Room To Breathe

Last summer, just outside the Grand Canyon, at a campground replete with swimming pool and swing sets I came across a non-bus person.  I was cleaning the windshield of my coach and this guy walks up, number three washtub cup of coffee in hand, and states matter of factually, “Old Trailways huh?” and I reply, “No sir.  This not an old Trailways.”

He then says, “Well sonny, you are wrong and I will tell you why.”  I think to myself I can never line up three numbers on the lottery, but I am lucky enough to run into guys like this?  So I once again reply, “Sure, why don’t you amuse me a little this morning.”

He then points at the Gold Eagle on the front of the coach and says, “It’s a Trailways, all them Trailways had an Eagle on the front of ‘em.”  So as politely as I could, knowing full well, that good public relations in the bus community is one of our primary goals.  Slowly and methodically, taking my time, I explained to this brown loafer with black socks tourist the entire history of my coach.  Which of course, did not amount to a hill of beans, because “it has an Eagle on the front of it.”

Patiently I tried to explain to him how it was manufactured in 1983, in Brownsville, Texas and I found myself speaking “slower and slower” so he would be able to take it in.  But it was to no avail, this guy, the kind of guy who never had his science project in school turned in on time, was not buying into any of it.

“Nah, you got it wrong,” you see, “it has an Eagle on the front of it, all them there Trailways, had an Eagle on ‘em.”  I tried to tell him it came out of California, that at one time it lived in Arizona and I bought it off a guy outside of Orlando, Florida.  But it simply did not soak in.  I am thinking to myself … “If you had bought an old Buffalo this conversation would NOT be happening.”

After what I consider a reasonable amount of logical and concise explanation, not to mention time, I just hung it up.  Looking him straight in the eye, I said, “Excuse me partner, I have to finish what I started here.” and went back to cleaning my windshields.  Which in all honesty is about the only thing I had planned for that morning anyway.

It might be noted here that I found myself holding no malice for this guy, non-bus people are supposed to NOT know about buses, I just let it go.

It would be nice to have a warning from time to time when non-bus people are in the area.  At the turn of the century, miner’s in the coal mines of Appalachia, Virginia-West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, would carry into the mine a canary in a cage.  The purpose or reason for this was the canary was their “air quality” control for the miners.  If the air were to suddenly turn bad, the canary would die, and the miners were made aware of the danger.  Today of course, electronic metering devices (air sniffers) have replaced the canary.

The first time I came in contact with bus people, incidentally who are supposed to know about buses, I had no canary.

Being new to this lifestyle and a novice, I just blindly followed along, picking up a nugget of truth here and there, and more or less, weeding my way thru the bus community.  A true beginner.  My first precursor to something being amiss was when someone on a bus site (to be un-named at this time), inquired as to what the history of my bus might be?  I of course, did not know, so it was suggested that I provide a serial number and the data would be provided to me.

Grabbing a flashlight I went out into the shop, located the serial number, noted the information and then posted it on the net.  This serial number or VIN, isn’t as easily found as suggested by the bus nut who needed it, but after a short period of time, I found it.  Hastily welded to the frame in the engine compartment, really unprofessional looking, and somewhat tacky.  There in all its splendid glory was the Vin Number of my coach, splotched welds and all.  Hastily welded to my frame by some hung-over I will do it on Monday type in Brownsville, Texas many years ago.

Somewhat smug and feeling circumspect for even locating the plate, I headed into the house to post it.  Not long after that, I got a reply from the bus nut historian, the “entire history” of my bus, where it was born, where it worked, where it served the public, when it left service, the entire nine yards.  I found out that my particular people carrier ran up and down the San Joaquin Valley out of Sacramento, California.  The majority of its working life was in The Golden State.  It ran for an outfit named the Amador Coach Lines, from the valley to San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area, with an occasional side trip over Donner Pass to Reno, Nevada, with a load of fun seekers I suppose.

Also there was this …. “By the way, it is not a 8V92T it is a 6V92 or something to that effect.”This was my first chirp out of the canary.

So I said, “No, it is an 8V92T Detroit.”  Again, “No you are wrong, the serial number indicates …. blah, blah, yadda-yadda.”  Suddenly I find myself, sitting alone in my spacious media room, in my comfortable Easy Boy recliner, sipping on a bottle of Snapple and wondering “if this guy, this internet bus historian, is he wearing brown loafers and black socks?” Reading on, I note there is even more.  It seems that in the bus community, “there is always more” no shortage of that.

At this juncture in time, on my bus related journey of awareness, I was clued in again.  I was at that time, even given specific instructions on how to look at an exhaust manifold, and ascertain the number of cylinders on my engine (you need to count the exhaust ports on the headers).

Which I thought was at best … Kinda strange.

It never occurred to this person that bus engines, transmissions, and other bus nomenclature are routinely removed and swapped out in this day and age all over America?  A request is made for me to photo document and authenticate the number of cylinders on my Detroit prime mover.  This somewhat unorthodox request was promptly filed in the circular retainer next to my chair for further use (trashed).  By the way … just for the record … It is a 8V92T.  I have the shop receipts and canceled checks to prove it.  If need be, I can also provide the telephone number of “the old two-stroke dude” in Joplin, Missouri that removed the previous engine and installed the new rebuilt one.

Bus clubs and the internet are supposed to be a variable storehouse of information.  But sadly, it is often not true.  It has also been suggested to me by someone who hangs in the bus community (who I understand doesn’t even own a bus) that I do not know the difference between a hub cap and a wheel.  Which is ridiculous, a hubcap is lighter than a wheel, we all know that.  And a wheel, as I understand it, is much, much bigger.

Our second encounter comes in the form of bus club membership.  We are told of this wonderful bunch of people, who share a common interest (Eagle Buses) and that we should join up.  This is usually in the form of an invite or as a used car salesman would put it … The Come On.

Usually it is something much like:  “First things first, you now need to join our group at: (location of group here) and hopefully consider joining the chapter.  There is a ton of Eagle specific information on the site and some pretty knowledgeable folks that have a lot of expertise and experience that are always willing to help.  Next, would you mind telling us who you bought the bus from?   Also, if we know the bus, we might be able to help you with background information.  BTW, for the rest of you that own SOBs, you are welcome to drop into the goings on over there” and then goes on to invite and greet.

At this point, I had to email someone and get a definition of SOB, turns out it meant Some Other Brand … Who would’ve ever thunk thet?

Not much on social networking and knowing full well from past experiences that these things never seem to pan out, we joined.  At this point, I note that our canary is no longer singing, and it is not as active in the cage as before.

We press on, deep into the bus community.

Soon I discover, that opinionated people are not always welcomed with open arms in the bus community, it is best to keep your mouth shut.  We attend our very first bus rally, which in itself is a real eye opener.  20 plus coaches of different make and color adorn the shores of a small lake in Kansas.

There I discover that I have the wrong transmission, and of course, “it is NOT the transmission that I say it is.”  We also discover much to our disappointment we are running the wrong kind of oil and that our motive power, our fuel gulping two-lane pusher, the 8V92T, is surely without a doubt, the worst oil leaking, underpowered engine on the American market today.  It is also reputed to smoke worse than the Marlboro cowboy and is currently illegal in the entire State of “Kalifornia and three counties outside of Ypsilanti, Michigan.”

Our marker lights are installed backwards, our caps are wrong and tires clearly not of the prescribed norm for highway travel in this land stretching from sea to shining sea.  I am thankful for my prescription of Halcyon and the understanding of my bride, who often see’s me through trying times in life.

Against my better judgment I buy two commemorative two T-shirts knowing full well that I will most likely never will wear them in public.  A medium size for the little lady, and an XLFB (Extra Large with a Full Belly) for me.

Been there … Done that … Got the T-Shirts! As George Dubya would say … Mission Accomplished!

Firing up the old hoopie, she smokes a little and I wait on the air buzzer to quit.  Time to head south, another bus rally is on our horizon, and of course, we are going to try to find a little clean air.  The canary coughs a couple of coughs, then heads over on the perch to lean up against the bars of the cage.

See you in the fast lane … Watch those right-handers.

Have a great weekend.