Wednesday, August 29, 2012


All this talk of VW's reminded me of this one:


 I bought it in the parking lot of the swap meet.
The guy took my money and gave me two things: a key and a lament, "Lo siento, amigo, I'm sorry my friend". I would have thought the apology was odd but I was too excited to consider what it might mean.

Inside, the van was moist. It smelled kind of like a locker room but more like dog puke, beef jerky and farts. There was nothing beyond the driver's front bench seat. The Mexican had replaced everything back there with pieces of shag carpet, pressed and matted, cemented to the floor by some type of canine body fluid. The thing was infested with fleas. Las pulgas had taken over the carpet, using it as a command center, launching non-covert ops, assaulting my calves and entrenching along my shin bone. The windows were spray painted black, the paint sealing them closed. We named her "Misery".

Misery... with way cool rims.

The tranny was sketchy, it popped out of fourth gear. A bent coat hanger looping from the gear shift to the passenger seat solved that problem. When the wire broke, Ralph redefined the meaning of "manual" transmission by holding it in gear for five hundred miles. When the vibration up the stick put his arm to sleep, he wrapped his toes around it, gripping it like an orangutan, holding it between the fat toe and the long one next to it. It worked but it wasn't a nice thing to look at.

The VW ate gas and oil simultaneously so we traveled with a case of 10w-30 we stole from Ralph's dad. The starter jammed so often there was a hammer taped to it to whack it free. The fuel gauge was consistent, it always said "Full". There were no wipers and only one headlight but there was a hole cut into the floor with a funnel and tube. And that was a plus because we weren't stopping until we hit Scorpion Bay.

At Guerrero Negro an empty beer bottle flying out of an approaching truck detonated the passenger side windscreen like a frickin' grenade. On the East road in, Ralph destroyed a front tire on someone's cast off fender. A drunken llantero fixed it for twenty bucks, fifteen beers and five precious hours of daylight.

Deep in the midnight desert and heavy into the cervezas, I drank cloudy melted ice water sloshing around in the cooler. It looked nice and cold; I was right about the cold. We hit the point at 3 am. Ralph slept in the dirt wrapped in a beach towel. I squatted in Misery like a contortionist, knees to cheeks, jittering, sweating and cursing as I hovered over two plastic garbage bags simultaneously blowing into both. Mercifully, I passed out an hour before sunrise, blissfully incoherent while the fleas joyfully stuffed themselves at the feeding trough of my naked body. I woke up with one eye swollen closed, a back full of flea bites and paper towels stuffed into the parts of a human body capable of clamping down on them. It was hellish.  

But, ask me what I really remember about that trip and I'll tell you this: I remember an empty Baja point firing like an overripe habanero, I recall laughing endlessly with a good friend and I'll never forget Misery, my first bad ass Baja rig.

Surfing makes your life better- it eases the Misery.

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Anonymous said...

Guess every surfer has their kombi story. I driven 1961 1967 68 77 with Baja plates no smog! And a 82 oil burner all where campers except the 68 7 seat passenger didn't really like that bus cause the seats no place to lay down and no curtains. Drove the 67 to Guatemala and back in 1984 stopped puerto and ran into some people I knew from the OC while making small talk they asked how I got to puerto I said I drove my Kombi they took one look at it and in that replied yeah than she asked the dreaded question . You haven't have any breakdowns? I said no that Kombi will go anywhere sure enough I leave puerto not more than a klic away the rear bumper falls off the driver side door hing breaks flat tire and a speeding ticket in TJ go figure

John Ashley said...

Baja plates? That's so cool- would love to see some pics of those days and those rides. I keep trying to tell people about the thunk sound that the break makes when you slide your foot off the pedal and take off- I remember that sound from when I was a kid.. am I the only one or what?

Grom said...

I know all about that thunk.