By G. E. Shuman
If you happen to be a faithful follower of my column, then you will understand what the title of this installment means. If you are a more normal person, and never read my stuff, you may not. If you do remember, and provided you care to, I have been looking forward to a trip south, to visit my mom in Florida, and to drive back my ‘brand new’ 46-year-old car from her home, to Vermont. By the time this article is published, I will be right about in the middle of that week; a week which is my great adventure.
If you’re reading this any time between the publish date of the paper and May 1st, I am either still in sunny Florida, or somewhere between there and here, on my way back to Vermont. My mood, at this very moment in your point of reference, is either ecstatic, and that would be if the car is running well and I’m merrily on my way, or totally frustrated. That would be if I’m standing on the black pavement, beside the car, in the southern sun, waiting for a tow. Or, if I’m waiting for an unknown (and untrusted) mechanic to try to fix some aged mechanical car part that has left me stranded in a small southern town, somewhere. (Right now I might actually be eating lunch across the street from a peeling-paint old garage, choking down a greasy burger, looking out the window to across that street, and chatting with a waitress named Vera.) A few people seem to think that I ‘don’t have a prayer’ of getting all the way back up here in my elderly vehicle. Well, I really believe in the power of prayer, I think I DO have a prayer, and hope you will remember me, in yours, this week. I’m serious, and I’m pretty sure that, because of you, I will make it.
Although I would love to get my little buggy home without incident, I understand that the car was manufactured within months of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in 1969. Although his words immortalized ‘one small step for mankind’, this trip, I’m sure, will be ‘one giant leap’ for me, and for my car.
One of the many charming things about old VWs, and similar cars, if there are similar cars, lies in their simplicity. Frankly, and, hopefully conveniently for me, if a car doesn’t have power steering, power brakes, a radiator, hoses, air conditioning, or even a good heater, then none of those things can break down on you. Admittedly, cars without air bags or an engine in the front may seem to be a bit unnecessarily dangerous to the frail hearted people of today. That’s only because, well…they are. But I would be very willing to make such a long trip on a nice, big, smooth, fat, motorcycle someday, before I get to old, if I’m not already. Those don’t have those things either, or even a roof over your head and four wheels.
I’m counting on my pre-conceived plan of driving so slow that everyone, and their great grandmother with her walker, passes me on the highway, and of making frequent stops along the way to let my car (and me) cool down and rest and also quell my nagging sciatica problem. Lately it seems that I can’t drive for even a few hours without moving my right leg around some, unless I want to be in pain. Gas pedals can, therefore, be more than a bit of an annoyance to me. Cars without cruise control are a problem, and in 1970 few cars had that. No Volkswagen Beetles did. I had given some thought to the idea of finding a brick to put on the pedal, but then thought better of that thought.
My aging memory had, recently, also been somehow jogged into recalling that cars of that long ago time didn’t have cup holders, and I realized that I would likely have a problem holding my coffee between my knees for thirteen hundred miles, especially while using a clutch pedal. I found a company that actually sells custom-made a cup holder for my model and year of car, which I thought was a pretty ingenious way of ‘finding a need’ and filling it. The cool thing is that they make a really nice one. What you do with the cup holder is pull out the car’s dash-mounted ash tray, (something I don’t need anyway,) and ‘find that need, or hole’ and fill it, with the cup holder. Pretty cool.
So, again, in your timeframe, I have already made my flight to Florida, with my cup holder, license plate, car registration, and laptop in my carry on, plus a few t-shirts, socks and underwear, just in case I need them.
I can imagine the conversation I must have had with TSA at the Burlington airport.
“What’s that thing, Mr. Shuman?”
“Oh, that’s a cup holder for my car, and that metal thing is a license plate, as you can see.”
“Okay”. (Think of the strange look on the agent’s face.)
“Yes, I’m taking these pieces of my car on vacation with me. I’m going to come back up and get the rest later.”
So, dear readers, please think of me, and pray for me. However and whenever I make it home from my great adventure, I’ll let you know how it all went.