By Joseph Ditzler • The Bulletin

What: Ramblin’ Vans

What it does: Rents a camper van and gear

Pictured: Stacey McKinney, founder

Where: Bend

Employees: Two

Phone: 541-610-5387

Website: www.ramblin vans.com

Stacey McKinney earned a minor in adventure recreation from Ohio University, and now she’s putting it to work. McKinney is branching out into a vacation rental on wheels.

She started Ramblin’ Vans, a camper van rental company, in June. After years of camping and traveling around the Pacific Northwest in a Toyota Tacoma with her dog, a Malamute/German shepherd mix named Gomez, and her gear, McKinney said, she concluded that she needed something bigger. Big enough, that is, for a couple of people, four or five bikes and dogs, too.

“I was looking at vans, and it occurred to me I’d only be using it a small percentage of the time,” she said, “so that’s how it got started.”

McKinney, who kept her day job working for a solar energy-related company, launched Ramblin’ Vans with a customized, low-mileage 2007 Ford E-150 cargo van as a test run last summer; the response was good enough that now she’s in the market for a second van. She also picked up a business partner, Christina Thayer, who’s responsible for the marketing, advertising and social media side of the operation.

Demand for the service is building, and the field, locally anyway, is without much competition, McKinney said. “I know the demand is out there; it’s just a matter of reaching those people,” she said. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe it would take off.”

The van is designed for the adventurer who’s as likely to find a spot to camp along a forest road as seek one in an established campground, McKinney said. It’s not RV plush, although it comes with pullout drawers, electrical hookups, bike and gear racks, an outdoor stove and a bed that sleeps three and converts to a table.

Ramblin’ Vans will also rent sleeping bags, sleeping pads, backpacks and other camping equipment and plan clients’ trips, she said. Rates range from $130 to $150 a day, depending on the season, according to the Ramblin’ Vans website.

“If someone wants to tour the coast or visit Canada, we’ll support that with trip planning,” she said. That includes details like coordinating bike rentals or reserving campgrounds, McKinney said. The van also comes with guidebooks, maps and a six-pack of Oregon craft beer.

McKinney said Ramblin’ Vans offers a shuttle service to and from Portland International Airport.

Even if Ramblin’ Vans hits its stride, McKinney has no plans to quit her work in solar power. “I really like what I do,” she said. “I’m not so willing to give up my day job.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

Q: How do you market and advertise your business?

A: Stacey McKinney: This winter we’re doing that kind of thing. We’re going partly through Travel Oregon and Visit Bend, leaving fliers there and reaching out to folks. We’re envisioning Google searches by folks doing trip planning.

Q: Where do you see the business in three to five years?

A: If I had three vans, that would be great.

9029382