With hardly any sleep from the night before it was a rough one making it to Wichita only a few hours away.

My best friend from high school currently lives in Wichita, KS so it was a good place to stop and crash for a couple hours before pushing on. We took a tour of the air force base, had some killer BBQ and checked out the "Keeper of the Plains" which is a giant statue of an Indian Chief that is lit up each night.

The fuel planes. Big boys.

No comment.

Keeper Of The Plains

After some much needed rest, a cold brew and BBQ we hit the asphalt again heading towards CO. Before we crossed the border we came across a small town that I had been through before and remembered an old man that had all sorts of metal artwork. We came across his property again to find double the amount of artwork as when I was there last.

Take the side roads. You won't regret it.

I wonder if this guy listens to Metal while making metal artwork? Megadeth perhaps?

Wonder how Laura Bush got her head stuck up her ass?

We ended up meeting the old man who let us watch him weld a heart.

He also has the worlds largest coffee mug collection. Room 1 of 10. Think he has a favorite?

We continued on and crossed into Colorado. The desert country side that holds a special place in my heart began to roll into view and we took an old road I've never been on. Over the next 4 hours we passed maybe two cars and no gas stations. Thankfully Bruce was getting great gas mileage and drove until we saw gas. It was getting close to sunset and we had Wolf Creek Pass ahead of us before we reached Durango for the night. It was the first mountain pass I had attempted in the bus and Bruce handled it like a champ. We saw yet another mind blowing sunset at the top of the pass and stopped to take some photos. If there's one thing I've been getting better at it's pulling over or turning around when you see something worth taking a photo of. You'll be glad you did. Again, what's the rush if you got time?

Can't wait to hit this resort in the winter with Bruce.

Durango city lights came into view as I rounded the last mountain curve. The local brewery was still open so we stopped in for a pint and some food. The brewery allowed you to write in chalk on the floor so we took the opportunity to write out Instagram handles everywhere (@buslifeadventure @brockbutterfield @bregantephoto). On the way back to the bus I had the idea to also write it on the sidewalk. Before I could finish I caught a vehicle out of the corner of my eye come to a screeching hault. Cops. Again.

Now I've had my fair share of run-ins with the law dog and I usually don't care for their attitude. However, this chap ended up being the best law enforcement officer I've ever met. After we explained what Instagram was he suggested we may not want to write that on city property anymore. He then inquired about the bus and was fascinated. He gave us some advice on where to park for the night where we wouldn't be hassled. It ended up being one of my favorite camp spots of the trip. The stars where bright and the Milk Way was unbelievable. Ryan set up for a couple shots of which became some of my favorite from the trip.

The universe is a fascinating thing isn't it?

 

It wouldn't be a road trip if something didn't go wrong.

A bit later start then I would have liked to when we left the farm but we had good straight roads for the most part to Wichita so we put the pedal to the floor and cruised at a mellow 65 mph. We were getting close to crossing the Misssissippi river when Bruce started making a terrible "thunking" and "whoomp, whoomp, whoomp" noise. I pulled over immediately and popped the hood to see what was making all the noise. A half blown serpentine belt. Part of it had got caught on a hose clamp and shredded the belt to pieces. I crawled underneath the bus and started pulling parts of the serpentine belt out from the motor. I had barely any bars of service and no data whatsoever in the area so I called my good friend Penny to Google the nearest auto store. We were in luck. Just 5 miles away on the other side of the Mississippi river was the town of Hannibal, MI with a parts store. After I got off the phone I felt something crawling on my leg and reached down to find two ticks trying to make a home. I pulled both of them off and tossed them out the window.

Well here's the problem.

Being that I had half a belt left I limped Bruce along at 3 MPH and crossed the bridge over the Mississippi river right at sunset. This actually made for some great sunset shots and reminded me that sometimes you just have to slow down a bit and enjoy the journey and forget the destination. As we rolled into Hannibal we learned that it was Mark Twain's home town. It seemed fitting that we broke down in a town where stories of boys on an adventures were created. We were on an adventure of our own.

One of the most memorable sunsets to date considering the circumstances.

Thankfully the Auto Zone was still open for 10 more minutes and they had the belt I needed. Another plus to buying a school bus built on a GMC Savana chassis. Parts are easy to come by. It took me a second to read the belt diagram and understand the belt flow before installing it but I had it on and running in 20 minutes.

Get in the Zone. Auto Zone...

We hit the road again with about 4-5 hours ahead of us. I slammed more coffee and popped some sunflower seeds in as we pushed into the night. About 30 minutes down the road Ryan's phone began to blow up with severe tornado warnings. Awesome. I pulled off at the next exit and Ryan ran into the gas station to ask a local about how severe it actually was. The lady let us know that two tornadoes had already touched down just north of us and golf ball size hail was expected any moment in the area. Out came the road map as I planned an alternative route around the storm. It was going to set us back a couple hours but I was all for it.

Driving into the storm.

Right around Kansas City I was too tired to push any further. It was around 2:30 AM and I was exhausted. We pulled off the freeway and into a hotel parking lot. It was hot and muggy so we cracked the windows on the bus and slept shirtless. Not more than 20 minutes went by when someone with a flash light was shining us in the eyes. I was borderline delerious and started shouting to get the light out my face. The person started shouting to open up the door of which I replied "Who the f*ck are you?" Come to find out it's the police. Someone had called in seeing a man taking his shirt off in a school bus and there were concerned for the children... After we got everything smoothed out I crashed on the air mattress only to wake back up around 4:30 AM and start driving again. 

Organic farms seem to be popping up everywhere but there are only a select few that have been in the game for years. Crème de la Crop is one of those.

Ryan had mentioned that he had friends outside Valparaiso, IN that ran an organic farm and I thought it would be a nice experience to explore the farm and learn a little more about organic farming. Leanne and JP welcomed us at the farm and we took a little tour. The farm consisted of chickens, ducks, endless produce and my personal favorite, the goats. I've been around goats a few times in my life but never around one that constantly says "WHAT, WHAT, WHAT". These little buggers were entertainment for hours.

Funny little dudes ain't they?

We explored the farm and were shown some of the original equipment that is still in use to this day. We learned that JP and Leanne's early dates were on the old tractor plowing rows for crop. They use and reuse everything they can. The chickens do a fine job of providing poop that is mixed with dirt and bark, covered for almost a year and then used for fertilizer. We learned they also have one of the best internship programs for organic farming in the whole US. Leanne has built up the program from scratch over the years.

Leanne and her ladies.

For whatever reason this shower head caught my eye. The colors were vibrant.

The bus steps were in bad shape from rusting and Leanne's father George who has the greatest "man shop" I've ever seen, offered to help weld them back together so that we didn't step through them on our drive back home. George has been welding for over 25 years and had the steps supported in no time.

Bruce in need of some welding love. Steps were sagging.

George. Master craftsman and owner of the best "man shop" ever.

With a long push ahead of us we began our journey towards Wichita, KS a good 13 hours away. George laughed at us when we told him how far we planned to drive. I smiled and said that's nothing and we'd be there shortly after 1AM. Little did I know that George would be right when we got hit with a blown serpentine belt and severe tornadoes...

We started our day out with gas station coffee and a creepy guy staring at us from his window.

At first we thought someone had placed a cardboard cutout of a man in their window but after Ryan snapped a few photos, the cardboard figure moved. The old man apparently was worried for the safety of the children in the bus and the hooligans that were driving it. That's the beauty of road trips and taking side roads. You get to see things you typically wouldn't if you were on the interstates. Granted you get places faster on the interstates but if you have time, what's the rush?

Well, Hello there neighbor...

I'm looking forward to more of these views in the morning.

We put the rubber to the pavement and started making our way towards Indiana where we planned to stay on an organic farm with some friends. I began to feel pretty comfortable driving the bus at this point and it no longer felt like a giant space ship. Corn was the view for the day as we drove through hundreds of miles of nothing but corn fields. We broke up the drive with a stop at Twistee Treats in a little town. Nothing like ice cream on a hot summer day.

Wind and corn.

Endless miles of corn.

Cash only. Ice cream is my weakness.

Later that evening we rolled into Crème de la Crop outside Valparaiso, IN. The farm has been in the same family for years. We picked some fresh produce and cooked up some stir fry while drinking Yuengling deep into the night.

 

Photo: Brock Butterfield

 

Photos provided by Ryan Bregante unless stated otherwise.

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