FRIDAY, JULY 7TH, 2017
The anticipation leading up to Volksfest built rapidly. Because I know the beauty of Vancouver Island, because I know the beauty of the venue at Cadboro Gyro Park, but mostly because I know the beauty of the people who I would share my time with there. I had booked our campsite months in advance, and had been eagerly counting down the days.
Spencer and I had decided to go over a day early to enjoy an extra night of camping and to have some free time to explore. By Thursday night, Buster was loaded to the gunwales with camping equipment and two recently semi-revamped vintage bikes. Every conceivable remaining space was crammed with Westfalia plaid chairs and picnic baskets to sell.
By Thursday night, Buster was loaded to the gunwales with camping equipment and two recently semi-revamped vintage bikes. Every conceivable remaining space was crammed with Westfalia plaid chairs and picnic baskets to sell.
On Friday morning, we left early, allowing extra time to get to the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen, knowing that we’d be taking Buster on the backroads as he gets a little cranky if he has to go over 50 miles an hour. We just made it on time, and although we were too late to use our reservation, we arrived at precisely the right time to drive right on.
That old feeling of coming home filled my soul as the ferry shuddered into the berth at Swartz Bay. I eagerly drove down the Pat Bay Highway, ready for adventure. The last time I had gone to the lower Island was for Volksfest in 2016. It still seemed strange driving past the McTavish Road overpass and not stopping in to see my Mom, and for a moment my spirits were dampened. But somehow, I felt as if she and my Dad were along for the adventure, because they are so much a part of me.
By the time we crossed over from the Pat Bay Highway to the Island Highway, I once again felt the exuberance of being “home”. We pulled into the Goldstream campsite shortly after eleven in the morning, quickly set up the tents, and offloaded all the items we wouldn’t need to be transporting for the next couple of days. The tents were filled with picnic baskets and an odd assortment of chairs and stools. There was just enough room in my vintage pup tent for me to sleep, if I didn’t curl up, move, or breathe too deeply.
First and foremost on the day’s schedule was to bring some flowers to my Mom and sister and daughter. My sister’s birthday was the 9th of July and my Mom’s the 15th so we paid our respects and then went for the traditional dip in the ocean at Esquimalt Lagoon.
I carefully watched for dog droppings, which had ruined a romantic date in my teen years as I ran along the sand in slow motion, stepped in it and it squished up through my toes (no amount of casual shaking my foot in the water, while trying to retain the magic of the moment, would wash it off). Yup. Scarred for life from that one. Yet, a dip in the ocean has remained a must. No matter what time of year. And it never disappoints. It is a celebration of life and all that it can be. It is a reminder to cherish what is real, to let go of what isn’t and to live life to the fullest.
It is a celebration of life and all that it can be. It is a reminder to cherish what is real, to let go of what isn’t and to live life to the fullest.
We had kept the two vintage bikes with us for the day. The plan was to return to the banks of the Gorge Inlet, where I grew up, and recreate the photo of me standing with my brand new Mustang-style bike in 1970, with Spencer and his recently acquired bike, that had only a week prior been completely covered in matte black paint. The idea came about when we were discussing the similarity of the metalflake vinyl banana seats. What a thrill it was to bike the entire Waterway route with my son, 47 years later.
I told him stories as we went, showing him the spots we would hang out and where the remnants of old stairs were from the last residence on the water side of Gorge Roadand that the plants at the Vantilburg house with the Oriental architectural detail in Langford were from when the original Japanese Gardens at the park were dismantled. (In hindsight, I probably bored the poor kid to no end). It was bittersweet to recall that my mother used to bicycle with me from the Gorge to Langford when she was my age and I was Spencer’s. It was a truly special afternoon, sure to form the fabric of memories in years to come. By the end of the ride, he was convinced I was a bit of a wild teenager, although that wasn’t the exact word he used to describe me.
Then we decided to go and see if Jim and Connie Brown had arrived from Gig Harbour. We set off for the Hotel Zed and had just parked when they drove in.
They had taken the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles and apparently it had been a rough journey. I believe Connie still had a slight green pallor. They settled in and then we decided to do a bit of sightseeing in their Thing. With Jim chauffeuring and Connie riding shotgun, we went to Craigdarroch Castle,
to Government House, along Dallas Road and then parked in Chinatown and walked through FanTan Alley to the older areas of the city.
Jim and Connie patiently tolerated my obsession with having my photo taken with statues and Spencer rolled his eyes, because he has to deal with this behaviour all the time.
We delighted in odd store names and odder stores housed in the old brick buildings. And we managed to solve the mystery of the people in white carrying picnic baskets with them: we eventually found them all gathered at Centennial Square for the annual “Diner en Blanc”. It was quite a bizarre sight.
We topped it off with supper at the Taste of Europe Deli. After a huge meal, and watching Spencer navigate his unusual “burger”, we drove back to the Hotel Zed, and parted ways for the evening. Saturday would be busy and we would be up early. That evening, we bicycled around the campsite, where we found several other people that would be going to Volksfest. Joel Sanderson and Aaron and Stephanie Cook and their dog Frank were set up already and we came upon Shawn Boyes and his family in the notchback from Chilliwack too, as well and another orange late bay bus that seemed to be there by chance. A little while later Mel and Tom Weston, Taylor Clark and Mike and Shannon Adams drove by (with Jake Rozell enthusiastically waving out of the Blueberry’s sub hatch–man I wish I had a picture of that). We had an absolutely wonderful time with Mike and Shannon, and Mel and Tom had just pulled up to chat as well, when Taylor, who was on his way home because he had to work Saturday, required assistance. Everyone left, and we tucked in for the night. It was a good day.
SATURDAY, JULY 8TH, 2017
With the coming of dawn, so also did the promise of another beautiful day. We knew the gang from the LGK VW Club were coming over on the seven a.m. ferry, so we timed our arrival at the Volkswagen dealer on Douglas for around nine. We pulled up on the grass strip between the road and the sidewalk and were joined shortly thereafter by Jim and Connie in the Thing. Soon, the Mainland group arrived, included Shane and Amanda in the stunning Silver Surfer,
Mykala and Brian in the sleek Black Panther, Jason and Viki in his bug, Johnnie in the ’64, Don and Cindy in the Rabbit, Jerry and Kelly and Elayna Clark in his jaw-dropping bus, Ken and Nadine, who unbeknownst to us would remedy their lack of driving a VW once they arrived, and four of the five Frose Bros and families which included the usual array of vehicles, but also Lucas Frose’s bug and the inaugural appearance of Mayra’s gorgeous early bay double cab. Soon after Raul Cruz and his family and a friend arrived from south of the border in their buses. What an amazing group!
In no time at all, everyone was enjoying a delicious pancake breakfast put on by the Victoria Volkswagen Club. These people do an amazing amount of work, and make it look like it’s nothing. Their easy smiles and pleasant camaraderie makes the whole Volksfest weekend among the very favourite of the LGK crew. Tradition called for Johnnie’s special pancake, and the gals did not disappoint, creating a larger-than-life masterpiece. Johnnie slathered it in butter and drizzled syrup all over it, and happily swallowed all of it.
As the events at the dealership wound down, everyone went their separate ways: some to check into their campsites, some to check into their hotels, others just to go and do some sightseeing. We hopped in Buster and led the Clarks and Johnnie back to Goldstream Provincial Campsite, where they could check in and relax a bit. Once everyone had their gear unloaded and organized (this didn’t consist of much for Johnnie, although it was amusing watching him blow up his pool chair that would serve as an air mattress), we decided to take a walk down to one of the sets of falls, where there was a pool suitable for swimming. It was a hot day, and we were up for a refreshing dip in the water. The swimming hole did not disappoint. It was fairly busy, everyone having had the same idea, but there was enough room for each of us to have a dip. I enjoyed every second of that time, particularly wading with Elayna, Jerry and Kelly’s sweet daughter; although I knew we’d have to leave fairly quickly to make it on time for the poker run. Okay, going back up the gazillion (Elayna valiantly tried to count them) or so stairs was maybe not too enjoyable, but still worth the trek, and offered us an excuse to ingest more calories.
I enjoyed every second of that time.
Once again, we got our small convoy of Volkswagens on the road and headed into town for the Poker Run. There was a little confusion when we got near our destination, but eventually we noticed a group of VW’s in a parking lot and pulled in. Johnnie had decided to carpool with us as navigating by himself would have been a bit challenging. He made himself comfortable in the back and we picked up our instructions and headed out. We had planned to go as a group, since I was familiar with 7 of the 8 locations, but we lost everybody at the first speed bump. It was a doozie. So we ventured off on our own. And the real fun began. My phone was all but dead, and Spencer didn’t have data, so Johnnie offered up his phone when we needed it and our navigator turned out to be Australian Siri.
Johnnie had brought along his Stormtrooper helmet and it was an instant hit with other drivers on the road, and at all the checkpoints. He was welcomed to photobomb a wedding party that arrived at Cattle Point in a limo and posed for pictures with the group. Not just for our sakes either, the professional photographer was quite pleased to shoot a couple of pictures of him and the group. (I think the father of the bride or groom was most excited, he couldn’t stop grinning) It wasn’t long before the people at the checkpoints were asking each other if the Stormtrooper had showed up. My favourite checkpoints were Mt. Tolmie and Clover Point. The smiles that his appearance from the side window of the bus at traffic lights and the poses at checkpoints elicited were contagious. We had the lousiest cards possible, and the best time ever. The photo ops were endless, and we stopped at places other than the checkpoints just to take advantage of them. During the driving time, we talked about how to step up the game for next year, and occasionally I had to tap on the brakes to bring Johnnie back into line. I just told Spencer off in my usual “affectionate” manner.
The smiles that his appearance from the side window of the bus at traffic lights and the poses at checkpoints elicited were contagious. We had the lousiest cards possible, and the best time ever.
The most difficult spot to find was the barbeque at the end of the run, but eventually we located it and were once again well-fed, this time hamburgers and smokies, by the smiling folk. They had live music and there was a lot of companionable chatter. A fine time was had by all. Everyone complained about having poor poker hands, but I was pretty sure we were at the bottom of the heap.
From there some of us that didn’t have plans ventured up into the Highlands, where we spent some time talking with the good people from Triple J’s. Back in the day (oh, I’m old) Munn Road was where one went to go dirt biking. Not anymore. It still blows me away, seeing the properties and residences up there. It’s always amazing to witness the projects at Triple J’s firsthand. It’s a good thing there were no mosquitoes around, because I was checking out a beautiful Westfalia Splittie in the corner, dressed in a full awning and all the regalia, and I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open the entire time. Unfortunately, we took very few pictures there.
By the time we got back to the campsite, we were pretty well exhausted. There had been so much to see and so much enthusiasm and excitement that we were relieved to just sit and relax. We had been invited to venture up the road and visit, but decided instead to call it a night, as the yawning had reached a critical point. Although we were taunted via text and Messenger (apparently the young whippersnappers didn’t have it in them to come and talk to me IRL), we held our ground and crawled into our respective hovels for a much-needed rest.
I marveled at how very different people, of very different interests and tastes and ages could become so bonded that they truly felt like family.
I crawled into my sleeping bag, surrounded by chairs and stools and Johnnie softly sawing logs from across the campsite and sleepily wondered how I was going to get this all back into the bus in a reasonable amount of time. I set my alarm a half hour earlier than I originally had, just in case. Good at Jenga, I was not. That wasn’t the only thing I thought of though. I marveled at how very different people, of very different interests and tastes and ages could become so bonded that they truly felt like family. In all honesty, I know many of these people would have my back if I needed assistance. And I felt with all my heart a profound love for them, which was equally reciprocated. I was silently thankful for each of them, contributing to the puzzle to form a whole magnificent masterpiece. I felt truly amazed and blessed and I was carried away in my dreams.
SUNDAY, JULY 9TH, 2017
Finally, the day of Volksfest arrived. Johnnie was packed up and ready to go in no time at all, and he sat and watched in obvious amusement as we dismantled the tents and spread the array of goods I had brought to sell at the show everywhere. It looked as if someone had spewed plaid vomit around the campsite. However, I was determined to fit it all back in the bus from whence it came, and succeeded. The result was a tangled mess of aluminum and metal legs and wheels and fabric and wicker resembling a large rat’s nest. We were off. A quick stop at Tim Horton’s for caffeine and sustenance and we were back on the road.
It didn’t take long to arrive at Gyro Park, and we helped to fold shirts, mainly because Taylor Clark can’t fold anything bigger than a medium. Once we had done what we could to help, I drove Buster to the LGK row (yes we have our own section—gotta love the VVWC) and started to set up. As the vehicles started rolling in, it became very difficult to keep at the task at hand, because this show brings in a huge range of Volkswagens. And then it got even more difficult, because old friends were arriving. Not only is it a show, it is a family reunion. Happy hugs and long conversations would be the order of the day.
I had to temporarily abandon the event to go and retrieve my phone, which I had inadvertently left in the bathroom at the campsite. Unfortunately, it was dead, so I couldn’t call my number. Darren Coughtry was kind enough to take an hour out of his day to chauffeur me out to Goldstream to see if it was still there. Imagine my surprise when the voice of Australian Siri responded to a request Darren had made (apparently she’s popular in these parts). I was relieved that a lady and her daughter had been kind enough to bring my phone to the gatehouse. As bad as I felt, a couple of good things came out of that turn of events. Firstly, I got the chance to have a great chat with Darren, who is one of my favourite people. Secondly, I was amazed and my heart was warmed by the concern shown so many people. Upon my return, my jubilation was theirs as well. And that’s a perfect example of what I mean when I say this is family.
Shortly after we returned, I was given a basket to “Dubcessorize” by Ken and Nadine who had gotten it from Mike and Shannon. Then Shane appeared with two stools that I had nixed buying at the swap earlier because they were way too expensive. Apparently he has some good bargaining skills. Again, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends. It was a good thing too, because Darren Coughtry, Jerry Tirone and a few others pretty well cleaned me out of stock.
It was so great to see the shortened single cab pull in, to see Rob and Rheagh (great to see the double cab out and about), Russ, Don, and Jerry Tirone and his bus. Of course there was the Dormobile with the single wheel trailer which I absolutely love. Overall, there was a good contingent of mid-Island Volks there. My absolute favourite had to be the bug with the “more than just patina” look, the hemp rope wrapped around the shell and pan holding it together, with the hole in the driver’s floor big enough to make it a Flintstone car. It came on a trailer, but actually drove off the trailer and to its spot in the show. Many stunned faces watched at this spectacle. Later on, by chance when Johnnie made a video of it, he was serenaded with “I come from the Land Down Under” blasting from the working radio—it made me think of an Australian Herbie trying to tell you something Johnnie. It even looked like Herbie, as Russ drove it, bouncing across the field in it to put it back on the trailer.
As I wandered around the venue, I heard a voice calling my name. It was in the air, everywhere, surrounding me. I thought maybe it was God talking to me, but it turned out it was just Shane on the P.A. system, calling for help with the junior valve cover races. The kids had a great time. There was a selection of cars to choose from and everyone had an opportunity to try their hand at racing, with Shane doing his particular brand of MC’ing.
As we bicycled through the crowds, people were running back and forth, eager to provide the requested items and win random prizes. Dipsticks, laptops, ferry receipts, you name it. The more unusual the item, the funnier it was to see people running to the booth to try and win. The LGK crew was called to action to judge the vehicles and were kept busy with a well set up set of parameters provided by the VVWC.
Then came the adult valve cover races. I always claim to be non-competitive but something about these races gets my blood pumping. I knew I would have a tough time beating Spencer and one of the ones provided for use was pretty fast too. Then there was the Jetta valve cover car from last year. Fortunately, Don Gifford decided he was happy to remain champion of last year’s race. The competition was stiff. Rob Reid helped me get a piece of tubing out that was stuck in the wheel well and I was ready to rumble. I won my first race, but three of the four wheels of my racer broke. I had spares, but no glue. I decided it was an impossibility and that it really wasn’t that big of a deal, but my amazing pit guy, Jim, wouldn’t let me quit. We figured out how to get the old axles off, and switched over to the “off-road” rubber axles and wheels. And I went on to the win! Victory tasted sweet, as I drank my cold brew from the prize mug.
Later in the afternoon, I heard my name being called again. Connie, Mykala and I were all “volunteered” to take part in the watermelon eating contest. Connie was allowed to use her hands. Mykala and I weren’t. It was messy, it was very messy. As thirsty as I was, I was too busy laughing at some of the commentary to eat much. At the end, I dove in and really got into it, or rather it got into me: in my hair, in my nose, in my eyes. As big a mouth as I have, it relates to talking, not eating and I knew from the get-go I had no chance to win. At the outset, I really didn’t want to do it, but it turned out to be a huge amount of fun.
Prizes for vehicles were handed out and Mykala’s Black Panther won the best in her class. It was really nice to see. One of my treasured moments was seeing the comment on Buster’s placard. “You’ll always be my number 1”. There were so many great vehicles in all the classes that were represented.
After that, the day started to wind down. People began packing up to catch ferries back to the mainland or to begin the long trek home up Island. The day had started out slightly overcast, but had ended up hot and sunny. A number of glowing red sunburns attested to that fact. Several of us had reserved for the six o’clock ferry and watched as the people packed up to go their separate ways. We
loaded up everything and relaxed for a while. I was delighted to see Gabe, my little Coast Guard buddy and his Mom and Dad and chat for a while. I was most thrilled that I had made enough money from selling my Dubcessories items to pay for my ferry fares and donate the remaining $260 to my special little friend Logan, whose family needs to focus on his health and finding a cure for his illness. Shane donated the first place prize custom painted fridge he won and it was auctioned off to Jerry Tirone for $250 to go to the Children’s Wish Foundation. There was also a nice amount raised from the poker run in honour of Peter Beltgens.
As we travelled on the ferry, there was time for one last group selfie, and a last photo op for the Stormtrooper. Driving down the road into the sunset, I reflected on the weekend. I was tired, but wouldn’t have missed a moment of it. I watched the members of the VVWC work tirelessly, particularly Mel Weston who never stopped. You should all be very proud of the amazing event you successfully orchestrated and pulled off. It was fabulous.
The sun sank lower in the sky and my spirits soared. Because Volkswagens aren’t just a vehicle, they are a lifestyle. People from all walks of life come together, sharing a passion and find common ground. I mused to myself that it would be wonderful if the world could be like that: If we could celebrate the commonalities and accept the differences, if we could be there to help anyone in need and to step up to the plate without being asked. It is possible. I witnessed it firsthand this weekend. ❤
People from all walks of life come together, sharing a passion and find common ground. It is possible. I witnessed it firsthand this weekend.
Many thanks to all the people who made this possible, particularly Spencer Gilbert and Jake Rozell for their amazing photography. If you’d like to see more photographs of the event, I encourage you to go to the Victoria Volkswagen Club Facebook page or website, or the Luft Gekuhlt Kreuzers Facebook page.
Thank you most of all to the people who made this possible. Please feel free to join us at our events in the future.