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Story by Lois Grace

By the time you read this, Vernon will have vented his spleen on me, his fuel pump will be fixed, and all will be right with my little VW world again. Let's hope. Last Sunday, the unthinkable happened: Vern ceased to function. (Broke down sounds so BOURGEOIS) I still think it had something to do with a teensy little grudge he's been carrying around against Oscar since last year.

Oscar (my '58 convertible Bug) is a nice summertime car. We put the top down and go to the beach. We put the top down, and go picnicking. We put the top down and - oh heck, we almost never put the top UP. Anyway, the Golden Gate Chapter (VVWCA) had two fun runs last year, the first one to the beach in June, and the second to a pumpkin farm in October. Oscar went on both these trips, while Vern sulked in the garage. Sulking is not Vernon's style, so I had no idea this is what he was up to. But it was VERY apparent last Sunday that he was not pleased with me at all.

I was feeling sorry for him, and decided to start him up and take him for a cruise. Nowhere too far, just down the highway a bit. I didn't even bother to change my grubby clothes or unload his bed, which just happened to contain all of Oscar's new upholstery and door panels. So, after he warmed up a bit, off down the road we went. My road of choice was Monterey Highway, which is two lanes each way, with a concrete divider between north and southbound. It stretches for about 20 miles to the south of us, connecting south San Jose with the more rural communities of San Martin and Morgan Hill. There is absolutely nothing out there except vast stretches (as vast as you can get in San Jose) of fruit and nut orchards, and old abandoned buildings and farmhouses. Once you pass Coyote and the bait shop, you're on your own till Morgan Hill. That never bothered me much before this incident. I mean, it's not exactly Nowheresville. Vernon chose his spot carefully, somewhere with no phone or humans nearby, when I was severely underdressed for the weather, and when it was getting late in the day. Once he found the perfect spot, he did what he hasn't done for 30 years: he quit running.

This used to happen to Vernon and I a couple times a year, when I was driving him daily. Then, it was no big deal, I'd just park him, lock him up and walk home. Dad and I would go back, get Vern running and off we'd go again. Ah, those blissful pre-restoration days! Now, here I was stuck at the side of a highway, under a walnut tree, in the middle of basically nowhere, in a dead million-dollar single cab. OK, not a MILLION DOLLAR. But an extremely precious single cab. I didn't know what to do. Screaming or crying wouldn't help, so I got out, opened the decklid and peered inside, hoping to see something terribly wrong that would give me a clue as to how to get him running again. No loose wires, no funny smells, no oil leaks, nothing. I could almost hear Vernon snickering to himself as I peered deeper and deeper into the Dove Blue depths within. All I could see was a very nicely restored, very clean 36hp engine, doing nothing. I peered, Vern snickered,and time passed. Still seeing nothing wrong, I tried again and again to start him. The engine cranked over repeatedly, without starting. Almost as if...........................he was out of gas! No, my calculations (no gas gauge) showed Vernon still had half a tank. All this trying left me no choice but to hoof it for a phone. Trouble was, WHERE??

The only thing in sight was a tall sign for a golf course, so I headed that way. This involved running across two southbound lanes of highway, leaping over the concrete divider, then racing across the two northbound lanes. It wasn't that hard to accomplish, given the fact that a car passed about every 10 minutes. It was a bit unnerving though, since I felt like I was in a place were no human should be - perched atop 3 feet of chain link fence, on a concrete divider, no cell phone, in the middle of a highway. After making it safely across, I headed up the road, doubting seriously whether there really WAS a golf course at the end. As I reached the top of the hill, one of those silly little golf carts headed my way - and I was never so glad to see it in all my life. I mean, I should have been cautious - it could have contained some half-crazed, axe-wielding, golf-playing, rapist/maniac, right?? I threw caution to the winds (gotta save Vern!) and accepted the ride he offered to the phone. The occupant (looking very much like a normal golfer) seemed very curious as to why I was so panicked about my "car" breaking down and set me off in front of the phone. All the while, I was thinking of Vernon sitting out on the road, with Oscar's new interior in back, his shiny blue hide being ravaged by vandals as they pried off his (vintage) hubcaps and spray painted obscenities on his sides. YIKES!! With shaking hands, I dialed My Hero (otherwise known as husband Rob) who vowed to speedily come to my rescue with a can of gas. I was still hoping it was something that simple, although I hadn't run out of gas since that night in 1972, when I took my boyfriend home after the movies, and...............................oh, never mind. Really, I DID run out of gas.

Anyway, after calling Rob, I ran all the way down the hill, out of the golf course, back to the highway, to find Vernon sitting there, calmly awaiting me. Everything was, to my great relief, just as I'd left it. Which also meant, of course, that the poor bugger wouldn't RUN either. SIGH. I sat down to wait for Rob and the fuel. It wasn't long before he showed up and we slopped 2 gallons into Vernon. Turned the key, cranked him over again and again, and NOTHING. He tried, he really did (I think he was feeling guilty now) but he just couldn't quite find it in his heart to forgive me for driving Oscar more than him. It was getting later now, about 3:00, and it started looking more and more like we were going to have to call the dreaded TOW TRUCK to come and rescue us - it was our only hope of getting Vern out of there before dark. So, I took Rob's truck and went back to the golf course to call for a tow. I wasted about 20 minutes on the phone, while Rob labored below on the highway, sitting guard and trying repeatedly to get Vern to cooperate. I finally found 2 places that were capable of what I wanted - a flat bed hauler , not just a pick-up-the-nose-and-go service. The one guy I selected had a truck heavy enough to carry Vern, and a driver available. Trouble was, they wouldn't be free for TWO HOURS. I had no choice since the rest of the places I called didn't have a truck big enough to piggyback a Type II. So, with the arrangements made, I went back down the hill to give Rob the good news: we were going to be there awhile.

As we sat at the side of the road waiting we pondered the cause of all this. We unhooked the end of the fuel line at the carb and I got back inside Vern to turn the engine over. RRRrrrrr,RRRRrrrrr,RRRRrrrr, then a shout from Rob to stop. BINGO! EUREKA! Nothing was coming out the end of that line, when gasoline should have been flowing freely. The poor fuel pump had given up. After 60 years?? How DARE it! Cheap piece of garbage! Anyway, we then found the problem, staring us in the face - a tiny, dowel-like thingie, pressed into a hole at the base of the pump, and it had come almost completely out. This piece goes into the hole front to back, and it was now hanging by a thread at the rear. As we cleverly tried to bang it back into place, we heard a tiny BOIINNGGG, which we immediately took to be all the internal workings of the pump, letting go inside. A quick removal of the pump confirmed our fears - once the pin had loosened itself that far, it released the works inside. There was nothing to do but gather all the assorted pieces together and sit back and wait for the tow truck.

He arrived shortly after 5PM and immediately after the sun set. With white lights on top of the cab shining brightly, he loaded Vernon and off we went for a friend's house, south of us in San Martin. Vern could not go home, since there would be no way to get him up the incline of the driveway into the garage. So, we took him instead to the barn where I store Oscar. The driver of the tow truck was VERY careful and took extra care to treat Vernon with respect and caution - he even went so far as to put a big chunk of foam rubber under the front beam before hooking onto him. Vernon had only been towed once before, 120 miles home after the last batch of restoration work had been completed. That time, he was willing and able to get himself home, this time he was being towed because one of his internal organs had failed. That fact was humiliating enough without reminding him that he was being TOWED. I told him good-bye and assured him we'd have him fixed the next weekend. What I didn't tell him was that the huge 3-ton hauler that had just carried him was - HORRORS - a NISSAN.

Today, as I write, Vernon is happy, healthy and home. His new fuel pump looks wonderful and more importantly, works perfectly. I drove Vern home and got him back inside the garage, ready for his next outing. I think he just needed that new pump to be sure he was still my favorite. I can't be too hard on the old guy? I think he's still having trouble adjusting to a sibling - he's 42 years old and has just now gotten a baby brother. Oh well, I think Vern knows he'll always be my first-born!


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