I realize now that the Volkswagen I bought under an oak tree in Sacramento has been here to New York City for a few months now and I haven’t written anything about it. Let me tell you, it is an incomparable joy.
I am idly contemplating a racier set of seats for my sweet, sweet Volkswagen. Something comfy for a road trip but with enough bolstering so I’m not bracing against the door in corners. I have a variety of options, none of them seem ideal.
I like fixing my car. I like driving my car. But I have never liked cleaning my car. This week, though, I took the seats out of my old VW and the cleaning was so good it sent me into a frenzy.
I don’t know how long I’ve had this stupid fascination with putting a wood deck into the back of my clunky old Volkswagen, like some enclosed truck, or the world’s smallest ‘70s van. Finally, my car now has one, and I’m surprised at how easy it was to build.
When you stall a 1974 Volkswagen at an intersection, any intersection, even ones on the far side of Memphis in the middle of the night, somebody always materializes to help push it to safety. This time it was a volunteer firefighter about to leave a nearby drug store, and a disheveled guy hanging out by the lotto…
A year ago, I blew the motor in my 1974 Volkswagen while trying to make it from Sacramento to New York City. I made it as far as Arkansas, where my car has sat ever since. Now, finally, I am flying down to retrieve it and finish the cross-country journey I started.
It was a clunk, then loud banging from behind me, and then the engine cut off. Any other time before and I would have been in a flash of panic, checking and forcing a restart and I don’t know what else. This time, man, I just put it in neutral and coasted ahead into the night.
When I set out to buy my most recent car, I gave myself a budget of $5,000. I dutifully looked at two almost identical 1970s Volkswagen Beetles, one was a shabby, well-worn ‘74 for $2,500, and the other was an immaculate, restored ‘71 for $5,000. I think you know which one I bought.
There I was, happily chugging up I-40 on a clear Arkansas night when—cough cough sputter clunk—my car decided to die. Was I filled with shame? Was I filled with terror? No. I was prepared.
It had somehow narrowed down to hours, how I was measuring time. It wasn’t a question of days or weeks anymore. I was doing hour and mile calculations to see if I’d make it back in New York by the time I needed to be back for work. And stuck on the side of the road again, New Mexico heat all around, it felt like I’d…
I glanced down at my phone to double check the directions Google was giving me and I looked up, at highway speed, and the road in front of me disappeared. I didn’t even have time to shit myself.
Driving eastward across the country sucks, because you begin in the wonderful wide open spaces of the West and you end up stuck in traffic on the I-95 corridor. But there’s at least one good side of the trip.
You know your road trip is a shit show when crossing the highest mountain range in the lower 48 on three cylinders counts as a good day.
I don’t have a lot to contextualize just how horribly my cross country drive in my new 1974 Volkswagen Beetle started. Hell, I don’t think anyone has ever driven to their own tow truck before.
It didn’t occur to me at the time quite how ridiculous it was. I was staring at my new car, its engine out and sitting on the driveway, and I planned on driving it across the country to New York City the next day.