We’re not really ones to offer endorsements or name names – good or bad. It’s more of a privacy deal. Sure, we give first names to tell the story. In one case, give up the name of a con-man to warn others. Otherwise, you can rest assured that if we come across each other some day that your privacy will generally be protected whether you want it that way or not. But, here’s one exception… Mark at Salem Imports.
Jeff and Teri (and Karl, and others as well) told us about Mark in Salem, VA. We had no idea what we were about to find. Mark is, well, my new idol.
One hell of a nice guy, VW guru, raconteur, bee-keeper, college football nut, moonshine aficionado, and I could go on… Oh, and we just met him.
We pulled in to the shop with Jeff and Teri – they were checking in on next year’s charity bus, which Mark is donating his time and space to help restore. From the street, the place would appear to the casual onlooker as a bit of an eyesore, but I was in awe. Bays, splitties, panels, bugs, squarebacks, vanagons, a 23 window deluxe… all just around. The green splittie above had been in the shop for a complete restoration. While we were there, the owners just happened to drop by to check on it – from Ohio.
Mark’s crew replaced just about every piece of metal that could be replaced and it looked perfect. It was acquired after a divorce sale. Part of the job was to go to the house, remove all the large rocks piled in front of it, chainsaw away the trees that had grown in front of it, and extract the bus. We talked to one of the guys in the shop and he said he’s been working on the body for 6 months straight.
Anyway, Mark and his guys were nice enough to drop what they were doing to come check out Red Beard and give it the full look-over. The dual-carbs were tweaked up, new points and cap for good measure (I should have seen/done this earlier), and fixed the breather oil leak. He drove it around the block and the engine got the thumbs up. Some of those squeaks didn’t sound right, so next it went on the lift and got more inspection… greased the rear bearings, front beam, and everywhere else that hasn’t seen attention in noone knows how long. While it was on the lift, Mark walked us around and showed us a few more things in need of eventual attention. More things for the list.
We drove away with a happy, happy bus.
Maybe the best part of the trip was just shooting the breeze with Mark while all the work was being done. He’s a huge Hokie fan – something I’ll forgive, since he can recount individual plays from particular games and he didn’t rub in the Sugar Bowl victory years ago over our Longhorns.
His toy collection… mind-boggling.
Beekeeping is something I’ve long-threatened to start doing – partly to vex Angela, but also because I think it’s really interesting (and the honey!) Mark’s even made his own honey centrifuge. We shared theories on the mass nationwide bee deaths. He’s thinks there’s merit in the cell phone theory, but I’m going with pesticides.
The hives are right next to the shop and the bees float all over the place. It takes a little getting used to, but the guys at the shop just wave them off as they’re working. “Get on, honey bee!” was overheard a few times. Some of the nectar is coming from plants growing right out of the old VW’s… Mark claims this gives it a special flavor. He didn’t say it was a good flavor, but if you’re allergic to old VW’s, this might be the stuff to try.