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Story by Lois Grace

For some reason, various disconnected Volkswagen thoughts fly through my brain every day. Some of them stick in clumps, and a story is born. Others fly around in there, not connecting to anything but repeatedly bashing themselves inside my head till I write them down. So, here's my list of Random Thoughts and Observations:

It's impossible to drive anonymously in this Valley in a Beetle:
Most of this is due to New Beetle hysteria - people just notice the Real Thing more than they used to. Bogie gets more looks now and I enjoy the attention. But for those of us here in California wishing to remain just another commuter on the road, perhaps a Real Beetle is not the car for them.

Bugs can be scary to drive: This is not due to my car having any faulty engineering: the brakes work fine, the steering is tight and the engine is nearly new. No, this is because NOT driving my now-classic '69 Beetle has suddenly made him worth much more to me. He was always precious, but he was my daily driver. Driving him every day sort of ratcheted his worth down a notch or two. Tailgaters and the ever-present stunt drivers really annoy me now. Not that I wasn't annoyed by these idiots to begin with.

Bugs are noisy: Bogie has various little rattles and clunks (he does have over 200,000 miles on the clock) and the engine makes quite a bit of noise on its own. To hear his nice little stereo, I had to put bigger speakers in back and an amplifier in front. But that's OK; his voice is part of his charm.

Contrary to popular belief, Bugs have wonderful heaters: At least in California they do. One day it was 32 degrees out when I left for work and before 2 miles had passed I had enough heat in the car to burn the side of my foot. I have never understood why folks whine about VW heaters being so awful: all of mine have always worked just fine. Of course, 32 degrees is not 32 BELOW so in colder climates I'm sure it would be harder to warm up. But I tend to believe that a VW heater in good condition and working properly would at least keep you comfie. (and FED: Bogie's heater could probably cook a turkey on the floor.)

Beetle Prejudice is Alive and Well in the Bay Area:
Believe it or not, there are still some drivers who get really bent when they have to follow a Bug. They are still laboring under the illusion that to be a Bug is to be slow. Not true! Of course even if they could see all the Gene Berg goodies on and in my engine they would most likely not be impressed. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding. And, NEENER NEENER to that woman in the Nissan that found it so degrading to have to drive behind my Bug.

What's with these SUV's anyway? I'd like to know what's up with the massive glut of SUV's around here. They're proliferating faster than a herd of cockroaches. They're ugly, the 4-wheel drive never sees any action, and they guzzle gas worse than an early-60's Lincoln. So why do soccer moms think they need these things to haul one stroller and a toddler around? If all you want to do is drive safely in the wet and cold, heck, a VW can handle that. I say it's high time we exterminate these 4-by-horrors and get some REAL Bugs back on the road (pun intended).

Things you never want to hear from your mechanic:

I've never seen one fail like this before...

These usually last forever...

What did you DO to this?

Nah, it won't be that expensive to fix...

It's time. Don't fight it...

Sorry, that part isn't made anymore...

I've got some good news, and I've got some bad news...

While we're in there, we might as well replace the _______________.
(fill in the blank, but be sure to make it something obscure and expensive)

New Beetle Thought: Will someone please clue in all the New Beetle owners who insist on cramming an entire BOUQUET into the bud vase? To vintage aficionados everywhere, a bud vase is not news:  most of us have been showing our cars with these for years. But to a new Volkswagen owner, this must be a real novelty. Someone please tell them though that it's called a BUD VASE for a reason: you put a single BUD into it, not the entire contents of the florists cooler.

Concours de Elegance Car shows: A few years ago, San Jose broke into the hoity-toity world of the Concours car show. I guess that someone thought that now that we had a (supposedly) world-class pro ice hockey team, we should probably enjoy a creme-de-la-creme car show as well. After entering Vernon in his first Concours experience a few years ago, he has been invited to others in the Bay Area, including the prestigious Blackhawk and Silverado shows. But you don't merely ENTER a Concours: you have to submit an application and photo of your motorcar, to be approved by the judging committee as worthy of acceptance into the show. The first time I did this I found it all hilarious - calling Vern a motorcar was like calling a Coke and fries High Tea! When they returned my car show number to me, saying they were pleased to inform me that he'd been accepted for the show, I was delighted and secretly amused. I couldn't wait to see their face when this motorcar showed up. Best of all, the funky-looking, inexpensive truck from Germany has won awards twice at this show.

Does Volkswagen even care: that sometimes, the VW they are helping keep alive and well is not quite new, and certainly not vintage? I swear, I will never understand this one. Try to find genuine VW replacement parts for a 1990 Golf GTi (the only water-cooled VW I know anything about and that knowledge is limited). One would think that the GTi would not be hard to keep equipped with replacement shift lever boots, seat back handles, headliners (a sore point in particular for THIS GTi driver) and the like. But VW has other plans for their dealerships and we mere Volkswagen owners can only guess what that might be. It certainly isn't selling parts to help keep our cars running and looking great. When trying to acquire the now-defunct headliner for my GTi recently, I was told that VW concentrated their parts efforts into providing parts necessary to keep your car running, not generally a piece considered cosmetic. Well, I don't know about YOU, but if my headliner is falling down around my ears and I can't get a new one it won't matter HOW great my car runs. I won't be driving it! So, I have a suggestion for VWOA: get your act together and keep our OEM parts available for a while! It'd be nice to have them accessible for, say, the first 100,000 miles, or 10 years. Whichever comes first.

What I've been hearing:
My years within this great VW hobby have produced some really fun quotes from notable people in my life. It has also generated some hilarious stuff from UNnotable people I had the misfortune to cross paths with. For example (and please keep in mind that while most are not exact quotes, the essence of the statement is still as correct as my memory will allow):

I'm sure it's nothing serious.
--My husband, Rob Grace, circa May, 1978 during the Vacation From Hell. This comment was heard as he was sitting in a dead VW Bug on the side of Interstate 80 45 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming, in a thunderstorm. A replacement fuel pump solved the problem. THAT problem. The '69 Beetle in question continued to spazz out reliably on nearly every mile of a 1600- mile journey.

Hey, it's REALLY fun to drive and I like the way people look at it!!!

--My VW-hating sister Janice Gussin, after driving her daughter's '74 Sun Bug for a week or so. Janice has since seen the error of her ways and claims she loves the Beetle now.

--Some kid at a car show a few years ago, after finding out my truck's name. I wonder if kids nowadays even know whom Vern and Ernest were/are??

GOD, I just love doing stuff like this!!
--The artist who restored Vernon back to new, Garland Rush, after looking him over carefully to give me an estimate of the cost of the work.

--Me, after being told how much Garland's work was going to cost. (I think I recovered nicely though once I realized exactly how much Garland loved doing things like this.)

Why on earth do you want to spend $300 to fix rust under the windshields of a $100 truck???
--The owner of a body shop I mistakenly contacted for advice on repairing Vernon, before I found Garland Rush. (I have so far resisted the urge to drive Vern over there now and parade him before the open service bays)

--My mother, Jeanne Kile, who uses her favorite saying with regards to anything Volkswagen.

GEEESH!! For that you could have sent a kid to college!
--Dr. Robert Manly, my boss, after I told him how much I'd spent so far to restore Vernon. I think my next step will be to send VERN to college.

WOW!! 36 horsepower!! How do you get around?
--car show spectator, after viewing Vernon's mighty power plant

OH. I guess it's supposed to be sorta like a PICKUP then, huh?
--car show spectator, at the same show, after looking at Vernon's obviously PICKUP-type bed

And, this is sorta like the end of my column so I'll stop here. Sorta

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