You may have noticed – amongst our tribe of shredders, paddlers, surfers and such – there’s a shared quest to score, outfit and live out of the “perfect camper.” Perhaps you’ve seen the increasingly familiar #vanlife hash tag, promoting this nouveau-Jack-Kerouac-notion of kicking it all and hitting the open road. So alternative… so latter-day gypsy, bro.
But there’s a serious hitch in this #vanlife deal being fed to us by mainstream media and their frothing accomplice’s in crime – the marketeers. To partake in this nomadic road show, we’re led to believe we must throw down for a trendy Mercedes Sprinter box. Or – if your compass is pointed towards Baja arroyos or B.C. - high center - backroads, perhaps we’ll need a manly Sportsmobile, all puffy, lifted, ARB-bumpered out, and shit. Should you find these $40k-$100k+, tricked-out rigs to exceed the means of your monthly trust fund stipend, perhaps you’ll downshift and go retro with a VW Eurovan or Vanagon. So ultimately groovy if you have a German-car mechanic (on retainer) who doesn’t mind following your around on all of your free-range adventures.
Enter stage left, the lowly minivan. The humble (ok, laughing stock), it'll-be-a-cold-day-in-hell-before-I-drive-a-minivan! Soccer mom certified, emasculation-on-wheels, the epithets go on & on. Or, that’s a least that’s how I felt before I caved and wrote a modest check for our first Chrysler Town & Country mini over a decade ago. Never would I have thought I’d become a born-again believer in the low-gloss functionality, undercover steeze of a stock minivan.
Ah, but on my very first road trip - camping kit, bikes, various and sundry climbing hardware and fishing tackle chucked semi-randomly in back - I began to appreciate the gear gobbling capacity of our T&C. Hidden behind not-too-gangster-tint, privacy package windows, no one paid any attention to us: not thieves, not the po-po, not anyone. It was on that trip I first realized -- driving around in a minivan made me invisible. Want to sip a “road soda” while heading home from your next epic pow day? There’s simply no better rig to evade law enforcement’s watchful eye than a dirty minivan.
And, that remarkable invisibility goes a long way towards opening up discreet bivi options. Want to camp in front of anyone’s house, on any street USA? No worries. How about at the base of your favorite ski mountain, or in any grocery store parking lot? Not the first hassle. Church parking lots? Check. Anywhere? Check. Now try that in your fancy Sprinter, puffy Sportsmobile, tragically hip Vanagon, and I can assure you the tap on the window will soon follow your settling in for slumber.
Forgoing campground and hotel fees will buy you more tortillas for longer stints on Highway 1, Route 66 or your byways of choice. And, beyond the insta-bivi prerogative, one should also factor the low-cost-of-entry, reasonable fuel efficiency, long-haul serviceability and smooth ride of these homely toasters on wheels.
So, assuming you can get past your vehicular ego, I encourage you to consider a mini. And, when you’re out there snapping self-congratulatory selfies in the alpenglow sunset, don’t forget to include the all-important hashtag: #minivanlife, bro.