Not Enough Time!
Five Months of Day-Dreaming
One Foot in Front of the Other
Now that bus 246 has finished in final road trip to the Callaghan, I can switch gears from thinking about what I am going to do if it breaks down to what I am going to do, period. At this point, I really hadn’t considered the success of the road trip portion of the endeavour. It just seemed there were so many obstacles to physically and legally getting the bus to the mainland that I really hadn’t considered what to do once I got it home. Moreover, all the internal issue with construction in the bus John and I had spoken about are now reality. Particularly, how to best make use of the space considering how low the ceilings are in certain places, how to secure the doors, and how to strengthen the sheet metal roof for snow-load. Other than day dreaming plans, which I’ll have five months to do, I need to make some good use out of the little time I have as I leave for Mackenzie in the morning. First things first, I have to tuck tape some missing windows closed. Then I decide I need to focus on two things; cover the bus up, keeping it a secret till the fall, and remove all the seats from the bus. Now I do realize the idea of hiding a double decker bus under a tarp is hilarious, but I simply don’t like people knowing what my plans are till they are executed. After all, at this point only my parents and friend Spencer even know I went to the island and bought the bus. As for the seats, I just need to best posture myself for when I come home in the fall to be able to jump right into the construction aspect of the bus. I would like the bus to be operational by winter 2018/2019 which means every day with the bus counts. The trend of tight timelines will continue all the way through this process, from bus delivery to cafe opening I am committed to stress! After getting the seats all unbolted and stashed away, it begins to rain quite heavily. No matter, it seems as good a time as any to climb up the side of a round smooth surface to unroll a 100 foot tarp on a sheet metal and fiberglass roof. A few close calls later, I have a large bright blue wrapped bus, only slightly less eye catching than the bright red bus. To celebrate the first days work on the bus I decide to have my first coffee in the bus. I dig around in the trash and find an old water bottle which I cut in half and pour some palm warm coffee from a thermos. Although its not the best coffee I have ever had, its far from the worst, but it is the first of many.
The Longest Day
Its April 26, 2018 and I am waiting out front of man’s apartment whom I have yet to meet and am relying on to deliver a portion of my future. Doug, a double decker bus driver for years has agreed to drive my bus to Whistler, and as such we are about to spend an extremely stressful day together. To make the situation even more tense, the night before the trip I had nowhere to go so I chose to sleep in my truck in a movie theatre parkinglot. Throughout the night the constant thought of a mid trip bus break down kept me awake, so much so that around 3 am I figured it was best if I just nervously paced the parkinglot till sun up. My main concern for the bus is that a regular tow truck cannot move it if there is an issue. Due to the bus’s height, it cannot be low-boid, and due to its length it needs a “wrecker” to tow it. A wrecker bills out at around $100 an hour from the moment they leave their yard till they get back, which could be multiple days in this scenario. Anyhow, worrying about it doesn’t mean it aint gonna happen, so I bottle it up and Doug and I head to Sooke. The two of us decide that the bus route will be Sooke, Victoria, Nanaimo, Horseshoe Bay, Whistler, drop the bus off and turn around and drive Doug down to Tsawwassen to walk on the ferry and be back home in Victoria by night fall. Although we have checked our chosen route with transportation route of over height vehicles, we still need to keep an eye out for low powerlines, signs, and branches.
Once in Sooke, John warms up the bus and catches up with Doug while I tape on all my day permits and fuel the bus. Doug then hops in the bus and takes off, I figure he will be slow so I give him alittle time to gain some ground while I keep chatting with John. Once I say my good byes to John, I head off to catch up with Doug… it seems I underestimated his speed as I can’t seem to catch up!
Just as I make the turn off for Nanaimo I get a text from Doug saying exactly what I feared, the bus has an issue and that he has pulled over. At this point I am still far from the bus and have a healthy amount of time to think about all the things that could have gone wrong; it overheated, the transmission blew, the engine seized, the second story hit a tree and crushed like a tin can. As the bus comes into view, I start frantically looking for coolant on the road, or smoke coming from the top of the bus, but no issues are immediately noticeable. I walk up the side of the bus and Doug is pulling on something at the front. As I come around I see that he is holding a portion of the windshield. It seems the pressure of the air hitting the flat front of the bus + the old sun baked windshield gasket resulted in the windshield slipping from the gasket and pushing back towards Doug’s face. Luckily, the windshield wiper motor stopped the sheet of glass from hitting Doug, however, it did break the laminated glass in multiple places. Doug and I figure it is best to remove the windshield entirely to ensure no glass chunks fly into his face while driving. At this point we have only made about a ¼ of the days journey, and the ferry reservation for a double decker bus (a specific ferry takes truly over height vehicles) is coming up quick. We have no time to remedy the situation, and thankfully Doug being a great sport agrees to carry on without a windshield, after all we are far from typical highway speeds. With a lack of options and ticking clock we head out over the Malahat Highway. Although the bus is climbing the hills fairly easily, the bus is only doing about 45km/hr which is really starting to piss other road users off. Around the top of the Malahat Pass, we pull over to allow some vehicles by. While pulled over I walk up the bus to see if everything is alright, checking for burning smells and fluid leaks, when I notice something different on the second story. One of the windows seems considerably cleaner than the others, almost like there isn’t any glass in it at all. Now up to this point I have been behind the bus at all times, and have not seen a window fall out of the bus or any shattered glass on the road. Despite not seeing either of these things there is one thing for sure, there is no window in the frame anymore. It seems that the air coming in the front of the bus from a lack of a windshield had no where to go but up the stairs and push outward on all the windows till one gave way. It must have burst with such pressure that the window flew deep into the ditch line where I couldn’t see it. Although the missing window is shocking, there really isn’t an issue to fix, the window is gone. With no time to waste, and nothing to fix we head out for Nanaimo as its looking like we are going to miss the boat.
Arriving at the Ferry Terminal 10 minutes before they start loading, the people at the terminal counter are not happy with me. They begin to argue that the height stated over the phone is not the case, and that the bus is too tall for the ferry. After a few tense minutes while they re measured the bus with a long stick they allowed us to get the dang bus on that dang boat with 3/4 inch to spare! Once on the Ferry, Doug and I over hear several people talking about the double decker bus onboard with excitement. I am not only happy to hear that other people share the enthusiasm for the bus, but also that they have a curiosity about the bus’s journey. Once in Horseshoe Bay we head down to the bus and ensure it starts before they begin to offload the Ferry. The bus fires up right away and we unload onto the mainland and head up the Sea to Sky to the Callaghan Valley.
It only takes a few kilometers to notice an entirely different energy towards the bus from people on the mainland. I guess, because Victoria still utilizes double decker buses as transit vehicles, islanders are used to seeing them. However, on the mainland, people are not use to them, and we are getting tons of honks, waves and double takes all the way up the Sea to Sky. By the time we reach the Callaghan Country parkinglot we are both so happy, yet so tired, as it has been very overwhelming day. At this point, it really hasn’t sunk in that I have made this crazy purchase and successfully got it to where it needed to be. Instead, I am just focused on getting Doug back down to the coast, so I can come back up that night and start removing seats from the bus. Afterall, I am leaving for Mackenzie, BC in the morning for a 5 month Wildfire fighting contract and this will be the last day I see the bus till the fall.
Buying the Bus
John also tells me that he has found a driver who drove bus 246 for years while it was in service as a tour bus in Victoria. John has set up that I will pick the driver, Doug, up in Victoria in the morning and then the two of us will drive to Sooke to get the bus. Doug will drive the bus and I will tail him in my pickup just incase something goes wrong. But before all that can take place, I need to make the official purchase of the bus and get it in my name. Unfortunately, John and I have gotten so carried away bullshitting that the time really gets away on us. By the time we arrive at the insurance broker they are literally closing the doors. We promise it will be a quick, easy, normal transaction to get us in the door. Once they allow us in and we sit down at the ladies desk we then tell her that its actually a fairly complex purchase and the day permits situation for insurance is alittle confusing. Fortunately, the Broker seems to know John and is willing to figure out the process with us. After about an hour in the insurance office, everything is all said and done, and the bus is in my name. Then it hits me, I have to get this huge unknown of a bus across two major mountain highways and a ferry. Whats more is I only have a day to do it, as my wildfire fighting contract in Northern BC starts in 2 days!
Patrick Sills is the owner and creator of Double Decker Coffee Roasting. The purpose of the Build Blog is to share the story of the physical build, its components, Patrick's growing education in the coffee industry, and the overall creation of the business. Warning: if run on sentences, poor sentence structure, or simple spelling mistakes bother you to the core stop reading! The Build Blog has a very loose format, I am a builder not a writer, just thought some people might be interested in the story. Enjoy!