Before we put the Mighty Bus away for the winter, we debated. Did we want to do a midwinter trip and spend all that money, risk ice, snow and all the winter highways can throw at us? Even though we’re still wet behind the ears in the bus? Of course we did!
Arcadia was where we got our first really good hands on look at bus conversions and we had many opportunnities to hear the stories, heartwarming and terrifying about the finding, conversion, restoration, maintenance and operation of a home on wheels. We met lots of very nice people who were helpful, friendly and fun.
Bussin’ 2010 was also the beginning of the story of how we found our bus. Before we went to the rally, I had an idea. As the Editor of two classic car magazines, there are many times that I have to drum up my own material. Several years ago, I decided to prepare a template of questions about the people and their cars and use it to conduct interviews on the show field during the annual conventions. I also photographed practically every aspect of their car, inside and out. Ya gotta love digital… The resulting spreads proved to be popular with the members and every year at the convention people track me down to interview them and photograph their cars. And I have lots of material.
Why not do the same thing for buses? I knew there was a magazine, Bus Conversion Magazine, that Jim got and researched religiously in his quest for a bus and the ins and outs of bus conversions.
At the convention in Florida, I was fortunate enough to meet Mike Sullivan and we briefly discussed the idea of a article with coverage of the event. I did end up doing a 12 page article with lots of photos of the buses, people, pets and activities of the meet. I had a great time putting it together. When I got to the “About the Author” part, I asked Jim if we should put that we were looking for a MCI-9 since that was what he had decided he wanted. He said, “Why not?” so at the end of the article I said something like “Wendy Crosby is a freelance designer and photographer, website, blah blah.” Then I said, “Wendy and Jim are looking for a MCI-9, ready for boondocking” and a way to contact us.
Cool. It was to run in the February issue. Meanwhile, Jim continued his relentless narrowing down of affordable and sound buses. Now, you may not know my husband, but he is nothing if not thorough. I watched him restore three Best of Show classic cars with painstaking attention to detail that would frustrate Ghandi. Or the Pope. That’s why when he started getting interested in buses, I knew he would follow through and do it right.
He had found a bus in Texas he thought was really good. Some nearby friends of ours went to the bus and took lots of detailed pictures per Jim’s specific requests. When we saw the pictures, I thought the bus looked pretty worn and definitely needing a huge clean-up, spruce-up but he liked the mechanics and logistics of it and it did have a lot of storage. Somehow though it just didn’t seem right and I guess I kept stalling on a trip to go look at it saying, “But the article hasn’t come out yet.” Right, Wendy. Somebody’s just going to call you up and offer you a bus.
They didn’t call me up; they emailed me off my website. A gentleman said he knew a man who had a bus that wasn’t even for sale, but he had to sell. When he told me a little bit about it in the email, he said it had a slide. When I saw that, I thought it probably costs a million dollars and just forwarded it to Jim. He contacted the guy and the seller and long story short that’s how we found the bus we ended up buying.
It was in Washington state where a CDL is required to drive any bus, even a motorhome, apparently. After the owner finished the conversion, his last of many and this one for himself, they took one trip in the bus. Then he had a heart attack leaving him with vertigo so he couldn’t qualify for a CDL any longer. And his health was failing. And he was still amoking. But I digress.
He made it clear that he didn’t want to, but he had to sell his bus. So the emails and the phone calls and the (few) digital photos we were able to extract through the technology gap convinced us that we ought to go look at the bus. We did, flying to Seattle, renting a car, driving a ways and getting ourselves a mom and pop motel. We had plans to see the bus bright and early the next morning.
So we went and looked at it and we talked and the owner told stories and I took photos. By the end of that marathon session, we made a plan to take the bus to be inspected the next day. We did that and after some discussion the next day at lunch, with Jim going through his four or five lists and working out what work was going to be done by whom. It would go to Las Vegas for the “finishing touches” and possibly paint. Boy, were we naive. It was “finished” but actually not quite. HA! More on that later.
So, after all the details got worked out, we ended up buying it! HOLY CRAP!
And Bussin’ 2010 was the beginning. By the way, that email was the ONLY response I got to our plea for a MCI-9. We’re sort of calling it The Might Bus for now, which maybe also signifies Meant to Be. As it turned out, the bus in Texas cost like $20,00 more than we ended up paying. And having the slide is really nice.
So why wouldn’t we want to go back to Bussin 2011? Especially since this is the last year of Jack Conrad’s excellent hosting? It would be great to see people we met last year and show them our bus and get their suggestions and ideas. We would have our own bus to stay in, not have to schlep off site to sleep and eat. So when we stored the bus, we put in in the caves where the temperature is constant and the bus didn’t need to be winterized. We could get it out, stock it up and go.
As events started heating up surrounding Jim’s pending (should he or shouldn’t he?) retirement, we kind of decided to lay low this year and save the $$ to go to Mexico, which we didn’t last year because we were busy buying a bus. Two days before Christmas they got all the retirement details worked out- YAY! It’s really happening! Between the months long search for health insurance, the questionnaires, his work status, last minute doctor and dentist visits on old insurance, Whew.
Hats off to Jack Conrad for hosting a great time. He deserves a break and I am glad I got to attend at least one Bussin event. Too bad we missed it in the bus. So even though we will miss everybody this year, we made the right decision for us, as it turns out. Not to mention that giant snowstorm they had on the way there for us. THAT would have been fun!