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Old 03-05-2018, 07:28 PM   #1
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The Journey Home

Well I thought I would grab a couple of highlights of my journey home. Might be useful to some new people, and maybe a chuckle at my expense from the experienced people.

Flew into Seattle Friday afternoon, after rebooking my business return flight ticket (lucky break, the ticket essentially cost me nothing).
I brought a bunch of hand tools just in case, a portable propane heater, and a set of massive jumper cables I had sitting around. Basically 2 x 48lb bags to keep them free.

Picked up my bus, a 30 foot 95 Amtrans Genesis with wheelchair lift that was not too far from the SEATAC airport. The bus manager was helpful, but not extremely so. He thought my idea of pulling a few seats before driving it home was probably not going to work if I was pulled over, but it wasn't his problem so he didn't make a big deal of it.

I couldn't really take the entire seat out by myself as the nuts under the bus turned too easily, so I took the seat cushions off to try to at least look like it wasn't a passenger bus (since I didn't have a class B, or passenger endorsement, or a air brake endorsement). The district was nice enough to take the 'school' stuff off and they did it nicely so no big black spray paint on the side.

So I set off in basically downtown Seattle late on a friday afternoon. Which anyone who has experienced Seattle rush hour traffic can appreciate that I seriously doubted how rational I was for buying this bus and thinking I could drive it home with no problems as I was stuck in all that traffic.

I think I had been lulled into thinking this wasn't really winter since I haven't had much of a winter in CO this year, but Snoqualimie pass over the cascades was snowing, and was expecting 12-15 inches of snow and I assumed it would either go to chains required or possibly closed, so I decided to divert to Portland and take 84 across thinking that the Columbia river gorge would avoid any of the mountain passes. I was partially wrong on that, since I have never driven 84 before, there actually is a mountain pass there, and by the time I got there it was chains required, and of course I had no chains. While I am not sure how OR deals with it, but in Colorado I know it is a $500 fine if you are caught without chains, and $1k caught without chains and you got stuck or had an accident. So I was sweating bullets driving my FE transit bus over a long mountain pass that was chains required. I technically had sanders on the bus (which doesn't qualify in OR), but I hadn't checked to see if there was any sand in them before I was already up on the pass. I actually came through fine even though it was snowing like mad and there was alot of packed snow on the ground. Although I did feel like I was about to have a heart attack from the stress of not wanting to goof this up. I think if I had to physically stop up there because of an accident or jackknifed semi or something, I think I might have been in trouble from a traction stand point. And if I had gotten a ticket, I probably would have gotten one for not having the correct license either. So moral of this story is, don't underestimate winter, don't try to cross mountains without chains.

From there I made my way to Boise, and the freeway was closed at night due to them working on a bridge, so I ended up stopping earlier than I had hoped for the night.

The next day I would have violated a bunch of commercial driver standards for hours behind the wheel as I needed to get home so I could get to work the next day, and my 3 day trip permit from WA was expiring at midnight. I managed to get home just after midnight, because I was delayed in Wyoming because they had a high profile vehicle closure of the freeway for a huge stretch, and I have personally seen alot of blown over semi's in that stretch so I didn't want to chance it. My backup plan was to check my phone to get more info, but it was not working in that part of Wyoming, so I had to actually break down and TALK to someone local. Which turned out to be a great move because he showed me where the wind would be the worst, and a detour through the middle of nowhere that would avoid most of it. I was nervous about going out in the middle of nowhere, so I took time to actually make sure there was sand in my sanders, which was a bigger pain than I realized at the time. And once I had driven that route, it was completely unnecessary.

I finally made it home, WA, OR, ID, UT, WY, and CO. Passed by a bunch of weight stations, and different states label them differently. In CO they are fairly generic, and feels plausible to not stop (Repeating "I am an RV" in your head to reinforce the idea). Others were very specific, ANY vehicle over 26k lbs GVWR or towing more than 10k lbs. Some even called out Buses specifically. Those made me sweat, but I blew by them and the black swat helicopters didn't come after me, so I guess I was okay.

The bus started and ran well the whole way. Didn't appear to have any specific governer on the DT466, and it could do 70. Although 65 usually felt more comfortable, and multiple places felt more comfortable at even lower speeds.

The AT545 did fine, although I noticed going up the mountain passes it started to warm up, and I downshifted and backed off the throttle and temp stabilized and stayed consistent from that point on.

It was below freezing my whole trip so I didn't try to stay in the bus overnight, although I did stop at walmart and pick up a sleeping bag and air mattress and a bunch of other things just in case I got stuck in the middle of nowhere.

One of the (cheap) hotels I stayed at was remodeling some rooms so there was a big block of parking spaces for me to park across. I left one (barely) in front of me to give me plenty of room to make the turn out of the parking lot... of course I get up in the morning and someone was parked in that spot. There is always that one idiot.

For the most part, on the road, people love to talk school buses, but I was trying to minimize my stop times to get back on the road as quickly as possible, so you have to be careful not to get sucked too deep into conversations if you are in a hurry. Also generally when a big yellow bus puts a turn signal on, people get out of your way. The mirrors on the bus were two flat mirrors on the sides, plus the convex mirrors for front crossers. They all worked well, and you needed to keep an eye on your lane position for the first hour or so till you are use to the bus. There were no blindspots for lane changes as long as the mirrors were adjusted correctly. At night, with dirty mirrors from it snowing and crap coming up off the road, it was very hard at that point to lane change or backup effectively. You had to hope people had thier lights on at that point. so don't forget to clean your mirrors when you stop for fuel.
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Old 03-05-2018, 07:36 PM   #2
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Hey Tigerman,

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Is that a First Students bus?
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Old 03-05-2018, 11:43 PM   #3
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Hey Tigerman,

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Is that a First Students bus?
No its from one of the district in the Seatac area. I think it was the Highline school district. There was a link to it in the non-affiliated buses a few weeks ago. It was a high ceiling mid sized amtran genesis with wheelchair lift in the back. I came in second on the auction, and the winner listed it in the Portland CL immediately for $6500. Then didn't pay or pick it up and I bought it as second place. The non-winning bidder sort of bid me up though, so I got it for my last bid of $3550 bid. I really should set my max, and walk away, but its always so temping, just $50 more and I might win it. The next lowest bid was like $2600, and that would have been a nice price to get it for.

So far I have gotten about 3/4 of the seats out of it, and got it converted to an RV as far as the state is concerned.
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Old 03-06-2018, 01:47 AM   #4
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Highline is known for taking pretty good care of their buses. Just down the road in Federal Way it has been a different story over the years.

I am surprised you found traffic in Seattle that good. Anyone who knows anything about driving the I-5 corridor knows it is a parking lot in and around Seattle and Portland most days between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. On nice days. Without rain. And if it snows you may as well stay home.

I am also surprised you had a problem seeing out of your mirrors. Your bus is new enough that the state spe'c required heated mirrors on at least the rear vision mirrors. The spe'c was later expanded to include the crossover mirrors.

It sounds as if you found yourself a really nice bus.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
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Old 03-06-2018, 10:47 PM   #5
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Highline is known for taking pretty good care of their buses. Just down the road in Federal Way it has been a different story over the years.

I am surprised you found traffic in Seattle that good. Anyone who knows anything about driving the I-5 corridor knows it is a parking lot in and around Seattle and Portland most days between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. On nice days. Without rain. And if it snows you may as well stay home.

I am also surprised you had a problem seeing out of your mirrors. Your bus is new enough that the state spe'c required heated mirrors on at least the rear vision mirrors. The spe'c was later expanded to include the crossover mirrors.

It sounds as if you found yourself a really nice bus.

Good luck and happy trails to you!
Yes I hit the I5 corridor early enough in the afternoon that the traffic was still sort of moving, but everyone was in a hurry to get out of there for the weekend, so traffic was still heavy. I was desperately trying to get out of the worst part before it turned into a complete parking lot (which I have experienced before). Luckily, people seem to move out of the way much more when a big yellow bus turns on a turnsignal, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Considering I hadn't really slept the night before due to trying to finish up work stuff and finalize the insurance and trip permit for the bus , I was very frazzled the first couple of hours, and didn't even get all the way to portland before I decided I would be better off getting a decent night sleep and pushing hard the next day rather than pushing myself hard that first evening when I was worn out.

The mirrors were very effective earlier in the day, but later in the evening the road muck was accumulating on the mirrors and windows from the rain and snow that was occurring while driving. The heated mirrors were a real plus as they started to accumulate some snow till I figured out which switch was heated mirrors. One of the subsequent days I was trying to minimize my fuel stop time and didn't remember to clean my windows and mirrors, and I was kicking myself as I was reentering the freeway. Just a couple extra minutes taking care of your mirrors can really increase your visibility.


The other problems I had that I forgot to mention was that there was no power plug so I could charge my phone (my phone is old and only lasts about half a day with normal use). And the headlights were horrible, and a wet road with light snow and rain made the lights feel pretty feeble. One of the sealed beam bulbs even had condensation on the inside. I stopped at an auto parts store in the morning and bought 2 new silverstar headlamps (which took forever since the parts person didn't know how to look up which square sealed beam was low beam without a reference) (and my phone was dead by this point). I felt a bit stupid later since if you just flip the box over, if it has 3 prongs its a low/high beam, and the smaller sealed beams are the 4 headlight system. I also took the time to install a power plug so I could recharge my phone. That burned several hours that I really needed to be on the road instead, but good visibility and the ability to use google maps was worth it.

Another note, I did use a truck stop for my first fueling. They didn't take credit cards directly at the pump, and you have to do that weird little dance with the slave pump on the opposite side from the main pump, after that I'd usually rather just hit a regular gas station with diesel and good clearance as more convenient.

I found it hard to get a consistent fill, so calculating an MPG on a single tank wasn't even remotely accurate. Especially bad in Oregon due to full service and only getting just under 3/4 of a tank from the attendant.

Very happy to have the bus home now, I hope it will be a good bus for me, but hard to get much time to work on it yet. I really need to take it to the car wash and give it a bath to get all the trip grime off of it, but been a bit too chilly after dark when I am off work lately. Hope to do that tomorrow during lunch. Was happy to get it licensed as an RV almost immediately, but still waiting to see if Insurance drops me at the 3 week mark or not, since the insurance "personal use of a commercial vehicle" doesn't match the title anymore.
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Old 03-21-2018, 11:16 AM   #6
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I was finally getting around to getting the last couple of seats out of my bus last night. As I pulled one of them up, I finally had access to my middle of the bus heater.... except it wasn't a heater like I thought, It was a tool box. Inside the tool box... drum roll..... Tire chains. Which I REALLY could have used on the journey home on that snowy pass where they were required. I guess that is a lesson in don't assume, always check everything closely.

So far while pulling the interior out, the tirechains are my most valuable find. Although I will probably have to pull them out during disassembly as I assume that toolbox is bolted to the floor. Other than that I have found a dime, a nickel, a kids necklace, a kids ring, a spare key that I thought was to my bus (it wasn't), and a detention slip.
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Old 03-21-2018, 12:33 PM   #7
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Hang onto those chains. A set for tires that big are NOT cheap.
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Old 03-22-2018, 02:15 AM   #8
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I think I had been lulled into thinking this wasn't really winter since I haven't had much of a winter in CO this year, but Snoqualimie pass over the cascades was snowing, and was expecting 12-15 inches of snow and I assumed it would either go to chains required or possibly closed, so I decided to divert to Portland and take 84 across thinking that the Columbia river gorge would avoid any of the mountain passes. I was partially wrong on that, since I have never driven 84 before, there actually is a mountain pass there, and by the time I got there it was chains required, and of course I had no chains.
Not what I wanted to read.

I am planning on driving my bus from Las Vegas to Seattle next week. I was planning on heading up to Boise then crossing over to the east coast. I thought I'd also take the I-84 through Oregon to avoid Snoqualmie Pass, as I'm a little nervous driving a bus on snow during my first outing.

I've been checking the road conditions on the webcams and Oregon appeared to be snow free. It is a month later, so I might be in luck?

Any other advice for this route?

- Paul
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Old 03-22-2018, 10:01 AM   #9
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Paul,

I have made that trip many times and, if winter driving conditions are a big concern, I would recommend going I-5.

I am a bit confused though. If you take the route you mentioned through Boise you will continue West not East. Also, in your destination is Seattle then taking I-5 will be the route that avoids Snoqualmie.

Taking the route through Boise, Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington is much more likely to expose you to severe winter conditions than the I-5 route.

I lived in Laughlin and have family in Seattle and Walla Walla. I have made many Christmas trips taking both routes.
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Old 03-22-2018, 10:15 AM   #10
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Paul,

Try Vegas to Reno on 395, then north to Susanville, CA, then 44/89 to I-5 near Mt Shasta. Continue north to Bellingham. The only pass is on the CA/OR border. My $.02.

Gary
Retired truck driver all 48 and Canada.

Edit: Getting old. Should be 95 to Fallon, 50 to 80 to Reno.
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Old 03-22-2018, 11:56 AM   #11
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Not what I wanted to read.

I am planning on driving my bus from Las Vegas to Seattle next week. I was planning on heading up to Boise then crossing over to the east coast. I thought I'd also take the I-84 through Oregon to avoid Snoqualmie Pass, as I'm a little nervous driving a bus on snow during my first outing.

I've been checking the road conditions on the webcams and Oregon appeared to be snow free. It is a month later, so I might be in luck?

Any other advice for this route?

- Paul
There are multiple high areas along the route you mentioned, and you could hit snow anywhere around Boise if the weather turns against you. I think alot of it depends on how flexible your travel plans are. If you can delay your trip (or return trip) if it starts snowing, or are willing to make a massive detour, you will be fine. One of the reasons I never do any of the Spring motorcycle rallys is that I normally COULD make it over the pass near me on the motorcycle on the way there because I know what the weather will be like for the next couple of days, but I would never know if I could make it back till I'm already on the way back, and I don't usually have time to wait out a snow storm on a pass to get home.

Someone above this post mentioned a route through susanville ca, which seems like a reasonable way to avoid most of the bad passes and not add the distance of heading to I5 straight from LV. But I have seen Reno get socked in with a bad storm too, but I think its less likely than Boise.

Around here (Colorado) we get some of our heaviest snows in the fall and spring, and our spring snows are heavy wet snow. Not sure if the weather patterns are the same closer to the coast, but if it does we go from it must be summer already since we have had 70 degrees for weeks, to feeling like you are back in the worst of winter in a single afternoon with a foot of heavy wet snow. The good thing about the spring snows at least where I live is that they are normally melted off in a few days.
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Old 03-22-2018, 12:01 PM   #12
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If you do think you will end up in the mountains during snow, I would highly recommend pre-ordering a set of tire chains. They can be expensive insurance, but not nearly as expensive if you have to buy them at a truck stop right before a pass that is chains required. The amount of stress I had pushing my luck was tremendous, if i had found an easy place to turn around I probably would have and headed back till I found someplace that sold tire chains for semis that would fit. In most states its also a very expensive ticket if you don't have them. For Colorado it is required for all commercial vehicles to carry tire chains going over I70 even if its not snowing.
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Old 03-22-2018, 03:06 PM   #13
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Sounds like a plan. Vegas > Reno > Mt Shasta and onwards it is. Thanks for the advice.

I've grown up and learnt to drive in Australia (and now live in the UK). I've driven large vehicles before, and driven on the right hand side of the road before, but don't really fancy driving a large vehicle (which is new to me), on the right hand side, through snow, whilst trying to navigate areas I don't know.

Taking the snow out of the equation, (and of course GPS) will help me to focus on managing the first two. I have no doubt that 100 miles in, I'll been fine, with nothing to worry about. But let's not make it harder than it needs to be.

And PNW_Steve - you're right - I meant west. Just a reflex to think I'm driving east when heading towards the coast, having grown up in east coast Australia.
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Old 03-22-2018, 03:16 PM   #14
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I have only taken the LV-Reno-Shasta route once and it was pretty good road.

It was, however, a lot of two lane road and I had the misfortune of getting stuck behind slow traffic a number of times. It was definitely shorter distance wise than the LV - Barstow - Bakersfield - I-5 but due to slower travel it took me longer.

I would say that either of the above is a preferable route over the Eastern route that takes you through Boise - Eastern OR - Eastern WA.
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Old 03-22-2018, 03:20 PM   #15
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Man on demand chains would be nice out in those parts.
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Old 03-22-2018, 03:48 PM   #16
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Man on demand chains would be nice out in those parts.
One of the districts in portland just auctioned off a bunch of buses that all had on demand chains, I was jealous.
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Old 03-22-2018, 04:07 PM   #17
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Sounds like a plan. Vegas > Reno > Mt Shasta and onwards it is. Thanks for the advice.

I've grown up and learnt to drive in Australia (and now live in the UK). I've driven large vehicles before, and driven on the right hand side of the road before, but don't really fancy driving a large vehicle (which is new to me), on the right hand side, through snow, whilst trying to navigate areas I don't know.

Taking the snow out of the equation, (and of course GPS) will help me to focus on managing the first two. I have no doubt that 100 miles in, I'll been fine, with nothing to worry about. But let's not make it harder than it needs to be.

And PNW_Steve - you're right - I meant west. Just a reflex to think I'm driving east when heading towards the coast, having grown up in east coast Australia.
I remember picking up my rental car at Heathrow, and feeling a little overwhelmed trying to shift with my left hand, and staying in the correct portion of the lane, and dealing with traffic as I was leaving the airport. I think the favorite quote from my wife as passenger was "Ah a little close over here". With a bus there is less extra room than with a compact car. Speaking of which, my wife original reserved a "Ka" for that trip. I told her it was so small they didn't even have room to put the "R" at the end. I think we moved up one rental level so we could get both ourselves and our luggage in the car.

On the plus side, at least I drive manual transmission anyway, as most American's no longer buy manual transmission cars anymore and they have to pay extra for an automatic rental in the UK and other parts of Europe. Also on the plus side, at least UK drivers know how to navigate a roundabout. There are a couple on my way to work, and the people here still occasionally come to a complete stop in the middle of the roundabout.
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Old 03-23-2018, 02:31 AM   #18
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I remember picking up my rental car at Heathrow, and feeling a little overwhelmed trying to shift with my left hand, and staying in the correct portion of the lane, and dealing with traffic as I was leaving the airport. I think the favorite quote from my wife as passenger was "Ah a little close over here". With a bus there is less extra room than with a compact car.
Probably bias, due to the way I've learnt to drive, but I prefer shifting with my left hand and steering with my right. Being right handed, I prefer to keep my dominant hand on the wheel. Bus is an automatic though, so no worries there.

I've driven many times on the right hand side, in the USA, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, France, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Italy and others. But the first ten minutes in a new vehicle is always hard as you learn about your road position.

Thankfully the roads are generally a little wider in the USA than in Europe. Streets there were built for cars, whilst many roads in Europe (particularly in cities) were pre-car and therefore designed for horses.
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Old 03-23-2018, 03:27 AM   #19
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I remember picking up my rental car at Heathrow, and feeling a little overwhelmed trying to shift with my left hand, and staying in the correct portion of the lane, and dealing with traffic as I was leaving the airport. I think the favorite quote from my wife as passenger was "Ah a little close over here". With a bus there is less extra room than with a compact car. Speaking of which, my wife original reserved a "Ka" for that trip. I told her it was so small they didn't even have room to put the "R" at the end. I think we moved up one rental level so we could get both ourselves and our luggage in the car.

On the plus side, at least I drive manual transmission anyway, as most American's no longer buy manual transmission cars anymore and they have to pay extra for an automatic rental in the UK and other parts of Europe. Also on the plus side, at least UK drivers know how to navigate a roundabout. There are a couple on my way to work, and the people here still occasionally come to a complete stop in the middle of the roundabout.
I was living in London, very close to Heathrow airport the only time I ever bought a brand new car.

A few weeks after getting it I was t-boned on a roundabout.

Driver had just arrived from Tel Aviv, picked up a rental car and drove straight into me on about his third intersection.

Happy times
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