Rudi on the road
Today we called a landline in Germany’s beautiful south. We were originally hoping to speak to Rudi, but it seems he’s already hibernating! So instead we talked to his fellow travellers, Cathi and Fabi. We first became aware of this young couple after they’d turned our EasyLoo into a feel-good throne and diligently posted every step of their progress on Instagram. But we’ll return to that later …
Rudi is a beautiful scarlet VW T3 Westfalia built in 1988. Since last year, it has proudly borne a number plate starting with H for Hanover. Rudi was named after Rudersberg – the town where the two travel-lovers picked up their small VW van in 2016.
Let’s turn our attention to Rudi’s two owners. Fabi is a keen mechanic and engine specialist, not only in his free time but also professionally. In fact, he works for an eminent German car manufacturer with a three-letter name. When he’s not got his spanner out working on Rudi or other vehicles, Fabi enjoys repairing Schwalbes – mopeds made in East Germany by Simson. We wondered how a west German like him developed a liking for a brand from behind the Berlin Wall. Fabi laughed and explained that his love affair with this East German classic began when he was buying his first moped as a teenager and found out that only Schwalbes had a maximum speed of 60 km/h. Fabi’s enthusiasm for motor vehicles resonates in every utterance – he clearly has more engine oil than blood in his veins!
The charming Cathi is just as big a DIY enthusiast as her boyfriend. She sews, does macramé, and conjures up delightful decorative objects from simple items. There are informative stories about her projects on Instagram and her DIY Day is a source of great tutorials and inspiration. Cathi’s creative drive also suits her job, for she looks after a group of inquisitive kids in a nursery school. Rudi’s enchanting interior is all down to her. Our attention is drawn to a pin-covered map. Cathi told us that its original purpose was to mask the appearance of one of the cupboards. Although they’d managed to restore much of the original furniture, the lower part of one hanging cabinet simply couldn’t be salvaged. “So I came up with the idea of the map,” she explained. “The pins mark the places we’ve been to.” We were very impressed by this solution and thought it made a flattering addition to the vintage van.
But let’s get back to Rudi, for he’s the star of the story. The red VW bus only joined the family in February 2016. Before that, it had had just two previous owners: an older gentleman, and the dealer from whom Cathi and Fabi had bought it. Initially the small motorhome was in poor condition, so the pair of them gutted it, refurbished it, and restored to its former glory. Some additional equipment was installed, too, such as a solar panel, a parking heater, and an additional homemade wardrobe, which is indistinguishable from the Westfalia’s original.
Although renovation took about a year, in August 2016 – just six months after buying their T3 – Cathi and Fabi were determined to already head out onto the open road. And despite not having a parking heater yet, they drove to Sweden, a country that’s beautiful but not especially warm! Cathi in particularly regretted the lack of heating during their trip to Scandinavia.
Mind you, a project of this type is never really finished, Cathi and Fabi pointed out – and that’s something we know from our own experience. When restoring a vehicle like this, there are times when you’re close to despair. We asked Cathi and Fabi whether they’d also encountered any situations like this. “Absolutely!” they chorused. “I can still remember removing the glass wool insulation as if it were yesterday,” DIY queen Cathi told us. “I thought we’d never finish that hateful task! We were dressed from head to toe in protective gear and sweating as if we were crossing a desert!” Fabi mentioned another task they hoped would never crop up again: “The petrol tank was leaking, and as I was jacking Rudi up, we were hit by an incredible blizzard. But it was no good – the job had to be finished.” Photos of this snowstorm can be found on their Instagram profile.
We were amazed by how Cathi and Fabi had got the 30-year-old seat covers so clean and shiny. Cathy said it wasn’t that difficult: “We just put the covers in the washing machine several times and were surprised by the good results. Some of our followers thought we were pulling their leg! One even claimed he could see more seams on the washed covers than on the dirty ones!”
We asked Fabi and Cathi how they had discovered our EasyLoo and whether they’d been in agreement about purchasing one. “No, we couldn’t agree about it at all at first!” Cathi admitted with a loud laugh. “When Fabi tried to get me interested in a separating toilet, I was set against it. That was mainly because I’d imagined it to be one of those smelly portable chemical toilets and I didn’t want one in Rudi. We’d managed without a toilet on board before and I did my best to talk Fabi out of it.” Fortunately, her efforts were in vain, because Fabi had already fallen in love with the EasyLoo separating toilet. He explained why he’d been so keen to get one: “We like parking in the middle of nowhere, without any toilets nearby. And it’s not always nice and warm outside, so an onboard loo makes a lot of sense.” Cathi finally acquiesced; Fabi wasted no time and ordered a DIY kit from Kildwick. “By the time I got home,” Cathi says, “he’d already assembled it!” Fabi felt the need to defend himself: “I was just really curious and it didn’t take at all long to build the toilet.”
As well as being passionate about vehicle engineering, Fabi also loves the construction of our EasyLoos: “The plywood parts fit together perfectly. I immediately noticed that the panels had been cut using a laser. But what pleased me the most was the bamboo toilet seat, which is extremely comfortable.” We were delighted by this praise and especially the fact that Cathi and Fabi couldn’t imagine being without their new acquisition anymore. Despite her initial scepticism, Cathi is now totally convinced about how hygienic the EasyLoo is: “It’s exactly what we needed in Rudi!” When they’re on the move, they store their EasyLoo in their van’s high roof.
We noticed that Cathi and Fabi had a mascot on board: a small cuddly elk. We asked how it came to be there: “The elk dates back to when Fabi was a boy,” said Cathi with a laugh. “His mother found the little creature in the cellar while clearing up. Since the stuffed toy had the same name as our minibus, we packed little Rudi into big Rudi!” That’s a great story!
Planning for next year’s journey was already underway, although they weren’t sure where to go yet. Cathi likes warm climes while Fabi prefers more moderate temperatures. Last summer they went to Croatia, so this time they’ll probably choose a cooler destination – indeed, Norway was on the shortlist.
In between their long, long-distance holidays, the couple enjoy weekend trips to vanlife meetings closer to home. Swapping stickers is all the rage there, something we knew very little about. “Our ‘Rudi on the road …’ logo was produced by a professional designer and we’ve secured all the rights to it,” said Fabi. We were awestruck – and resolved to get equally good stickers made for the Kildwick mobile. By the way, we were thrilled to learn that Rudi’s roof lining bears one of our Kildwick stickers!
Finally, we enquired whether there was another animal travelling with them (well, apart from the cuddly elk!). The answer was no: Cathi would like to have a four-legged friend on board, she said, but Fabi’s not keen. We decided to keep out of it and let them debate the matter by themselves.
One of the nicest things about working at Kildwick is that we keep meeting really great, easy-going people. And they definitely include Rudi, Rudi, Cathi and Fabi. As well as being customers, they’re also part of the Kildwick community – and we’ll be proud to put their sticker on our Kildwick van. If you’d like to see more pictures of the four of them or perhaps even swap stickers yourself, check out their Instagram account.