Share |

In Praise of the VW Bus

Spiritual Smart Aleck
Bertha Buss VIII, Alan’s current VW bus, a 1970 camper van
Bertha Buss VIII, Alan’s current VW bus, a 1970 camper van

In a recent column I spoke of a VW van in less than flattering terms. Those remarks prompted a friend, Alan Blue Heron Milinazzo Barnett, to write in praise of the VW bus. I asked him if I could run his letter as a guest column. He said yes. Here it is:

"It has been many moons since I last responded to one of your columns, but today I just couldn’t restrain myself, I must speak out, I must declare my state of being and I must protest the derogatory impression given by you of the revered VW Bus.

"As a current owner of a 1970 VW Camper Bus, I step forward to defend their good name. In short, my position is this: If one must go to the poorhouse, in what better vehicle to make that adventurous journey but a VW Bus?

"As a child of the 60’s, what was more iconic than a VW Bus with flowers on it? What was the vehicle that took us down the road (and all our gear) at the speed of life? What vehicle stood symbolic of our intentions, our aspirations and our hopes for a world filled with love, void of prejudice, and acknowledging who we are as individual souls? The VW Bus!

"Sure, they broke down, ran badly and slowly, but while in a state of disrepair, what other vehicle solicited the milk of human kindness as the did the lowly bus as stranger after stranger stopped to kibitz on what was wrong with it and what the proper prescription for its healing should be? Many a new friend was made alongside the road or at the parts store or junk yard because of the VW Bus.

"It is true that they can be a pain in the caboose (I should know, I am now proud owner of Bus #8), a drain upon the penny bucket and down right ugly with the paint jobs that some wear, but what is all that compared the breath of fresh mountain air that only can be achieved by nursing a bus to the summit at 25 mph along the shoulder? How else can memories of ocean views, desert night skies, lonely dark roads traversing state and national borders, and local, state and national parks be attained? Only by leaning on the steering wheel of a VW Bus and shouting your conversations to those who you hold dear and who in the name of adventure shouted out, "Shotgun!"

"It is a lonely place being the owner of a VW Bus in a world of egg-shaped computerized cars, being the only one with no A/C or 6-speaker stereo system or video screens on the back of the front seats, having only 16 gauge metal between oneself and Eternity with no airbags to delay that possibility, or to be alone at the back of the pack on the freeway or the one leading a string of 13 cars up the grade. It’s a tough job and there’s only one kind of person to do it, the VW Bus owner.

"Being one of those people, I had to speak out in defense of a dying breed and a vehicle going extinct. There aren’t that many of us left on the road and we’re slowly dying out. Soon, there will be a generation of young people who will have never had the pleasure of feeling the wind in their hair, the bugs in their teeth and the roar of the wind in their ears from driving a VW Bus."

Alan and his wife Lisa live in Ningbo, China, where she teaches and he writes. His VW bus, "Bertha Buss VIII (she is the last surviving member of the Buss family that has lived with me since my first encounter with Bertha Buss The First in 1964), is currently in the care of an old bus buddy. He darn near cried when I asked him to care for Bertha while I am in China!"