One Year and 1,000 Miles with Bessie the VW Bus

February ’15
1. Miss a box jump at CrossFit. Grind my shin with full bodyweight.
2. I think it’s almost to the bone. Fist sized swelling. “Just walk it off.”
3. Hydrogen peroxide vs. stitches. I choose peroxide. 
Four days later
4. Pain and redness…more pain. Visit doctor. 
5. “OH MY GOD! VHAT DID YOU DO? Take this veeery good antibiotic. It get worse you go to zee hospital.”
Two days later
6. Los Angeles. Serious pain and redness. Call doctor.
7. “Describe for me zee symptoms you arrrre having?” (blah blah blah symptoms).
Two weeks, two hospitals, and a LOT of Vanco later 
9. “Hey doc, I’m having XYZ symptoms…” 
11. While lying in a hospital bed I’m getting reflective. Super-all-nostalgically-reflective-like-life-flashing-in-front-of-you. 
12. Dad emails me a picture of an old VW Bus we had growing up. More nostalgia. My kids should have these types of memories. 
Next morning
13. I NEED a VW Bus. So long as I don’t lose my leg, which would be problematic clutching. I promise myself I’m going to be fine. And buy a Bus. Make memories with the kids. 
14. On eBay I find a VW Bus. I text the ad to four friends asking advice. 
15. Three text back with “this is a stupid idea.” I decide they are not true friends. 
16. One doesn’t respond. This is a good friend. I take non-response as tacit endorsement. 
17. I text one more friend, a legit hippie from the 60’s.
18. He texts me back “This is a wise decision.” This is the kind of friendship I need in my life. 
19. I buy the Bus (sight unseen) on eBay.
One month later
20. En route to meet my guy selling the Bus at his bank in Seattle.
21. Test drive. Multiple stalls. “This bus is a piece of shit!” I say to him.
22. “No, no” he says to me. “You just have to give her some love.”
23. Test drive some more.
24. I am transported back to 12-years old, riding in the back of a Bus with my family.
25. I love this Bus. Exchange cash for title. 
26. Start 900 mile drive back to SF Friday night. 
27. Stop in Olympia for dinner with friends. Bessie won’t re-start.
28. This bus is a piece of shit.
29. I give her some love. And she loves me back.
30. I love this Bus again. 
That night 
31. It’s 40 degrees and midnight. Bessie has no heat. I drive faster and attempt to hit 65 MPH. We. Are. Making. Progress. 
32. I am so cold my teeth are chattering.
33. It’s 2am and I am exhausted. But I am not as tired as I am cold. Sleep would be impossible. 
34. It’s 4am, and now I am more tired than cold. This is the type of cold struggle I envision on a Mt. Everest attempt. 
35. I pull over at a rest stop. I am freezing. I wish I had a sleeping bag to snuggle with. Or a Sherpa. Both would be amazing right now. 
36. It’s 5am and I wake up to use the bathroom to pee. The bus door won’t open from the inside. I’m too tired to figure this out.
37. I see a cup. This will do. But it’s a small cup. I pee. Stop. Empty it. Repeat. Five times. I think I’ve irreparably damaged my prostate. 
The next morning
38. It’s 7am. It’s too cold to keep sleeping. I get up and start fiddling with the door.
39. Some guy pulls up next to me and blurts out “Good morning! Whatcha doing?!?!?!?!”
He’s chipper like had a full night sleep, oh and heat in his car and yes he is driving a Volvo.
41. I think Bessie is making me testy. 
42. Questioning the Bus buying decision at this moment.
43. Actually, questioning all of my life decisions.
44. It’s 7:30am and I’m on the highway. Shivering.
45. Guys with chubby cheeks should not wear beanies. I have chubby cheeks.
46. I put on my beanie. That’s how cold I am.
47. I need coffee. Someone get me coffee.
48. I don’t deserve Starbucks. You are an idiot. You only get gas station coffee.
49. My right blinker stopped working. I figure out how to love her to get it to work. By using my arm out the window.
50. My new relationship with Bessie is best described as “complicated.” 
Mid day
51. The sun is out, it’s now 48 degrees. I am warm. Actually, my teeth has simply stopped chattering. Warm is relative. 
52. The sky is clear. Bessie is purring like a kitten. We’re cruising down route 5 through Oregon.
53. Man, I love Oregon. This is AMAZING. There’s nowhere I would rather be than I-5 in Oregon with Bessie at this moment. 
54. Someone drives by me and gives me the peace sign. I flash it back.
55. I love this Bus. Good decision confirmed. 
56. My kids are going to LOVE me. I am the COOLEST dad ever.
57. Bessie starts smoking. I pull over. More love. And lots of oil.
58. My kids are going to HATE me. 
59. It’s down to 38 degrees. I am cold again. But not as cold as I am bored.
60. I stop at McDonalds to warm up. I sit inside without ordering anything.
61. I go to the bathroom, but only to run my hands under warm water for five minutes.
62. Am. I. Homeless? 
63. Reconsidering all my life’s decisions again.
64. Getting into the Bus, I see a van full of kids cheering and giving me the thumbs up and peace signs.
65. My kids are definitely going to love me.
66. I have decided to let my hair grow long. 
67. Getting onto the highway I almost get rear ended and two drivers share their feelings symbolically. Not the peace sign.
68. My kids might also have a complicated love for me and Bessie. 
69. My back is torqued from these seats and 800 miles. I need a chiropractor.
70. Or traction. Yes, I need someone to put me in traction. My back is killing me. Or a coma. Someone get me a Sherpa and a coma.
71. With a dead iPhone, I hopelessly turn on AM radio. There’s only talk radio on. 
72. I am getting smarter by the minute. This bus was a great investment.
73. Two hours from SF, and I contemplate the small pee cup so I can just get home. But instead pull off at a rest stop. 
74. Within 30-seconds another Bus pulls up next to me.
75. Peter, a German man who hasn’t bathed in 32 days, jumps out enthusiastically. 
76. “HEY MAN! How long you staying for???” He asks, as he flashes the peace sign. 
77. “Uhhhh, not sure. Pretty much here to take a leak. 30-seconds maybe…”
78. Before I finish he shouts “I’ve been told we can only stay here for EIGHT HOURS MAN! THIS IS BULLSHIT!!!” 
79. I realize he thinks I am (also) here to camp. Or maybe considers it to be the possibility of more. Like two birds that meet on a mountaintop whose paths never again depart.
80. My path is departing, in about 90-seconds. I start planning my escape. 
81. I share with Peter my outrage re. the eight hour limit, imposed upon us “by an overly restrictive government with ulterior motives and that this is an abomination against all of us as Bus owners, adventurers, and free spirits which are destroying our liberties and YES-WE-SHALL-FIGHT-FOR-OUR-RIGHT-TO-PARK-OUR-BUSES-WHEREVER-WE-WANT-HOWEVER-LONG-WE-WANT-PETER-ARE-YOU-WITH-ME?!?!?!” 
82. Peter seems pleased and comforted by my response–perhaps even a tad bit afraid–so he lets me get on my way when I explain I have kids waiting for me at home. After we talk for another hour. And open up our engine bays. And lament oil leaks. 
83. We hug goodbye. We will be friends for life. He gives me his email. Then he asks where he can camp and shower for free in San Francisco. I consider asking for my email back. 
Late that night
84. I approach the Bay Bridge. While in the toll/bridge line, Bessie starts smoking profusely.
85. This is SF, Bessie. You can’t do that here. Please. Stop. Bessie, stop. You know not the jungle we are entering for smoking engines.
86. Prius drivers are looking at me in horror. Several express their sentiments by showing me the non-peace sign.
87. As I’m pulling off the freeway to my house I see some young kids in the back of their parents car flash me the thumbs up sign.
88. I shoot back a big smile and a vibrant, confident peace sign. I’m fully comfortable in my new role now. 
89. My kids are gonna love me.
Three months later
90. I get the Bus back from my mechanic and take Royce and Zoe for their first ride. Within two miles Bessie breaks down on the highway during rush hour.
91. There are tears (them). Uncontrollable laughter (me). I MIGHT have a propensity to laugh in uncomfortable moments. 
92. The kids hate me (at the moment). The Bus gets towed on a flat bed back to my mechanic.
93. There’s not enough room in the cab of the tow truck for me. So I have to sit in the Bus. On top of the flat bed. Whilst being towed for 30-mins in rush hour.
94. My kids are pointing at me from the cab of the tow truck laughing hysterically at me. Apparently, now THIS is fun. 
Nine months later
95. For sale. 1976 VW Bus.
96. One last (and really first) road trip with Royce and Zoe. I decide to take them for a Saturday drive down Pacific Coast Highway. 
97. We hang at the beach, flash peace signs to everyone, eat Gorilla BBQ (Pacifica) out the side door overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
98. We go to another beach, drive to Pescadero, eat blueberry cobbler, buy old Marvin Gaye LP albums at a retro coffee shop, and slowly putter our way back. The kids have more fun and I hear more cackling laughter than I can remember in any recent month. 
99. The kids love me. They might even love Bessie. The day ends with “Dad, that was REALLY fun!!!”
The next day
100. One year and 1,000 miles later, Bessie heads to her next owner.
The most ridiculous, and somehow rewarding, money I’ve spent in a long time. 
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