Captains Log: We’ve been stranded for four days now and it doesn’t seem we will be leaving Utah anytime soon. These past 11 days have been a complete whirlwind so I decided it’s time to share my “first thoughts while on the road!” This tale travels through many states, adventures, wonderful characters, and of course a sweet PLOT TWIST.
Getting ready to leave:
When I was getting ready to leave full time on the road I was terrified. What was I doing? There is no place on the road for a single dog mom of 3 living in a giant school bus! I could get murdered, break down, get into an accident, I really shouldn’t be doing this. I’m changing my plans….only go for a week…this isn’t for me. I can’t do this and really shouldn’t! What was I thinking… So I canceled my plans and decided to stay in Albuquerque forever. OKAY maybe in an alternate universe I canceled but that Paige is lame and we don’t like her. Honestly, prior to leaving I was a wreck and fell into a lot of self doubt. What I want you to take away from this today is that you CAN do this. You CAN drive a big bus if you want, you CAN pull a vehicle behind it, and YOU CAN FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS. No matter what they are. So let’s break down the first 11 days of my journey.
Day one was the day for lessons, burns, and down right stress mostly caused by myself. Yes, I said burns. I planned to start the day early but of course with loading up for the first time and getting things organized I didn’t get on the road until around 7:30am. Let me tell you, it was already HOT and just getting hotter. This worried me because I don’t like to stress Zoe’s engine or have to run the generator the whole time for the dogs and I. After barely being able to maneuver the small gas station I was very happy to hit the road. La Bajada hill lingered in the distance and I was no stranger to the stress it would pose for Zoe. We made it up VERY slow and a little toasty so I decided to stop at the rest area for a break. Parked at the rest area I was able to have air conditioning, a full working kitchen, and all the amenities a home needs! How cool is that! Most of the day was hot but really uneventful…..until Raton Pass. Something I had already been fearing but now I’d be taking it on during the heat of the day… It was worse than I could have imagined. Right at the top, the steepest part of the pass….it went down to ONE lane with no shoulder… Zoe generally runs around 180 and by the time we were in that single lane we were over 200. I had the engine fan running, the heater full blast, and she was still climbing into the 210 range. During this whole time I was unable to go over 15mph with no where to be able to pull off. In a desperate attempt to try to keep her cool as we neared the 115 range I pulled open the engine hood…. only to have it start to burn my right foot just from the pure heat coming off of it. (I was in flip flops because it was incredibly hot while driving.) When I tried to put it down it wouldn’t go down because it gets stuck on the floor on the other side… I sat there with it burning my foot trying to hold the closest objects (dogs toys) to try and block the heat. At this point I am in a full sweat, in tears, hyperventilating, begging Zoe to make it up the hill. FINALLY after what felt like hours we crested the hill and the road opened back up. HOLY FORKING SHIRT. Fortunately I was able to coast all the way through Trinidad and to the rest area. Surveying the redness and couple blisters on my foot I laid in bed trying to compose myself for the rest of the drive. Before leaving again I checked my fluids to find out I was very low on oil… always carry oil because I am very thankful I did. I got to the rest area outside of Pueblo, Colorado relatively easy with no more drama. After dinner and a strong drink, I went to sleep to the hums of semi trucks next to Zoe.
Lessons from day 1: ALWAYS check your fluids before leaving, carry extra fluids just in case, and don’t try to drive up a huge pass during the heat of summer.
Day 2 started early at 3:30 am, on the road by 4am, and off to Loveland, Colorado. Fluids were checked, weather was good, and with a tip from my friend Eric everything including Denver rush hour was unbelievably smooth. Got into Loveland super early so I fired up the generator and took a nap at Walmart until I could get into my RV spot at Riverview RV Park. (Incredibly beautiful place that didn’t mind Zoe was a bus conversion!) After settling in there was knock on the door and there was Rebecca and Shawn. We talked for hours about the bus, life, relationships, family, and really everything in between. These are the people you are thankful to meet on the road that makes it seem much less lonely.
They showed me their beautiful part time home, let me meet their puppies, shared some incredible box wine, and we stayed up way too late lost in conversation. This was one of the nights I am most thankful for.
Getting up at the usual 3:30am was hard after minimal sleep and wine but totally worth it. Fluids were checked and we hit the road.
This sunset was worth every struggle I had already faced on the road. Finding somewhere to safely pull off was difficult but I found “Good Enough” because I could not miss it. Absolutely breathtaking. As I got into Wyoming I decided to go to Walmart to stock up on more supplies. (Oil…..more oil for Zoe.)
Lesson number 244 I’ve learned on the road…. always make sure you put the oil fill cap on tightly and double check your work even if you’re tired. My entire engine was covered in oil and my cap was long gone. After hunting one down and replacing it I made my way to Rock Springs, Wyoming to settle at a Walmart for the night. (Packed with RV’s and Semis.)
In the morning I met up with my friend Eric that I have known for 4 years but never met in person. We gathered supplies and our group headed to Flaming Gorge for an awesome 4th of July weekend. On the way there however Zoe issues became very apparent… more loss of power and more leaking oil… When I arrived at the lake I knew by Sunday I would need to figure something out for her. (Tow, mechanic, something.) BUT here are some photos from an amazing weekend with incredible people. Everyone was so welcoming to me and we all really enjoyed the bus.
The dogs and I have just been hanging out in Utah waiting for the bus to be fixed. Very fortunate to be here and at the shop I am. Hopefully Zoe will be back on the road soon and better than ever.
-Paige; Zoe Bus.
Pro Tip: Always keep your dogs in mind when traveling! Not a tip but having dogs has not been easy especially during the summer. My woofers always come first.