Rolling Along With the Honeymooners

by Nancy Bestor

Friends, acquaintances and customers often ask Bob and I how we came to open and run our travel store in Ashland, Oregon. The truth of the matter is, it all started with an orange VW bus.

We had each done a fair amount of traveling in high school and college, and it took just a few years of working in the San Francisco Bay Area’s “corporate world” to determine that pantyhose and power suits were not our style. Deciding to get married, we also decided to quit our jobs, purchase the aforementioned orange Volkswagen camper bus, put our belongings into storage, and for our honeymoon, take a break from it all.

The idea was to take a lap around the United States, traveling about six months or until our money ran out—whichever came first. We left California in mid-March. We knew we wanted to be in New Orleans for the Jazz Festival, and in New York for a wedding, but otherwise the open road was our oyster. We’d stay where we wanted, for as long as we wanted, and if we got divorced in the process, at least we’d figure out early on that we weren’t made for each other.

Now, being a newly-wedded bride, I thought we’d at least occasionally stay in a quaint and charming bed and breakfast, and eat out at a nice restaurant two or three times a week. Bob on the other hand was our numbers cruncher and he knew the more we camped in the van and ate van-cooked meals, the longer our funds would last. For the record, we stayed in a motel just twice during the entire six-month trip, once when our van was broken down in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, and once in Chicago, when campgrounds were few and far between. We NEVER stayed in a charming B & B. But I’m not bitter.

There wasn’t a lot of room in the bus, so we didn’t bring much. A few trusted guidebooks (including Let’s Go USA), a Rand McNally Atlas, some beat up pots and cooking utensils, a guitar, Scrabble, a deck of cards, and the minimum amount of clothing necessary to keep us comfy in any climate. Some friends and family thought we were a little bit insane and quite a bit irresponsible—we had quit good paying jobs, had no plans for the future and spending all of our hard-earned money on this trip just wasn’t wise. As far as we were concerned however, the open road was our future, and there was no need in thinking any further ahead.

Now a beat up orange VW bus is not such an unusual site in California or Oregon, but in the south, the Midwest and on the eastern seaboard, adults stared and children pointed as we sputtered down the road, apparently looking like we were late for Woodstock. It didn’t help our image any when one of us would often have to crawl underneath the engine and hit the starter with a hammer while the other turned the ignition key, just to get the darn bus going.

We met a lot of interesting folks in campgrounds all over the States though, but were always surprised when we would wake up about 8:30 or 9 in the morning, look out the window and find out that all the other RVers were already long gone. (If they’re retired and traveling on the open road, what is the big hurry anyway?)

I could wax nostalgic and say this was the time of our lives, and I would not be lying. There were so many highlights on this trip that I could write a story about each one. We hiked to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, soaked in a natural hot springs on the Rio Grande River, saw Bill Monroe, Charley Pride and Garth Brooks at the Grand Ole Opry (who all just happened to be playing there on the day we drove up), visited with the King in Graceland, saw baseball games at Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, and Tiger Stadium, hiked 28 miles over two days in Glacier National Park, and saw the sun set at Key West, to name just a few.

We also learned that we were well suited for each other. We could both sit by an open fire and get lost in the flames, listening to music or sporting events on the radio. Neither of us needed or wanted a set plan when traveling, but preferred (and still prefer) to take it as it comes. We also realized that if we could get along in such a small space as a Volkswagen bus for six months, we would likely be able to get along just about anywhere.

The final days of our adventure found us on the west coast, where we stopped for several days in Ashland. Like many before us, one thing led to another and within a short time, we pulled our stuff out of storage, trucked it up I-5, and shortly thereafter Travel Essentials was born.

We traded that VW bus in for a more practical car, and 15 years later, we’re driving kids to soccer, softball and dance in a van that starts without requiring a hammer—I sure miss those good old days.

—Nancy Bestor is the co-owner of Travel Essentials. Her dream of retirement includes a newer (and better running) VW bus, the open road, and her husband Bob. She only hopes they’ll still wake up in campgrounds after everyone else is gone.