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A white-bearded man hangs out by his restored VW van in an artichoke field to give cyclists cookies.

“Hi, I’m Kermit,” Paul Aschenbrenner says to bikers, “I’m here to provide free food, free informations and free tools.”

When the road stretches like taffy and the wind won’t go away, the miles tick into the hundreds and not even views of the coast and the crops and the mountains can distract from a blistering backside, something happens.

A prayer is summoned, even if the tired biker doesn’t realize it.

The proof is the angel who appears on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, with free chilled water, maps, PowerBars, tools and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

He’s a 77-year-old man who looks like a hermit and calls himself Kermit, standing next to a vintage green Volkswagen bus with plaid fabric seats and bumper stickers that say things like “OLD GUYS RULE” and “I see dumb people.”

Paul Aschenbrenner is also a self-described, self-deployed “road angel,” as his business card states clearly.

He waves for bikers to stop from his spot on the side of Molera Road in windswept Castroville, next to the Pezzini Farms produce stand and the Choke Coach food truck, from 10:30am to 2:30pm every rain-free Tuesday.

His spot presents bathroom proximity and a literal choke point on the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail to catch types traveling from as far off as Canada down to Mexico (and vice versa).

Last week, five happy Oakland hipsters happened across him on the way to Baja. They call themselves Bicicletas Por La Paz, and “mobilize in protest of corporate power over people and the environment with bike power.” They run a community kitchen, street events and music tours by bike.

Vocalist Carolyn Herlehy says they didn’t arrive weary, but they were suddenly refreshed. “We weren’t necessarily in need, but we were definitely in need of his joyous spirit,” she says. “He’s such a blessing on the side of the road.”

They stopped, drank, signed his guestbook and played a song on ukulele. Kermit danced. Everyone laughed. They cleaned out his chocolate chip treats and left a sticker on his dashboard.

“The cookies were the best part of our day,” Herlehy says.

On this day Kermit wears a button with a needle that moves a “fun factor” from LOW to HIGH. Someone asks about it, and he gives it to him. He also sports a Kermit hat and has a Kermit stuffed animal dangling from the back of a seat of his restored 1978 VW, which he also calls Kermit because, as he says, he is an extension of the van.

The hat thing is nothing new. During the three decades he was an instructor at Hartnell, he wore a different goofy hat from his collection of 65 every Monday to keep students motivated to show up, if for nothing less than to check his head.

The hats also work as a trademark during his long-term volunteering at the Monterey Jazz Festival, where he’s known as The Hat Guy. For the Wildflower Triathlon at San Antonio Lake, he dances and beats a drum at the very top of “Nasty Grade,” a miserable 1-mile climb in the half-Ironman, while wearing a giant white bunny costume.

Kermit encountered his own misery on his first ambitious overland bike trip with his buddy and fellow college teacher David Shipnuck in the High Sierras circa 1983.

As the air thinned, his quads burned, his body cramped and his tail blistered raw. “I wasn’t ready for that,” he says.

The trip would cover 100 miles a day, and 3,600 in 30 days all told.

But he also encountered adventure and sheer joy. They would ride up to police stations and ask to camp in the city park. They spent a night in Malta City Jail in Montana when the cops offered shelter from an onrushing thunderstorm.

“I love just bicycling and being with a good friend and meeting people,” he says.

The most inspiring stop during his rambles came in Virginia’s part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He ran into a woman named June Curry, who saw cyclists oozing up the hills and asking her for water from the hose. So she put out a sign, “Water for bikers.”

Eventually Curry turned the second of her two homes into a lodge for cyclists, and in the morning she would bake cookies and bring them over warm.

Now, as Kermit counts more than 400 cyclists from some 25 countries and as many states who have signed his register, he’s carrying on her ethic: “Pay it forward, so they’ll do a good deed themselves.”

It’s actually a bit more ambitious than that, whether he realizes it or not. Kermit is teaching folks to have fun practicing kindness in memorable ways, so the lesson lasts that much longer.

Suddenly it makes perfect sense that the two things the old Hartnell instructor taught were sociology and psychology.

VW explores vans and pickups to broaden U.S. appeal

“A worker checks a Volkswagen AG camper van, or microbus, known as a “Kombi” in Brazil, on the…

HANOVER, Germany — Volkswagen, which became part of U.S. pop culture with its bug-eyed Microbus, is looking at getting back into the U.S. van market.

The German company could also sell a pickup truck as it examines opportunities to broaden its range in North America, Eckhard Scholz, head of the light commercial vehicle unit, said at a press conference in Hanover on Wednesday.

“Pickup trucks are a dominating segment,” while there’s also a trend in the U.S. toward compact European vans, Scholz said. “We’re looking at both options intensively.”

Entering the U.S. light commercial vehicle market would complement Wolfsburg-based VW’s plan to become more than a niche manufacturer in the region and catch up with General Motors and Toyota. Light trucks are helping drive U.S. sales at both companies, as cheaper gasoline has turned consumer tastes back toward big vehicles.

VW became the world’s second-largest automaker by gaining market share just about everywhere except the U.S., where it has struggled since losing its No. 1 spot in the imported-car market to Toyota in 1975. It still occupies significant cultural territory for a baby-boomer generation that watched Herbie the anthropomorphic — and self-driving — Beetle in the 1968 Disney movie “The Love Bug” and saw the Bus build VW’s credentials among hippies and surfers.

Yet last year, when VW sold a record of more than 10 million vehicles around the world amid the strongest American car demand since 2006, VW-brand deliveries in the U.S. dropped 10 percent to 366,970 cars.

Part of the problem is a thin SUV lineup and the absence of a rival for Ford’s best-selling F-150. VW’s Amarok pickup truck, sold outside the U.S. where pickup trucks are less popular, is smaller than the Ford flagship.

In addition to the Amarok, VW’s light commercial vehicle division sells the Caddy, Crafter and T5 vans and minibuses. Western Europe accounted for 292,000 of the division’s 445,000 global vehicle sales last year. It also sells vehicles in eastern Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region.

Volkswagen is investing about $7 billion in North America after a previous effort to broaden its appeal with a bigger, cheaper version of the Passat sedan for the U.S. market lost steam. VW was slow to follow up with other new models after the Passat’s 2011 introduction.


Deal of the Day: Volkswagen California

Save more than £2800 on the Volkswagen California 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Beach


Pricing for the new Volkswagen California has been released, with the new model starting at just shy of £38,000 when it goes on sale in August – click here for full details.

If you’re looking for a camper van in which to whisk yourself away this summer, the outgoing model has some good discounts available online. Here’s our pick of the bunch.

The car Volkswagen California 2.0 TDI Bluemotion Beach
The saving £2811
The discounted price £33,432
The broker


There’s a lot to like about the VW California. It is easy to camp in, has a smooth and quiet ride and offers adequate performance for the long trips you’re likely to take it on.


There are a few practical annoyances in the cabin, such as having no easy way to access the roof bed without standing on the front seats.

Should I add any options?

There’s a choice of four or five seats as standard. The rear bench folds flat to create a double bed while there’s a fold-out roof bed you get to via the hatch at the front. A host of optional extras are available, including a parking heater with auxiliary heater for £1434 and other camping conveniences such as an air purifier for £114 and two extra swivel chairs for £714.

What next?

Head over to, then select ‘Volkswagen’ and ‘California – Estate’ to see the range of deals available.


The new VW California van you can’t have in California


Here’s a new protest movement for all you old Hippies out there: “Bring the T5 VW Camper to USA”. This sweet ride is like a Robocop update of the old VW bus, full of RV-like amenities including a fold-out bed, a sink, refrigerator and fold-out table; perfect for that cross-country drive to discover the soul of America you’ve been meaning to take.

“The California” as VW calls it, pulls all your emotional strings while appealing to your 21st Century expectations—much like the way Dodge brought back and modernized the muscle car with The Challenger.

The one bump in the road is this: the vehicle is not for sale in the US. What?!

When a friend asked me to join the Facebook group promoting this cause, I admit I rolled my eyes. Then I watched the video tour of of this righteous ride, and I too, was looking for the credit card slot on my laptop. Yo, V-dub, let’s bring this bad-boy to it’s emotional home. You can call the VW bus a “German car” all you want, but we all know it’s an artifact of the California 60s, Man.

From the Facebook page:

“There is a huge vacuum in US market for this great Camper. I don’t get it: Doesn’t VW, the company want to sell and make money? Then bring it to US , where you will sell 5X more than all of the European market. People are buying used 2003 Westfalia campers in US for almost it’s original price even when they have 100,000 miles on them. hear me VW?”


Hannover 96 fans park camper vans on pitch for a night




July 21 – For Hannover 96 fans the often used football phrase “they came and parked their bus in front of the goal” took on a more literal meaning when 12 of them actually did it at the club’s HDI Arena.

The fans – winners of a competition – parked Volkswagen camper vans around the Bundesliga club’s pitch and stayed the night as part of a promotion run by club sponsor Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

The promotion saw six original campers from Volkswagen’s T-series (including the class ‘California’ model) parked overnight.

The winners received an exclusive, one-hour sightseeing tour in the HDI Arena then took part in a penalty shootout with the winner off the stadium floodlights.

The winners then huddled around a large fire Basket and watched the cult film ‘The Bus’ and later sang along with the original singers the Hannover 96 anthem ‘Alte Liebe’.

The VW promotion was timed with a promotion for VW’s latest recreation vehicle. Ramsis Moussa, Head of Marketing, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “It is a spectacular action with our cooperation partner Hannover 96 for fans to camp in the HDI Arena… What began with the Bulli as a rolling symbol of independence and freedom, has become the new California a true home on four wheels. The California is rightly the icon among camping and recreational vehicles, is like no other vehicle of its kind in over 60 years of independence, travel and fun. Of course, these days live on in the sixth generation of the new T-Series. ”

The VW camper van is certainly an iconic vehicle and a symbol of lifestyle. And the Hannover 96 promotion was a step up from putting beach towels on deck chairs.

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Newport camper van conversion business launched

A VW Camper van conversion business has been launched by three Newport businessmen.

Pure VW Campers has been set up by Insider Rising Star David Greenhaf of Pure Vans, Steven Thompson from Morning VW Camper Hire and David Busson from The Stand People.

The company has said that it had secured an agreement with a caravan retailer to sell its products nationally.

Technical director Thompson has previously established a camper van hire business served in the Royal Engineers for 18 years.

Greenhaf, the company’s sales director, is the founder of Pure Vans, a commercial vehicle supplier which is on course for turnover of £7m in the next financial year.

Commercial director Busson founded The Stand People in 2008 and has also worked as the European Project Manager for a national exhibition company.

The company said it had taken orders before it was set up and is now planning to expand its team through an apprenticeship programme and the Jobs Growth Wales scheme

Mum’s VW campervan shack in Shed of the Year mix

Jo Gosling from Shutlanger with her Shed of the Year entry

Jo Gosling from Shutlanger with her Shed of the Year entry

A mum-of-two may soon be running her VW campervan wedding hire firm from the Shed of the Year.

Jo Gosling, 42, who set up Pear Tree Weddings in 2011, has a fleet of six campervans for bride and grooms to add a vintage twist to their wedding day.

She decorates the vans – which each have names like Flossy and Wilma – with ribbon, sticks a bottle of bubbly in the back and organises a chauffeur to whisk the couple to their ceremony.

Jo, who lives in Shutlanger with her husband Clive, 52, said: “We used to go to festivals and on holidays in Flossy, when someone asked to borrow her for their wedding and we thought now there’s an idea.

“We now have the finest VW fleet in the country and the largest family-owned collection.”

Jo began running the business from a table at the back of the lounge and then had to move to the kids’ playroom.

Jo inside her garden shed officeJo inside her garden shed office

But luckily for Abigail, 11, and Charlie, eight, business continued to boom so Jo gutted the garden shed and made that her office.

The shack, painted pear-green by Clive, is in the running to be named Shed of the Year 2015 – a UK-wide competition run by Cuprinol.

If it can hold off competition from a castle, a pirate ship and a nightclub, Jo will be crowned the overall winner and will receive £1,000.


Daphne, the 1964 campervan
Daphne, the 1964 campervan

Volkswagen T2 Appears on LEGO Ideas Site

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For those unfamiliar with LEGO’s Ideas site, the recipe is really quite simple- build something awesome, post it, and see how many supporters it can get in a set period of time.  If the creation is able to hit 10,000, it’ll be officially reviewed by LEGO.  In the event they give it a green light, customers will then be able to purchase the item in stores.

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This certainly isn’t the first Volkswagen Transporter to be featured on the site, and it won’t be the last either.  But what does make it interesting is the inclusion of surfboards, bumper-mounted fog lights, an aggressive ride height and wood-look bed.  In a nutshell, the model is able to capture the essence of the T2 scene without the need for elaborate props or additions.

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To become a supporter of this kit, click here.

Thanks to Rico for the tip!

2016 Volkswagen California pricing confirmed


Pricing for the next-generation Volkswagen California has been announced, with the modern-day campervan starting from £37,657. Orders in Britain start from early August and first deliveries will take place before the end of the year.

Volkswagen has built a reputation for producing camper vans over the last 60 years and the new California, based on the new T6 Volkswagen Transporter van is the latest in that line. Two trim levels are specified for the California, Beach and Ocean.

Based on the new Volkswagen Transporter T6 van, the California is offered with the choice of three 2.0-litre diesel engines. Outputs include 100bhp, 148bhp and 201bhp and with the latter two outputs the California can switch from front-wheel to 4MOTION four-wheel drive.

All models will be equipped with Volkswagen BlueMotion technology for improved fuel economy. In fact, Volkswagen has claimed fuel economy and emissions have been lowered by up to 15 per cent compared to the old California. A range of transmissions is offered including a five-speed manual, six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG gearbox.

Like the previous California, the new model is available in two trim levels, with the standard option called Beach. However, the higher trim level is now called Ocean instead of SE. Beach models are available with either a 100bhp diesel with a five-speed manual gearbox, or the 148bhp unit with a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic ‘box.

Standard features for the new California Beach include a bench-seat that can convert to a two-berth bed across the width of the vehicle. There’s also a manual pop-up roof accommodating a double bed, fold-out table and chairs stored in the sliding rear door and tailgate and an integrated awning.

The California Ocean, priced from £47,840, is available with the 148bhp and 201bhp diesels and the choice of either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox.

Features added by the Ocean model include an electro-hydraulic pop-up roof with lighting, a fully functioning kitchenette pluss appliances including a fridge and a sink. Also included is a ‘premium’ dashboard (optional at extra cost for the Beach model) which features a wide centre console and VW’s latest infotainment system. Also included is a DAB digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity

Volkswagen has improved driver safety with a array of new driver aids. These include brake assist and an automatic post-collision braking system. The California can also be specified with safety options such as adaptive cruise control and city emergency braking.

Discounts from £2800 to £4000 are available on the current generation of VW California, so similar discounts could be expected on this next generation eventually.



VW camper van catches fire and almost brings M62 to standstill


A VW camper van nearly ground a major motorway near Leeds to a hault, after it caught alight.

The flam-engulfed vehicle reduced westbound tragic on M62 at junction 29 to a crawl, just before the start of the busy rush hour period.

An image of the blaze shows flames tearing through the car’s body, with acrid smoke rising from its roof.

The picture was captured by the Press Association’s head of IT services, Andy Godfrey, who was a passenger in a passing car at around 4:30pm on Friday.

He said: “We were crawling by with traffic queuing as the inside two lanes were shut. It’s obviously somebody’s pride and joy that’s gone up in flames.

“The driver was talking to a police officer there. There was a police car – and a fire engine coming up behind ready to put out the flames.“

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said three fire engines went to the scene, from Rothwell, Hunslet and Normanton, and one hose reel was used to put out the blaze.

They had no information on the cause of the fire, except to say it was “not malicious”.