By Grace Usher
More than the aesthetic pleasure of owning a VW bus, there is a deeper sense of unavoidable adventure, mishap and unforgettable memories. For attendees of the 23rd Buses by the Bridge, they have had their fair share of memories.
Brenda Sowell is based out of Walla Walla, Wash., and has owned her bus, La Tortuga (The Turtle), for more than three years. On her very first adventure, she learned the important lesson of knowing not just how to drive it, but how to handle the finicky mechanics of the ride.
“I wanted a vehicle that didn’t have a computer so I could fix it myself. The first drive, it blew up in about 250 miles. I had to get a ride 20 miles to get a U-Haul and tow dolly and tow it 300 miles back or else they would charge me $500 to tow it. There is always more than one way to do things and it doesn’t always look the way we think.”
The Sachs Family, Jessica, Mason, Lola and pup, Bear, hail from Joshua Tree, Calif. The lovely family has had their bus for roughly three years as a project vehicle. Just as all bus owners will say, be prepared to do anything to get that bus to its destination.
“The most epic trip was from Venice Beach to Seattle. Hot wired the bus every hour the whole way. [Mason] laid underneath it with one wire and we hot wired it the whole way there and all the way back. We made it and it was awesome. Every hour we had to hot wire it. That was our maiden voyage.”
Some buses are not just weekender vehicles, but everyday homes where every adventure is headquartered. So is the story of Christian Williams and his family. For the last 13 years, the Williams have fully lived inside their bus and operated their rock polishing and jewelry business from an attached trailer. One fateful day, however, almost took their entire livelihood straight into the abyss.
“One time the bus almost got pushed off a cliff in California. A friend stepped funny and knocked into the bus. He was a great, big, tall guy, like seven feet tall. He hit the bus hard enough to jumped the two by four I had under the tire and away it went. We all caught it though. It was in Big Sur area. Those are some cliffs.”
Kile Larson of Cedar City, Utah, is no young blood to the VW game. He has owned more than 40 buses in his lifetime. His most current, and claimed the final bus, has been a work in progress for more than eight years. Of all those years on the road, he had one touch of nature he would not soon forget.
“We went through some back roads in Nevada and saw some dust coming off the mountain and thought it was a car coming down the mountain. Ended up being a herd of wild horses. They ended up coming right to the bus to a watering hole. It was amazing.”
From the mechanics of the vehicle to the memories made inside, to the strange encounters on the road, with a bus comes stories, and never a lack of thrill.
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