I can barely convince my friends to go see a movie. The Rolling Death Van Club in Portland, by contrast, is able to coordinate meet up after meet up, helping each other buy, fix up and run the coolest old vans in the country. Looking at all of these tattoo’d, pierced survivor van owners, suddenly I feel like the piece of shit who doesn’t have his life together.

Do your friends have patches? Photo: Alex Lau


My coworker Mike Ballaban and I met up with the RDVC while we were in Portland for our season finale, learning the ins and outs of rallying, driving a AE86 Toyota Corolla run by Nameless Performance. Since we were going to be running some forest roads outside of town, we felt we should go into the city at some point and see some of the local culture. For Portland, our producers figured we should hang out with some punk old van owners. I thought that sounded a little cliche. I was completely wrong.

That’s Sergei’s current van, which he also got a tattoo of. Photo: Alex Lau

The Rolling Death Van Club turned out to be full of some of the most goal-oriented, surprisingly successful people I’ve yet met. One member, Sergei, moved to America from Russia with the intention of being homeless and living out of a van. He even got a tattoo of a van he would hope to live out of while he was still in Russia. And Sergei did make it to the States, and he did get his van (with another tattoo of it), and he has driven it all over the country. When we saw him at the impromptu RDVC gathering we set up, he had a bunch of wood in his van ready for going out to the beach for a bonfire. This man has set and achieved more major life goals than I have.


Your car does not have this much style. Photo: Alex Lau

And every van in the RDVC is brimming with achievement and personality, from the hideaway weed-storage bins to perfectly restored 1970s paint jobs to immaculate clean shag carpet.

Do you and your friends have your own t shirts and custom patches? No, you do not. Aspire to be more like the Rolling Death Van Club.


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