I had a lot of adventures with Tripper, my ’71 VW bus.
There was the time that the gearshift fell over.
Or the resulting transmission fix that left me holding the shifter in fourth gear while I drove.
There was the fact that her windshield wipers only came in two speeds (fast or faster) and were controlled by a knob on the dash, meaning I’d be holding the gearshift in with one hand and making my own intermittent wipers with other as we cruised around the city.
There was the time my throttle cable stuck while I was on the highway, and later when it snapped while driving through Vancouver.
There was the lunch hour spent pushing her around the school parking lot, trying to pop start her.
Though I had actually been in a parking spot that day. Let’s not forget how I used to scrape ice off the inside of my windshield, then find that it had refrozen by the time I got to school and just had to stop wherever the hell I was since I couldn’t see a thing.
Or how I used to have a blanket to cover my legs for warmth as I drove.
And how I used to alternate which hand I sat on during the winter so I would at least have five partially unfrozen fingers.
There was the month that I carried around a double-sided axe to knock my starter when it was on the fritz, crawling under my bus to get her going whenever needed.
There was checking my oil every time I got gas, and buying that stuff in bulk.
And the time the sliding door fell off.
Or when it unlatched when I made a left-hand turn.
Then there was the time I got stuck in traffic during a hot summer day and melted a piston, requiring an engine replacement.
I could go on.
And I often do, making most folks really wonder about me. See, I’m normally smiling my face off and talking way too excitedly when I tell these stories. Because, to me, they’re little hiccoughs in my and Tripper’s relationship. They’re problems that we got through together and that made our bond stronger.
And it’s that bond that’s impossible to explain through stories.
I can try to explain what it’s like to haul myself into the driver’s set, sitting above the pedals, steering column between my knees, wheel over my lap, but until you’ve seen my face when I’m sitting there and seen my eyes light up when the engine rumbles to life, the description of the posture just sounds…awkward.
“It’s such a fun vehicle to drive!” I’ll insist, but pushed to explain why? All my responses sound contrived. Because I can’t explain what’s so fun about it. Is just is.
And most of my friends who’ve been around long enough have some idea. They all have a Tripper camping/breakdown/driving story. But Brent, my husband, doesn’t.
Because I sold Tripper six months before we met. And as much and I entertain him, this VW obsession had always been a bit of a smile and nod situation.
Had always been. Past tense.
As of this week, Brent gets it.
This is Brent. And with him, Autumn, from Florida Oldscool Campers.
Autumn is a lovingly cared for ’77 Westy. She’s amazing. And she came fully stocked with everything we needed for camping – though not the beer, much to one park ranger’s disappointment.
In Autumn, we drove the Florida interstates – which have a higher speed limit than she’s actually capable of – and explored two distinctly different regions of the state. The campsites we visited (Hillsborough River State Park and Fort de Soto) were wonderful, but the camping wasn’t even the best part of the trip.
The best part was driving the bus. I’ll admit that I had to do a couple laps of a cul-de-sac to get my bus legs and arms back, but once I did? Magic. The kind of magic that only an old VW can make. The kind that I’ve never been able to put into words.
The kind that Brent now understands.
He gets the VW aroma that I’ve pined for. He knows how fun it is to sit above the traffic. He took advantage of the no wasted space idea behind the bus’ box shape. He watched the world go by, with just an engine for a soundtrack, and a grin on his face.
And today, when asked to explain why he now likes VW busses, he paused. He looked down in concentration, trying to make the words fall to the front of his mind, then, he said “They’re fun? I can’t…phrase it.”
Neither can I, Brent. Neither can I.
But I can feel it. And it feels right.