March of the Microbuses

Adam Hurlburt
Richard Kimbrough

The Shasta Snow Trip (SST) is unlike any other vintage vehicle event. Open exclusively to pre-1968 Volkswagen Microbuses, this outlaw winter romp is the stuff of legend among VW junkies. The idea is simple: make it from the bottom of the Mendocino National Forest to the city of Mount Shasta, California, over some of Northern California's gnarliest dirt roads, in less than two days. This is no mellow cruise through hippie country. Tackling roughly 500 miles in a vintage tin can requires skill, preparedness, and a pinch of insanity.

The seed germinated in 2000, when then-thirty-three-year-old Brian Piercy of San Anselmo, California, crossed the snowed-in Mendocino Pass in a six-volt '65 VW Single Cab. The next year, he organized a winter expedition on the back roads of Northern California, open to anyone with a split-window Microbus. Three vans ran the first annual Shasta Snow Trip. Thirty-seven started this year; twenty-nine finished.

The split-window bus's road behavior is a double-whammy Nader Nightmare. The weight of the flat-four mounted behind the rear wheels amplifies the swing-axle suspension's affinity for explosive oversteer, and the Microbus's high center of gravity feeds its proclivity for rollovers.

But those who abandon fun for safety doom themselves to a life of underachievement. There's no room for them on the SST. As Piercy says, "You've got to push your bus to find its limits -- that's kind of what it's all about."

This is a trip that gets into the bones. It's a real do-it-yourself adventure -- danger, mud, and carburetors in the age of the digital shut-in.

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