Ketchikan Coast Guardsman brings a touch of the Southwest to Southeast Alaska


Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Dickinson, stands next to his beloved Volkswagen at the Coast Guard Base Ketchikan pier in Ketchikan, Alaska, Sept. 25, 2012. Dickinson, who is stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, has spent a lot of his off-duty time upgrading and customizing the car. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley.


Story and photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley

Baja Bug – An original Volkswagen Beetle changed so that it can operate in open desert, sand dunes and beaches.  The modified Volkswagen was named after Baja California where they became a regular site on the beaches. With the increased off road traction offered by the unique rear-engine vehicle, their popularity spread across the Southwest and frequently won off road races held in the deserts there.

While this style of modified Volkswagen has been a popular feature of the American Southwest, it is not something that is expected on the roads of Alaska.  However, there is now a black 1975 Volkswagen Baja Bug travelling the streets of Ketchikan, Alaska.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Dickinson, a boatswains mate aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, transferred to Ketchikan in June and brought along his beloved baja.  The baja, the first bug he ever bought, started his love, almost an addiction to the Volkswagen world.

Dickinson bought the Baja bug while serving in Maine in 2002 and has owned four different bugs.

“They are like my children. I recently sold two of them and I asked the new owners to keep in touch, said Dickinson. “It is like telling my children, call me from collage and let me know what is going on.  Although I have not had any calls back.”

Dickinson has poured his time and in some ways his soul into his Baja.  When he originally bought it, he had to take the wall off the side of his shed so he could get it inside to work on.  He has upgraded the off road suspension, added, a heater and defrost unit, a front winch, fully painted it and added an engine from a Porsche 914.

“There are always projects to do on the car,” said Dickinson, who also has plans to upgrade the rear suspension so he can travel better while off road.

“I need to work on the windshield wipers,” said Dickinson. Right now they are a little slow for all the rain around here.”

Dickinson used to drive his Baja along the dirt logging roads in New England and looks forward to exploring the back roads of Ketchikan.

“Since I arrived here I have been so busy getting qualified and attending training, that I have not been able to spend time with the bug.  I am hoping to have more time as the busy summer season winds down,” said Dickinson.

While the Baja is not the only Volkswagen in town, the arrival of Dickinson’s black bug has brought a little Southwest flavor to Southeast Alaska.

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