The tale of the traveling salesman answer is BOOOOOOOOOOGUS!

The very first Volkswagen diesel came out in 1976 so it hasn’t been 40 years yet. Even if it were approximately 40 years, the country wouldn’t be swamped with them immediately. And it definitely wouldn’t be common knowledge of every motel owner that the salesman came across that they even needed to be plugged in on cold nights as they were new technology. I doubt that most hotel owners would rather lose a customer than allow them to to have an electrical drain that wouldn’t be half of what an old tube television of the day would use. And most would want to cater to their client’s needs to get return business especially from a traveling salesman who might need to stay in the area often. So everything about this puzzler answer is BOOOOOOGUS!

These puzzlers were meant to be fun and though they are all re-aired shows, you are just overthinking the whole thing.
I didn’t have a chance to listen this week and do not recall this one.


I had a 79 Rabbit diesel and it had a block heater. If I used it correctly the engine would start and idle, but at -20 the fuel would not flow fast enough to run the engine higher than about 1000 rpm. Only a few gallons of kerosene in the tank with the rest diesel helped. That thing needed a tank warmer.

My brother-in law had a Rabbit diesel and also found that on a below-zero day it would basically only run at a idle, so he idled it to the closest gas station and pumped in a few gallons of gasoline over the attendant’s admonishments not to. Ran fine within a mile.

There was no puzzler this week @Yosemite. The puzzler – as Ray says – is on summer vacation. At least for the NPR broadcasts. OP must have heard a re-broadcast, probably on satellite radio.

OP, if you like you can search this site to find that puzzler probably and post a link. Then the rest of us who can’t recall what it was about can offer a comment or two.

I had a diesel too and in Minnesota you had to make sure you had a 50/50 mix of #1 and 2 in the winter, plus I always used a fuel conditioner and anti-gel. You don’t need a tank heater, just need to take care of your fuel.

The only places in Minnesota that had outlets for tank heaters were in the northern parts. The hotels I stayed at anyway but didn’t hear the puzzler.

H. L. Mencken wrote something to the effect of, “For every complicated question, there’s a simple answer, and it is always wrong.”

My motto.

This is the original Puzzler:


RAY: About 40 years ago, a guy took a job as a traveling salesman. He immediately fell out of favor with his boss, who assigned him to spend the winter traveling around exotic places like Moose Jaw, Maine and Freeze-Your-Butt, New Hampshire. He had to travel by car from one location to another, so he often found himself driving from town to town in the winter looking for cheap motels in which to spend the night.

He began to notice a disturbing thing. When he would stop at these motels, oftentimes the owner of the motel was also the clerk, and they’d have you fill out that little card–you know, name, address, home phone–in case you skipped out in the middle of the night. Also, the motel owner would ask him what he did for a living.

When he said he was a salesman, he would almost always be assigned a room on the second floor. I asked him if it had anything to do with the car that he drove. And he said, “I guess you could say so. At the time I was driving a Volkswagen.” And that’s your hint.

Why was he always assigned to a room on the second floor?


RAY: Here were the hints: He started working 40 years ago. He drives a lot, he’s concerned about getting what? Good mileage. So he buys himself a Volkswagen. But not just any old Volkswagen. A VW diesel. Because he’s in Moose Jaw, Maine, and Freeze-Your-Butt, New Hampshire, in the wintertime, he’s got to plug the thing in overnight. Otherwise, it won’t start.

The reason the motel owners put him on the second floor all the time is so they could see the extension cord that the salesman had run from his motel room to his car. He was trying to sneak some electricity! But being annoyed at the salesman’s petty electrical theft, the motel owners would unplug the extension cord in the middle of the night. So, if you were a salesperson plying your trade at that time, you often got unplugged.

You could say if he’s showing up late in the day with no reservation, all of the (more desirable) room s on the first floor probably are already rented.

I don’t think they had diesel VWs back then but I did have to use a dipstick heater when it was real cold with the air cooled engine. I fail to see the logic of this story though. Really makes no sense. Everyone else would need to plug their cars in too regardless if they were salesmen.

I don't think they had diesel VWs back then

VW definitely had a diesel engine option for their Rabbit in the mid to late 1970’s. The reason I know this is b/c a co-worker had that version and the diesel fuel injection pump was always on the fritz in the winter. At least that’s the excuse he’d use for constantly being late to work … lol . .

And it was common knowledge, b/c VW advertised about their diesel engine Rabbit on tv . A lot. So I’d have to give this one to Ray.

Yep, first year was '77 in the US. And a speed demon: 0-60 in 16.8 seconds.

I seem to recall VW had a small pickup truck with the same diesel engine. I don’t recall much about the truck except that they had a very clever tv commercial, where they filled the truck with gas in Denver (I think) and drove it all the way to LA on one tank.

Still in Minnesota, if you were driving all over, mileage not withstanding, you would not be driving a VW diesel. Why? There would be no one around to repair it. Dealers were only in the main metro areas. Maybe a MB diesel but not a VW 40 years ago. Plus like I said, a regular car with a carb would need to be plugged in the same as a diesel regardless of whether one was a salesman or not.

So bottom line this puzzler makes no sense at all as one who traveled the area.