We were never in the market for a school bus.
Looking at campervans on Craigslist for the the first time from NZ, made me do a serious double take. There was a zero missing in the price! We may, just be able to pull this (living on the road) thing off. When we got to Omaha for Matt’s wedding I continued to search, we checked out a few that I thought were a good deal. One was parked on the edge of a corn field but had a dead deer next to it, it’s eyeballs starring up at me from the ditch. Not buying that camper.
In my family, we’re a little bit supertious. So when I told my Mum that we’d found “the one” and we were driving to place in Kansas named Rattlesnake Hill to pick it up, she said ” What an awful name, how could you buy a camper from the place like that.” She didn’t realize what a good deal it was. Solar. Scooter. Great brand. Few miles. We left Omaha at 5am to pick up the camper at 9am. I think the kids first started spewing at around 7am, that next morning. Everytime someone spewed we would pull over, rinse out tubs and change t-shirts, the whole time texting Rattlesnake Hill saying, we’re coming, we’re coming. We were finally close at about 9.20am, Pat phoned the man saying “We are 10 minutes away.” He said “You’re 10 minutes too late.” “Oh yeah haha, sorry, we’re going as fast as we can. ” “No, you’re 10 minutes too late because I just sold the RV to somebody else.” Thats when all the blood drained out of Pats head and he said in this Psychotic Nebraska Nice voice: “Thank you sir, have a nice day. ” Beep. He was livid. That guy knew we were driving 5 hours with 3 kids to buy his RV. So, we turned around to start the 5 hours home. Pat was too mad to drive so I took over the wheel.
We were cruising down the highway when I saw a beautiful hawk swoop and dip above our car.
My Grandmother on my Dad’s side had an interesting relationship with birds. As a child I had seen her hold out her hand and wild birds land on it. She grew up among Maori, who believe when a fantail flies into the house it is a bad omen. A harbinger of death. Grandma had a fantail start to visit her in her dining room late in her life. She underplayed it, named it Joey. Said it was attracted to her cigarette smoke. She died a few weeks later, peacefully in her sleep and that fantail never came back. The concept of certain birds turning up in certain times of your life, is one that I am open to. Ancient Hawaiians all had Aumakua, animal guardians that would guide them.
When the hawk verred off over an exit, I silently followed it. “Let’s pull over and stretch our legs.” I sat under a tree as the hawk circled over head.
I looked on Craigslist again in a more expensive bracket, thinking an older listing may take a lower offer. I saw the bus. The ad was awful “sub woofer, Led lights” It sounded like a boy racer wrote it. It was in a town named Harrisonville, not too far away.
Harrisonville, thats a better name. I had a good friend at the time named Harrison, whom I loved, dearly. He was a bartender at the restaurant I was temping at. He would talk to me in this ridiculous cockney accent that would at times drift in and out of South African and Australian accents. His british accent may have been terrible but the concept of pisstaking, Harry understood brilliantly. Let’s try and constantly piss each other off and wind each other up and it will be super fun! And it was. But after a few drinks, a pure goodness would show. So, when this name came up, it was a good omen to me. My friend Harry. Lets check out this bus.
And then I missed the exit. It was hot. Everyone was exhausted. The car smelled like puke. We’d been driving nearly 6 hours and no one wanted to add an extra 40 minutes to the trip. So Pat and all the kids were whining and yelling at me not to turn around. It took a lot of determination to make that U turn on the interstate, and calmingly state: “we. are. looking. at. this. bus.”
The opposition continued. 10 years earlier standing in Honolulu International Airport I looked at Pat and said: “You got the cash in the money belt right?” He didn’t. He’d checked US$5k in with our luggage. Go back and get it. Say anything. Lie. Say baby formula is in the bag and we need it. “No Amy, it will be fine.” I knew it wouldn’t be. But I decided not to be a bitch and make a scene. We arrived at our destination and US$5k… Poof. My mum replaced the full amount with some of the money she inherited when her mother died. Gran’s money. Today, I was not gonna back down. I was gonna be a bitch. We’re looking at that bus.
We turned up at Colby’s house in Harrisonville. There was a beautiful woodpecker in the tree next to the bus. This is it. This is our ship for our US Odessy. Colby arrived and showed us the bus. Solid wood interior. New brakes. New tires. Rebuilt engine. We saw his garage and his other projects, he was a mechanic fanatic.
This was a fateful day. The ripples of this day affect ours lives to this very moment. For example, if we hadn’t bought this bus, we would have never gone to Skooliepalooza and met John and got a job at Glacier National Park. We would have never met our best friends at Descend on Bend, and gone to Baja and Anza Borrego with them. They wouldn’t be arriving tomorrow.
So follow your instincts …follow the names …follow the signs …and follow the birds.