Day 5: An early start

Bison could not care less about holding up traffic.

Bison could not care less about holding up traffic.

I would first like to apologize to all of the campers of Bridge Bay, Loop 3. I did not mean to do that.

When you’re traveling in a school bus, not only does your awkward size attract strange looks (and a couple of cheers), it also limits your ability to travel and find parking. We asked a number of campers, including Kevin the critter-photographer, where we should visit during our single full-day in Yellowstone. As soon as we mentioned the school bus, they usually responded with that wincing inhaled-hiss that lets you know, “Oooo, that’s not gonna happen.”  Justin and I welcomed that news, and spent the day lounging around the campground, catching up sleep that we weren’t actually missing. We made a pact that we were allowed to be lazy for the day, if we agreed to get up early and be productive the next.

Justin set his alarm for 6AM, and by half after, he had managed to pry me off the bed (and then the couch) and we were ready to go. Starting up a diesel engine before 7AM made me a bit apprehensive, but quiet hours were technically over, and we had to get on the road.

Now, the bus has been surprisingly reliable despite it’s age. It started effortlessly at the beginning of the summer after sitting completely unused for four long, mostly-winter months. The only time it’s ever been difficult to start was in the dead of winter, when the engine was too cold. Being that it’s the middle of summer, this was not a concern of mine. What I was neglecting to consider, of course, was that we were camping above 8,000ft, and the temperature drops precipitously when the sun isn’t out. When I went to start the bus this morning, temperatures were hovering just above freezing.

Early morning light enveloping the bus.

Early morning light enveloping the bus.


This went on for at least three painfully loud minutes. People were beginning to climb out of their tents to stare at the unreasonably loud idiots who insisted on cranking an engine that refused to start.

As if that wasn’t enough, Justin brought my attention to the rear of the bus, where a plume of oily smoke was literally blocking my view of anything behind the bus.

As soon as the engine caught, we scurried out of the campground, tail between our legs, the oily cloud of shame still hanging in the air. Again, to the campers of Bridge Bay Loop 3, my sincerest apologies. I did not mean to do that.

Artist Point.

Artist Point.

Finally on our way, we were determined to see the best of Yellowstone in the handful we had allotted. First on the list was to see Old Faithful.

After an hour’s wait with a few-hundred other tourists, the geyser spit up a bit of hot water, which was entirely invisible behind the shroud of steam. We were underwhelmed, and I could tell from the tired and frustrated look in his eye that Justin was considering walking out to the geyser with his mug so he could make some hot coffee and call it a wash.

Old Faithful.

Old Faithful.

We both agreed that it had been necessary to visit, and we could now check it off our bucket list.

Disappointed by Old Faithful : Check.

This was somewhat thematic for the rest of the day. The designated hot-spots were a bit underwhelming. For us, the best bits of the park were to be found away from the parking lots, on the open road.

Striking a pose.

Striking a pose.

23 Responses to Day 5: An early start

  1. Gene

    Ah – the joys of starting a diesel in near-freezing temperatures! I’ve learned it the hard way… and it’s not really the engine that is being cold but the diesel fuel which jellies around the 30 degree mark (hence the engine block warmers which keep it nice and liquid).

    Next time you guys are unable to start it, grab a butane torch and run it across the fuel lines and gas tank (assuming the lines are metal) without keeping it in one place too long… She’ll start like a champ!

    • Hank Butitta

      We’ll have to try that next time, because it was horribly embarassing… Thanks!

  2. Tammy

    Enjoying your travels,that is I am enjoying reading about them. Very beautiful photos also.

    • Hank Butitta

      Thanks, Justin does fantastic work!

  3. Jeff

    Hi Guys,
    Cool bus, great that you are doing this trip. There is plenty of time for work later.
    I converted a bus many moons ago, around 1975. The one thing that we did not have on board and should have was a co2 monitor.
    If you do not have one on the bus please stop at the next hardware store and buy one. If you are strapped for cash I will send you the funds.

    • Hank Butitta

      Now that we’ve added a cooktop, that’s a great idea. Who knows what’s seeping up from that exhaust system…

      • Mike

        I completely second that notion. Do not go another day without one.

  4. Mary Jo

    Ohhh, I’m so envious of your travels! I made that route also in 1986, ending up in Bozeman. Frankly, I was also underwhelmed by Old Faithful AND Mount Rushmore. Both major letdowns. I did get excited by the Tetons and a side trip to the Lewis & Clark Caverns (somewhere in that vincinity). I LOVE your blog…oh to be young again 🙂

    • Hank Butitta

      The scripted spots are too sanitized, and overhyped, I love all the discoveries along the way!

  5. Suzy

    Do you ever have a hard time finding a place to stop for the night? I’ve always wanted to do a bus conversion and do exactly what you are doing, but I was discouraged when I noticed in a Camp USA campground catalog that a lot of the campgrounds didn’t allow bus conversions.

    • Hank Butitta

      Sometimes we have to scurry around a bit to find a spot, but for being on the road three weeks, we’ve had surprisingly little trouble! We haven’t had any campgrounds complain, but we also tend to show up late and don’t usually find the need to tell them it was once a bus…

  6. Nimi

    Hey guys,
    just started reading this blog. That’s awesome ya’ll are doing this. Living the dream of many of us… the hot coffee at geyser is hilarious…lol

  7. Philip Schulte

    Pick up a can of starting fluid, the next time you’re near an auto parts store, for those cold mornings.
    While one person is “cranking” the engine, the other can give a couple of SHORT squirts of the starting fluid, into the inlet of the air filter housing. It is OK to spray the starting fluid directly onto the air filter. The engine may “clatter” for a bit but that will clear out shortly. DO NOT spray the fluid directly into the engine and DO NOT spray a lot into the air cleaner housing.

    • VLLasher

      Philip, I drive a school bus, and that’s how the mechanics get most of them going on a cold morning. Although some of the older ones need to be plugged in over night.

      I just found this blog on day 12 and am reading through all the comments. I wanted to do something like this when My kids were young; but could never get my husband to agree to do it. I still think about doing it sometime; but I guess I’d have to leave him home and go alone.

  8. Dyani

    Its funny. Old faithful looks like a tree from alice in wonderland(ace of spades) eating a man. =)

  9. TWelld

    Hank. I am close to 70 and for so many of my prior years I had dreamed about being a nomad and just travelling around the states. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I saw on the news that you bought a bus
    and decided to check it out. WOW! I couldn’t believe how great it looks and how functionally sound, for
    most part, it really is. Enjoy your trip and I will be reading your escapades of your trip. God Bless.

  10. Erik T.

    Just reading this great blog and seeing the marvelous pictures makes me envy you, guys.
    Hope and trust you will have a great and safe travel further on.

  11. Anthony

    This is so great!
    I’m watching with great anticipation!
    Good luck on your journey.

  12. Nic Scogna

    Parking is remedied by big corporate stores..
    Most walmart parking lots will let you park overnight(or 3 nights)
    Also learn a lesson from those that live on the road. At the next truck stop pick up a small booklet on the location of all the truck stops in america.
    At the larger stops showers are $10 or under. Alternatively you can get a gym membership for $20 at LA fitness and utilize the showers anywhere they are located while keeping your muscles happy:-)

  13. Chad

    That’d be Bridge Bay, Loop C and we did a similar thing (starting an obnoxious, loud diesel at an unreasonable hour) just a week later on Loop B. I’m sorry that you were disappointed by Old Faithful, she was spectacular for one of the two eruptions I was able to watch with my 6 year-old daughter and we had a great time in Yellowstone. Good luck on your travels, so far it’s been an entertaining read.

    • Hank Butitta

      Glad I’m not the only one!

  14. Patti Shannon

    I just want to say “COOL”! I am a very young 90lbs 60 yr. old, and you have done what I have been wanting to do for a very long time. I’m a “left-over Hippie”, ha ha ., It’s just my dog & I, my only child, a daughter lives in L.A.. SOOOO, it’s just ..that I need to do a few things while I feel I can, all of my family has passed from every morning I am so thankful for another day. I lost my house with only 5 years left on being paid off, oh well, life goes on ! I am alive ! I just want to tell you….”YOU ARE MY HERO..LIVING MY DREAM “, PLEASE….enjoy every moment. Thank you, you made me smile. your friend, sparrowhawkpatti

  15. Christina Papadosifaki

    Enjoy the Trip!

Leave a Reply