Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Twelve Hippies

If nothing else, this old bus of ours is a conversation piece. On the road, other drivers pass us with goofy smiles then flash the peace sign. At gas stations, attendants come up and ask questions. In parking lots, old hippies are transported back to another time and place—then go out of their way to tell us all about it. And today, in Arcadia, CA, The Dude was waiting for us.

Our first stop of the day was at Ray’s, a grocery store chain. Leaving the store with the essentials for our tried-and-true one-bowl roadside meals (on today’s board: clam chowder), The Dude leapt from the hood of his vintage Mercedes and intercepted us. His dark sunglasses glinting, salt-and-pepper beard wagging, The Dude was already in the zone. “Great bus! And I should know. I’ve had three!”

This is how it usually starts. So we stood around in the parking, all agreeing that yes, it is a great bus. Then we gave him the tour. The Dude peered into the bus, poked and prodded, hemmed and hawed, and declared it good all the while offering up microbus driving tips. Satisfied with the tour, he then proceeded to tell us exactly how he’d modify our already-modified bus.

First he’d rip out the sink and cabinets and get rid of our electric/propane fridge. He’d replace them both with simple ice chests. Then he’d toss out the bed and replace it with a fold-down bench seat, replace the slope-back topper with a full sized one and run planking across the rails to make a floating bed space.

A bit alarmed at his plans for tearing our bus apart, I wanted to know why we needed to do all of this. I tried to tell him that we had just started out on a year long road trip. That there were only two of us. That we liked the way it was. But he wasn’t in the mood to listen to questions. Swept up now in the fever of creation, he was in the mood to convert.

With these old buses the key, The Dude told us, is to maximize what little space you have. Not only had he owned three of these buses, but he had been a VW mechanic. He’d been to over 600 Grateful Dead shows (plus the European tours). As proof, he showed us his secret Grateful Dead tattoos that could very well have doubled as back stage passes.
Intrigued now, thinking that maybe he was on to something, I asked, “How many hippies can you fit into a microbus?” Because I said it with a straight face The Dude gave it to us straight up.

Three hippies can sit up front (a long plastic milkbox will fit perfectly between the front seats—who knew?—add some padding and you’ve got a jump seat); two will fit on the coolers behind the driver; one can sit on the cooler behind the passenger seat; four can occupy the back bench, one can fold up into the cargo hold over the engine; and one can lay on plank bed in the topper. So the answer is twelve. You can fit twelve hippies in a microbus for every day use. But, he assured us, “when you’re going through the gates into a show, you can fit about twenty.”

Seemed reasonable to us.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The Dude had to do some grocery shopping. We had Bigfoot Country to explore. So we bade each other a peace-love-and-magic sort of farewell, and set out on the path to our respective zen places.

So what about Bigfoot? Is the big beast legend or for real? Given that Humboldt County, CA is famous its Mercedes-driving hippie “growers” and the products they grow, perhaps the realities here of a less tangible variety. As such, Bigfoot can be anything you want him to be. He can be huggable...

... he can be larger than life...

... starting with those famed big feet...

... and he can be abominable.

Thus, we wandered through the high country of the Trinity Alps, eyes peeled. We didn’t see the Beast itself. But we did. As you can see, it is out there.

1 comment:

  1. How apostle-istic and room enough for the Gospels on the bench seat?

    Ok, re-reading I see 3 buses and you're near the Trinity River so it all makes sense. The clam chowder threw me off...