Welcome to the online journal of the Backroads Wanderer


A quick stop at the beach

This blog serves as an online journal of the travels of my 1975 VW Westfalia camper, the Backroads Wanderer. I bought this camper quite some time ago and we traveled in it for a while, but one day it had a mechanical problem and ended up sitting in my garage for over a decade. Fortunately my wife found a great restoration shop and we shipped the old Westie off for a bit of restoration work – a dream come true if ever there was one!

Keep an eye on this blog for more entries about our travels!


Reviews of campgrounds can be pretty funny (occasionally)


Ok, so most forums on the Internet are not that different despite the wide range of topics they cover.  People speak their opinions, others abuse/berate/belittle/badger/rage at the poster, a few people tend to ‘own’ the forum, blah, blah blah. That’s why I don’t really participate in forums very much, and have not for some time. That said, I recently wanted to see if this site that reviews RV parks would hold anything of value, and while there were the usual number of class A RV owners complaining about anything not class A related, there were some useful tidbits in the reviews.

Most of what I found useful is not worth repeating here since not too many people are going to check my posts for campground reviews, but this really gave me a good, solid laugh so I wanted to share it

“…Neighbor to my camper attempted to preach the Book of Revelation to me, starting off by asking me if I would wear a white robe one day.  Strange.  Next morning, a child almost ran over me on a bicycle.  Perhaps it was because I was not wearing the white robe…”
Now that’s just plain funny!

Clifty Falls State Park, Indiana


We nabbed another new state for the Wanderer over the Memorial Day Weekend – Indiana, when we camped at Clifty Falls State Park. Clifty Falls is an outstanding park, and I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. The campground is very nice, staffed with friendly people, and offers a great array of amenities. You can read all about our trip on the trip page, located here.

Caesar Creek State Park, Ohio

IMG_8425We went camping with the new tent this past weekend and it was glorious to be able to open and close the top again. The old tent was having issue with the zipper, and had begun to tear in a couple of spots so I replaced it (details in the previous post.) Having a nice, clean top really makes a difference!

Caesar Creek State Park and Caesar Creek Gorge State Preserve are very fun, if somewhat small, destination where you can see a very nice little waterfall, hike on a well established but lightly traveled trail, see historic houses, go fossil hunting, and enjoy a very scenic lake. You can read all about our trip on the trip log page.


New tent installed, finally!

IMG_8361After long consideration, and a failed attempt at repairing a disintegrating zipper, I decided to go ahead and replace the original tent. I still have the original, in good condition with the exception of the few tears, stains, and failed zipper, in storage, but it was not in good enough shape for actual use so I ordered a replacement from the Bus Depot. I bought the canvas tent that looks and feels like the original, but has three windows instead of the original one (which turns out to be WAY cooler, both in appearance and temperature.)

Upon receipt of the new tent I was shocked to see how small the box was – for whatever reason I thought that it would be much larger. I opened the package, inspected the replacement for damage and found none. The tag showed that the model year was correct for the Wanderer, so I spread it out and measured everything and it seemed to be about right (if a little snug in width. The length appeared to be spot on.)

Pulling the original tent was fairly simple and only took me about 30 minutes (I wanted to it out as cleanly as possible, with as little new damage as I could manage.) Once it was out I was able to compare them side-by-side and indeed, the width of the new tent seemed a tad short. I wrote this off as stretching in the old tent and proceeded to prep the new tent for install. I followed the directions, marking the centers on both the tent and the roof, and started tacking the top in place.

I chose to keep the pop-top installed, since I do not have anyone to help lift it off, and because the stapling is really simple, even in the rear. That hard part, I discovered, was the bottom, which I had though would be the easier or the two. Wow, I now know what it’s like to put a drum head on. This thing is TIGHT in width, so much so that I was concerned about tears. The top-to-bottom size was perfect, no problems what so ever in any area, but that width made it a serious bear to wrestle into place in the corners.

I quickly abandon the directions on the bottom, finding it easier to install the rear corners first while the rest of the bottom was loose. This allowed me more wiggle room in that tight spot. Once the corners were in, I then started in the center and worked my way out to each corner, attaching the aluminum rail. Then came the front corners, and man did that suck. I spent a lot of time working on those corners, a LOT of time. If any mosquito is unfortunate enough to hit the canvas down near the camper top it’s going to be propelled at sonic speeds into the Airstream I’m parked next to and be pulverized by the impact. I mean the width here is TIGHT!

All that said, once I actually got all four corners in the rest went fairly well. I did a little adjusting as I went, but everything went in smoothly after those corners. The end result looks pretty good to me (if you don’t like it you’re welcome to stop by and fix it yourself, be my guest!) I’ll say this about the new tent – it’s way cooler and looks like a million dollars. It’s a chore and a half, but it was worth the effort.


The sides and rear of the original tent were intact, if slightly stained, but the front was a lost cause.


The fiberglass covered wood made stapling difficult – many staples had to be driven the rest of the way in with a small hammer.


Top staples in progress


Reattaching the roof lift mount.


Not a lot of width to spare in the rear, but more than what I had in the front corners.


Double-checking the top rear fit.


Testing the front fit – corners still need a little tweaking.


Working in the rear with the top on is not for the claustrophobic.


All staples in and fit tested – time to get started on the bottom rails.


Making some adjustments to the rear corner.


Getting ready to fit the bottom front corners now – time for a break!


Same view as above of the finished product – no stains, mildew, or tears! Time to go camping!!!


Looking out the nice, new front window

Bug-A-Palooza 16 and Fall Creek Falls State Park

We went to the show this year for the first time, and it was really a lot of fun. There were a lot of custom cars there along with a number of stock models, all of which were amazing. It was really cool to get to a VW show again. It’s been a decade for me, at least, and I forgot how much fun they can be. The weather was great (mild, but very sunny, with a nice, steady breeze.) I felt the almost overwhelming ~need~ for another VW while at the show. I suspect that this is a common occurrence :)

Since the show was so far away (about 6-7 hours drive) we turned it into a chance to take the Wanderer on the road for a weekend camping trip. I posted a new page on the trip in the road trip section, which you can read here. I also updated the photo gallery with some pictures from the trip.

Below are some photos from the show:

IMG_8240 IMG_8241 IMG_8242 IMG_8243IMG_8245IMG_8246IMG_8247IMG_8248IMG_8250IMG_8251

What’s camping without enamelware?

Our new camp enamelware started to arrive today – plates, cups, bowls, etc. all in an obnoxious green (lovely!) I was originally considering getting them in dark blue speckle, a more traditional color for camp enamelware, but then I saw this great green color and decided that it would be a better choice. Yes, I know, the official color of the upholstery in the Wanderer is considered ‘blue’ plaid so blue might have been a better color, but there’s plenty of green in there too, plus these have more visual impact 😉

Here are some pics of the new goodies inside the Wanderer



We have four place settings (plate, bowl, and cup) plus the matching tea kettle, salt shaker, and sugar bowl. There are utensils with matching colored handles that I may get at a later time, and probably the pepper shaker too, to complete the set. I’m still on the fence regarding the pitcher – I’m not sure that we would use it that much, but it sure would look cool on a picnic table with all of this arrayed around it for lunch or diner!


Everything fits nicely inside the sink cabinet upper compartment (except the tea kettle!), which is nice as all the other kitchen items are stowed in the lower compartment where the collapsible spared once lived. I am considering building some sort of padded divider or container system that would fit snugly in the upper compartment – I’d like to be able to make the most of the storage space, and have better organization of what gets stowed in there, and a little less rattling and banging during turns or driving on rough roads wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

As a side note, I kind of like the small lanterns they have in this collection, but I’m not sure if they would be worth getting or not. They look great, but probably won’t give off much light. Still, a couple of these hanging outside the Wanderer at dusk in the camp site might be kind of fun…

27953_h1_f-486x376You can find GSI enamelware in various colors here if you would like your own set. The GSI brand seems to get a lot of good reviews online as being durable and reasonably good quality, although I felt they were a little lightweight compared to vintage enamelware. Still, the look is worth the compromise in weight.