Why you should care
VW vans can connect to the past and the outdoors.
Volkswagen vans have long brought folks together, whether to tour with the Grateful Dead or later to wrench on the relatively simple mechanics of early models. Now, a group of Northwesterners has banded together through their shared passion for overland adventure and the 1980s-era VW Vanagon Westfalia camper to establish Descend on Bend, a three-day gathering at Hole-in-the-Ground, a campsite near a remote high-desert volcano in Bend, Oregon.
The gatherers, led by Ryan Sellmeyer, a father of young children, trick their vans so they can go off-roading. Suspensions, transmission, even engines are swapped out. And their upgrades don’t go untested. This crew prides itself on its collective ability to strip down and rebuild any failing system in any situation — which has included transaxle swaps on forest roads and engine head rebuilds on the banks of trout streams.
All this bold journeying is an attempt to better see and know their region, they say, while providing children new and different experiences. And as they charge up washed-out dirt roads through pounding rain and sometimes snowstorms, they sprinkle their growing social media audience with hashtag V-dub wisdom: #killyourtv #peopleneedwild #memoriesnotthings.