Posted by: lianadevine | 24 October 2007

He says more

After hunting far and wide for 1957 bus transmission parts, talking to many people, we were steered in the direction of a fellow we met in Tikal, Guatemala in 2000. Back then he told us of a shop he had in the US where we could go to look for some parts that we were interested in for our bus. We did stop by and pick up some things on our way home that year. Since then I was told that his shop was not there anymore, so initially I did not try to contact them this time. When I called him he said the shop was not running any more but everything was still there. He was very sympathetic and accommodating. After chatting about how we knew each other he said he could put us in touch with someone that could let us into the shop.

After the long 50 yard walk back to the bus from the house Leanne said there was a new email from Shaunna. It asked if we were the Calvin in Van WA looking for a tranny. Now this is where it gets weird. We met Shaunna camping and fishing out of an arroyo east of San Jose del Cabo on our first bus trip to Mexico in 1997. We have only seen her a few times since then but have kept in touch via the internet. So, how did she know we are looking for a tranny? And how come so fast? Turns out she is dating the son of the guy that we met in Guatemala and he is now running the bus company. Small world, eh?

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Then we called Mic (the dude with the key) and he said the weekend would be the best for him. So we split wood and did other stuff to keep us entertained until Todd and I could go to small town USA to check out the tranny stuff. We met Mic there and he was more than hospitable. We got along great and soon were kibitzing like lifelong pals. Todd and I started to go through all the trannys to find a good one. This took quite some time due to the fact that there are lots of them. A few would fit our bus and a lot wouldn’t, and we had to pick between ones that would work and ones that had already failed in some way or another (remember these are all about fifty years old). Not to mention all the other bus stuff that is in and around the building. This old wooden building was a train maintenance shop before it was turned into a bus repair shop and it is filled with what us bus nuts would call “cool bus stuff”.

Room Full o’ Trannys


Mic and Calvin

We had spent most of the day looking through all these parts when Todd said “I’ve paid money to have less fun than this”. After a few calls to the fellow we met in Guatemala, we came out with a rebuilt tranny and a bunch of other stuff for our bus. When we got home after a few more stops, it was after midnight.

The next day, well, that was Sunday, so we did Sunday stuff. Then on Monday I checked the contact pattern of the final drive gears in this rebuilt tranny and found they did not line up the way they should. When I opened it up to shim them properly I found that one gear had been repaired and ground down. In short, we did not think this was a good thing so we had to go back the next weekend to pick another one from the shop. This time it went much faster. We met with Mic, checked out more trannys with much more knowledge than before and were out of there in a couple of hours. I took Mic and Todd out for lunch in the only restaurant/pub in town. Good food! Then it was back to our new temporary home where we have now been affectionately labelled “The Squatters”.

Opening the Tranny Special Tool

Starting on Monday I did all the swapping of things that needed to be swapped over to the new-to-us tranny and then put it in the bus on Tuesday. These things all take time when you are in squatter mode. i.e. Cooking, Entertaining, Going on road trips with the “landlord”. I test drove the Trans on Wednesday the 17th of Oct. All felt good, but I will keep an eye on things for the next few miles to make sure.

The Tranny goes in

We said our farewells to Todd and Becky (the landlords) on Sunday the 21st and went back to the bus shop to replace the first tranny and some of the other stuff we did not use, put the shop back the way we found it and said goodbye and many thanks to Mic and his son for all their help. After driving about four and a half hours we found a nice little campground in Ashland OR. I checked things out in the engine and tranny compartment and all looked good.

Returning the first Tranny

Next morning we headed out, and at a rest stop to walk Spike and stretch the legs, we saw a puddle under the tranny. With concerns that we were starting all over again, we set out for the only other place we knew that would have parts. It was in Williams CA about 170 mi. down the road. This was an option before but was out of reach. After arriving at Coach Maintenance unannounced, Ted Campbell finished off the bus he was working on and asked me “What do you want to do?” I replied, could he look at our leak and give me some input as to its cause? He thought it was just a final drive seal problem and did I want change it now? I said yes if he had time. “Not a problem” he replied “This won’t take long”. So I drove the bus into the shop about 6:30 pm.

At Coach Maintenance

Ted’s buses

We started to pull the drive shaft up and out of the way to gain access to the big nut that held the final drive on. Now things got a bit fun. We could not move the shaft enough to get in there because it is not the original one and is too large so we decided to remove it. This also proved to be difficult. Then the big nut would not come off like it should.

What you need to know is that Ted is the most experienced and knowledgeable dude about old coaches that I have ever met. He has done this all his life. We tried every thing in his arsenal and some from mine. After cutting it with a torch, it was still stubborn. At this time we started to joke about Ted’s comment, “This won’t take long”.

After getting it off, Ted went out for dinner and left me to press the old seal out and install the new one. I cleaned up the threads and put it all back together. When Ted got back we struggled with putting the drive shaft back in, chatted about bus stuff and life, and looked at a few things on our bus and his many buses. When we finished it was after midnight. So we pulled the bus outside and hooked up the Thing. We went back into Ted’s office to pay our bill (which was very reasonable), visited with his cats and took him up on his offer to stay the night in his yard.

Ted takes a break

We are now on the road again and are hoping to hook up with our old friend to pay him in person for the the tranny and stuff, not to mention to thank him for his trust and kindness to someone he really does not know all that well.

We would also like to thank all the people that went out of their way to accommodate us and help us get back on the road while having fun doing it. You know who you are.


Ps. More bus photos to the right in the FLICKER PHOTOS



  1. Calvin, you’re a novelist in the making! What a fascinating episode in the continuing saga of the Great Trek of ’07!

    I couldn’t help but wonder, time and time again as I read through this post, how many Amurcans (don’t know about Canadians) would have given up early in the journey . . . after they had spent all their travel money on repairs and a cheap hotel room. You’re incredible—a model of ingenuity and stick-to-it-iveness!

    The link between you folks and Shaunna and Guatemala are incredible. Small world indeed—and yes, it’s definitely not what you know but who you know!

    As to the trip back to Small Town, USA on Monday, I can only say, “If at first you don’t succeed . . .” or maybe “Persistence is the name of the game.”

    “The Squatters”: great image! It makes me think of left-over hippies in certain parts of the northwestern U.S. (the locations of which shall remain nameless).

    Did you know that Ashland, OR hosts a very well known Shakespearian Festival? There used to be a big music festival there, too; I don’t know if they still have it.

    And so now, after an interlude in Williams, CA (How long did it take to drive there?), you’re on the road again: Hooray!

    And (for me) the key question of the day: When will you arrive in Mesa?

    ¡Buen viaje y buena suerte!

    Dennis in Phoenix

  2. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, Calvin and Leanne!
    Life is only one , and you two are really making the most of it!!

    I LOVE your blog and the way you describe your adventure…, it makes me feel I am sharing it!!

    Congrats on your decision, how many people would feel like doing something alike and are not bold enough!

    A big hug from Argentina, keep on enjoying!


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