The familiar sputtering of Doodle Bug scooters filled the air at The Executive Inn in Webster City as a caravan of riders pulled in to celebrate the 26th annual Doodle Bug reunion.
Doodle Bug Club of America member Jerry Wells addressed Webster City chamber of commerce members and fellow riders at the weekly chamber coffee event Friday morning. Wells thanked city officials and residents for their hospitality towards the Doodle Bug riders that represent about 20 states. He said visitors appreciate the trail rides that city officials allow them to ride on.
"They cannot believe that a city this size can offer those kind of facilities, so we should be proud of those and the welcome we offer them," Wells said.
Doodle Bugs were produced in Webster City from 1946 to 1948. In that time, Wells said that about 40,000 were produced. Now, Wells estimates that there are about 1,000 left in circulation. He first bought a Doodle Bug from a neighbor for $65 in 1950. Now, a Doodle Bug in good condition can cost up to $5,000.
The market for Doodle Bugs is pricey, but rider Heidi Christensen said she hears about Doodle Bug scooters found in the nooks and crannies of rural towns.
"A few years ago, I heard about a Doodle Bug found in a chicken coop. People find them in barns and storage pretty often and it turns out it's a pretty expensive find," Christensen said.
Doodle Bug riders line the parking lot of the Executive Inn in Webster City on Friday minutes before the start of chamber coffee. About 20 riders introduced themselves over breakfast to chamber members.
Sometimes though, original parts don't cut it. Rider Don Jackson said he invested over $100,000 to create an almost exact replica of the original Doodle Bug. He created it from molds of a friend's Doodle Bug, and apart from the controls, tires, engine and tank, the dimensions are the same as they were in 1946.
Jackson started restoring Doodle Bugs in 1986. Unlike many others at the reunion, Jackson was too young to own a Doodle Bug when they were common. However, he had experience restoring cars and it took him about four years to complete his own Doodle Bug.
"It was a labor of love," Jackson said. "I never got into this for the money. I mean, what's better than coming out to see all these guys have a good time?"
Jackson said he started coming to the reunion in the late 1980's after he found out how much others enjoyed the Doodle Bug. Christensen and rider Toni Dodson said their husbands fixed up Doodle Bugs for them to ride. They enjoy the scooters because they're easy to ride and the reunion offers them the chance to ride in groups.
Wells said the club has planned rides on the Briggs Wood trail, an endurance run to the airport and several tours to show off what's new in Webster City. He said the whole reunion puts the Doodle Bug riders right back in their element.
"It's like a bunch of 65 year-olds getting back together to be 14 for the weekend. It's a whole lot of fun," Wells said.