Monday, May 24, 2010

Curious Gabe: VW Bus as question-delivery vehicle...

I stumbled on this guy's story while tooling about for VW bus stories a few week's back. For almost 11 years, he has been traveling about in his 1972 Westy camper and asking random people random questions. The result is his "Curious Gabe" column in Surfer magazine. His VW has become part of him, part of his reporting. And, as he mentions, will become part of a documentary he is working on. Below, he discusses his the bus that carries him.

Note: the question/answer below was lifted from from a larger interview with Curious Gabe on National Geographic Adventure's blog.

What's the story with the bus—how long have you had it, where did you get it, what did you pay for it, has it broken down, etc.?
I got the bus in my sophomore year of high school, so that means I've had it for, hold on, back to the calculator… 2008 minus 1987 equals 21. I've had the bus for 21 years. Unbelievable.

I bought it from a friend of my dad. The guy was a scientist by the name of Steve Torkelson from San Francisco and allegedly he was one of the people who helped invent LSD. I've lost touch with him over the years. Hold on, I'm going to Google him and see what comes up… I just found him on LinkedIn. He is listed as a Pharmaceuticals Professional in the San Francisco bay area. Nothing though, about him being the inventor of LSD or Timothy Leary's guru. He probably leaves that part off his resume.

I paid about $2,000 for the bus in monthly payments of $200. I realized I got a great deal when I found a receipt in the glove box and discovered Torkelson spent over two grand on the custom paint job alone. Plus, mechanically and aesthetically the vehicle was in rare pristine condition.

While in college, some friends and I drove it down to Baja on one of many surf trips. Unbeknownst to us, veteran Surfer staff photographer Tom Servais took a classic photo of us driving the bus in all its pre-rust glory, down a dusty desert road. I first met Tom several years later when I became his intern at Surfer straight out of college. He cracked the whip hard on me at first, but once I survived that initial hazing period we ended up becoming good friends. It wasn't until just last year when his surf photography book came out that I saw the desert bus image for the first time. I pointed the page out to him at his book signing party and we were both blown away to discover our paths had crossed several years before we had ever met.

And yes, the bus has broken down countless times. Needless to say, I always travel with a fully stocked toolbox, lots of spare parts and my Complete Idiot's Guide to Volkswagen Repair book. Sketchy moments included tipping over on the 110 freeway in Los Angeles Curious05_4 near Compton, getting stuck in the desert sands of Mexico, vandalized in Los Altos, and ravaged by surfboard thieves in Dana Point. The bus is basically being slowly eaten alive by rust from the salt-water air where I live in Laguna Beach. It's in the shop now getting its third or fourth—I've lost track—motor and transmission replaced. I'm in development on a book and film documentary box-set project about Curious Gabe and all I can say is the bus will be an integral character.



What a cool story. I'm gonna look for the articles in Surfer...

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