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An Old Volkswagen is an Adventure Waiting to Happen.

Do you remember your first car?  I always had a VW bug while growing up.  Actually, I still have a VW.  Guess I am not finished growing up.  That’s the beauty and magic of a VDub.  You have to have a childlike innocence to ride around in what my son lovingly refers to as a “deathtrap”.

Old VW bugs are like street-legal go-karts.  They shimmy at high speed (50 mph), cough and sputter while getting up to shimmy speed, and will quit for any number of mysterious reasons.  Valves must be adjusted, points must be filed, prayers must be said.

In high school, I took the engine out of my expired bug and rebuilt it with the help of a book that every bug owner is familiar with…”How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive” by John Muir.  First published in 1969, this book holds as many memories as my wedding album(s).  We didn’t have the internet back in the mid 70’s to run to for instant answers.  We learned by doing and making some terrible mistakes.

Driving a VW took guts.  We didn’t have cell phones to call for help when we broke down.  We didn’t have water bottles to drink from while thumbing through the repair manual trying to replace a clutch cable.  If we were thirsty, we drank from people’s yard hoses.  Every bug owner learned how to brake with their toes on the pedal and their heel on the gas because a bug that idled was a curiosity.

Creativity ran rampant when you drove a bug.  If you wanted to arrive somewhere, you had to be prepared to open the back hood and try to fix whatever was destined to happen.   As a kid, did you ever run a string from your bed to the light switch?  I had to do a similar trick when my gas pedal cable broke.  I ran a string out the window, routed it along the side of the car into the engine compartment where I had rigged it to pull the gas valve on the carburetor.

Ah, memories.  Fires in the glove compartment, heaters that never worked, heaters that never turned off and getting really good at push starting.  I think that vintage bugs are so popular because people have the memories.  They have the stories of the situations that they found themselves in and managed to be victorious over.  In short, driving a bug was an adventure. Every bug owner has his or her stories.   Overcoming adversity is one of the great thrills of life.  Not when it is actually happening and you are on the side of the road out in the boonies at 1 a.m. with a bug that just quit, mind you, but later when you reflect on how you kept your cool and handled the dilemma.

If you don’t have a VW, don’t worry.  There are going to be plenty of opportunities for you to overcome adversity.  No matter how rich or poor you are, there are going to be things that don’t work out, things that go wrong, pistons that seize.  The trick is to have the right attitude that you are having a grand adventure.

When you find yourself in a fix, don’t panic.  Savor the experience.  You will overcome.  You might even write a book about it.  There will be someone in a similar situation in the future that you will be able to help.  Make life an adventure by understanding that it starts with the right thinking.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money on an ocean cruise or take up sky diving or go to another country.  What are you doing today?  Make it an adventure and keep charging!!!     Scott Alexander

An adventure waiting to happen.

An adventure waiting to happen.

Copyright 2010 by Scott Alexander

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03 2010

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  1. بلس #

    عحعه عهصمدد نشيشمشه كسيشسك؛قلده

  2. 2

    My uncle had a VW bug and an original CJ5 jeep too … ah the 70’s and 80’s complete with a waterhose for a drinking too!

    And the message about overcoming in order to succeed .. no matter what – overcoming is a challenge but a very necessary component to success! \

    Great story .. can hardly wait to read more and more ..

  3. Robyn #

    Love the blog, Scott, and the belly-laugh that comes from it! Ah, yes, fond memories….it was DownUnder for me. I taught at a little outback school an hour from the city, and would “take on” the truck-trains on the outback roads. Had to hang on to the steering wheel for dear life to keep from being sucked under their train-wheels as my 402 RUN and I roared past ’em. We left ’em in the red dust, we did, matey, and no copper ’round to chase us….ah, the good ol’ days…..lol!

    Ya know, Scott, and here I’m bein’ totally serious, I’m just realizin’ what a whiney, self-pityin’, grumbley, pudgey-soft baby I’ve become…woh, not a pretty picture. Life WAS an adventure; how did I let myself slide into this cess-pool? Definitely major radical changes needed this year, O Fearless Rhino Leader (my Year of Fusion, I’ve nicknamed it). Ain’t up to the 2″ thick hide yet, but if I look closely, I can see the faint shadow of a horn growin’ again. Ta (Aussie for thanx) for the blog 🙂

  4. 4

    I grew up with a VW that my dad cherished and carted around to three different countries. Lots of great VW Bugs stories growing up in that thing including being stuck in the Saudi Arabian desert (3 kids, a teenage sister and two parents) for hours when it broke down. My dad drove that thing (even after there was a hole in the floor in back covered it with a board) until he retired.

    Every summer we would come home to Northern CA and my aunt would pick us up in her VW bus. We went everywhere in that thing! Lots of great memories.

    As a teen, it was the first stick shift I learned to drive and that’s when I fell in love with the VW Bug/saw it from a different perspective compared to being crammed in the back with my brother.

    Think I’m ready for one again now…Life is full of adventures…might as well ride in a bug to enjoy some of them! :o)

  5. scott #

    Great stories, Denise! I bet your dad had some great memories, too!

  6. Reese #


    I have to say, out of everything you have written, this struck closest to home. Mine was not a VW, but I had a friend with one, and we did everything at least once you wrote. Mine was a 72 Ford Pinto, that for one year I drove it with zero brakes, not even an emergency brake. I learned to look ahead and timing was everything. If I had to stop, I would use the clutch and the curb to come to a grinding halt. The only thing I think you left out, but alluded to, was the staging of your car when you turned it off. I always parked at the highest spot in a parking lot, so gravity could help when I started it, from popping the clutch of course. When I learned to really drive courtesy of Uncle Sugar, it was a breeze, I was a natural they said…The reality of it was I had five years experience driving like you wrote above. Thanks for making me think back, and when you read the page in my book on how I left my old Pinto for good on the side of the road, just walked away from it, and how years later it would get me back, I hope you get a laugh. I know now, you will relate more than most.

  7. scott #

    LOL!! Funny, Reese…funny that any of us are still alive!! Can’t wait to read your book!!

  8. JB #

    I’m 61 Just bought a72 Bug My retirement car I.m goin’ do some travelin’
    in it!In 1973 I rebuilt a chevy van i got off the P&LE railroad,Got it painted
    @Earl Schibe,$39.95Took Off From PA.Carmel,CA. Southern Ca.($2.50/24hrsin a parking lot on the beach )
    Thru the south ,FLA Then back to Pa,1&1/2months
    $ Around $500 ,my round fair)so many people you meet ,brief encounters,
    It,s Cool to travel solo! Only decisons to be made are YOURS
    So HAPPY TRAILS To you and may all you adventures that live
    be memories you cherish the rest of your life here
    Later and greater
    Joe B

  9. scott #

    Great adventures, Joe!! And you are still having them!!! You brought back memories for me with your Earl Sheib reference!

  10. JB #

    Just startin’ out again,I’m thinkin’about flying to FLA to see what
    a hurricane IS Like

  11. scott #

    LOL! I was just talking to someone about riding my motorcycle out there!!

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