VINTAGE VW VETERANENTREFFEN
#2 'Oscar's story'
the end of September, Rob and
I began preparing for the Vintage
VW Veteranentreffen, held in Solvang,
CA, near Santa Barbara. The
first one - in 1990 - had been so
much fun we decided to attend this
event every year. This time we drove
Oscar (my restored 1958 Bug convertible)
instead of Vernon, my 1959 Single
Cab who'd taken us there and back
in 1990. Follow along as my
photographic memory recalls the events
of the trip:
We get up, planning to leave at 8AM.
HAHAHAHA! Oscar is not loaded
yet, and the dog has to go to the
Rob leaves to take Rachel to the kennel,
a half hour away. I'm loading Oscar,
and stealing furtive glances at Vernon
while I do. Does he know we're
leaving him behind? Last time, HE
made this trip. Does he notice? Oh
dear. I suffer a pang of conscience
as I fit the last of the traveling
stuff into Oscar's trunk. WOW.
Beetle Travel Space is much smaller
than Type II Travel Space.
I notice that Rob has forgotten Rache's
bed. After he comes back, we load
that into Oscar and take it to the
kennel, losing another half hour.
from the kennel, and we're heading
down highway 101, south. The club
caravan is due to leave at 10:00.
We thought we'd be long gone by now,
and in reality, we'll be lucky to
join up with them. HURRY, HURRY.
There is one car waiting for the caravan,
a '58 Ghia coupe. We're not late!
We stop and join them to wait for
Rick Spohn (our club prez) yells (Volks)
'WAGENS HO!' and the caravan is off.
The day is sunny, bright, and warm,
and spirits are high. Everyone
is smiling and waving and honking
as we pull out. I'm too busy chewing
my nails and gulping Maalox to honk
or wave. Just think, barely
250 miles later, we'll be in Solvang!
All 6 cars in our caravan pull into
a restaurant in Paso Robles for lunch.
The trip has been uneventful, with
one notable exception: when
we left San Jose, Rick was driving
his '56 convertible Bug. When
we arrive for lunch, his fiancée
JOY is driving. How'd they DO
that? Presto chango, the old
switcheroo on the highway! He
told us he'd gotten tired, so asked
Joy to take over, which she did. While
driving. On the freeway. And,
none of us even noticed! After lunch
and a couple oil checks, we are off
Santa Maria, and as we drive towards
the city, we notice a huge column
of brown smoke rising from the east.
Looks like a mushroom cloud.
It's only a grass fire, common in
California this time of year.
This one looks pretty big and I'm
glad to be driving away from it.
SOLVANG! We made it. This small,
Danish-inspired village is a tourist
attraction full of gift shops, restaurants,
and yep, tourists. We are threading
our way carefully through the throngs
of late-summer visitors. The
main street is jammed with people
and they look curiously at our cars.
And, at the end of the street as it
heads into the hills, is another monstrous
column of smoke. Another fire? Can't
be. But it is, and I worry again.
This one appears even bigger than
the Santa Maria fire. The smoke is
so thick it makes the fire look closer
than it really is. We find out later
that it's 25 miles away from us, and
the wind is blowing the other way.
Rob goes in to the hotel to register
and Oscar looks quite at home with
his black-and-white paint scheme.
He's not even breathing hard from
the trip, but I'm bushed! No
funny smells, and his oil looks brand
new. WOW, whatta guy!
He's a trooper, just like his big
We wander downstairs to the social
going on in the hospitality suite.
Pizza has been ordered and is going
fast. There are a lot of people
there, so many that they have begun
spilling out onto the lawn around
the pool. After chatting with
some friends, Rob and I decide we'd
like a real dinner, and go off in
search of a restaurant downtown. Oscar
has been bedded down for the night
under his car cover, so we walk.
It's a beautiful night, and we finally
settle on a small place with a patio.
We have a nice meal outdoors, where
we can watch the 18-wheelers come
roaring through town carrying bulldozers.
Fire trucks follow, on their way to
the fire in Happy Canyon.
It's so dark out when I wake up that
I can't tell what time it is.
Oh well, we'll have plenty of time
to get ready for this show, so I'll
go back to sleep...............I did,
and wake up again to find it is still
dark. Those dang hotel curtains!
They could've used something like
this in the bombing raids of WWII,
I'll bet. I looked at my watch
to find it was - YOW! 8:00!
Time to roll! We're out and
on our way to the meet before you
can say 'FAHRVERGNUGEN!' Under his
cover, Oscar is coated with a fine
film of white ash, coming off the
hill from the fire.
The sun is relentless, beating down
on us with a fury. There are
LOTS of vendors out there, Wolfsburg
West, Vintage Parts, and many others.
The swappers have been here for hours,
and the car show is shaping up, with
many nice examples of vintage VW-hood
represented. Jon Peters towed
his '50 sedan down, and there was
a beautiful '52 convertible there,
only hours out of the shop (I find
out later it belongs to Dick Christensen).
There was a large contingent from
a VW club in Arizona that made the
trip in from Phoenix. Rob and
I park Oscar next to one of their
crowd, in a nice blue '59 sedan, and
I begin cleaning Oscar up a bit. Afterwards,
as I walk through the swap area, I
run into Chuck Coli, of Chuck's Convertible
Parts. He's making the rounds and
invites me to join him. We spend
a while digging through parts and
goodies and marveling at the NOS semaphores
one guy has brought out.
It's now so hot out here that a lot
of people are leaving. With no shade,
the sun is really intense. Rob
and I pack up about 3:00 and with
Chuck and Rick, head back to the hotel
Rob and I go downstairs, to the banquet
hall to see how things are progressing
for the awards dinner tonight. Surprise!
Everyone is already there, and the
buffet is being put out. We
find a spot at a table with some friends,
and the ceremonies begin. Jon
Peters makes sure everyone is fed,
and then starts the raffle.
VW of America has donated some really
nice things, among them a neon-colored
plastic picnic set that I would KILL
for. But alas, it goes not to
me, but to Mike Epstein, vice prez
of our club. Well, if I can't have
it, then there isn't a nicer guy I'd
wish to get it. Besides, maybe I can
worm it out of him later. Hahahaha!
The awards are given out - the spectacular
'52 convertible Bug gets first in
its class and Best of Show.
Oscar and I are VERY honored to win
second in the convertible class, behind
this car. It was a beautiful
example of its kind, and the black-and-cream
two-tone paint wasn't bad either!
Rob and I fall into bed, trying to
rest up for our long trek home tomorrow.
The weekend has gone SO fast, I can't
believe it's over already.
After breakfast, a group of us gather
on the street in front of the hotel
to watch the cars assemble for the
wine tour. We are not going with them.
With the thought of 5 hours in Oscar
getting home, we're not anxious to
spend another couple driving the wine
tour. But they don't need us, there
is already a large crowd waiting to
Rob and I take off with another couple,
Jeanne and Bill, in their '60 European
sedan. It's getting warm again,
and as we stop for gas in town, I'm
sidetracked by an elderly German couple,
drooling over Oscar. The man
tells me that he had bought a '58
sedan, new, in Germany. 'I loved
that car', he says, looking wistfully
at Oscar. He leaves, telling
me how he'll never forgive himself
for selling it.
After leaving Solvang, we arrive in
San Luis Obispo, college town, home
of Cal Poly. San Luis is also
home to one of the most famous (and
gaudily conspicuous) hotels around,
the Madonna Inn. It's pink and
purple and full of rock and concrete
fishponds and caves and lots of wrought-iron
geegaws. Jeanne has never been
here and wants to stop for a peek,
so we do. The ladies' room looks
like it's been designed and executed
by ZsaZsa Gabor, and the men's room
sports a WATERFALL...................(no,
I didn't go in, Rob told me)
With her curiosity now satisfied,
Jeanne and the rest of us climb back
into the Beetles and off we go again.
Lunch stop in King City - oops, Bill's
favorite burger place is closed so
we opt for Burger King. Ten
gallons of iced tea perks us right
up and we face the road again.
South of Salinas, the wind picks up
and blows. I mean, BLOWS. Coming
from the north, against us, it's almost
strong enough to blow me backwards, it
seems. As it is, it'll ruin Oscar's
gas mileage. It's not making us very
popular with the folks behind us either.
With my foot in the floor and Oscar
gritting his teeth, we manage a steady
50mph against the headwind, until
the road turns toward Monterey and
we get some relief. It's really
unnerving when your car is pointed
straight and the splines on your steering
wheel are vertical...........................
After a bad case of driver's (and
passenger's, I suspect) fatigue and
bun rot, we pull into the driveway
at home. We're back! Oscar has
done 526 miles, every one of them
without incident. Why does this
surprise me? I wonder. This
is what VWs are meant to do.
Somehow though, I can't dispel the
notion that I've just driven my FOOD
PROCESSOR halfway down the state and
back. It's what I see when I
look under the decklid. Could
it be that I'm being influenced by
the maze of electronics and automotive
STUFF that lives under the hood of
our Dodge truck and Saab? I'm
ashamed to admit this. It’s
time to get back to simpler things;
cars the way they should be: reliable,
dependable, reasonably comfortable,
and noisy. AHHHH, the good old
days - of 36 horsepower, cramped confines,
familiar eggbeater sound, and that
odd VW-only smell. Nothing like
a long trip in one of these creatures
to make me nostalgic. SIGH.
As we unload the last of the trip from
Oscar and the suitcases, Vernon is watching.
Oscar can't wait to tell him all about
it, I'm sure, and as I close the garage
door I hear them whispering. I'm
glad they've both been given the chance
to go to this meet. It's something
every aging VW should experience at