My First trip to Florida in a VW Bug; No Phone, No Credit Card, Just Triptik

by Tom Anselm

Tom Anselm

Tom Anselm

I recently read in USA Today about two 68-year-old guys from Springfield, MO, who repeated a 1967 road trip they had taken in a Volkswagen of the same age. Sam and Dave (no, not the “Soul Man” singers) went over 1400 miles right after their senior year in high school, tooling along I-70 in a bright yellow Beetle with $50 bucks between them and the only plan being to point the blunt little nose of that iconic Bug in a westerly direction. They drove up Pikes Peak and then turned around and went home. They recreated this just last year, same car, refurbished. Fun times.

I could relate to their story, at least the first part. In April of 1968, as a freshman in college, high school pal Mike and I set out on an odyssey to Daytona Beach, Florida for spring break aboard his dad’s lime-green VW and armed with maybe a few more bucks but no more a plan than good old Sam and Dave.

No credit cards, no reservations. And certainly no cellphones!

We may have had a Triptik from Triple A Insurance, but that was the extent of our preparations.

We assured our mom’s that we had a place to stay. Which of course, we didn’t, teenage boys being who we were, not unaccustomed to stretching the truth to our parental units. (Okay, straight-up fibbing!)

So here we were 50 years ago, 18 years old and indestructible. Actually underdeveloped-pre-frontal cortex idiots, we were. Heading south on I-55 in search of … who knows what?

We almost didn’t make it.

Mike drove most of the way, it being his dad’s car and all. By the time we got to Mississippi, he was beat down, so I took the wheel, having stick-shift experience from my own 1960 Bug. Back then, some of the trip routed you through small towns, hooking up with the four-lanes in short jumps. It was in just one of those burgs, Durant, Mississippi, where our adventure nearly met its demise.

We waited behind a tractor-trailer at the town’s only stoplight. Big silver truck, tiny green Bug. Big truck started through the light slowly. I followed, slowly. Then, BANG… a dirty pickup smashed into our left front fender, knocking us up on the sidewalk in front of the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket. I recall this specifically, because I had never seen nor heard of one of these before. Ever. Anywhere.

Well, the next few events were straight out of a B-movie. The sheriff’s car rolled up, the one blue light on top rolling, the police station being across the street from the Piggly Wiggly. Out pours this good ol’boy, gray Stetson hat, tipping it at 290. He rolls on over. Mike and I are out of the car, dazed. Mike takes the keys and mutters “I was driving.” It being his dad’s car and all.

florida postcard   The problem was, I (or Mike) ran the red light because I (he) couldn’t see on account of the truck blocking the yellow light, what with a Bug behind a behemoth truck. Sheriff Billy Bob asked the guy in the pickup if he was okay. He looked at his already-banged up fender, said “Yup” and drove off. Mike and I were escorted to the Durant City Hall/Police Department/City Jail. We told the officer we were headed to Daytona. He looked at our drivers licenses. He smiled.

“Wey-all, boys. Fifty dollahs should ‘bout take care ‘a this, and ya’ll can be own yore wuy.”

So, seeing this as a way out of Mississippi, we gladly handed half our stake, went back to the scene of the accident and saw that it was not good.

The lime-green fender was tilted up like a wing, pulled away from the door about three feet. Mike and I proceeded to yank it until it finally fell off, and tossed it into the trash heap behind Piggly Wiggly. This exposed the entire left wheel. Like on a dune buggy.

We ‘high-tailed it out of town’, leaving John Law probably counting his beer money for the weekend.

As we bumped along into Florida, the ride being impaired by a front end seriously out of line, we were unable to match the scorching pedal-to-the-metal 70 mph we had done earlier. We were down to a piggly-wiggly 50 per. Mike’s dad was not too happy, as you can guess. But we were okay, the VW was drivable, and heck, we were on our way to the Atlantic Ocean, so Yeah, Buddy! As for my mom and dad, I told them about it when we got home. Again, that awesome judgement of an 18-year-old.

As for a week in Daytona on $50? Well, that’s a story for another day. Maybe.

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