I think it’s safe to assume that most people getting behind the wheel of a VW Bus have an eye for nature, after all, half of the people I run into refer to it as a “hippie van.” Often, we’re pretty close to nature when we park the Westfalia to pop up the camper-top and enjoy time away from more civilized trappings.
Today, however, nature found my bus. With it out of commission while waiting for my alternator to be rebuilt, it’s been in my driveway up on ramps. As I pulled into the driveway in my car, I saw this little guy taking shade from the hot sun under my bus. I zoomed in from ten feet or so behind my bus. When I got right up to the bus, he took off into the woods. I’m glad he has that sense because I’d hate to think that it was that tame.
I think it’s the same fawn I saw just a few weeks back. Then, it was easily the smallest guy I’d ever seen up close. It couldn’t have been more than 48 hours old. I say him coming through our back woods, still shorter than most of the undergrowth. It took shelter under the roots of a fallen tree and I was able to get a picture. I had not seen it since then, so part of me was happy the little guy was still around.
We have lots of deer around our house. Last June we had a similar close encounter where our dog Minnie got curious with a week-old fawn. As much as we hate the way they eat our shrubs, flowers, and even a few plastic plants, you can’t help but love the chance encounters with the fawns.
I don’t know if the green color of my bus made it seem more natural for it to take shelter under. Part of me wants to think that it’s a providential sign and part of the good aura of such a vehicle. Realistically, I drove up in a quiet car, at the right time, and in the right frame of mind that I looked around to happen into an experience worth writing about.
I recently made the journey from Pittsburgh to Connecticut, hauling 9 high school debate students to a tournament. Due among other things to the number of travelers, I could not drive our Westy, but instead rented a Ford van. It was a pleasant ride, but just not the same. The van had power and comfort and the kids were great company, but it was a lonely drive. It made me realize that I’m fueled by riding with everyone else on the highway when I pilot the VW bus.
Think about it. For the most part, people ride the highway, enduring its boredom, eager to reach their destination. When I’m driving the old bus, I’ve grown accustomed to attention and friendly smiles from other cars and bystanders. I don’t know what they think as they change their path to maneuver around me, but the typical smiles coming from the passengers make me think the inconvenience is well worth the memory or fun thought seeing an old VW bus triggered. Perhaps that’s why I’m happier driving the bus and dealing with the inconvenience of old technology, than I am in the comfort of a newer, more comfortable, though more mundane car.
On our last trip, actually our first long family trip in the bus, my wife Joumana dealt with my stubborn persistence like an angel. It was a hot July day on the final leg of our journey from Pittsburgh to Montreal, and back. This stretch from Saugerties, NY home should have taken about 8 hours. We’ve made the trip dozens of times, but never in a vintage car without air conditioning. This time the trip took nearly 15 hours and she refrained from “I told you so’s” for its entirety. We limped over Pennsylvania mountains at 30 MPH and stopped every 20-50 miles and she let me stubbornly tron on, eventually pulling in the driveway after 2:30 AM.
As much as it takes a different kind of person to deal with the eccentricities of a vintage car, it takes a very understanding support team to not declare mutiny and have said vehicle towed-off in the night. The reasons the owner/driver has for wanting an old bus will inevitably differ from those of the supportive spouse and that can be hard to recall in those moments of stress. With each trip I learn more tidbits about the bus, understanding how it works, and knowing how to react to and anticipate problems. It’s not unlike my marriage. Hopefully both keep running pretty well for many years to come.