USA: Coast to coast Part 1:Buses by the Arch 11, 1996

A conversation awhile ago inspired me to revisit a journey I took across the U.S. in 1996.  Having never spent time off the US east coast while growing up, I decided to take Big Blue on an odyssey to see what I was missing; boy was I missing a lot! It is not that I did not travel as a child, we just never traveled very far from our home state of New Jersey.  The furthest north I went was Massachusetts; the furthest west, central Pennsylvania; the furthest east, the Jersey shore; and the furthest south involved a plane trip to Disney World in Florida, so we skipped all the states I never visited south of Virginia.

Planned for the fall after college graduation, the trip initially required six weeks; three weeks going west and three coming back east.  The main goal focused on hitting as many states as possible and seeing as many National Parks as I could.  However, I also wanted to try to see some of the small roadside attractions (world’s biggest ball of lint, Route 66, or the largest thermometer for example) and small towns scattered across the country.  Throw in some backpacking and visits with friends and it seemed like a cool trip.  Oh yes, there was one other goal: to spend every night in the bus (except when backpacking), no motels or friends couches allowed; a successful goal with the exception of one side trip with friends sans bus.

I never did see the biggest ball of lint but got much more than I bargained for in terms of adventure and discovery.  While I did make it to the Pacific in three weeks as planned, it was only because my traveling partner, Tom, had a plane to catch to go back to New Jersey and we, therefore, had a deadline.  The return trip home took me another nine or so weeks mostly because I decided what road to take by whim or interesting road sign. In all I hit 37 states, Canada, and Mexico (yay, I became an international traveler!).  This second leg of my odyssey was not as uneventful mechanically as the trip west.  I replaced the starter, muffler, voltage regulator, and other various odds and ends.  I also spent a week touring the San Fransisco area while simultaneously rebuilding the bus engine from the ground up on the street in front of a friend of a friend’s house in San Jose.  Such good times!

My revisiting this trip involves scanning the 15 rolls of 35 mm slide film I used to record the trials and tribulations of my journey (why I chose slide film is beyond me now but there must have been a valid reason at the time).  While still a work in progress, I thought it would be great to add the Volkswagen-related pictures to this blog documenting my VW life.  The first post in this project focuses on Buses by the Arch, a camping and caravan event held near St. Louis, Missouri every September.  At the time it was one of the more popular gatherings of buses and their owners but has since been replaced (I think) by Buses Nowhere Near the Arch (BNNA).  It was also the largest bus caravan in which I ever drove; the highlight of which occurred when we passed a wedding party coming out of a church and everyone stopped taking pictures of the bridal couple and turned their cameras on the buses!


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