It wouldn't be a road trip if something didn't go wrong.

A bit later start then I would have liked to when we left the farm but we had good straight roads for the most part to Wichita so we put the pedal to the floor and cruised at a mellow 65 mph. We were getting close to crossing the Misssissippi river when Bruce started making a terrible "thunking" and "whoomp, whoomp, whoomp" noise. I pulled over immediately and popped the hood to see what was making all the noise. A half blown serpentine belt. Part of it had got caught on a hose clamp and shredded the belt to pieces. I crawled underneath the bus and started pulling parts of the serpentine belt out from the motor. I had barely any bars of service and no data whatsoever in the area so I called my good friend Penny to Google the nearest auto store. We were in luck. Just 5 miles away on the other side of the Mississippi river was the town of Hannibal, MI with a parts store. After I got off the phone I felt something crawling on my leg and reached down to find two ticks trying to make a home. I pulled both of them off and tossed them out the window.

Well here's the problem.

Being that I had half a belt left I limped Bruce along at 3 MPH and crossed the bridge over the Mississippi river right at sunset. This actually made for some great sunset shots and reminded me that sometimes you just have to slow down a bit and enjoy the journey and forget the destination. As we rolled into Hannibal we learned that it was Mark Twain's home town. It seemed fitting that we broke down in a town where stories of boys on an adventures were created. We were on an adventure of our own.

One of the most memorable sunsets to date considering the circumstances.

Thankfully the Auto Zone was still open for 10 more minutes and they had the belt I needed. Another plus to buying a school bus built on a GMC Savana chassis. Parts are easy to come by. It took me a second to read the belt diagram and understand the belt flow before installing it but I had it on and running in 20 minutes.

Get in the Zone. Auto Zone...

We hit the road again with about 4-5 hours ahead of us. I slammed more coffee and popped some sunflower seeds in as we pushed into the night. About 30 minutes down the road Ryan's phone began to blow up with severe tornado warnings. Awesome. I pulled off at the next exit and Ryan ran into the gas station to ask a local about how severe it actually was. The lady let us know that two tornadoes had already touched down just north of us and golf ball size hail was expected any moment in the area. Out came the road map as I planned an alternative route around the storm. It was going to set us back a couple hours but I was all for it.

Driving into the storm.

Right around Kansas City I was too tired to push any further. It was around 2:30 AM and I was exhausted. We pulled off the freeway and into a hotel parking lot. It was hot and muggy so we cracked the windows on the bus and slept shirtless. Not more than 20 minutes went by when someone with a flash light was shining us in the eyes. I was borderline delerious and started shouting to get the light out my face. The person started shouting to open up the door of which I replied "Who the f*ck are you?" Come to find out it's the police. Someone had called in seeing a man taking his shirt off in a school bus and there were concerned for the children... After we got everything smoothed out I crashed on the air mattress only to wake back up around 4:30 AM and start driving again. 

Organic farms seem to be popping up everywhere but there are only a select few that have been in the game for years. Crème de la Crop is one of those.

Ryan had mentioned that he had friends outside Valparaiso, IN that ran an organic farm and I thought it would be a nice experience to explore the farm and learn a little more about organic farming. Leanne and JP welcomed us at the farm and we took a little tour. The farm consisted of chickens, ducks, endless produce and my personal favorite, the goats. I've been around goats a few times in my life but never around one that constantly says "WHAT, WHAT, WHAT". These little buggers were entertainment for hours.

Funny little dudes ain't they?

We explored the farm and were shown some of the original equipment that is still in use to this day. We learned that JP and Leanne's early dates were on the old tractor plowing rows for crop. They use and reuse everything they can. The chickens do a fine job of providing poop that is mixed with dirt and bark, covered for almost a year and then used for fertilizer. We learned they also have one of the best internship programs for organic farming in the whole US. Leanne has built up the program from scratch over the years.

Leanne and her ladies.

For whatever reason this shower head caught my eye. The colors were vibrant.

The bus steps were in bad shape from rusting and Leanne's father George who has the greatest "man shop" I've ever seen, offered to help weld them back together so that we didn't step through them on our drive back home. George has been welding for over 25 years and had the steps supported in no time.

Bruce in need of some welding love. Steps were sagging.

George. Master craftsman and owner of the best "man shop" ever.

With a long push ahead of us we began our journey towards Wichita, KS a good 13 hours away. George laughed at us when we told him how far we planned to drive. I smiled and said that's nothing and we'd be there shortly after 1AM. Little did I know that George would be right when we got hit with a blown serpentine belt and severe tornadoes...

We started our day out with gas station coffee and a creepy guy staring at us from his window.

At first we thought someone had placed a cardboard cutout of a man in their window but after Ryan snapped a few photos, the cardboard figure moved. The old man apparently was worried for the safety of the children in the bus and the hooligans that were driving it. That's the beauty of road trips and taking side roads. You get to see things you typically wouldn't if you were on the interstates. Granted you get places faster on the interstates but if you have time, what's the rush?

Well, Hello there neighbor...

I'm looking forward to more of these views in the morning.

We put the rubber to the pavement and started making our way towards Indiana where we planned to stay on an organic farm with some friends. I began to feel pretty comfortable driving the bus at this point and it no longer felt like a giant space ship. Corn was the view for the day as we drove through hundreds of miles of nothing but corn fields. We broke up the drive with a stop at Twistee Treats in a little town. Nothing like ice cream on a hot summer day.

Wind and corn.

Endless miles of corn.

Cash only. Ice cream is my weakness.

Later that evening we rolled into Crème de la Crop outside Valparaiso, IN. The farm has been in the same family for years. We picked some fresh produce and cooked up some stir fry while drinking Yuengling deep into the night.

 

Photo: Brock Butterfield

 

Photos provided by Ryan Bregante unless stated otherwise.

The idea to travel and live out of a short school bus came to me in Jackson Hole, WY.

**Note** IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR SHORT SCHOOL BUSES FOR SALE YOU WILL WANT TO SEE THE FOR SALE SECTION or HOW TO FIND SCHOOL BUSES FOR SALE. This article is a story of how I found my short school bus.

My winters are consumed with chasing storms and endless powder for both pleasure and work. I had built a sleeping platform in the cab of my truck to be able to travel and save money on the cost of hotels but a truck is a bit cramped in the winter. The thought of a Sportsmobile was enticing yet I still had to pull a snowmobile trailer and Teton Pass doesn't allow that in the winter. The idea to buy a short school bus hit me while on one of my many 5 hour drives to Jackson Hole. They're long enough to chop the back for a sled deck and still have ample space for living quarters. The problem was traction during the winter. I needed something with four wheel drive. Do they even make school buses with four wheel drive? I was about to dive into over 4 months of internet research to find out they did. But they were far and few.

After many countless hours and late nights going through auction inventory lists across the U.S. I had finally found a 4x4 short school bus that was diesel and the right length of five windows long. On BusCrazy.net I was able to find a GMC 3500 Savana Truck with a Corbeil bus top on it. Duramax 6.5L turbo diesel with Quigley 4x4 installed. A genuine bad boy. The next morning I called Ted Jennings at Don Brown Bus sales and spoke with him about the bus. Everything was working and had well maintained by the school district. We negotiated price and I bought a plane ticket for the next week. I called up Ryan Bregante to join, shoot photos and be co-pilot for the cross country road trip home. 

 

When I arrived at Don Brown Bus Sales I was blown away by how many buses they have. Ryan and I took some time to film and shoot photos in the lot while they did one last once over on the bus in the shop to make sure it was ready to go. The bus had been sitting for a little while so they found it needed new brakes, brake lines, rotors, u-joints and blower fan. They replaced them all at no cost to me and even took out the back two rows of seats so that we could throw the air mattress down when pulling over at night. The bus wouldn't be done that day so they put us up in a hotel for the night.

 

 As a kid I hated the bus. Now I'm going to live in one...

 Never take anything too serious and laugh a lot.

Next morning the bus was ready to go and I test drove it for the first time. I learned quickly it's all about the mirrors. After some paperwork we were on the road headed for Mosquito Lake State Park in Ohio. This was my fourth trip cross country and I've learned that it's always better to take the side roads. Interstates lack in the scenic views and old rustic towns with mom and pop shops that need the help. We pushed across the scenic 20 through New York, down into Pennsylvania and into Ohio by nightfall where we spent a few hours shooting long exposure shots of the bus before crashing on the air mattress for the night. 

 

 

 The crew at Don Brown Bus Sales. Thanks guys!

Ryan getting all artsy with reflections. 

Some sweet clouds on our first night sleeping in the bus. The chiggers found us...

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