It’s been three decades since my teenage years and I still have very vivid memories of my life growing up in the early 80s. Of course, it was memorable when I got my driver’s license at 16. It felt like a small step into the world of being an adult. I was excited and “ready to roll,” but it is difficult to “roll” when you don’t even have wheels, let alone the car and engine to go with them.
If you were to ask most of the teenage guys of that generation what kind of car they wanted to be seen in cruising down Washington Boulevard, they probably would have named one of the classic sixties muscle cars…like, a ’69 Ford Mustang, a Chevy Corvette or a ’68 Camaro Z/28.I wasn’t into those at that time, but now I have a ‘66 T-bird that can beat them all.
When I learned that my sister Cindy was selling her fire-engine red ’74 Volkswagen Beetle, it was easy to picture myself driving the uniquely quirky and somewhat odd looking weevil wagon…It was perfect! As I considered spending what little money I had saved, I sat and imagined driving it from here to there.
At the time, I thought I had the coolest parents for trusting me with a car, but now when I think about it, I realize they were probably just tired of driving me everywhere. My parents were very supportive of me buying my first car. They drove me all the way to California, where my sister was living to get it.
I was so excited when we set out to go get the car. This was not just a road trip…I almost felt myself maturing with each mile as I thought about getting it.
When I saw the red car, I knew I was making the right decision. It was a perfect fit from the moment my 501 button fly’s hit the driver’s seat. So, I handed over all of the money I had managed to save from my part-time, minimum wage job.
Over that next decade, I drove my little red bug everywhere and accumulated many miles and many memories. When it needed a repair or maintenance, my step-father Win always helped me fix it, and in many cases, just took care of it. We spent a lot of time working on it and bonding until we heard the familiar lawn mower sounding engine start up again.
I drove it everywhere and it’s bright and happy red color and loud engine made it stand out, I became known as, “the kid who drive’s the little red bug…Doug’s Bug.” I liked the connection.
I would have kept the car forever. During a moment of weakness and poor decision-making, I caved to pressure from my ex wife and sold it away. I remember trying to console myself by reminding myself that a Volkswagen Beetle was not exactly the ideal from of transportation for a family of five.
As soon as I turned the key over to the new owner, I had regrets. I remember having to hold back tears as if a family member had died. I know it sounds overly-dramatic, but it was as if I had sold or killed off the care-free, happy-go-lucky kid that I had been and replaced him with a serious-minded man.
I thought this feeling of loss would lessen or go away, but it never did. You could say that it had continued to “bug” me for years, so I promised myself that when the time was right, I would buy a bug again.
I put an ad in The Morgan County News that I was looking for one. It didn’t take long before I had made an offer on one in Star Valley Wyoming. Like with the purchase of my first car, I set out on a long drive to buy a bug sight unseen.
When I traveled to California to get my first car I felt like I was on a journey to adulthood and it occurred to me that this time maybe I was on a mid-life quest to recapture my youth.
This time I was traveling as the parent with my son, Nick and his wife, Cayce, and my daughter McKenna. It was great and really meant a lot to me that they wanted to go along and share this with me.
When we arrived, it was fun to get into the driver’s seat, although my belly made it a little less smooth than when I was 16. When I looked at the distinct interior of the Beetle, all sorts of memories flooded my mind and I started to plan for the future when I’ll find the perfect shade of candy apple red to paint over the dull gray of this old bug.
If nothing else comes from this experience, the time with my kids talking about the car has been worth the time and money I’ve already put into it. Everything else now will just be frosting on the cake!