You would hardly describe the sound of an antique Volkswagen engine as a growl. An American muscle car growls; a Volkswagen makes more of a whinge. Perhaps because of this, antique Volkswagen enthusiasts need to have a sense of humour. And a lot of patience. It’s just not possible to be in a rush while motoring in a Van or Beetle or Thing or Karmann Ghia. I remember seeing a bumper sticker once that read: ‘Don’t worry, my other Volkswagen is even slower’. People choose to drive antique Volkswagens not because they have to, but because it is a lifestyle – albeit a strange one.
As it’s now getting colder and the snow line on the mountains is creeping further towards town, I know I only have a few days left of leisure driving. Soon I’ll have to call it a year and put my 1960 Karmann Ghia away and hope winter won’t last too long. Recently, after putting on a wool sweater, wrapping a wool scarf around my neck, and slipping my hands in fingerless wool gloves (since the ‘heater’ only manages to blow on the left side of my left foot), I went for one last drive up the lake.
I joke that my car “goes from zero to sixty in half an hour.” It’s not far off, actually. Rather than ripping down straight stretches and hugging corners, driving in the Ghia is more like going for a slow walk. There is no radio so I can’t crank the tunes; instead, I take the time to think, ponder, and sing (when no one is watching). Despite this, I still feel a sense of childhood joy in stepping down into the driver’s seat and pretending I’m in a James Bond car. It’s silly, but sometimes silliness is okay. There is a certain freedom in silliness, and there is a certain freedom in hitting the open road (or winding lake road) – even for just a day.
I left town and drove past the Wynndel Store. I thought about stopping for a ‘Screamer’ (half soft-serve ice cream and half slushie) but, unlike driving modern cars, I can’t drive the Ghia as I eat and steer with my stomach. Instead I sang old Joni Mitchell songs to myself – hardly road music, but somehow it suited the drive.
I dipped into Sirdar and out again, and then past Kuskanook Harbour where boaters were hoping, like I was, that the sun would cut the cold a little. I drove past public access beaches. I’m sure they all have official names, but our boys have renamed them over the years, and now they’re the only names I know. I puttered along, shifting between third and fourth gear. I was in no rush. I thought about stopping at Gray Creek Store, just to have a look around and resupply the car with some traditional Australian apple licorice for those occasions that call for it, but I didn’t stop. I just enjoyed the rhythm of the drive.
At Crawford Bay, many of the artisan shops were closed for the season. But I needed a stretch before I turned around and headed home, so I pulled over and parked behind Dog Patch Pottery. Though I didn’t feel the need for more pottery, I did look around the store anyway and settled on a couple bars of soap from Flickering Goddess. On the drive back, the car smelled like oatmeal and honey (with a hint of patchouli oil). Somehow a James Bond car should smell like gasoline and leather and pipe tobacco, but I let it go. I was just happy to be back on the road.
Place: Highway 3A