Bay Area sunsets shift to the north in summer, where they’re best seen from the houses of the Berkeley Hills. There’s something delightfully Californian about a German sports car parked in front of a mid-century modern home on a ridiculously-graded road.
Our 11-year-old car just passed the 200,000-mile mark on the odometer. It’s been with us for multiple transcontinental drives and a lot of smaller road-trips in between. This is our unicorn: a combination of manual transmission, smooth straight-six engine, all-wheel drive, and cavernous station wagon that’s simply no longer available from any manufacturer. What will we do when this car is ready for retirement? That’s a tough question.
Berkeley’s seasons are a weird, fractured, microcrystalline version of their East Coast equivalents. There’s a nice congruence between the variable season a given tree might be experiencing and the variable model year any street-parked vehicle might be representing. Having autumn foliage gently localized around this classic (if oxidized) VW Microbus makes for a delightful combination.
My neighbor parks his growling, thundering Audi S3 in a perfectly-sized space. He carefully backs it in and tucks down the corners of the Audi-emblem car cover. At night, this machine comes to life. LED headlamps flare and the walls of the garage form a resonant chamber for the warm-up revs of the turbo engine. Hydrocarbons are injected, explosively oxidized, and exhausted; the beast is unleashed!
“Teenage” is a category that remains linked to California, and there are few places where the California/teenager overlap occurs more than in an older-model car jammed full of your best friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon in downtown Berkeley. There are plans to be made! We have to pick up that guy from the BART! What about hitting Grizzly Peak? Time to drive!
Volkswagen (this specific microbus, as well as the overall company) has suffered from some mismanagement. The chrome is scratched, the paint is oxidized, and there’s moss growing in the corners. I’m not sure, come to think of it, that this bus was still running. Perhaps it was another perpetual Berkeley lawn sculpture.