One Day, 800 Miles, VW Bug Fun!

by on June 27, 2013

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All incoming seniors at the Chicago Waldorf School work for an entire year on a self-selected senior project. Projects range from orphans to the art of beer, and will be presented in March of 2014. Cole decided he wanted to make over a classic Volkswagen Bug and immerse himself in learning about the culture of cars.

First Challenge: Find a Bug: The first “perfect Beetle” Cole found lived in San Diego, California. Call me a negative mom, but I had to point out that transporting the Bug from San Diego to Chicago might be problematic and add to the price of the “very good deal.” After some teeth gnashing, Cole continue his search a little closer to home.

Second Challenge: Chicago doesn’t offer much of a classic Beetle selection, at least not in Cole’s price range. Chicago winters are a harsh environment for the classic Bugs, with snow and salt leading to unsightly structural rust.

Got it. Or at least I thought I did until Cole found his next perfect Beetle in St Paul, Mn. Before the words “salt” and “snow” were out of my mouth, Cole explained that the Bug had come from California where it had lived most of its 40 years. It was just recently transported to its new home in St. Paul, taking up residence in a little old lady’s heated garage. I couldn’t help but wonder if she has any re-homed Labs running around her yard (sorry, inside dog humor).

Third Challenge: Transporting the Bug back to Chicago: Cole forgot to read the per mile cost on the U-Haul vehicle he planned to rent to transport the Bug back to Chicago… Ouch! Those miles sure do add up. I smiled: Cole’s senior project was going to teach him a lot more than how to rebuild a car. Rebuilding another car might never happen again, but learning to read the small print was a valuable skill for someone who might apply for a credit card or mortgage someday. Cole worked the problem, and the dad of one of his car buddies agreed to trailer the Bug back to Chicago with him. The only caveat was the dad who owned the car trailer wanted Cole to check out the car with me, and have title in hand before he went with him to pick it up.

Road trip? It’s only 399 miles to St. Paul. We can make the trip in a day.

I now understand the $19.99 pitch. If Cole had said 400 miles, I might have balked; but 399 miles seemed doable. So the next morning we took off for St Paul, Mn. We were about 50 miles down the road when I realized that the trip was 400 miles one way—800 miles roundtrip! Good Lord. I had just committed to an 800 mile day trip. What was I thinking?!

As we drove through the Wisconsin Dells passing a go-kart track, Cole reminisced about a road trip from Florida he had taken with his dad. They came home by way of the Smoky Mountains and had passed through a town with a really cool go-kart track along the way; Cole didn’t ask his dad to stop because he didn’t want to make him stand around while he went around the track a few times. Uh? l smiled smugly at the heavens and thought loudly, Ha! I bet you wish you’d stopped at the go-kart track, now! And then I drove on and on… and on…

The good news is we made it to St. Paul, bought the Bug, and started back to Chicago with the title to the Bug and with the back of my van filled with greasy Bug parts.

Culvers—have you had their Butter Burger? Great fast food burger. We ate one for lunch going to St Paul and one for dinner coming home from St. Paul. Driving home, we broke the 400 miles into 100 mile increments, stopping, stretching, and buying a new snack each time. Cole was a great driving companion the entire ride home. We even talked about life after his senior year (college) and agreed to tell everyone the University of Madison was the first college he visited. After all,  we waved with enthusiasm as we motored by the campus.

Seven hours later, we pulled into the garage. The next day, I ordered the “been there, done that” t-shirt.

Bug: $1,200
Gas: $125.00
Snacks $50.00
Culvers: $30.00
Craziness: high
Memories: priceless

Now for some exciting news: Cole started a “Senior Project Beetle Blog” with only a few mom tweaks. I may be a little biased but I love it! It’s a great way for him to journal his senior project experience, reach out for sponsors, and tap into the experience of those who knew the classic Beetle back in the day when superstore filling stations meant a cheap piece of jewelry and a box of pralines with every purchase. Click over and visit the Beetle Blog, it might bring back some fond memories. Or not.

Did you own a Bug? I had a Honey Bee Datsun—best car ever!

Odd Loves Company!

{ 18 comments }

Mike

Whoa, looks like we both took a road trip. Hell of a lot of miles you covered in one day. Glad the trip was worth it. I remember the Beetle was a light car to push. I never owned one but had plenty of friends who did. Great car. I never liked the new one, tho.
I’ll check out Cole’s blog and wish him luck. I’ll wish you good luck too!

Katybeth

Yep. It was a long drive. Cole doesn’t like the new Beetle either. I have a feeling it will need a push good thing Chicago isn’t hilly!

Liz

I read Cole’s blog and it was terrific. Good for him! You are such a good sport. Not only do you go on the trip, but have a good time along the way and come back and tell us how much fun you had. I’m inspired. Funny about the 399. I would fall for that!

Katybeth

I have FUN on these adventures. I’ll miss them when they are fewer and further between. In the meantime, I’m loving every second.

julianne

I just read Cole’s bug blog – like mother like son. I can’t wait to see his handy work. Bug name suggestion: Rusty (ruscitti)

Katybeth

Me either. First stop is a battery. Funny, when Cole realized he didn’t have power steering. Opps, we forgot. Good think the Bug is so light it doesn’t need it.
Rusty is a strong name!

Debbie

Yay, you got a Bug! Or rather, Cole did. Anyway, what fun awaits him. I learned to drive a stick shift on a Bug (Daddy hated that the thing spent more time in service than it did in our garage!)
Fabulous road trip, too. These are times you’ll remember and laugh about for many years to come. Priceless memories in the making.
I’m off to read Cole’s blog — is he going to “know” who all these visitors are??
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Katybeth

Thank you. This car is all about learning about motors and rebuilding with parts that are affordable. And when something does go wrong he can fix it!
I’m not sure he will know who people are but I didn’t know most of my readers either. Like you! So I suspect he will make a lot of new friends along the way. Part of the fun!

irene

long day on the road! key is to have a great co-pilot. glad the road trip miles passed with fond memories! will check out cole’s blog. good luck to you both!

Katybeth

So good to have you on the team bug! It was a fun trip. Long but fun! More to come.

Beth Ann Chiles

I think your road trip was much better than mine last Saturday where we covered 885 miles! Cole was the perfect companion I am sure and yes—I love Butter Burgers! Yummers. I am so excited about Cole’s blog–he is going to be one of my favorite bloggers . 🙂 You raised a good one there, Katybeth!
Beth Ann Chiles recently posted…Stuffed in a Trunk?My Profile

Katybeth

Can you believe I had never been to Culver’s before? I can’t. I don’t think we could have gone one mile beyond 800.
Thanks for the blog support. Cole is using a whole different set of skills than he is normally use too. I think he is a keep but of-course I’m his mama!

Daina

So the Claypool kids used to play a car game they learned from another family called, “Hermie!” And the way it went was that when you spotted a volkswagen bug on the street you yelled, “HERMIE!” And why was this? Due to the other family’s child’s mispronunciation of the name, “Herbie,” which of course was the famous VW Bug movie… Fierce competition ensued with everyone in the car wildly looking around the streets to spot a “Hermie.” The winner was he/she (adult or child) who had spotted the most Hermies when a destination was reached.

Katybeth

Fun game! Hermie is a good name!

carol smith

Talk to Cynthia about a VW bug. She had one and really liked it. I had several rides in it. Not the most smooth riding car, but it got her to where she wanted to go.
About butter burgers, they are the best. We go to Culver’s a lot and hubby loves their Chicken dinners. I really like their pot roast beef sandwich too. They just have good food no matter what you get.

Katybeth

I will have to ask Cynthia; I’m not sure I knew she had a Bug. But one would suit her.
Loved Culver’s. I will have to branch out and try one of their meals! Pot roast and Chicken sounds good.

Mary Lee

We made that memorable trip one November. Actually, we had driven from NC, but what made it memorable beginning in Chicago was the chicken soup I ate in Chicago that gave me food poisoning. We must have stopped at least 50 times–no joke– for me to throw up beside the highways between Chicago and Minneapolis. Even the dog threw up once and he hadn’t even eaten the soup. I think it was a sympathy hurl.

I’ve never heard of Culvers, but I’ll start looking. Good luck to Cole with his car rehab and his blog!

Katybeth

Sympathy hurl! Too funny. Sounds like a nightmare of a trip! Can’t believe Chicago turned on you like that! I don’t think Culver’s is in your part of the country but when you travel check it out if you see one. Good fast food, clean, our service was great (meaning I could understand the order taker on the speaker phone. Start with the Butter burger—it’s not greasy,just tasty!

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