Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bob Waldmire - One of the last great VW vagabonds

Bob Waldmire.

I first became familiar with Bob Waldmire through Static sending me the postcard below. We thought it was Peter Ashwanden who illustrated the How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive book for John Muir. It wasn't. It was the work of Bob Waldmire, a vagabond, rich-guy's son who saw the need to preserve the parts of America that he loved - specifically Route 66.

The postcard Static sent me.

Chad Arendt, a member of the Facebook fan page for Big Blue said, "VW people... are the salt of the earth." Well, though I never met Bob , I thought of Waldmire when I read that. I'm not sure Bob would have considered himself a VW guy, but he was. His mission to preserve Route 66 - the "Mother Road" that goes from Chicago to LA, brought him and his 1972 VW bus many miles together. And what's most telling is what he left behind.

Bob's bus.

We ran into Bob's work last year when staying at the Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Rialto, CA. In the gift shop, they had plenty of Waldmire's art. One thing Bob did was design (read: hand-draw) postcards for the businesses that would let him. For the Wigwam Motel, he also designed a t-shirt which I have and wear still (I sent my parents the postcard). The owners of the Wigwam knew Bob well. They said that he occasionally just stopped in to make sure they had everything they needed.

Other followers re-tell encounters with the legend, many recognizing him by his yellow hightop VW bus, but most stories are now eulogies. Bob passed away on December 16th of last year. Another one of the classic VW guys gone. For his last art show (held at Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield, IL - an icon his father started on Route 66 ) the invite said, "Come as you are - Leave Different", which is pretty fitting.

Below are some more images I pulled from the web of his bus. Not a bad looking ride. Wonder what happened to it (I sent an email to Cozy Dog - I'll let you know if I hear anything [UPDATE: 8:00 AM, 3-11, Sue Waldmire emailed back to let me know that the bus is still with the family. Eventually, the bus will go to the Route 66 Alliance). Note the custom side table added on so he could sell his art...

The most VW-related story about Bob was his involvement in the film Cars - a film that went right along with Waldmire's ideas of saving Route 66. Bob was the inspiration for Fillmore, the old VW Hippie bus. He was involved up to the point of actually lending his name to the film. I read somewhere that Waldmire - a vegetarian - was fearful that he would see his name selling Happy Meals. I got to say, I dig it.

Above and below are more of Bob's art. Hand drawn. Awesome. I was told by John Muir's wife that she knew Bob, and that Bob had said he was a fan of Peter Ashwanden's illustration style. You can see it a little in Bob's work. But Bob was loose, less likely to conform. His work is most recognized but the tiny hand-written notes that surrounded - even invaded - his subject. Good stuff.

I'll sum up by saying thanks to Bob Waldmire. It's guys like him that make me happy to be part of the ACVW nation. While he may not have been a crazy VW-guy, we'll be happy to claim him. Let's hope his ideas of preservation carry on...

April 19th, 1946 to December 16, 2009 - the best parts spent in a VW bus.



Thanks for a great posting on such an interesting man. I too wish that I had met him. It just so many talented people in this world.
Thanks again for sharing!

Julia Schrenkler

Thanks for compiling the images and sharing this glimpse of Bob Waldmire.

Wish I could have met him, but glad to know of his work. This post is part of that.

Thank you again.


Swell write up. Takes one to know one. I just found your blog on the samba, good to see other out there singing the gospel.


Great post! I wouldnt have ever known about him if it wasn't for reading this! I love the "Resist Much, Obey Little" sticker on the back.


Thank you for posting this. My husband and I got to know Bob through our involvement with Route 66 over the past decade. To know him was to adore him. He was everything you'd imagine and more, and I cherish every minute I spent with him over the years.

Carole Brown

A beautifully written tribute - thank you.

I came across Bob Waldmire when on my YesWeCan Journey earlier this year. I kept on finding I was on Route 66, without intending to be, most of the way east of LA. At a rest area west of Cuba, MO, someone told me that I had to make a stop and visit the Missouri Route 66 State Park in Eureka a few miles further on in the direction I was headed. I'm so pleased they insisted I stop there. The small museum and exhibit of Route 66 memorabilia with it's Philips gas station story is an absolute gem. There the park attendant also introduced me to Bob and his illustrations and showed me a recent article about his life in their newsletter.
I wish I had met him, yet as you say he's been adopted by our VW family and therefore he'll live on through the stories that VW folk love to tell.


Bob's VW and his converted school bus are now on display at the Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, IL. The bus is a school bus converted into a home...very cool. They tell the story of this amazing man. Some photos are here

Big Blue's Driver

PedalPower - thanks for the tip on the school bus - will have to find a way to see that!

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