Day 19: Anything but Vegas

I woke up the next morning on the bus to the sound of Hannah’s return. (what? didn’t you guys get a hotel room? Yes. Yes we did.) Considering I didn’t even get back to the bus until after sunrise, by the time I woke up the sun had already been cooking me for a number of hours. Even with all the windows down the bus had become like a sauna, in the same way that a car with a dog locked in it with the windows up on a hot summer day is like a sauna. It was a death sauna.

I was more than a little disoriented, a bit irritable, and sweating like an Italian.

I was instantly resentful that I had been awoken into this wholly unpleasant situation. Fortunately Hannah knew just what to say to avoid my unjustified wrath. Before I could so much as roll over she blurted out: “I brought you a bacon sandwich (marry me?), and an orange juice. I’m leaving now to run some errands. You can go back to sleep if you’d like, but remember they have air conditioning and cold showers up in the room. Bye!”

Any lesser statement might have drawn a harsher reaction than the pathetic whiny groan that I uttered, but it seemed Hannah had become my patron saint of rough mornings. Where I found such tolerant and nurturing friends I have no idea, but goodness I’m grateful. After everyone had a chance to step in the shower in an attempt to wash Vegas off of their bodies and out of their minds, we piled into the bus to start our trek east towards Zion National Park. The relief that had been provided by a cold shower ended the second we left the hotel. I cannot overstate the oppression of the Las Vegas heat. I am convinced that Las Vegas is the worst city on Earth. I had never been there before, and I don’t plan on going back anytime soon.

We still can't figure out what was going on here...

We still can’t figure out what was going on here…

Flying down the highway at 50mph did little to cool our kittens. You’d think all the airflow through the bus windows would help, but you’d be wrong. Rather than the soothing cooling effect of a fan it felt like you were trying to cool yourself with a hair dryer. In the midst of this will-to-live crushing heat Justin captured a rather unflattering photo of my pale shirtless body laying on the floor of the bus sleeping with my arms above my head, and two cold gallons of water from the gas station tucked between my shoulders and my neck. I have so far been unable to delete this photo from his phone, and judging by his rigorous back-up regimen I’m sure it’s already too late. (edit: god damnit, Justin.)

Attempting to deal with the oppressive heat.

Attempting to deal with the oppressive heat.

As the hours slowly passed the surrounding atmosphere began to cool to tolerable levels, due partly to a nearby storm, and partly due to our acceptable distance from that pit of a city that shall never be named again. In the mid-afternoon we stopped for gas and refreshments. Stopping at a gas station for refreshments when you’re thirsty and dehydrated is like shopping at the grocery store when you’re hungry, but more disgusting. Sam, Hannah, Lacy, and I became hypnotized by the slushy machine and its syrupy offerings. Sam and I were foolish enough to grab the largest cups available and fill them with sure-fire diabetes, Lacy and Hannah were a bit more reasonable with their small cups, but Justin and Ethan were the only ones sensible enough to forego this misadventure altogether. The first sip was followed immediately by regret. Even now, recalling this experience is causing me to salivate uncomfortably and hover on the edge of vomiting like a cat who ate too much hair. Most of us gave up, but Sam heroically finished his slushy, if only to punish himself for such misguided purchase.

The bus traveling through Zion.

The bus traveling through Zion.

Shortly after our stop we arrived at Zion Canyon, which was packed full of the types of scenic vistas the bus trip has become known for. The canyons wrapping 360 degrees around the vehicle are experienced through the hatch in a way no other vehicle can fully provide. When we arrived at a tunnel cut deep into the canyon walls, everything came to a halt as traffic came under control of the park staff. Due to the narrow nature of the tunnel traffic was no longer allowed to travel both directions, so we sat in queue, waiting almost ten minutes for our chance to pass.

Sam looking up at the massive walls of Zion.

Sam looking up at the massive walls of Zion.

Apparently the bus was too big to travel with the rest of the vehicles, and we were asked to hold back for a few more minutes. When we finally got the go ahead, we were giving instructions to drive down the middle of the tunnel to avoid the sloping walls from clipping our roof. This resulted in one of the most exhilarating skylight rides yet. Flying down the pitch black tunnel, lit only by our dim headlights, we screamed at the darkness just to giggle at our own echoes.

Let's stay in the middle of the road, shall we?

Let’s stay in the middle of the road, shall we?

We’re pretty sure the ceiling was high enough not to be an issue, but we didn’t reach our hands up to test it. This joyride was punctuated by brief, blinding moments of daylight where the tunnel momentarily punctured the canyon wall giving stunning yet fleeting views of the rocky canyon we were flying through. Things were looking up.

A view out from in the tunnel - blink and you'd miss it.

A view out from in the tunnel – blink and you’d miss it.

Shortly before we arrived at our camp for the night, as we rolled into a small-town gas station at dusk, we found the day’s silver lining.
While the gas pump quietly chugged diesel into our tank, we enjoyed the faint sounds of classical piano music being played through the gas stations speakers.

Wait a minute. Is that old guy playing a piano?

An unexpected treat near Bryce.

An unexpected treat near Bryce.

Sure enough, up against the rustic cedar facade of the gas station, dropped next to the ice box, underneath the buzz of a fluorescent light was a zebra-striped upright piano, and an elderly gentleman sitting alone at the bench, twinkling a tune he probably learned as a child. By the time we parked the bus and and the rest of us made our way to the black and white upright, he had finished his performance and shuffled off. We were a bit sorry that we only caught the end of this event, but Ethan was more than happy to take this opportunity to stretch his hands and treat himself to some time in front of the keys. While the bus is on the road, Ethan spends his time either napping or playing music. (Any exception to this would probably involve snacking.) His favorite new toy for the trip was a mini-keyboard that allowed him to play physical keys while composing on his ipad, but with hands large enough to play octaves at rest, a mini-keyboard can be a little claustrophobic. Like a hot shower or a home-cooked meal this unexpected upright was a refreshing taste of home for Ethan. As usual he was kind enough to let others join in on the fun, playing “April, come she will”, an old Simon and Garfunkel tune that I could sing along to, while Sam watched Ethan’s hands and quietly filled in a harmony a few octaves above. Our friends sat quietly beside us to enjoy the moment, and few patrons stopped to let us serenade them. When the tune was over, I felt like I could take full breaths again. I had let my life become incredibly hectic and unnecessarily stressful for the last few days, and once again Ethan helped me establish a bit of peace. It would probably do my heart good to see him more than twice a year.

The campsite that night had electrical hookup, private showers, and even washing machines (which weren’t actually utilized, but having the option was nice). We slept soundly, reassured that we were getting a full charge and a fresh, clean start.

Star-gazing through the skylight hatch.

Star-gazing through the skylight hatch.

After experiencing a bit of tension and stress while traveling with only three people on the bus, I had serious concerns about life with six riders. I was genuinely worried that space would be cramped, personalities would clash, and we’d be trapped for a week and a half in tense, sweaty tin-can. My concerns couldn’t have been more misplaced. If anything our party of six worked more fluidly than our small crew of three. We survived what could have been a miserable day and turned it into a memorable experience. From a practical standpoint, everyone understood that the close quarters required more diligence to maintain, and we ran a tight ship. With everyone stepping in regularly to assume duties and responsibilities, we never allowed ourselves to get burnt out or behind on chores. This would of course been impossible if we didn’t also have such a collaborative blend of personalities. We fed off of each others energies, played into each others jokes, and let ourselves become a micro-community. We recognized that this trip was special. We were living a dream that many people envied, and we were incredibly grateful.

If anything, we were worried that we had now set the bar too high. Bus life is the shit.

Sunset near Bryce Canyon.

Sunset near Bryce Canyon.

33 Responses to Day 19: Anything but Vegas

  1. jan

    And then what happened?

  2. Brian

    I love your pics! We have had some good times in the Vegas area too when we roll through there in our RV. I thought we might have a chance to cross paths but you are on a pretty wicked pace while we have been tooling around the Nor Cal area for the last month or so.

    Safe travels and enjoy the ride!

  3. Ty

    Rolled through my hometown in St. George, Utah there! “It’s a dry heat,” they say. Glad you had fun in Zion. I’ve stopped and turned off my car in the middle of that tunnel in the middle of the night, and never been surrounded by such complete darkness and silence in my entire life. Pretty cool! Enjoy the rest of your time in Utah, and keep the updates coming.

  4. pinellimarrafinecaterers.com

    This is the second blog post, of yours I really read.
    Yet I like this one, “Day 19: Anything but Vegas | Hank
    Bought A Bus” the very best. Thanks -Maribel

  5. Sk Jeong

    Here is Korea and I am Korean.
    I just searched “Travel across the US” in Korean and I found this awesome blog.
    Now It is 8 : 40 in the morning and I can happily start my day today.
    One day I also want to travel like you.
    Thanks for sharing this fantastic journey.

  6. Mark Van Norman

    Like the (high quality!) map a LOT. Also like the spectacular view of the sky at night and the archetectonic walls of the canyon, plus the fact that there were people there who cared enough about the tunnel and opur bus to make sure the two did not intersect. Vegas can be grim, but it DOES have the M&M store where you can get a giant batch, all in your favorite color!

  7. Joao

    You rock dude ! That’s really awesome, thank you for sharing your experiences ! What a great project, great life experience ! So inspiring, one day i will be brave enough to do this ! Make it world wide, man keep it awesome !

    Big hug from Joao

    Brazil, Rio de Janeiro

  8. Justinn Parkinson

    Loved this blog post it’s very captivating. I remember another commenter before mentioned going to Montreal, if you ever decided to go through Canada make sure you hit out west from Alberta through British Columbia for some awesome and majestic scenery.

  9. Justinn Parkinson

    Loved this blog post it’s very captivating. I remember another commenter before mentioned going to Montreal, if you ever decided to go through Canada make sure you hit out West from Alberta through British Columbia for some awesome and majestic scenery. Out East also have amazing shores and people)

  10. Mike

    Hey guys – I love following your trip through such a great blog.

    Justin – such amazing photos. As a photographer who is always striving to get better shots, I’m grateful that you share your EXIF data (not many would).

    I’d love to read some about how your favourite shots are taken (ie choice of lenses, any post production etc.) if you would divulge.

    Safe travels guys!
    Mike (UK)

  11. Ashley Rose

    HANK, YOU GLORIOUS HUMAN.

    I just bought a 14′ trailer for fifty.dollars. I am still freaking out about it. It’s going to need to be completely gutted and renovated, but I’m more than stoked for the adventure. I plan on traveling the country in it when I’m finished, documenting the shenanigans as I go. You’re an inspiration.

    Keep on, keeping on, homie.

    – ashley rose.

    • Gianella

      where does one buy a $14 trailer????

  12. david moon

    You have a wonderful trip and I was jealous.
    I’d love to one day travel across the United States.
    End well hope you leave with good memories.
    -from Seoul, South Korea

  13. Juan

    What a great concept an blog. If you ever travel in Florida, don’t forget us, my partner and 4 kids would love to run the bus! 🙂

  14. Jonathan T

    3 words:
    Joy
    Peace
    and a Piano
    ••••
    Truly some of the most amazing pics
    ••••
    Safe life Travels
    J TELFER

  15. Mavis

    I absolutely love your project!

  16. Antony

    Nothing for a few days hope the bus is still running.

  17. Mo

    Love the shot of the stars through the skylight hatch. Like looking out at space from the space station. Love the journey!!!

  18. Mo

    You’re 3 weeks behind in posting and people here are wondering whats happening. Did you get stuck in a tunnel in Utah? Come on……post an update!!!

  19. Bec

    Never been to Vegas. Never been to the US. But we’ve just bought a bus, currently fitting it out, plotting our around-Australia route … and are absolutely loving your journey. Thank you!

  20. Ryan

    I’m pretty sure you guys filled up in Moab while we were getting gas. Cool project.

  21. Linda Sand

    Been almost a month since your last post. Are you alive and well? Did you make it back to Mpls?

  22. Alice

    Looking forward to hearing more about the trip–hope all is well!

  23. Scott Cowden

    It’s been almost a month…..wazzup wi’ dat??? You guys drive off a cliff or something? (Just kidding, but still….)

  24. Gianella

    I feel so jealous. I’ve never been out of Virginia and my dream is to go on a cross country trip through route 66 but my problem is money aha.

  25. AngelKein of Malaysia

    “Living a dream that many people envied” is right. Your pictures are fantastic and I’d hope to one day (soon, in 3 years time maybe, just to set a confined time goal for myself) to go on a massive road-trip through Europe in a van or bus or something, though it would probably not be as fancy as your bus.

    Thanks for sharing, but why haven’t you update for so long!
    🙁

  26. Alice

    I know we’ve never met, friend, but I worry about you.

  27. Anastasia

    I am so jealous of all your amazing adventures!
    x

  28. Joha

    Only one word:
    AWESOME!
    Good luck guys.

  29. Trudi Burner

    Lovin’ the story thus far…..but what happened after – Anything but Vegas???? Have you guys disappeared?? I want to know the “rest of the story”!!! Kudos and safe travels!

  30. Andrew

    It’s been a really long time since your last update, hope you guys are okay, were all puling for you on this end 🙂

  31. Janey

    Your hot and sweaty (and if I may say, rather sexy) shot reminded me totally of a trip I did with my parents and 3 younger siblings crossing the upper states some 20 years ago. The 6 of us traveling in a van that only had 2 windows that opened (two front ones) in the scorching heat. No A/C of course. Us kids putting towels in the cooler full of ice and water and laying them over our bodies in attempt to keep cool…

  32. Antony

    AHHHHH, I’m stuck in Zion. Please crank it up and let’s get on the road again.

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