The summit didn’t seem closer. I’d sped up to a top speed 68 in anticipation of the climb, but my VW bug wasn’t interested in a flash to the top finish. Now down to second gear, the grey ghost enjoyed creep speed as the exhaust spewed “will I, maybe I’ll, long roll back, gonna tease ya, sput putt…” The gauges all read normal, all but the speedometer which insisted declining MPH the way to go. The radio even crackle-cackled static laughs at the evolving plight. I purchased this ’64 masterpiece of construction from Gaylord Lee, a 6’6” giant of a friend with a bulk unimaginable behind the wheel of this, well, auto wannabe. In pretty good shape in those days, 5’10 ½” me barely enjoyed room enough to push the clutch – which I did at that moment in effort to make the final 300 yards in first gear crawl. “I think we can, I know we can, just 200 more, come on grey, I hope we can, just 50, keep moving, somebody give us a push, — whew.” I pulled, or prayed my way, into the truck ‘em up, flush ‘em up that offered respite for vehicles and drivers. I parked on the downhill side of the lot just in case the ghost decided not to start in retaliation for the arduous effort I required to get here. Couldn’t take chances with a strong-willed ’64 looking to make a name in a big car world.
I feared the downhill run, imagined a more likely plunge than a scenic cruise through long stretches of pine, rock-rimmed valleys, and semi drive-offs if brakes failed. After 45 at ease minutes, the VW opted to spring right to life, as alive as such a 4 speed, 4 banger, hole in the muffler, rusted running boards vehicle could “spring.” Big rigs crawled as we joined the clustered cling to downslope life. Below the radio, the dash displayed some seared areas. Bugs, being air cooled, offered very little heat, especially since the ducting ran under those rusted running boards, the tubes also pocked with salt created holes. Anticipating a cold travel, I had lined the ash tray with aluminum foil that poked up several inches to “protect” the dash. Warmth? I’d just light a little waste paper scraps fire and heat up my fingers. Turned out old grey didn’t like that much and my genius quickly became moron of mindless ideas accented with melting plastic. A couple put-it-out blisters defined idiocy for several hours.
The trucks trailed acrid, hot brake pad, hot metal wafts as I pretty much left fate in charge of my darts in and out of the line to allow traffic’s hurried hill escape. The bug liked the wind in its face, gravity assisted speed, but denied me the warm joy of journey coming to closure. With vent– anyone remember those? – open to cleanse the window fog, we rolled out onto the flat run and a motel to end the day. Motel, a single-story line of maybe 20 rooms that seeped disinfectant and brought a long sit on the heat register. A bed, a bathroom, a door – pay phone in the office back down the sidewalk. In time, I stretched out on the “comforter”, not mindful at all about the potential germ infestations of modern-day warning. Soon, the beckon of cool sheets brought a tucked in sleep and dreams of vacationing just a few more hours ahead.
In hindsight, that bug-life based holiday pretty much captures a lot of my life journey. A tad of rust, a few salty holes, struggles, smiles, waysides…one day maybe I’ll create a collage of wall size proportions, word painted and pencil danced across time in thanks to God for the time given, the journey and, one day, life’s closure. My current truck will never gasp at a fire in the ashtray, and that’s a little sad really. Blisters make me smile. submitted by Dave Smith