Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ed Buryn - Vagabond and VW man

Ed Buryn is well known among a cult following that adore two of his works, Vagabonding in the USA and Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa. The latter was published in 1971 by Bookworks, though the edition I have is a co-published by Random House and Bookworks. He had self-published a book, Hitchhiking in Europe, prior to the publication of Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa but it would be "Vagabonding" that would earn a cult leader-like status.

Born in New Jersey in 1934, Ed would later drop out of high school to join the Navy. From there, he would loosely call San Francisco home. I say loosely because he seems to have spent the next few decades traveling and writing about how to travel on the cheap. Note: he was also friends with a certain other famous VW guy - John Muir.

For our sake here, I will focus on what else Ed Buryn was, and that was a VW man. In 1980, Buryn would publish Vagabonding in the USA after a 13,000 mile "trip around the country in a new VW van".

I'll let Ed pick up the story from here, from his book, Vagabonding in the USA:

The earliest version of this book was written immediately after a 13,000-mile trip around the country in a new VW van. After that, I sold the van, bought a used 1963 VW sedan and since then have driven it on 5 more U.S.A. trips totaling another 35,000 miles [and early in 1980, I drove it to Guatemala and back, too]. What I have discovered is that this volksbug is the best touring camper yet. Astonishingly enough, the bug can comfortable sleep two full-grown people inside, once you have taken out the back seat and replaced it with the easily fabricated platforms that are described [below].

The true beauty of the arrangement is that the small size of the vehicle forces both economy and simplicity on the traveler(s). One (and especially two) can't take a ton of camping supplies, clothes, and food, which is right on, of course. Yet there is space for sleeping bags, packs, clothes, cooking gear, water can, food stash, car tools, and miscellaneous baggage, especially when an overhead luggage carrier is used.

Mechanically, the car gets more than 30 miles per gallon on the road, and is simple enough that it can be maintained and even repaired by the driver(s), especially with a copy of my late, great friend John Muir's How to Keep Your VW Alive (I replaces a broken clutch cable and tuned the car up using the book for the first time). Breakdowns beyond the scope of your skills or tools can usually be repaired professionally more easily and more cheaply than with any other make of car. America is full of authorized and unauthorized VW mechanics.

My VW's engine is small enough that, in addition to good mileage and reliable operation, it does not require any smog-control devices. This again helps make it cheaper (no installation costs) and simpler (more reliability), gives it better mileage, and also means it will run on regular, leaded, super, or unleaded grades of gasoline, a further advantage during gasoline crises when certain grades of gas may be unavailable. (Most new cars require unleaded gas or they will not run properly, if at all, because of their smog-control devices.)

A final advantage of the bug is its anonymity and inconspicuousness, which is perfect for the vagabond; that is, the traveler with the lowest profile of all. The VW bug provides some of the best protective coloration to be found in this mechanized culture of ours.

The many months and the tens of thousands pf touring miles I've covered over the years in my vagabond volks were both cheap and adventurous. As always, of course, I slept many nights freely in the hospitality of anyone willing to share soul and/or substance, and the rest of the nights I slumbered in my microbug by the roadside, in freeway rest areas, on dirt roads in convenient forests, parked on city streets, or anywhere with 100 square feet of free space. My car is thus not merely a boon to me, but, equally important, not a burden.

I paid $300 for my car seven years and 100,000 miles ago. With a little help from my friends, I've rebuilt the engine twice, for the cost of parts. It runs well, even though it looks like hell, dented all over, paint peeling, cracked windshield. However I keep it A-1 on all the little things that highway cops like to check; brake lights and turn signals, wipers, headlights, tires, etc. What my automotive decrepitude means in practical terms is that I am not a slave to it. Nobody cares to steal it from me. Nobody even wants to break into it; so I safely leave it unlocked most anywhere. And if it did get stolen, racked up or broken down, I can afford to say: So what! Much as I love here (dear Dunkelgeist), the sweet thing is really expendable; I don't have to slit my wrists when she goes the way of all things. Man, that's freedom! The less you have, the freer you are, the higher you can get.

The plans for the conversion platform are strictly my own arrangement for my 1963 VW sedan, but the gadget is road-tested and works very well. I made it completely out of construction scraps in a few hours. You can make up your own design, but if you care to try mine, here's a technical description of how to do it.

The plans for the conversion platform. (click for a larger image)

First of all, cut the two platform pieces from a single 4'x8'x1/2" (or 3/4") sheet of plywood. Remove the entire rear seat from the car. The rear platform is set between the wheels, resting over the engine at the back; its front rests on a horizontal transverse 2x4, which is in turn supported by three 8-inch vertical posts that stand on the existing metal rear-seat frame. One of these posts goes over the drive-shaft hump in the middle; the other 2 go at the edges of the platform. To hold the posts in place, I screwed them to the metal seat frame. The rear platform stays permanently in place, creating a large storage space above it, and a smaller but still capacious storage space beneath it.

The front platform is removable (and stores on top of the rear platform when removed). It can be installed in place either by removing the entire front passenger seat (in which case, the front platform is supported underneath by the loose front-support board, or by removing only the back support of the front passenger seat (in which case the front platform is supported by the cleat on its underside, which rests on top of the front-seat base). Since the front seat of the VW bug is easily removed and reinstalled, you can have it in the car during the day's driving, and set it along side or on top of the car when you're parked and camped for the night. Or it can be taken out all together and replaced with a stool or a box for the passenger to sit upon. Of course, if you're traveling alone, the front passenger seat comes out and the front platform goes in permanently, supported either by the support board or by some of your baggage beneath it. The hinged portion of the front platform accommodates the two positions of the driver's seat; upright when driving, and pushed forward against the steering wheel when camping. You don't need to make the hinged cutout if you install the front platform only at night. To keep the front platform in place against the rear platform, I use three pegs (ordinary nails) set into aligning holes in the 2x4 support.

The entire arrangement is quite flexible, for everything is lightweight, portable, cheap, replaceable, or junkable. On my first outing with the lovely Leslie, we feared a little for our privacy in the heat of the night, and made a set of window curtains all around, fastened with Velcro tape for super easy installation and removal. In practice, we found we hardly ever needed them, even in public campgrounds. Frankly, nobody noticed us, let alone came peep-tomming. And when I was traveling alone, I could care less who saw me sleeping in my car.

Anyway, the bug camper works very well. Try it sometime. If you own some other model of small car, make measurements to see how much room there is with the other seats out. Very likely you can design your own camper-car, and then just bug out.

Ed is alive and well and living in the Sierra Mountains not far from me. I would love to have a chance to meet him and see some photos from his trips.


  © Blogger template por Emporium Digital 2008

Voltar para o TOPO