They always had Volkswagens, so the Love Bug was a natural fit. Linda and Kevin Ross live on the Skunk River near Augusta on the Lee County Side. They already have three older Airstream Travel Trailers—you know, the ones that look like silver beetles going down the road—so when they saw the used Love Bug camper for sale on Facebook, they just had to have it.
Kevin was the first one to call the owner, and he’s glad he was. There was a flurry of interest in the 13’ fiberglass RV. The owner said, “First one here with $200 gets it.”
The man was a “junker.” The Love Bug was in a field beside 34 Raceway west of Burlington. It was after dark when Kevin and Linda arrived. Raccoons had been living in the RV shell and it was 2’ deep in raccoon excrement. Kevin and Linda had to dig it out by flashlight, and pull it onto a trailer. When they got the Love Bug home, Kevin began power washing it. It took him two days to get down to the original color.
Kevin is quite handy when it comes to restoration projects. Retired, he worked in industrial maintenance for 50 years. He’s been a welder, tool-and-die maker, carpenter, plumber and electrician. This will be a “frame-off” restoration, meaning they will remove the fiberglass shell from its frame, completely strip the insides, and start over from scratch. The inside will be coated with a cork based paint for insulation, and Kevin will build the cabinets, dinette, bed and install the kitchen appliances and a portable toilet. Linda will make the curtains and do the upholstering.
Linda, a very well-known artist at Chestnut Hill Pottery, will pull the Love Bug to art shows with her Subaru. That way she won’t have to stay in motels. She has been throwing pottery since she was 16, and digging out kilns that were given to her.
The Rosses have always camped, starting out with tents and a slide-in box camper. They progressed to Airstreams. One of them was owned by Willy Nelson’s sister, Bobbie Lee, who was Willy’s piano player. They have camped in most of Iowa’s State Parks, and really like Missouri and Wisconsin. Later this summer they plan to pull to Oregon, Idaho and California.
Traveling seems to be in their blood, especially Kevin. Although their lush 33 acres on the Skunk River is a paradise, with two ponds (one for swimming, one for fishing), makes you wonder why they would want to leave. (They have to take a vacation from all of their projects.)
As a service technician, Kevin traveled all over the Eastern United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as India and Saudi Arabia. India is the poorest country Kevin has ever been in, with people sleeping on rocks to keep them away from poisonous insects on the ground. Saudi Arabia is the friendliest country, with people clamoring to talk to Americans about economics and politics. On Fridays he witnessed public executions where people were beheaded for murder. Thieves would have a hand chopped off. Different offenses had different penalties: an ear, nose, etc. Foreigners, like Kevin, were moved to the front so that they could see what happened to people who committed a crime in Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country, and Kevin wants to go back.
For now, however, it’s travel and vacation in the United States in either their Airstreams or the Love Bug. Linda thinks she will call it “Betty.” It’s model name is “Love Bug USA” and it was manufactured in Tripoli, Iowa and originally sold by a dealer in Fort Madison. They are giving it new life. For Kevin and Linda Ross, “Everything is an adventure.”