The Rise and Fall of The Bus (Part 2)

Filed under : Happy Stories, Serial Stories

Story 52 of 365

Est. Reading Time 5 minutes

(if you missed Part 1, you’re gonna be confused)

Throughout the remaining month or so of summer, I got pretty good at driving The Bus and acclimating to its various quirks. Chuck (my stepdad) gave me a book provided by Darryl called “The Complete Idiots Guide to Volkswagen Bus Maintenance and Repair”. He told me any issue I’d have with The Bus would be found in that book, along with how to fix it. My first order of business was to tackle the issue that the odometer stopped at 469 miles. After disassembling the dashboard and pulling out the dials, I found the sprocket that had been shook loose from the internals that was supposed to advance the odometer. A little superglue on the shaft that connected the gears fixed it up right. Until the hot Phoenix sun broke down the efficacy of the superglue and the sprocket fell loose again. But I did manage to make the odometer get up almost 600 miles before that happened. I could’ve attempted a second go-round, and/or find a better solution, but as the odometer was at least 70,000 miles shy of being accurate, it didn’t quite matter. It didn’t occur to me until just now that a vehicle with an odometer that’s been busted since the month it was sold would be nearly impossible to sell on the open market, and would explain how/why Darryl hung onto it so long and sold it privately to friends.

Every summer, my good friend Nad 1mentioned here, here, and here would go off to Boy Scout Camp as a counselor. This lasted from the time he entered his teen years until right around Senior year. The summer I got The Bus, he was away and since this was way before the days of cellphones, he had no idea that I was finally in possession of my very own set of wheels. When he got home, he called me and I said “I’ll be right over, I’ve got a surprise!”. When I pulled up, he thought I was fucking with him. He was ecstatic – his favorite uncle also had a bus (but a much more modern version), so he had a fondness for them. His mom worried about our safety in this giant metal tube, so we ended up getting some helmets — as a joke — that we’d wear whenever we pulled away from his house.

His mom became a little more concerned when the biggest annoyance of The Bus reared its ugly head : the fucking fuel gauge was useless. If I had a full tank of gas, it would show a full tank of gas. If I had anything less than 3/4 of a tank, it would show as empty. This meant running out of gas pretty regularly. The easy thing to do, as many had suggested, would be to fill up the tank and then count the miles on the odometer. But, of course, that wouldn’t work when the odometer doesn’t run. Instead, I kept two gas cans filled at all times, for instant fill-ups whenever The Bus ran out of gas. Nad’s mom didn’t like that he was driving around in a metal tube with 2 gallons of gasoline a mere thin layer of plastic away from exploding. Frankly, I don’t know what she was worried about, but I also don’t know enough about gasoline fumes to know if that was dangerous.

Over time, I got really good at filling up in a hurry. I lost track of how many times I ran out of gas at a stoplight, and once or twice it happened while I was waiting to take a left turn. I could grab a gas can, hop out, put a gallon in the tank, hop back in, and have her running along again in about 30 seconds.

We had a lot of fun in The Bus. I found some floorstanding speakers at a garage sale one afternoon, and wired them up to the stereo system, which made The Bus a pretty impressive sound system on wheels. I filled the interior and ceiling with stickers and posters. I even found a still-wrapped mattress at a garage sale, then picked up some extra blankets and pillows, and The Bus became “the shaggin’ wagon”.

While I had my own fun in the back of that mattress-and-pillow fortress, my friends often had more fun. For the price of drugs, cash, and “I owe you one”, friends would call me when they had a date and ask me to drive The Bus into the desert while they fucked around in the back with their dates. Because The Bus had a bench area above the main floor (where the mattress was), I’d occasionally look into my rearview mirror and – instead of the road – would see girls spread eagle, or a friend getting blown, or.. one time, just a girl masturbating while my friend jerked himself off on her tits. I was pulled over more than once because a cop could visibly see naked parts through my back window. When I feigned ignorance and promised to make sure my passengers kept things kosher, they’d let me drive off with little more than a warning.

There was an area near my friends house that had a “WARNING : HUMP” sign on the road, which I came to find was the perfect ramp for The Bus. Hitting that hump at 20-30 MPH, we could actually get the sucker airborn. One time, a friend stood on the side of the road while I hit the hump at 35 and he said all four wheels left the ground by at least 2 feet. Whenever we had newcomers to The Bus, and it was feasible, we’d make a quick trip over to “the hump” and scare the shit out of whomever was in the back by jumping The Bus in the air and sending everyone flying. No one ever got injured, thanks to the pillows and blankets, but I did once manage to pop a tire on the landing. Since The Bus (like most VW busses) came with a full-size tire attached to the front, I was back on the road in just a few minutes.

The Bus was its own entity. People made their own nicknames – one of the most common being “The Tic Tac” – and everyone who knew me at the time had a story, and a fondness for it. What started as my reluctant people mover and a rusty bucket of bolts became an adventure machine. It was alternately a bedroom, a restaurant, a poker room, a hotel room, and many times just a chill-ass place to get high.

Alas, it was also not long for this world.

( photo credit2user avdleeuw on Flickr : https://www.flickr.com/photos/avdleeuw/185715975 and also important to note : that’s not my bus in the photo, but it looked pretty similar from the outside)

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. mentioned here, here, and here
2. user avdleeuw on Flickr : https://www.flickr.com/photos/avdleeuw/185715975