I am a Roamer

I am a Roamer

Roamers are on my mind a lot these days.

Specifically, a 1997 classic Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro, “Rohmer the Roamer,” which was sitting in our driveway until a week ago.

The Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro is a perfect vehicle for roaming. Volkwswagen started making them in 1985, an all-wheel drive version of the Volkswagen van. The Vanagon Syncro has a 2.1-liter gas engine, four-speed manual transmission, 95 horsepower engine and 117 lb-ft torque. It’s a beast that can go anywhere and is super comfortable. It’s made to live in full-time on the road. It’s got a furnace, kitchen with sink and a stove, beds, solar panels, even a toilet. It makes off-grid travel possible – which is perfect for me and Regan.

Rohmer is like a member of the family, along with his VW brother, Gus the Bus, who just came home to us last week after a long time away.

Truth be told, if I had to choose one over the other, I’d choose the Rohmer. I even drive him around town. He’s more usable for us, more reliable, with more space.

We’ve had a lot of work done to make him that way.

We got him last summer, and I had him restored from the ground up. Every single nut and bolt taken off and put back together. He looks like a new vehicle. He feels like a new vehicle. But then we moved to Duluth, Minnesota, also known as the San Francisco of the Midwest, and Rohmer does not take kindly to these hills. I’d be trudging up the hills in second gear, shift to third gear, and lose speed. He needed a new engine.

A lot of Roamer owners take out the original Volkswagen engine and replace it with a Subaru engine. The Subaru engines are more reliable and these days, easier to fix. But Regan and I are Volkswagen fans from way back. We wanted a Volkswagen engine for our Rohmer. Plus, it’ll fit right in – it’s easy to install.

So last week we sent Rohmer off to Nashville, Tennessee. He’ll get a modern 2023 4-cylinder turbo Volkswagen engine. It’s not going to make him a rocket ship, but it's a high-powered engine which will give him a lot more power to handle these hills.

But I have to say, every time I walk by that empty space in the driveway, I feel kind of like the dad whose kid has gone off to college and I’m left looking at the empty bedroom. I know he’s coming home to us and he’ll be ready for more adventures. But in the meantime, there’s a hole in our family.

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