It's not unusual for me to start talking mid-thought and then be surprised when everyone around me isn't caught up to what I'm rambling on about. (Feel for my family members.) Therefore, I suppose it's perfectly in keeping with me that this blog launched right into a story. No preamble. No background. Just a "I found my name written on name tag in a bus and then my dog died."
Let's try this again.
I'm please to introduce our 1993 Blue Bird TC 2000. For the mechanically inclined souls in the group, it's a rear engine Cummins 5.9 TA with just over 43k miles. It came from the Nassau County School District in Florida. It was an elementary school bus and probably drove less than 10 miles a day for its entire career. (I feel like we are about to blow this bus' mind with the plans we have for it.)
We won the bus at auction for $1,400.
This is where most non-bus folks gasp in disbelief, and, truth be told, we did plenty of our own disbelieving in the beginning, too. Most think buses are thousands upon thousands of dollars, or in the very least in the "used car" range. Nope. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Schools decommission buses every year and there is way more inventory than buyers. The school districts need to spend money to get money, so perfectly good, reasonable mileage buses aren't hard to find. This particular engine is said to be good to a million miles, so with less than fifty thousand on the odometer, our bus is practically a baby.
I did a turn and burn trip to Orlando to fill out the auction paperwork, get our temporary tags, and pay the nice ladies at the auction house. (They were really great. I would guess they usually deal mostly with people who know what the hell they are doing and they were really patient with me and all of my questions and my near breaking-into-song level of excitement.) (I only broke into song once. And it was funny! Really!) (Ok, it probably wasn't funny. But they didn't mention it as being terrible, so obviously these women were all saints.)
One miserable weekend of impatiently waiting so we could have Jake ride with us, and then all 5 of us were on our way to get the bus. OUR BUS. (Every time this realization popped into my head I'd ping wildly between over-the-top excitement and gut wrenching anxiety.) We had no idea what to expect, and we could only cross our fingers, hoping that the bus would live up to the vague auction description. We weren't even positive it would make it home.
(If you'd like to buy a bus and not go completely gray worrying about all of the things that could go wrong before you even get started, I highly recommend doing an onsite inspection with a professional mechanic by your side.) (We're wild and crazy and complete idiots who did none of that.)
The bus was parked in a service yard next to the elementary school it had served for 24 years. The door was half-open, the grass was knee-deep all around it, and it was dirty. It looked so sad and forlorn out there. We tried the key that was in the ignition. Nothing.
I immediately started apologizing to Jake for getting him into this mess, but he kept telling me to just wait. Just wait and see. Don't get all upset yet. Just wait. Let's look. It's fine. Just wait.
And that's when one of the bus mechanics took pity on us and came to help. The batteries were dead and just needed a jump. We chatted with him for a bit and he gave us the fast version of Buses for People Who Don't Know What They've Gotten Themselves Into 101.
And just like that, we were off. With our bus. OUR BUS. (Cue low-key panic attack because I'm driving the chase vehicle with 3 extremely excited children who REALLY want to be riding on the bus and not with their hyperventilating mother.)
Now let me tell you, Jake was brilliant. Never driven a bus before, but there he was, driving along like he had gotten a much more advanced version of Buses for People Who Don't Know What They've Gotten Themselves Into than I did.
And then (because things were going too well), I have to call Jake to tell him that something is leaking out of the bus.
We pull over on the side of I-95, check the engine (it's still there being all engine-like), check the gauges (also still all present and accounted for), and yell suggestions at each other over the sounds of the highway (i.e. maybe it was just condensation/rainwater/some other equally unlikely thing, but shit we don't know what we are doing and this wasn't in the Buses for People Who Don't Know What They've Gotten Themselves Into class). So after a few minutes, nothing has exploded, and without an obvious red flag, we decide to push on.
Not even 5 miles later those previously still gauges are all in the red zone and some liquid is now coming out of the underside of the bus and spraying my van enough that my wipers are on and the kids are asking why are we the only ones getting rained on.
So many curse words. SO MANY.
Already too long (and rambling!) story short...we'd blown a coolant hose. Jake is amazing and wonderful and oh so handy and fixed it in a bowling alley parking lot after I ran to 3 different places for parts and coolant and water and lunch.
So while our bus was losing all of it's cool(ant) and I was having a panic attack, guess who was as calm and collected as ever...Jake.
He's the best. There's no one else I'd want to go on this adventure with, and I'm amazed that he's equally happy to do all of this with me.
The boys got together and decided pretty quickly that this bus was obviously named The Pigeon Bus after one of their favorite series. I'm extremely tempted to write the author, Mo Willems, a letter telling him about this ode to his pigeon, but knowing my luck, we'd be sued for copyright infringement.