Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Over the Mountains, Through the Woods to the Poudre Canyon We Go

After boondocking at Taos Ski Valley, we coasted down the mountain, back to Taos and headed north along Highway 522 towards Fort Garland, Colorado.  The road between Taos and Questa, NM was a fun drive up and down a series of rolling, pinyon and juniper covered hills.  Driving these hills tested my "bus-driver-man" skills.  My strategy: keep my foot to the floor and creep up each hill at 30 mph and then fly down until nearing the bottom of the hill and then slam the gas pedal (diesel pedal?) to the floor again.   It must have been fun for Cammy following behind in the Outback.

Homeward bound!
I think the huskies appreciated not being crammed in the back the Subaru.  Kanook sprawled out on the floor next to me, and only once tried to push me out of the drivers seat.  Kita, on the other hand, found a dark corner in the back and disappeared.

Huskies travel in luxury.
The trip was pretty uneventful until we got up by Walsenburg, Colorado.  Despite leaking oil from the air compressor pump (it needs a new gasket, a pretty simple fix), having to check the oil every few hours, and slugging up the steep grades; the bus purred like a big kitten.  A big, 7 ton, brick shaped kitten that is. The motor is a 7.3 IDI International diesel.  They didn't start putting turbos on these things until the 90's, so while they pull just about anything, they won't do it with much speed.  When not trucking up a steep hill, our bus seemed to coast pretty well at around 55 to 60 mph.  I expect that it should get close to 10 mpg, which, for a 7 ton brick travelling 60 mph, is pretty good.  This is also one of the reasons we chose diesel over gas.  That, and these diesel motors, when maintained, are pretty bullet proof. Plus, we can always fill up on veggie oil at the local Chinese restaurant.

Next, we pulled over at a rest stop north of Walsenburg where we waited out an early-autumn thunderstorm and found out that (1) strong wind sways that bus back and forth and is actually quite lulling, and (2) we don't seem to have any major leaks in the bus, except for the front windshield  :( .   Nothing a little silicon can't take care of.  After the storm, we cruised through Pueblo and to Colorado Springs when it started to storm again.  This is when we naively discover that while the bus was sitting unused in New Mexico for 4 years, so were the dry rotted old wiper blades.  Imagine driving a great white elephant of bus while looking though distorted glass in Sunday afternoon traffic on I-25.  So we pulled over to find that locating flat wipers for a 1988 bus isn't so easy.  After an hour and half of "retrofitting" the old Subaru wipers and Rain-Xing the windshield, we re-embarked.  It never rained again, of course.
The cockpit for the bus-driver-man!

The bus slid right through Denver traffic like a river otter on a slip and slide.  It seriously handled great, and was a blast to drive.  Now we just need to install and stereo and a passenger seat and the flying brick will be truly road trip ready! 

We stopped somewhere near Loveland and cooked some spaghetti on the stove.  Yes, the stove works great!  During this stopover, we also discovered an amazing feat for the 1996 Subaru Outback with almost a quarter of a million miles on it.  When following a lumbering school bus, it gets 37 miles to the gallon!  Drafting is not just for Nascar fans anymore folks. 

So, after a potty break for the huskies it was to Fort Collins, up the Poudre Canyon, through the woods, and home.  We arrived close to midnight, and decided it was too dark, and too late to try backing the bus down the 500 foot long driveway, so I decided to just pull in head first and deal with it in the morning.  This is about the time when we discovered that we hadn't trimmed that elm tree far enough back after all.  Luckily, the rear view mirror on the bus is made of some sort of high quality steel, despite the rustiness.  The noise of the tree screeching on the mirror was pretty horrific, especially at midnight, in the pitch dark.  But, no damage done and additional proof that the bus is truly a beast.  It showed that elm tree who was boss!  Take that invasive tree!

In the morning, we decided not to park the bus in front of the cabin.  Apparently we are not the first cabin dwellers to have a bus.  One of the last renters had parked an old school bus in the back yard, by the river, where a tree had spent a decade growing up through the bottom of it.  We learned this from our neighbor while drinking boxed wine the previous weekend. We thought we would spare our neighbors the flashbacks and drove it down to a storage yard in the morning, where we would begin the conversion.


  1. Yes!! This is a great blog so far, guys! I am impressed by your problem-solving abilities with the amazing bus.

    1. Thanks! We were pretty proud of our makeshift windshield wipers, wish I had gotten a picture!