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Part three of the continuing saga of the Yellow School Bus Camper
Maiden Voyage – Part III

I don’t know how many of you following this story are married or have been married nor how many of you have either had children or are the spouse of the person going through the pregnancy, but suffice it to say, one should not even consider taking a woman that is eight months pregnant on a fishing trip in a bus you don’t know how to drive; to a fishing area in the woods that doesn’t have any fish in the lake; and where the mosquitos are big enough to put saddles on and ride; (hmmm, perhaps I should have hooked them up to the bus and had them haul us back home), but I digress and am getting ahead of myself.

As we left off in the previous segment, harrowing as the trip to the fishing camp had been, we arrived safe and sound at the campsite Friday evening and managed to maneuver the bus into our parking space before it gave up the ghost and died.  With it being so late, we did not take time to cook supper as was planned but instead had a little snack and all went to bed with the hope that tomorrow would be a better day and that we would catch a whole bunch of fish.

Early next morning, we woke to a bright sunny but somewhat hot day without much of a breeze. We set up our little stove and I cooked up a batch of bacon and eggs for breakfast. Having devoured breakfast (remember we did not stop for dinner the night before and only had a light snack before turning in for the evening) I assumed that my wife would clean up after us so that we could get to the fishing part of the trip. What is that old adage – never “assume”.  One does not look to an eight month pregnant woman to clean up after three guys. So, before we could even think of casting our lines into the water, it was KP duty (Kitchen Patrol) for the three of us guys.

Having cleaned up breakfast dishes and stowed everything away so as to not have a mess to come back to once we were done fishing, John, my oldest son, Steve soon to be called the middle child, and I decided to gather our fishing gear and head to the water. Not so fast, my wife said. What about me? I looked at her and in a nice calm soothing voice said, “But I thought you didn’t really like fishing. I thought perhaps you would stay here in camp and just lull around the bus, maybe read a book or something. Besides, it may be too sunny down there at the lake.” I should have known better because (1) my wife is not a reader, and (2) “lull” was not in her vocabulary.  “Not a chance”, said she. ”I want to be with you guys and watch when you catch your fish, so I can take pictures of the happy event. And oh, by the way, should you be lucky enough to catch some fish, remember, you guys are the ones that wanted to come fishing – I came along for the ride and to watch – but I don’t do fish!”  Now I have to mention at this point a difference of opinion my wife and I have about fishing. There are several types of fishing. There is what I like to refer to as the “casting” type of fishing which requires one to cast his or her fishing line into the water and then sit on the bank or shore, enjoying the quiet waiting for the fish to bite. There is “fly” fishing where one is constantly in motion, throwing the line in the water and pulling the line through the water hoping that the fish will see the lure spinning through the water and actually bite at it getting caught on the hook in the process. Then there is fishing from a boat or canoe and last but not least there is deep sea fishing. Seeing that we did not own a boat and weren’t out in the ocean, the last two styles of fishing were not even on our agenda.  Now myself, I prefer the “casting “ type of fishing because I love to just sit on the bank of the shore enjoying the quiet, listening to mother nature and her surroundings. It is a peaceful time to just relax and let go of all the other things happening in one’s life. My wife, on the other hand, thinks “casting” type fishing is boring and prefers to “fly” fish mainly because with this type of fishing she is the aggressor constantly in motion trying to catch a fish and thus, not just sitting on the bank of the water waiting for the fish to come to her.  Which brings me back to her statement – “I don’t do fish!” Actually, what she meant was: I have the three “We C’s” rules of fishing. And for those of you not familiar with this rule, let me enlighten you. When fishing – if we (we meaning us guys) are successful – then “We Catch them – we Clean them – we Cook them!”

So off to the fishing area we went carrying our gear plus a lounge chair for the sole member of our fan club, my wife! After setting the lounge chair in an area that had no shade, except for the umbrella we attached to her chaise lounge, the three of us guys attempted to catch some fish. If we caught some fish, that would be great.  If not, well that was okay too because, as a family we got to spend a few days together enjoying life in the great outdoors in our own personal camper.  What we didn’t expect was to merely catch a bunch of “Sunnies” as they were called. A “Sunny” is a small sun fish, named so because the body of the fish is yellow in color. I am sure that these little fish were not what my sons anticipated catching either. Thinking back, the mosquito bites inflicted upon us that day seemed bigger than the fish that were nibbling on our lines. If, by now, you haven’t figured it out, let me say this, we did not have to worry about the “Three We C’s” this trip. All we seemed to catch were little fish whose only purpose in life seemed to be that they would be good bait to catch larger fish. But, all in all, with the exception of the catastrophe with the bus, the mosquito bites, and the lack of fish we had a good time which is all any father could ask for. Once the fishing part of the trip was over, we spent the remainder of our time playing card games with the boys until it was time to call it quits for the evening.

Even though my wife appeared happy, she seemed to be very uncomfortable and actually in misery what with being eight months pregnant and all. We only learned after we got home that she had developed a really bad case of sunburn (not fun when you are eight months pregnant).  But, the trip was not over yet. We still had to figure out how we were going to get the bus started when we were ready to leave in the morning and then there was the actual drive home. So, now if I may, allow me to briefly discuss the trip home. Yup, you guessed it! While the trip to the camp had its scary moments (refrigerator opening up and emptying its contents on the floor of the camper, encounter with the edge of the mountainside, all the lights on the dash lighting up, conking out on us just as we got to the parking space within the camp, etc.), somewhat the reverse was true with regards the trip home, although it was just as scary at times.

Being both an insurance person as well as a law-abiding individual, I really had to wrestle with myself as to how I was going to describe our trip home when it came to this part of the story. If you will recall, the bus sort of sputtered and died upon entering our parking spot when we first entered the camp. Well, Sunday morning when it was time to head back home, I was fortunate enough to locate someone with some jumper cables and after some work, got the bus “jump started” and we were able to leave the camp. Now, if you will recall, the camp wasn’t that far from home, but, in reality, home seemed like it was a five hundred miles away due to all the problems incurred while heading to the camp two days earlier. The return trip proved to be just as exciting. Remember I had mentioned that shortly before the bus died, all the lights lit up on the dash. Well, apparently one of those lights was to let me know that I had a brake problem. (Remember, my knowledge about cars was that, I knew the gas went in one end, the water went in the other end and there was that long stick that one sort of stuck into the bowels of the bus to see if the oil was low and that was the extent of my knowledge of an auto or bus).  Actually, I don’t know much more than that today either.  I can sum up the return trip this way: I learned first-hand what the sayings “rolling stop, running yellows, and other such phrases” meant because shortly into the trip home (actually our first stop sign) we learned that we had lost our brakes. What I also learned that day was that the timing of the traffic lights that morning were not operating in such a fashion as to expect a bus camper coming through town on a Sunday morning without any brakes. Believe me when I say that I had a few choice words about the timing of those lights which I will not repeat here.

Fortunately though, being a Sunday morning there was not much traffic. The return trip home, while just as harrowing as the trip to the camp, was much shorter in duration.  We did not stop for anything! No potty stops; traffic lights; stop signs; and with the exception of one couple trying to cross the street; we didn’t stop for much of anything. (It was the incident involving the elderly couple that I learned real fast about downshifting). Downshifting assisted me rather well in trying to slow the bus down when hoping the light would change from red to green before we actually got to the intersection. As luck would have it we made it safe and sound. Would I do it again? Probably! But, based on what I learned during the trip, I would have done things quite differently. Prior to making such a trip, I would have become more familiar with how to drive such a vehicle and would have learned more about the inner workings of the bus. Most importantly though, I would have had my mechanic check the bus out thoroughly before we even left home to make sure everything was operating as it should be.

Once back home, we did have the camper repaired and enjoyed quite a few more trips traveling around the state of AZ.  My wife’s sunburn was treated with an unusual concoction of diluted evaporated milk dabbed onto the sunburn which enabled her to endure the sunburn and didn’t even blister.  We were blessed with a beautiful baby daughter on June 12, 1975. Now, having mentioned that my wife did give birth to our daughter, I could say at this point and “they lived happily ever after”. But to do so would omit two important parts of this story. The first part (I probably should have started there) tells how we got to Arizona in the first place.  And the second part of this venture out west enables my wife to tease me to this day of the big flub I made during this transition from Jacksonville, Florida to Bisbee, Arizona. So, stay tuned, there is more to come!

Written and Amended by Irwin Lengel © September 7, 2011©

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