"It was July 27, my 22nd birthday, our 15th day on the road, and we snagged a ride within minutes. The rear door of a VW bus slid open and a hippie woman beckoned us inside. We joined her in the back seat and I said we were going to Salt Lake City." —From a book in progress about the 1970s
In the summer of 1974, my girlfriend and I hitchhiked from New York City to San Francisco, taking a meandering route through the Rocky Mountains. The morning the VW bus—officially known as a Transporter or Microbus—stopped for us, we were fleeing a mosquito-infested campground in Montpelier Canyon, Idaho. In the book I describe the hippie woman as "a dead ringer for Patty Hearst" and the driver as bearing a strong resemblance to Phineas Freakears, the Afro-topped Freak Brother in the Gilbert Shelton cartoon. They happened to be carrying a pound of "primo dope" and we caught a buzz off a giant spliff they passed around as we cruised down Highway 89 in air-conditioned comfort through the craggy, pristine hinterlands with Crosby, Stills & Nash playing on the sound system. It was a good and memorable ride in one of five Volkswagen vans, similar to the one below, that picked us up along the way, one of them taking us more than 500 miles, from Milton, Pennsylvania to Schoolcraft, Michigan.
The 1970 Volkswagen Microbus, a good car to catch a buzz in.
Many years after my cross-country odyssey, I edited a car-buyers guide for a time, and consequently I'm still invited to the New York International Auto Show. This year, among the exotic, super-luxury, and futuristic cars on display, the one that caught my eye was the latest incarnation of what was once the ultimate hippie mode of transportation. The 2023 VW Microbus is now called the Volkswagen ID.Buzz. It's electric (like Kool-Aid); it will be available in the US in 2024; and in keeping with its flower-child heritage, in addition to a name that could be construed as cannabis-themed, it's also carbon neutral.
As I admired its retro design, I imagined what it would be like to drive the ID.Buzz down some of those roads I traversed by thumb 49 summers ago, and fill it up with 21st-century hippie hitchhikers, assuming such creatures still exist. It would be a great deal of fun. And these days the buzz is legal.
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