg and made a left on Highway 1 towards Elk California for a late lunch stop at Queenies Roadhouse.  This place is a great little restaurant that was very busy for a weekday and for good reason, the food was delicious and the service was great.

Queenies Roadhouse Cafe
Queenies Roadhouse Cafe

After a tasty lunch we hit the highway southbound along another stretch of beautiful coastal driving.  We were pushing the limits of time a 1 year old will tolerate his car seat and decided to stop for the night at Gualala Point Regional Park.

This small park is part of Sonoma County Regional Parks and although small with only 19 spots it was a great find.  The campground portion of the park is covered with very cool Laurel Trees which we have never seen before and it sits alongside the Gualala River which is almost entirely dried up this time of year.

Laurel Trees in Gualala
Laurel Trees in Gualala

We went for a 5km hike to the beach on the Pacific Ocean which turned out to be a little further than anticipated.  It was kind of cool to walk on the dried up riverbed which Archer and Zucca both enjoyed.  One interesting thing to mention here is the signs for “sleeper waves” which apparently can sneak up and carry you out into the Ocean, be safe kids.

Connie and Zucca on the Gualala River
Connie and Zucca on the Gualala River

Camping mid week after the kids are back in school makes for some peaceful camping.  We made a nice big campfire for warmth while we made dinner on the Primus.  Full of food and a sleepy baby, life is good.

Volkswagen Camper Sightings:

Accommodation Cost: $41.00 including firewood and dog fee (odd)


Westfalia Road Trip Day 17 – Crescent City CA to Willits CA

Nothing much to report about our night at Hiouchi RV Resort in Crescent City but they did have Wifi (after moving spots to catch the signal) and the showers were hot.  Westfalia away!

When in the land of the giant redwoods on a road trip you must drive through one, just cuz.  Well that was the plan when we took the Westfalia to Chandelier Tree in Leggett California.  Apparently when they designed this 2400 year old tree they didn’t have the Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia in mind, we didn’t fit through.  Oh well at least they had another gift shop to add to our list.

A really tight fit...too tight
A really tight fit…too tight

After the indescribable excitement of almost driving through a tree we b-lined it to the KOA in Willits California.  We have never stayed at a KOA style campground before and we didn’t know what to expect.  The Willits KOA definitely exceeded our expectations even though it didn’t offer the natural environment we’re getting used to in the Provincial and State parks.

Little Westy in a Big RV Spot
Lonely Little Westy in a Big RV Spot

It was an interesting change with all of the family programing that they have at this KOA, Fishing Pond, Arcade, Wild West Show, Mini Golf, Pool, Hot Tub, Splash Pad, Playground, Petting Zoo, Dog Park…really, there is more.  Our favorite thing was the Ice Cream Social and the Outdoor movie after the sun goes down.  Archer had a blast and it was nice to be able to watch a movie while he slept in our lap.  I’m not sure if all KOA’s are like this but if they are I can see the appeal, especially for family camping.

1990 Volkswagen Westfalia KOA
Willits KOA Fishing Pond

Weather’s warmer and it’s starting to feel like California, it’s crazy the distance we’ve traveled so far.  ZZzzzzz


Westfalia Road Trip Day 12 – Bainbridge Island to Millersylvania

What a great nights sleep!  As mentioned yesterday we stayed at a friends property which had a seemingly endless supply of apples and blackberries.  Granola and fresh fruit for breakfast, delicious!

Blackberry for breakfast on road trip
Mmmmm fresh blackberries

To catch the Ferry to Seattle we headed to Downtown Bainbridge.  We had an hour to burn before heading to the Ferry so we stopped at the Blackbird Bakery for a bite and did a little bit of shopping.  We really liked this town, it’s on our list of places to return to.

Road trip to Bainbridge Island WA
Great slogan for Bainbridge

As seems to be par for the coarse we almost missed the Ferry and were the last ones to ssqueeze on.  Off to Seattle!

Does the Westfalia Float?
Does the Westfalia Float?

The Ferry docked close to Pike’s Market so we headed straight there to check that off the list.  One place that was kind of cool was RGB (Rachel’s Ginger Beer) which had just opened a store in the Market.  Since I’m in the craft beer industry it was interesting to check out a craft soda company.  Should also note they do serve the sodas with booze in them too.

Pikes Market Soda
RGB Growler Display

We decided not to stay the night in Seattle and start heading towards Portland.  We put a bunch of miles on using the freeway and it was freeway boring.  We ended up camping about an hour from Portland at Millersylvania State Park, really that’s it’s name.  The park was nothing special but did have a lake and some hiking trails, it seems like a place used by people not wanting to travel to far to camp.

Millersylvania State Park
Millersylvania State Park

We went for a walk and then fired up the camp stove for some vegetarian chilli before cleaning up and hitting the hay.

Simple dinner
Simple dinner

Volkswagen Camper Sightings: 1 Vanagon

Accommodation Cost: $23



Westfalia Road Trip Day 11 – Victoria to Bainbridge Island, WA

Started the morning with baby Archer in our bed again, cozy.   The problem when camping with a baby arises in the middle of the night when your little one wakes up crying.  We would usually wait it out a little at home but at a camp site your baby crying can be heard a few sites away, so to quite him down we bring him to us and usually fall asleep before he does.  It’s a good little scam he’s got going.

The temperature at night was perfect for a good nights sleep and we arose to a beautiful morning at Goldstream Provincial Park.  Breakfast on the Primus camp-stove this morning was Pancakes, mmm pancakes.  Connie pre-measured some mix in Ziploc bags and actually wrote the directions on the bags, pretty clever that one is.  It’s a great space reducer compared to traveling with a box of mix that you’ll only use a quarter of.

After packing up we headed into Victoria to meet the nice couple that I bought the Vanagon Westfalia from.  They had for got their garage door opener on the visor so I figured they would like it back and it would be fun to see their old Westy.

By the time we made it to meet them we only had a few minutes to chat before rushing out to catch the MV Coho ferry to Washington.  We got there with no time to spare, we literally held up the boat while they ran us through customs and squeezed us into the last spot.  Karma!

Ferry to Washington
Our Westfalia tucked into the last spot on the MV Coho Ferry

Sailing on the MV Coho was great, unlike a lot of the Ferry’s the Coho allows dogs onto the main decks so our Portuguese Water Dog Zucca didn’t have to stay in the car for the ride.  We had lunch on the Ferry and took in the beautiful views as we crossed into America.  Feels weird to be completing the Canada part of our road trip, time is flying.

We had no problems with clearing customs with a dog and a baby until they found out we had groceries on board.  We had to pull over as a guy went through every food item in the van and confiscated various things.  Not only did he take fruit and vegetables but packaged products and our dog food.  Weird.

From the Coho Ferry terminal in Port Angeles Washington it was a short drive to one of the entrances at Olympic National Park.  We headed up the road to Hurricane ridge which was the unfortunately the only thing we had planned for Olympic park.  The drive up the mountain is beautiful but some of the corners are downright scary for someone who doesn’t like heights.  By the time we got to the top our Westfalia was exhausted so we decided to take in the scenery and gift shop, love those gift shops.

Vanagon Camper at Hurricane Ridge
Westfalia parked at Hurricane Ridge

It was beautiful and the wildlife is so tame they walk only feet away from you.  It is definitely worth the drive up.  Yes the ride down was more nerve racking, remember the comment about Vanagons brakes a couple of days ago.

Olympic park deer and baby
Archer saying hi to a local deer.

After leaving the Port Angeles area we set our sites on Bainbridge Island.  When I was looking for our VW Westfalia I joined a mailing list for owners of Vanagons to see if anyone could help me find one.  A gentleman from Bainbridge Island reached out to me that was originally from Ontario offering to help if he could.  We kept in touch and he offered us a place to camp if we happened to travel through his area.  Well it turns out our road trip was going right by his place, sometimes things just work out.

Their property turned out to be 2 beautiful acres near the water and only 10 minutes from the Ferry to Seattle.  They turned out to be wonderful people and we chatted for a while before we set up the camper and turned in for the night.  This is the most peaceful place we have stayed in the Westfalia yet.  Zzzzzz



Westfalia Road Trip Day 10 – Hope to Victoria

We woke up at Sasquatch Provincial Park to a beautiful morning and packed up early to hit the road.  Instead of making breakfast we decided to head out and grab something in town en-route.

Road Trip Sasquatch Park camping
Morning at Sasquatch Provincial Park

Before leaving Connie found a list of the best Ice Cream shops in Canada and one happened to be on our route to Victoria in Abbotsford BC.  It was only 10 in the morning but stopping at the Birchwood Dairy seemed like a great idea.  It’s a cool operating farm in the country that includes a petting zoo, antique tractors and a retail shop featuring dairy products, baked goods and of course ice cream.

Family vacation to birchwood dairy
Birch Wood Dairy for Ice cream
Birchwood dairy abbotsford BC
Archer driving a vintage tractor

One thing that we tried to do was pack light but when heading on a road trip with a baby and a dog it’s not simple task.  We realized quickly that we had brought stuff we simply wouldn’t use.  Before we left the country we decided to hit up the UPS store in Surrey and ship some stuff home.  We had a great experience dealing with the owner of the store Jasbir Mehta who took the time to help us get packed up, if you need some shipping done hit these guys up.

Road trip shipping ups store
Shedding some weight at the UPS store

We headed over to the catch the ferry to Victoria and learned that we should of made reservations.  Our karma kicked in we were one of the last cars squeezed on, whew.  The ferry ride is very scenic and we used the opportunity to have a late lunch in the restaurant, mmm lunch.

We headed straight for Goldstream Provincial Park to check in for the night.  Given that it was a Friday we discovered that there was 1 spot left and it was slotted in with a group of folks that we didn’t feel would be ideal neighbors with a baby.  We headed back to the gate and just as we were handed our refund a lady came to the gate declaring camping wasn’t for them and they were leaving early, we snapped up her spot which turned out to be one of the better ones at Goldstream.  Karma!

Goldstream Provincial Park Road Trip camping
Set-up at Goldstream Provincial Park

Goldstream offered some great hiking so we loaded Archer up in the kid carrier back pack thing and went for a hike around the park.  After our hike we did dinner and hit the hay.  Well before that Connie did manage to get lost and ended being guided back to our site by some wine filled ladies.

Goldstream Provincial Park road trip
Hiking with Archer at Goldstream

Volkswagen Camper sightings:

Accommodation Cost:

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Westfalia Road Trip Day 9 – Chase BC (Kamloops) to Hope

As mentioned yesterday we ran into some problems with the Westfalia late in the day, it started making a disturbing creaking noise when going over bumps.  We stayed at a hotel to regroup and get some internet access to find a shop.  Luckly we found Axel’s Auto Service on Road Haus (Link) who opened at 8:30 am.  With a call to them in the morning they said they would try and squeeze us in to assess the situation.  So far we’re having good karma.

Volkswagen Westfalia repair shop kamloops
Axel’s Auto Service Kamloops BC

Well once on the highway things seemed to be OK as long as we stayed off the bumps.  After a tense 40 minute drive we pulled into Axel’s and met Axel sitting at the counter.  I’m starting to learn people in the VW business have unique personalities and Axel was no different, in a good way.  Turns out we had lost a bolt in the sway arm that was causing the noise.  Luckily they had a scrapped front end sitting around back and they scavenged the parts needed off of it instead of having to wait the weekend for a part to come in, Karma!  We were back on the road within an hour and everything seems back to normal.  They did mention my brakes seemed to need servicing but they couldn’t fit it in, that’s reassuring for the coastal drive ahead.

Since we were unsure of how long we would be in Kamloops we didn’t really make any plans but since we got back on the road so quickly (10am) we decided to head towards Hope BC and see how far we got.

Hope appeared sooner than we thought and we learned at the tourist information center that Rambo was filmed there, how awesome is that?

Volkswagen Westfalia Road Trip Hope BC
Zucca as Rambo in Hope BC

The nice folks at the tourist info centre recommended Sasquatch Provincial Park which was 30 minutes south.  It’s one of those places that just when you think you’re lost and gone too far it’s right there.  The park operates on a partial reservation system which means some sites are first come first serve and did we ever luck out.  When the ranger came around and chatted with us he said of the 100+ sites we had scored the best one, Karma!  Our spot was lakefront with a beautiful view out our bedroom window.  Check my review of Sasquatch Provincial Park here.

Sasquatch provincial park scenery
The view from our campsite in Sasquatch

After setting up our gear and converting the Westfalia for sleep we broke out the Primus camp stove and cooked up a Quinoa and Veggies recipe that Connie had found online.  I was skeptical at first but it turned out to be very tasty and simple to make.  We went for a walk along the water and let Archer play for a bit on the new playground that was close by.  Bed time comes quickly when you’ve had a long day.

Volkswagen Camper Sightings:

Accommodation Cost:

Westfalia Road Trip Day 8 – Banff to Chase BC

Here we go!  After 2 days in beautiful Banff Alberta we are on the road to the coast, a few hours at a time.  Since we’re traveling with 11 month old baby Archer we made the decision to keep drive time to 3 hours a day or less, we’ll see how that goes.

Today’s destination is Salmon Arm BC since it falls into this time slot and seemed like a nice place to visit.  After a slow load up time (will improve with practice, I hope) we reluctantly left Banff in a great running Vanagon Westfalia.

Baby sleeping in VW westfalis
Archer has a nap while we pack up.

We stopped at the Modern Cafe in Revelstoke BC for lunch and it turned out to be a delicious Decision.  We also made a pitstop in Sicamous BC at the D. Dutchman Dairy for an ice-cream, this seemed to be a popular stop that had a line up out the door.  We decided not to check out the barns and petting zoo and continued add of km’s instead.

Road Trip D Dutchman Dairy
D Dutchman Dairy for Ice Cream!

On the road the scenery was beautiful as expected and the weather held up until late afternoon when we started to get rain.  When Volkswagen designed the Vanagon Westfalia with a 90hp motor they must of been been drinking a few too many Marzen’s, this underpowered van does not like hills!  Going this slow does cause a type of relaxation as the world drives by on the left.  That said our Westy was running great until just past Salmon Arm (we decided to press on a bit) when something happened causing a noise like something had bounced up underneath the van.  That caused us to give up on the day and pull into Chase BC and grab a room for the night.

Banff picture
Pictures from the window on the road

After searching the Road Haus site again I discovered Axel’s Auto Service (no website) in Kamloops.  The decision was made to limp the 60km’s to Kamloops in the morning so I left a voice mail on their answering machine to give them a heads up.  Fingers crossed.

We checked into the Chase Country Inn which is a small 2 story hotel right beside the highway.  It was basic, clean and showed a pride in ownership that was appreciated.  A bonus was they had coin operated laundry and a restaurant so we got some washing done while having a bite to eat.

Volkswagen Camper Sightings:  4 Vanagons, 2 Eurovans

Accommodation Cost: $120

Westfalia Road Trip Day 7 – Banff

A beautiful morning in Banff National Park with an early morning agenda, get a site at 2 Jack Lakeside Campground!
I woke up at 7am and cooked up a quick breakfast on the camp stove before hiking over to 2 Jack Campground with Archer in our Kelty back pack kid carrier thingy (which he loves).  For some reason I assumed they open at 8am but it seemed we were 30 minutes early and 3rd in line.  After the super nice park person showed up we scored the last available spot, sweet!  We hiked back and packed up for the move.
Moose in banff on road trip with baby
Saw these guys on our walk over to 2 Jack Lakeside
We unfortunately didn’t get an actual waterfront site but all spots in this small campground are very close to the lake, and its beautiful!  So happy we made the effort.
Once we were set up in our new spot (site 65 on this map) we took the opportunity to hike around the lake and take a quick swim (well I did).  The park information booth in town told us it was too cold to swim in this lake but lots of people had another opinion.  One local said it was much warmer this year.
2 Jack Campground dog swimming on leash
Zucca getting her feet wet near 2 Jack
We walked around the lake to the public beach where our Porty Zucca  made a new friend and burned off some pent up energy.  Can’t describe how beautiful this area is, hopefully these pictures do it some justice.
Banff mountains beautiful
A shot of the mountains from the Westy
We decided to take the camp chairs down to watch the children’s presentation about bears.  Archer at 11 months old didn’t seem overly interested but Connie and I sure learned a lot.  The kids in attendance asked some pretty funny question ie. “If I died on the side of the road would a bear eat me?”
I didn’t mention this before but at these campgrounds you pay an $8 fire fee and they supply you with unlimited firewood, unlimited!!!
Volkswagen Westfalia Fire Wood
No need to get the insides dirty. The Westfalia luggage rack to the rescue.
Fire out in bed by 9pm, oh how things change, haha.
Volkswagen Camper sightings: Zero
Accommodation cost:

Westfalia Road Trip Day 3 – Thunder Bay to Regina

Got up early at Kakabeka Falls PP and hit the road at 7:30 am, deciding to get a few miles out of the way before stopping for breakfast.  After a while on the road west of Thunder Bay I pulled into Ullom’s English Shores Outfitters and Resort for a bite to eat.  It was a Ma and Pa resort that was obviously geared to hunters and anglers, right down to the camo upholstered seats.  Breakfast was quite tasty and served up quickly with the entertainment of listening to some locals banter back and forth about “the city”.  Worth a stop if you’re looking for meal with a view for a reasonable price.
English River Ontario Road Trip
English Bay Outfitters and Resort
Given my obvious 401 centric knowledge of Ontario I learned 2 things on this drive that I never realized before.  Thunder Bay is not close to the Ontario/Manitoba Boarder and Ontario actually has 2 time zones, learning is fun in a Westfalia!
After about 4 hours of driving I finally hit the Manitoba boarder and things get prairie like very quickly with the endless hills of Northern Ontario in my rear view and flat land ahead of me the pace picked up a bit and the kilometers started adding up a little faster.
Westfalia Manitoba Road Trip
The Prairies really are flat!
After a third day of a well running Vanagon I decided to call it a day on the west side of Regina with another first for me, Walmart camping.  Many Walmarts across North America have a policy that allows RV’s to overnight park in their lots for no charge, I assume they make money off the majority who shop in the morning and it’s also a form of free security.  Proving this theory right I bought a couple of small things in the morning and it’s a pretty rare day when I shop at Walmart.
Walmart Westfalia
Boondocking at the Regina Walmart in the Westy
VW Camper Sightings: 1 Vanagon Westfalia
Accommodation Cost: FREE!


Westfalia Road Trip Day 1 – Toronto to Blind River

After a full day of work it was finally time to start our 6 week family adventure. Since we had loaded the Vanagon a few days earlier it was just a case of a some last minute items and hit the road, sort of.

Just as I was about to pull out Connie announced she had lost her cell phone. After a 20 minute search and rescue Zucca and I were on the road…in traffic!

After a crappy bout of bumper to bumper, things finally cleared up past Barrie and I had clear sailing all the way to Parry Sound where I ran out of gas literally pulling into a gas station. Lesson 1 – a 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia that shows a half tank of gas might not really have that much. New rule, fill the Vanagon up once it shows half a tank.

Dog Travel
Zucca in the navigators seat

I found a tip on an RV forum that the information centre in Blind River was lenient towards over nighting in the parking lot. As I learned this is called boondocking in the RV world. Being my first boondocking experience it helped me feel safe since there was a police station next door. Up at 6am and on the road!

Road Trip Toronto to Blind River
The smoke stack in Sudbury polluting at night.