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I didn’t fully understand the situation. I knew we’d be ‘camping’ on a bus and grilling and watching races.
I didn’t know the bus would “go-in” on a Wednesday or Thursday. I didn’t know the bus would require a pre-race day running to see if it would start and stay started.
I didn’t know a test drive was required to determine if the bus would continue to run once out on the road. To see if it would keep running while driven, and if not, to fix whatever seemed to be wrong. And lastly, as Jeff put it, “to make sure the wheels on the bus go round.”
The first two were accomplished without me, which was fine. The last one, made me laugh thinking of that old school bus song. Historically, Jeff had been a great tour guide, so I was looking forward to getting a first ride around the local back streets.
We climbed in the remarkably less stinky bus. Jeff cranked the key hard to started the engine. It coughed a little, but then chugged to life with a roar. I didn’t remember school busses ever being that loud, but, then again, a lot of the usual interior was missing. Plus, as it turned out, it was a bit of muffler, too.
I sat on the side bench, next to the door, in view of Jeff, and happily settled in. It took a while to get out of the driveway, which seemed a little more rutty to me than usual. Seatbelt-less, I slid off my seat little when Jeff turned the corner onto Roger’s Highway. I grabbed hold of the bench, slightly embarrassed and sat myself back into the seat.
He didn’t seem to notice my floundering, but I watching him wrangle the shifting and the wheel and the spring-loaded driver’s seat. I grew concerned. Driving that thing was taking tremendous effort and a good deal of his strength. I was remembering a skinny, hippie bus driver I had once, and didn’t recall him having that much trouble controlling the bus.
Having crested atop a slight hill, the stuttering beast picked-up speed on the flat-away. I was launched into jumping bean mode. Catapulted; repetitively airborne. Landing with ungraceful “oomph”s.
Honestly, I was flopping around, bounced off of and back into my seat with no chance of steadying. There was no point in trying to speak. Having ridden up many long rises on wooden roller coasters where it was fashionable to create warbled screams for fun, I intuitively knew I’d be incoherent.
It’d be like shouting into a fan, while riding a bike downhill on a dirt road. I would have had to catch my breath, first, anyway. The way this experience was going didn’t seem like it’d lend itself to that likelihood, anytime soon.
About three minutes into our excursion, I finally got the chance, when Jeff necessarily downshifted at stop sign.
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I met The Bus on my first trip to Tecumseh. Parked next to a pole barn/garage, which later successfully served as a wedding reception venue, it wasn’t immediately visible from the road. Yet, it was certainly Jeff’s pride and joy and the perfect vehicle to gather friends and family. The bus’s main function was to provide lodging in the Michigan International Speedway infield during race weekends. Although, it did also serve as a wedding shuttle, once.
My tour initiated with an abrupt, boot-heel push- in of the rusty accordion door and a push out of a strong odorous something… a little… hmm… Dank? Rotten in Denmark? Wet dog who’d just taken a 12-hour hot beer bath? I hesitated, but Jeff barely notice the sharp tang. Not wanting to be rude, I held my breath. Then, when I had to breathe, it was with a hand over my mouth and pinching my nose until my nostrils were sealed. “Oh!” Jeff exclaimed. He wasn’t, however, moved by my predicament or by the many fragrant forgotten un-treasures.
That first, and relatively only slightly assaulting smell, turned out to be a loaf of petrified, hideously green bread hiding beneath on of the liftable storage/seat benches. Jeff amused himself by rapping his knuckles on it and scientifically wondering what he might find inside of it if he were to break it. I requested he not experiment in my presence by squealing, “Oh. My. God! Don’t you dare!”
Deeper, near the back of the bus where the trouble-makers usually sit, the real, abusive attack began when Jeff pried open the off-white lid of an insulated cooler. The reek that jumped out and slapped us turned out to be a half-dozen half-leaky or fully exploded beer cans encased in the previously well insulated blue bottom of the tub. Two six-packs of bow-lidded and likely skunked beer cans were hanging out in there, too. Jeff just shook his head, lamented, “Well… that’s a shame.”
Adding even more moldy atmosphere were numerous sets of soggy shoes and one stray, randomly strewn clothing and a few moldy towels. “Oh. My. God!” I said, backing away as fast as possible. “Yeah,” Jeff shrugged, and followed my retreat path.
As we reached the front of the bus, Jeff suddenly smiled widely. “I’ve been wondering where that shirt went to! It’s my favorite!” He was, in my opinion, unsoundly, and deliriously happy as he grabbed at a wadded ball of crunchy fabric resting on the window ledge next to the driver’s seat.
“Um, I don’t think that can be salvaged…” I ventured.
“Nah,” he replied, still grinning. “It’ll be ok after it’s washed.”
I remember thinking, “I hope he’s not serious…” I must have not hidden my doubt well, because he laughed. “I’ve washed stuff worse than this before!” He shared, waving it at me, adding,…”at least, it’s not dried cow-pocky! That stuff’s haarrddd to get out!”
Even as a city girl unfamiliar with cow-anything, I got his drift. Somehow, I forgot to remember to not use my nose. I let go a laugh, followed by a gag. I tripped a little on the tiny, awkward half-spiral stairs that were more suited for school children sized feet. I wobbled, recovered, wobbled, got one foot on the ground, wobbled some more and saved myself from a complete side-plant by settling into a one-knee tucked under me, sitting position.
After he stopped laughing, and wiped his eyes, Jeff looked back at the bus. “Yeah,” he scrunched up his nose, “I guess it’s gonna need some cleanin’ up before the race.”
I told him, I’d be glad to help with the cleaning, but he’d have to get rid of all the stinky stuff, first – without my help.
“Ok,” he agreed, amicably. Then, with a twinkle in his eyes, and hands on his hips, Jeff chuckled a tongue-in-cheek question. “Do you always fall like a ballerina?” I rolled my eyes. “Because,” he continued, “I’d kinda like to see that again!”
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