We bought a van!

Her name is Ruby and we are in love. We plan to drive across the country in her and make endless memories. But the story of how we became her owners is pretty special and we wanted to share it with you…

Jacob and I had been discussing buying a van for years; our relationship has been composed of over thirty road trips together during the course of four years of dating. We have traveled to 8 states together, 7 National Parks and made countless memories on the road, even living in our truck for a month on several occasions. It was only a matter of time before we would buy a van together, but as most of you know, that can be a huge financial decision. Honestly, we have been entertaining the idea since we went on our first road trip back in 2015, but it had only ever been a dream, for “one day”. Fast forward to 2018, and a rainy afternoon on the internet, when Jacob pulls up a link and finds her: Crimson red and glistening. 

“Babe. This is the one.” Jacob said to me out of the blue. It seemed like for months I had been the one pushing that we continue our search for a van, and Jacob had continued to be the voice of reason. We needed to make sure this was what we truly wanted, because it is an important investment. Jacob was convinced that she was the one for us and insisted we go see her the very next day. She looked perfect, but admittedly, I had a doubt or two. 

Want to know what they were? 

“That one looks… too… clean.” If you’ve seen our Toyota Tacoma truck, you know that when you have two dogs, live in your car for months, and well, have two dogs, things can get a little beat up. And beat up, our truck was. My first thought when seeing the photos of her was that we would somehow ruin her, and I was almost more comfortable getting one with a little bit more wear. She was just so incredibly beautiful, and even by the photos you could tell that her current owner had taken sweet, gentle care of her. 


That was silly. And we wanted to make a smart van purchase, one that we would be happy with. Her ad was posted in Olympia, Washington, which is only two hours away from where we live. Our engagement party was that weekend and that was another thing on my mind; but Jacob persisted. “If we don’t go see her, somebody will buy her.” His eyes lit up and I knew how serious he was. She had only been up for two or three days when we saw the ad, and I knew it was a good deal. Jacob found a tan-colored Westfalia available in Seattle, which is just one more hour North of Olympia, and suggested we make a trip out of it and see both of them in one day.  

When we arrived at the other van in Seattle that day, I immediately knew it was not the one. Not only was it in sort of bad shape and going for a lot more money, but we didn’t really vibe with the seller either—something I believe is important when making this kind of purchase. After we saw that van, we met up with an old family friend of mine who lives in Seattle before heading South to meet Ruby.

We met Ruby's owner at a local police station, surrounded by pine trees on a nice sunny day. We were instant pals with her; an older woman who desperately wanted to keep her but didn’t have the time or desire to keep up with a van like her anymore. She lovingly informed us that her very first owner named her "Ruby" and it has been passed down from every owner. She had her for 15 years and loved camping in her during the summer. It was her desire that she be sold to someone who would devote the time and care it takes to maintain an older Westfalia. Jacob had been doing research for months, and my father has owned over 200 VW’s in his life, so we were confident that we were prepared for what she needed. Upon looking at her, though, it is clear she didn’t need much. New engine, original paint job, clean interior, working pop-top, and so much more. She is equipped with a sink, a fridge, two beds, and shelf space. It was becoming clear that she was exactly what we were looking for. Jacob and I were extremely enthusiastic, and Jacob even got to test drive her in the parking lot; her owner riding shot-gun with him. 

We spent a good hour just speaking with her previous owner and basically drooling over the van. Unfortunately, we came with the intention only to look, and didn’t have enough cash on us for the deposit she wanted in order to hold Ruby for us. And she had other people coming to look at her before we could come back (like I mentioned, our engagement party was that weekend)…

Ruby’s old owner was a friendly soul, and we thanked her over and over for taking so much time out of her day to show us this van that we desperately hoped would be ours. She told us every quirk, every detail, every good, and even every bad about that van. We felt she was honest in her reason for selling, and that she was unbelievably fair in her price.

"Bye, Ruby…” I said solemnly as we were leaving, patting her. 

No more than an hour into our drive back home, we received a text from Ruby’s old owner. 

"So good to meet you both. I think Ruby would be perfect for you. Keep me posted on what you want to do.” 

As we were leaving from our meeting with her earlier, we discussed all the people who were coming to look at her that weekend. She said she would have to sell her to whoever was available to first, and we said we understood…

To our surprise, she pursued us. We worked it out to wire her a deposit, and then sat back in disbelief, and excitement. We promised to come pick her up as soon as we could, which turned out to be over a week as we had family in town and things to do—and she waited! Everyone involved knew it’d be a perfect fit, even Ruby.

We had a friend drive us up to pick her up, and finally, she was ours. 

Jacob was a natural at driving her, and she rode smoothly. So many moments, Jacob and I looked over at each other without words and said, “I can’t believe this is real…”

His sister, Molly, FaceTimed us as we were driving home, and was the first person to "see" her. She loved it and was happy for us, as was everybody else when they finally found out we bought a van, which was something we kind of kept from everyone until they could see it in person. That's kind of our thing, we want to show you, not tell you...



What we have done to Ruby so far:

I say "we" but it has been mostly all Jacob. He has been so passionate about improving our van for us. We have both been cleaning the van; the extensive deep cleaning by him, and recently he replaced the stereo. Before, she didn't have an aux cord and that was essential for us. Our road trips are not the same without our music. 

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Of course, we put up some Christmas lights...

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What we plan to do to Ruby:

She doesn't need any of the things we are going to add/replace. Honestly, for a 31 year old Westfalia, she is in great condition and all of the things we do will just be for our own personal comfort. Eventually, we will... Replace the tires, add steel bumpers, replace the canvas pop-top, add a wooden table (our friend is currently building us one), add a new middle console, add a Yakima rack up top, bike rack, add a portable shower, add more shelving, remove the AC to make more storage room, add a second battery, add an awning, and replace the older, and worn upholstery. All of these things will be done gradually, and the table will probably be the first. 


Where we plan to go in Ruby:

Our first travel destination will always be California. My brother lives there, and we are still totally infatuated with Northern California, The Redwoods and the secluded, breathtaking coastal range. So, in a few days, we'll take our first real road trip in her. Also known as Ruby's Maiden Voyage...

Next stop is Spokane, Washington. That's where Molly and Joel live, and so we will visit them, and potentially head to a few other sweet spots in Washington. After that, we are back here for more business, and I have my own booth to showcase my art at a festival early July. Once that is over, end of July, we will be heading back to California for a Roloff family reunion, then from there we will begin our journey across the country to Michigan, where I will meet Jacob's extended family, and on our way back, we will stop in Iowa where Jacob will meet my extended family! In other words, Ruby has a lot of driving to do in the next couple months, and we can't wait to see how she does...


To answer a few frequently asked questions so far...


"How will you travel in a van with dogs?"

Van life will be a new experience for all of us. However, we have lived in our truck with our dogs before. The van will be a lot more spacious. After a month in a truck, things can get cramped. The dogs love living on the road, and frankly, love being anywhere we are. They will have a blast. We are fully equipped to have two dogs live with us in our van; storage tins for their food, a 7 gallon water tank, leashes, tons of balls, toys, bones, and of course, their favorite thing, adventure. We never leave them in the van alone for longer than 15 min. (because Moose can be destructive at times if left alone too long) and we will only travel to mostly dog-friendly places. 


"Where will you shower and go to the bathroom?"

Kind of like camping, you don't shower often and you use "Leave no trace" methods when you use the bathroom. Rest areas, campgrounds, and wherever we stop with bathrooms, just like any normal person uses on road trips... We have been told you can get a gym membership to Planet Fitness to use their shower anywhere in the country and we are considering that. But during the summer months we hope to use a portable shower that we will eventually get.

"How did you find her?"

The internet is a resourceful tool! We found her on a website called Craigslist, other websites, and even just asking around could lead you to your own van. 

"What is the gas mileage on an old vehicle like Ruby?"

Probably around 18-20 miles to the gallon. She takes regular gas and runs like a dream.

Hope that answers a few questions and lets you in on an exciting life update! We are so incredibly excited for this adventure and opportunity! As most of you know, we have a YouTube Channel: Rock & Roloff and we are going to start making videos again! We loved documenting our month-long road trip in May 2017, and now we are going to document what living on the road is like in a van. Hope you follow along and enjoy the videos!

Thank you for taking a peek into Ruby and our life with her so far. We are stoked on our decision to buy her, and can't wait to live in her and make her our home. Updates about it all will be mostly on our YouTube, but I could write more blog posts about it if that would be interesting to folks.

Van life people, reach out to us! We would love to connect with fellow travelers, and the road can always be more fun when enjoyed with others. Especially if you have dogs as well;) 

Photo credit: Tori Roloff @toriroloffphotography

Photo credit: Tori Roloff @toriroloffphotography

Love, Izzy