Frequently Asked Questions:

What inspired you and your two soul sisters to hit the road in such an eco-friendly way?

Natalie, Caitlin, and I (Jamie) were living in a community that we co-founded called “Roots EcoVillage” in Austin, Texas. The idea for the RAGE Bus Project was born out of a desire to travel and visit other sustainable-minded communities, bringing with us the tools and community-building skills that we had acquired during our time at Roots. We wanted to see what makes communities successful and what makes them fail, with the long-term goal of once again creating a sustainable community in the future. We also had a strong desire to live more harmoniously with the Earth and take another step away from the consumerist based lifestyle. I do want to mention that we are a diesel-powered bus and do not claim to be eco-friendly because of that fact. We do claim to be “self-contained” which means that we are capable of living off of the grid.

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Do you live full time in your bus? What model/year is it ? Any nickname ? Did you convert it yourself ?

The RAGE Bus is a 1966 Flxible “New Look”. Her name is “Bessie,” named by her previous owners. Bessie operated as a downtown LA city transit bus from 1966 to 1982. We have been on the road for two and a half years, traveling through TX>NM>CO>UT>NV>CA>OR>WA>OR>CA. Caitlin went home to go back to school after about a year, Natalie went home for family reasons after a year and a half, and Jesus came onto the bus about the time Natalie was getting off. A few others have lived on the bus for a few weeks at a time, and sometimes we travel in a caravan of people.
We converted the RAGE Bus into a tiny house ourselves using mostly recycled materials. The bus features three sleeping bunks, a wood burning stove, propane stove and oven, a gravity-fed water filtration system, a pedal-pump powered sink, compost toilet, a vegetable and herb garden, solar panels, and a swing (everyone loves the swing).

Over the past two and a half years, we have lived at farms, friend’s yards, diesel repair shops, national forests, and BLM land for different lengths of time. We have only paid to stay at a campground a handful of times and we don’t really have a need for the hook-ups at RV parks. Our adventure has led us to arrive in a city and park in different areas until we meet locals that want to hang out with us.  We let anyone who is interested come inside and get a guided tour of our conversion and talk to us about what we are doing. Through this experience, we have realized how much this project inspires the people who see it. Over and over again, people say “oh my gosh, I really really want to do this. This is my dream, you are living the dream!” It has opened the door to many great conversations about the next culture shift and what we can do to build a better world together.

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Where are you now and what have you been working on lately?

Today we are living at a really interesting community called “Slab City,” which is located on the East side of the Salton Sea in South California. They call it the “last free place” to live in America and it’s been around since the 1960s. It’s largely a snowbird community, with thousands of people flocking to the Slabs in the winter and the full-timers braving it out through the summer. It’s a beautifully broken place that is both humbling and inspiring. Currently we are on a path east to Texas to renew the state papers for the bus and visit our family and friends along the way and in Austin.

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What did you learn from the tiny home/bus life so far?  What keeps you on the road?

The bus life so far has been beyond my wildest expectations. I didn’t really expect to work on the mechanics of the bus so much, but I should have since our bus is from 1966 and sat in a pasture in Arkansas for a good twenty years. Since the beginning we have been changing our own fluids, filters, belts, and gaskets and learning about how our engine works. At one point, we had to deconstruct our engine entirely to get our heads rebuilt (we hired a mechanic to help us rebuild it), and we have had to learn how to operate and maintain our air braking system. Learning these skills has not only helped us save money, but it has given us the ability to be able to troubleshoot issues when the bus is throwing a tantrum out in the wilderness somewhere. People are definitely interested when they  see us covered in grease and grime messing with this ancient engine. I once had an older man ask me where my husband was while I was checking on a leaking hose. He wasn’t even joking, and got visibly upset when I told him my self-identified male partner was in the kitchen cooking me dinner while I fixed this transmission leak. To me, it’s just my life and I don’t think of it as strange. I also think it’s an important part of our journey to expose our lives to other people and show them that there are possibilities outside of the box.

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What is your favorite place you’ve visited so far?

Our favorite places are the places where you can’t hear the white noise of passing traffic or the buzz of the power lines. The endangered wilderness. There is something very magical and healing that happens under the canopy of the trees and in the free flowing waters that come straight out of a mountain. We once lived at Umpqua Hot Springs in Oregon for two weeks and it was definitely one of the most beautiful places that we have been too in the bus.  Unfortunately and understandably, Umpqua Hot Springs is currently shut down due to abuse and overuse. There is a collective desire amongst all of us to spend time in nature and get out of the smog of the cities, but we must be aware of the impact that we are leaving. Too many people do not understand the absolute necessity of disposing of our human waste in an environmentally responsible manner. Even micro-trash can be detrimental to the Earth, so it’s important to “leave no trace” everywhere we go. Respect your Mother.

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What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you on the road?

.Natalie and I were driving the bus through west Colorado (on I-70). Just outside of Grand Junction we decided to check out a canyon on BLM land that was home to one of the last remaining herd of wild mustangs. It was cold and snowy, and Natalie and I would take our dogs out for a walk every day to look for the horses and explore the canyon. One day we heard a goat crying from on top of a cliff on one side of the canyon. We thought it must be a mountain goat, but the goat seemed like it was stuck and it wouldn’t stop crying. It was totally impossible for us to do anything for the goat, and it was getting dark so we went back to the bus. The next morning, someone knocked on the door. It strange for us because we had not seen another person in the three days we had been there. We answered the door to meet a man in his early 50s, with a goat tied up in the back of his truck. “Is this y’alls goat?” he asked. We kind of laughed and said, “No way! We live in this bus… we don’t have a goat! But we are so glad you were able to rescue it!” So we named the goat Cliff and brought the man inside of the bus. We talked to him for several hours about his life (his name is Dana) and how he rescued this goat at sunrise to prevent the sheriff from shooting it down (he showed us the video!). At some point he mentioned that he was a diesel mechanic by trade. We decided to start up our engine so that he could have a listen and make sure everything was tip-top. Natalie started the engine for him and immediately turned it back off. Something was wrong. With a look of shock, Natalie reached down by the crankshaft and picked up a broken bolt. To us, this was tragic. We had broken these bolts before, in Texas and the mechanics had told us that if they broke again, we were done for. Dana was unphased, and immediately went to work pulling out tools from the back of his tiny truck with a huge toolbox on the back of it. Over the next three days, Dana would return to us with gallons of water (we ran out!) and we worked to extract a total of three broken crankshaft bolts from the harmonic balancer. Dana and Natalie left at some point to go buy new bolts and found a new home for Cliff at the auto parts store! Finally, we got the harmonic balancer realigned and the new bolts locked in tight. We drove out of the canyon and went to Dana’s house to meet his family and say our good-byes.  From that point, we continued our adventure west. We have remained friends with Dana to this day and love telling this story as an example of the magical things that are born out of precarious situations.

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Give us a useful tip for successful boon docking.

Successful boon docking all depends on successful preparation. We have supplies to last about two weeks off-the-grid if we are careful with our water and the weather isn’t too hot. We do not live with an air-conditioner or a modern refrigerator, so we try to travel with the weather and pay attention to what the temperature is going to be. We are currently traveling to Texas here at beginning of summer, and it’s impossible to keep fresh produce for longer than 2-3 days. We try to park in the shade, keep all of the windows open and keep the fans blowing.

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Give us a useful tip for a couple to live in a tiny space.

When Natalie got off of the bus and Jesus got on, we also had four other people join us for the adventure to Oregon and Washington. It was a crazy time to be on the bus! We spent most of our time cooking and feeding people as we traveled up the coast. And washing dishes until we wanted to throw the dishes across the parking lot.  After three months the last of our friends parted from the bus to continue their traveling adventures to Mexico, and Jesus and I had the whole bus to ourselves! It felt so liberating and the bus felt so big and empty! We also rebuilt the bed, which was meant to just sleep me and my dog. We have lots of friends that are traveling and living in very small cars, so we are forever grateful for our mansion on wheels.

 

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What’s the worst thing about the bus life?

Let’s face it, we are living a non-traditional lifestyle. Much of how we live our lives is considered “criminal” by the state and as a result, we end up talking to the police fairly often (sometimes several times a week, depending on which city we are rolling through). We’ve been categorized as homeless, transients, hooligans, hippies and gypsies. We make money while traveling in lots of different ways. Busking can be really fun if you are creative. Sometimes we play music, we paint faces, we give walk-through tours (for donation) of our bus, and sometimes we sell things that we make. Once I hula-hooped and played the ukulele on the roof of the bus in a parking lot and got plenty of donations to fill up our fuel tank.
Sometimes the police come and detain us for violating such-and-such code. No sitting on the sidewalk. No loitering. No parking. No sleeping in your vehicle. No camping. You need this permit or that permit.  We have regulations up to our eyeballs and I can see so clearly how we have all been boxed in with this dead-end system. I want us to break free. To do something different with our lives. It’s up to us as individuals and as a community to find ways to ween off of this capitalistic-parasite that is killing our planet.

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Our favorite pictures:

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From One Reality to Another

   Wednesday March 5th, 2014

     I was unable to express my true gratitude to those whom I love as I was saying goodbye to them this evening. I was so consumed with being choked up, hardly any words came to me- or out of me.  I wish I had told my brothers what warriors I see in them. I wish to tell them how proud I am to be close to them, to have such talented, smart, creative inspiration so directly connected to me in this life. I want my parents to know how impossible the feats I’ve tackled would have been to conquer, had I not had the constant stream of love and support coming from them that they’ve always given me without hesitation. What brilliant light beings are they. Grandma, too. I want my grandma to know what a light house she is. She guides those she loves and encounters over troubled waters, through her unconditional empathy without even knowing it. Ohhhhhhh… and that man… that man I love who loves me too. That man whom I scale mountainous feats with. Who hears me and sees me and embraces every facet of my being and current personality. I could still be miles underground without his helping hand. I could be in denial of the possibilities of life long love still, without our partnership- which has illuminated all of that which our love is capable.

Soon, so so soon, we will all unite again to create a life together which supports our needs of autonomy, health, happiness and love more fully then ever before.

Till then, my task is to be as a sponge. To absorb every ounce of nectar that I can squeeze out of every situation filled with life’s never ending juice. I must take it all in, and process it, and send it forward for the betterment of us all: for me, for the girls, for my family and my love, for my dear friends and distant ones, and for every soul-spirit who dwells and will dwell on this Earth. I will do my part to be a shining light within this trying and, at times, dark experience that we all chose to selflessly endure. I love you, me. You… I…WE will fulfill it all. All which we are meant, which we chose ahead of time. We will strive to give and receive unceasingly so as to one day realize our human potential (and beyond) fully.

“I have a question….. When did we stop loving ourselves?”

Tuesday March 11th, 2014

     My entries seem to be becoming more and more spread out these days. Interesting. Maybe I’m finding peace in the present more easily and therefor don’t need to vent to this journal. Yeah, yeah, let’s go with that. 🙂  I’m currently on the green line. It’s the train we take from El Cajon to San Diego. A simple and effiecent transit system they’ve got going on over here, for the most part.

     I’ve been putting out more effort to hang with my girl Allie since I got back from TX, and she was so kind as to pick me up from the airport. She actually attempted to pick me up THREE times.Succeeding once. Ha. Her mistake on Monday, my mistake on Tuesday and finally success! on Wednesday. I think I am finding it refreshing to hang out with a new female energy that shares our values but at the same time has a different take and perspective than we three on a lot of it. She works in massage too and maybe it’s because I know that, but, I get a “healer” sense from her. I’ve been around Gerry, the manager of HB Industries where we’re parked for now and working out our internal engine leak, and he is a healer. Though he hasn’t been very skilled with empathizing lately. Perhaps he’s just been needing so much himself, that he hasn’t had much to give. Things have been topsy turby around here. With that in mind, I don’t mind. Us three are likely the only place he’s getting any from at all right now anyway..

     So while I was in Austin, I was talking to Austin a lot about how we are actually totally in control of these lives and what happens in them, IF we realize it, then we can manifest anything we want. It may not show up when or how one imagines, but it does show up. He was having some trouble believing me. So I took him out to sushi dinner Tuesday night, thinking my flight was Wednesday and that that would be our last hoorah. It was so lovely and yummy, but when the bill came, it was much more than I had thought it would be. I looked Austin straight in the eye and repeated, “Money comes, money goes,” and went to pull out the $100 bill my mom had gifted me. (Another manifestation story in and of it’s self). Then, BAM! I unfolded what turned out to be TWO $100 bills. I smiled huge and glanced up at Austin, who met my smile with a bigger one and disbelieving eyes. He knew what had just happened and so did I. Money was going, and so had it come already.  We laughed, oh we laughed, and he could hardly believe it. Then, as we were leaving, I received a phone call. It was South West Airlines letting me know I had just missed my flight.
In the car I heard this recording, and Austin saw the stunned look on my face. I hung up my cell and shook my head. Then I looked up and laughed, proclaiming, “Maybe the Universe knew I wasn’t ready to go!” When we arrived at ROOTS (his home, the co-op) I called up reservations to see what I could sort out. The lady on the phone quoted me a $350 charge for a next day same time flight. I was open with her and said, “Woahhh that’s expensive..!” She was silent. “How far in the future does it have to be to be under $100, because that’s about all I can afford…”  She responded with, “Next Thursday, at $135”.
“Hmmmm…”   I  mumbled. Silence.
“Well, it looks like I’ll be able to do a one time waive of the fee for you to travel tomorrow at the same time flight.”
“Wait, you mean, for free?”
“Yes maim, I’ll waive it this one time.”
I exploded with “thank you”s and then bombarded Austin with explanations of manifestation in the works. I ended up with the flight I thought I had all along! And I believe, it is because I BELIEVED it fully, and created that reality for myself! This is how manifestation works! It’s been happening for me left and right. I think I’ve turned Austin into a believer. 🙂  Or at least gave him a good start. ❤

     Gerry said something the other night which reinforced a concept Austin and I had previously discussed. He said, “Love is, or, being ‘in love’ is two people willing to show up and create it.” That notion helps me to feel soooo good about what Austin and I have. We do that! We show up and create it- together! Well… I show up most of the time… eventually. Now, is it this “everlasting” fairy tale situation I’ve been conditioned to search for? Not exactly, but what more could I ask for? We have this outstanding ability to create it in the now, and that’s all there is to know. There are no guarantees for anything in the future, so all I can even do is be open, and wait and see. The only things that could make it not work are time and space never running our lives parallel again, or someone simply choosing not to show up any more. There are many things I see that are going to keep us running parallel for some time I bet, as long as we’re both still willing to show up and create it. It being LOVE. All I can say, is for now, I am so showing up.  What unearthly reason could my fears come up with to make me think I don’t want to show up anymore? Surely I’ll find out.

     Ewww… yucky train sick feeling… No more writing for now.

That is all for now. Thank you all for reading. Thanks for living, loving and breathing.
Pura Vida
Natalie Sun At Water

Happy Birthday, RAGE!

It has been one year since the three of us traveled to Summers, Arkansas to embark upon the most magical adventure of our young lives. It took a lot of determination, communication, and imagination to pull this project together. Everywhere we turned, we were told “no!” and “don’t do it!” and “you are going to die if you do this!” But we pushed forward in spite of all of this, and now we have reached our first anniversary in our bus!
    Our bus is no ordinary bus conversion. Our conversion focuses on simplicity, sustainability, and creativity. We have chosen to do without the modern conveniences of RV life, shying away from pump systems, heating/cooling appliances and plumbing. We wanted to find more sustainable options, choosing instead to build our own water pump system out of a foot powered pedal mechanism, a homemade composting toilet and a DIY solar charge station as a power source. Roughly 80-90% of our conversion process was completed using reclaimed materials. 99% of the conversion was completed by the three of us, Natalie, Caitlin, and myself (Jamie).
The majority of our conversion took place from April-June of 2013. We literally stopped everything else that we were doing and focused 100% of our time to the RAGE Bus Project. With little to no experience in vintage buses, diesel engine repair or construction, the three of us immersed ourselves into our 1966 Flxible “New Look” and pulled out of Austin, Texas on September 1st, 2013. We have since traveled through 8 states, mentored with 7 different mechanics, and have made countless memories along the way. We can perform most routine bus maintenance ourselves without much oversight (changing belts, filters, fluids, and adjusting the air brakes), heck– we can even EZ-OUT bolts and heli-coil threads!
Over the past year, I have taken hundreds of pictures documenting our adventure. I am still trying to find the best way to project it out into the world so that everyone can be a part of this experience. The following pictures are some of the highlights of the conversion process.  So scroll down and watch our bus become awesome!
   

March 5, 2013
“Guess what, Mom! I just bought a bus!”

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Muldrow, Oklahoma

April 6, 2013|
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Pre-deconstruction

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Before we started the conversion, we loaded the bus up with all of our ‘excess’ and had a donation-based yard sale.

May 28, 2013
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Our first project inside the bus! We constructed our bunk beds out of the city grip handrails that we pulled out of the bus.

June 4, 2013
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Framing out the dresser while we were parked at a mechanic shop in Wimberley, Texas. The drawers are wine crate boxes from Costco.

June 22, 2013
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The kitchen is really starting to shape up! We found this sink on the side of the road! Unlike most bus conversions, we decided to put our kitchen in the back of the bus.

June 23, 2013
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It’s starting to feel like home! We started sleeping in the bus at this point.

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The solar charge station. Right next to the door, so plenty of air flow!

August 25, 2013
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We love colors!

November 30, 2013
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We purchased this little stove from a mechanic in New Mexico. It’s an old coal burning stove, either used to heat water for laundry or was used in the caboose of a train! $90. The platform is a wooden frame, covered with concrete backed boarding.

December 1, 2013
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We glued on the mosaic for our stove while camping at a hot springs in Boulder City, Nevada. The mosaic is full of rocks that we have collected along the way, and pieces of a mirror that broke.

February 11, 2014
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Building more overhead storage in the kitchen for bulk grains. One day, a vegetable garden will be in this back window!


February 25, 2014
And now, one year later, here is what our bus currently looks like.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to check out the RAGE Bus Project! Remember to stay connected with us via facebook (facebook.com/ragebusproject), twitter (@ragebusproject) and instagram (@jamierainbowwarrior). We also love getting e-mail (ragebusproject@gmail.com).

Home on the Wild Horse Range

Keeping up with this blog is proving to be a challenge! All three of us keep personal handwritten journals, and we rarely have access to wi-fi on the road, so this page doesn’t get much love. I am back in Austin for two weeks, so I am going to use this time to catch up on things that I have been putting off, like this here blog!

The RAGE Bus arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado sometime around November 20th (I don’t really keep up with dates very well). We were heading West in search of warmer weather when Caitlin received news of a friend’s passing. There was a sudden shift in energy and it seemed to swirl all around us in a chaotic whirlwind, and within hours Caitlin had hitchhiked back to Denver to catch a bus to Austin. Natalie and I found ourselves taking a moment to reassess our projected path, unsure about moving forward without Caitlin on board. We decided to camp outside of Grand Junction for a few days, since it seemed like a good spot for Caitlin to be able to return to us.

20 miles East of Grand Junction, just outside of Palisade, Colorado, there is protected land that is home to one of the last remaining wild horse herds, called Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range. It was dark when we left the interstate at exit 46. The only light to break up the darkness of the canyon was a glaring Halliburton power plant entrance sign next to the Colorado river. Our only option was to drive down an unmarked dirt road in search of the Wild Horse park. We cautiously drove the bus over a one lane bridge and into the vast nothingness. The road twisted and turned in the darkness until we finally stopped at a dry creek crossing. It was obvious that the bus would not make it across this point in the road, so I jumped out and stood behind the bus as Natalie slowly backed up to the last turn around spot. We did not observe any “no trespassing” signs or “private property” notices, so we decided to just park at the back of the turn around and explore the area in the morning. Finally! We were away from concrete. Away from florescent lights and billboards. It was just us and the stars- and the mysterious shadows of the canyon walls all around us.

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We spent the next two days hiking and exploring the canyon with our dogs, who kept bringing us flesh covered deer bones. Pretty soon the dogs had recovered the remains of an entire deer carcass and were happily munching away on the bones in the middle of camp. In the distance, we heard a goat crying! We cried back and forth with the goat until we finally saw a tiny white dot pacing back and forth on a tiny ledge of the canyon wall. We had no idea if goats were native to the canyon, but the goat seemed alone and anxious on the ledge. But it was growing dark and the temperature was dropping, so we returned to the bus and bunkered down for the night.

The canyon wall where we first saw Cliff the goat! She is the tiny white dot near the top of the canyon wall.

The canyon wall where we first saw Cliff the goat! She is the tiny white dot near the top of the canyon wall.

The next morning, we woke up to the sound of a truck pulling up next to the bus. Natalie went outside to greet the man, who asked her if she lost her goat! Natalie told him that we didn’t have a goat, we lived on a bus! I heard the goat crying, so I got out of bed and joined them outside. I was introduced to Dana, who was untying the goat from the back of his truck. The goat had a rope loosely draped around her neck, and she immediately began snacking on the grass at her feet. Dana told us that the goat appeared on the canyon wall around the same time that we arrived in the canyon. She appeared to be a domesticated, friendly goat, perhaps abandoned by someone in the canyon. Dana rescued the goat by himself by tying a set of ropes to rocks and pulling the goat to safety.

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Inspired by his act of kindness, we invited him into the bus for tea and breakfast. Dana is a native to the Palisade area, and he comes to the canyon every day to pray for peace and healing. He pointed to the great mountain on the horizon, “That’s Grand Mesa,” he said. “That’s the holy mountain. My face is on that mountain.” He opened up his laptop and started to show me his collection of pictures. “Here is a slain lamb, and here is a cross, but if you turn it this way, it is an angel.” One by one, we flipped through ariel photos from Google Earth, each one with a story. Dana warned us of the impending nuclear holocaust, and reminded us to do everything that we possibly could to prepare for catastrophic disaster. “You need to be able to survive underground for at least 45 days.” Dana spent time at a Hopi reservation in Arizona, where he was told that he was “the one who turns off the power.” Weighted by the gravity of fulfilling this prophecy, Dana has turned to writing passionate letters to the Human Rights Commission in hopes of reaching someone who will agree to switch to more sustainable energy sources. “No one will listen to me. I try to tell them what the cure is, but no one will listen.”

At some point during the conversation, we learned that Dana has worked as a mechanic for most of his life. Natalie asked him if he would mind listening to our bus to see if we had piston slap (someone in New Mexico mentioned that we may have a piston misfiring). Dana agreed, and we started the bus. Dana placed his ear up to his wrench and listened intently to the engine. “Nope! It sounds fine! But your harmonic balancer sure is wobbling.” Natalie turned the engine off. She explained to him that we have had problems with our harmonic balancer in the past, but it does seem to be getting worse. Natalie shut the engine off and Dana bent down to assess the balancer. “Well, here’s your problem…” Dana pulled out a broken bolt from the center of the balancer. Natalie walked over to me with a serious look on her face. “Jamie, it’s bad. But we are going to get through this and everything is going to be okay.” She opened her hand and showed me the broken bolt.

Panic. Panic is always my initial response. Is this really happening again? Oh my God, we are so far away from town. We are in the middle of nowhere! I felt my heart jump into my throat and I grabbed Natalie’s hands, “Oh God, no! No no no no no!” We joined Dana at the back of the bus. “Hey! This isn’t such a big deal. We’ll just take it off, take the bolts out, and put new ones in!” If only it was that simple. We have had an issue with our harmonic balancer since the day we bought Bessie. We spent a week in Muldrow, Oklahoma getting broken bolt pieces extracted from the crankshaft. The temporary fix lasted 11 miles and our belts flew off somewhere on the highway. We were towed to Atoka, Oklahoma where a family friend extracted broken bolts once again and replaced the belts. That fix lasted 250 miles, and the bolts snapped again. Finally, we were towed home to Austin and spent a month at a diesel repair shop in Wimberley, Texas getting the balancer fixed for real! The mechanics in Wimberley drilled out the bolt holes on the crankshaft and heli-coiled the threads. Our harmonic balancer is obsolete, so you can’t order a new one. Cummins searched a global database and turned up empty handed. The bolt holes in the balancer were damaged from the continuous wobbling, and were now oval shaped instead of perfect circles. Finally, we found a harmonic balancer that had the same bolt pattern, but a different pulley assembly. Jesse, the mechanic in Wimberley, was able to detach the pulley assembly and machine our pulley assembly to the new damper. I was certain that this would fix the problem! The balancer was placed onto the bus and locked down with the strongest bolts you can get, Grade 8, and sealed with red locktite for good measure. Even after all of this, the balancer still maintained a slight wobble. It was not completely “true”. Jesse warned us to not travel too far from home in the bus. He said, “It may last 50 miles, or it may last 5,000 miles, I just don’t know.”

So here we were, in western Colorado, with a handful of broken Grade 8 bolts. Dana began to take off the belts and disassemble the balancer. He began to pull a plethora of tools from his tiny truck. In a few minutes, he had the entire thing pulled apart and began to assess the threading with a caliper. He could tell I was worried. “Let’s take a break!” We went back inside and I began to focus on my breathing. I felt like I had not taken a breath since Natalie brought the bolt to me. It was all happening so fast! We began to make a list of the materials that we would need. An EZ-OUT screw extractor set, a set of heli-coils and a tap, 5 Grade-8 bolts, 5 lockwashers, 3 new belts and red locktite. I began to have deja vu. I had witnessed and participated in this process 3 times so far. Each time, it had taken hours to extract the bolts with a drill. Would our solar batteries support such an intense draw? Breathe. That’s all I could do. Natalie and Dana headed to town to retrieve the materials, and I was left to babysit Cliff the goat. Cliff was very anxious about being left alone, so I grabbed her rope and we took off walking. Cliff was happy to lead the way, and kept turning around to blink her creepy square eyes at me and smile. I’m not sure if she was smiling, or if that’s just how her face looks. Regardless, I felt a lot of reassurance from her. She seemed to be telling me that everything was going to be okay. We were all here together in this beautiful canyon at the base of the Grand Mesa. Where else could we possibly choose to be? Just a few hours ago, she was pacing back and forth on the ledge of a cliff, hungry and alone with no hope in sight, and Dana just appeared out of nowhere and extended the hand of mercy. Was I now the goat on the cliff? How do I surrender control and just stand witness to the magic of the Universe? Breathe.

Little Books Cliff Wild Horse Range

Cliff and I walked back to the bus and took a nap until Natalie and Dana returned with the supplies. They even found a family that wanted a goat! By this time, the sun had made its way behind the mountain and the temperature was dropping. We decided to wait until the sun rose again before continuing our work. Dana stayed a bit longer and told us about the golden discs he made to read Bible codes. He said that he may have been Daniel the Prophet in a past life, and he has in his possession all of the Mormon artifacts. The golden discs, the shield, the sword, and the location of the true Zion. I tried to focus on his stories and not worry about the condition of our bus. Our house! Our only home. It could be gone in an instant. I reminded myself that the Universe put me here for a reason, and focused on being present and aware of my surroundings. Submit to the Universe. And right now my Universe was Dana, so I listened intently to the stories that he was telling me. “You see, it’s Eden that you girls are seeking, and you are well on your way. Right now, you are out of harmony and balance. But we are going to set you straight and fix your harmonic balancer. You will get to where you are going. And who knows, maybe you will end up right where you began.” Dana told us goodnight and drove away to take Cliff to her new home.

The next morning, Dana returned with several jugs of water. Water is a precious commodity on the road. Our 40-gallon water tank lasts us about 7 days. I was growing concerned with the amount of water that we had remaining in the tank, especially considering we had no idea how many more days we would be in the canyon, so we had switched to emergency power saving mode. All water was now reserved for drinking. Which meant we had a lot of dirty dishes and very dirty hands.  With Dana’s gift of 4 jugs of water, we cooked up a batch of potatoes, washed our faces, and sat down for tea before beginning our work.

Finally, it was time to assess the damage. Using a caliper, we measured the depth of each bolt hole in the crankshaft. Then we measured the depth of the holes in the harmonic balancer. We determined that the balancer must have developed a wobble because the lockwashers were not put on at the shop in Wimberley. This allowed for a very small gap (about 1/8th inch), which was just enough room for the centripetal force to get the balancer out of line and snap the bolts. I found a can of penetrating lube in our toolbox and sprayed the inside of the bolt holes. Dana managed to remove 4 of the bolts without the EZ-OUT. The last bolt was broken in half, so we would have to drill a hole in it to extract it. Luckily, our friend Ray from Wimberley had gifted us a really nice power inverter! The peak 2400 watt inverter handled the draw of the drill without a problem. Within 30 minutes, Dana had drilled through the center of the bolt and placed the extractor bit inside. Car mechanics reminds me of performing surgery. Like Bessie is someones grandmother who suffered a myocardial infarct, and we are in some post apocalyptic cath lab in the desert. We slowly reversed the bolt out, praying that it would all come out in one piece. Along with the bolt, we  pulled out a piece of a broken bolt from months ago! Hallelujah! The next step was to pull out the old heli-coils, drill out the bolt holes, and run a tap down the lumen to cut new threads. Cutting new threading into metal is quite the task. Dana, built like an ox, had no trouble rotating the T handle while keeping the tap nice and centered. When it was my turn to give it a go, I exhausted myself in less than 5 rotations! And Dana cut the threads to 4 of the bolt holes! My appreciation of his presence, his skill, his knowledge, and his patience swelled.

Little Books Cliff Wild Horse Range

After the heli-coils were finally in place, it was time to reassembly the pulley. Natalie and I took over from here, lining the bolt pattern up to the key on the crank. One by one, we secured the bolts with the red locktite and lockwashers. Dana retrieved a torque wrench from his magic toolbox and we torqued the bolts to 60. We said a little prayer and started the bus. The engine roared to life, and the harmonic balance flew into motion. For the first time since we have had Bessie, the harmonic balancer spun true. Which means, no wobble! She was as smooth as the day she was born. I couldn’t believe it! With no wobble, that means that the centripetal force should never spin the balancer into an imbalance ever again. (Unless there is an underlying unknown catalyst that we are completely unaware of!). Natalie and I danced like we have never danced before. Jubilant! We squeezed Dana tightly in a group hug, as if that could even come close to thanking him enough for his kindness.

The next day, Dana returned and took us on a ride in his truck through the wild horse canyon! We were not able to make it very far down the road in our bus because of the creek bed. We didn’t stand a chance of seeing the herd from our camp, so it was super cool that Dana took us for a ride! Along the way we saw 9 different wild horses, and we just stood with them and shared the silence. I felt a sad tug in my chest as I heard the humming of the Halliburton power lines running the length of the majestic canyon. Even here, in this reservation, they couldn’t leave the land alone. They fenced the horses into this canyon and call them wild. Land of the free. No one is free.

As if Dana had not shown us enough compassion, he offered to let us shower and refill our water tank at his home in Palisade. We decided to sleep in the canyon for one more night because it was starting to snow heavily in the canyon and we were worried about the condition of the road. The next day the sun was shining and the time felt right, so we drove out of the canyon and met Dana in town. We gifted him with a necklace that we made for him out of braided hemp and a wire-wrapped heart shaped stone that we found during our hike.

Dana taught me a lot of lessons during these past few days. He reminded me to surrender to the Universe and allow the magic to wash over me in a fit of glory. I am not in control of any of it, life just happens as it is going to happen. I am merely an observer. And once I learn to stop fighting it and just LET GO, then everything will fall into place the way it was meant to be. Dana also reminded me that we are on an important journey, and bestowed upon on us his blessings in our travels. Sometimes I feel like I am not quite sure where we are going, but I know that one day we will arrive.

Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range    1120131125[1]    1119131457c[1]

My First Reflections of the Trip

We left! Holy hell in a hand basket– BATMAN! We actually left (what we quickly soon realized was) our little golden bubble of open-minded souls in the south: Austin. I say that based on the observation that anywhere we go, we are a sore thumb, sticking out in many people’s awareness’ as unusual, eccentric, harry hippies… everywhere except for in Austin. I’ll always love you Austin, even if you are becoming a different place than the town I grew up in. Pshhhhh I don’t want to make that generalization! We’re only in Waco! But it was that way on our transport home from Arkansas after we bought Bessy, and on our way to and fro, and at, the beach of Port A. Anyshwayy, we shall see!

We slept in Waco last night in some parking lot near a diesel station. We had to wash cloth bathe ourselves with peppermint soap and douse ourselves in peppermint oil  in order to feel cool enough to fall asleep, but once I was in bed it sure didn’t take long. We didn’t travel terribly far, but it was SO worth it to me to leave last night- even if we were practically sleep driving during that 2 1/2 hrs of the dark AM. Yes, we left at midnight. We don’t do mornings very well…! Plus, we just had to GO! -As soon as possible… Take that leap. The first step is the hardest part… Seriously! …The universe is likely going to prove me wrong on that one… Ha. I’m prepared Universe!
This morning I got up, found a gas station bathroom, ate an apple, took Ranger on a walk.. It felt good, natural. It feels good to be on the road again. Then, a short jaunt most of the rest of the way to Tyler, to Brownsboro, and now we’re stationary again visiting Amanda and Andy (Jamie’s sister and bro-in-law) and their three hoodlums, for the weekend. It’s hotter here than Austin is right now, or was when we were there, it feels to me, but the mosquitoes aren’t NEAR as viscous. I get nervous when Ranger is around the kids, because he’s spazzy and thery’re spazzy and it’s just an all around unpredictable dynamic. Otherwise, though, he’s been doing really well. He hasn’t been overly friendly, but he has been pleasant with everyone. And not barking his head off, WHICH MAKES MOMMY CRAZY! .. Doesn’t make, my feelings are my own, but triggers the crazy deep inside!

Tomorrow I hope we’ll attach an awning that passed from Jamie to Amanda and is now coming back to her- to us- and onto the bus. Exciting! Fancy! Legit RV status!  Well… let’s be real, we’ll be helping. I’m sure Andy will be the dominant builder. It just tends to happen that way, when we have a handy guy around. (Handy Andy they call him.) They want to help… they have a need to contribute. Maybe they think we aren’t capable..? Maybe they’re not used to seeing women’s capabilities in that way. I’m guessing that folks aren’t used to girls women (wanting to retrain my lingo to be less misogynistic! We are women!) wanting to help do a physically laborious project, like that. I don’t like that generalization I’m making, though. I have observed a pattern. I will wait to see how it pans out and try not to have expectations or make assumptions. I’m looking for a balance between being real and also being in the moment and remembering that EVERY moment is brand new; a fresh start, for myself, the people around me, the world in general, to be improved, to be increasingly love oriented instead of driven by fear, and free of the baggage of the past, which is no longer real.

Yeah! Remember that, me!

I want to get some sleep.  I’d love really like (this isn’t love!) to get up bright and early and be productive tomorrow. There are always chores and projects to do. Actually, I want to actively rephrase that to: There are always tasks that promote well-being and projects that will help life on the bus be more pleasant to do.

This post is an expression of me, my experiences, my perspectives and my thoughts. I intentionally have included corrections of thoughts, language, word choice, mind set, that I noticed -in the process of transcribing this personal journal entry written on Sept. 2nd- in order to help recondition my mind to a healthier way of thinking and being than that of which was drilled into my habits by this society, the media, and  this materialism centered reality. Congruently, I hope to be an example for others, to show that it is okay that we are not perfect. It is okay that I make judgments and have these thoughts, these habits of perceiving the world from a place of fear, because they are not me. They are not the essence of my soul, which is pure and strives to live harmoniously with all things, but that was skewed the moment I was born and the conditioning of this world began to influence the way it (my soul: I) interact in it. It is okay that I am here now, because I wont be here tomorrow. And if I am aware today, I can actively choose to be somewhere new (in my mind), tomorrow. Actually, right now!

Pura Vida
May light shine upon you.
Light = Love = Universal Harmony & Peace
❤ Natalie Sun At Water ~

Less than a month until take off!!

I keep listing off all of the “to do’s” in my head, and then I start freaking out and I have to stop. It goes like this, “Okay, I have to get the bus registered. But to do that, I need to get it inspected. But to get it inspected I need to get the windshield wipers fixed. And maybe new tires. I need to get someone else to look at those tires. Oh, and get the brakes fixed. Shit, I need money. Okay, I’ll just sell my car. But first I have to put the car in the shop. And take pictures. And advertise it. I need to “stage” the bus as an RV and take pictures too. And if I have to drive the bus during all of this, try not to get pulled over or the bus will get impounded.” And that’s when I start freaking out.

The R.A.G.E. Bus Project is scheduled to set sail on June 3rd, 2013. On the 3rd, I plan on getting into the Captains seat and pointing Bessie North, no matter how prepared any of us are. I feel like if we don’t just DO IT, then we will never do it. I’m holding hands with both Caitlin and Natalie, and we are all going to jump off of this big cliff together, on June 3rd. It’s happening!!!

Right now the bus is at a shop in the cutest small town in Texas called Wimberley. Jesse the Mechanic is going to work his self-proclaimed “superman” magic and fix the windshield wiper and the brakes (including new air tanks). I feel a sense of relief with the bus being in the shop. I have handed over the bus to someone else, and it is out of my hands now. Not having the bus sitting in the driveway crying for me to come play with her has freed me up to focus on other things, like selling my car!

Today I made an attempt to get the bus title put into my name. The DMV office refused, saying that the VIN on the bus is already being used on an old farm trailer somewhere else in Texas. So one of us must be lying. I have to go back to the office with a picture of the VIN on the bus to verify the number. Little road bumps along the way just make the ride more fun, right?

The progress seems slow, but every day I am checking something off of that list in my head. If I keep this up, I think we will be ready in three weeks. But it doesn’t matter, because we are leaving whether we are ready or not!

We just finished the hardest part of this entire project, the thing I have been dreading from the very beginning; moving out of R.O.O.T.S. EcoVillage. Leaving our collective behind is the hardest thing I have done in a long time. R.O.O.T.S. is forever my home in my heart. Yesterday, we shoved everything that we own into the bus and pulled out of the driveway, all of us crying and touching everything we could as we left. Now we are stationed out at Natalie’s parents house outside of Austin so we can focus on the bus without having to worry about bills or chores or drama taking our energy. So our home right now is a little room in the back of Natalie’s dads shop. Most people would probably consider this room to be a large closet, too small to really call it a bedroom. Maybe I am just used to my 500 sq ft efficiency at R.O.O.T.S., which was small for three girls! Now our room is maybe 1/5th of that size. We are sharing a pair of mattresses on the floor (3 girls, 2 dogs, and a cat). It’s very cuddly. A big cuddle fest every single night. All of our clothes are hanging on a pole between a ladder and a shelf, just inches above our faces. If I roll over in my sleep, the ends of belts and dresses tickle my face.

I can feel the energy building as we get closer to the beginning. My anticipation is growing. I keep meeting people that tell me that we are “special people” and we are doing “great things” and while I believe them, I feel very bewildered by it, and worried about trying to meet an expectation that others might be setting for me. I keep reminding myself to let go of it, and just focus on the love. I breathe it in, and I absorb it all into my lungs and my bones and let it vibrate through me, and then I give it back.

Keep spreading the love,

Jamie.

The Big Bessie Adventure Starts Now!!!

We bought a bus!! I can’t believe it! I could write an entire book about our adventures this past week, but I will try to condense it down to one huge blog entry. First of all, I guess I should introduce myself. I have a human name, but for the purposes of this project, you will see me as Rainbow Warrior. My fellow adventure warriors are Sun Warrior and Moon Warrior, and together we are R.A.G.E., or Radical Adventures for a Greener Earth.

A few months ago, my fellow warriors and I decided to embark upon a wonderful adventure together and live a “low impact” lifestyle while traveling around the country with the intention of sharing that experience with others along the way. We began searching online for an old school bus to convert into our living space in January, and after just a few weeks we found “Bessie”. Bessie is a 1966 Flxible “New Look” bus, a city transit bus from Los Angeles, California. The owners, Keith and Lois, had purchased the bus in the mid-1980s from the Southern California Transit System and used the bus to move all of their belongings to Arkansas in 1998. The bus had been sitting in a pasture since 1998, having only been moved once every six months or so to keep the rust away.

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In February, we drove to Siloam Springs, Arkansas to check out the bus. I fell in love at first sight and wanted to drive away into the sunset and live happily ever after. But Bessie had a leak in the air brakes and wasn’t moving anytime soon. So we drove back to Texas and left Bessie sitting in her pasture. After a few more days of late-night brainstorming sessions with the warriors, we decided that we wanted to go back for Bessie. The question was never “Can we do this?” the question was always “How do we do this?” After two weeks of talking to local mechanics in Arkansas and working out details with Keith and Lois, we decided that the only way that this was going to happen was to just go for it. We could spend our entire lives writing to-do lists and back up plans and saving our money, but the only way to really make something happen is to just do it!

Before the sun came up on a Monday morning in March, we were driving to Dallas to catch the Megabus to Oklahoma. Our first ride, from Austin to Dallas, was provided by a friend of mine that was on his way to visit family. My friend dropped us off at the bus station and wished us good luck on our adventure. As we stood alone at the bus stop I started to get a nervous feeling, aware that we had reached the point of no return. I realized how emotionally dependent I have become on the freedom that having a vehicle provides, and the security that I feel knowing that I can get in my car and go anywhere I want, whenever I want. On the bus I was able to stretch out across the seats and close my eyes, something that I can’t do when I am driving. I put in my headphones and thought about our next leg of the trip, which was trying to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma before dark. We didn’t really secure any plans for this part of the trip. A mechanic from Siloam Springs had agreed to pick us up in Tulsa in the early evening, but his phone was going straight to voicemail. I wasn’t too worried about it; I knew that we would make it to the bus one way or another.

We were almost to Oklahoma City when another passenger told us that the bus we were on was going to St. Louis after our stop. That meant that the bus was going to go straight through Tulsa, but it wouldn’t be stopping. The bus did, however, make frequent stops at gas stations to give the driver a break, so we decided to stay on the bus and see how close we could get to Tulsa. Half an hour outside of Tulsa, the bus made a stop at a gas station along I-44. The sun was sinking lower in the sky, and we made the decision to grab our bags and ditch the bus. The gas station was full of 18-wheelers, RVs and cars that had pulled off for a quick break, and after twenty minutes of holding up a cardboard sign that read ‘Tulsa’, we were offered a ride.

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Doug and Carol, the owners of a small, grey-colored SUV, were driving home to Tulsa after a day of gambling in Oklahoma City. The three of us piled into the backseat and introduced ourselves. It wasn’t long before we were deep in conversation about the dangers of tar sands pipelines and hydraulic fracturing. Doug and Carol were in the middle of a class action lawsuit against an oil company after a pipeline spilled onto their property and contaminated the water supply. Two of their neighbor’s grandchildren had recently passed away after a losing battle with leukemia, probably linked to the water contamination that had made several people in their community sick. We fell silent in the backseat as we absorbed the gravity of their words. “We drank that water too,” Doug said. “Our children drank that water. We all got sick- that’s how we found out that the pipeline had leaked. They weren’t even going to tell us. They don’t care about us.” After losing their home to foreclosure in 2007, they moved to Tulsa with their son Brennan. “Where are you girls sleeping tonight?” Doug asked us. “We are camping! You can just drop us off wherever. We will try to go the rest of the way tomorrow.” Doug and Carol spent a few seconds making various facial expressions at each other in the front seat. “How would you girls feel about spending the night at our house? We will cook you dinner and give you a warm place to sleep, and then Brennan and I will take you to your bus in the morning!” We graciously accepted the invitation, overwhelmed by their generosity. I felt myself relax, now more confident than ever that the universe would find a way to take care of things.

In Doug and Carol’s living room, we were given a crash course in survivalism by our eager teacher, Doug. Doug pulled out his “grab and go” backpack, which was full of various fishing equipment and knives. “Do you girls have knives?” Moon Warrior and I bashfully admitted that we didn’t. “Well, you need knives!! Take these!” Doug handed us each a pocket knife, freshly sharpened by his stone. My knife was adorned with native influenced rainbow stripes on the handle, and was so sharp that I immediately nicked my finger. “How do you girls feel about guns?” Doug asked. “We definitely want to keep one on the bus.” We told him. Doug went to his room and returned with a rifle, which he handed to me to inspect. “You girls need to learn how to shoot- and shoot well.” We agreed. Doug went on to teach us how to set up a trot line, and gave us a package of line to get us started. Carol gathered up two bags full of white rice to add to our food stock, along with another bag of loose leaf tea.

After dinner, Sun Warrior brought out the ukulele and we sang songs until it was time to go to sleep. We made a pallet on the floor and crawled inside of our sleeping bag. The temperature outside was below freezing, and the wind was howling outside of the window. We fell asleep happy and warm, thankful for our good fortune. In the morning, we presented Doug and Carol with our own gifts that we had brought in our packs. We had packed several small things in our bags for the trip, including local honey, organic tea, coffee beans, and small soaps and candles. We said our goodbyes to Carol and climbed into the SUV with Doug and their son Brennan.

Doug drove us 100 miles to our destination, despite our offers to be dropped off along the road at any point. As we pulled into the driveway in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, we noticed the bus sitting in the driveway. The bright orange and white striped bus made for a stark contrast against the farmland, and with her fishbowl-shaped windshield and flat nose she looks like a cartoon character. We jumped out of the car and greeted Keith and Lois with huge smiles and lots of hugs. Keith was anxious about us wasting another trip to Arkansas, and we sat down to talk about the issues that the bus was having. “She has a leak in the air tank. I can’t stop the air from coming out, and she won’t build up enough pressure” Keith told us. The bus has an air brake system with four air tanks, and the brakes won’t release if the pressure is below 80psi. Doug crawled underneath the bus with us to check out the leak. We found three different sites where air was pouring out, and it became clear that we were not going to be able to fix it in Keith’s driveway.  We said goodbye to Doug and Brennan and went inside the house to make our decision. If we decided to not buy the bus, we were going to have a long walk ahead of us. If we bought the bus, we had to figure out how to move it 500 miles back to Austin, Texas over the next four days.

Inside the house, Keith presented me with a piece of paper that he had just typed up on the computer. It was a contract that he wanted me to sign; stating that he “strongly discouraged” the three of us from purchasing the bus, due to its ongoing and growing list of problems. I looked to the warriors for affirmation and received it, so I signed my name. We handed over the cash and shook hands. “You girls are very brave,” Keith said. “I wish you the best of luck.” Lois gave us hugs, and we promised to send them postcards when we got home. We pulled out more gifts from our packs; more soaps, candles, coffee, and tea. After more hugs and a few group pictures, we were ready to get going.

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We climbed onto the bus with our backpacks and closed the door. We were alone on the bus, for the first time. After a celebration warrior dance, we decided to call AAA to tow us to the next city.  AAA was one of our back up plans. We signed up for RV coverage with AAA just days before we left, so we knew that we could be towed five times for 100 miles over the next few days if we had to. As we waited for the tow truck, a farm truck pulled into the driveway and two mechanics climbed out. “Hey! We are here to help you girls out!” one said. “What are you talking about?? Where did you come from?” We were so excited and confused at the same time! Apparently, the mechanic that was supposed to pick us up in Tulsa, but would not return our phone calls, sent his friends out to check on us. One of the mechanics crawled under the bus and started turning valves and kinking off hoses. “Okay, start her up! Let’s try to drive her!” Silence. “Umm… can you show us how to do this?” The mechanics shook their heads and laughed at us. After a quick tutorial, we figured out how to turn the bus on and off, and how to apply and release the air brakes. Soon we were rolling down the driveway and made our first turn. Sun Warrior pressed on the brakes to test them out and the brakes refused to release! Stuck in the middle of a one-lane red dirt road, we turned the bus off and let the pressure drop. We started the bus up again and let the pressure in the brakes build back up. The mechanics had to leave us, so we thanked them and gave them big hugs and said goodbye.

Once again we were on our own, this time ready to drive her away for real. The tow truck was still on its way, but we wanted to see how far we could get on our own. We drove down the red dirt road towards the main farm road, careful to not press on the brakes. Instead, we just down shifted to slow down. As long as we didn’t use the brakes, we were golden. We made it to Cincinnati Tire Repair, the shop where the mechanic that was originally going to fix the bus and pick us up in Tulsa works. We greeted Chris inside his shop, who seemed kind of impressed that we had made it to Siloam Springs without his help. Chris had given us a warning earlier that morning that maybe we should just go back home and buy a dependable school bus for our travels. We sat in the parking lot of the shop for close to an hour when Chris came outside to look at the bus. I think he realized that we weren’t going to go away. Chris was not able to fix the sticky brakes, but he did tighten some loose belts around the crankshaft pulley.

The tow truck company called to let us know that the tow truck would be there soon, and he could only carry two riders. When we explained that there were three of us, they told us to call a taxi. In the middle of nowhere, Arkansas. I told him that we were all small girls, so maybe we could all fit, and we couldn’t just leave one behind. They cited policy issues, or something. So it was then decided that Sun Warrior would hide inside of the bus during the tow. We crammed the sleeping bag behind the seats and piled random junk around her after she crawled into the tiny space behind the seat. A few minutes later the tow truck arrived. The driver was a really nice guy in his late-40s probably, and kept Moon Warrior and I laughing the entire time. As we drove south, with Bessie holding on for dear life behind us, we took notice of the chicken farms that stretched for miles and miles. Every ‘farm’ that we passed had a row of grey buildings in the middle of an empty field. It’s not quite how I imagined a farm when I was growing up, with pigs rolling around in the mud, the cows munching on fresh hay, and hens prancing around with a row of chicks following close behind. No, these farms were not full of happy chickens. These chickens were pumped full of growth hormones and set on light timers. I asked the driver, “Theoretically, what would happen if we just went and gave the chickens some fresh air?” He responded with a nervous laugh and said, “Oh well, if you are going to do something like that, you gotta do it at night, okay?” I nodded and told him “I just want them to see the sun before they die, that’s all.” He agreed, but told me that the chickens would probably die if they got out. They are going to die anyways.

Moon Warrior had to use the bathroom, so the tow truck pulled over and let her run into the woods. The driver took a piss on Bessie’s nose, which maybe gave her a quick nitrogen boost. Finally, we got back into the truck and continued driving south.

We pulled in to Muldrow, Oklahoma around 8:30pm and unloaded at a diesel repair shop off of the interstate. A mechanic that had been expecting us pulled up to the bus to say hello. The tow truck driver spoke to Randy, the mechanic, privately for a few minutes. I have a feeling that he was telling Randy about our ‘situation’. Our situation being that we were three young girls camping in a piece-of-shit broken down bus without much money 420 miles from home. We said goodbye to the driver and the mechanic and closed ourselves up inside of the bus. It was close to 40 degrees outside, so we lit a bunch of candles on the empty floor to keep ourselves warm. We had one big sleeping bag between the three of us, so we put on all of the clothes that we packed and huddled together.

The next morning, we drove the bus to an auto parts store in town to stock up on fluids and filters. We met a lot of really nice people while we were gathering supplies. One of those people was named Beau. Beau used to live in Austin, but moved back home to Muldrow last year. Beau saw us looking into Bessie’s guts in the parking lot of the NAPA auto parts store, and asked if we needed help. Soon we had a crowd of curious onlookers gathered around the engine compartment, trying to locate the oil filter and figure out belt sizes. We were saved by Clay, a mechanic from across the street who showed us how to measure the distance between the pulleys to figure out the size of the belts, and pointed out the oil filter underneath the bus. We spent the day in the auto store parking lot, studying our bus parts book and trying to figure out how we were going to get two bolts extracted from our harmonic balancer that broke off inside of the pulley. Clay came back later in the day to check on our progress. After a long conversation with Clay and Randy (the first mechanic), we decided to take the bus to Clay the next morning to get us all sorted out. Beau was also checking up on us throughout the day, and invited us to stay at his house that night so we could shower, eat, and be warm.

We woke up the next day feeling so good and clean and ready to continue our adventure. Clay started working on the bus at 8am sharp, and worked non-stop on the bus for his entire shift. While he worked to extract the broken bolts, Sun Warrior changed out the radiator belts, and Moon Warrior and I changed out the fuel filter. Clay also temporarily fixed a coolant leak, and patch welded two leaks in our air tanks. As the sun started to sink late in the day, Clay announced that we were ready to go! With Clay behind the wheel, we took the bus on a test drive down the road. We did a victory dance up and down the aisle in the bus, unable to contain our excitement. Back at the mechanic shop, we surrounded Clay with a group hug and thanked him a million times for fixing us up.

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Finally, we were on our way! We said goodbye to everyone that we met in Muldrow and promised to send postcards. We found the interstate out of town and drove away into the sunset.

11 miles later we pulled over at a truck stop to inspect a soft banging sound in the engine compartment. I climbed out and opened the engine compartment. All of our belts were gone!!! All three belts that spin the crankshaft and the alternator were completely gone, and the harmonic balancer was wobbling again. I reached inside to feel for the bolts. Another bolt had broken in half. I shined my flashlight underneath the frame and found a partially shredded belt hanging down under the bus. This bus was really testing my patience.

I called my brother-in-law for advice. My brother made a few phone calls and told us to get to Atoka, Oklahoma, where his best friend has a diesel repair shop. Atoka was 130 miles south. It was close to midnight, and we were at an empty truck stop in the middle of nowhere (actually, I think all of Oklahoma is in the middle of nowhere). We decided to call up AAA again and get our second tow. Our limit is a 100 miles per tow, and $3 a mile after that. Our options were to pay $100 to go the rest of the way, or make the tow truck driver drop us off after 100 miles and try to limp the remaining 30 miles to Atoka. We agreed to pay the $100, and the other warriors climbed into the back of the tow truck and fell asleep. A few miles into the trip, the tow truck driver told me that since our bus required a heavy duty tow, it’s actually $6 a mile, so it’s going to be $200. I told him that we couldn’t afford it, and to just drop us off at a truck stop as close to the 100 mile mark as possible. It was almost 5 in the morning at this point, and I’m wide awake trying to make sure the tow truck driver stays awake too. He tells me about his history with methamphetamine’s  and how he has turned his life around. He has two little girls now, and he has been sober for four months. Amazingly, we discover we lived in the same apartment complex in Austin, decades apart! We are nearing the 100 mile mark, and he asks me if it’s only $100, would I want to go the rest of the 30 miles to Atoka? Yes!!! I was so thankful! It was nearly 6am, and I could barely keep my eyes open.

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 We unloaded at a Love’s truck stop in Atoka. Bessie was wedged between two 18-wheelers behind the store. We stood out like a circus tent in the morning fog, with our bright orange and white stripes. By 8am, we were pulling into Harold’s diesel repair shop. We met Harold, a tall stout guy that reminded me of my brother-in-law. Harold told us that we were brave girls for buying this bus. As a mechanic, he wasn’t sure that he would have taken on such a project. “Or maybe I would…” he said, half-jokingly.

By late afternoon, Harold and his team had extracted one of the bolts (the other one is really stuck), put on three new belts, re-welded the holes in the air tanks that had reopened, re-fixed a coolant leak that was leaking again, and welded a crack in the oil pan caused by the last tow truck. We group-hugged Harold and his sons good-bye and drove off into the sunset.
A few miles down the road and we were still driving! We tried to hold off on any victory dances. By dark we were crossing the Red River into Texas, and celebrated by screaming out the window. Sun Warrior perched herself on the dash and we sang songs while she played the ukulele. The bus was already feeling like home!

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We made it to Temple, Texas before we began hearing a faint noise in the engine. Once again, we pulled off to check it out. Another broken bolt! The harmonic balancer seemed firm and stable, but we made the decision to call the tow truck for the remaining 73 miles home. We knew it was only a matter of time before the belts flew off again.

So now the bus is sitting in our driveway at R.O.O.T.S. EcoVillage in Austin. There is an ever growing list of “to-do’s” before we can get Bessie on the road.

Bessie’s Maintenance List:
a. extract broken bolts from the harmonic balancer
b. New vibration damper (harmonic balancer)
c. (2) new air tanks
d. finish welding the crack in the oil pan
e. fix the blinkers
f. fix the windshield wipers
g. install a horn
h. (6) new tires
i. repair or replace driver side brake biscuit

R.A.G.E. Project List:
a. (2) solar panels
b. composting toilet
c. DIY wood burning stove
d. insulate floors, walls, ceiling
e. design/build garden box in the dash
f. LED lighting on ceiling
g. WVO (waste veggie oil) conversion

Would you like to get involved? Send us an email! ragebusproject@gmail.com