The Cherished Blogfest 2015: Vee-dubs and Me

For the subject of this post, one need look no further than my profile picture. As a recovering vintage Volkswagen addict, these relics of the Third Reich hold a special place in my heart. Exactly why, I cannot say.

Most likely, this all goes back to my first sexual encounter, which took place in the back of a yellow squareback sedan. Parked in one of the scenic turnouts along Trail Ridge Road high in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, it was a magical convergence of nature, libido and machine. The moonlight reflecting off the snow-capped peaks, the lights of Estes Park twinkling below and the bold yet unassuming lines of the minimalist interior combined to leave an indelible imprint on me. If memory serves, a woman was also present, but that seems almost inconsequential now.

I was particularly enamored of the microbus, having owned a total of four and – like Gollum caressing his ‘precious’ – I cherished them all. Despite many and varied mechanical quirks, they fell into a category that VW owners refer to, with great optimism, as “daily drivers.” Typically the term is held to a pretty loose interpretation. So long as the vehicle can be started (pushing is allowed), attain a speed that keeps you from being run over by traffic coming up from behind (a stiff tailwind is the vintage Volkswagen driver’s best friend, thanks to an engine that produces roughly the same torque as a ceiling fan), and then brought to a stop, the basic criteria have been met. Should things like the heat, windshield wipers and turn signals work, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

My first was a two-tone camper – the quintessential “hippie van” – hand painted by its previous owner. To the man’s credit, he did use an exterior latex and a short-napped roller. One of my early attempts to tune up the engine resulted in a minor fuel leak. The ensuing fireball was quickly extinguished and my eyebrows grew back in only a few months, but the vehicle was known from that time forward as “The Hindenburg.”

Defined as anything Before Radiators, these vintage models are not for the timid. Handling and maneuverability are on par with your basic soap-box derby entry, and often times the road is visible beneath your feet due to a tendency of the floors to rot away like vampire flesh caught in a shaft of sunlight. Every trip requires a stockpile of spare parts, along with the ability to install them at a moment’s notice. It’s been said that, to fully appreciate the air-cooled driving experience, one must develop a Zen-like acceptance of breakdowns as part of the journey. That and a knack for reaching your “happy place” while your flesh is being seared by red hot engine parts. Peace, love and pass the metric tools, dude.

Thanks to an intervention where friends forced me to watch Little Miss Sunshine for three days straight, all that remains of my addiction is an old oil stain on the garage floor. But even so, we still loves our precious.


44 thoughts on “The Cherished Blogfest 2015: Vee-dubs and Me

  1. OMG OMG i am coming back later to savor this with a glass of wine but I can say with all my girlish enthusiasm and hutzpah that I would have TOTALLY fallen for you, and the VW bus would have sealed the deal . LOL some of my fondest – as yet unwritten memories – are of vans, hippy cross country travels with my girlfriend and the ‘few good men’ we met along the way.

    What a day for a day dream.

    Or if you come to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair

    Or I’ve been a miner for a Heart of Gold.

    I can say with utmost certainty there won’t be a Cherished post I enjoy more than this 🍷😉

    • Now I’m blushing…

      I’m happy to have sparked so many fond memories. I, too, had my share of cross-country trips that should probably be documented, if only for my own enjoyment. It would also be nice to sneak a few more in before I’m consigned to that Rascal.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      • 😀👏. Enjoying it just as much the second time around. But how you’ve stirred the memories – not just the camping parties and hippy happenings but the foibles of maintaining and driving our van.

        Keep on truckin’. 😀 i love your writing!

  2. Man, I was so spoiled as a kid. My first car was a Plymouth Horizon and all I cared about was that is was light blue and small. Forget repairs, I was doing well just to get gas in properly.

  3. First, what a great title for a blog. Second, back in the day, at least three of my friends and one Auntie owned Kombie vans. And my husband has just reminded me that he owned one quarter of a Kombi but that was before we met, so I don’t think it really counts – not to me. I imagine it might to him. Third, I could hear the gears grunting, the clutch sticking as I read. Despite the dodgy mechanics I was always certain we’d get where we were going, eventually. And we did.

    • I’m curious about owning “one quarter of a Kombi”…sounds like the makings of a great story. And “dodgy mechanics” is an understatement…I can remember losing the brakes on top of Palomar Mountain in southern California. It was a white-knuckle ride all the way down. Now THAT’S fun…

  4. Brilliant picture to start with and I love vintage cars being a Parsi. Well, Parsis are people that currently live in India and although we are less in numbers we love antiques and vintage vehicles. Its in our DNA, you just can’t help it. 🙂 Thank you for participating.

  5. Love the photo and the post! 🙂 It brings back many memories of the good old days. Although I never owned a VW bus, they certainly were symbols of the “hippie” era. Reminds me of a fun commercial from a few years back. Did you ever see it? This is it:

  6. Hindenberg……there might have been a woman….floorboards……. This was a funny as hell post, loved it. Back in 70’s&80’s, maybe even 90’s, when those vans were still on the road, i remember if I got behind one anywhere near a hill, my first thought was to pass it or get stuck behind it while it proceeded up the hill at a hiker’s pace.

    • Once, while driving uphill into a headwind, I had to just pull over…the bus was completely out of steam. I suppose there was some message to be learned about patience or something, but I simply turned around in defeat while spewing a string of obscenities.

  7. Finally, an alternative to Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”….I was never much of a baseball fan anyway and your version offers so much more salt of the volks. Thanks for sharing and for dropping off a “like” at marc’s blog.

  8. What a tale. I never had a van, and never had a friend with a van — not even one down by the river — but I did have a forest green, 1960-something VW beetle. The danged car had quite a history, including the day I stole it from myself, but I loved it. I called it Mephistopheles, because it was a devil of a car.

    When I first moved from Iowa to Houston, I drove that thing with a U-haul trailer behind it. I assumed the trip would be all downhill. No one told me about the Arbuckle mountains, in Oklahoma. Good gosh.

    Great post, that surfaced a whole lot of memories, and a few chuckles as well.

    • “the day I stole it from myself”…I’d like to read that tale sometime.

      In the name of brevity (500 words), I didn’t even mention the Beetle and the Karmann Ghia I owned. And I called them many things much worse than Mephistopheles, especially when I was driving uphill.

  9. Poetry, voice, wit in a few paragraphs– glad you participated in the Cherished Blogfest– so I could read this post!

    Fleshed out, this piece would sell at a solid creative non fiction venue.

  10. ah the VW memories. I think they go in the don’t let me try that again column. though to be fair the diesel model that is this week’s mode of travel seems to be holding together and up to the job. thanks for sharing the cherished memories.

    • Apparently, I haven’t learned my lesson, as I am forever locking up the brakes and swerving to the shoulder any time I see an old vee dub by the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign in the window. Time for more electroshock therapy.

      Thanks for stopping by…

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