As we zip down the I-40 thoroughfare in Amarillo, Texas, we're hungry.
And we want someone else to do the cooking. And we want the food to
taste uniquely Texas.
But that's a tall order. Arbys. Texas Roadhouse. McDonalds. Olive
Garden. Homogenous. Anytown USA. Yawn.
We keep on driving. When cotton fields replace Amarillo, our dining
opportunities disappear. Which means we no longer care where we eat.
We'll take what comes next.
And according to a highway billboard, that's the Motel Cafe in Conway,
Texas, right off I-40 on a section of the Historic Route 66.
We pull off and, alas, it's obvious the Motel Cafe closed years ago.
So, we aim to return to I-40.
But wait. Look at that! It's a bunch of colorful VW Beetles nose down
in the sand. I yell to Allen: Turn in! Turn in! Turn in!
There's a sign. It's says "The Bug Ranch." Awwww.
Allen pulls the Navion around, but he doesn't get out. It's
me who's drawn in.
The sight speaks to me. Tickles me heart.
My first car was a VW beetle, a 1968 powder-blue baby that got me
through college. As I stare at these highly decorated shells, I grin,
in memory. I lived my life in that car.
My girlfriend and I used our hairbrushes as windshield wipers during a
blizzard once. I had to wear a lap blanket to drive in cold weather
because the heater never worked and a hole in the floorboard near the
accelerator created a wind tunnel. I used a coat hanger to hold up
the exhaust pipe. My "friends" found humor in picking the bug up
and moving it around the parking lot, so when I got out of class, I'd
have to go find it.
I drove donuts in that car.
VWs never die. They evolve. I gave mine to the mechanic whose magic kept it alive to get me through college. He spiffed it up and drove it in parades, plastered in American flags.
These five in front of me have morphed
from autos into artistic creations, each being a canvas upon which dozens
and dozens of people have painted pieces of themselves. Their
feelings. Their hearts.
I walk around each car, takes lots of pictures (see below), read the messages from
the past, touch the paint. I smile, time and time again.
Shelly Loves Lori! (but I wonder if it was Lori or Shelly whose
sentiments I read). Nathan Van was here. Jessica visited in 2003.
Someone, with a heart like mine, wrote, "The bug has finally found her
And, my favorite (see the pic above), "I'm having the time of my life." I
am, too. This Bug Ranch is as deserted as the Motel Cafe, but it's not
as dead. It's alive because of the steady stream of visitors leaving bits and pieces of
I know it's time to go. But I'm like those visitors ahead of me. I
want to leave a bit of myself behind. So before we leave, I grab a red
Sharpie pen and I write "ME, TOO!" in response to my favorite line (after I took the picture).
Then I add: "Hug a Bug, Love, Nancy, Jake, Josh and Allen."