The second chapter of our escapade with a yellow bus camper.
|Maiden Voyage - Part 2|
There I was, trying to make it up the hill, with the bus jerking, sputtering and making all types of weird noises each time I attempted to shift gears or feed it gas. I could see the sun setting on the horizon. Time was running out! In a few minutes it would be dark. Then, without warning, the bus “gave up the ghost” so to speak, and just conked out on us.
A mechanic I am not. The amount of knowledge I have about vehicles would fit on the head of a pin. I know where the gas tank is and how to fill it; what a dipstick is (you know that funny shaped thing that seems to disappear into the bowels of the engine when it is placed back into position after trying to see if the oil is low); and how to check the water level in the radiator by removing the radiator cap (slowly and by covering it with a rag before even touching it – burn me once shame on you – burn me twice, shame on me). Oh, and how to remove those little plugs in the battery in order to fill the little holes with distilled water to keep the battery properly charged. That, unfortunately sums up my knowledge of the inner workings of automobiles/buses.
Would I let my family know how ignorant I was when it came to the operation of this bus? “No, not me. Not Mr. Macho, the let’s go camping and fishing using our new bus camper guy!” No way Jose! Not on your life! I set the hand brake, and announced to the family that, not to worry, I would step outside, raise the hood and get to the bottom of our problem so that we might move on. Yeah, right!
About the only thing I was sure of when it came to the bottom of things was that had the bus not conked out on us when it did, we might have driven over the edge of that mountain road and careened down to the “bottom” of the canyon. Apparently I must have been steering to the right hand side of the road during all this maneuvering and shifting gears in my attempt to get up that hill. When the bus finally stalled and shut down for the last time, we were less than two feet from the edge of the mountain road. Calmly, I stuck my head into the bus and asked everyone to please exit the bus. As they were leaving the bus, since we were on a hill, I began looking for large rocks to place under the back wheels of the bus to prevent it from sliding backwards.
By now, I was a nervous wreck. First the episode with the refrigerator opening up and spilling our supplies onto the floor before we even left town and now this, stuck on the edge of a mountainous dirt road in the dark. This was not the plan as we should have been to the campsite over an hour ago. Having checked that the rocks were secure and that the bus wasn’t going to drift backwards, I told my wife that I had seen a house less than a mile back the road with lights on. Perhaps I could walk back to see if I could get some help. She wasn’t too keen on the idea since it was dark, but really didn’t know what else we could do. I told the boys to care for their mother and that I would be back shortly with help and headed towards the house with the lights. Oh, by the way, did I mention that my wife was almost eight months pregnant at the time of this camping trip!
I was blinded by the lights of an oncoming truck who seen (seeing) me, pulled over, and asked if I needed any help. The guy looked very trustworthy so I explained the problem I was having with the bus. He motioned for me to get in the back of the truck so that we could go take a look. Upon arriving at our location, the guy surveyed the situation, especially how close I had maneuvered the bus to the edge of the road, and indicated that it wouldn’t be a problem for him to start the bus, steer it off the shoulder and get me back on the actual road so that we could be on our way. I handed him the keys and thanked him for his hospitality. Since the bus had been shut down for some time, it started after one or two tries and he said that I must have flooded the engine in my attempt to shift gears trying to get up the hill.
Having gotten the bus started and driving it off the shoulder onto the actual road, the guy put the bus in park, set the hand brake and was half-way out of the drivers’ seat when I asked him if he knew how much further we had to drive on this dirt road. His response was that there wasn’t that much more dirt road before getting back on macadam, and after that it was just a short drive to the campsite. I have to admit I was really scared and concerned for our safety. It was dark, we were on a dirt road with no guardrails to protect us from going over the edge and apparently I didn’t know as much as I should have about driving this bus. Since this guy did so well getting me off the shoulder and back on to the road, I asked this good samaritan if he would stay behind the wheel until the bus was on macadam road. I promised him that if he would do that, I would take the wheel at that point. My concerns were that should this guy turn the wheel over to me while I was still on this narrow dirt road, I would do the same thing all over again before even getting to the macadam road or perhaps worse.
The guy looked at the boys, glanced over at my wife who, at almost eight months pregnant was showing considerably, and must have taken pity on me because he agreed to take the bus to the macadam part of the road. But, he said, “You will have to take over when we get there because I must be on my way.” The man’s nephews followed in his truck so that they could continue on their way when we got to the macadam. Having made it to the macadam road, the man pulled the bus off to the side of the road, informed me that the campsite wasn’t but a few more miles ahead and on good road. “Will you be alright driving it the balance of the way because we should really be on our way?” I thanked him once again and told him that he had done more than I could have imagined and yes, barring any further incidents, we should be OK and hopefully will be at the campsite shortly.” I tried to give him some money. But he refused and said, “you can do it, just don’t feed it too much gas and remember to ease the clutch out when changing gears.”
Now I was back in control of the situation and with the campsite being only being a few miles down the road, the balance of the trip should be a piece of cake. Soon we could put this portion of the trip behind us. The boys sighed and said “are you sure everything is going to be OK, Dad?” I assured them that the worst was behind us and that they should just sit back, relax and think about the fish we will be catching in the morning. Wishful thinking!
Shortly after the guy left us and we were on our merry way, every light on the dashboard lit up, the alternator light (keep in mind that this was back in the days when cars had alternators and not generators), the water light, the oil light, you name it, it was either lit or flashing.
My wife turned and looked at me and said, “What are you going to do now?” I replied by saying, “The camp cannot be that far down this road and as long as this @#$%^&*blah, blah, blah bus is moving, we are going to keep on going.” Fortunately, the camp wasn’t that far away. Before I knew it, I came across the entrance and made our way into the camp towards the reserved campsite. I had just about maneuvered the bus into the parking site and was three-quarters into the space when the bus made one last heave, sputtered, and the engine just died.
This time, my wife, who, by this time, was very uncomfortable, looked at me and said, “What next?” I set the hand brake, got out of the bus, and realized that I was far enough into the parking space before it shut down that I didn’t interfere with any camp traffic. Getting back into the bus, I replied, “We are here and we are safe. There is nothing more we can do this evening. It’s late, let’s get ready for bed and in the morning we will have breakfast, go fishing as planned, have some fun and tackle the problem of how we are going to get this thing started on Sunday when we are ready to leave.”
I would like to say that this is the end of the story but if you will recall, my wife is eight months pregnant, who also by the way, does not enjoy fishing. What happens next is fodder for the next chapter!
Irwin Lengel © April 17, 2010
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