In February of 1995, after 4 years of restoring and driving my red 71 we were forced to go our separate ways. My path led down several busless months before finding a blue 71, and the Big Red One went on to make dog food cans, or at least that is the theory.
What surprised me at the time, was the fact that losing a such a vehicle is not at all easy. As a result of the time she spent with my family and as the object in which I traveled with far and wide; poured blood, sweat, and tears (literally); and poured a fair amount of money into a bond developed between us. OK OK OK, maybe it was more a bonding of me to the bus rather than a reciprocal relationship, but I swear she would let me know if I did not give her enough attention! Regardless of who felt what for whom, it was a tough loss. Even today, 16 years later it is hard for me to look at pictures of her during our final days together because she was such a great bus. I had her totally restored, inside and out, except for the exterior paint and rotting battery tray. I was saving money for the paint at the time and was looking forward to the day this bus was going to be a show stopper.
But alas it was never meant to be. On the fateful day in February, on my way back to school from a weekend home, a car careening across RT 95 in Baltimore, MD hit the bus on the passenger side rear bumper. Evidently, the driver, while busy eating french fries, lost control on a curve and began to bounce between the jersey walls surrounding the highway. The damage to the bus should have been negligible, nothing a new bumper and rear corner panel could not fix (and hey I needed a new battery tray anyway). But her car hitting the bus at a right angle on the back corner was enough to turn Big Red One around and she rolled her once. She sacrificed herself to save me, and somehow I walked away without a scratch.
I had her towed home, a distance of around 140 miles (thanks AAA). The police and mechanics thought I was nuts, but I think I was too shocked to let her go yet. I believed she could still be saved. After looking at her a for a day or two, it slowly dawned on me that she would never cruise the open road again. She was a very giving bus and agreed to donate all her parts, or at least the ones I thought about scavenging (boy do I wish I could go get the rest now!!), to some yet to be thought of future bus. I still have a few of those parts (most of them were used in the restoration of my second bus) and they always bring a smile when I come across them (although quite honestly I am always smiling when I am in my parts stash).