it’s about the journey… not the destination

After the recent fire curtailed my european road trip and destroyed my camper along with everything inside, it seems strange and slightly disconcerting to once again, be back at the starting point with my adventure with VW camper vans. I still feel there are many miles out there on the roads that are to be travelled, places I still really want to go to. Yes there are other modes of transport or ways of getting there, but none quite like a vintage Volkswagen split screen camper van!

it’s about the journey… not the destination T-shirt design, available in a range of colours…

it’s about the journey… not the destination T-shirt design, available in a range of colours…

Some will get this, others won’t. I can’t really explain it, as on oh so many practical levels, it really does not make any sense! I’ve gone through various highs and lows since the fire. I’ve questioned whether or not to even get another vintage camper.

I’ve had some time to reflect on the accident and loss of the camper. On some days you question yourself, have I ‘done’ the whole camper thing already, is it time to just move on from it all? Get a ‘sensible’ car, and take ‘proper’ planed out package holidays?

Would I simply be better off moving on and maybe getting a very practical, modern T4 Westfalia California TDi camper? I know my wife would think this is the ‘sensible’ thing to do, and I cannot fault her logic on that, as she is 100% right! However, maybe I’m just not at that point, or maybe I’m just not that grown up and sensible yet!

practicality and performance aren’t what capture the heart

practicality and performance aren’t what capture the heart

I guess it’s always been about the journey and not the destination for me. Not just in the physical sense of travelling in the camper, but in the actual journey of the ownership of the camper itself. There were bound to be high and low points in the journey, and this most definitely was a massive low point in the journey. However, it is just that, a small, yet painful point within the bigger context of the sense of journey, and the journey continues on…

 

more incidental and detail photos from Ninove 2015

One of the great things about Ninove is that it’s a show that seems to evolve and change as you walk around the town as different cars join in and park up in the streets. So here a few more of my incidental and detail photos I took as I wandered around the town…

stripes an spots, what’s not to like

stripes an spots, what’s not to like

It’s funny how on such a simple and distinctive body form as the VW Beetle or VW Bus, how much individuality is expressed through simple details. Some where through owner choice or addition, others where simply the character of the vintage ageing process itself, such as this distressed Volkswagen type script and the distressed paint stripes above, what’s not to love about that!

distressed Volkswagen badge script

distressed Volkswagen badge script

Of the many interesting features of this early bus, I was probably the only one whose attention was grabbed by the strange surface patterns of the exposed metal on the filler cap – I guess it takes all sorts!

strange patterns in the exposed metal of this filler cap

strange patterns in the exposed metal of this filler cap

I spotted this beautiful distressed vintage PCA (Porsche Club of America) badge, can any Porsche geeks tell what Porsche it was on just from this photo…?

distressed vintage Porsche Club of America Badge

distressed vintage Porsche Club of America Badge

Loved these chrome hooded driving/spot/fog lights, they looked the business!

superb looking driving/fog light with its own chrome hood

superb looking driving/fog light with its own chrome hood

The designer in me could hardly walk past this brilliant typography of the chrome Volkswagen script!

loved the typographic design of this Volkswagen chrome script badge

loved the typographic design of this Volkswagen chrome script badge

Good suspension or careful driving required with this cargo of old skool Coca Cola bottles stashed away on the roof rack!

careful driving required with this load on your roof rack

careful driving required with this load on your roof rack

Someone looking to be different with this very retro/Sci-fi looking rear light cluster!

a very sci-fi looking alternative rear light unit

a very sci-fi looking alternative rear light unit

I really love the Ninove show, such variety, agreat vibe and a very welcoming town, so I’m desperate to try to get the insurance sorted on my burnt out camper so that I can somehow make Ninove 2016, but unfortunately it looks like it will be in a different vintage VW camper now…

a real show stealer from Ninove 2015

Of all the different vintage VW bugs, buses, Porsches at this years Freddy Files event at Ninove in Belgium, I think my favourite was this stunning South African specification crew cab. Superb paint, amazing looking details, plus of course, those really cool hot climate vents helped make this Volkswagen twin cab really stand out from the crowd!

one of the sweetest looking crew cabs I have seen, absolutely stunning!

one of the sweetest looking crew cabs I have seen, absolutely stunning!

The crew cab was really straight, with beautifully understated detailing and featured the distinctive hot climate rear vents, along with front and rear safari windows, surely the ultimate definition of keeping cool!

beautiful attention to detail and the amazing South African specification vents

beautiful attention to detail and the amazing South African specification vents

Loved the simplicity and minimal detailing of the stock Volkswagen steel wheels with the two colour rim and hubcap combination, very classy!

stock looking rims with big logo painted hubcaps

stock looking rims with big logo painted hub caps

Then there was the rear load bed, clean enough to eat your dinner from and superbly detailed with oak slats. Fantastic!

spotless load bed with oak slat detailing

spotless load bed with oak slat detailing

Got to admit that I really love crew cabs anyway, but that aside, for me, this early was a real Ninove show winner!

 

it’s not just about the car, sometimes it’s about the details

Sometimes I find it hard to concentrate on looking at the overall picture in front of me, as more often than not, my eye gets drawn to little details that make up the bigger picture. This is especially true when I was wandering around the various cars on display at the Witkap Brewery gathering in Ninove on the Saturday afternoon after the fun of the UK cruise from Calais.

vintage Slaghmuylder 509 Ninove plaque

vintage Slaghmuylder 509 Ninove plaque

Loving the vintage metal Slaghmuylder 509 Ninove plaque in the Brewery’s small museum area displaying various items from the Brewery’s history.

patina a plenty on this rear vent/fuel flap detail of this split screen bus

patina a plenty on this rear vent/fuel flap detail of this split screen bus

The beautiful autumnal colours of the patina on this amazing Palm Green/Sand green splitty detail around its rear engine cooling vents/petrol flap.

vintage Hella rear light detail

vintage Hella rear light detail

The simplicity of detail and character of this Hella rear light and cracked rear reflector…

beautiful character aged rusty VW front badge on this split screen bus

beautiful character aged rusty VW front badge on this split screen bus

…and the aged and rusty front VW emblem on the front of the bus, brilliant!

some aged vintage beer bottles from the Witkap brewery in Ninove

some aged vintage beer bottles from the Witkap brewery in Ninove

Talking of aged character, there were some beautiful vintage beer bottles tucked away in their wooden crates, not sure if they had gone past their sell by date or not though?

beautiful typography of the classic distressed Karmann Ghia script

beautiful typography of the classic distressed Karmann Ghia script

As a designer, I love typography! So obviously I was drawn to this lightly distressed VW Karmann Ghia script, stunning!

super clean RHD Barndoor bus dash pod

super clean RHD Barndoor bus dash pod

Then of course there is the simple minimalism of a super clean RHD VW Barndoor dash, so much visual stimulus, sometimes it was hard to realise there were cars there at all!

a beautiful looking Porsche 356 shone out at the Witkap brewery in Ninove

One of the cars that stood out, and I mean really stood out was, was this stunningly shiny Porsche 356, even in the shade this car lit up the space! Whoever did the paint on it, clearly did a pretty amazing job on this baby!

even in the shade this Porsche 356 looked spectacular

even in the shade this Porsche 356 looked spectacular

I don’t always like taking pictures of the whole car, but this was an exception, it was jaw dropingly nice!

simple forms, beautiful detail on the Porsche 356

simple forms, beautiful detail on the Porsche 356

Clean simple lines and details gave it a real understated beauty.

loved the distressed original badge detail

loved the distressed original badge detail

Loved the mix of both shiny and distressed.

beautifully smooth and understated curvaceous lines on the Porsche 356

beautifully smooth and understated curvaceous lines on the Porsche 356

This Porsche 356 on the cruise over to Ninove ran and sounded as good as it looks – awesome!

some more pictures from Ninove 2015

I spent most of last night, writing a list for the insurance company of all the various items I had taken with me on my road trip, plus outlining all the work that I had done to the camper. Although I thought I had packed quite light, it’s amazing quite how things soon add up when you remember all the bits and pieces you take with you for three weeks on the road! Most can be replaced, some unfortunately are sentimentally and emotionally irreplaceable – they are the things that hurt the most!

But on a positive note, there were lots of great memories made up until the fire, so I’m focusing on those whilst getting all the information sorted. It helps looking at some of the Ninove pictures I have saved. As well as a great array of vintage air and water-cooled VW’s, Porsches etc. there is also a cool collection of bikes on display as well. Here are some that caught my eye this year…

don’t get to see many Triumph off road/trails bikes

don’t get to see many Triumph off-road/trails bikes

Nice to see some classic British motorbikes on display…

what’s not to like about a classic British Norton Café racer

what’s not to like about a classic British Norton Café racer

…but this old war-horse really captivated me. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to get the details as it was being moved somewhere, but boy did it have some character and amazing details to it, maybe someone can help me id t from my two rather obscure shots of it, any guesses as to what it was?

this old war horse had tons of character

this old war-horse had tons of character

Amazing patina on this awesome looking speedo!

check out the patina on this amazing looking speedo

check out the patina on this amazing looking speedo

As always, there were a good few cool looking classic Karmann Ghia’s on display…

classic looks of a clean and tidy looking Karmann Ghia

classic looks of a clean and tidy looking Karmann Ghia

…as well as some tough looking rides hat were seriously low!

tough looking Karmann Ghia as low as you like!

tough looking Karmann Ghia as low as you like!

On the streets, this two-tone paint combo Karmann Ghia looked stunning!

loving the two tone paint combo on this stunning looking Karmann Ghia

loving the two-tone paint combo on this stunning looking Karmann Ghia

memories from Ninove 2015 – a mixture of both happiness and sadness…

After the dramatic ending of my European road trip couple of days ago when my camper caught fire, I now unexpectedly find myself back home again in the UK a couple of weeks earlier than planned. Unfortunately my Canon camera got destroyed in the fire (along with everything else), but fortunately I still had some picture that I had transferred or taken with my iPhone. So it’s with a mixture of both happiness and sadness that I’ve had a chance to look through some of the remaining images I still have from this years Freddy Files event at Ninove…

Lots of very cool bugs this year, here are a few of my faves, starting off with this rally inspired ragtop bug…

fantastic rally inspired ragtop bug – what’s not to like!

fantastic rally inspired ragtop bug – what’s not to like!

Lights a plenty to get you home in the dark!

cool lighting array upfront

cool lighting array upfront

You got to love the curvaceous lines of an early split window Beetle…

sharp looking air ride split window bug

sharp-looking air ride split window bug

…especially with the attention to detail with this custom air ride version!

great attention to detail on this super clean air ride split window bug

great attention to detail on this super clean air ride split window bug

Awesome colour and detailing on this ragtop bug, who says Porsche Fuchs are ‘played out’, still looking pretty neat on this baby!

highly detailed ragtop bug looks spot on!

highly detailed ragtop bug looks spot on!

Although you really cannot beat the charm and character of simple originality of a beetle like this, understated, but stunning in its own way!

simple and stylish original bug looks the business

simple and stylish original bug looks the business

De-chromed and minimalist looking, this bug rocked!

clean looking de-chromed bug in a tasty looking colour!

clean-looking de-chromed bug in a tasty looking colour!

A little black number for summer cruising?

a very tidy looking little black number ready for summer cruising…

a very tidy looking little black number ready for summer cruising…

This black cabriolet looked fantastic with the contrasting white walls!

white walls on a black cabriolet bug – sweet!

white walls on a black cabriolet bug – sweet!

the Road Trip ends with the worst photo I’ve ever taken…

The last few days I have been having a great time on my European road trip, and had several blog posts about the adventures ready to post, but on Friday 20th March my dream road trip came to a very abrupt and devastating end!

I was on the last part of the southern France trip, on the way to Perpignan before heading into Spain, when I pulled over to stop and fill up with petrol for the day’s journey. Once I had paid for the petrol, I got back into the camper, started up to head off. Unfortunately there was a loud bang, and as I looked in my mirrors I could see smoke and fire at the back of my camper!

the worst photo I have ever taken

the worst photo I have ever taken

I quickly got out of the cab and rushed to the back to see what had happened, only to be greeted by smoke and flames at the back of my camper! The garage staff rushed over with fire extinguishers to try to extinguish the flames. I grabbed my extinguisher to assist, but the fire kept spreading regardless of our combined efforts. At this point the burning camper (with a now full tank of petrol!) was still right next to the petrol pumps and I was worried about the fire spreading and causing an explosion. So with one of the staff members help, we managed to push the burning camper off the forecourt and away from the petrol pumps where they continued to try to extinguish the flames. Unfortunately the fire had really begun to take hold and the extinguishers were now empty!

Fortunately someone had called the Police and French fire brigade, but by the time they arrived, the fire had quickly spread through the camper and there was little left of it. I was left watching it all go up in flames, utterly devastated!

the fire ravaged remains of my camper

the fire ravaged remains of my camper

The beautiful original vintage Canterbury Pitt interior and all of my possessions inside were totally destroyed!

the burnt out remains of my dream

the burnt out remains of my dream

Words cannot express how sad I felt as I watched the camper burn, but at least no-one had been hurt! One of the purposes of the road trip was to ‘Make memories’ and although this was not how I wanted the road trip to end, I had some great memories to hold onto from my experiences at Ninove and the various adventures I had as I travelled down through Belgium and France.

On my trip I got to fulfil a life long ambition of seeing Le Corbusier’s stunning architectural masterpiece that is La Ronchamp (Notre Dame du Haut) in the flesh…

life long ambition fulfilled seeing Le Corbusier's La Ronchamp (Notre Dame du Haut)

life long ambition fulfilled seeing Le Corbusier’s La Ronchamp (Notre Dame du Haut)

I also got to see and travel across the Millau viaduct. This holds the world record for the tallest bridge, culminating at 343 metres (higher than the Eiffel tower), 2460 metres long and touching the bottom of the Tarn valley in only 9 places.

Conceived by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by the English architect Lord Norman Foster, it fits perfectly into the naturally intact and grandiose landscape: a very thin slightly curved steel roadway supported by stays gives it the appearance of a huge yacht and the ensemble rests on 7 very slender pillars.

another ambition fulfilled, seeing and driving over the worlds tallest bridge, the stunning Millau viaduct

another ambition fulfilled, seeing and driving over the worlds tallest bridge, the stunning Millau viaduct

I also had the pleasure of simple roadside stops for a quick brew up and cup of tea in the peace and tranquility of the French countryside – happy times, and memories made!

happier times – tea break on the road trip

happier times – tea break on the road trip

Right now though I’m back in the UK left feeling utterly devastated and just can’t really take it all in…

taking the long road to nowhere (but I don’t mind!)

Having waved goodbye to Ollie last night at the EuroTunnel departure gates for his trip back to blighty, I found myself in the situation of being Billy no mates, camping in the Cite Europe camper zone area for the night once again. After the fun and walking around Ninove looking at all the great vintage cars and bikes, I was pretty shattered so a bite to eat and then bed for me!

Well, today was the day for my adventures to begin. The plan for the day, in the broadest sense of the word, was to head south. This was for a 184 miles trip to see Le Corbusiers iconic modernist architectural masterpiece that is the Villa Savoye in Poissy in the north-western outskirts of Paris. Now if Audrey Hepburn thought that ‘Paris is always a good idea’, then surely visiting something near Paris equally

has to be a pretty good thing to do? Well it would have been if it had been open on the day I visited! Sacré bleu! As tantalising as the glimpses of the building were through a hedge, I would need to maybe reschedule this for another day, maybe on my way back home in a couple of weeks time? #StupidHippyPlanning

It seemed too early in the day to stop in Poissy, so I decided to push on whilst the going was good. It would add another 147 miles to the day heading around Paris and then heading south-west to get to an Aire in a small village called Piney just outsides of Troyes. A long days driving, but at least it would make the next part of the adventure a little easier to reach, and plenty of time to enjoy the expansive rural landscape en route!

time to get wonderfully lost in the French countryside

time to get wonderfully lost in the French countryside

All was going well, I was around 6 miles short of my intended stop over for the night when I heard a ticking sound and noticed the speedo had stopped working? Once I had finally found my place to park up for the night, it was time for some well earned rest. The speedo was something to be investigated in the morning…

Total travel; 331 miles

so Ninove was good, but the good is just going to get better – European road trip time!

My friend Ollie and I were really looking forward to Ninove 2015 after how much we enjoyed last years show, so this year we decided to take the rush out of the event and stop over a day early in France.

all aboard for the 30min crossing to Calais

all aboard for the 30min crossing to Calais

This meant we had a que free trip on EuroTunnel, plus we could have a nice lie in before meeting up with the rest of the UK Cruise to Ninove contingent at the first Bonjour services in Calais. So on the Friday night we found a nice free camper parking zone in the Cite Europe car park set aside just for campers, how handy is that!

Camp out at Cite Europe pre Ninove cruise…

Camp out at Cite Europe pre Ninove cruise…

The VW weekend show at Ninove was great, lots of great cars/bikes to see, a chance to catch up with friends from last years show, way too much to post up just now, it will have to come later, as post the Freddy Files event in Ninove, Belgium, I wanted to push on a bit further to do a bit of a European road trip.

our contrasting buses at the beginning of the Ninove street display

our contrasting buses at the beginning of the Ninove street display

Maybe a tad less touristy, I wanted a slight twist to the Road Trip in that there is a bit of an Architectural adventure theme to it… so far (and in no particular order!) places I want to visit if possible include…

  • Pont de Normandie
  • Notre Dame du Haut (La Ronchamp)
  • Millau Viaduct
  • Saint-Nazaire submarine base
  • Villa Savoye
  • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
  • Sagrada Familia
  • and some of the modern architecture of Barcelona (e.g.; Gas Natural Headquarters)

So with no physical maps, some guy called ‘Tim’ from TomTom I’ve never met to give me directions, a distinct lack of overseas lingo, no knowledge of France or Spain, and some maple syrup instant porridge pots for breakfast, what could possibly go wrong? If you want to follow the adventures, make sure you sign up for notifications…

Right, time to go get lost en France then…