I want to tell you a story today.  I recently went on an epic adventure and I want to tell you about it.

I had been researching and looking for at least two years.  I wanted to find an Adventure-Mobile.  A giant vehicle modified and outfitted to take Jen and our three boys on adventures: the kind of vehicle you could pack up with gear for any kind of outing and possibility whether it is to the beach or the mountains or camping or even the grocery store.  Picture the coming together of van, tent, mobile office, base camp, and daily driver.

With this kind of vehicle, even dropping the kids off for school and driving to the office in the morning would be an adventure!  The boys and I have been dreaming together for years.

After narrowing the search from three possible variants- The classic Volkswagon pop-top Westfalia (too small for my family); The modern Mercedes Benz high-top Sprinter (too expensive); or the original pre-2006 high-top Sprinter van (just right)- I became obsessed searching online nation-wide almost daily…for months and months.

As it turns out, it is difficult to find an original Sprinter van for adventuring.  Sure, there are plenty still around and on the road today, but to find a van with all the seats and windows that is clean and well-maintained with low miles and that is reasonably priced is like hunting for a magical unicorn.  And looking for this van in a specific color is like hoping to find a leprechaun riding on my magical unicorn’s back when I do find him.

However, there is a legend amongst those of us searching for such a vehicle: the barn find.  The legend that someone out there has such a vehicle- perfectly maintained and stored in a large garage or barn in rural America- hidden away from the searches of the internet awaiting discovery and rebirth of a life on the road.  A magic unicorn asleep in his barn awaiting discovery.  This is the kind of legend that keeps you searching.  Often I was a day or even hours late calling on a van in some other state or city.

And then, on a typical Saturday morning while sipping my third cup of coffee and trolling the online car sites, I saw it.  2006 high-top Sprinter.  Located in Bandera, Texas…cowboy capital of the world…population 455.  The anticipation.  The barn?!  Low miles.  The pictures were beautiful.  It had ALL the seats!  It was only listed an hour before I saw it.

I called the number and Doris answered.  She and Roland are an incredibly kind German couple that moved to Texas.  They drive race cars and operate a European gun company.  She said the van was Roland’s baby- always stored in their large garage and only used to carry supplies for gun shows.  The seats were removed and wrapped in plastic and stored when they bought it.  It was in perfect condition.  It was the sleeping unicorn!

After a quick car-fax and two phone conversations, I dropped everything, put a deposit on the van via Paypal, arranged a one-way flight through saved up frequent flyer miles, and sent Doris the flight information.  In less than an hour the deal was done.  I was flying to Texas!  It was a mixture of emotion ranging from, “Yes!  Finally!” to “What have I done?!  This is insane.”

When the day came, I arranged an Uber to the airport, caught the first flight out of Orange County, and landed in San Antonio.  Doris picked me up on the curb.  I opened her back door to toss in my duffle bag and saw a loaded 9mm pistol laying on the floorboard within arms reach of Doris.  Next to that was the title to the Sprinter signed and ready to sell.  She was fully ready to either shoot me or sell me the van and I don’t think she knew yet which one it would be.  I grew up in Texas where my mom used to walk the dog with a gun in her hand.   This felt strangely comfortable.  I jumped in the front and we met up with Roland and the van in a nearby parking lot.

It was in better condition than they had described it.  Roland said he had topped up the gas, changed the oil and fuel filter, put on some new Michelin tires, and given it a wash and wax and she was ready to go.  They felt like long lost parents.  After some pictures and hugs, I jumped in the van and began the long drive home with Doris and Roland arm-in-arm watching me pull away.  It was a twenty-one hour, fourteen-hundred mile victory lap home.

When I got home the boys went nuts!  Adventure time. 

Unicorn’s do exist- they just live in barns in Texas and require patience, exquisite timing, and the resolve to take quite a leap at a moment’s notice to capture.  Life is too short to not take big risks, pursue fun dreams, and create a life of adventure.  

What is your unicorn?  Get out there and capture that thing.

Phil Wood

Author Phil Wood

Phil enjoys being active and is a serious hobbiest, which means he obsesses on new interests constantly- currently it’s surfing, reading, crossfit, coffee, and blogging. He and Jen live in Southern California with their three boys: Kaleb, Brady, and Carter.

More posts by Phil Wood

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