I'm glad you've got your popcorn ready... Here we go!
There is also a photo album of the adventure. For whatever reason they're in reverse order. Follow along!
Pickup Copilot in Worcester. I live near New Bedford, MA.
Rent a cheap car from Hertz. It's a hilarious Chevy Spark.
Blitz the 600mi down to Virginia. The nickname "Zhu-li" (from Legend of Korra) for the co-pilot, whoever it may be at the time, becomes a thing. This will end up written on the bus' 2nd seat eventually.
We have the car for 24 hrs so we sleep in the car, blasting the heat on every 2 hours to stay warm.
We get picked up by Jerry, a bumbly old trucker who's the vendor of the bus.
The Crown and I get acquainted with the help of Jerry. Apparently the thing has to be started from the outside/ the undercarriage...
He takes me for a spin around the lot and on the nearby long straight road. I buy a full tank of diesel (80 gals worth, there was 20gals already there) and a gallon jug of Lucas Oil Stabilizer. We add the engine-honey to the the 1/11 gals of remaining engine oil.
Next thing I know I'm in the driver's: seat upshifting, downshifting, double clutching, starting stopping... or learning to anyways. This isn't the first time I've driven stick but I was in my mid-teens when I learned and never had a vehicle to practice with since. UNTIL NOW! Fun times!
We bolt in one of the two pilot's seats, exchange money, get the paperwork signed off and voila! My bad idea is official.
It's 4pm. Before Jerry leaves he tells me that the tires are a bit old, and that the steering tie rods may need attention but that he wouldn't be shy of taking the ol' girl cross country again with nothing but n oil change.
Mere minutes after Jerry leaves does the troubles and tribulations begin.
I choose to drive the bus around the lot some more, get more experience, especially with those wide turns and changing gears. It's a little bumpy and I see Katie AKA Zhu-li bouncing around in the seat we just bolted down, laughing, laughing, gesticulating, yelling, and shortly thereafter sprawling on the floor along with the seat. It had ripped itself out, and bent its foot. We laughed, but it was a sign of things to come.
We threw it in the back of the bus and spent the next half hour painstakingly bolting the other seat in a different hole-pattern more securely. Because of angle brackets this meant wrenching the bolts one 6th of a turn at a time. Yeesh. It was around now that the name Blunderbus started to sink in.
We then met Indian, the truck lot security guard. He gave a few more pointers on driving (and unlocked the bathroom). Jerry told us to double clutch. Indian said that was schoolbus-school bologna and that regular clutching was usually fine (remember to rev engine on downshift though).
<HEY SKOOLIES! WHAT'S YOUR RATIONAL REGARDING DOUBLE CLUTCHING OR NOT? One day I'll learn to float gears which I understand is superior. I need a better feel for my engineXtransmission. Is there a doc I can look up for that?>
Dusk starts to set in and we hit the road. Next planned stop: Bryn Mawr Pennsylvanian! Next actual stop: West Virgian highway shoulder!
A light 2 minute sprinkle allows me to test the windshield wipers. Only one turns on but it's the driver's side so we're good. Except not because A) it's only wiping 1/3 of the area it's supposed to, poorly at that, and lower that where my point of view is, and B ) after a minute the tie rod pops out and the wiper flails violently across the windshield until it eventually jams itself. It stops raining.
Maybe an hour into the drive: what's this? power drop? *slows down* (20 seconds go by) what's this? MASSIVE BANGING SOUND?! must be one of the outside sideflaps or the boot that opened itself and is catching the wind *pulls over*there is a piece of rubber at the door* "HA! That can't be mine! The tires (on this side) are fiiine" *checking flaps*go around the corner* weeeellllll shiieeeet
The two port-aft tires blew. The banging was rubber against the wheel well.
Call AAA cos I'm a member. Get transferred 5 times "closer roadside assistance centers". When they finally hear me out, they can't help. I'm not covered for 'RV' roadside assistance. In retrospect I shoulda known, I wish it didn't take an hour to simply find out.
GOOGLEMAPS TO THE RESCUE! Called a local tire shop, who referred me to a local truck garage who referred me to a local truck tire place with roadside assistance. This took less than a half hour.
While waiting I fix the windshield wpier tie-rod with with some duct tape. I find that the wiper itself has no rubber left on it whatsoever. A lil duct tape to the rescue. Hopefully I won't need it.
An hour later appears MARIO the tire-guy. This guy was out with his wife when the call came in and despite that he was a barrel of laughs. Simply awesome guy. His wife tagged along too, later Katie and she went to Walmart together.
A scant foot from roaring highway traffic, SuperMario extracted the rims from the rubbery carnage. Katie and I took turns holding the flashlight AKA my cell phone for him. It was the beginning of my intimacy with the Blunderbus' undercarriage. Fortunately I pulled over soon enough and the rims were fine.
With two tires changed I trundled to the next exit and parked at the local walmart to complete repairs. We changed the other pair of rear tires but couldn't to the front two, SuperMario only had five 22R12.5s in stock. We would have needed 6.
We bid our adieuxs, I stomached the $1700 charge which I was expecting to have to to eventually anyways (just not so soon hah) and gave Mario a $100 tip. The man deserved it. I deserved a meatball sub. It was delicious.
At about midnight we reached our destination for the day, showered, and slept very very soundly.
My friends' house was very comfortable. We prolly stayed too long and left around noon. Neighbors could now see what had probably loudly woken them up the night prior hehe. The late return actually favorable because the prior evening there was lots of black ice and accidents around Philly. At midnight the roads were clear.
The GPS directed us under a local low-bridge. With Zhu-li outside the bus eyeballing the roof I inched through the trough under the bridge. I heard the antennae twang against its underside. This is were I learned my height limit.
Less than an hour into the trip. BLAMO! Another tire blowout! This time on a busy on-ramp right after tolls. Fortunately there was enough shoulder that we didn't obstruct traffic. We could see the looks of people on the opposite off-ramp. They're expressions were fun to watch.
We dance the dance of call referrals. Art to the rescue! In retrospect I should have specified to bring two replacement tires. In retrospect I also should have gone straight to a tire garage that morning instead of hoping the bus could make the remaining 5 hours trip back *sigh*.
Art changed one tire and we followed him back to his tire garage. This was a lot of town-driving and was new to me.
We came across a stoplight that I **** you not gave you 10 seconds of green tops. The bus (with my skills) takes like 5 seconds to cross.
Next thing I know there's a rave party on my bum.
ITS THE FUZZ
Parked at an intersection of another light, I am interogatted. Apparently I went through a redlight. Office Ryan board the bus (I push the button that opens the air door for him which in my mind is hilarious, I feel like ask him for his bus ticket, but I've enacted on enough bad ideas for the day) and asks the usual: ID and registration. I hand him ID and the title + bill of sails, explain that I recently bought the thing.
At this point he notices katie out of the corner of his eye blending into the pilots seat. He slowly turns his head and utters, "that thing got a seatbelt?" Katie does one of those point at the crotch taunt
like things, only slower, the silvery buckle clearly visible. Without a word, he slowly swivels his attention back at me.
He asks for the VIN, I show the 5 digits on the title and get a "Dude, this isn't a VIN". He seems huffy, arguing is pointless. I point to the vehicle placard thing <real name> and sure enough embosed in the metal plate is the 5 digit VIN.
He walks in further, to the back of the bus where some junk is. "What's that!" That's my backpack officer. "What's all this!" Junk, officer. "Is there anything in here that shouldn't be?" .... That's a pointless questions officer (I don't say), the answer regardless of truth will always be no. Instead: "No officer! No drugs, no weapons, no aliens, orphans or no organs" (I may be embellishing a bit, I know not to be fresh with an on-duty law-man)
Finally he gets off, says I'll receive something in the mail, and that's that. I give the thumbs up to Art and we make it to the tire garage. (There was also this massive hill that we braved, stuck her in low and up we go!)
We get our final tire and under the table Art gives adds a pack of these little beads between (I think) the rim and the tire which will supposedly help dynamically balance the tires. Whatever it was, Blunderbuss did handle better after that.
We Katie and I take this opportune pause to have a diner dinner. Yum.
And off we go into the night! We bust out of PA, we punch through NJ, we avoid NYC like the plague, and enter CT at midnight *dumDumDUM!*