Why I would choose to set off across the country in a 51-year-old Bus is the question. I can hear the unspoken thoughts: “Is Peter loopy? Is this some sort of midlife crisis? Do we need an intervention?” Probably all of the above and yet… not so.
It’s really all the bus’s fault.
Just a few weeks ago in January I innocently took the short drive up from my small, rustic mountain community of Lake of the Woods to the small swanky enclave of Pinon Pines to pick up a vile of CBD oil. I procure this elixir every few weeks for Michelle as it calms her a bit.
CBD isn’t psychoactive – it don’t get you high, man – but the transaction, while legal, was nevertheless a bit like a dope deal. I would bring a check – okay, not a real dope deal – and leave it under a rock on her front porch and take the neat little bag with the straw handles that contained the ounce of peace. (I see now that I’ve written it out that it really isn’t anything like a dope deal. This could be a bag of tomatoes and imagining it as something a bit sneaky is the clearest sign that I was bored and in desperate need of adventure.)
Round trip in my bells for the whistles and whistles for the bells CX5 was ten minutes tops, and this jaunt was sort of a mini-vacation for me, an excursion to disengage from my 24/7 job taking care of Michelle. It was what I thought would be the future of travel for me, as far as I could go until Alzheimer’s took her, or something took me first. So, I enjoyed it, drinking in the mountains and trees. It truly is a lovely little drive.
Only this time, as I’m walking towards the front door, I can’t help but notice this Bus parked right there. I had never seen it before in over a year of these mini-trips.
I stopped and stared. I knew it was real, but this was a crazy moment, truly. Sitting there in front of her house was one of the five things I had always wanted. I already had the other four.
Fifty-one years earlier when this marvel of German machinery came off the production line, I was in high school and I was miserable. I was horribly self-conscious, directionless, desperate, confused and, to make matters worse, I was cute. Not handsome, or hot, just cute, like a sad puppy. All of that is to say, I was essentially a normal teenager.
Life tip: The next time you see one, a teenager, whether coming or going from school or at a bus stop, just know you are looking at a mash up of emotions and thoughts. You are likely observing a calm but awkward shell housing a Cat 5 hurricane. And the gale force winds are, for the most part, composed of fantasies and dreams, mostly unrealized.
15-year-old me would have been “daydreaming” in some way in both an effort to feel safe and an effort to have a purpose. I suppose I was creating my own rite of passage. At times he would have been daydreaming about this bus, this color, this style of Westfalia Camper. He would have attached all his hopes of travel, escape, adventure, love, getting laid and simply being free into that curvy rectangular box on wheels.
I was staring at my expectation of happiness. And I wanted it.
I don’t normally see the woman who leaves the neat little bag of CBD oil and I picked it up and was heading back to the car, to my perfectly safe, predictable, really fun car that can practically drive itself, to my routines, to my neat, somewhat aesthetic, somewhat boring Groundhog Day life and… I stopped. There was a Cat 5 hurricane in my mind that was pulling my heart out by the roots.
Hey, it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
I texted her “Hi, I’m still here and I have an odd question for you.” And as I headed back towards her house and the bus, she came out. As she came towards me, I realized how well she suited the bus, how unlikely it was that I would like the answer to my question.
“Hey, crazy thing,” I said. “But if you’re ever thinking of selling this Bus, I’m interested.”
She cocked her head for a second and said the most unexpected and happiest thing I may have ever heard, “I am selling it.”
And that is how I came to own Teenager Me’s dream.
That is how I came to own Storm.