(Photo and video by our good friend Chris Vallone of Classic VW Bugs)
When my friends and I decide to take a caravan cruise in our vintage Volkswagens, each person receives a memo outlining the cruise and the obligations of each participant. Preparations begin well in advance of the cruise date so that there will be no need for last minute attempts to ready the cars.
Choice of a destination is an important factor, of course and will make or break a cruise. It may take some research to find a suitable destination. Make the destination something which will peak interest. Sometimes it can involve a learning experience. Other destinations will be purely for the please of the outing and company of other like-minded Volkswagen enthusiasts.
Don’t wait until the last minute to begin researching a destination. Once one has been chosen, it’s time to make contact (in most cases) with the responsible party at the destination. This could be a restaurant, a shop, a visitors’ site or other location. Usually, those in charge at the destination need advance notification as to time and numbers. Be sure to stay in touch so that reservations, for instance, aren’t cancelled for lack of communication.
We’ve found that from 12 to 15 cars makes a nice, manageable caravan. Fewer cars, and the cruise begins to lose its appeal. The more cars in the caravan, the more cumbersome it becomes. And, unless the cruise is entirely on country roads, having too many cars can become dangerous!
Many of us do not drive our cars consistently enough to remember when or what we last noticed about our car’s performance while driving. So, it’s a good time to do an intimate interview with your VW Baby! Collect supplies as directed in the instructions and think of any other personal supplies which you might need. Then pack them into the vehicle so that you will know exactly where they are when the time comes to use them.
Once your car is ready and necessary supplies are in hand, take time to study the route. Don’t plan to just follow the car ahead…you may become separated from the caravan by traffic or by a traffic signal light. Know the route.
We place someone at the head of the caravan and someone at the tail of the caravan who is knowledgeable and experienced. Everyone should have an identical, alphabetized cell phone list of the caravan participants. A simple call to the leader can be made, if need be, and the caravan can pull over in order for cars to catch up or in order to assist a stranded participant.
We choose routes which will avoid major roadways where traffic might be congested. Congested traffic quickly can ruin a cruise by splitting everyone up, or worse—by causing an accident.
If there is a T-2 in the caravan, perhaps a floor jack and stands and an air tank could be carried for the use of anyone who might have a flat tire or other need for raising a vehicle. Although, I might add, there is plenty of room behind the rear seat of a Beetle for these items.
Every participant is alerted to the gathering point. The date and time of gathering is made very clear. We usually have a 30 minute window of time set aside for arriving on location and putting the cars into position and giving any last-minute instructions. When the appointed time to leave has come, we begin the caravan.
I divide the cruise instructions into the following categories:
Readying the Vehicle
- Check all fluid levels—brakes, oil and gasoline
- Check tires for highway pressure and quality—including the spare tire, and have a couple of spare lug bolts in hand
- Be sure that the engine is in top running condition
- Check all electricals, including running lights, emergency flashers, turn signals, horn and wipers
- Make certain that the brakes are in perfect working order
- Tire-changing tools
- Spares—belt, engine oil, brake fluid, spare fuel pump, spare fuel filter, spare bulbs
- Tools to do the most common jobs
- Bottled water for drinking
- Bottled water for washing hands
- Clean rags
- Cell phones and cell phone information for everyone in the cruise group
- Towing service information (flatbed service only). If you have vintage car insurance, carefully follow the insurer’s instructions regarding towing and service.
- Insurance information
- First Aid Kit
- Fire Extinguisher
And…puh-leeze—have your registration and insurance up to date!
My experience shows that having at least one passenger in each car provides more interest and excitement. Passengers often are the ones who snap those unforgetable digitals, who keep you going on the route or who alert you to traffic concerns and who manage the cell phone. So, try to find someone to accompany you.
Well-planned cruises will not soon be forgotten and will generate interest for years to come.