Bernie the Bus…Conspiracy to Commit Murder

I somehow got the money, borrowed it, or stole it, or found it, I don’t remember, to pay for Bernie’s surgery.  It was a total rebuild, and actually they did a good job.  But what did I know, it ran and it didn’t leak oil.  The red oil light didn’t come on.  Good job.

Over the years I’ve come to accept that I did in fact try to kill Bernie.  It was destructive to take him to Fort Collins in the first place knowing that he was leaking oil.  I should have taken him back to the garage that day.  At the very least it was conspiracy to commit, or even attempted murder.  And I risked it all for an Arby’s roast beef sandwich and some potato cakes.  I loved those potato cakes though.

And when I discovered the pool of oil under the rear driver’s side tire, I knew it was highly unlikely that I would make it the 95 miles home.  And maybe the real truth is I saw the red light come on 12 miles from home and thought, maybe I can make it.  Maybe it’s not too hot.  Maybe the engine won’t seize up, like and rods and pistons won’t come forging through the engine block.  But I didn’t, and looking back now I realize that I could have and should have been more respectful of that “splittie’s” working parts. 

Let’s just say, Klaus thought so.  He was incredulous when I told him where I had taken the engine to be rebuilt.   He listened quietly to my story about the rubber gaskets, and the oil leak, and pulling over as soon as that red light came on, and it still didn’t help.  Klaus could not believe that I would entrust Bernie’s insides to such incompetent people.  He immediately brushed me aside and took the bus for a spin.  When he got back, and I kind of thought he might have stolen it, he said, “They do a good yob.  Suprise me.  Runs good.” 

The reason I was at the VW dealership in the first place, talking with Klaus, was I was trading Bernie in for a brand new Volkswagen Rabbit.  Panama Brown (Translates to pumpkin orange in actual color.)  Zero to 60 in 9.6 seconds.  Fuel injected and four on the floor.  That car had instant speed and incredible traction in the winter because it was a transverse-mounted, front-wheel drive car.  The first one.  It also had AIR CONDITIONING and HEAT!  But now these many years later, I wish I had kept the bus.  They’re worth a boatload of money today in the condition that Bernie was in, but who’s to say I would have taken care of him.  Probably not as guilty as I was to conspiracy earlier in our relationship.  I was so quick to spin him off for “The Great Pumpkin” too.

Bernie came to mind because of an article I saw on CNN Justice a couple of days ago.  The headline was “Stolen 1965 Volkswagen Van Recovered After 35 Years.”  The first thing I knew was that it wasn’t a “van” at all, it was a “bus,” and the pictures of the cockpit immediately flashed me back to Bernie…and the red light.   This bus was stolen 35 years ago in Spokane, Washington and was discovered in a shipping container bound for Germany.  When they checked the documents, the Arizona company that was shipping several vintage vehicles had no idea the car was stolen in 1974 from an auto shop in Spokane.

Reunited with its owner, the pristine VW splittie is today worth more than $27,000.  The trouble is, at least to me, is that the bus’ owner is State Farm Insurance because they paid the claim out back in ’74.  Probably paid $500 or less on the claim too.  I think the original owner should have an opportunity to recover it for the amount he was paid.

All this talk about oil leaks,and gaskets,and rebuilds,and 0-60 in 9.6 seconds has probably bored some of you, but you really had to own and drive one of those 1960’s VW buses to really appreciate them.

Like the time I almost froze my infant daughter to death on the way to Sheridan, Wyoming, for Christmas.  Air-cooled engines run really cool in sub-zero temperatures, and very little heat makes it up the heat exchange pipe from the fan housing in the back of the bus.  Any heat that did enter the system, was super cooled by the time it made it to the cab.  But we made it, and no-one died or had fingers or toes amputated.  I wasn’t really appreciating Bernie much that night though.  Probably when I started to form the plot to do him in. 


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