The Electric Pony

The Electric Pony is a 1989 Vanagon Westfalia camper van. This is the pinnacle of automotive design:

Fun to drive:


Crossing a river in Colombia


Navigating a desert in Peru

Fits anywhere:


Preparing to transit the Darien Gap in one of these shipping containers


A houseguest in Mexico


Taking the ferry across the Sea of Cortés

Brings together all the essentials:


Airing out laundry

Dinnertime in the van with my boys





Full-size bed up top


Or breakfast in bed down below



camping shower

And a DIY shower

As the overlanders like to say: home is where you park it.

8 comments for “The Electric Pony

  1. April 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Breakfast is very important, because if I don’t eat within 20 minutes of opening my eyes, Juan’s life is in danger.

  2. Ian
    July 21, 2012 at 12:44 am

    hHy you guys I am a Vanagon enthusiast who has driven the Pan Am as far as the Panama canal. If you have any questions go ahead and email me. I have a place right near the beach in a gated community in Nicaragua that is off the grid and beautiful if its not rented its worth a couple nights stay. Buen Viaje!

    • August 4, 2012 at 1:04 am

      Great! We can’t wait to meet you! We’ll be in touch when we have a better idea of when we’ll be in your neck of the woods.

  3. Karla McCulloch
    June 1, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Hi Steph and Juan,
    Thanks for sharing your trip and your tips. My husband, Tom, and I are about to take our Maiden voyage from Santa Cruz to the East Coast, along with our small dog, Hagrid, in our 2000 EuroVan. We leave in 3 weeks and we’ll be gone for 7 weeks. We’ve only weekend camped in Dolly, no long trips. Steph, how do you pack and what do you pack? I enjoyed your Blog and got lots of ideas from it and got totally excited about our upcoming trip by reading of yours. Any other secrets of road tripping I should know?
    If you could help out a first time traveler that would be great, if you don’t have the time I understand.

    • June 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Karla, your trip sounds great! I’ve been meaning to do a gear post, but what you pack is so personal. Basically–what do you need to be reasonably comfortable? The less stuff you bring, the better–the van can fill up really fast, and no matter how organized we try to be, it seems like we always end up pawing through clutter. Definitely bring any medications you three might need, but pretty much anything else you can find on the road. Last summer when we drove through the US in the heat wave, we purchased a 12-volt fan that made a huge difference on those hot nights. We also carry a Coleman solar shower. Inspired by our friends in Illinois, we store all of our dishes in a rectangular rubber tub that fits perfectly in the cupboard below the sink, and it is great for washing dishes, clothes, etc, and also makes a little pull-out drawer for the dishes. A clothesline and clothespins are also very useful and don’t take up a lot of space–since you’ll be gone for two months, I’d recommend packing a small jar of laundry detergent. Clothes-wise, I have fallen back into the 80-20 realm, where I wear 20 percent of my clothes 80 percent of the time. Lightweight, dark colors, and then one long-sleeved shirt and one pair of long pants to help keep mosquitoes at bay in the worst circumstances. Hope this helps. Email me if you have any other questions!

      • Karla McCulloch
        June 2, 2013 at 10:25 pm

        Wow, thanks for getting back to me so quick. Your advise was helpful and I’m going to have to apply the 20/80 rule.I think it’s going to be hard but I guess if I don’t pack it I can’t wear it. I am going to bring some really good soap though!
        Thanks again,

  4. jeff
    May 2, 2014 at 9:04 pm


    Great blog! I am planning a similar trip next year and I wanted to ask you if you had any problems fixing your van in south america? Did you bring many spare parts from the US?



    • jbuhler
      May 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Jeff!
      In general, we didn’t have any problems that a general mechanic couldn’t take care of. We’ve been pretty lucky and the engine and transmission haven’t had trouble at all. We had a water pump rebuilt in the north of Argentina a few months ago, and that was the most complex fix.
      A couple of times I did have a few parts brought over from the US. I would refer you to my thread on TheSamba about the trip, where you can see what kind of issues we ran into and how we solved them:

      Good luck in your trip!

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