Elaine Larsson leaves no doubt as to the priceless and joyful life lessons learned in the 1970’s cross country teenage adventures she shared with her parents in their 1970 Volkswagen Westfalia.

Decades later, a serendipitous sequence of events, allowed the woman Elaine has become to again enjoy the driving experience that enriched the life of the young girl she was.

The woman picks up where the girl left off


“1972 Volkswagen Westfalia, pastel white, 58,000 original miles” read the 2014 ad found while I surfed The Samba.com website. “What country is it in?” Elaine asked with conversational interest. While not a “car guy,” Elaine always waxes fondly when recalling teenage cross country family road trips in her family’s 1970 Westfalia.

Over the years Elaine would from time to time try to track down the old van. It had been sold in the late 1970s. Her efforts gave strong indication that it had long ago moved on to the old van burial ground. However, while gone, the memories it inspired remained undiminished.

Memories of her father, a retired Jersey City motorcycle cop, her adventurous mother and BFF brother generate nothing but smiles when Elaine recalls 6-week escapes in the early 1970s where the family visited mountains, prairies, and, yes, oceans white with foam.

I showed her the images accompanying the ad for the van. Same model, same color and solid original condition. Her interest perked like coffee ready to pour.

The Samba.com website provides an extraordinary global marketplace offering vans aplenty from Africa, Europe, Canada and the western US. East coast, not so much. “Where is it?” she asked with a bit more edge to her voice. “New Jersey” came my reply.

Packing a large wad of hundreds, Elaine walked the mile between her home and the van owner’s house.

“Do you want me to show you how to drive it?” the owner asked. Elaine’s knowing laugh betrayed a “you never forget how to ride a bike” level of confidence as she slid behind the same controls on which she learned to drive. Originally purchased in 1971 by an Air Force officer stationed in Germany, this van had a diary with  comments from every past owner. It had spent 20 years in the desert of the southwest.

The last nine years found it sequestered in a New Jersey garage waiting for a once newlywed bride to finally change her mind about the joys of camping.  Finally acknowledging defeat, the camping enthusiast husband had the van headed for a buyer in the UK. Then, with the joyous precision of serendipity, Elaine showed up at the door shortly after the British buyer reneged. Elaine drove the Westfalia home.

A week later while attending her first car show as an owner, she found an endless stream of visitors eager to sit inside the van. Little kids, parents, police officers all shared a common fascination. As the roll call of awards rang out over the sound system, the final award went to the “People’s Choice.” The people had chosen Elaine’s van.

Shortly thereafter, Elaine encountered an automotive journalist, Jim Koscs, who believed Elaine and her van had a story to tell. Coca-Cola agreed. Months later Elaine and her Westfalia took center stage replacing Lebron James on Coca-Cola’s Journey Global website.

As time has passed, the blonde in her van has become a locally recognized fixture as, together, they traverse the county in search of interesting garage sales and more importantly to manifest quality yoga experiences. Training as a yoga teacher, Elaine will incorporate her Westfalia in offering an open air yoga experience she has developed called “Roadhouse Yoga.”

Imbued with her father’s wisdom, her mother’s kindness, her brother’s friendship and my love, Elaine’s Westfalia with each new mile carries treasured memories of a joyous past and hopeful dreams of a beautiful future.