Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Don't Make A Fuss, Just Get On The Bus" (you probably won't enjoy this post unless your name is Gary Meek, or you are German)

As I have mentioned before, I have a whole bunch of half-written blog entries just sitting in my drafts box, and I think it's time to put an end to this procrastination.  I was reading through my previous post before publishing it, and I was struck by a type of "vanagon fever".  I had promised that I would unearth a fraction of the enigmatic family that I hail from, so: here. we. GO!

Volkswagen, *sigh*.  Volkswagen might as well have been the 6th child in our family.  Maybe like some sort of a mystical sibling that everyone knows oh so well, and is yet embarrassed of, all at the same time.  'It' or 'Vinnie' as I will affectionately refer to, partook in all of the family vacations, and stood as an obstacle if it didn't want to take us there, or was having a bad day.  Bad day might be an understatement when you consider 'fig. A' below...

I first came to know the Volks as a teenager.  We quickly cultivated a love/hate relationship as these wheels were a source of my independence and freedom, but an independence that was shackled to humility.  In my own mind there are vivid pictures of Jettas, Passatts, Foxes, Golfs, Rabbits, and the infamous Vanagon (Westfalia).  I think we have had multiples of almost every single model except the most normal looking one: the Golf.  That being said, we drove that thing until the death.  I remember when the interior fabric on the roof was sagging down onto our heads, and the rear-view mirror fell off the windshield...but we just swatted that fabric off our 80's/90's hairstyles and held up the rear-view airborne mode if we wanted to switch lanes.  There was no way we were watching that baby retire.   

Let me introduce you to our fleet (or at least a few of our faves):
Affectionately known as "Sandy" or "the Nug" (short for the golden nugget).  It was touch and go with her for a few years, but luckily Gare was able to resurrect her back to life every time. 
This is a kind photo of our beloved Golf.  Unfortunately she didn't look quite this good...but not far off.  She was navy blue, and was born in 1984.  If I remember correctly she had a steady run of about 10+ years with us, and costed a mere $13/month to insure.  What a kick in the teeth, she was worth way more than that!
The Vanagon (1 of 7 that I can remember. In no particular order).  This orange beaut did some corn time in its early years.
This little gem should have been called 'double trouble' since we had 2 of these twinners goin at the same time.  Maybe we should have referred to them as "Toaster on Wheels A & B".  Just need to make sure everyone knows how AMAZING the heaters were in these babies.  Nothing like rollin deep in -30 degree centigrade winters in comfort.  (for those of you who cannot read the sarcasm, I apologize for the ambiguity of this medium of communication).
The "Roadie" or the "Roadster".  This people mover had the pleasure of taking Al and his band to their gig.  Or at least 3/4's of the way.  This is "Fig. A" I was referring to above.  I will pay respects as to how he died further down, if you are still reading and haven't raced over to Ebay to get your own.
The collectors edition "Chocolate Log" (collectors cuz I can see the snout of another VDUB at 10 o'clock).
Corn Van part deux.
"EuroVision": this stunner was shipped over to europe in '92-'93 for our year abroad.  She motored us through 9 countries.  To be fair, our van had tinted windows so it was much sexier.  Plus, in Europe this van looks normal, so at least we had that on our side!

Alright, I think you get the point.  Needless to say that this '6th child' fit in our pack like a charm.  I have many memories:

Learning to drive: Once you learn to maneuver this beast around, driving a "regular" car felt like a SmartCar.  I remember doing the "hand over hand" motion on a HUGE steering wheel.

Van Food.  Driving around europe on a budget, we used to talk about how much we HATED van food.  It literally was its own food group.  A giant plastic wheel with pretzels, nuts etc., and juice boxes (apple or orange-take your pick).
"Fig. A"
I distinctly remember opening my email while I was at university, and my mom had attached this photo.  Here's the story I wrote as I passed it on to all my close friends/fam who knew our family's relationship with VW's. (please note the size of the other cars in front to respect just how MASSIVE that fire was!).

"So, my little brother's band had their first gig about 2 hours away so of course helen volunteer's the meek family VW vanagon for the trip.  It's roomy, spacious and good on gas...really good...well, they get going and things are good.  The van is packed with 7 people, the band members, my mom, a kids parents and their instruments.  They start going up a hill about 1 hour out of town and the van slows down, so slow that it won't go at all...this doesn't really alarm the 2 meeks in the van because, hell we have lived with old vehicles...sometimes they just need a little break up those big hills.  Anyway, Helen decides to pull over to give the 'ol gal a breather, and took the opportunity to stretch their legs.  While doing so, they look over and find that the van is on fire!!!  The kids parents are freaking out and yelling, GET AWAY FROM THE VAN, and all the kids are sent barrelling into the ditch.  Then my mom yells, GET BACK TO THE VAN AND GET YOUR INSTRUMENTS!!!!  *of course helen would say that!  Anyway, 20 minutes passes and the fire continues.  A semi driver stops to try and extinguish it but with no luck!  Then my mom remembers she forgot her purse, so she runs back Rambo style and gets it.  As the blaze continues, the cops and the fire dept show up and CLOSE the entire highway for an hour and a half!  By this time the van is a litteral BALL OF FIRE!  The news stations all came and interviewed some people, and showed the van engulfed in flames with the door falling off....Classic meek family...and they STILL won't get a new car!"
I found this sticker and laughed out loud!  The veritable "kick me" sign of the automobile world.  We spent a lot of our time in Europe on the autobahn getting honked at.  The van doesn't go fast at the best of times, let alone when a ferrari or bmw was whizzing by at 95 mph!!  Here are a few others I found:

Throughout my 'research' to collect the photos above, I have stumbled upon some real innovation.  We’re not just talking a few racer stripes, and some shiney new rims.  Here are some creative ways people have tried to make their vanagons just that little bit cooler.

And my personal favorite.  The ULTIMATE pimp to his ride:

Alright, I think that I have pretty much summed up everything you could want or need to know about the Volkswagen family.  The truth of the matter is that despite the frustration, embarrassment and breakdowns, we have had a ton of fun over the years.  Plus, if we drove boring, brand new Lexus' around town, where would the character building be in that!?!  hahahahah.  I think each and every one of us have a little soft spot for the ol Volks, and here is a little shoutout to Gare for the MANY, MANY, MANY hours he has spent scouting out the sale, and fixing up those damn things!  We'll all continue to give you crap about them though, don't worry.

PS: This last bit is for my dad.  I think I may have found your heaven:

Also, I know you are still upset about the fireball that was your grey van...but maybe there's still hope.  Afterall, this one's still cruisin the strip?

You're so 2000 and Late...(the irony that once written, sat in the drafts box...posting anyway)

AND LATE IS RIGHT!  What in the sam hell happened to time!  A true definition to getting old when the words "i never have time to do all the things I wanna do" come flying out of my before I can stop them.  I mean, I don't even have kids yet!  What is going to happen way down the track when I am underslept and cleaning mashed peas from out of the carpet?  Then will I have time?

Seriously though.  I remember when I was younger and time practically crawled by.  For example a simple family vacation felt like we could be driving for days on end, almost a week even.  Oh wait....we probably were!  That is probably the worst example of time I could have pulled out of the ol memory files, as our family drove around the North American continent as if were on some crazy version of the Amazing Race.  No complaints on the travelling side, plenty on the 34+ hours in "toaster on wheels".  Not only were we subject to long, gruelling hours (with limited temperature control I might add)...but we had to do so with our dignity at stake!  That being said, cuttin corners and cruisin around in a 5 times resurrected 1989 VW Vanagon was probably they way we funded "said" vacations.  They were awesome, and they were aplenty, so I will put this topic aside for another day, but I promise to enlighten you all some other time.  This will also give my dad some time to brace himself as I am probably going to have to watch my back for insulting one of his babies already in this short introduction.  Brace yourself dad.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day is a public holiday here, commemorating the day the Aussie's first landed on Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915.  It is sort of like a "Rememberance Day" part deux, if you will.  Being a foreigner, I wasn't sure how I'd feel on this day.  Patriotic?  Out of place?  Aside from the obvious of having a day off work, the result is, I have grown to really, really love this holiday.  Last year, we were on a holiday to Airlie Beach, Great Barrier Reef during Anzac Day.  We had slept through the dawn service (this year it was at 4:28am...youch!), but made it to the little township for the parade/march.  Let's just say, I couldn't stop crying.  I chalked it up to being female, and not really having much control over my emotions on certain days of the month.  However, being 2 for 2 after this year, got me thinking even deeper about where this was all coming from.  Good thing it's always bright here, so I can throw on the old "sunnies" for cover.

The parade consists of every battalion past and present that has served or continues to serve their country.  There are marching, pipe and drum bands sprinkled through every once in a while, but mostly it is just quiet-with people clapping.  They clap the whole time, for the entire parade.  It's a harrowing feeling in the air, while you are literally looking in the faces of these old men and women who saw everything first hand.  They march with such pride and honour.  It feels like they are almost replaying parts of history.  In learning about the history of the nursing profession at university, and studying the evolution of the female role due to the women's liberation movement-it was particularly special to see the women marching along as they were the catalysts of the time, opening the gates to such simple things we all take for granted.  This march goes on for 2 hours!  Each person proudly wearing their medals, and if a person has passed away, a family member can march on their behalf, keeping their legacy going.

This post was started on the actual day (April 25th)...however I am crap at actually getting it finished, and the pictures etc, and well I am a perfectionist.  So, I’m trying to be better about that so bear with.

Since Anzac day, was the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  It has sort of not made me not want to post this  or anything political about war.  I don’t want to open up any cans of worms, but I suppose was, is and will be an inevitable part of the world.  One day, it would be really great if we could look back and see how many times history repeats itself.  So many of us get to live in a place where fighting is not close to our doorstep and that is a true blessing.  Peace is a beautiful thing...