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Published: October 1st 2018
When my husband and I were first married, one of our first major purchases was a renovated and restored Volkswagen Vanagon Bus. When he was younger, my husband’s family had a similar bus, though theirs was an older model. We found this one at a specialty VW shop in nearby Greensboro, NC and we bought it on the spot. Since then, we have had many adventures in this vehicle, chief among them camping with our family. We took the van onto some family property in the country as newlyweds and hiked and camped there. Then, when we had our first child, we took her to a nearby camping site at Hagan Stone Park in Pleasant Garden, NC. However, we had yet to attend the High Country Bus Festival in West Jefferson, NC.
We heard about the festival from the van’s former owner, who had worked painstakingly to upfit the vehicle. He had replaced the upholstery, repaired the leather, added a simple wash sink and even installed heated seats. An avid VW enthusiast, he had attended the High Country Bus Festival for years and encouraged us to go. So, this past year, we took my brother and his girlfriend and bought
tickets to attend the festival. They are both vintage-loving old souls at heart so the idea of traveling a few hours west in a restored van was right up their alley.
We arrived at the campground that evening and were amazed by how many people were already there. The actual event was held along the New River in a little town called Crumpler, NC which was within the greater West Jefferson area. All along the riverbank, people had set up camp with tents, RVs, and of course, plenty of Volkswagens to go around. There was no food provided, so we had packed two coolers’ worth of meals to supply us for the long weekend. On the first night, we heard music from the band New Corduroy Commander. They had a great, funky sound that switched between bluegrass, beach and rock genres.
The next morning, we woke up and decided to explore the grounds just a little. All along the riverbank, there were people selling tie-dye t-shirts, dreamcatchers and other throwback, nostalgic gear that VW fans would appreciate. While we enjoyed the short stroll, we all really wanted to go tubing down the New River, an activity that we
knew was available at this specific campground. We had never really been tubing before, but it looked like a smooth enough ride and the water didn’t seem too choppy, so we all walked up to the front office, paid the fees and grabbed our big, yellow intertubes.
Our fee allowed us to tube as much as we wanted, so we took two short trips up and down the river with just our small crew and then we joined a larger group for a designated group float at 2:00 that afternoon. Afterward, we grabbed an Hawaiian shaved ice and just sat along the riverbank, taking in the gorgeous view and talking with each other. None of us got particularly great cell phone reception out there, so it was a nice opportunity to take a break and press the reset button. It reminded my husband and I of a time camped in France with my sister after she graduated from college. We weren’t able to call out for a while and so instead, we took that time to talk intently with her, listen to her share about her next steps after graduation and make some special memories together. In fact, we
so enjoyed that time together that we are already planning to go back to that same spot, located along the country’s Occitanie Region, and bring our kids along. With so much of their time spent at school, in front of the television or behind a screen, we want to get them out among nature where we can really show them how beautiful nature can be. As we plan the trip, we are looking for ways to find out more
about kid-friendly things to do while we’re out there, as we want to make the most of our time away and really explore.
Yet, this time around, we were on the bank of the New River, talking with my brother and his girlfriend, discussing their plans and future together. It was a sweet time to be together and one that I will cherish forever. It started to drizzle just a little bit toward the late afternoon, and we used this time to duck into a tie-dye workshop being offered in a nearby shop. Though we hadn’t brought along any items to die and weren’t able to contribute to the class, it was interesting and informative to learn the art behind the process. We spent that evening listening to banjo music under the stars and roasting marshmallows to make s’mores.
Before we packed up and headed out Sunday morning, we took one last walk around to admire some of the different models of VW vans that were parked along the campgrounds. We met so many interesting people with stories to tell that it truly made it feel like a community. On the way back home, we stopped at Shatley Springs, which was also located in Crumpler. Though we had gotten along just fine with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we’d packed, we devoured the family-style breakfast like we had never eaten before. Of course, we couldn’t leave without getting a cup of the famous spring water for which the site is named! Overall, it was a special trip with my closest loved ones and I am grateful that even if it took a bus festival for us to really spend quality time together, we were able to do so. We will be back again next year!
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