Photographer:Adam Naples
Camera:Mamiya 7
Film:Medium Format Kodak Portra 160 + T-Max 400

Across America in a 1970 VW Bus

How two brothers turned a moss-covered artifact into a rolling home for four friends

*words and images by Adam Naples

Owning a bus/van was never something I actively sought—I’m just a kid that fell into it.

I was 19 at the time, struggling with the concept of staying in school while pursuing a degree I wasn’t passionate about. I eventually dropped out to jump into photography full time, eager to embrace change. Around this same time my brother and I passed a 1970 VW Bus on the side of the road, speckled with moss from a number of dormant years. A few days later, the two of us struck a deal with the owner and immediately started wrenching on her in the driveway. And that’s how Wendy came to be.

My memory of our inaugural cross country road trip a few summers back is a little fuzzy now, but the impression it left will never fade.

"You just don’t meet shitty people broken down on the side of the road."

Old VW heads always told me, “it’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles.” So that’s exactly how we approached the trip. With a drive from Pennsylvania to California in mind, my brother and I filled the bus with skateboards and two of our closest friends, and hit the road. Going nowhere fast, at 45mph.

A few of the more memorable stops along the way were Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, The Redwoods, and countless other nameless spots anywhere along the West Coast.

Though perhaps the most memorable was pulling into Wyoming’s Teton Mountain Range. Between the beautiful scenery, the company that surrounded me, and the car we built, I was beaming with sentimental and sincere appreciation, gratefulness, and pride. This further pushed the notion that great things take time to come into fruition, and that a DIY mentality together with hard work can make most anything possible.

We broke down in forgotten Dakota towns, scenic rest stops, middle of nowhere Minnesota, all over California, and eventually even shore a fly wheel gland-nut off in southern Oregon. Each time we were faced with an obstacle, we came together as friends to solve a problem. The people we met during those set-backs also deserve all the credit in the world. You just don’t meet shitty people broken down on the side of the road. 

"Going nowhere fast, at 45mph."

Although I consider my bus to be a freedom vessel, for me the vanlife isn’t just about escaping to a far off place, but about applying all it’s taught me to my daily life, and photography work too. Buses require patience, meticulous work, and an incredible amount of dedication. It’s honest; it’s pure; it’s rewarding.

It’s been a great gift to gain the knowledge I now know about these vintage cars, the community that’s helped me along the way, and the introspection that the object itself has encouraged.

I never imagined myself becoming so immersed in a culture of “junk," but then again, I’m not one to ever look back. Cus who knows what comes next?

Adam Naples is a freelance photographer formerly of Pennsylvania now rolling around the Northwest in his VW Westfalia. See more of his work here, and follow his Instagram here

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