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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Blue (10/08/09)

TITLE: Blue Bug Wisdom
By Coleene VanTilburg


The ad read: "'64 VW BEETLE, l/m, NO DENTS, $500 OBO." My father had it circled after he perused the local paper, looking for that perfect first car for his sixteen year old daughter, which by the way, would be me. I remember going with him on a Sunday afternoon and looking at the car. It was the coolest, cutest bug I had ever seen. It had big fat tires on the back with rims, little wooden knobs on the dashboard, and the color? Well, turquoise blue of course. All it needed was an 8-track system and some neat speakers in the back and I knew I would be getting attention in the student parking lot. My dad would negotiate with the owner and a deal was made for $450. We would come to pick it up later for I did not know how to drive a manual transmission. Thus, my first lesson would soon begin.

It had taken me two tries at the DMV to pass the driving test. That was embarrassing but not surprising. I would blame it on "nerves". Now it would take me another month or so to master a clutch and stick shift. This was going to take a lot of practice around my block. I would carefully back out my driveway, look before entering the street and shift from reverse to first gear. My bug would jerk and lunge forward, then stall. Frustrated, sitting in the street, I’d start the engine, push in the clutch, shift again to first and slowly move forward. I could hear the transmission strain knowing in that moment it was time to shift to second gear. It would be getting the task down smoothly that I would have to master. Eventually, I would be driving like an Indy Racer, with the tickets to prove it.

That summer, the beach is where my friends and I found ourselves, pooling our money for gas and parking and then stuffing our bodies into my blue bug as if it were a bikini. I was so independent now, free to travel the highways and mountain roads. One particular summer day when the valley was well into the hundreds with the beaches not too far behind, my boyfriend convinced me to take a ride through the back side of Ortega Highway over the mountains behind Camp Pendleton on our trip home from the beach. He told me there was a cool waterfall and swimming hole to enjoy. As we started climbing the hill, it got hotter and hotter and so said the blue needle on my temperature gauge in my bug. My cool blue VW Beetle was soon to become toasted road kill…literally limping to the shoulder of the road. There we were, stuck in the middle of no where, hot as you know what, with no nice blue waterhole in sight. We hitchhiked into the next town and called the parents. With my blue bug in tow, I sat next to my disappointed Dad giving my boyfriend and myself an earful about cars and life.

My little Blue Bug taught me a lot that first year. For sure, the tenacity and patience to drive a stick shift, how sometimes your popularity increases if you have a cool car, and insurance premiums go up even if your allowance does not. The most important realization though I was to glean from those transforming young years, was the love and wisdom of a father, who would take from his weekends and rebuild my engine but not without stressing the importance of a well-maintained car along with common sense.

My blue Bug would last me another two years, I now would have a commute to college and Dad felt it time to get something a little more reliable. Once again, he would be dragging his finger down the sale ads for cars, his glasses hanging at the end of his nose, his fingernails cracked and bluish-purple from many years of fixing what was once broken. His quiet wisdom would only physically be with me until I was 28, but even now as I see my own son working on his blue truck, I am reminded of my Dad, seeing worth and investing the time into improving what was given; becoming stronger and better than what was once before.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way in which you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst10/17/09
Some nice phrasings here. My fave: "stuffing our bodies into my blue bug as if it were a bikini." A nice tribute to dad. Some tightening will make this a truly great read. It's just a bit "would-y".
Shilo Goodson10/21/09
I enjoyed reading this. The car my parents got me to drive in high school was also a stick shift. I can remember the frustration of trying to learn to drive it. Yet, I came to love the thrill of driving a stick shift.