How I ended up owning a van in Alaska.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to find a car, eventually, it will find you.

A good friend of mine gave me this advice years ago when I was looking for a campervan. Two weeks later at another good friend’s birthday bash it came to me. My beloved 1987 VW LT “John Wayne” was for sale from a third good friend. Fast forward seven years I was looking for a car to get around in Alaska. As I would take it down to California within the next three month, renting was not an option. So I went through craigslist, used car lots and basically every other option to buy a car in Juneau just to find out that non-residents aren’t allowed to own cars in the state of Alaska. Now that was a bummer. A Canadian car wasn’t an option either so I decided to travel to Haines with empty hands.

Luckily Bruce, my host at the Funny Farm was given an old van just a couple of days before I arrived. So here it was waiting for me his backyard. Worn out and so rusty that I bet it’s only the paint that keeps it together. A 1990 Ford Econovan with a running engine, working four wheel drive and all lights required. That’s all Alaska asks for to call a car streetworthy. So it was just a matter of days to figure out how I could get it on the street: just have a resident register it and get an insurance for an international driver.

First and most important: you need a car out here. The Funny Farm is way out in the sticks of the sticks and then you turn right. With so many down days to kill, you want to be able to go to town. Even though neither I or my travel buddies believed in it, #shitfuckvan was always reliable despite the never ending damage list:

  • windshield broken
  • driver side window: gone, fixed with plastic foil and tape
  • front right shock: broken
  • unprovoked engine overheating
  • strange noises while driving
  • wiperblades: fixed with tape
  • rust holes almost everywhere, you can even see the road through the hole in the bottom from the drivers seat and every now and then, the hull looses a few pieces
  • nice surplus: two boxes of spark plugs and two bottles of brake fluid in the cab don’t ad to a feeling of safety

On the opposite it sure has its advantages at a very low price: you get around and if someone is searching for you – like Ryan the other day when he wanted to invite us for dinner – he will find you.

You cannot hide with a car like this.

As it most probably won’t make it down to California (which involves a 2’500km drive through virtually unpopulated Yukon and British Columbia) “#shitfuckvan” will wait here at the Funny Farm for me to return next winter for another heliski-trip, so this story will be continued next winter. Either way, it will go down in history as the most fucked-up car I will ever drive.


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