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Story by Lois Grace

Near 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:


6:30AM We get up, planning to leave at 8AM. HAHAHAHA!  Oscar is not loaded yet, and the dog has to go to the kennel.

7:30AM 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.

7:37AM 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.  Oh well.

9:30AM Back 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.

10:04AM There is one car waiting for the caravan, a '58 Ghia coupe. We're not late!  We stop and join them to wait for the rest.

10:20AM 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!

12:45PM 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 once again.

3:00PM 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.

4:10PM 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 brother Vern.

6:30PM 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.

10:00AM 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.

2:00PM 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 pool.

6:30PM 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!

10:30PM 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.


9:50AM 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 go.

10:25AM 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.

11:55AM 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.

1:15PM 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.

1:45PM 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...........................

4:25PM 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.

8:26PM 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 least once.

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