One from the road

Saw this one a moment ago on our facebook page and thought it would be nice to share with you.

It was taken on New Year’s Eve 2011 at Chirco VW in Tucson, where a flock of VW owners had met for the drawing of a raffle ticket to win a Karmann Ghia.

Doesn’t The YesWeCan CamperVan look great? By this time we had completed around 4500  miles and two months on the road!

Photo opp: German Metal VW Club in Tucson showing their support for vw4causes and The YesWeCan CamperVan, which, by this point, seriously needed a new engine! Earlier the raffle prize drawing had taken place for a Karmann and all proceeds had benefited one of their own

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A maiden voyage

With the focus on making posters for my bus exhibition for MG Awareness, I completely forgot that it was to be the VW bus maiden voyage in Great Britain.

getting ready for maiden voyage; Paul said the bird poop was lucky, but I wanted to wash the bus for its first trip

Which meant it was also my first time driving it !!!! How could I have overlooked that minor detail? And it was over 100 miles from the Bedford area to Grill-n-Chill at The Hop Farm in Kent …

Carole’s ist time driving the Brazilian bus

On that drive down the M1, M25, M20 and a little country road (of which I do not know the number because every time I slowed for a traffic light or roundabout, the engine cut out!!) I  discovered this VW is nothing like my smooth 1971 VW Westfalia. This Brazilian built split window has a different everything: engine, brakes, gear positions, pedal positions and angle, steering, seats, steering wheel position, noise insulation, windows, mirrors; and it has NO rear view mirror and NO heat.

What does all that mean in practice?????

It means:

  • it loves to go into reverse gear instead of 2nd!!!
  • you have to REALLY step on the brakes because they are drum brakes and neither are they power assisted as in my 71 Westfalia
  • the braking distance is twice as far!
  • the clutch pedal is so steep my arthritic left knee no longer feels the pain because it’s dead!
  • the steering is baggy, baggy, baggy (where did you say the white line was?)
  • the driver’s seat is so low that the steering wheel becomes a boob carrier 🙂
  • the steering wheel is so high it almost hits yer chin!
  • the lack of insulation anywhere in the van, means the engine noise is amplified in the cargo space and is deafeningly loud
  • the lack of ventilation up to the front windscreen means I need to open windows
  • the windows slide so it’s a new manoeuvre instead of turning a handle (just one more thing to learn as I’m driving as fast as I can to get to the show in Kent)
  • the mirrors are small circular things that show almost nothing behind
  • the lack of a rear view mirror is positively dangerous as I have to turn around each time I need to change lanes (but at least I have no blind spots in a 15 window bus)
  • without heat it is so cold to drive in the English weather!!!!

BUT … despite all of the above ….

  • I did make it to the Grill-n-Chill VW Show at The Hop Farm in Kent

meeting my gracious host, Anton; notice the signs in the back of the bus!!!

  • it’s amazing, as with all VWs, there is just something about them that captures your heart !!!!

P.S. This story also published on sister site VW4causes (Vehicles Working for Causes) at http://vw4causes.org/2012/09/25/a-3rd-to-celebrate-driving-a-vw-bus-on-its-maiden-voyage/ … with more photos and chatter on using the 15 window bus to tell an important story

 

We have two to celebrate

It’s our 1st VW bus in the UK and also our 1st MG Awareness Event in the UK, too !!!!

It’s a double celebration I hope, though lots to do yet. Masses still to get organised and completed (as of noon Friday) before attending the VW event, Grill-n-Chill, at The Hop Farm in Kent all day Saturday 22nd September.

See more information and announcements in the blog post in our sister (brother) website, Vehicles Working for Causes, by clicking here

And please remember to share or like by clicking below .. if you do, that is 🙂

THANKS

 

I am so thankful

I was just thinking back to a few days before the end of my drive in California. Shown here is my trusty 1971 Volkswagen Westfalia in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara. The night before taking this photograph, I’d stayed with VW friend, Judith, whom I’d met two years before in March 2010 on my first VW road trip.

The YesWeCan CamperVan in Carpinteria, California, towards the end of phase 2 of the MG Awareness drive; start date 20 October 2011 from Provincetown, MA, end date 15 May 2012 in Corona, CA, total distance 7853 miles

On that first trip I soon realized that my VW was my new friend who would introduce me to many more new friends. I also realized that my precious VW gave me the opportunity to start conversations with strangers, and the question quickly became what was it that I wanted to start a conversation about? Was there something important that I could talk about and that would be of interest or benefit to others, I wondered.

At the end of 2010, one year after the start of that first road trip, I was sure I’d found the topic, and another year on as I set off on my second cross country drive, I was pleased I’d chosen MG (Myasthenia Gravis). It would be the focus of my communications on auto-immune diseases and neuro-muscular ones in particular.

Seven months and over 7,500 miles later, at the end of my day in Carpinteria pictured above, I’d felt very fortunate that my VW had transported me safely on another momentous journey. On this trip, unlike the first, we’d had three major repairs before finally a new engine was built and fitted in Los Angeles. However every single time, help was on hand. It was miraculous how I was supported and helped along the way.

In the first instance, when the clutch started slipping and it was apparent it needed replacing, the Full Moon Bus Club’s South Carolina Coastal Group offered to fit a new clutch at their Thanksgivin’ Misgivin’ weekend campout just north of Charleston. Not only did they work on this repair all weekend for free, but Wolfsburg West stepped up and sent a new clutch free of charge and by overnight courier all the way from California to the VW campout’s organiser before we even arrived.

Two weeks later in Alabaster, Alabama, the accelerator cable broke in the middle of a busy traffic intersection as I was driving behind Staci (an MG patient who had been my wonderful host and helper) to accompany her in a Christmas Parade. On that occasion, Bill and Carol from Sylacauga had answered the distress message sent out on the VW network by my ‘support man’ Ken (back in Massachusetts) and they then drove one hour from home to meet me and fix my VW (after which they insisted I have my motor checked and hosted me for a few days while it was).

Two and a half weeks after that, as I was driving one early morning in a remote part of Texas, the fan belt shredded!!!! No sooner had I stopped on the side of the highway, we were joined by the nicest state trooper I’ve ever met. It was a very cold morning and I already had a sore throat and temperature, so he had me keep warm in his car, offered me his phone to call Hagerty for my breakdown service (my mobile had no signal) and stayed with me until my VW was on the tow truck an hour later.

It occurred to me at times such as those mentioned above that my VW bus is a perfect metaphor for a person with a chronic disease like MG. For example, all of us classic VW owners know (and mostly have come to accept) that our vehicles do not move as fast as high performance models, that they lose their balance around sharp bends, and that they often fight to get up hills. We also know that on a good day or when there’s far less resistance, the engine can run much stronger and livelier … and that during those times we can let out a loud sigh of relief or maybe we smile gently to ourselves, knowing that our faith has been restored and the struggle to keep going was definitely worth it.

We also know that during those ups, we might go a little crazy and do too many miles, and that, while it’s good while it lasts, chances are we’ll be pretty tired and plain old worn out later on.

As time goes by, we also learn that life in the slow lane can have its merits, like being far more appreciative of the good times and the fleeting moments of running free without bounds. Most of all we learn that living in the present moment is all there is, and with that, comes a joy all of its own.

So driving an old VW with it’s foibles and surprises, can really be a pretty good metaphor for what it’s like to have a chronic disease and to be steering one’s body through all the challenges that get thrown up along the way.  And the thing is, VWs just keep going and going if they are looked after and treated gently. Also one good example seen out and about on the road can be an inspiration to another, and waves and toots indicate that we share a common language.

For me, my VW has also been the friend who helped me find the very best of friends: those with whom I have a special understanding and with whom I can laugh and cry; those who have similar values and who give without expecting anything in return; and those who realize that trust and loyalty are the most precious of gems.

Boy oh boy … when I look at my old VW campervan, I really do have a great deal to be thankful for, don’t I?  🙂