After my Dad died Mom gave me his VW “bug.” It was a 1958 blue metallic and Dad, who had been a mechanic and general fix-it nut, had bored out something to soup up the engine. My brother claims it was a “Super Beetle” before Volkswagen came up with theirs in 1973.
It was before the days of oil embargoes, gas cost about 30 cents a gallon, and nobody knew about holes in the ozone layer or global warming. Life was good and driving was fun: driving to school, driving with friends to the A&W in our small town in the Yakima Valley, driving with my dog Chum for hours in the Horse Heaven Hills, driving to the Bay Area to spend the summer with relatives, and eventually driving the Vee-Dub to the University of Oregon.
I was assigned to the Hawthorne dormitory, which is where I became friends with Krause (for her privacy I won’t use her first name—we called one another by our last names anyway). I taught her to drive a stick-shift in the VW, which was my first mistake.
One afternoon in early Spring Krause, her roommate Karen and I decided to drive to the coast. We drove from Eugene to Florence and then headed north on Highway 101. Thanks to Tom McCall and the Oregon Beach Bill of 1967 there are plenty of spots along the coast with access to the Ocean shore, but for some reason we kept driving almost to Newport before finally stopping at Driftwood Beach State Park around sunset. It was a rather weird night for the Oregon Coast in Spring, as there was a warm, almost Sirocco-like wind blowing. We ran around in circles, danced and screamed like banshees. No, we weren’t on drugs—just the frivolity and insouciance of youth, I guess.
When it was time to drive back I decided to take a nap in the back seat and let Krause drive for a while. That was my second mistake. I was awakened when my body was precipitated onto the back floor of the VW, almost becoming impaled on the 4-inch ferrule of the umbrella stored between the front seats. It rains a lot in Oregon—you have to keep those things handy. It wasn’t all Krause’s fault; the headlights on 1958 VWs were not the best. She had been “kind of” following the fog line and when she realized it had "kind of" disappeared and ended up running both passenger side wheels onto the 12 inch curbing of the old Alsea Bay Bridge1,2 in Waldport. The impact flattened both tires, creased the wheel rims and bent back the tie rods. Volkswagens (at least the original Beetles) don’t have axles, they have tie rods.
After getting the car towed off the bridge the three of us ended up in an all-night diner in the small town of Waldport. Krause had called her college boyfriend, Reza, to come pick us up. That’s right he was named after the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who was still in power at the time. All the Iranian guys we knew back then seemed like a nice but kind of crazy bunch of guys. They did rant against their government, but we all did, and if they had any radical notions about Islam they didn’t tell us about them.
Of course Reza had to get a few hours of sleep before coming to pick us up, but eventually he and his cousin Mohammed showed up in Reza’s red Datsun to rescue us. We three females piled into the back seat and went on our less-than-merry way. The trip back was a bit of a blur as we were all a little zombie-like from our adventures and lack of sleep.
Reza and Mohammed were chatting away in Farsi in the front seats and suddenly got all excited and pulled up at a small store on Highway 126. It couldn’t even be called Podunkville, as the only building in site was the one store. They smiled at us and said they were hungry and were going into the store for pistachios. That gave all three of us quite a chuckle. At the time pistachios3 weren’t highly cultivated in America and we considered them somewhat exotic. And these guys thought they were going to find them in a small store in the middle of nowhere? Imagine our chagrin when they came out with two bags. Mohammed smiled beatifically and handed one of the bags back to us.
And the Vee-Dub? Well, Krause’s dad paid for the repairs but it never steered quite the same again. It died an ignominious death a few months later—turns out you have to change the oil in those things. My next vehicle was American made: a green and white Schwinn.
(And yes, for those of you who wondered: The title was inspired by Murray Head's One Night in Bangkok)
- The Old Alsea Bay Bridge
- Conde B. McCullough, Oregon’s Master Bridge Builder
- American Pistachio cultivation