Friday, October 31, 2008

Bus Log: June 30, Part 2

What we spent: Groceries ($9.00), ice (.40), Ed allowance (.50) on June 26. Lunch, $7.00, tape, .40, snacks 1.20, doctor visit for V, $18, medicine for Ed, $3.00, ice, .40 on June 28. Gas, 31 gallon fill-up, $10 on June 29. The bus is getting 5 2/3 miles per gallon.

We've come up  with a few novelties which work out well, changing from soap to biodegradable detergent, from beds to sleeping bags. Storing grocery dry goods in bags helps keep things in place during transit.

Policeman Number 3 stopped us on the highway because we didn't cancel the turn signal (it doesn't self-cancel). He started to be nasty, but changed his mind when he saw the children and the piano.

Bus Log: June 27-30, 1971

Salinas and Monterey: Our San Francisco friends By, Michael, Michael, Suz and Bill all made the trip separately to welcome us! A polite constable visited us this morning, knocked and said he had had a complaint and that zoning laws forbade camping in the city...but that he'd overlook it since J said we'd be leaving tonight or early tomorrow morning.

We visited our radio friends at KLRB and were interviewed about the bus and the dead whale the kids found on the beach. B played "Good Day, Sunshine" for us. We had lunch on the beach at Carmel. Afterward, I took Ed and Vince with their rashes to a local doctor at the suggestion of a pharmacist. Both got some kind of high-powered shots.

We were in B's house talking when his son Mike dragged in from bed to announce that someone was banging on the bus windows, flashing lights and trying to get in. It turned out to be policeman Number Two, who had had a second complaint about the hippies camped on K Street from some neighborhood grouch. We offered to move on, but he suggested just pulling into the driveway, which we did.

We left at about 5:30 the next morning. Tonight, June 30, we are camped at Gregory in the Shasta Park region after a sweltering day and furious fishing, swimming, hiking, etc., by all the kids. It tickled us to get a 50% discount because of our Golden Eagle passport, saving a dollar.

We were awakened this morning by a big flock of curious black and white cows, since J had pulled into a country road late last night while the rest of us were asleep.

Yesterday was our check-up and chore day in San Francisco, doing among other things all the soggy sandy laundry caused by the kids' falling into the ocean innumerable times. We got the tiny television repaired so that it now works off the bus battery whenever anybody's interested in watching it, which isn't too often.

We took Ed to the doctor, who decided that the rash was a contact dermatitis, possibly caused by playing in grass at the lighthouse which had been sprayed with  some kind of weed killer. The diagnosis was made because the only place he DIDN'T have the rash was under a band-aid on his arm. We bought sunglasses, bus gear, pastry, had the bus tuned up at International Harvester, got some movie film for the camera Bob, our radio friend, had insisted we borrow.

The main holding tank had to be drained for the first time tonight, which is six days from departure. We've been running about a day and a half to two days on the toilet tank before it needs emptying. Fresh water (40 gallons) lasts almost two days, even with hair washing and sponge baths.

The  kerosene lanterns and Coleman stove are still going strong on their original fuel after six days, which seems especially good for the stove, considering that it's used about a half hour for breakfast and an hour for dinner every day. We are all doing stuff like washing hands with wet washcloths and in containers, rather than pumping water like mad. Everything is staying amazingly clean and orderly, much tighter and even more convenient than in a house, and certainly more satisfying in its way. Everybody pitches in with the chores.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bus Log: June 26, 1971

After baths, dinner, sleeping warm, and a bright blaze in the wood stove just from burning trash, everybody feels considerably finer.

Patches, our bowlegged tortoiseshell kitten, is washing herself for the third time as I write (en route to Salinas on Route One.) The three boys are playing Alphabet. We had some trouble starting the bus, but are now cruising at 55, fairly quietly.

Last night the kids talked tensely in their sleep when they finally got to sleep. We found A and Patches curled up together in A's bunk, our daughter atop her orange-and-violet tie-dyed sleeping bag, face down, bottom up, just like the cat except for her wild gold thistle hair and white long johns.

(The original bus log has a very long, detailed story of the genealogy of Patche.)  The story ends this way: The day before our departure, BL, N's friend who hopped backward on the shakedown trip, was delighted to learn that his mother would let him keep Victoria, the white kitten with a victory sign on its head. And the remaining kitten, as Papa Manx and his lady gambol on the green back at Winfield Street, is our Patches, who has her father's long hair and tolerant disposition.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

June 25, 1971, Part 2

Exhausted. Moved out. Couldn't have done it without the friends. The landlord showed up to get the keys and tried with only middling success to be nice. We pulled out. The cat freaked out, we forgot to put water in the chemical toilet, N and A were bratty. The little television went up on a poof of smoke, the stove blazed and burned the dinner. Two blocks away from the house, we went over the curb at the gas station and the icebox turned over and spilled milk all over everything. The kids found a dead whale and a sick sea lion on the beach. 

But now that everybody but me is peacefully asleep and the surf at Half Moon Bay pounds and the candles and lanterns flicker, I think we may have succeeded after all in whatever it was we set out to do.

Bus mileage 41,765.  Gas fill-up $6.50, groceries, $6.50, newspaper, .15, allowance for V (a friend of the boys) $1.00, N allowance, $1.00. Water tank full; still using previously purchased cookstove fuel and ice and vegetables from home.

Bus Log: June 25, 1971

Bus Log: June 19, 1971

We held a big christening party for the bus and all the neighbors came. We read a rather long proclamation with frequent use of the word "Whereas". We raised a Sunshine flag (the mosaic carpeting inside the bus featured a sunburst right in the middle of the ceiling.) We broke a bottle of sparkling burgundy over the front bumper. The neighbor who let us use her power and water to make all the repairs got to cut the ribbon over the door. Our friend S laid a cornerstone on the front step.  Someone sowed a sunflower seed in the entrance, and one of the youngsters spilled the first milk on the rug.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bus Log: June 15, 1971

We had another huge garage sale where hundreds of things got exchanged, sold, given away with delight all around. Canning jars, plants, and shelves went free to the Food Conspiracy, the washer and television to a neighbor, bookshelves to young couples, clogs, dresses, etc., to people who wanted them, a trowel to a man who accepted it without a word and then walked away, tiny things to little kids, paintings to people who liked them, a guitar exchanged for a Japanese radio.

Today JF is touching up the paint on the bus. The scotch-soaked barrel which provided all the free drinks has been sawed into a kind of bathtub or chair or something.

These are the books (besides the Calvert School books, which are furnished by the school) we decided to take along.

1. Revised Standard New Testament
2. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
3. Zen in the Art of Archery
4. Jung: Psychology and Religion
5. Gandhi (children's biography)
6. Book of the Hopi
7. The Tarot
8. The I Ching
9. Yoga and Health
10.  Wood, Concentration
11. Yogananda, Meditations
12. Speak Truth to Power (Quaker pamphlet)
13. The Pilgrim's Progress
14. Bhagavad Gita
15. King James Bible
16. Mishra's Fundamentals of Yoga
17. Elytis, Prosanatolismoi (poetry)
18. Simone Weil, The Iliad (Quaker book)
19. The Light Around the Body (Robert Bly, poetry)
20. Fifteen American Poets
21. Wordsworth
22. Gitanjali, Tagore
23. Six Poets of Modern Greece
24. A Guide to (Music) Listening
25. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
26. Fitzgerald translation, The Odyssey
27. Geology textbook
28. The Sea (Time/Life book)
29. Life
30. Stonehenge Decoded
31. Solar Biology
32. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World
33. The Atom and Beyond, Smith
34. Geographic Star Chart
35. The Universe of Doctor Einstein
36. Adler, How Life Began
37. Asimov, The Universe
38. Man in Space
39. Physics for Everybody
40. Merck Manual (medical)
41. Smaller Classical Dictionary
42. The Golden Bough
43. Aeschylus, Prometheus, etc.
44. Tarn, Alexander the Great
45. Plato, The Last Days of Socrates
46. Herodotus, The Histories
47. Man Before History
48. Erikson, Childhood and Society
49. Harbrace (English) Handbook
50. Pirandello, Plays
51. Edible and Useful Plants
52. Western Birds
53. Stalking the Wild Asparagus
54. Siddhartha, Hesse
55. Milne, When We Were Very Young
56. Robinson Crusoe
57. Stuart Little
58. Berne, Group Treatment
59. Worlds in Collision
60. Morning of the Magician
61. The Once and Future King
62. Kipling, The Jungle Book
63. Modern Spoken Greek
64. Greek Dictionary
65. Automotive Encyclopedia
66. Origami book
67. Macramé
68. Living on the Earth
69. How To Live On Nothing
70. Typewriting book
71. The Times World Atlas
72. Crafts book

Only 28 of these 72 got any use. In addition to this library, we had star charts, AAA maps, various music books, the Rand McNally Campground and Trailer Park Guide, and the Whole Earth Catalog.

Bus Log: June 6, 1971

Somehow I skipped the description of buying the little 77-key Lyon piano and transporting it home in a rented truck. A tiny little thing, almost the size of the one in the classic film Casablanca, it had no metal harp inside and thus was lightweight and just right for bolting to the side 0f the bus. The kids rode with it in the back of the truck and gave spontaneous concerts on the way back to Winfield Street.

In June, E's piano teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music said it was time for him to give his first recital, and that we could have it at our house. By that time, however, the piano was in the bus, not the house. We pulled the bus down to a nice level parking place and E, age six and a half,  all dressed up with jacket, shirt and tie, gave his recital for friends and neighbors.

Here is what he played: "Linden Tree" by Schubert, "A Tisket, a Tasket" and "On the Bridge at Avignon", traditional tunes; a Quadrille by Haydn, "Three Blind Mice" and "Sourwood Mountain", traditional tunes, "Dixie", and Beethoven's Turkish March and Russian Song in A Minor.

Bus Log: June 2, 1971

JF, trying to calm my fears of driving around in a 35-foot-long vehicle, draws and describes driving a 15-foot truck with a 40-foot trailer in downtown Los Angeles, to Reno, down ravines, in U-turns in small towns. After those stories, our bus didn't seem quite so long.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bus Log: May 31, 1971

(By JF)
Bus sluggish on grades--slows to 20 MPH in third gear on 30 degree hill. Must check when we get back to the city. We've decided to teach the boys map reading at earliest opportunity. Without some engine adjustment we'll have to plan a low-altitude trip cross country. No sweat, though. If we take our time and dig the goings-on outside the windows, we shall be very content. Noticed a slight crack in the pot-belly stove last night. It doesn't seem to affect its functioning, however. I guess we'll keep it. The sink stopped up today. We may have to put in a larger hose. The toilet is functioning just great. It's beginning to look as if we'll have to empty it every day, though, and I think we should initiate alternate cleaning duty--soon!

(By MB)
I'm divinely happy today, doing just what I love to do. The drawing is of the flowers on the table in front of me. We saw a brown snake with a stripe down his back while picking the wild iris.

Back in San Francisco. BL helped us unload. Great malaise. Why? Change? The unknown? We finally got liability insurance on the bus, we're trying to make arrangements for the cat, packing up and making bus stationery. The bus is due for a lube at International Harvester tomorrow. The sink problem was due to coffee grounds!

Bus Log, May 30, 1971

(By JF)
Awoke refreshed after an uneventful night--uneventful in reality but certainly adventurous and exciting in imagination! No bears ate us. No rednecks shot us. No madmen committed mayhem. I think we shall most happily survive.

(By MB)
When we returned to Castle Rock in the morning, the ranger wouldn't let us drain the sink water. Later in the morning, we headed back for Half Moon Bay, dug a big hole near the eucalyptus trees and drained the holding tanks. We visited our friends there and looked over the farm. N's friend BL, who was accompanying us on the shakedown cruise, stepped on a nail and N got a thorn in his finger. Appropriate first aid was applied.

We looked at an old grist mill and a lovely rushing stream, Purisima Creek, which had banks of flowers and mint growing all alongside it.

We left some time in the afternoon and wandered around through crowded state beaches, etc., until we came to this paradise, Pigeon Point, south of Half Moon Bay, a lighthouse which works, no toll, dozens of varieties of wildflowers and blackberries on a gentle slope down to the ocean. We slept warm and calmly.

Mental photographs:  ET, then JF, washing themselves by lamplight in the basin at the wash stand. BL reciting something called "Throw it out the window" by candlelight, with me accompanying on the piano. The sun setting over the ocean at 8:30 in a golden blaze. NT, embarrassed, trying to avoid three pretty young girls. ACW curled up with her teddy bar and her fabric boa constrictor, sound asleep in her tie-dyed sleeping bag. A line full of socks drying near the wood stove. NT chopping wood. BL jumping around in his sleeping bag. NT ran all the way back from the lighthouse, and BL hopped backward on one foot for a quarter mile, hoping for a five dollar prize, but having to be content with a dollar.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bus Log, May 29, 1971 (by JF)

Left bright and early--for us (9:30). Drove down the coast to Half Moon Bay..not a very exciting place, so we drove on looking for greener pastures. South to Santa Cruz, then north on Highway 9 to Big Basin State Park. Learned to our dismay that, this being Memorial Day weekend, all parks were booked solid. Meandered around mountain road looking for a good place to stop. The bus handles very well and is surprisingly easy to control on curves. Did notice with all the uphill driving she began to heat up. But no problem arose. We finally found a nice place to park and went hiking some into the woods, everyone excited to be amongst the trees. Pooped, we hiked back out, ACW falling asleep on my back; played for a while and then had an elegant dinner. Some time after dinner and more playing, a Ranger with cold eyes and matching heart informed us that we couldn't park there overnight. It was dusk by this time, so we just pulled down the road a piece and parked. With a nice warm fire and some popcorn, we sat around and swapped gory tales and then turned in.

Bus Log: May 2, 1971

We decided always to eat at the table, politely (N eats European style). We made our own napkin rings so we can use cloth napkins and save the trees. At night we made long superbus cards for Mother's Day and cut up the old contact sheets for pictures.

May 28, 1971

Tomorrow we're going on a shakedown cruise with N's friend BL. It is bothering me that we can't seem to get any liability insurance on the bus at reasonable rates. On the one hand, I think it is wrong to project responsibility into financial terms, but on the other hand, insurance does ease one's mind.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Log of the Odyssey of Number 18

September, 1970:  We bought a wonderful yellow bus on a sealed bid to the Tracy School District. After sending in our bid for $601, we changed it on impulse to $700. The next highest bid was $650. JF's friend Charles drove him to Tracy and JF drove the yellow bus home, getting stuck in the Bay Bridge toll booth briefly. He parked the bus on Winfield Street. I couldn't even look at it. It was too much bus to fit into my mind, 35 feet long, 14 feet wide, seven tons heavy. I was sure THEY would come and haul it away as a public nuisance until I realized the implications of trying to tow a seven-ton vehicle.

Finally we parked the bus around the corner, on double-width Esmeralda Street, where the children wouldn't have to cross a street to reach it, and we began to make it ours. Over a period of nine months we gradually moved out of the house and onto the bus. We had the seats hauled away, carpeted the walls, ceiling and floor with collages and mosaics of rug scraps a nearby carpet layer saved for us. JF built in bunks, kitchen, toilet. We added refinements such as a piano and a wash stand and a wood stove, using our friendly neighbor Schielein's water and power.

An oak barrel we bought, thinking to use it as a bath tub, proved to be saturated with some kind of strong spirits. We put a little hot water in the tub, sloshed it around and let it sit a few days, and suddenly we had free cocktails when we were exhausted from working on the bus. The neighborhood never complained about the loss of three parking places and were so generally helpful and cheerful that we gave them a big party on the bus before we went on our first shakedown cruise.

We broke a bottle of champagne over the front bumper and headed out for high adventure.

What It Cost: September, 1970

Bus price: $700
Battery: $65
Toilet: $30
Water tank: $15
Dump (benches) $20
Paint: $40
Lumber: $35.75
Cement solvent: $60
Range hood: $6.00
Icebox/oven: $43.73
Wood stove: $55.00
Curtains: $18.96
Bathtub: $10
Sink/pipes $28.43
Fog light, switches,
 weatherstripping: $30
Rebuilt starter: $40
Upholstery fabric: $3.00
Battery cables: $7.92
International Harvester service: $13.46
Misc. nuts, bolts, parts, tools $92.77
Tools: 2 circular saws, circuit tester,
 sander attachment, small tools $25
Piano $350
Truck rental $80 (to deliver piano)
Motor scooter $150
Scooter title, license, etc. $2.00
Calvert School $300
Gas, oil $30
Paint $5.00
Pipe, sealer for stove $11.00
Gas $14. 50
Coleman fuel $1.69
Lamp fuel $1.50
Gas $9.16
Groceries $3.50
Ice .60
Liability insurance $57
Jack $25.09
More tools $20
Lumber $5.95
International Harvester $1.50
Television gear

...Which brought our initial spending to about $2508.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An Odyssey

In 1971,  when gasoline was about 35 cents a gallon, our family of two adults and three children, aged four, ten and thirteen, set off on a mobile adventure in home schooling.

The best teaching, (as well as the best writing, the best art) we thought, would be showing rather than telling. We wanted to live in a closed system together, to live with limited resources, and to study Bricolage and Kyriology. When I went to my college Webster, these words were not there, but Bricolage is the art of making do with what you have, and Kyriology is the study of important things.

We bought an old 35-foot school bus at auction and fitted it out with mostly recycled materials. When we left San Francisco, the bus had bunks, a piano, a wood stove, a 50-gallon fresh water tank and holding tank for grey water. It had a chemical toilet, a pump-up Coleman stove and an ice box. We carefully selected a library, facts only, no opinion. We signed up for the Calvert School, which offers a correspondence course which can be conducted by parents and mailed in.

The children helped navigate, budget, keep a journal, deal responsibly with water and waste disposal. We had many adventures, not all of them pleasant. At the end of the trip, the children were only too glad to return to public school (one of them was put ahead six months) and I was only too glad not to have to cook brown rice any more. The Bus Trip furnished material for many school essays.

Thirty-seven years later, one Bus Trip alumnus is an architect dealing with green design and construction; the other is a high school principal. Between them, they have five children and five degrees, with a Ph.D on the horizon. Each has been married for more than 25 years.

The pages to come are the Log of the Odyssey of Number Eighteen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Writ Wrong

     An old saw from Journalism classes:
The cub reporter wrote something like "Despite predictions of rain, God smiled on the open-air assembly of..."
     The editor returned the story with a comment. "Forget open-air assembly. Interview God."

     When I was a cub reporter, I wrote "As the ship approached New York harbor, American Field Service scholars watched the sun rise behind the statue of liberty."
     My copy was returned to me with a terse statement from the editor:  "The sun rises in the east."