Peace, love, charity and a VW Camper
AS WE speak, the spirit of Woodstock is abroad on the land. Somewhere out there on the byways and back roads of Ireland, a convoy of classic VW Camper vans on the annual Eireball Run is finding a groove of friendship and freedom on a road trip dedicated to charity and the open skies. With the iconic VW Bus leading a train of up to 50 vehicles, the vibe is ‘Thelma and Louise’ Irish-style in a cheerful chaos of children, dogs and surfboards to a soundtrack of the Beach Boys.
“From isolated winding mountain passes where sheep are a more regular sight than cars to challenging narrow clifftop roads, every moment is the perfect picture opportunity,” says Jacinta Hayes, who led the first convoy of Beetles, Karmann Ghias and T25s with husband Tony back in 2006.
Finding some of the most scenic spots that never make Trip Advisor, every sunset sees a circling of the vans, with tops popped, dogs walked and children running free to a communal ballad of bubbling pots, fizzing cans and the laughter of another day’s adventure.
“The fact that everyone absolutely looks out for one another is fantastic,” says veteran Eireballer Caroline Cowen, driver of a 1984 T25 Hitop. “For one week of the year, we become a mini microcosm of the perfect society. No one gets left behind, no one gets left out.”
In this nomadic summer camp for children and adults dedicated to the joys of the open road, charity is always the ultimate winner – more than €100,000 raised since it all began 12 years ago.
First unveiled at the 1949 Geneva Motor Show, the VW Bus legend began small with a model called Type 2, younger brother to the Beetle. Models built between 1950 and 1967 had the famous divided “splitty” windscreen, while the later models are recognisable by their one-piece “bay screen”.
Classic doesn’t come cheap, however, with top nick models in high demand, fetching €30,000 and over. And while December 2013 marked the end of an era as the last of these cultural crowd pleasers rolled off the production line in Brazil after 64 years of production, Volkswagen recently promised an all-electric model will be out in 2022. More than any other vehicle, the VW Bus represents an enduring image of the flower-power 1960s hippy era. Cheap to run with space for beds and surfboards, it was the transport of choice for the Baby Boomer generation. Finding its feet in the California counter-culture scene, it became the legendary winking model adorning the front of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, and album covers by Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead – whose vast fan base of ‘Deadheads’ followed the band all over the US in rolling convoys of peace-andlove humanity. Representing not just a geographical freedom, but also an emotional liberation that sparked into life with the ignition, it said “alternative” with an alluring whisper.
Possessed of a magic and charm designed to bring a smile to faces on the footpath, it says a mouthful about taking that road less travelled and ranks close to the top in bucket lists from Bengal to Ballyporeen. Legend has it that Steve Jobs sold his beloved VW in the early 1970s to buy the circuit boards that eventually became the prototype for the first Apple computer. It’s been a long, strange trip from Woodstock to the iPhone – and one that still keeps rolling for its true disciples.