Should you ever hear The Ride of the Valkyries booming from speakers in Lawrence, Topeka and even Kansas City, be warned. Remember the scene in Apocalypse Now when a squadron of helicopters swept in with loud speakers booming out Wagner’s classical wonder? With Robert Duvall in command, the fiery search and destroy mission allowed a soldier in Duvall’s squadron to surf waves breaking along the Vietnam shore.
We now have our own brigade of Volkswagens zooming along the streets each with The Ride of the Valkyries ready to boom from our speakers. Our journey to the point we can park three new VW’s side-by-side is an interesting one that includes no love for the “smell of napalm in the morning.”
When Laura and I married in 2001, I was driving a BMW 528i Sport model. As much as I loved that car, it became clear we needed to find something economical. The BMW was sold, and a used 1995 Honda Civic became Laura’s ride. I took over her old Ford Explorer that I soon grew to dislike. I felt completely detached sitting so high in the Explorer.
In 2005, we traded the Ford for a Subaru Outback and followed that with another used Honda Civic, this time a 1999 two-door coupe I drove for work. We wanted to preserve the Subaru for big road trips and snowy weather. The two Honda’s were cheap to keep running. The Subaru carried our gear for many great vacation and work trips. Combined we began to rack up massive miles on each. The odometer readings on our cars alerted us this spring that changes needed to be made. Laura’s Honda climbed to 240,000 miles and my Honda to nearly 270,000 mile.
We took the Subaru, with 140,000 miles, to our mechanic to evaluate. His words were blunt, “My advice is trade it now!” There was an exclamation in his voice. He foresaw costly parts replacement on the horizon. We began our search. We sought a good used Honda Element, a very unique vehicle no longer made, that would have allowed me to drive lower to the ground and haul our bikes, camping supplies and camera gear with room for our two grandsons. The now popular cult car limited our choices to either overpriced newer models or older models with just as many miles as our Subaru.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in April, we stood in the local Subaru lot looking at new models. We then crossed the street to look at Volkswagens because their Golf SportWagen seemed perfect for our work and pleasure needs. We could not believe the drastically marked-down price. It was so low we felt sure it was a mistake. Two days later, we bought not only the SportWagen but added a four-door Golf for Laura at prices combined were only slightly higher than a new Subaru model across the street.
Volkswagen is taking a monstrous financial beating over problems with their once highly acclaimed, clean diesel engines that proved to be sadly unclean. Plummeting sales forced Volkswagen to invest large sums of money into each dealership to ignite sales of their still outstanding gas models. As our sales rep, Hearne Christopher, told us, “You rode on the cusp of Haley’s Comet as it streaked across the sky.”
Our trade-in for the Subaru exceeded our hopes to the point Laura nearly fell out of her chair when she saw the figure. I had to turn my head to keep from laughing with joy. With a sweet bike rack thrown in for the Wagen, we drove off in two new cars.
Our pastor bought Laura’s Honda for his high school daughter. Our big selling point was the fact the old car could no longer accelerate fast enough to get his daughter into trouble. We both hated to turn over the keys of our old friend. We hope it will live on for years.
My old Honda stays with us. Always treated as a beater, it carries Rocket on his beloved road trips, hauls bikes, kayaks and SUP, sometimes all at once. Dents here or there do not matter. Reaching 300,000 is the next milestone. That Honda might well outlive me.
Meanwhile, we seem like kids with our first cars. With true Germanic tightness, we cruise along quietly enjoying technological features we have never experienced. Thanks to satellite radio, Laura commands an array of country stations. I can toggle back and forth between vinyl classics from late 60’s and early 70’s and the latest from the alternative rock station. We both listen to New York Yankees baseball. Fall will offer Laura Oklahoma football and Nebraska football for me.
With our first road trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the San Luis Valley of South Central Colorado completed, our Wagen hauled our bikes and camping gear 1,015 miles averaging over 30 mpg. We could not be happier.
The two new cars impressed Kelly so much that weeks later she struck her own deal with a dealership in Lawrence. That leaves the likely question as to why the cars are all white.
My uncle John Pflug remains a true car guy into his 90’s in Lincoln, Nebraska. For all of my youth, his latest Pontiac was always white. I grew to love white cars. Until we bought the Subaru and the 1999 Honda, both in black, I never owned a car that was not white. One look at the brilliant white Volkswagen was all I needed to buy my fourth white VW.
Laura looked at the different colors available. She quickly came back to a white Golf sitting right next to the SportWagen. Kelly’s list of interesting cars initially did not include a Volkswagen, but that changed after one test drive. As for the color, she never considered anything other than white. She is my daughter.
In Scandinavian Mythology, the Valkyries were the “choosers of the slain.” They carried honorable slain warriors from the battlefield to Valhalla. The three of us now agree, a gleaming white Volkswagen would be the perfect vehicle for that final ride to Valhalla.