May 4, 2010:

I thought yesterday was a long day… This morning, at 330 or 4 (that’s an hour earlier at home in Colorado for reference) I sat bolt upright in bed and thought WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?! The thought of moving into a bus with 9 people and leaving home and everything that’s secure, and ??? Not to mention that we’re spending retirement money on this little project and… I put a pen to paper to calculate again what it was all going to look like on paper. It started to feel better- because we probably have a bus on our hands now that we could sell for what we paid- and over the next few weeks will just improve, and the concept is sound, and everything is getting lined up and- maybe it was just a bad dream?

Well, by the time Ethan woke up (that’s right I was up before Ethan), I had gotten past my nervous stomach and it was time to get ready to go to the bus lot and see what was happening with Bussie (who was headed into the shop at 730 I thought- oil change/transmission service etc  etc). When we arrived, at 8:00 to the second, George said they had been there since 5  working on it. The A/C was a quick fix, the other things were coming along nicely. As they worked, I replaced some signal bulbs, repaired a couple of light housings, they did headlights, Ethan played Frisbee… Finally, everything came together- the money was transferred, the insurance was completed (with roadside assistance protection), the bus was roadworthy.

The VanHool engineers thoughtfully designed this machine to be easy to work on. The headlight assembly swings out after releasing one screw.

Hilary, one of the owners, was very kind while we were there along with the rest of the staff- but she called a previous customer that had purchased a bus from them- that lives about 40 miles from us- that has 8 kids (I think), that travels around the country playing music (violin, singing etc) , that has 4 adopted kids- so many things we have in common. It wasn’t good enough to just tell me about the mother of this family, Hilary called her up and handed me the phone- we spoke for a minute or two, and said we’d get together in the near future…. As the day progressed, the nervous feeling got better, in large part because of the reassuring folks at Busforsale (I write it all together because that’s their name, add .com at the end). If you’re looking for a bus, they are  the right people to take you in like family and treat you kindly through the whole process.  I always felt like they were busy folks with a lot to get done, but they stayed with us as much as we needed, and never rushed any part of our conversation or bumped us for other jobs they had to do. This was impressive as they were in the midst of the biggest clean up in 100 years….

I picked up a can of paint to try and soften the visual impact of the JEWS FOR JESUS lettering, so we could slip quietly into Colorado without discussion. Also to avoid implicating them if I ran anything over. (I haven't yet)

Now, 3:00 rolls around and it was past time to go. We had taken our delivery picture, they had given us hats, keychains, cozies (for our cold driving beverages) and a promise to keep their cell phones in hand for  the questions I was sure to call them with…

Ethan and I hit the road and didn’t look back..

We fueled up in Kentucky, 160 gallons worth, and carried on along the interstate. Ethan alternated between watching movies, watching the highway, chit chatting, setting up the goods we picked up at Sam’s for the trip and I, just kept on driving. Getting tired, we stopped near Columbia Mo. Back on the road when we wake up- hoping to make it home by 8 or 10 Wednesday night. Ethan really wants to go to school on Thursday. Kelly leaves for China on Friday. Signs are waiting to be made. I hear a large number of kids are sick at home.

Victorious with our $2 dinner and basket of supplies. What do you see parked way off in the distance?

(close up) There's no more close in parking for our family!


May 5, 2010:

Slept for a solid 4.5 hours and back on the road. We stopped a fair number of times to: throw the frisbee, pick up some breakfast stuff and a towel to be able to take a shower, bathroom, fuel, etc etc. Oh, and that one time to catch up with a different friend from the Kansas State Patrol. (You may recall that a different officer stopped us briefly on the way to Nashville with the whole family on spring break in March to point out my burned out headlight). Today, the officer wanted to get a better look at the temporary license plate on the back of the bus, so he stopped us to do that, and he thought taking our family on a trip was a good idea. I had to tell him what we were up to with a big ol' bus from Tennessee...

Without a back window or rear view mirror, this is the best shot of the Kansas Trooper that I could get without impeding traffic. When he got out of the car, I could see him walk close and inspect the tag, so I knew what he was going to say when he came around to the front. (The camera also has sound in case you're telling secrets by the back bumper)

Ethan asked me toward the end of the trip if I got bored driving, doing it for hours and hours. I told him that I enjoyed it mostly, and pointed out all the exciting things I got to see on this trip alone, because I was in front watching the road- but admitted that it does get a little dull sometimes- like around 3pm when we stopped for 1hr 15mins to re-energize via a nap in the back. Windows open, breeze rustling through- Ethan shaking me to get up and at em when he had waited as long as he could... which was exactly 75 minutes. It helped, and we drove the rest of the way without any entertaining stops.

This photo does not do the bug carnage justice. There must have been a thousand bugs smashed onto the 8 vertical feet of windshield, including some that appeared to be a large as small birds. ?

A short time later, Ethan deftly handled the bug incident. If you take a sloppy wet pass with just water/cleaner, then come back to scrub, it cleans off quite easily. I have a feeling the kids are gonna get very good at this job.

We made it home at 11:05pm. Backed into the driveway without hitting anything (that I could see in the dark) and get this: the back up alarm doesn't come on when the headlights are turned on- what a thoughtful engineering bonus! The neighbors appreciated that feature- as they slept. We are now unable to see out of the living room or dining room, with a large bus parked along side the house. Tomorrow I'll get it situated a little better, and we'll begin readying it for the big trip. After 1400 miles, I think this bus is gonna work for our family just fine, but when we get he van hooked onto the back, we might have to hire a pilot car for over length!

Ethan crashed in his normal fashion around 730pm. Kinda handy to have a couch to sleep on.

We'll have an 'open bus' in the near future to show off the finer points of Bussie. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

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