Reminiscing about vacations in “the bus”


Below is a blog from Professor David Blow’s Feature Writing course by Gabriel Schwartz. His is about family adventures.

Everybody’s got a story to tell. Some moved 10 times before they got to high school, some are an only child, some were the star athlete of the school and some got pregnant before they graduated. This doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong, but merely contributed to the type of person they are today with what we take away from these experiences. I like to consider my stories fairly different from most. 

Vacation is a funny word. A lot of people consider vacations going anywhere from a relaxing pool in a nice hotel in a foreign place to going to their grandparents’ house a couple minutes down the road for the weekend.  

My family didn’t really have the vacations that most people know. When I was young, my dad bought a 1983 blue bird school bus. He, being the handyman he was, transformed this bus into essentially an RV, and painted it grey, of course. 

A photo from the inside of the bus

It came with everything you could want: the carpeted ‘living room’, the master bedroom, the two-foot-wide bathroom and the kitchen, if you wanted to call it that. It mostly consisted of a table, a stove that didn’t work, a fridge and a cabinet that would bang open every time you took a right.  

There were plenty of features to the bus that made it one of a kind. The recliner driver’s seat or the recliner passenger seat that was only connected

in the back made for a fun little trip backwards before thudding forward after braking hard enough. Perhaps it was the shelf of books on either side of the living room that, due to a short piece of wood, would allow books to fall and force the kids watching TV to take cover. Or maybe it was the ‘master bedroom, where the kids would look out the back and try to get trucks to honk and people to wave, and then go over a bump, launching them into the air and forcing them to avoid the wooden corner of a shelf that was so thoughtfully planned out. 

What made these vacations special, however, was the journey. Going anywhere from Mount Rushmore to Outer Banks to Niagara Falls, there was always one thing that made these trips a bus trip:  Breaking down.  

Every single trip that we took involved a break down. This caused hours of waiting, getting towed and even sleeping in several tow yards.  

One time, we were forced to walk “a couple blocks” to a friend’s house from a KOA after the bus broke down 

Gabriel and his siblings posing in front of the bus

“Don’t worry about wearing shoes! It’s just down the road!” our dad said, before realizing that several miles, many bloody, stubbed toes and three crying little kids later, we would finally make it to…a bowling alley, where we promptly waited to get picked up by their friends and drive the remaining three miles.  

In a time before phones, we had to find our own ways to have fun when we broke down. We played tag on a hill next to the highway or would play board games we kept on the bus. We’d walk to get some food or sleep, depending on what time we broke down. I don’t think we ever stayed in a motel. 

These bus trips taught me a few important lessons. One of the most important is that the journey is sometimes more enjoyable than the destination. Another one is that you have to make sure to pack fun things to do when your car inevitably breaks down. And lastly, make sure you’re the oldest so you can bully your younger siblings when you do break down. That’s how I survived. 


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