Friday, February 09, 2007

Volkswagen Graveyard

I went on a retreat this past weekend, just a little east of Seminole, OK. While there, a couple of participants, who had come from Tulsa, mentioned passing the Volkswagen Graveyard. Padre and Brother Dave both owned VW Beetles. In fact, Brother Dave sold me his during my first or second year of college. I have especially fond memories of riding with Padre in his Beetle, which was a gift from his older sisters.

I was carpooling; happily, the driver had overheard the discussion and asked if I'd like to stop by. Oh yes. Yes, indeed.

The driver counted on me to act as navigator, since I was the one interested. Obviously, she was unaware of my long and colorful history of misdirection (although I have told her the story of getting lost in Kansas City). I sat with the people who had talked about the graveyard and we looked at a map of Oklahoma. It appeared as if the place was south of I-40.

I asked what town it was near, and was told "Ixl", which was not on the map we were perusing. The town, and the "graveyard" were on Hwy 48, which was a few miles out of our way. But the driver was still willing to check it out.

We left the lodge a between 11:00 and noon. It wasn't long before the driver expressed concern that we missed our exit. I assured her that it was marked on the map as a state highway, and would therefore have a road sign.

Driving east on Hwy 9 is very pleasant because eastern Oklahoma tends to have more hills and trees than western Oklahoma, and the road meanders much more than the interstate.

We finally came to the Highway 48 exit, and started north. And drove. And drove. We passed several salvage/junk yards, and the driver would ask, "Do you think that's it?" And I would respond that I couldn't see a single Volkswagen.

We passed I-40, at which point I figured my talent for misdirection had reared its puckish head. We drove. And drove. And drove some more. Lots of hills. Lots of cattle - even a longhorn. Winding road.

After a while, the driver said, "I'm going to give it x more miles, then we'll turn back." By the time we had traversed the set number of miles, we came to Hwy 56. The directions had included the fact that the "graveyard" was north of Hwy 56, so we kept on going.

Not long after we passed the intersection of Hwys 48 & 56, we saw a sign for Ixl. Ixl consists of a few houses and one quick mart. About ten minutes north of Ixl, we came to the Volkswagen graveyard. I jumped out of the car and started taking pictures (the shot above is one of about six pictures taken).

The owner of the yard drove out in his pick-up truck and chatted with us. His father had started the business, about 56 years ago. As you see in the picture, most of the vehicles are Beetles, but there are a few vans and campers off in the distance.

In the 50s and 60s, the Beetle was similar to the Model T: it was an affordable and reliable car. A person with modest mechanical skills can maintain the car with little trouble. If one takes good care of the car (primarily by keeping it fed with oil), it will last a good long time – unlike most American cars.

The story goes that Hitler designed the Beetle; this is likely Nazi propaganda. For one thing, the Volkswagen that was built in Nazi Germany looks more like a large sedan than the Beetle we loved in the 60s. However, it's probably true that he named the company "Volkswagen", which translates to "the people's car".

The owner of the yard said the place was less popular now than it once had been, although he has started collecting the modern Beetle. He told us stories of people who paid for parts, then never collected them. The saddest story was of a motorcyclist, who seemed very excited by the Beetles, and paid a good sum for one in fair condition, yet never returned. "I've always thought he must have crashed that cycle somewhere on the road."

I'm quite thankful to the driver for driving out of her way to view this unique "tourist attraction". It's good to share such adventures with a friend.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

I just dropped by to tell you that I was thinking of you...and oh yeah, I like VW Bugs too :)