JULY 2012 WE BUY A BUS
In June, out of the blue, John said to me “Well, I might as well get some enjoyment out of this bus of yours, so let’s buy it now!” This mystifying statement seemed to come out of nowhere, to me, so he had to explain.
Back last year when he was doing it tough in ICU after the heart operation, he’d asked me what I would do when he “croaked”. Right then, I was trying hard not to think about that possibility, so I just gave a flippant answer: “Oh, I’d sell the house, buy a bus and go travelling.” I didn’t think any more about it, but a seed had obviously been planted….
In July, we found our bus. Even better, we found it in Melbourne, without the need to go looking interstate with attendant complications of things like registration. Although, several treks from our outer eastern home across to where bus was, in Campbellfield, sometimes seemed akin to an interstate trip, in Melbourne traffic.
John was browsing web sites and found a converted Coaster advertised on the site of a Winnebago dealer in Melbourne. Nothing would do but immediately going to have a look at it – on a Sunday, over in Campbellfield. I was surprised that someone from the dealership, nroamlly closed on Sundays, even agreed to that.
So off we went. What we saw looked really interesting. Very clean and in great condition. The dealer rang the previous owner and let us speak to him. It had been a bus, from new in 1996, for an agricultural college out of Geelong. He bought it from them in 2002 and had it professionally converted, intending to travel long term. But his retirement kept getting put off, and so it had not been much used. Then, last year, they took it to Townsville and discovered that his wife found the steps, and climbing into the passenger seat, too difficult – she wanted a Winnebago, with a passenger door. So it had been a trade in. It definitely looked out of place, sitting in the showroom amongst several massive Winnebago motor homes, with all their bells and whistles.
Professional conversion – tick. Low kms for a diesel, at 245.000 – tick. The much desired HD 6 cylinder engine – tick. No apparent areas of rust – tick. Solar set up and storage batteries – tick. Exhaust brakes – tick. Two way fridge – tick (I don’t like gas fridges in RV’s). Plenty of cupboards – tick. On the down side – the two single beds were on the narrow side. I wasn’t wrapped in the flowery pattern of the curtains and upholstery – but that could be changed. On balance, a great deal to like. We were both already licensed to drive vehicles over car weight, so that was not an issue, as it was for some people looking to buy converted Coasters.
The salesman said he could do us a good deal. We arranged to return on Tuesday (bowls on Monday!) for a test drive and came home very impressed.
John duly took it for the test drive, really liked the power of the engine, but found a couple of things needing fixing – like a wheel alignment needed. Some bargaining ensued and we agreed to buy it at a price we thought was fair, with a reversing camera thrown in – to be fitted. Bus had to have roadworthy certification and service done, so it would be a couple of weeks before we could collect it. There would be a three year mechanical warranty on it too.
So we signed up and the paperwork was all done – and home we went. Kind of dazed – couldn’t quite believe what we’d done, hoped it was the right decision.
As a result of the roadworthy findings, Bus was fitted with new brake discs and two new front tyres.
On Wednesday 25 July, we drove across to Campbellfield to pick up our new toy, driving my Barina car. The Service Head took us all over the Bus, explaining how things worked – so much to try to assimilate. This had all sorts of luxuries that our van hadn’t – like a hot water service, and a bathroom containing shower and toilet. My head was spinning. Fortunately, there were quite a few instruction booklets that had been passed on by the previous owner.
John realized that the promised reversing camera had not been installed. So we went for a wander, and had lunch, while waiting for that to be done. Then, I left to drive my car home at a time to avoid the traffic build up from mid-afternoon.
John phoned at 3.55 to say he was about to leave the dealer – just in time to hit the traffic build up, in an unfamiliar vehicle! But he made good time and said the Bus was great to drive, though the steep hill up to Mt Evelyn had it down to second gear – not quite as powerful as he thought! He phoned again from Mooroolbark, so I would be out the front to guide him into the parking bay when he arrived. Well, he swung the bus wide to enter our gates and then straight up into the place that had been the caravan parking bay. No worries! Just so easy. Bus fitted nicely, with OK door access. Very pleasing.
Our “bus” buying focus had been on converted Coasters because, in all the time we’d spent up north and in the outback, we’d seen how widespread their use for transport was, and how much punishment from rough roads they could absorb. Adels Grove had used Coasters for their Riversleigh tours – and that road could be woeful at times. Many aboriginal communities across the Top used them for travel from the outstations to the local towns – like across the Gibb River Road to Kununurra. I’d driven school bus Coasters on bush tracks in Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, as well as around Darwin. Getting mechanical work done, if needed, should be easy – much more so than on the Landrover!
Whilst all of the bus buying had been going on, John had been given the chance to buy his brother’s 2008 VW Passat, as brother was buying a new car. It was offered to John at the price the dealer was giving as a trade in. Too good to pass up. We would have to tart Truck up and sell it, eventually. In the meantime, the bank accounts looked quite sad!
I was kept busy, arranging vehicle insurances, Roadside Assists, freeway tags and the like.
The end of July saw us with four vehicles parked around the place – Bus, Truck, Passat, Barina…..
So began a different style of travel, one we hoped would be as enjoyable as the previous experiences had been, albeit in more “civilized” parts and at a more sedate pace.
The next decision – where would we go for our first trip with Bus?