The Vintage Bus Run: Shifting Gears
This post is part two of the Vintage Bus Run saga. If you didn’t read last week’s post, you can check it out HERE. It will fill you in on the general status of my vintage bus project.
I ended last week’s post in St. Louis, having driven all the way from Ft. Worth. As you know, my original plan for this trip was to spend 10 days driving from Texas to Nova Scotia, where the bus will get its interior fixin’s. Well, it’s amazing how much things can change in a week! This road has been filled with a lot of frustration and more drama than I care to deal with. Luckily, there’s been some fun moments along the way too.
When I arrived in St. Louis, I had to seek out a shop because the bus had a minor leak in the transmission’s heat exchanger. The issue required a fitting to be replaced, which wasn’t that huge a deal. I spent the time in St. Louis hanging out with my cousin Paul. We went out to eat and then headed over to the extremely wild City Museum. Paul had never been there, which I couldn’t believe! The place is like a playground for adults, but it’s really hard to explain. You really just need to see it for yourself. I highly recommend it if you’re ever visiting St. Louis.
When I returned to the shop to pick up the bus, I had a major issue with the staff there, who tried to charge me out the wazoo for something like 15 hours of labor. If you saw what had to get fixed, you would know that this was absolute silliness. I finally got them down to a less offensive price (by knocking off 11 hours of labor), but I left the place in a pretty bad mood. I left St. Louis and made it across the border to Indiana… when the bus had its second mechanical issue. A sensor that was connected to the air system broke and started spewing air. Since the bus has air brakes, that means I was stuck. After further inspection, I found what had caused the break in the air system and it led me to a bigger problem. There were about eight bolts holding the rear end onto the suspension that weren’t tightened properly (this leads back to the first mechanic who worked on the project) and had allowed the rear end to shift on the chassis 2 1/8″ toward the passengers side and interfere with the air lines. I had to call AAA to tow the bus, but talked them into plugging my air leak instead of having to tow the bus. I then found a shop that had alignment equipment and could work on it the next morning. In the meantime I checked into a hotel in Evansville. At this point, I was needing some good news and, luckily, good news came! I learned that my friends Sam and Tracy, who are fellow full-timers like us, were in the same little town as I was! The chances of me seeing anyone I knew there were slim to none, so I was blown away! I met up with Sam that night and had a much-needed beer.
Sam and I relax after I spent a long time troubleshooting bus issues.
The shop finished with the bus the next afternoon and I was on my way again. I got a late start, so I didn’t make it all too far that night. I stopped just outside Louisville, KY and spoke with the person who will work on the interior of the bus in Nova Scotia. This is where I was dealt the biggest blow of the entire trip. There I was, in the middle of the country on my way to his shop, when he tells me that he suddenly took on another project and wouldn’t be able to work on my bus for another six months. @#$%$^@!!! This project has encountered so many setbacks and has been delayed by nearly a year and a half already, so I really didn’t know how to react to this. How could he have taken on a new project, knowing that I was on my way to his place? He claimed that he didn’t know I was actively on my where to his place and thought I was on a leisurely road trip and wouldn’t show up until the fall. I don’t know where he got that idea. In fact, I went through my emails and saw that I had specifically told him what my plans were and when I’d be arriving. I was very upset and sent him an e-mail expressing this and explaining my situation. Then I proceeded to spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what to do. I had looked into some other shops that could do the work, but this guy is by far the most talented and understands the style I want. I started thinking about changing gears and getting the paint and body work done before the interior. This is the opposite order in which I had originally planned, but that’s ok. I started looking into paint and body shops that were in the general area of the country I was in. When I went to bed that night, I had no idea which direction I would be heading in the morning.
The next morning, before I even had a chance to wake up, the phone rang. It was Craig… the guy who I received the bad news from yesterday. He was extremely apologetic about the whole scenario and wanted to do what he could to make things right. He sent me an email expressing the same thing. As upset as I was, it would be hard for me to imagine bringing the bus to a shop other than his, so I’ll most likely do that, but nothing is 100% decided yet. What I DID do, however, is make some appointments to evaluate paint and body shops. The first place I visited was in Columbus, Ohio, which was on my original planned route. Unfortunately I wasn’t excited by the quality of the work there. I made a few appointments in Elkhart, Indiana as well, which takes me in the opposite direction of my original route, but at this point everything is up in the air.
Here’s an iPhone shot of one of the gas stations I stopped to photograph on the way to Elkhart.
I really have no idea what my plans will be for the next week and what will be done next in the vintage bus project. Maybe body work and paint. Maybe mechanical stuff like power steering. It’s really hard to say right now, but I should have a better idea by mid-week. I will have to return to the current bus in California soon, because we need to head toward Page, Arizona for a three-day workshop with the Digital Photo Workshops gang. If you’re a photographer, check it out! We have a room for a few more! More to come…
Because this post was full of speed bumps and frustrations, and not enough fun stuff… here is a photo of me with the world’s largest underpants. It’s an iPhone shot from the City Museum in St. Louis.