Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dust Off That Rusty Bus Just One More Time

Fifteen May 13ths ago, just days after being handed a college diploma, friends Skippy Clementine Frankernauts, Nat The Pissant, and Myself, lit out from Toronto on the most Grateful of expeditions.

We would be nomads for that summer of 1995. Our camel's name, Stella Blue.

Electric blue even. A 1970 Volkswagen Microbus ('71 perhaps? details fuzzy at best). She technically belonged to Nat, but was happy to serve as home to whomever hopped aboard.

Loving the open road, she carried her family south from the Great North to the desert without complaint.

She waited patiently on the shoulder as her passengers, catching first sight of actual cacti, just had to run out and have a lick. And lick we did. And brought her back a sprig and placed it lovingly on her dash.

Skip and Myself at the healm, Nat's foot as co-pilot.

Again she waited as her castaways romped about the Painted Desert.

She endured dust storms in Las Vegas. She listened to the music from the lot and forgave the dirt.

She gulped pint after pint of oil, her friends buying it by the case. Thirsty engine that Stella.

The Grand Canyon happened to pass by. She felt small, and blue, sitting on its edge.

Somewhere between the dry desert and the wet northwest, Stella decided to stop starting. Oh, she'd GO, but refused that pesky key.

If her passengers were going to push her north, we were actually going to PUSH her. This determined trio would devise a system; Nat would sit at the wheel and tell Stella to stay neutral while Skip and Myself with arms outstretched at her rear, pushed and pushed, and gathered speed, and ran and ran, until Nat could pop that clutch to the sweet sound of Stella's heartbeat.

We pushed that girl all over the country.

Stella's favorite spot; prime real estate on Shakedown Street, Seattle Washington.

Seattle also brought Stella new precious cargo in the form of Gromley Grumpet, Border Collie/Australian Shepherd Extraordinaire.

Stella lost her steering column on a windy road in Seattle and was towed to Portland Oregon.

She made it to San Fransisco, was cheered on by many as her doting daughters nudged her along a parking lot, and spent the night in the foggiest rest area in the country.

Trouble in Boise was fixed by the capable hands of Eric, whose first question when she rolled into his shop was;

"What's her name?"

Somewhere in Colorado, a most pleasant fixer of vehicles offered Stella's occupants a much needed shower.

The red tape outlining her great sliding door served as a reminder to all that if one tried to open it, it would fall. off.

Something went awry in Kansas. Her transmission shit the bed at some point. Her brakes, near Albany.

Our threesome spent the show at Giant's Stadium out in the lot hanging with our pooch, keeping Stella company. We didn't mind missing shows. The notes wafted out and reached our ears anyway.

Rain in Pittsburgh. Lightening in D.C. Clear sailing to Chicago.

She couldn't have known. None of us did. That the last leg of this Summer's journey would be the last of a much bigger, longer trek.

Maybe I've been told and blocked it from my memory, but I don't want to know what became of Stella after that final box of rain landed on her roof.

In my mind, she's proudly perched at the heart of Shakedown, her interior ripe with the stink of her humans, her back end blackened with oil, the smell of garlic grilled cheese sandwiches floating all around her.


  1. I was wondering when you were going to start writing about that.

  2. Terrific post! Love it. You and Kiki over at Flibbertigibbet could totally publish a book of nostalgic memoir-type essays. I never even followed the Dead (though I had friends who did) but this made me feel like I had gone with them back in the summer of.... '88 I think it was?.....

  3. I kinda want to run away and be a nomad right now. We can go together. It will be fabulous.

  4. Awesome. I had a '72 VW camper bus dubbed the S.S. NeverSail. Bought it for 50 bucks from the original owner with the intent of taking it to Woodstock the next summer. My favorite part was the lime green and navy blue plaid interior. I bought it with my boyfriend at the time, and while we pulled the engine out and broke up before it got rebuilt, we had some great sex in that van, right there in the driveway.

  5. Sounds like a fantastic adventure. Your VW sounds way cooler than the Buick I was driving around in 95, right around the time I was growing accustomed to diaper changes and being married. I suppose we had our own exploits, but none of the free roaming nomadic sort. I'll have to reserve the wanderlust for when that last kid heads out to college. Sometime around know, if the planet hasn't imploded by then.

  6. that was my kind of romantic journey. i'm green with envy.

    my fiancee are eventually saving up to buy an old vw bus to fix up as our first project together.

    i want to take your exact trip in it.

    including the pooch.

  7. I'm liking you more and more with every post. You were at those last shows?! So fabulous. That was a crazy summer. I was living in LA on 8/9/95 and moved up to San Francisco 2 weeks later. That was an intense summer in Golden Gate Park.

    I'd always wanted my firstborn baby to be named "cassidy" and she was a cat. I named her brother Sugar magnolia. Little Bird is lucky that her real name isn't Bertha or Althea :) My boat is called the Sunshine Daydream. Yep, I'm a head.

    Oh, and Shakedown Street? Used to be the heart of town! My cell phone ringtone is Box of Rain!

    This is a GREAT post

  8. my one dead show trek was to alpine valley in a rented mercury sable station wagon that ran out of gas with me at the helm. i need to find pictures of my brief stint as a hippie, you would surely crack up.

  9. Well of COURSE you were a hippie. I should have seen that!

    Awesome post. Need more details on that summer, though.

  10. Ahhhh. You make me want to get out on the road right now.

    Life must have been good for you then. :) What a grand adventure to have had.

  11. Tulpen- My husband was at that same show and he left from Toronto too- Umm maybe you know him.
    I have only been to one Dead show but Phish defines him thus us.

    Here is my post about taking our monkeys to Festival 8-

    Full disclosure Dani G is my soul sista- and I know her in real life.

    Also FD- I was on your 'old' blog- and have read ever section of your 'new' blog and well-
    Glad to meet you.

  12. Great story! I could almost smell the inside of that van.

    Thanks for the contact high. In laws on their way in to town, and I so needed that.

  13. ok so when does summer '10 get away start? I am there just let me know.

  14. This is an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing! Made me feel like I was part of your journey!

  15. That looks like the best time ever.

  16. What an adventure. Stella Blue! I love it. More, more, more....please!

  17. This is great writing, and these are special memories.

    Thank you for stopping by The Jason Show, and for commenting! I will be seeing you around.

  18. oh dear. THE INSTANT i saw this was about a VW bus, i wondered how long she would last. ay yi yi. i had an ex with a couple of vw buses. they are very fun, and oh-so cute, but perhaps not the safest, fastest, or most reliable means of transportation on planet earth.

  19. wait a minute...

    you're a HIPPIE?!?

  20. What a wonderful piece of writing and what a fantastic adventure. Loved this.

  21. Oh my gosh, for a minute there I thought you were going to tell me you were 80 years old. whew...the ticket said 1995.

    Good times, glad you had them before the serious game of life started.

  22. I worked with Mike that day....he remembers me freaking out about wether you were ok and where you were...crazy!!

  23. I was in college at Flagstaff, AZ. when Jerry died. They draped the windows in black.

    Love every word of this. Kinda reminds me of the Little Miss Sunshine movie.

  24. The best way to tell a good mechanic is when he asks her name. Beautiful bus. Reliable except when overpushed. :)


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