In what is becoming something of a pattern, last night we experienced another stunning sunset arrival into an extremely photogenic national park.
Truth be told, it was more of a dusk arrival, a bit later than we had hoped or anticipated, but stunning nonetheless.
We would have arrived earlier, but are still learning to deal with the quirks of traveling in a school bus. While modern technology and navigational equipment is hugely helpful for keeping ignorant adventurers on route, google’s usually reliable estimation of travel-time seems to have been calibrated for vehicles with adequate horsepower to climb a hill without overheating. While there are many benefits, I will openly admit that converting a school bus instead of a coach bus or proper motor home comes along with a few disadvantages, like having short ceilings and and an underpowered engine. My particular bus has a 185hp engine, which is just fine for ambling around residential Minnesotan roads with a handful of school children. It is, however, woefully underpowered for hauling thousands of pounds of plywood up a mountain. There were a number of switchback turns that warned us to slow down below 40mph. Which is comical when you’re traveling 25. The caravan of vehicles that piled up behind us was certainly none too pleased with the speed we were reducing them too, and I’m sure standing in the back door and taking pictures of the pileup didn’t help.
After a few short pitstops to let the engine cool down and allow patient motorists to pass, we finally made it to a plateau. We were more than an hour behind schedule, along a route that should only have taken an hour to traverse. The emotions climbing those mountains were nothing short of intense. In one moment we were desperately pleading the engine to continue carrying us forward along a steep stretch, and the next we were yelling with excitement at a vista (yelling mainly because we didn’t know how else to express the mostly-natural high). The best seat in the house during these moments is, as usual, from the top of the bus. I’ve ridden in a number of convertibles, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like having the top half of my torso stick out of the skylight, 360 degrees of vision, wind rushing through much more than my hair, experiencing a sun-splashed canyon unfold around the cliff-side bend.
So, the bus is slow. But at what cost? An extra hour in the mountains? It’s a compromise. Like everything else about the bus. The bus strikes a balance between affordability, livability, mobility, and a handful of other -ilities. It’s a jack of all trades. Although “jack” may actually be overstating it. The question seems to be whether the trade-offs are worth it. As a road-trip vehicle, absolutely. As a living space… I don’t know. There are a lot of conveniences normally associated with modern life that aren’t terribly fleshed out. An as-of-yet unused porta-potty can’t quite compare with a flushing toilet. A foot-pump sink in the kitchen is no match for flowing water. A cooler is a pitiful replacement for a fridge. Shower? We don’t need no stinkin’ shower. (But really, we could use a shower right now.) All of these systems and conveniences are entirely plausible upgrades for the bus, and many of them are planned for the not-terribly distant future. But each one comes at a cost. Flowing water, flushing toilets, and showers consume large amounts of water requiring large tanks, which require driving the bus to a designated location for frequent filling and dumping. If the bus were parked permanently on a piece of land, we could potentially hook up to ground water and a septic system, but that comes at the cost of mobility… Everything is a compromise.
At the moment however, the compromise is worth it.