Whew, what a few hectic weeks it’s been.
We’re often asked about our pace of travel – and for the record – these past couple weeks are not indicative of our preferred style. In our ideal world, we’d travel a couple hundred miles and stick around for a few weeks or more before traveling another couple hundred miles – rinse, repeat.
In reality, it hardly ever works out that way.
Events we want to attend, people we want to see and opportunities pre-empt our intentions and far too often we find ourselves on a cross country repositioning in far too quick of time.
For a lot of folks, taking 12 days to travel 2000 miles may seem slow – after all, if you drive straight through you can get across country in a matter of a couple days. But this hyper mobile lifestyle of ours isn’t sustainable long term if we keep a pace like that.
We’re not on vacation after all. We have to juggle the rest of life in with those miles. Fitness, quality time with each other, resting, keeping up with the world, blogging, cooking & cleaning, walking the cat, social time with friend’s paths we cross, enjoying places we stop, errands, etc. And let’s not forget, unexpected obstacles and that work thing.
We simply find that trying to get in work hours and drive hours on the same day just doesn’t work well for us. We need to stop for a day or two at a time and have office days. Especially this time of year, when one of my major clients undergoes their fiscal year turn over that I have to orchestrate.
Ever since we left St. George, we’ve been in pretty much a state of exhaustion. 12-days to get to Chattanooga is way too rushed for our tastes.
Journey to the Rally
At our last travel update, we had just left Ben & Karen in Albuquerque after an amazing time at the Balloon Fiesta.
We took a couple day stop along Lake Meredith, just north of Amarillo. 5 years ago on our maiden trial voyage in the T@b, we discovered this free camping spot.
With scenic waterfront views, excellent 3G signal and completely free – it’s a Technomad Trifecta.
But soon it was time to hit the road, with miles to make every day. We crossed through a very windy Oklahoma with stops in Hinton and Wister.
Then an overnight in Hot Springs, AR for a rendezvous with an old friend – and sadly, no time for a hot bath soak. An overnight at a most peaceful rest stop in Corinth, MS, and then on to a day in Huntsville for an overdue visit to the Apple Genius Bar to take care of some poking issues. We averaged about 200 miles a day to keep the pace as sane as possible.
We pulled into Chattanooga to the Bus Conversion Magazine pre-workshop week, and hit the ground running.
We made the rush drive to take advantage of the day long workshops being offered before the rally.
Our first day was spent on preventative maintenance, a topic we knew we needed help with to bring our bus up to date after 15 years of neglect.
And our second day was a planned nearly all day driving class. While Chris has been rocking the driving, I’ve been hesitant to get behind the wheel.
Both classes were good, but honestly, a bit underwhelming for what was advertised. Both lasted about half their scheduled time, only had 4 students and neither taught by experienced trainers (but definitely by experts in their topics).
I did successfully parallel park a 40′ bus (woohoo!), and I do feel proficient in driving a bus around an empty parking lot. But I had hoped to gain confidence in driving in conditions that I’m more likely to encounter – like tight city corners, traffic, hills and just generally avoiding squishing people.
Before the rally, we were a bit confused as to the relationship between Bus Conversion Magazine and Choo Choo Express Garage, who share an address. Turns out, they are separate entities – with BCM renting space at the garage.
The workshops were held at the garage, which had us staying there too. And this turned out to be a huge blessing.
The garage used to once be the yard of a fleet of charter buses, but is now a dedicated bus shop with highly skilled mechanical knowledge.
So while we were there, we had them pull our bus over the pit and do an unofficial thorough DOT inspection. As a titled motorhome, our bus isn’t required to have this inspection. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.
Joel pointed out some things that could use attention – primarily maintenance stuff that needed catching up, but all and all – the bus checked out as solid. We had him tighten up our steering, change a pancake diaphragm in a front brake, fix an air valve, flush our coolant and swap out our transmission filter to be an easier to maintain screw on kind.
We also discussed some future projects that need to happen soon, including replacing all of the air suspension bags.
We fell in love with Choo Choo – friendly knowledgable folks, excellent shop rates and we learned so much.
The rally itself was held just a couple miles away at Camp Jordan, so after we got our bus off the pit we headed over a night early to get set up and relax a bit.
Over the next days, there were a total of about 40 buses that joined up for the weekend. There were buses of all sorts – Eagles, Prevost, MCI, GM, Neoplan, Wanderlodge and Skoolies. It was great to see such a wide variety of both buses and bus owners.
Originally the rally had over a 100 buses saying they would attend, but not all of the registrations made it in. So unfortunately the organizer had to scramble last minute to scale back the event. Considering he was taking this on alone, he did a remarkable job keeping the event together. And we’re very appreciative of his efforts.
There are many things that we could suggest to have made the rally better – but in the end, we prefer to count the positives. We learned tons more about buses, got lots of great ideas, met many amazing people, made new friends, attended great seminars, gave a couple seminars of our own and had fun meeting up again with folks we had met during our bus hunt.
The highlight however was getting to rendezvous and park next to Sean of Our Odyssey.
It’s hard to believe we had only spent a short time once before with Sean & Louise over a year ago – as we felt an immediate kinship with them, and have maintained contact since. Louise had to fly back to California during the rally, but we greatly appreciated getting some more time with Sean. He’s been a tremendous help in guiding us on bus projects over these past few months, even staying on the phone coaching us through priming our engine to take our bus for a test drive.
He also set up their hot tub (yes, they travel with a hot tub) – so we enjoyed evenings with a glass a wine and a soak. Oh yeah. Good friends. Wine. Hot water. That’s a recipe for bliss.
We joined Sean back over at Choo Choo, where he’s awaiting parts to arrive for his bus. We intended to leave out on Tuesday, but awoke to news that has the potential to affect our routing.
So we coordinated with Choo Choo to go ahead and get the parts in for replacing our air bags and re-packing our bearings this week, while we wait for further information to know which direction we’re heading next. And since we came across a pair of never-used Mini Max spring brakes (which are no longer made) at the rally, we’re going to have those installed as well – keeping the old ones as spares. That should all happen today.
At current time, it’s looking highly likely that we’ll proceed as planned and arrive in St. Louis this weekend for time with Chris’ family. We’ll also finally move aboard the rest of our stuff from the Oliver that we left in storage there.
Which is a good thing, because that includes our winter wardrobe and it’s starting to get cold!