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Story by Lois Grace

After an extended hiatus, Rob and I decided this year to once again enjoy the VW Classic weekend, held every year around the beginning of June. We hadn't been to this series of VW events since 1991, and it was time to give it another try. Sometimes you get a bit "burnt out" on all the various VW happenings, and I think that's what happened to us - we had gone nearly every year to everything, and the cars, people and items for sale began to all pretty much look the same. This is not to say that the spectators looked like old rusty parts, or the show cars looked like bikini contestants - just that we began seeing much of the same stuff everywhere. We figured, maybe someone had come up with something new.

So, without further ado, let me outline our weekend in true VolksWoman fashion - as usual, I kept a diary:

Wednesday, June 4

9:00 AM San Jose, CA Rob and I have decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary with this trip, and we leave for Los Angeles 3 days early. We are staying in Anaheim for two nights, so we can spend some time at Disneyland before the VW festivities start. What a great idea that was ! No actual Volkswagens made the trip with us (dang) but our Dodge Dakota pickup was made Honorary VW Single Cab -1990 Dodge Type II - for a week. I think he was pleased, even though he reminded us that none of my VW's have air conditioning.

11:00 AM King City, CA We are in the heart of agricultural California here, and as we arrive, I'm reminded of so many other memorable VW trips on this same highway. Years ago, when we drove Bogie to LA to visit friends his accelerator stuck open on the bridge out of King City. QUITE exciting, on a bridge. Then, in 1990, when we drove Vernon this way to the first Veteranentreffen in Solvang, we encountered a highway littered with giant green chiles that had fallen off some truck. The ? road was slick with the salsa-like stuff, most of which ended up on Vern's undercarriage. It smelled like Old El Paso out there. This area is also known for surface-of-the-sun temperatures but we lucked out: it's rainy as we drive through.

12:15 San Luis Obispo, CA Passing through this college town, we notice a huge group of bicyclists riding on a side road. It doesn't take us long to recognize them as the AIDS Ride participants we saw on the first leg of their journey a week before, in Half Moon Bay. They're biking to raise money for AIDS research and have ridden about 175 miles in a week. They, like us, are on their way to their destination of Los Angeles. We'll get there in a matter of hours; for them it'll take the rest of the remaining week. We find out later that they do make it, in fine form.

1:10PM Buellton, CA We pass the turnoff to Solvang, 8 miles east of Buellton. It seems tempting to just stop since this is where we end up for the Veteranentreffen every other year. ? But not this time. We keep heading south. One question remains as we pass though: If we left San Jose at 9 AM in a VW, it would take us till 4:30PM to get this far. In a Dakota we're here by 1:00PM? Surely we haven't been traveling THAT much faster.........................have we??

2:00PM Santa Barbara, CA Land of sun, surf, beautiful beaches and palm trees, I begin looking for VW's. We've seen only one on the road till this point, and a moment later I notice a lovely early convertible going the other way. Two-tone gray with a black top, it is being driven by a young man who obviously loves it more than life itself. AHHHHHHHHHH.

2:15PM South of Santa Barbara, CA Now HERE is something that can only happen in Southern California: for a good mile or more, we've been traveling parallel to something called IMCON Gardens. It is acre after acre of nothing but palm trees of every size, shape, and description. Turns out it's a palm tree farm! The sign says "IMCON GARDENS, Sales and Installation". I can hear their phone orders now: "Yes, I'd like to order 6 large coconut palms, to go? Oh, you install too? Great."

2:45PM Thousand Oaks, CA We are passed by a large diesel truck of some sort, a flatbed, carrying what looks like roofing materials. What catches my eye are the mudflaps on this truck that say "GENE BERG". And it's not even a VW!

3:10PM Los Angeles city limits Normally this would be a pretty dull thing to note, except that on the left side of the freeway is a used car lot called California Cars. Sitting in this lot is a red Type III Ghia, for sale. It is in good company, there's a Jaguar, MG, and a few other classics sitting nearby. I can't see what they want for the Ghia.

3:30PM Hollywood, CA We are passed by a huge behemoth of a motorhome. The black lettering on back proclaims it a TREK SAFARI DIESEL. I have to wonder: if you buy one of these motorhomes, does it come with a free JETTA????

In the interest of expediency (and VW related stuff) I will be brief here. Suffice it to say that we arrived in Anaheim, had a great time in Disneyland, stayed in a nice hotel and generally enjoyed ourselves in spite of the nightmare LA traffic. Driving in LA is like being smack dab in the middle of a stock car race, with Dale Earnhart on your butt. Throw a few minivans into the middle of the track at Daytona, and you have the idea. 90mph, 2 feet apart, and the only time they slow down is when the brake lights come on in front of them. You learn entirely new driving skills in Los Angeles.

FRIDAY June 6th

11:30AM We've checked out of our hotel in Anaheim and are on our way to Wilshire Blvd. Known as the "Miracle Mile", Wilshire Blvd. was the first shopping district designed and created especially for automobile drivers. There had never before been such a thing - ample parking nearby and several large stores within easy distance made it the place to go in the early days. Wilshire Blvd is also the home of the La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Automobile Museum and the Petersen Publishing offices (I was working for Petersen's magazine, VW Trends, at the time). Passing the tar pits (pretty strange to see a fake woolly mammoth poking its head out of the trees in the middle of downtown LA), we search for the Auto Museum and .................................

12:10PM .....................eventually find it. This museum is more like a work of art itself, for the car lover. They have a little of everything, all displayed in unusual and appealing diorama settings. The museum itself is set up like a series of streets, featuring different eras in automobile history. The cars themselves sit right out on the streets, or in appropriate settings, such as an early car dealership, a back alley, in front of a drug store, or an actual replica of a suburban garage. The featured marque when we were there was Ferrari, so we had to spend a while on the second floor, drooling over the lovely (and extremely valuable) examples of Ferraris finest. Enzo Ferrari's own personal blue one was there, as were an example from nearly every other style they built. My favorite part of this exhibit were the two cars that had "dynamometers" hooked up to them - when you pushed a button, the gauges would spring to life and you could hear the sound of the car going through its gears. I left that floor with goosebumps.

3:00PM After a brief stop at the Petersen Publishing offices (so I can see where my magazine contributions go), we are off onto the freeway again, headed for the West Coast Metric open house. On the way, I manage to snap a photo through the windshield of a big freeway sign that says "VERNON AVENUE." Cool!

3:25PM Boy, do we feel like tourists. We wound our way through several pretty rough-looking back streets to find West Coast Metric, and were hoping no one would shoot. They didn't and we arrived to find Loren Pearson and his crew welcoming their guests. West Coast Metric is a reproduction parts and rubber business for Volkswagens. 1997 is Loren's 20th year in business and he's gone to a lot of trouble to do this open house. There is a catered lunch, a BBQ, and he's got the entire works open so we can see how it works. It's a huge place, full to the rafters with parts, accessories and other goodies to keep your VW looking great. As we walk in, the walls are lined with the custom tee shirts that WCM sells on one side, and many fine examples of the parts available on the other. Loren keeps his own private collection here as well, and it is all open for admiration. He's got the setup we all wish we had: a big warehouse, with room for a workshop in back and a display area for his cars in front. He went one better and put a "shelf" on one side of the building, for a second row of cars! He gets them up and down off there with a forklift............cases against the walls house his toys and rare collectibles. As we walk into his shop area, a 1/25th scale model of the new Concept One greets us. It sits on a black pedestal, and is on loan for the weekends' activities from VWOA. This collection was a feast for the eyes - good thing I took lots of photos or I'd never remember it all.

5:30PM Pacific Coast Highway - Sunset State Beach Like idiots, we've left WCM at the very worst possible time: commute hour on a Friday. So, to avoid the freeways (hard to do in LA) we've taken Highway One along the beach to get to Irvine. It would be a pretty drive, if we weren't so tired and I weren't wishing I'd brought a Volkswagen.

6:20PM Irvine Exhausted, we check into the VW Classic host hotel, the Orange County Holiday Inn. Still, we are not too tired to watch out our 6th floor window as the VW's roll in for the weekend to come. I saw a white Kombi with a roof rack, 2 Westie campers, a blue Kombi, an early gray Ghia, 2 more buses, a Bug with a car cover, a Ghia sunroof and another Bus in just a few moments of sitting. It wasn't long before 2 firebuses showed up and the Parking Lot Party got under way. Little did I know that the following night, Saturday, there would be little else in that lot BUT Volkswagens. In less than an hour, three notchbacks had also shown up. It promised to be a great weekend.


9:30AM Long Beach, CA We arrive at the SOTO meet. Under cloudy skies - again - we wander around, finding Charlie Hamill, in complete fireman getup, manning a working fire hose with his water-pumping Westfalia trailer. It's quite a sight - an ancient old VW bus pumping water from a kiddie pool. In the Old Days (meaning when I was restoring Vernon), this SOTO Meet would have attracted over 400 Type II's of various kinds. This years' turnout seemed small to me - I didn't do an exact count, but I would guess they might have had 150 buses and trucks there. There just didn't seem to be the huge turnout of years past, but they did have some really nice vehicles on display there. We checked out the car show, cruised twice through the swap meet looking for goodies, and after a couple hours we decide to go get some lunch. Hard to imagine, FOOD being more important than old Type II's. Hunger is a great motivator.

5:30 PM Irvine, CA After spending part of the afternoon relaxing, we went to the Toy and Literature show in the hotel about 2:30. I think I did more socializing with friends than I did actually looking at the stuff for sale, but it was still fun. We meet up in the hotel lobby with Chuck Coli and his girlfriend, The Notorious Kircher Brothers, and my fellow club members Jon Peters and Rick Spohn. The eight of us decide to go to dinner at a nice Italian place. After a lovely dinner, we pile into 2 VW's and head on over to the ending point for the Berg Navigational Rallye to watch the participants come in. Rick and Jon ride with Erich and Martin in their newly-completed "Sunburn Taxi" convertible Bug - they've done a bang-up job on the Chrome yellow paint and the black and white checked taxi motif is really cute. This is the first show for their "hot rod" and we are busy challenging them to a drag race in Chuck's '63 convertible when Martin decides to take us up on the offer. He downshifts, and promptly breaks a fan belt, Åwhich sidelines us for a few moments while it gets fixed. Pantyhose don't REALLY work for this, Martin. Once we are at the ending point, we have fun chatting with friends and checking out all the VW's that have come for the show and cruise. Don Bulitta and Rick Mortensen have driven from Arizona in their Berg cars, to be joined by Rich Zavala in his own Berg car. We see lots of friends, have a Coke and then head back to the hotel as it's getting cold and dark by that time. We fall into bed again, exhausted, hoping we notice when the sun comes up so we can get to the VW Classic the next day.

10:00AM Irvine Meadows After a hurried breakfast at the hotel, it's on to the Classic and as we leave the hotel there is ONE VW in the parking lot: a lonely white Ghia. We suppose it's been left behind, its owner riding with someone else. I wonder why? At that point, I would have PUSHED any car to this show.

As usual, this show is on the scale of a Barnum and Bailey circus: blue and white tents are set up with chairs inside, they house the Toy Show and offer seating to the now-weary spectators, like me. In front of one tent is something dubbed "The Parade of Champions", former first place and Best of Show winners. Dick Christensen's lovely 1954 (I think) convertible Bug is parked there, along with several other really outstanding cars. Next to them are two former Empi race cars, one of them the Inch Pincher III. Pretty impressive! In the show car area, Blue Nelson is displaying what just might be the largest number of Rometschs ever seen in one place before: he's got SEVEN at this show. The nicest one, a brilliantly shiny black one with red interior, had a sickening mishap on the way in. Blue drove over a speed bump and the right rear wheel broke into about eight pieces. The tire went up under the wheel arch and bulged the side of the car out. It also damaged the rear of the wheel well, and cracked the paint. It was an unfortunate reminder that sometimes, you just can't prevent these things from happening.

2:00PM We leave the Classic early, planning to spend this last night in Solvang, about halfway home. After a nice dinner out that night, and some leisurely shopping in the morning, we arrive home on Monday afternoon. I have three rolls of film to develop, about 15 loads of laundry to wash, and work to go to the next day but it's been a GREAT week. As usual, the best thing about these events is getting to meet up with all the VW friends w e've made over the years. It was a wonderful way to celebrate ananniversary - ours and West Coast Metric's 45th!

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