Peace, love, char­ity and a VW Cam­per

Irish Independent - - Comment -

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.

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