Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Have Bus Will Travel

On one of our trips this past summer we came across two elderly gentlemen in a campsite near ours. They had converted an old horse trailer into a camper by building a couple of cots inside and adding some shelving to store their supplies. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Certainly, in my family there has always been a ‘do it yourself’ mentality seasoned with both imagination and ingenuity. We often made do with homemade versions of those things that were beyond the reach of our limited pocketbooks.

That was how we came to be the proud owners of our own version of a Winnebago, the latest in RV’s back in the early 70’s. When my brother, Richard, heard about an old school bus that was for sale he immediately saw the potential. It was a short bus, only half the size of the regular buses that we rode to school every weekday. It had been sitting unused for some time so he got it for a very good price. He reckoned that with my Dad’s help they could really make something of it and so in due time it ended up in our yard.

They spent the whole summer on the project. The first order of business was to strip all the seats out of it. The floor was then covered with linoleum and bunk beds long enough to accommodate the tall men in our family were built along both sides at the back with a curtain that could be drawn across in front of them for privacy. The top bunks were set on hinges so that they could be lowered to transform the beds into two couches facing each other across the centre aisle.

Two of the original seats were reinstalled with a table between them. It looked like a restaurant booth set just behind the driver’s seat. They built cupboards along the opposite side to hold the camp stove, ice box and other supplies. It may not have had running water or a bathroom but by the time they were done it could pass for a cottage on wheels. They painted the outside grey and added some detailing in black to spruce it up and give it a whole new look. We thought it was gorgeous.

It did have a few drawbacks though. The first time we took it out on the road we discovered that with most of the seats removed there wasn’t enough weight to smooth out the ride. Every bump was magnified to such a degree that anything not tied down got bounced all over the bus. That included us. Any encounter with a pothole would see us lifted right out of our seats to land on the floor if we weren’t holding on for dear life. We also took to joking about our gas mileage being measured in gallons per mile instead of the other way around.

Nevertheless, Richard and some friends drove that bus all the way to Mexico and back and pronounced the trip a great success even though they ended up having to replace all the old tires before they got halfway. When they finally reached their destination the geriatric bus coughed out its last gasp and they began to think they would have to abandon it in Mexico. Richard managed to find a mechanic who promised to completely rebuild the engine for a ridiculously low price and they decided to take a chance on him. Never was a hundred dollars better spent. By the time he was done with it the engine had a whole new lease on life. The journey back to Canada went without a hitch.

Ultimately, the bus got retired in our backyard and became a sort of guest house. My younger brother, Tom, and I would have friends over to hang out and sleep in the bus and the novelty of it never wore off. It may not have been much fun to ride in but we thought it first rate as accommodations. It was one of a kind, better than a real Winnebago in my mind. It had Landry stamped all over it.

1 comment:

  1. Love it, Robin! Way better than the tent our gang used in the backyard.