Old Bug: The Spiritual Quest of a Skeptical Guy on a Road Trip Across America with a Long Lost Friend in a Beat-Up Beetle
End Run Press (2007)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (2/08)
When Dan Jackson gets a phone call from his old high-school buddy Richard, he has no clue about how much his life is about to change. Richard is calling to ask Dan to leave California and join up with him in Oregon to begin a five-day journey back to New Jersey, where they grew up thirty years before. Richard is going back to see his family whom he has been estranged from for years. An impromptu high-school reunion also develops as a result of their trip. Richard tells Dan that he just bought a car for this mission. He doesn’t tell him that it is a 1969 Volkswagen Bug. Dan discovers this on his own shortly after he arrives at Richard’s home in Portland. He has no idea how they are going to make it in that car.
When Dan decided to do this trip with Richard, he wanted to make it a spiritual journey. The hardships encountered along the way made it very difficult for him to stay on track with this goal. There were many times that he was angry and ready to give up. An epiphany snaps him out of this mode and helps him to realize that he is actually gaining a tremendous amount of growth from this trip. Dan really takes the time to do a lot of soul searching. He also discovers the importance of allowing himself to fully experience the journey.
Amazing things happen to them along the way. When the bug starts having problems, Dan finds himself getting annoyed with Richard and his inability to accept that there is more going wrong with the car than vapor lock. He has to learn to work past these feelings. When they need help with getting a part or a repair, the right people pop into the picture to help them.
I really enjoyed reading “Old Bug.” It showed me the things that I miss when I choose to fly across the country. It also brought back memories of my own personal journey when I drove a Pinto from New Jersey to California in 1986. I had all of my worldly possessions with me. Looking back, I wish that they had CD’s back then instead of albums, because mine took up my whole back seat. My trip was pretty uneventful except for the muffler falling off in Pennsylvania. I won enough money in Las Vegas to replace it. I also had to drive the whole way with the heat on so that the car wouldn’t overheat. I was fortunate that it didn’t blow up, as Pintos are prone to do, until a couple of years later. Anyway, “Old Bug” reminded me of those moments when I was passing through the country taking mental snapshots of places that I have never been and will probably never be again. I wish that I could have read this book first, because I was more focused upon my goal of getting to the other side of the United States than I was to enjoy my journey across.
Mr. Jackson teaches us the importance of taking time to stop and smell the flowers. I found his story to be very inspiring and enjoyed reading about his observations and philosophies. About an hour after I finished reading “Old Bug,” I was talking to my boss, at a wedding reception, about work issues. He told me to make sure that I take the time to enjoy the journey because that is what life is about. I told him that I knew of the perfect book for him to read.