It was Friday, June 3rd. The day had finally arrived. Well, for rest of us it was ‘finally’. For Jim Brown and Ken Baker, they likely wished for a little more time to tweak their respective cars. Alas, there had to be a time for a test run, and the 32nd Annual Woodburn, Oregon Bug Run was the perfect venue. Ken Baker’s last run had been at Bugorama in June of 2016. He had worked on his ‘High-Tech Volks’ bug throughout the winter. Jim Brown purchased his drag Ghia last year and customized it over the winter, preparing it for drag racing.
There was a good contingent of Luft Gekuhlt Kreuzer family heading down to the show, including Shane Constantinescu and his daughter Mykala, Ken Baker and Nadine, Jim and Connie Brown and their son Kevin, Art Frose and his son Lucas, Rob Frose and myself, Sara Gilbert, and son Spencer. All in all, the club was well represented. Other people involved in, or friends of, the LGK VW Car Club that would be there included Thomas and June Turner, Raul Cruz (who won first place at Dubs in the Barn with his beautiful Early Bay, Tom and Judy Wood, Marc and Robin Buehler, and Nancy Phillips and her husband, and Tom Brown.
The morning dawned bright and clear, and those that were coming from British Columbia, Canada, headed out on the road early as they were looking at a six hour drive, excluding the usual traffic woes.
A meetup was scheduled at the Maytown rest area just south of Olympia. We were surprised to find that we were the first to arrive, and I couldn’t help but wonder if somehow we had missed everyone. Then we learned that Connie Brown’s plans had gone awry and she wouldn’t be able to bring the Thing down due to a failed fuel pump. Jim and Connie had regrouped and repacked everything into one vehicle and were on their way. Ken and Nadine were on their way as well. While we waited, we were treated to a convoy of vintage VW’s pulling into the rest area.
While we waited, we were treated to a convoy of vintage VW’s pulling into the rest area.
Shortly thereafter, Ken and Nadine arrived. Jim and Connie notified us that they would be arriving soon, so we wandered about looking for free coffee that didn’t exist and contemplating the lone shoe left in one of the spaces. The Browns arrived and we chatted for a few moments while we celebrated National Donut Day.
The celebration of National Donut Day and the contemplation of the Lone Shoe
Jim and Connie let us know that Shane and Mykala were taking an ‘alternate route’ so it was time to get the convoy rolling. We set out full of anticipation and exuberance and ready to face the many miles ahead of us. We stopped once and after some maneuvering, Ken managed to get his truck and trailer positioned for refuelling at the service station. Meanwhile, I parked in front of the air/water service center and the nice young attendant came out and started the air compressor for me. Apparently, there was a huge trailer blocking his way and he couldn’t do it remotely. He apologized profusely, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was just parking there. So I faked it. I think he felt pretty pleased with himself. Little did I know, I was a mere grasshopper at the art of emphasizing my emotions. I was about to witness true skill and mastery.
We headed out onto the I-5 again. Somewhere just south of Kalama, across a particularly bumpy and rutted bridge, the convoy quickly pulled over. Fortunately, just at that spot the shoulder widened. Bringing up the rear as support vehicle, our view was basically a barn door. We wondered what had changed, but then we saw. It wasn’t what had changed, it was what needed changing. What met our eyes was a thoroughly shredded trailer tire on Jim’s rig. Ken and Nadine had seen what they initially thought were bits of retread flying up from under the Browns’ trailer. It turned out it was not something they had run over, but actually their tire disintegrating. The wheel was removed, and the damage done to the wheel well by the blowout was repaired using sheer ingenuity and a variety of implements. The temperature was around 34 degrees Celsius. It was hot and noisy. Fortunately, it was a double-axled rig, Nadine had been able to call Connie to tell them to pull over and there was a tire shop nearby. Lawn chairs were set up, and Connie, Spencer and I set off in the ‘chase vehicle’ to get the tire replaced. Good thing there was a place to change into a superhero costume at the phone booth in Kalama.
We pulled into the Les Schwab parking lot and carried the rim with the shredded tire in like it was a wounded animal. A long lineup of tired looking people stood ahead of us. Connie, with doleful eyes and a most sorrowful voice, shared the story of her woes in amazing and heartrending detail and told of how a group of Canadians had stopped to come to Jim’s and her aid. I practically teared up hearing the tale. The man helping us said there was more than an hour’s wait, but he’d try to slip it in between jobs–which he did. I took crib notes. Good thing they had popcorn there. It was like being at a show.
When we returned, the fix was pretty quick. As soon as Ken got Jim’s nuts out of his pocket, the tire was installed and we were back on the road. Everyone had fared reasonably well, aside from the blistering heat and noise/wind of the freeway traffic flying by. Ken had even managed to get a little shuteye and Nadine looked far more comfortable in shorts.
The last leg of the journey took a while; by that time traffic was stop and go…more stop than go. We opted to skirt around Portland and took the 205. When we finally pulled into Woodburn it was five-thirty and plans to stop and check in at the hotel were quickly tossed aside. Minutes later, we were at the drag strip.
It wasn’t long before the trailers were unloaded and the cars were out. The pop-up shelters were set up and while final adjustments were being made to both cars, the womenfolk organized the tables and set up a tables and chairs. Connie had graciously brought along some sandwich rolls, fruit and snacks.
With some sustenance consumed, all of us regained our energy. The anticipation was as thick as sausage gravy served on biscuits, and the boys were ready to take the cars to tech to check that everything was in order with the cars and the safety gear .
Getting through tech, the cars were brought back. The decision was made after the Outlaw Street Racing ended to do some practice runs to get the feel of things and see what might need work before the next day’s drags. The track was being kept open until eight-thirty and it was a beautiful evening. Volkswagens of every type were driving in for the camping and the swap opened up for purchasing that evening. It was bliss. As evening approached, the bugs came out in full force.
As evening approached, the bugs came out in full force.
After a couple of runs, Ken discovered that his clutch was slipping, which was giving him some problems, and Jim felt that he wasn’t hooking up because his tire pressure was too high. They spent a little time making the adjustments required to remedy the issues, and then it was time to button things up and get some sleep before the big day. I wandered around asking questions about why people had their driver’s doors open as they drove up to race and what a wet box was and why one needed a diaper (I was going to need a different kind of diaper if I kept walking past drag cars as they were backfiring). As the sun was setting over the Woodburn Drag Strip, there was a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that threaded its way through the group, along with the feeling of the camaraderie of being with ‘family’.
Saturday, June 4th, the day of the actual 32nd Annual Woodburn Bug Run, dawned cool and overcast. Typical for the area, we hoped that it would burn off later in the morning. The group gathered for a quick coffee and snack at the local Starbucks and then headed out to the track. Everyone was on hand, excited. Our spirits weren’t dampened, though the light drizzle did nothing to help the physical dampness.
There was a steady stream of vehicles arriving, and that in itself was enough to hold our interest.
Again, Connie, laid out some food, including something called ‘breakfast cookies’, which looked suspiciously like regular oatmeal cookies. I decided calling them porridge cookies might make them more breakfast-y. It didn’t matter, Rob Frose saw cookies and was overjoyed. After chatting for a bit, we were eager to take in the swap. There would be no racing for a while. There were lots of interesting items to see, some bargains to be had and every trip through the swap area revealed new items. Also on hand were a delightful assortment of vintage bikes. One of our group bought one, which was then borrowed temporarily by yours truly, to see if I could still ride a Mustang-style bike 43 years later. Apparently, you don’t ever forget; the old adage is true.
As expected by most, the weather cleared, the drizzle ceased and it dried up. It wasn’t blistering hot, which was nice, but it was good enough to race. Ladies and gentlemen we had a green light.
It was so great watching the smile on Nadine’s face as Ken excitedly got ready to do a qualifying run. Connie’s expression was equally enthusiastic. As for Ken and Jim, you can well imagine the adrenaline running through their systems. It was a rush just watching them.
For me, there were two outstanding moments: one was watching Kevin Brown on the quad, towing his Dad, Jim, and Jimbo II back to the pits. I could feel his enthusiasm. It, and tears from driving so fast with no eye protection, were all over his face. Now that was a look of sheer exhilaration.
The other was watching Lucas Frose as he stood over Jimbo II’s engine bay. This talented young man built the roll cage, the diaper and did some work on the floor and the wheelie bars and mounted them, did the racing seat install and the seat belt mounts. I watched from a distance as Lucas and his Dad, Art, hovered around the back area of the car, inspecting everything. I could only imagine what an enormous sense of accomplishment and pride Lucas, and in turn his father, must have felt at the role he played in customizing and readying Jimbo II for racing. Unfortunately, that image is only burned into my memory and no photographic record was captured. But it is deeply etched there.
Lunch rolled around, and out came a couple a pans full of pulled pork, made by Jim. The aroma was tantalizing, but nothing on the actual taste! What a fantastic spread Jim and Connie put on for us. We all had our fill, and then some. Lucky us. I had no idea we were going to be treated to this on top of sharing in the thrill of the racing.
Another tour of the swap, some pictures of cars (well, almost 700 were taken by Spencer Gilbert) and some more racing filled the rest of the day.
Jimbo II makes its debut
High-Tech Volks on the track
By the end of the day, we were all exhausted, but in a good way. There had been so much excitement, and so much adrenalin.
Then it was time to relax. We said goodbye to Art, Lucas and Rob Frose, who were all heading back to Canada that evening. We packed everything up and went to the hotel for a brief period of relaxation. Then it was off to the Outlet Mall for an hour of speed shopping (during which time, in my attempts to park, Ken taught Spencer and I new British phraseology relating to jam), and over to a local restaurant for a meal. As we joined tables and talked about the day, there was a definite celebratory feeling.
As we joined tables and talked about the day, there was a definite celebratory feeling
Ken Baker had a clutch that was slipping Friday night. He took off the Bowden tube and got into the 13’s and broke the 100mph barrier. Unfortunately something broke, so that was the end of racing for the day. However all in all, High-Tech Volks had a good run, and there was a definite look of satisfaction at the results. Hopefully you’ll be back up and running soon, Ken. We look forward to cheering you on!
Jim Brown had spend a lot of time up to and including the Woodburn Show working on Jimbo II. It was his first time on a drag strip in 37 years. He had the full support of the LGK family and there is an obvious kinship and love between members. His main consideration in the building of the drag car was to fave fun. “Going fast is nice,” in his words, “but if you’re not having fun and enjoying it with family and friends, then why do it?” He felt the weekend had been a success, and fun. The car ran well and they came away with great memories and a lot of positive comments from people at the track who liked the Ghia, the clean look and the the name. No surprise there, Jim, it’s a fine looking car, with a pretty amazing story to go with it. Jim’s best run was in the low 13’s at 98 mph. He took it very easy and let off after shifting in to 4th, not driving it to the line. He felt the car had a lot more in it and that he needed to get more seat time.
On Sunday morning, everyone left at different times. Some left early to avoid traffic and get home as soon as possible, others lingered behind with no need to rush home. Thus the ‘LGK convoy’ home consisted of Ken and Nadine, and Spencer and myself. We travelled along at a reasonable pace, stopping briefly to fuel up and stretch our legs. There was, however, one last thing to do. We plugged “Dutch Bros. Coffee” in our GPS Navigation Unit and found one that looked like it would be easily accessible from the freeway and a good location to stop. This tradition began when the Motorhome Six went to the Classic and applied a sticker to the Dutch Bros. building in Sutherlin. We felt that it should be customary on road trips. Now there are only 258 locations to go. I can’t wait for the next adventure.
Luft Gekuhlt Kreuzers left their mark, not only physically but in the memories of many people during the weekend. As for the actual members, I think the bond just grows stronger and the mark is indelible. I know that bond is permanently tattooed on my heart.
Now there are only 258 locations to go.
*Luft Gekuhlt Kreuzers is a Vancouver, Canada based VW club focusing on our love for the VW scene. Our mission is to create a fun, family oriented environment. Please check out our Facebook page and join us at our annual LGK BBQ (see the event section for details).