Buckle up. This is a long post. And dramatic. But there is a point…
We bought a bus. Yay! It’s official we’re bus owners. Finding the vehicle took a lot of time, a little saving, and a great deal of research and patience. That was the easy part. Now we own a 37 year old vehicle that we know nothing about. Bryan has worked on vehicles his entire life, but never on a diesel. Also, we own a 37 year old vehicle that is 900 miles away from home. So off we go to pick it up, naive optimism strongly leading the way (if that’s not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is!).
We bought our bus at auction from a recycling company. The owner knew nothing of the history of the bus, nor was he familiar enough with it to accurately say anything more than that it ran. He recommended a local wrecking company to us to make sure the bus was road ready. We talked to the owner of the wrecking company and told him what we needed, expressed some concerns that we had, and told him our general budget unless something big came up, and he said he’d handle it. The combination of a recycling company and a wrecking company should have been some major flags to us (more foreshadowing).
We left on Monday to drive to Georgia. Got there late in the business day on Tuesday. We got to see just what we had gotten into. The pictures didn’t accurately showcase all of the rust and moss that was trying to take over the bus. That’s mostly a cosmetic issue that just needs some elbow grease. The main thing was that the engine just purred (because it is clearly the most valuable part of the bus, and the most expensive thing to replace). It was really adorable how excited Bryan was to get into this project and clean up and restore this bus. And then things started to go wrong. We had ordered new tires, and they were installed, but this shop didn’t have the equipment to balance them, so that was money that we really didn’t need to have spent (he charged $30 per tire for installation as opposed to $60 at a “real” shop. Now we’ll have to pay that $60 anyway. Sigh). And then we did the basic walk around. Headlights were okay, if you knocked on them. Blinkers sort of worked. Brake lights didn’t. Wipers didn’t. And the interior condition wasn’t something I was not willing to sleep in. We had planned to spend a few days in Savannah for our anniversary, so we left it at the shop for them to really make it road worthy this time.
We picked up the bus on Friday. Wiper blades had been installed, but they couldn’t figure out the brake lights. That just meant that I’d have to drive close in and we’d be constantly on the phone talking through our route. No problem. So we paid the man — the bill oddly added up to the maximum we’d said we wanted to spend — and off we went. We drove to the nearest truck stop and put some gas in, and started for home. And then the real adventure started.
The unbalanced tires wobbled a bit (they also might have left some washers off of the bolts), and Bryan had difficulty keeping the bus from wandering out of his lane… and the temperature started going up. And going up. And so we pulled off the road. While we were in Savannah, we had the opportunity to meet an amazing and Godly man who was in the process of opening his own shop to refurbish, repair and restore old buses, specializing in Eagles. So, talking to him was one of the first things we did. We also posted on the Eagle bus forums. Got a lot of advice. We also called roadside assistance, but by the time we got to that option, it was after 5pm on Friday and we couldn’t get a tow truck until Monday.
We tried some of the suggestions from the forums and from our new bestie John at Eagle’s Landing in Cobbtown, Georgia (we highly recommend him if you need help with YOUR bus!). Tried draining the radiator, patching and refilling. Tied some plastic bottles to the side to force more air into the engine. Drove with the radiator cap open. Propped the engine cover open trying to allow more air in. Bryan spent most of the day on Sunday removing the thermostats. Nothing worked. By Sunday night we had gotten 120 miles from our starting point and the engine was still overheating. We had no where to work on this (if it were home Bryan could have figured out how to fix the problem) and we didn’t know the area at all. So first thing Monday morning we called Coach-Net and had them find a shop that would work on our bus (if it doesn’t have a computer they can link to most won’t touch it) and tow it to them. They finally got back to us an hour later to tell us they’d found a place for us. It was 60 miles back the way we’d come, which was heartbreaking as each mile we gained had felt like a small victory. Once the tow truck got to us (we had to wait another two hours for him) we gave him the keys and went off the other direction to go home. Without our bus.
Unfortunately the shop the bus is still sitting at the same shop two weeks later. They really did not want to work on the bus, as indicated by the price they quoted us (double what John quoted, for a quarter of the work that he’ll do). They’ve given us three more weeks to get it moved, which is proving to be exceptionally difficult. We’ll tow it to Eagle’s Landing and probably go hang out in Georgia for a while and learn about our bus from a real expert while he gets Ole’ Archie (it’s an All in the Family reference) up to snuff.
AND HERE’S THE POINT:
We learned some lessons about how prepared we need to be, planning better, and just plain old self-discipline. We also got to really test the things that we have been working on as a couple for the last year. Most of our trip was a major emotional roller coaster, we were spending money like water, and in an extremely stressful situation with no help at hand. There were also a lot of emotional triggers. We were in Savannah on our anniversary, and our last anniversary was spent at our Marriage Intensive and we were neither of us sure of anything, especially our marriage.
We prayed constantly, hugged a lot, and really tried to encourage each other. I get testy when I’m sleep deprived, and I don’t sleep well in hotels. Bryan gets testy when he can’t fix what’s broken around him, and there was no where for us to go to enable him to fix this bus. Neither one of us does well in situations we can’t control. We were both suffering with frayed ends and in the past that would have been a recipe for absolute disaster.
I generally don’t like dwelling on who we used to be as a couple, but in this situation I think it is especially useful. Our before “picture” was more often than not me vs. him rather than us meeting things as a team. Our adventure of NOT getting this bus was very much us as a team. I supported and encouraged when he was struggling and he did the same. It was truly a period of testing, and like all testing should do, it taught us what we had learned and showed us ways we could improve. God truly has His hand on this endeavor, but that doesn’t in any way mean it’s going to be easy!