June 18, 2018
The Bus: The story of an epic trip that might not happen
So, last summer I was on my annual coast trip with my husband, Robert, and I decided we should buy my father’s 1965 VW bus. How I came to this decision is a matter of some telling, but I’ll opt for the abbreviated version here:
Okay, once I started the abbreviated version I realized there was a fundamental disconnect between “abbreviated” and, well, my writing style. Here’s the short version for those who don’t like to read (and then I ask, why are you reading this?) But maybe you know me? Maybe you are in fact my father, so in homage to him, I will write the short version as he would, in all caps.
I DECIDED TO BUY MY FATHER’S 1965 VW BUS, THE BUS OF MY CHILDHOOD, AND TAKE IT ON AN EPIC ROAD TRIP. EXCEPT NOW MAYBE THAT ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN DUE TO MECHANICS AND MONEY AND THAT KIND OF THING, BUT IN CASE IT DOES, I ALSO DECIDED I SHOULD LIVE BLOG THE TRIP, SO TWO WEEKS OUT I’M TRYING TO GET DOWN SOME BACKSTORY AND FACTS. YES, I REALIZE THAT EVEN THE SHORT VERSION IS TOO LONG. FULL DISCLOSURE: I MAJORED IN ENGLISH.
Not Really All That Abbreviated Version:
1. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck lives in our camping box. Last summer, after visiting Dad in Oregon, as we camped on the coast for our annual trip, I read Steinbeck in the misty mornings with my coffee while my husband Robert slept in the tent. Why do you need to know this? Well, I associate that book with my father, and I have always wanted to go traveling but also it helps explain my purpose here, so if you want to blame anyone for this rambling writing and trip, blame Steinbeck.
- In the interest of abbreviation, I will leave much of this out, but last summer was an emotional summer. My father is 86 years old, and last summer was the first time I went to see him after he moved out of my childhood home at 190 “Wistful Vista” as he always said. It was hard for me to imagine him in a nearby town, not in Ashland of my childhood, but once I arrived I could tell that not having to deal with all those stairs was a great relief, and as the summer threw off the late season rains and got cooking, Dad was so pleased to finally have central air. I needed a sweater, but I was happy for him. However, saying goodbye to my childhood home made me very emotional. I spent part of the summer cleaning out the basemen, a task made more difficult by the never-ending parade of memories as I opened box after box. That story would take longer to tell as it encompassed my entire life, so I was still processing everything when my husband and I camped on the coast for our annual trip, and I decided we just had to buy the bus.
- Of course, nothing is ever easy. Dad reminded me that it was an old bus. I didn’t care. Eventually, we settled on a price, and I was set to get the bus running again. And then I got stuck. Who do you trust to resuscitate an old VW van? Especially if the van is sitting in storage in Oregon and you are busy in LA teaching classes and taking care of life? So, the short answer: Larry. When I first called Larry, I could tell right away that he thought I was a flake. I mean, he could understand why I wanted to get the work done in Oregon “You’ll pay a bunch more in California,” he said, “What with the taxes and all.” I got the clear impression that Larry did not approve of California, hardly and unusual view from Oregonians, but it turned out that Larry once lived in Lodi and worked on VWs there…in 1958. So, I figured Larry knew something about these cars, an impression that was further confirmed when he explained to me it was fitted with a gas heater that was”…the kind of thing they put in if you were gonna take it to Alaska. Pure gas right there in the cabin. Terrible fire risk.” I agreed that Larry should remove this scary heater (who needs heat in California?) and after some discussion of all the many, many things that needed to be fixed, Larry took the job. Sort of. I mean, first there was some confusion about getting the bus, then as recently as last week (tow weeks from departure day on my end” Larry told me “I don’t know if this is gonna be ready. I’ll know more on Monday.”
Now it is Monday. I haven’t called. I don’t know why. It is one of those things that I have planned for and hoped for, and now that it might not happen, I feel perversely relieved. I mean, I arranged to have the bus in the Ashland 4th of July parade. I have camping reservations all down the coast. And now I might be making that trip sans parade in the Prius. And I will have to figure out how to get that bus down here. My epic adventure that I planned and thought would suddenly make everything make sense and be meaningful looks like it might not happen, and I am just sort of in limbo with it, writing this instead of calling Larry.
I will call him tomorrow. I promise.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted when I called Larry. Some part of me was prepared to hear that there was no way to get the job done, so when he said, “Pick it up July 2nd,” I was speechless. All the gears and wheels in my brain started spinning as I heard myself say, “That’s great.” I mean, it is, right? Now I have to keep working on this, and the trip will actually happen. I am stopping myself from putting a question mark there. I don’t know why I can’t quite believe it. It is like when I graduated from college or got married: I knew full well that the event would occur and there would be a before, during, and after, and yet when I tried to imagine it…my mind just alternated between whiling and blankness.
I am working on a list of all I have to do, but right now it is an internal list. There are so many things to think of and plan for with any trip, but more with this one. I don’t know what the cabin will be like, and I have to be prepared to make things up as we go, and that’s not to mention fine-tuning the driving skills and mechanical failures and campsite issues and all of the rest. For now I am (I think) happy to be in the actual planning this-is-really-going-to-happen stage.
June 29, 2018
Update: I talked to Larry today. He’s running late. That makes me very, very nervous, but now I am almost done with my epic list, and we leave tomorrow morning.