Dayton couple explores US in VW bus, shares adventure in podcast

Giant art installation outside of Marfa, Texas. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Giant art installation outside of Marfa, Texas. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

After tapping into their retirement accounts and selling 95 percent of what they owned, a couple and their dog, Jolene, set out on a trip of a lifetime at the end of August 2021 in search of the next story for their podcast, “So You Owned a VW Bus.”

As Ryan and Miracle Ireland have reached the halfway point in their journey and traveled over 22,000 miles in their “temperamental” Volkswagen (VW) bus, they said they have let their curiosity guide them.

“The places that we’ve been are just incredible,” Ryan said. “We’re finding that the little towns, rather than big tourist destination towns, those are the things to see.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan and Miracle in Charleston, South Carolina. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Ryan and Miracle in Charleston, South Carolina. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan and Miracle in Charleston, South Carolina. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Throughout the trip, the couple has met many other VW bus owners that they have interviewed for their podcast. Miracle said they decided to center their trip around the podcast because when they were driving the VW bus previously, people would always come up to them and have a story.

The Dayton couple said they wanted to record these stories as an oral history project that is a “time capsule” into someone’s life.

People who they have interviewed either have a VW bus, have owned a VW bus or have driven one and has a really great story.

“It’s just been incredible to talk to these people because they are without fail amazing human beings,” Ryan said.

In order to enjoy the podcast, you don’t have to know anything about VW buses, Ryan explained.

Along with the podcast, Miracle takes photos of their journey and posts them on Instagram and Ryan maintains a blog of their travels.

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan interviews John Hamil of John’s Car Corner in West Minster, Vermont. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Ryan interviews John Hamil of John’s Car Corner in West Minster, Vermont. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan interviews John Hamil of John’s Car Corner in West Minster, Vermont. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Ryan, 37, and Miracle, 46, embarked on this journey after working in the public library system for several years. The couple said they met five years ago as co-workers and became good friends. They started dating about three years later and then married on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Miracle explained that they experienced their first taste of adventure together during the coronavirus pandemic when they were off work temporarily. She said they planned daily hikes and drives to keep themselves busy.

“We ended up really enjoying each other’s company, even more than we thought,” Miracle said.

Ryan said he had always wanted to do “the great road trip adventure,” but the pandemic is what really ignited his desire to actually do it.

After talking to several people that said “I was going to, but I didn’t and I regret it,” Miracle said they were both all in for a 49-state road trip.

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan and Jolene develop their evening routine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Ryan and Jolene develop their evening routine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan and Jolene develop their evening routine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

The couple and their dog are living in a VW bus that is less than 80 square feet.

“You have to make that decision to be all in,” Miracle said. “It’s a small, small space. We sleep in like a five by six by two feet high space. We can’t sit up where we sleep. There’s no bathroom. We have to figure out where we’re going to shower every day.”

For Miracle, that was an adjustment.

Miracle is a mother of two, who has a daughter and son in their 20s. She explained that prior to the trip her children were used to seeing her playing it safe and being over protective.

Combined ShapeCaption
Miracle in front of the floating bridge in Brookfield, Vermont. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Miracle in front of the floating bridge in Brookfield, Vermont. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Miracle in front of the floating bridge in Brookfield, Vermont. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

“It’s kind of good for people to experience life outside their comfort zone,” Miracle said. “You’re capable of things you didn’t know.”

The very start of their 49-state road trip proved just that.

Ryan explained that as they were leaving, the alternator generator light on the VW bus flashed on and they had to make a stop to see their favorite mechanic, Norm Vocke, from Oak Grove Import Auto Service in Dayton. Once that was fixed and they tried to leave again, the clutch cable on the VW bus snapped.

They were now four days late to starting their trip.

“We realized I think in the first week on the road that plans are almost useless,” Ryan said.

Combined ShapeCaption
Jolene hides from the moose (not pictured) in Peaks Kenny State Park, Maine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Jolene hides from the moose (not pictured) in Peaks Kenny State Park, Maine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Jolene hides from the moose (not pictured) in Peaks Kenny State Park, Maine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

When they finally began traveling, they said they were met with their longest day of driving and 104 degree weather with no AC. The couple drove through the mountains of West Virginia, camped out and Miracle was bit by a stray dog.

“That’s the first 24 hours on the road,” Ryan said.

Since then, they have encountered several other obstacles including West Nile virus, sickness, a concussion and two engine failures.

“We’ve had these mechanical disasters, Miracle’s concussion and then every single episode without exception there’s somebody, who is a complete stranger, doesn’t know us from anyone, gets nothing out of it, but will step in and help us out,” Ryan said.

“We are met with exceeding generosity and kindness every step of the way,” Miracle added.

Combined ShapeCaption
Neil Webster, Ryan and Miracle’s dear friend and one-time roommate, rescues them in Sopchoppy, Florida. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Neil Webster, Ryan and Miracle’s dear friend and one-time roommate, rescues them in Sopchoppy, Florida. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Neil Webster, Ryan and Miracle’s dear friend and one-time roommate, rescues them in Sopchoppy, Florida. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

During one of the two complete engine failures, the couple said they happened to meet a VW collector named Brian “Blacky” Blackwell in Sopchoppy, Florida. He was a stranger at the time, but extended his hand to help. The couple said Blackwell gave them the keys to his 1965 VW bus to explore Florida, while they waited for their friend, Neil Webster, to drive down to Florida and take them to Minneapolis, Minnesota to get the engine fixed.

“Without fail, people are kind,” Miracle said.

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan and Miracle with Norm Vocke (center), trusted mechanic, friend, and owner of Dayton’s Oak Grove Import Auto Service. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Ryan and Miracle with Norm Vocke (center), trusted mechanic, friend, and owner of Dayton’s Oak Grove Import Auto Service. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Ryan and Miracle with Norm Vocke (center), trusted mechanic, friend, and owner of Dayton’s Oak Grove Import Auto Service. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Another one of those kind people is Vocke, the Dayton mechanic.

“I don’t think I would be able to do what I do with this vehicle without years of him (Vocke) helping me out and showing me the ropes,” Ryan said.

He explained that he met Vocke when he first purchased the VW bus in “a wonderful state of ignorant bliss.” He said that he had planned to drop off the VW bus at the mechanic shop, just like he would normally do with any other vehicle. Instead, Vocke had other plans. He showed Ryan what he did to fix the problem and taught him how to work on the VW bus himself.

“Every time something goes wrong for us, there is a silver lining,” Miracle said. “We either discover something we weren’t going to or there is a good reason we broke down.”

“It’s not necessarily the bad times are bad times and the good times are good times, even the bad times end up being these really great stories,” Ryan said.

Combined ShapeCaption
Norm teaches Ryan a thing or two about wiper motors after Adie’s wipers quit in a snowstorm. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Norm teaches Ryan a thing or two about wiper motors after Adie’s wipers quit in a snowstorm. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Norm teaches Ryan a thing or two about wiper motors after Adie’s wipers quit in a snowstorm. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

The only rules the couple said they have is to stay off the interstates as much as they can and to stay the night in each state for it to count.

The couple said at the halfway mark of their trip they had driven only 52 miles on the interstate.

“We meet people that we would never meet otherwise. We see things that we would never see otherwise,” Ryan said.

As the couple reflected on their journey so far, they said they have learned to take their time through life.

“Time is the one resource that all of us are running out of so spend it wisely,” Ryan said.

Combined ShapeCaption
The bus in Ryan and Miracle’s favorite place, Lubec, Maine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

The bus in Ryan and Miracle’s favorite place, Lubec, Maine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
The bus in Ryan and Miracle’s favorite place, Lubec, Maine. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Some of their favorite places so far include Lubec, Maine; Las Vegas, New Mexico; and the state parks in Texas.

The couple said they are “planning” to be back in Dayton in October. At this time they do not have plans for when they get back, but do expect they will need an adjustment period.

“Would you guys do this again if you could?”

“In a heartbeat,” Miracle said. “I wouldn’t even think about it.”

“No matter where you go, there’s an adventure,” Ryan added.

Combined ShapeCaption
The bus parked at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

The bus parked at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Combined ShapeCaption
The bus parked at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. PHOTO COURTESY: MIRACLE IRELAND

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

About the Author