Wide open spaces, million dollar views and an adventurous journey are exactly what Dani Eshed and his family got this summer when they rented a 2001 VW Westfalia campervan from Oregon VW Camping.

“It’s basically a fully outfitted small, small house on wheels, with a sink, a stove and two big beds,” said Eshed, who lives in Los Angeles. “It was perfect for us — my kids are 6 and 7 and they loved sleeping upstairs in that pop-up tent.”

Oregon VW Camping owner, Brandy Lamb said this vacation home on wheels was busy rolling along the United State’s highways and byways all summer long. Customers from all over the country wanted to camp comfortably.

Van campers don’t have to sleep on the ground or set up a tent or worry about inclement weather. Almost everything is compactly and strategically placed inside this little home, which has about 50-square feet of living space.

“It’s almost cult like, the people who like to have this type of life on the road,” explained Lamb, from his Corvallis office. “My wife and I started this business because we also had done something like this in Australia, where we van camped for three months exploring that country. We knew if we loved the experience, people here probably would too.”

Ramblin’ Vans of Bend rents out a custom outfitted Ford Econoline camper van. Like Lamb, its home away from home van was rented out most of the summer with very little turnaround time.

“A customer would bring it back and I’d have just enough time to wash all the bedding and towels and clean up the van and have it all checked out before the next customer would come to rent it out,” said Ramblin’ Vans owner Stacey McKinney. The camper van was so busy this summer she is considering adding another one to the fleet. “I had people from all over the world renting it. Let’s see, there were couples from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ethiopia and France.”

McKinney said she thinks the appeal of renting a camper van is people don’t have to worry about hotel or motel reservations, and for the price of renting a camper van, you get both the housing and a vehicle all rolled into one.

“I think it really comes down to freedom and ease for people who like to go van camping,” McKinney explained. “You can go anywhere, explore anywhere. You just pull in and you’re there. If worse comes to worse, you can pull into a Walmart parking lot or a truck stop and camp for the night.”

McKinney, who has rafted the rapids of the Colorado River, taught snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor and teaches mountain biking, said she tried to think of everything a person might need in her ramblin’ van.

“I have everything you could dream of from really high-end bike racks to a gourmet spice and kitchen box, which includes a coffee press,” said McKinney, 38, who describes herself as meticulously organized and neat. “For sure, this is a fully equipped house on wheels. All you need to bring are your clothes and some food. I think it’s totally a livable space that you could feel comfortable in for an entire summer.”

At Ramblin’ Vans, McKinney charges $125 per day, with a five-day minimum and around a 30-day maximum. The longer rentals receive a discount. At the writing of this article, McKinney’s van was rented out for 32 days to a couple planning to explore many of the National Parks between here and Utah.

McKinney said the inside of her Ford van is equipped with most of the creature comforts of home, boasting a fairly large kitchen table and bench style seats that turn into a queen-size bed with luxurious bedding and plenty of cushions and pillows. A large awning can be pulled out from the side of the van that allows customers to set up an outside room. McKinney provides an outdoor table and chairs, which can be set up for cooking or alfresco dinning. Attention to every detail is what McKinney said her customers remarked about most this summer.

“I knew this van had to be comfortable, so I had the cushions for the bed custom made. They aren’t that cheap foam bedding material,” said McKinney, who also paid attention to designer details. “I went with basically all earth tones for the interior space, with dark blue curtains that slide over all the windows for privacy. There’s a ton of storage space, so you don’t have to have your hard gear and soft gear thrown all over this small ‘house.’ Everything can be neat and tidy in here.”

The Eshed’s, who rented their Oregon VW Camping van for 10 days, said their favorite place they visited in the state was Opal Creek Wilderness, in the Willamette National Forest.

“It was really beautiful out there, with the ancient forest and beautiful swimming hole, but it was very remote. We had to drive on a dirt road for quite a while to reach it. I don’t know if you had a big RV if you could easily get there. That’s why the VW camper was especially good because it’s smaller and drives just like a car,” said Dani Eshed. “We could camp there and take hikes through the ancient forest, so it was really convenient for our family.”

Oregon VW Camping charges between $149-$159 per day, and Lamb said there are no up charges. He includes everything in the van from the propane for the stove to the hammock, should someone want to nap between trees.

“Having a fully stocked camper van takes the stress out of camping. You’re not worrying you forgot something. It makes it easier for everyone,” said Lamb. “You can also easily get outdoors and reconnect with your family without being at the mercy of Mother Nature (rain and snow).

Eshed said there was a time when the entire family would be tired. He pulled off the road into a forested area, and got some much needed shut-eye. He didn’t have to worry about finding a hotel, which he said he greatly appreciated.

Another memorable moment, he said, was when it started to rain hard while they were camping. The family took refuge in their warm, snug, waterproof camper van. Overall, Eshed said his family came away with some great memories of their journey. If he had to sum it up, he’d say they were all “happy campers.”

— Reporter: halpen1@aol.com

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