If you're on Route 66 this summer, give a shout out to Pig Pen and occupants
Pig Pen is going on a road trip with family and friends this summer. By the time you read this, he may have already crossed a few states on his way to the blue Pacific, hauling a few thousand pounds of people, food, and gear. Not bad for a 29-year-old glorified Beetle.
Pig Pen, a 1979 Volkswagen Camper Bus, belongs to hygienist Pam Schulz of Bartlett, Ill., and her family.
"I've been into VWs all my life," Pam says. "Learned to drive in a Beetle on the beach in Florida when I was 12. Drove a Bug to high school with my sisters. My dad, aunts, and uncles drove VWs as far back as I can remember. My husband's mom had a Bug in the 1960s.
"When Kirk and I got married, we decided to get a 1978 Super Beetle Convertible for summer fun. And that's when it really took over."
The Schulzes are proud members of the Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association (NIVA), which organizes car shows, camping events, and local outings, and is frequently featured in local newspapers. Kirk has been president of the club, and Pam has served as vice president and secretary. This summer, a small group of NIVA members plans a Camper Bus road trip. Three or four families will start in Chicago and follow Route 66 to Los Angeles, camping along the way.
"The bus has a top that pops up, and there's a sleeping bunk up there. The back seat folds open into a bed down below, and a cot can be placed over the two front seats, so it actually sleeps four adults and a baby or small child. There's a fridge, sink, stove, a table, water, heat, and propane."
They don't use the stove in the Camper Bus, because it's an antique. "But when we camp with Pig Pen, we usually take our 2003 Volkswagen Eurovan along, and haul a pop-up camper with it. We use that stove, or an outside grill."
A Family of Beetles
Besides the Super Beetle, the Camper Bus, and the Eurovan, the family owns a 1998 New Beetle, and a 1972 Beetle. The Schulzes made a family project of restoring the older cars. Their son Ryan, 16, is learning to drive in the 1972 Bug.
Pam and her family celebrate their "Beetle-ness" in various ways. Part of Pam's e-mail address is "newbugmom." She marked her 40th birthday by getting a VW Beetle tattoo on her right ankle. Pam once stuck her tattooed leg out of the window of her VW for a newspaper feature photo. The convertible has also been featured in two television commercials. Last year, Pam, Kirk, Ryan, and 14-year-old Allison participated in a friend's VW-themed wedding.
"It was so much fun. We all drove our VWs 160 miles to Champaign, Ill., for the wedding. The parking lot was filled with VWs, and we had an impromptu car show. The bridegroom has a Herbie replica (a VW from a popular Disney movie), and they used it for their getaway car, complete with cans tied to the back. He took the front passenger seat out, so the bride could get into the back seat with her wedding gown. We cruised all around town after the ceremony."
A More Comfortable Approach
Pam has another avocation, which she says came about through dental hygiene. "After working as a hygienist for 17 years, I took a Perioromatherapy course, became certified, and began using relaxation techniques at work. My patient comfort services include low lighting, soft music, and blends of essential oils. I've learned to approach dental hygiene in a different way.
"Then I took what I was learning and moved in a slightly different direction, becoming a consultant for Aihu. Aihu is a health and wellness company that offers organic antistress products and healing skin care products. I help people, especially women, learn to take better care of themselves. We use products like therapeutic bath salts, massage gels, and lavender-scented spa wraps to relieve stress and aches and pains related to arthritis or fibromyalgia. Some of our products have peppermint and eucalyptus in them to help relieve allergies, asthma, sinus problems, and headaches. Aihu offers a line of antistress products specifically for the dental patient and staff."
Since making room for Aihu in her life, Pam works just one or two days a week as a hygienist, but she has a long history with dentistry.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a dentist. We were offered vocational training in dental assisting in high school, and I had an opportunity to work as a dental assistant after graduation."
She stayed with that for 15 years, then took the next step and went to William Rainey Harper College. She earned an associate's degree in dental hygiene there, and has worked in general offices ever since (driving her Volkswagen to work, of course).
This summer, if you happen to live near old Route 66 and see a small caravan of vintage VW campers, be sure to smile and wave. Chances are it will be Pam and her family and friends, enjoying a little bit of history on the Mother Road.
About the Author
Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH, is a frequent contributor based in Calcutta, Ohio. Besides working in a pediatric dental practice, Seckman is a prolific freelance writer, a book indexer, and a speaker on dental and writing/indexing topics. She can be reached at [email protected].