The History of Herbie

We got Herbie No. I exactly six years ago. On May 31, 2006, Leopold Katzmayer, an older gentleman from our hometown Klosterneuburg, sold the Love Bug to Domi. But at that time he had no racing stripes or even gumballs with the number “53”. After Domi found out that his “new” Beetle has the very same age and color as the original Herbie from the movies, he decided to shape his “Vee Dub” just like that.

Herbie was gaining his stardom already before his transformation. In summer 2006 he won his first award, getting elected the most original as well as beautiful vehicle at the grand air-cooled Volkswagen meeting in Vienna, Austria (see picture below). Just one year later, Herbie prevailed at his very first rally he participated in (see article above). Back then, he already had his friend, “QEK Junior” the camper, in tow.

Herbie got his first registration on March 15, 1963, after he was made in Wolfsburg.

The color of Herbie is ivory (or pearl white). The international color code is “L87”.

The engine: 34 hp (horsepower), 25 kW (kilowatt) and 1,192 cc (cubic centimeter).

The Love Bug got an original venetian blinds jalousie by “Gradulux” from France.

Meanwhile there is a Herbie No. II as well as another “QEK Junior” camper to pull.

Stop at the Barbershop

Domi had his last hair cut in summer 2009, just before we went on traveling. While we were on the road, he let his hair grow. Yesterday he eventually met the barber again.

The cropped plait you see above will be donated to an aid organization producing high-quality wigs for cancer patients who lost their hair due chemotherapy.

That’s how Domi looked from the back before he went to the hairdresser the other day. The last visit at a coiffeur was in our Austrian hometown already three years ago.

It was a historical moment for Domi and his hair. The barber is cutting off his long grown braid. That took him quite a while, because Domi’s hair is so rich and thick.

The hair is gone! But this doesn’t mean that Herbie’s World Tour is over. We are now thinking about what will be next. As soon as we are certain, we’ll let you know.

Flying Home

Only one month to go! We just booked our flight going back home to Vienna, Austria.

So we will take off at the airport of Los Angeles (LAX), California, on June 29, arriving in Vienna on Saturday, June 30. But Herbie’s World Tour will be continued!

Feels Like Home

Yesterday we got back to our camp in Ridgecrest, located in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. For the last four months we were traveling across the USA, Mexico and South America along the “Pan-American Highway”. Herbie made 18,166 miles (29,236 kilometers) going down south and all the way back.

It really feels like home being back in California. Even though we’ll have to fly back to Austria, Herbie already got a resident of Kern County. For the next couple weeks, we’re planning to take Herbie for some rides exploring more of Southern California, before we’ll go home in order to prepare Herbie No. II for another adventure.

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

Today we were following the legendary Route 66 aka the “Mother Road” of America. We took several business loops in order to get through cities like Holbrook, Winslow and Seligman. In New Mexico we crossed the so-called Continental Divide. We ended up in Kingman, Arizona, at the end of the day, but we’ll continue our road trip towards Ridgecrest, Southern California, tomorrow.

Herbie’s Underworld Tour

After traveling the USA for more than sixteen months, we got the chance to visit almost all National Parks across the 48 lower United States. Only a few are missing. Yesterday we explored Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the Southeast of New Mexico.

Later on we headed north on Highway 285 until hitting Interstate 40, which replaces the old Route 66. Even though the so-called “Mother Road”  doesn’t exist anymore, it remains as an important American icon as well as a true legend with all its stories.

Texas Mountain Trail

Following the so-called Texas Mountain Trail towards New Mexico brought us through Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We had a pretty gusty cross wind while gaining height. Road signs got blown away and Domi had to steer very carefully.

Think Small? 150,000 Kilometers!

Herbie is still running. We’ve already driven almost 150,000 kilometers (more than 93,000 miles) around the planet. And Herbie’s World Tour has not even ended yet!

Right now we’re following old American trade routes as well as the legendary Route 66 traveling across the Southwest of the US towards Southern California.

Friends from Paraguay

As posted here before, Herbie got featured in the Paraguayan “ABC Color” magazine. Thanks to Jorge Ortiz from Asunción we just received a copy of the printed version.

ABC Color 1

The Classic VW Club Paraguay also published a story with a lot of photos about our meeting with Osvaldo Espínola, Jorge Ortiz and Natalia Florentin on their website.

We’re still looking back to our terrific experience traveling through Paraguay and meeting such wonderful people like Osvaldo, Jorge and Natalia as well as their Bug.

Herbie’s Wild West

We just arrived in Van Horn, Texas, after crossing the second largest United State. The landscape changed dramatically while Herbie followed old American trade routes.

Tomorrow we’ll head north to Roswell, Artesia and Carlsbad in New Mexico, visiting its Caverns National Park right after crossing the state border on Highway No. 62 or 180.

Our plan is to get further north to the old Route 66 (today’s Interstate 40), heading west across New Mexico and Arizona towards California and our final destination.

Back in the USA!

We made it! After heading through the Mexican States Veracruz and Tamaulipas, we finally crossed the US border entering Texas. From here we’re continuing our road trip across the United States towards Ridgecrest in Southern California.

Brownsville, Texas, is the well-known border town, we entered after hurrying through probably the most dangerous province in Mexico – Tamaulipas. Today we’ll reach Van Horn, where we’re going to stay for the night. Tomorrow we’ll get to New Mexico.

News from Paraguay

Francisco Ibarra from the Classic VW Club Paraguay informed us that the magazine “ABC Color” just published the story on Herbie’s World Tour, we got interviewed about.

Here’s the link to the article, of course written in Spanish (by Julio Noguera).

Unfortunately we don’t have a printed version. Maybe we’ll receive one later.

The pictures you see here are those which were taken back then in Paraguay.

At this point we also want to say “thank you” again to Osvaldo, Natalia and Jorge from Asunción for their very warm welcome and the great time we had in Paraguay!

We got Herbie back!

Our Travel Bug arrived at the harbor of Veracruz on time. Yesterday Domi got the permission to pick him up. Everything worked out great and Herbie is doing very well. We are so happy about that! Now we’re looking forward heading north again.

Herbie’s vessel, the “Green Lake”, sailed exactly for four days across the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico – from South to North America. We can highly recommend this route for people who aren’t interested in driving through Central America (in order to ship the car from Panama) or who visited those countries before, like we did.

We enjoyed being in Veracruz in the meantime. It is a very nice city with a long history – part of it is kind of Austrian by the way. And our hotel (“Hotel Reforma”) is a real insider’s choice. Tomorrow we’ll leave this place, heading north on the coast towards Texas. It will take us days to get there and we’ll have to drive through the State of Tamaulipas again – certainly one of the most dangerous states of Mexico.

Happy Birthday, Mike!

One of the persons we’re always looking forward meeting again, when coming to the United States, is our dear friend Michael Lee Phillips from Ridgecrest, California.

He actually encouraged us to create Herbie’s blog and share our story with the rest of the world, because he has always believed in us as well as in our extraordinary journey. Today it is Michael’s birthday, on which we send him all the best wishes!

The Tiger Print Speedo

As you know, we are back in Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico. There is no other country in the world in which so many Volkswagen Beetles were produced like here.

Therefore you can still find a lot of spare part shops for air-cooled Volkswagen – just like “La Casa del Vocho” (“The House of the Beetle”) right here in Veracruz.

The streets are lined with all different kinds of air-cooled “Vee Dubs”, just as Bugs and Kombis. And most of them were made in Puebla, very close to Mexico City.

People still love using these reliable automobiles as company cars. Unfortunately Volkswagen decided to stop the Mexican air-cooled VW production in 2003.

Here you can see one of the later VW Beetle versions with its proud owner, wearing just a tiger print speedo, asking Domi “Why the heck are you taking a picture?”.

Domi bought all brake wheel cylinders as well as the master cylinder and its brake light switch for just about 60 Greenbacks (or 50 Euro) as spares for our Herbie.

Furthermore Domi got a whole bunch of different spares for our friend and mechanic Friedrich from Vienna. It is a huge box which we’ll send through the post to Austria.

Continental Tire Change

After touring across South America for the last three months, we flew back to Mexico today. But before taking off, the tires had to be changed – but not the ones of Herbie!

Our day started very early at four o’clock in the morning. Zainab even stayed awake the whole night, waiting for the taxi which brought us to the airport of Cartagena. Our first flight went from there to Panama City; the second one to Mexico City – by the way the biggest airport in Latin America. Before we could take off from there, our captain decided to change the two front tires – right in front of all passengers.

We arrived safely in Veracruz, Mexico. Herbie is still on his cruise across the sea. We love being back here, but there’ll be also a lot to do before getting Herbie out of the port.

Herbie and the Globetrotters

The biggest magazine about air-cooled Volkswagen in France called “Super VW Mag” just published a story about Herbie’s World Tour and us globetrotters.

The article includes an interview with us, done and written by Julien-David Collombet. For a readable version (in French) just follow Herbie’s page “Press“!

Mission Accomplished

Our plan was to explore the Andes of South America in our beloved Volkswagen Bug from 1963. Herbie accomplished his mission by driving 13,080 miles (21,050 kilometers) – all thanks to his very same engine with just 1,200 cc and 34 horsepower.

We’ve experienced so much by following the “Panamericana” and visiting Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela. So far we’ve been on the road in Herbie for more than 91,000 miles (147,000 kilometers).

Due the rain season and certain road conditions, we had to cancel our plan driving across Brazil and the Amazonas towards Venezuela. So we went all the way back by climbing the Andes again couple times, which was for sure even more challenging.

While Herbie will be sailing across the sea towards the Gulf Coast of Mexico, we’ll leave South America on Sunday, getting to Veracruz by three flights via Panama and Mexico City. If Herbie’s vessel arrives on time, he’ll reach North America on May 17.

Port of Lonely Hearts

Today we delivered Herbie to one of Cartagena’s ports where he’ll go aboard on his vessel “Green Lake” heading across the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to Veracruz.

Unfortunately too many things went wrong again at the “Contecar” port and we had to spend the entire day getting almost all necessary shipping documents done.

Thanks to Pablo Uribe Antía from the Cartagena port administration we got through this chaotic organized harbor which already caused several problems at our arrival.

When shipping a vehicle via “RoRo” (Roll-On/Roll-Off) it is very important to remove things like the car radio, ashtray or cigarette lighter, because they can get stolen.

Tomorrow our Love Bug No. 53 will have his final inspection by the Colombian anti-narcotic police, before he’ll get on his boat leaving South America for good.

Waiting for the Ship

As you know we are back in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, waiting for the ship, which will take Herbie back to Veracruz, Mexico. Hopefully it will depart on May 12.

We initially booked a boat called “Green Lake”, which got canceled but they called the cancelation off again, so Herbie will be on his favored vessel anyway.

There is a lot of bureaucratic stuff  to do, before getting a car shipped overseas. But tomorrow we’ll finally deliver Herbie to one of the ports named “Contecar”.

Border Crossings

Since we left Austria in September 2009 on Herbie’s World Tour for the first time, we’ve visited 58 countries (including all 48 lower United States of America) so far.

Herbie has driven more than 91,000 miles (147,000 kilometers) across five continents, crossed 87 borders on this earth and got shipped by a vessel six times.

We’ve had all together five passports while we traveled around the globe. After our first set got fully stamped, we had to go back to Europe in order to obtain new ones.

The Ship Got Canceled

Our ocean carrier Wallenius Wilhelmsen decided to cancel the sail of the vessel “Green Lake”. Therefore the Love Bug will go aboard of another ship called “Tagus”.

According to its latest schedules, “Tagus” should depart from Cartagena of the West Indies on May 13 and arrive in Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, by May 18.

Nothing Can Stop Herbie

After we crossed our last border in South America, we ran into a protest of the Colombian teacher’s union, who blocked an important highway intersection right after the border, one of just two roads connecting Colombia and Venezuela with each other.

They demonstrated for higher wages and even blocked the train tracks above the street. Nobody was able to pass. Police men told us to that there is no way through.

The protest should last for 24 hours, as all teachers would remain on the road for the night too. Cars were making u-turns and trucks pulled over to wait for the next day.

But Domi begged for passage and pointed out that Herbie has nothing to do with Colombian politicians and we eventually got permission to pass. We were the only ones who got this privilege! What was it: Sympathy for Herbie or Domi’s charm?

Venezuelan Herbie Fans

While having lunch in the shade of a tree on Highway No. 6, heading towards Colombia, we got to know true Love Bug fans from Venezuela who invited us to their home.

They even filled up Herbie with a couple gallons of gas. Getting closer to the border, it is not possible to buy gas as a tourist, in order to avoid cross-national gasoline trade.

So we were heading straight towards the border, getting back to Colombia and our final destination within South America – Cartagena, where Herbie will leave by ship.

Three Cents per Gallon

You probably won’t believe it, but a complete fill up for Herbie just costs 30 US-Cents in Venezuela. This is not a joke! Venezuela has the cheapest gas prices in the world.

Herbie feels like he is in paradise. Gas for just three US-Cents per Gallon (or less than one Euro Cent per liter). Gasoline is subsidized by the government of Hugo Chávez.

Today I got two fill ups actually for free, because the guys at the gas station had no change, so they decided not to charge for it. It was a total amount of 20 US-Cents.

However it was really hard to get here: Initially the custom office at the border was closed for two days. Yesterday it took us hours to get the necessary paperwork done.

Venezuela had the toughest border in South America respective entering a country with a car. But we rejoice to be able to visit our ninth and final South American country.