Monday, December 27, 2010

Driving On Into Dreams of the New Year . . .

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Back in September, in the back woods of Pennsylvania, driving down a back country road, far at the back of a vacant lot I caught a glimpse of something that flashed a spark of immediate recognition in my mind; I slammed on the brakes, turned around and drove back there. I had no choice in the matter. It was inevitable to me that this was an unavoidable rendez vous with chance, with hazard, with whatever you'd like to call it, yes, the dippity-do of serendipity had struck again.
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Barely visible from the road were three old Volkswagen buses quietly abandoned there. Finishing their days with the vacant expressions of a vacant lot, forgotten, forgotten save for probably the extremely rare passerby such as myself who might actually turn around to come take a closer look. But how could I not ? In another life long ago I owned two of these beasties. Not at the same time. Both of them came to tragic ends. Perhaps they also now inhabit some place like this. I don't know. But I do know there was something quite magical for me in this place.
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While I was there admiring the three VW buses visible from the road, a large four wheel drive pickup truck pulled into the lot, and I admit to having a moment of serious apprehension that it might be a local redneck ready to have me arrested for trespassing, or worse. In fact, it turned out to be the owner of the land, who lived just up the road, where he has a thriving VW repair business. He was quite friendly, when he realized I had a little bit of a passion for old VWs, he suggested I go poke around in the woods up the hill from the vacant lot, where there were a few dozen more old VWs finishing their lives in the underbrush. I didn't need to be asked twice.
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So what better way to head into the new year coming up soon, than to take a little trip down memory lane to a small corner of dreamland, inhabited by dream cars just waiting for someone to stop by and appreciate them. I was pleased, tickled pink in fact, to have been able to play that role that fine autumn day. (and many thanks to you, Craig, if you should ever see this ! )
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Some of the vehicles in question had obviously belonged to Grateful Dead fans. But just as the Grateful Dead died when Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995, so too did the need for so many VWs like these which carried Deadheads from concert to concert, back in those days long ago. "How ya Phillin" is of course a reference to the Grateful Dead bass player, Phil Lesh.
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As there are a few reflections in some of these windows, am including this in the Weekend Reflections series over at James place.
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More Grateful Dead art in a window sticker... dancing bears, terrapins from Terrapin Station, and the raven...
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Still more Grateful Dead VW art . . . VW buses going forever in a circle on a VW window.
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VWs were not the only vehicles abandoned there . . . a school bus was hiding in the trees, ready for another road trip, further on down the road.
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This blue bus was nearly identical to the first one I purchased, out in California. ("I'll meet you in the back of the . . . blue bus, the blue bus...")
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The jungle seemed to be on the verge of winning the battle. In another year or two these beautiful old cars may be totally obscured. I wish I could have brought a few back home with me. They make great lawn ornaments !
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Many different models and colors were available ! All in varying degrees of dilapidation.
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Who could ever forget the dashboards in these babies, and the wacky shifter diagram they had on the ashtray ?
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A pair of hubcaps was lying forlornly in the autumn leaves. With the owner's permission, I did bring one of them back home, it was all I could fit in my bagage. A dead WV souvenir.
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61 comments:

Patricia said...

Priceless post! I swear you captured my first bug...aqua/turquoise with a pop top. Happy New Year!

Joanna said...

Oh fabulous! I love this post and the photos. I drove two VWs, a 1964 and a 1967. I wonder where they are now. I only hope they're in another of the Elysian fields of VWs like the one you photographed.

Alistair said...

Magical.

Carolyn Ford said...

You found old abandoned cars in some great places...so photogenic! Great shots, great compositions, great processing...just plain great all around!

Laurie said...

Owen, this is stunning and with the Grateful Dead memorabilia, too! I drove a very nippy Beetle in the 70s for a while and remember going to a disused airbase where my uncle took his son go-karting. He had a VW camper van as a base. Those were the days - mind bending, man!

I just looked at Grateful Dead on wikipedia and see they have a section on artwork and a colour picture of the bears. Glad you got a hub cap. Brilliant!

Steve said...

Love the buses... please tell me: did you find the ghost of Scooby-Doo?

Springman said...

I bought a VW bus in Amsterdam back in '73 and carted Hippies back and forth between there and Copenhagen that summer. MoFoBro Trucking was the name of our enterprise.The engine blew in Bremen,Germany on one of the trips. I dropped the bus off at the dealership first thing in the morning. After breakfast I went back to check on progress and was disappointed to find the German mechanics still standing around in their immaculate white lab coats. "When will you be getting started?" I asked.
"It's finished!" was the reply.
A complete engine change in one hour flat.
Amazing stuff Owen!

mythopolis said...

Haha! You're really pulling at the heart strings of all us 'bug heads'! I still have a 72 convert super bug in the driveway as my own personal 'lawn ornament'.

A few miles from here is a farmer with a pasture full of cannibalized VWs. He has a sign on his mailbox that says "The Bug Man"! (Good place to get parts)

Thanks for the wonderful post and photos!

the fly in the web said...

I remember them around the Aldwych outside Australia House waiting to be handed from one happy Aussie or Kiwi owner to the next.
Brother in law did the hippy trail and sold his to get a boat ticket to Darwin...
Those memories are like the thickets you portray, worth entering, worth the scratches to find what's hidden within.

FishStikks said...

LOVE the pictures of the fabulous VW's!
I have one of the blue and white one currently sitting in my garage right now waiting patiently for some repairs to get it back on the road.

The bus belongs to my son and it is his second one so by osmosis I have come to love the darn things,

Love your photos!

Dee Newman said...

Oh, so many nostalgic memories . . . images and stories that these photos provoke. I never owned a VW bug (only Karmann Ghias), but I had some very unforgettable experiences both in VW bugs and vans . . . one just west of Phoenix, AZ in which I nearly lost my life at the end of a rifle when I was gathering radio and television broadcasting material for the Poverty Program. I need to write that one down.

Thanks Owen. Great photos!

Gary said...

Awesome! Love it!!!

"The blue bus, is calling us..."

James said...

Wow! What a find! I can imagine the memories these relics brought back. I wasn't even a Dead head and it makes me feel nostalgic.
I'm going to have to find some of these cool Pennsylvania places and plan a road trip when the weather warms up.

shansenn9603q said...

Love coming across old cars in the woods, and this is a great find. Beautiful!

Lena said...

When I stumble across old dead cars like these, I always have mixed feelings... First I wonder how we can manage to pollute our world in such a fashion... But then the beauty of nature reclaiming her own strikes me...
Great photos Owen!
Warm hugs!

TheChieftess said...

I learned to drive on a '61 beatle!!! (It was 1967 and the '61 already seemed ancient!!!)

...louciao... said...

Ah, nothing like the taste of classic Toad to kiss off the tangled, rusty old year and drive us crookedly into the arms of the tender new one that awaits us just around the bend.

Nevine said...

Well, Owen. These cars may be defunct, but it seems their spirits burn alive. Look at those colors! I'm particularly fascinated with the photos where the cars are tangled inside trees... almost as though they're hiding to avoid being doomed to further destruction. Almost as though they are preserving themselves... because yes... they are alive!

Nevine

The Sagittarian said...

Fancy stumbling into such a precious graceyard! I can't imagine how they were able to be left alone and abandoned out there but lucky you found them and brought them back to life albeit on film! Wonderful. xx

John`s Photography said...

Lovely post and pictures, Owen :)

Wishing you happy holidays and a happy new year too.

I be back ;-)

Owen said...

Hi Patricia, I'm glad this brought back some memories for you ! I think anyone who had one or who rode in one can't help but have a bit of a soft spot for them. Even now, all these years later, I can still hear the sound of the motor, and the vibrations when it was going through the gears...

Owen said...

Joanna, may your '64 and '67 rest in peace, wherever they may be... I imagine this is not the only place where some old bugs and buses have gone to pasture...

That old saying, "If I don't see you in the future, maybe I'll see you in the pasture", comes to mind...

Glad you enjoyed, and happy holidays !

Owen said...

Alistair,
Magical nostalgia, indeed, indeed... if only we could see them all drive out of that jungle, and go merrily on down the road, one after another... a colorful convoy heading off into the setting sun...

Owen said...

Carolyn,
Thanks so much !!! I don't know if I found them, or if they found me, but whichever, the meeting was momentous !

Owen said...

Hey Laurie,
Ah, those were the days, eh ? I guess anyone who came of age the '60s or '70s probably had some sort of encounters, close or otherwise, with these critters, there were a heck of a lot of them in circulation. Funny how they got caught up in the Grateful Dead culture, there were any number of VW related bumper and window stickers with Grateful Dead art on them, which I don't recall seeing for any other type of vehicle... just an association that made sense I guess...

Owen said...

Steve,
In fact, Scooby-Doo had been re-incarnated in the body of another dog who was running around while I took these photos, I just didn't realize it was him, until you pointed out the obvious here...

Owen said...

Dear Springman,
That is a most amazing story ! I'll bet you were hanging out at the Melk Weg... and I won't ask what else you were up to in those days ! What a fine trip you must have had while it lasted... how long did MoFoBro go on for ?

But changing out the whole engine in one hour ? That is indeed incredible, but knowing German efficiency, sounds plausible. I wish someone could have changed out the engine in my bus when it blew going up a long grade in Massachussetts somewhere. But it was going to cost more than the whole bus had cost, so I had to bag it... sniff...

Owen said...

Hey Mythman, I should have guessed you'd have a convertible super bug in your yard... is it still running ?

That place up the road from you with cannibalized bugs sounds like another slice of heaven to me... maybe you could head over there with your camera and give us just a little hint... but not too much, otherwise I might be too tempted to get on over there and go see... camera in hand... can't resist such places...

Owen said...

Hi Fly ! For sure, one should always be willing to wade into thickets of memories to see what might appear... it's hard to believe that those hippy trail days were not long ago at all, the days of our youth...

Owen said...

FishStikks... many thanks ! I hope all goes well and your son's VW will be back on the road soon... funny how certain things can grow on us by that odd phenomenon of osmosis, affection growing with proximity, appreciation for something that was made with a unique approach to utilitarianism merged with creative designs...

Owen said...

Dee, Indeed I second your motion for writing down your encounter with a firearm out in Arizona... glad to see that you survived it, but I imagine it will make for some good reading. And Karmann Ghias were very close cousins, so they count too in the VW nostalgia circle... I'm surprised there weren't any of those in this place actually...

Owen said...

Hey Gary, Thanks !

We should always keep one ear open to the call of the blue bus... one never knows when that echo may return...

Owen said...

James, for sure, a Pennsylvania road trip is bound to be an adventure. It had been so long since I'd looked around good old PA at all, and I was finding little slices of heaven right and left... I went up the Susquehanna valley from Maryland almost to the New York border... unbelievably beautiful places abound, bald eagles, herons, river views, and little jewels like this place ! Go for it... well, maybe wait for Spring, but do go poke around, Pennsylvania is rich with visual material...

Owen said...

Shansenn,
Thanks for dropping by here, for sure, finding old cars in the woods is about as good as it gets...

Liked your piece about Powder Ridge, never saw an abandoned ski resort before... guess just about anything can be abandoned. Too bad that water slide ran dry of ressources to finish it...

Owen said...

Hi Lena! Or should I say Dr. Lena ?

It is good to see how nature overcomes what man creates and abandons... I hope nature will get even better at overcoming... man has become a little too visible on this planet. We are forgetting our humble origins in our modern arrogance and dreams of infallibility...

Be well and hugs back to you... happy holidays !!!

Owen said...

Chieftess,
Wow, '61 ! That's going back a ways... Although taking a quick look at the history, they go even farther back, although I never saw one older than the '60s... You must have some great memories of learning to drive in one... unforgettable moments, no doubt...

Owen said...

Ah Lynne,
What's this about driving crookedly ??? You'd think I'd been drinking or something ? But Toads never drive crookedly... or almost... only when lurching into the new year... or is it galumphing... In any case, if the new year's arms will be tender, than I shall gladly plunge into them across the timely divide of midnight...

What else can I say ? It has been such a pleasure to have you as a blogging friend, back and forth between here and your place, and others... I hope these pleasure will continue long into the tender new year... and what better song for a good, good friend than this one ? :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3_J6zHV_k

Something about her voice ! So many memories... I saw her on stage back in 1978...

Now, what are you doing over there by the drinks table ???
:-)

Owen said...

Dear Nevine,
Their spirits still burn, no matter how far gone the rust gets... and I think your are right, they are hiding out there, in the jungle of trees sprouting up all around them... perhaps it is the trees doing their best to hide these fugitives from prying eyes... I was privileged indeed to have been able to see them before they disappear forever, under the weight of falling leaves, the inescapable weight of ice, the fingers of water and frost, the vines consipiring to enter through every possible opening... oxygen oxydizing away, atom by atom...

As Stephen King did so well in his novel Christine, it is possible to imagine that old cars like these carry the echoes of everyone who inhabited them... if we could only play back those films...

Be well Nevine, Hugs to you for the New Year, fast approaching ! It is wonderful having you along for the ride...
:-)

Owen said...

Hulloo there Saj ; oh shaken one...

Graceyard or graveyard ? I like graceyard better I think... they were all in a state of grace, sanctified by time and leaves and rust. I felt it was my duty to preserve what I could of them for posterity in these images.

Anyway, how about if we all pile in one of the camper buses, and head for the beach, with an acoustic guitar or two, a picnic, a few good bottles, and matches to start a big driftwood fire with, blankets or sleeping bags for when the night gets chilly and everyone is too exhausted to keep the fire going...

Happy new year to you all ! Even if you are really at the beach...
:-( grrrrr
;-)

Virginia said...

OH dear. THis brought back many memories, but not of the Grateful Dead!:) Further back to my childhood when we had one of the first VW's in Alabama, a convertable! Many fun evenings at the drive in movie sitting in the boot! Thanks Owen. And thank you for these wonderful wonderful photographs.

See you soon? :)
V

loveable_homebody said...

Wow, this is the stuff of fiction -- not just the events and the pictures, but your telling of them. Good work! I guess the anxiety of the experience paid off. At least an old VW van is relaxing anyway.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

How indescribably sad.

The Grateful Dead has a lot to answer for.

Merry Christmas Owen.

mythopolis said...

Hey, re my 72 super bug convert....yes, it runs. In fact it now sports a brand new motor from VW of Brazil, new floor pan, new brakes and master cylinder. So, next is body work, paint, new interior vinyl, and a new top...including the folding frame itself which is gonna be hard to find. Seems the 71 and 72 supers were the only ones with a flat windshield (later they went to slightly convex)...that means finding the right frame might be tough. If I have to have it fabricated, it will cost a small fortune!!!

...louciao... said...

awwwwwww.
And here's one back atcha, featuring the divine Ms.McV singing their little known hit, "You Make Blogging Fun."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFZMgf6M5KM

{:-)

Loulou said...

So dear Owen, have a wonderful year end too. Still in South India, where connection is not stable, weather very nice, but not as warm as planned.
What a stunning 2010 behind us, thanks for your warm presence on Indiaphragme, I would say "by my side" too. Trust 2011 will bring more both on our sides, let's see what Mr Toad brings... and India as well!
Take care
Bisous à tout ton petit monde
Loulou

Oliver said...

Great pictures! I have a 1970s VW camper van and have spent the past year having it rebuilt after it was, very sadly, burnt out by an arsonist. We should be driving it again by Spring.

VWs can come back from the dead!

Owen said...

Hi Virginia,
Good memories are what it's all about... and certainly VWs had a life unrelated to the Grateful Dead, even if very much a part of that scene, but apart from that, they were an integral part of the 1960s and '70s, freedom, affordable freedom... even if it was a little easy to blow their motors up... that must have been fun having a convertible top and going to the drive in !

Take care, maybe see you soon...

Owen said...

Hi Loveable,
Many thanks for dropping in here ! Old VWs will always occupy a tender spot in my nostalgic heart... Glad you enjoyed the ride, and sure, what better place to relax after a long day on the road... than in the back of the bus ! Cooling out with good friends...

Owen said...

Hi Laura,
Well, maybe a little sad, but that's life... And certainly, the Grateful Dead will have to answer for giving us simply some of the best music ever heard on the planet...
:-)

Happiest of holidays to you too...

Owen said...

Hey Mythop,
Well here's to you for pursuing the project, hope you can get it finished in time to take her out on the road in the Spring !

Owen said...

Lynne,
Awwwwwwwwww, now that is cool, I hadn't heard that one before, You Make Blogging Fun ! Always good to discover new tunes, and that is a great one... between Christine and Stevie, they got me hypnotized !!!

:-)

Owen said...

Ah Loulou !
I think once one has discovered Indiaphragme it would be impossible to give it up... so, by all means, will be happy to continue at your side on into 2011. Hope you are having a simply wonderful time with your travels and photos and family, especially family. I'm sure your children are seeing things they will carry with them all their lives, helping them to understand the world we live in...

Take good care, and happiest of holidays to all of you !!!

Owen said...

Hi Oliver, sorry to hear about your misadventure with an arsonist, and hope it will be back on the road soon... that must be a huge job, rebuilding one that burned. My second bus caught on fire and burned, just after I'd filled up the gas tank, a fuel line broke and the fuel sprayed out onto a hot exhaust pipe, it was totally engulfed in flames in just a few minutes, the windows blew out, the tires melted, all before the fire company could even get there... it was a smoking wreck by the time they were done. So really, congratulations on doing a phoenix deal with yours...

T. Becque said...

Wow, great finds and photos!

Mary Ann said...

This is an exceptional collection of photos, all the better because of the well-told story behind them.

It's amazing how many treasures lurk in the underbrush.

Being Me said...

Oh wow, what priceless photos. Especially love the buried 'bug' amongst the leaves. We had a blue combi van. It served us extremely well, many a fantastic family trip (including several across the crazy-long Australian Nullabor Plain) remembered.

Owen said...

Thank you T. !

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Many thanks Mary Ann, I agree, one should always look carefully in the underbrush, for many secrets may be found therein !

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Dear Being,
Many thanks for stopping in here, and I'm doubly happy if these images conjured up some good memories for you... connections, that's what it's all about...

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Happy New Year to all !!!

:-)

Roxana said...

indeed, the year could not have ended without an homage to the most wonderful dream cars ever :-)
i adore the tag: dream car heaven :-) and am mesmerized by the yellow truck almost completely covered by the leaves, wow - i almost cannot believe this is true!
i can imagine your happiness in that heaven, and i am smiling...

Owen said...

Dear Roxana,
A very happy happy happy new year to you and your dear ones !

If you go away smiling from here then you know that makes me smile too, all day long...

And another reason to smile is that some of these photos have taken on certain film effects like Fuji Velvia or Kodachrome, although I don't know how that might have happened, and am not going to speculate on possibilities...
:-)

More dream car heaven shots coming, waiting in the wings to come on stage...

Just the thing to drive across bridges in, suspension bridges, covered bridges, trestle bridges, even floating bridges !
:-)

A bientôt chère Roxana, on souhaite que de bonnes choses pour toi en 2011...

Karine A. said...

Il n'y a qu'à toi que ces vieilles voitures livrent leurs secrets.
Là où les autres ne verront que ferraille, tu dévoiles des mystères enfouis et la beauté des jours passés.

MDTaz said...

What a great find, this final resting place of well-loved VW buses. Thanks for posting all the pictures, it's like I got to go there with you.