A multistate road trip in a vintage Volkswagen van stalled temporarily in Oklahoma City six years ago; now that stop is recorded in a documentary about the journey.
Two adventurous men were traveling Route 66 in March 2007 when the 1972 Volkswagen Transporter van broke down on N May Avenue.
Charlie Pecoraro, 32, of Burbank, Calif., and Dave Torstenson, 32, of Los Angeles, needed help to continue their cross-country trip, which was being documented by a video crew traveling with them.
Help came from a local Volkswagen mechanic and enthusiast. A broken fuel pump was not too much for Greg Triebel, 37, to overcome. Triebel made the repair, and the men were on their way with their air-cooled engine.
Triebel said he already knew about the cross-country trip — through an online network of Volkswagen enthusiasts — when he drove by the broken-down van that day. He saw the van and said to himself, “That has to be it!”
Triebel fixed the fuel pump by converting it to an electric system.
Triebel was a student at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2007. He since has moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he teaches science. He owns a 1966 Volkswagen Westphalia so he was familiar with the 1972 Transporter.
‘Circle The Wagen'
The journey has been made into a documentary film called “Circle The Wagen,” which premiered June 9 at the Albuquerque Film & Media Experience.
A number of showings are planned in the Los Angeles area, filmmaker Ryan Green said.
Green, 32, of Los Angeles, the film's director, said the documentary appeals not only to Volkswagen lovers across the country. The heart of the film is about people helping people.
“Oklahoma City was the most eventful location for our trip in 2007,” Green said.
Torstenson found the van on the Internet and bought it from the owner in Des Moines, Iowa. He nicknamed it “The Croc,” inspired by Elton John's song “Crocodile Rock.”
The journey started in Iowa. On the drive to California, the van broke down several times, the first time in Tulsa. Torstenson left it there and returned to California. He later retrieved the van with Pecoraro and continued the journey, documenting the whole thing on video.
When they got to Oklahoma City, it broke down again. In the Paseo District, artist Matt Josef — then known as Matthew J. Wiens — painted a mural on it.
Josef now lives in Prescott, Ariz.
Once the van was repaired, they set out for California again. They got as far as Tucumcari, N.M., before the van broke down a third time. They left it with Bill Kinder, owner of the Blue Swallow motel.
They left it there for four years.
Torstenson said, “There were periods of times there we were firing on all cylinders. Then life happens, and other things come up. We hit a standstill on production of the film.”
When Kinder decided to sell the Blue Swallow, he called Torstenson and told him to come get the “The Croc.”
Torstenson said his passion for the project rekindled.
In winter 2011, Part 3 of the story began. The van was repaired and made it all the way across the deserts to California with help from other Volkswagen enthusiasts along the way.
Pecoraro said plans are underway to show the documentary in Oklahoma.
“It was surely a difficult journey both on camera and off camera. It was a long time for young guys full of energy to spend on one project, but it has definitely been a rewarding journey,” Pecoraro said.
“It was an awesome movie,” said Triebel, who is featured in the film making repairs to the broken-down van.
“The coolest part about it was we were involved in the first part of the story. It was amazing that this movie was made.”