Volume One - The Beginning

As an introduction, Some friends and I decided it was high time we traveled about this great country of ours in our wonderbusses. While North Carolina is great, there was much more to see. First, here are the characters:

  • Poor Richard (me)- A 24 year old who went straight to work after graduating from college, so I never had a real vacation. I have been a listmember since near the beginning, and printed the t-shirts and stickers and such. I own bus #1 of the trip, which is actually the 7th of the 8 busses I've owned in the last 6 years. I always used my parents car in high school, so when I came to college, I decided to surprise them by bringing home a '78 automatic bus with a sunroof, which I had for several years, until Split Fever cought up with me...(BTW, pictures of some of my busses are on my bus page, which can be accessed off my main page)

  • Nicole- A good friend/roomate of mine who owns bus number 2. She has done a good amount of her own engine work as well.

  • Danielle- another roommate, who also wished to hit the road.

  • CC- Yet another roommate, who bought my old '67, which we ended up not taking along with us.

  • Neil- Owner of a '66 deluxe daily driver. His old job was cooking at a restaurant, so we suckered him into cooking.

  • Jennifer- my girlfriend, who was basically along for the ride.

    The Busses:

    Nellie, the Wild Goose - my '67 panel van conversion camper, with a rebuilt
    Westy interior. I bought her after sitting in a field for 14 years, (not me, the bus) so I had to redo just about everything. I had to rebuild the interior, as a lot of wood was rotten. I repaneled the inside, re-upholstered, and made new curtains. I completely replaced the brake system, touched up the wiring, put in a couple hundred bucks of new WCM rubber, including the front door window deal, which is a real pain and very involved. She was running a fresh 1600 Single port, which I won't go into now. I also put on a new 009 and 30/31 carb, as well as replacing the generator after the fan ate the old one. Of course, I couldn't drive a plain ol' bus around the country, so I gave her a spiffy red, white, and blue paint job. A happy bus indeed.

    Cassidy - a '70 hardtop Westy, the cleanest bus I've ever seen.
    Bought for $50, it has NO rust. Period. Even the floors are shiny. Amazing. Anyway, she is running a 1600 SP, rebuilt by Nicole. Other things we did included repacking all CV's, replacing the generator and voltage regulator, as well as the entire main wiring harness. The PO had had an engine fire, which didn't mess up anything but the rear harness. As to the paint job, it was done in an appropriately psychedelic manner by a friend of ours.

    As you might
    have noticed, we are all bus people, and we had a tough time deciding on which busses to take. We ended up taking mine and Nicole's, because they were in the best shape. We brought along a full assortment of tools in each bus, as well as numerous spare parts, and copious amounts of Castrol 20w-50.
    We all had various reasons for wanting to go on the road, but all agreed that we would compromise as best as possible as to the itenerary. Certain things were set already, including the starting point, Busses on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Let's join our travelers there as the story begins:

    We all planned to leave Thursday night, so as to arrive at the Parkway early Friday. Due to Neil's being sick, Cassidy and crew waited, while I, Danielle, and Jennifer forged ahead. We arrived around lunchtime Friday, and began to wander around looking at all the busses. There ended up being 50-some busses there, over half of which were splits. (Which makes sense, as this was a NEATO event). We met fellow listmembers Stefan Ufer, a die hard Triangle Area Busser, and Eric Sowder, as well as David Easterwood, and his gang of folks from Georgia. I saw several groups which had the free-standing bus tents set up. The campers ranged from a perfectly restored '62 Westy all the way up to a 90-ish Vanagon Syncro Westy, and even one Eurovan camper.
    I was selling some Split Window t-shirts, which I had printed up to sell along the way, which also proved a good way to meet people. Pisgah Mountain Campground has 3 loops, and we were all in loop C. It was a pleasant walk around the loop, and there were always plenty of kind busfolks to chat with. There were a few people from Canada, including one couple in a shinily restored '67 Westy. Several of the hardcore NEATO fellows were there as well, having come straight from Busses by the Arch the weekend before. They entertained us by racing their floorjacks down the hilly campsite road, wrestling for old parts, and keeping the bears away with their potato cannon. Many paople had parts to sell or trade, as well as bus toys and such.
    Some of the more interesting busses we saw included Mark Lapriore's '64 Highroof panel van, which he had driven in fron New Mexico, Neil Pickett's (the organizer of the event) still-needing-restoration 58 hardtop Deluxe, a couple double door panel vans, and various different representatives of the camper conversions available in the 60's.
    Saturday was the big caravan. Driving the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is always beautiful, especially without a cloud in the sky. You can always see the winding road ahead and behind, framed by the deep forests of the Mount Pisgah National Park. The only thing that could possibly make the view any better is to see that road filled with busses! I was awestruck by the sight of 40 or so busses, snaking along the winding road. We stopped for a few photo opportunities, and several folks were videotaping while standing up in their sunroof deluxes.
    Back at the campground, there was more socializing to be done. Since Neil was handling the cooking, he was also in charge of the food. Since he hadn't gotten there yet, we had no food. However, thanks to Stefan, also known as "Mister Camping", as well as Eric, and other kind folks, we were never without a delicious meal.
    Saturday night was the awards campfire, for all the prizes including the long distance award, best bus, most in need of restoration, and such. After the awards, folks stayed about the campfire and talked, while the sounds of the potato gun could be heard keeping us safe from bears and aliens and such.
    Sunday morning was the BIG photo shoot. We all drove to a scenic overlook, and packed the busses in. Splits on one side, late models and Vanagons on the other. This was truly an inspiring sight. Alas, as we did not have a camera, we took no pictures, so if anybody has any, I'd love to get a copy or something. Actually, I think the NEATO chapter is going to sell copies eventually.
    After that, everyone began to head home. As our second half STILL hadn't arrived, we sat around and waited while everyone else drifted away. One of the NEATO crew had broken a throwout bearing arm, so they tore into that, in what I must say was one of the quickest engine pulls I've seen. Little did I know that we, too, would get to be that quick after a while.
    Finally, around dinner time, Nicole and her busload of friends showed up. We decided to stay another night, and make a day of it the next day, with a fresh start for Alabama.

    I reckon that's probably enough for one sitting, so tune in next week for Volume II - "Hippies descend on Uncle Joel", or "Starting a trend of removing engines in our host's driveway", or better yet "Go west, young bus, go west"