In early March we saw a break in the winter weather and took a weekend trip to Trier, Germany. Nice place to visit, eh. Of course, like so many towns, other than the ancient stuff, it is a bit stuck in the 1970s. No matter. This area of Germania, especially the wine regions, is our go-to for weekend trips. In my younger years I couldn’t stomach German wine. Now? Yeah. I dig it. Especially Riesling. The good news? Even if there’s no toilet available at a camping spot, on account it’s preseason, there are machines that will deliver your wine automatically and with digital payment. Now. Ain’t that cool. Oh. Yeah. Of course we have a porta-potti in our Bulli to cover the excess.
Maybe the new SEEINGLAND season is beginning? Not sure. That’s how the weather is here in Germania. Every winter in Germania has this odd/strange hanging-on that one can feel. At least ageing folk like me can feel it. It tries (and succeeds) to hang on, don’t you know, and it gets in your bones. Sleeping in a Bulli, as good as the auxiliary diesel heater is, at just above freezing temperatures, can be trying–to say the least. (We haven’t tried it in below freezing temperatures yet.) The good news is: other than North Sea temperatures, winters in this region of Europe are usually never extreme–but they are long winded, they hang on to you, they are wet and they are grey, and it all lingers and seeps and intrudes. Still. With that said. We’ve managed a few trips to begin Bulli travel for 2023. More to come.
Been busy trying to figure out how to wash Seeingland. Reason? I was confused by various sources whether or not I could put the van in an automated car wash. There are a few issues Bulli owners need to consider when washing their vehicles.
The size of the van, especially it’s height (198cm)
The side mirrors
The awning, which increases the vans height by about 2cm
When I asked at different gas stations they all adamantly warned me that 1) they are not responsible for damage to the van, especially the awning, large side mirrors, bike rack, and 2) I’m responsible for damage to their car wash if, say, something gets caught on the awning. WTF! As a new and somewhat anxious Bulli owner I’ve held back on going for this. Instead I’ve power-washed her a few times. The problem with power-washing, though, is… Well… I guess I’m just lazy. It really is a big vehicle to wash and spraying alone does not thoroughly clean it. I never use those brushes at power wash stations for fear they will scratch her. Also. For a thorough power-wash you need some extra equipment that includes a ladder if you’re gonna wash the top. And so. The other day after a quick and disappointing lazy power-wash, I ran into a fellow Bulli owner at a hardware store where I was trying NOT to buy cleaning utensils to help make power-washing easier. The fellow Bulli owner provided two great tips.
Tip one: Just put it in one of those gas station stationary car wash-ports. Check for height clearance. Don’t use one of those carwash lines–the ones that pull the vehicle along.
Tip two: Read the manual.
Die Markise braucht für die Fahrzeugwäsche in einer Waschstraße nicht abgebaut werden. Die Markise muss komplett eingefahren und gesichert sein.
The awning does not need to be removed for washing the vehicle in a car wash. The awning must be completely retracted and secured.
The Manual (translation mine)
I have to admit, fellow Vanlifer, reading VW manuals is not unlike reading the textbook from a college level statistics course. And even though my German ain’t bad, this stuff is tough to get through. As you can see in the pic above, there is only an Information notice which is not referenced anywhere in table of contents or the manual’s index. The Information notice, as you can read, doesn’t really indicate that you can use a car wash–does it? It simply says the awning doesn’t need to be removed. Ok. I guess that covers it. Or?
I took the advice of the fellow Bulli owner. The height restriction of the car wash was 2.6meters. I folded up the side mirrors and drove her in. I turned on the car wash and stood by the emergency cut-off button and watched–anxiously. Wow, I thought. Even with the mirrors folded up there is very little clearance. When the wash brush reached the awning I raised my hand over the emergency cut-off button. There is a distinct sound coming from the awning being washed compared to the rest of the van, which was a bit nerve wracking. The whole wash cycle, including drying, only took a few minutes. Relief!
One last thought. Although one can obviously put the Bulli in a car wash, it’s not a comfortable undertaking. Most gas stations have these car washes in Germany and if I use a different one next time, I’m gonna be just as anxious–with my hand by the emergency cut-off button. Hopefully I don’t have to think about power washing it anymore.
The original plan was to drive home with an overnight in Baden Württemberg. We were gonna cross the Alps through Switzerland on Saturday then continue the following morning. By the time we got to the Alps, though, driving was going so smooth we decided to buckle in and go for it. Result? We drove just over eleven hundred kilometers (seven hundred miles) with a few stops inbetween in just under fourteen hours. Needless to say I‘m raring to go for our next trip which may or mayn‘t include Spain or Greece. Also. This trip has given me a new lease on driving. I‘ve never driven this long or this far before. None of which would be possible without Seeingland. What a pleasure this vehicle is to drive and travel with.
Been to Italy quite a bit, dear vanlifer. Rome. Florence. Tuscany, etc. But Seeingland finally brought me to the leaning tower. And what a sight it is. I mean. That thing really does lean. Who’d a thunk it. And to think I always thought it was just a tourist trap. Well. It is that. Oh well. Another to-do on my non-bucket list of to-dos is done. Tomorrow we cross the Alps on our first leg home.
Diamante, Italy. Last beach time. Quick drive north up the coast from Tropea. For whatever reason the weather seems to get better. More sun, warmer, less humidity. It’s friggin January 4. Reason? Who cares. Upon arrival in Diamante, where we’re only staying the night, we setup Seeingland, then bought some fresh grub, and I went for a swim in the Med. The thing is, dear Vanlifer, we’re directly on the beach. Does it matter that the Med is 18° (64°F)? It does for my better-half. She wished me a fun swim. And fun it was. Refreshing. Salt on the skin. Clean crystal water. Looks like tomorrow, as we inch our way back to the real world (Germania), we’re gonna stop by that Italian town with the funny leaning tower.
We quit noodles over two years ago. You know. That low carb thing. Has worked pretty well. Mixed with fasting we lost just over fifty pounds each in the first eight months. Low carbs has helped maintain our weight ever since. For us low carb means no potatoes, rice, store bought bread and no noodles. We have discussed having special days here and there, birthdays, holidays,etc., where would splurge but to be honest, we’ve kicked that habit. Welcome to Italy. Welcome to a little Osteria in Tropea, Italy, named Fox & Grapes.
How is that Italians eat noodles galore and ain’t fat? Well. Most schick people eat them and don’t get fat. Their secret? Now. Before I answer that, let me say this. The answer I’m about to give to a very profound question is NOT empirical. I’m more or less thinking out loud based on observation. So here it goes.
Italians (the schick) do two basic things when eating. The first. They don’t finish their plate. At least at restaurants they don’t. When momma is cooking that’s a different thing all together. The second thing they do is eat their food in courses. That is. Appetizers. First course. Second. Etc. Espresso and dessert. Now. That may not sound like much as far as carb intake is concerned, but here’s the thing. They eat their noodles after the appetizer and before what most people consider the main course. The first course of noodles is their filler. And it’s usually not a big portion. See pics above.
We skipped appetizers, ordered first courses and split the second course: grilled swordfish. No dessert and no espresso. The noodles? My better-half had a local specialty called Fileya which is some old fashioned way of making maccaroni. With a simple tomato sauce it was out of this world. I had spaghetti with frutti di mare. It was fabulous. But it’s time once again to say goodbye to noodles. As good as this meal was—and it was fantastic—there is no drive to return to carbs.
For newbies it’s the surprises and the anxiety that make it Vanlife. The good and the nerve wracking. It makes the juices that flow through veins both human and Bulli. Am I wrong. Go with me here for a sec as I wax pseudo Vanlife poetic.
We’re new to this stuff. We started in May, ‘22 renting a Bulli. We took delivery of Seeingland the following August. And so. New always brings levels of anxiety–at least for me it does. My biggest concerns when we embark is the drive, the campsite, is this newfangled, high tech uber-expensive wunder-van gonna hold up? Although our VW is new and bright and shiny, the tech in it should make anyone anxious. If this thing breaks down… in other words, I don’t even want to imagine what could go wrong with Seeingland. Wow. #Nomatter.
What about the weather, the neighbors, leisure among Europeans that can only lead to late nights of wine, fresh bread dipped in olive oil and music and funny smells that up to now I’m guessing can only be attributed to retirees and their equally old RVs. At fifty-nine I don’t want to be a funny smelling camper yet.
Enough waxing pseudo-poetic. Enough praise for the adage: Der Weg ist das Ziel or the reward is the journey. Instead. All anxiety aside. Seeingland may have found her first holy Gail on our Vanlife journey–in, of all places, holy grail country–which, for me, is now southern Italy.
We arrived in Tropea in the early afternoon after a rigorous trek through Rombiolo (previous post). My better half’s nerves were shot from the serpentine roads and thin olive grove village streets. After our last descending serpentine it was as though a heavenly light shinned upon us. Suddenly there was turquoise waters galore, a village above us built thousands of years ago, carved atop that cliff. Directly in the middle of it between the Med and a serpentine stairway leading up to Tropea is a campsite. We were speechless. For a few moments anyway.
On our way to Tropea, Italy, our navi drove us through the largest olive groves I have ever seen. Kilometer after kilometer, left and right, hither and nither, olive trees. Then we started to get confused. The roads were getting smaller and smaller. I was concerned that our micro-RV aka Germanic wunder-van, was getting (relatively) bigger and bigger. Branches from olive trees hanging over the road were getting awfully close to side mirrors, roof, and worse, the bike handle bars that are the highest point at the rear of the van. And that’s not all. Just before arriving in Rombiolo, Italy, we also encountered serpentine roads I have never seen before. These roads are not only tight for the likes of a fiat panda, don’t you know. Also. Due to road construction—on already constricted roads—I had to navigate a one-eighty serpentine lefty into a ca. forty degree gradient. (I’m guessing it was near forty degrees because it felt like half of ninety degrees, aka a vertical wall.) As I began the ascent, the Wunder-van showed its gusto immediately. My better-half sat back with the gradient and covered her eyes. The accelerator required, obviously, a bit more push. I obliged. Somewhere in the Wunder-van echoed: let’s turn around and find another way. I pushed on. At first I could feel the front wheel drive struggling to find grip. Even though the road was corroded with leaves and soot the VW found traction. After a bit of tire churning here and there Seeingland got her mojo. We climbed and climbed. Thin serpentine galore. Olive trees everywhere. The VW 150hp churned like a perfectly tuned beast ready to conquer and besiege, will it’s way up, forward—our little piece of conquering Europe.
One of the unexpected highlights of our bike tour slash last minute New Year’s Eve shopping spree was this market. Where ever we go, dear vanlifer, we’re always open to markets for fresh grub. Not to mention a quick view of the local winery.