by Ben Willmore | Nov 5, 2012
If you know me at all, you know that my life is pretty much one big road trip. Well, that’s been especially the case during the past week or two. I just finished driving my vintage bus from Chattanooga, TN to Coburg, Oregon, where it will be getting its new interior installed. Right now, the engine/transmission is all new but the interior is gutted. By the time it’s done, it will have a modern/streamline design look to it. The bus is now at Paradise Coach, in Coburg, and what’s nice is that this will probably be the bus’ last stop before it’s completely restored. I’ve had the bus since October, 2009 and the restoration project has had a lot of setbacks. You can read the whole story on the Creative Cruiser site, but lets just say that the bus has traveled over 8,100 miles during its restoration alone.
This is a map of travels my vintage bus has taken during its restoration alone! It’s gone over 8,100 miles, and we haven’t even begun living in it!
When I finally arrived at Paradise Coach, I handed over the keys to Larry, who will be in charge of creating the bus’ new interior.
If you read my last post, you saw a lot of iPhone shots from the stops that I made during the trip. I love to shoot vintage gas stations, and there were several of them on my route. You can see a few of those shots below. I only had two breakdowns during the course of the trip and they were both due to the same thing… some loose tubing that will eventually be fixed permanently. No big deal at all. I had anticipated some breakdowns because the bus has just been given a new engine and transmission. I knew there was bound to be a few kinks to work out.
My vintage bus at Twin Arrows, a famous stop along Route 66.
The bus at a vintage Skelly service station.
I was really eager to shoot the bus at this vintage Conoco station, but I was pretty bummed to show up at dawn and find that the neon lights had been turned off!
The timing for my Oregon arrival was pretty good, because Karen had just flown in from New Jersey. While I was driving the vintage bus, she was out visiting her family on the east coast. She drove down from Portland to Coburg to pick me up and get another look at the bus. She hadn’t seen the bus in a year and a half, and she thinks it’s adorable.
Karen and I both returned to the current bus in Portland, and plan to stay in the area for the next few months. We’ll also travel to Coburg/Eugene to keep up on the vintage bus project. More to come…
by Ben Willmore | May 7, 2012
For the third week in a row, I have been on the road in the vintage bus, driving it to the shop that will handle the next stage of its restoration. The only problem is that, for a good part of the week, I didn’t know where that shop would be. If the recent vintage bus saga is new to you, you might want to read the past two posts here on the blog where I describe the situation in detail. To make a long story short, though, my original plan was to drive the bus from Ft. Worth (where it got its engine/tranny worked on) to Nova Scotia (where the interior will be installed). This plan fell through in a big way. The bus will eventually get to Nova Scotia, but not anytime soon.
As of my last post, I was located in Columbus, Ohio, where I inspected a paint and body shop. I wasn’t impressed by the place so I made some additional appointments to visit shops in Elkhart, Indiana, which is pretty much the RV capitol of the U.S. I spent two days in Elkhart inspecting shops and getting quotes. None of the places really stuck out for me (for various reasons) so I decided to look at my other options. I was also getting pretty stressed out because I still had no official plan for where the bus would stay to get worked on and I HAD to be back at my current bus (the one I live on now) by Monday! I was literally racing the clock and trying to make sound decisions under a lot of pressure.
During my travels in the vintage bus, I’ve been stopping to photograph lots of old gas stations. This is an iPhone shot of one.
One of my options was a shop in Chattanooga, TN that was appealing for two reasons. First of all, I have friends who have had their buses worked on there and ended up being very happy with the place. Second, their shop rate is VERY reasonable and, considering the bill I’ve been racking up with the bus, reasonable rates are a BIG plus. I decided to head in that direction, knowing it would take me two days to get there. I was en route to my destination when I had my third breakdown since I started off in Ft. Worth. This time, it was due to a leak in the cooling system. It happened late at night, so I couldn’t get it looked at right away. Instead, I had to slowly make my way toward a shop I found, driving in very short increments at a time so the bus wouldn’t overheat. Luckily, the shop looked at it first thing in the morning and it turned out to be a simple fix. A coolant pipe had worked its way loose so they made a new gasket, filled it back up and sent me on my way. By the time I hit Nashville, however, the leak was back. The same company who worked on it sent out a truck to take care of the situation. It all worked out in the end, but it was a frustrating situation (like much of this trip has been).
A shop that worked on the bus’ cooling system sent a truck out when I had some problems on the road.
I finally arrived in Chattanooga on Friday morning and brought it to the shop. I explained to the guys what needed to be done, one of the projects being the power steering system. Feeling pretty confident leaving the bus here for a while, I took a transit bus to Atlanta, where I spent the night with my great friend and photographer Eddie Tapp. On Saturday morning, I was on a flight back to California, where my current bus is located. Karen flies in today (she’s been visiting her family in NJ while I’ve been focused on the vintage bus) and we will head toward Page, Arizona where I’m teaching with the Digital Photo Workshop gang this weekend. More to come!
by Ben Willmore | Apr 23, 2012
We have lift-off! I’m excited to say that the “Vintage Bus Run” has officially begun. If you’re not familiar with my vintage bus saga, here’s the short version. In addition to the bus Karen and I currently live on, I also own a 1963 Flxible Starliner (the vintage bus) which I am completely restoring from the inside out. There are two main segments to the restoration: the engine/transmission part and the interior/living space part. After a very long and drawn-out process (the first mechanic delayed the process by over a year) the first segment of the restoration is basically complete and the bus is now ready to get its interior. This means that it’s time for me to drive it from Fort Worth, Texas (where it was being worked on by the amazing George Fields) to Nova Scotia, where Craig Dorsey will work his magic and give the interior the streamline design/high-tech style I want. I know that Nova Scotia seems a bit inconvenient, but Craig is the only person I’ve found with the creative vision and high standards I was looking for.
George and I take the bus for a test run in Ft. Worth before I start the drive to Nova Scotia.
Early in the week, I flew from the L.A. area to Ft. Worth. We spent some time taking care of last-minute tweaks and doing some road tests. We had a very minor delay when the wheels (rims) were replaced and the old studs were a bit too short for the new wheels, but this wasn’t a big deal. We quickly replaced the studs and I was on my way!
The planned route from Ft. Worth to Nova Scotia.
During my first day on the road, I got a good feel for how the bus drives with its new engine and transmission. It’s an absolute hot rod! I had a hard time keeping myself within five mph of the speed limit! I had planned on making it to Tulsa, OK the first night, but ended up in Oklahoma City instead. My friend Jerry happens to live in OKC, though, and we were able to meet up for dinner! It’s been a year since I’d seen Jerry last, so it was great to catch up.
Here I am with my friend, Jerry, in Oklahoma City during my first stop on the vintage bus run.
Soon after leaving Oklahoma City, I picked up historic Route 66 and decided to follow it as long as I could. I’ve already driven the entirety of the “Mother Road” more than twice, but I just love shooting the old gas stations and other vintage buildings along the route. Considering I’m driving the vintage bus, it seemed rather appropriate! Plus, I allowed myself extra time during this trip in case I wanted to shoot, linger or deal with any mechanical issues.
The Blue Whale, on Rt. 66 just outside of Tulsa.
Speaking of mechanical issues, I did run into a small problem while driving through Kansas and Missouri. The heat exchanger for the transmission began leaking fluid and I had to periodically top it off during the course of the day. I plan to get this checked out today in St. Louis. Hopefully it will be an easy fix and I’ll be on my way again. If you want to follow the progress of the vintage bus run, check out the Creative Cruiser Facebook page, where we’re posting more frequent updates. https://www.facebook.com/CreativeCruiser
For now, here are some more iPhone photos of the bus on Rt. 66. More to come!