Loran Smith: Touring in A VW Beetle

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Loran Smith: Touring in A VW Beetle

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

The days after you take possession of a new car are emotionally intoxicating—blissful days, accompanied by elevated feelings.  You drive more carefully, you don’t want it to rain and see mud flick up on the tires and fenders. 

You try not to drag in debris and leaves into the floor of the driver’s side of the car.  What you enjoy the most is the new car smell.  You don’t want it to wear off.  That is a reminder that of this vignette about why a man gets breathless, his knees knock, he becomes tongue-tied and loses emotional control when he sees a woman in a leather dress?   Because she smells like a new truck!





When it comes to vehicular shortcomings in my life, I do have frustration over the fact that it is not practical to drive a pickup truck as the main source of transportation.   If you need to go to the airport and pick up a couple of friends, a pickup is not suited for that.  Even if you have a two-seater cab, where do you put the luggage?

However, I would get a charge out of driving up to Helen in a pickup to fly fish for an afternoon or take a trip to South Georgia in my truck to quail hunt for a couple of days.  

There was a time that I was not so enamored with the family truck and its multi-purpose use back on the farm.   Not many girls wanted to go out on a date with a guy who came calling in a pickup.





Like most anybody who has experienced a goodly number of birthdays, I have owned or leased several vehicles over the years.  The most interesting car I ever owned was a Volkswagen.    When Volkswagen announced some time back that it would no longer manufacture the VW Beetle, it did not turn my head, but, perhaps, it should have in that I am a Beetle alumnus.

It was an efficient, good riding car.   The favorable gas mileage that came with ownership of a VW, certainly turned my head although there was no place to put my golf clubs other than the back seat.

In 1965, I bought a Volkswagen Beetle from Clarke County Motors at the corner of Broad Street and Hawthorne in Athens—where the Hampton Inn is today.  I don’t remember what it cost, but the Internet says that it the cost of such a vehicle at that time was $1,575.00.  What a bargain!

It was a handy little car that took me a lot of places.  In the summer of 1964, for example, my wife spent time at Northwestern University for a four-week short course.

While she was in Evanston, Illinois, I drove my VW to Baltimore, left it with friends and took a train to New York City where my old college roommate let me use his one-room apartment while he was out of the country on business.  That enabled me to spend a few days at the World’s Fair.

The fair offered limitless delights with it futuristic pavilions and exhibits but nothing to compare to the Lowenbrau Beer Gardens.  The beer was economically priced, the polka music uplifting and was served by pretty young German girls in their dirndl’s—all of which enhanced patronage from tourists.

Following a refreshing sojourn into Manhattan, I met up with my VW in Baltimore and headed across the country, taking the turnpikes and tollways to Chicago.

Then I went north to Minneapolis and on up to Bemidji, Minnesota where the Vikings were in training camp.  The gas on this trip cost less than the tolls.  I was overwhelmed seeing the countryside and cities of states I had never before visited.  

My college friend, Fran Tarkenton, arranged for me to stay in a dorm at Bemidji State College and take meals with the Viking players with whom I drank beer after practice sessions.  I didn’t keep a journal, but the trip has remained indelible in my mind’s eye for years.  

After a week with the Vikings, I headed back to Evanston to pick up my wife for the drive home via St. Louis to see Charley Trippi who had returned to a coaching assignment with his old team, the NFL Cardinals and on through Kentucky and Tennessee into Atlanta.   By the time I rolled into Athens, I owned a very tired Volkswagen.  It was years later before I realized how fortunate I was that an 18-wheeler didn’t blow me off the turnpike or Interstate.

That is a reminder of the story a clever German friend once told me.  He said that in the last days of World War II, Hitler was having his last conversation in the bunker and said to his mistress: “Don’t worry Eva, we get them wid the Volkswagen.”





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