Look beneath the appalling line of rust in this photo. Ok, I hear you say, I’ll look below that appalling rust. Ummm, what exactly am I looking at?

Aha! I say, so glad you asked. What you see there is a brand new propane tank for Wilhelm, or Kaiser Bill, as we call him, my 1985 VW Vanagon camper. When I bought Bill, the original tank was badly rusted and an RV dealership told me the valve was rusted shut and maybe I could find a replacement from a wrecker’s yard. I didn’t much relish that possibility, since if I could find one, it would likely be as rusted and sketchy as my original. But then a friend of mine told me about the brnad new propane tanks available from Go Westy, and I thought it could well be $300+ dollars well spent if that meant I could greet Mrs. Padre in the morning with a cup of hot coffee brewed on the onboard stove, rather than go outside, possibly in the cold and rain, to wrestle with the Coleman stove. Plus, the idea of actually using the stove in the mornings or in the evenings raised the enticing possibility of a heat source, since, as we discovered on a late summer trip to Waterton National Park, Bill can be quite Chill in cold weather.

The tank duly arrived from GoWesty, and parted me with another $70 for duty when the UPS guy showed up at the door. Mrs. Padre had not been prepped for that possibility, as I had not considered it, and was not amused to have to pay for it. Now to make it work. This Monday, I met up with my friend Ronnie, a member of the local Vdub Club. Seems there at least a half dozen of the Brits stationed here at BATUS who have bought old VW campers and are restoring them with the aim of shipping them back to the UK when their tours are done. It took several hours and a bit of straining, as the new regulator was too long to allow a fitting with the gas pipes running up into the stove, or “cooker” as Ronnie put it, so we had to swap it with the regulator from the old tank, but a fit was achieved. Haven’t tested it yet, but getting the tank filled and tested is on the agenda.

Kaiser Bill, fully recovered from the propane tank transplant, and resting under a convenient awning behind the base chapel.

I found out the next day that while Ronnie was helping me, his British army duty phone had fallen out of his pocket, and as I merrily drove away, Bill crushed it into a million places. Some legacy German hostility to the British army, perhaps? Ronnie told me that the BATUS SigsO had been dubious about his claim that “The Padre drove over my duty phone”, so I called Major D, confessed that I had apparently destroyed one of HM’s Duty Phones, and would report for punishment at a time of his choosing. Fortunately for me, Major D was amused, and told me this incident would make it into his memoirs under the heading of Humorous Army Stories. Imagine my relief to be so reprieved.

Next on the agenda: getting the tank filled and tested, having the fuel injectors cleaned by a local garage, replacing the struts on the rear gate, taking out the useless fridge and replacing it with a storage shelf kit on order from Go Westy, and our first road trip before May is over. Grinding off the rust, sealing the metal, and repainting are longer term projects.

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  1. I await with nervous tension the news from the CGs office that our dear ol' mate, Padre Peterson, has snuffethed it due to a gas explosion involving a sketchy camper van on which the aforementioned padre had done a bit of DIY. Just don't do it before retreat – you owe me a few pints!

  2. My father-in-law restores VWs (or attempts to) for fun. His parents immigrated after the Kaiser abdicated and he's fond of der Vaterland and associated stuff. If you come back to Ontario I'll let you know when one of his club meets in Buffalo is scheduled. No $70 duty required.

  3. Steve – according to a meeting w my boss I had today, a return to Ontario is quite possible. I would enjoy meeting your voter in law.

    Howard – your concern is so touching, me old mate. Kay has already told me that she wants to be mo where near the van when I try out the stove. Such a lack of faith. At least I won't have to choose between burial and cremation,