The Honey House
Small, cozy and yellow. Is she ready for the long winter migration?
Just as birds begin their season migrating south, The Honey House prepares for her journey northward. As Kellyn paints the final part of the bus's ceiling, winter approaches quickly. It is October and everything is starting to look like a home: the wood floors have been laid, the pull out bed has been built, the wood burning stove successfully burns and warms the cabin, but can the Honey House face the weight of the road? Soon, the bus will leave its nest in Breckenridge, Colorado and migrate to new grounds. As the first snow hits Colorado, the key turns over and the bus fires up.
But First, Blackfoot
A text caught my phones attention and after its usual buzz in my pocket, I couldn't help but to respond. From "Cody" it said. "So, uh...I bought a bus." Then a second message came through with a photo of an old weathered school bus. Yellow, vintage and cool. The reality of the photo triggered my memory to a time Cody vaguely described a goal to buy a bus and use it to live, ski and travel in. However with Cody's quiet demeanor, the thought of a school bus was underestimated in my mind. Until the moment a photograph was sent to me from Blackfoot, Idaho containing a yellow school bus along with a message describing it being purchased. I knew it meant business and an adventure was knocking.
One trip isn't enough
60 miles in and The Honey House meets trouble on the roadside.
Known as "The Potato Capital of the World," hides a lonesome town in Idaho, which lies basically untouched since 1885. Named after a tribe of nomadic bison hunters, the town of Blackfoot has not much to offer other than cold nights that my grandmother would complain about but a place for potatoes to enjoy, high plains that hold beauty yet paint a ghostly picture of where buffalo once roamed, and casinos, lots of casinos filled with dangerous hopes and ventilating ash that my asthma has every excuse to wheeze for. However, in all this lay a dormant adventure hiding in plain sight waiting to be found.
Beginning of October 2017, Cody Cirillo, our close friend Patrick Whitehead, and myself set out from Breckenridge, Colorado onward to the high lonesome plains of Blackfoot, Idaho. Patrick was on his way from Colorado to his home in Salt Lake City and offered to give us a ride to Blackfoot since the two towns only share about 180 miles of separation. After two days and 596 miles later we made it. I guess there are some pluses arriving before dawn in a town that has less of a population than friends Instagram followers. For one, while waiting for the local mechanic to open up shop, we took a quick tour within the towns most iconic museum, The Potato Museum, the only museum in town and most likely the only one in a 200 mile radius. The museum stands down main-street, the only "main street" in Blackfoot, and since a potato statue as large as a car lays on the front lawn, there were no issues finding it, and borderline impossible not to feel invited. So Patrick, Cody and I proudly took the opportunity to see what's inside and by being the only people awake in all of Blackfoot, except for the lady running the museum, there was no need to compete with a huge line of thirsty museum hunters. We got our "taters for out of staters" and drove on to claim the soon to be Honey House.
"COUNTRY SIDE AUTO CARE" it stated with big red letters that while draped over a sign along the road, was half forgotten as the 'U' letter of AUTO lay missing. The 'R' in COUNTRY was not too far behind as it dangled upside-down. A single Idaho gust of wind would put it to its grave. I gave the 'R' a few more months.
As the brisk dawn turned into a chilly warm October morning, Cody met his new home and after a successful start, we pointed the bus back into the direction of Colorado. Not overlooked was the resemblance between the yellow tin soon to be mobile home and the uncanny comparison to a giant loaf of sweet bread, but on four wheels. A sense of irony emotionally struck me as the bus rolled down main street and past the car sized potato sitting on the front lawn of The Potato Museum: A loaf moving on all 4 wheels driving to live another day while a potato as large as a car will never see the day to drive. The bus past The Potato Museum with confidence.
As me, Cody, Pat and our new but temporary friend John Denver who sang through a small portable speaker, rolled onto the interstate, there was nothing but sweet smell of old car, music and loud exhaust. Top speed 50 mph; miles to Breckenridge: 596. Despite the encouraging words of John Denvers' song "Leaving, on a Jet Plane," we soon came to the realization that the bus was not a "Jet Plane," and the difference between driving a Toyota Tacoma down the highway for road trip purposes and a 55 year old anti-air resistant school bus, reaching a maximum speed of 50 mph, means we were in it for the long haul. However optimism was at an high and "Leaving, on a Jet Plane" continued to play from the speaker.
Electricity is dangerous, however what's often over looked is that electricity can do funny things with age.
The speedometer, which looked more like a meat thermometer than a speed gauge, bounced from 0 mph to 100mph like a seesaw. Not knowing the buses speed wasn't an issue to us but every car seemed to dread our presence as we coasted (or quickly rolled) through the right lane. To my knowledge it was the yellow paint, any car a mile behind could spot the bus. Having a mile to prepare to pass the bus wasn't rocket since, but every so often a driver would find their way behind the out-dated speed in which the bus only knew. In this case, a car stuck behind would quickly escape to find the left lane, accelerate past with the intention of saying if speed had words it would say "don't kill my vibe, its 2017 and speed is life." However, what they didn't know that within the bus, John Denver was still playing the song "Leaving, on a Jet Plane" and despite our top-speed of 50mph, optimism was at the highest. That was until an unusual loud sound exploded from the engine. Decreased power in the engine slowly gave way to our worst fears: 60 miles in and The Honey House meets trouble on the roadside.
Slow and Steady
One month came fast, and Blackfoot in November brought us colder mornings, de-ja-vu decided to ride along as we passed by familiar sights, but the bus stayed in the same position. A new(er) engine was freshly bolted to the yellow frame and anticipation was high for the day. We repeated the processes: the bus successfully started and we began taking the highway that a month before, witnessed our previous demise. Our journey passed the 60 mile marker and a small (necessary) celebration was held. Small details were being noticed as we began the 18 hour relationship between highway, long talks, and the slowly moving sun. The new(er) engine had more power, giving the yellow house some extra speed as we capped out at a solid 55mph. Before the pressure gauges were dead, but now they were re-wired and working smoothly. The bus had a second wind and although the real wind was pushing against the front, the bus didn't seem to care. Though we soon found out how much the gas cared and the list of gas stations grew bigger throughout the day.
The day was nearing another beautiful set, this time however the bus was exiting a gas station in Provo, Utah, some 230 miles from Blackfoot, Idaho. The bus continued east through out the night, and after some 18 hours the bus pulled into Breckenridge, Colorado. Slow and steady, we finally made it.
The Ullr Fest
Going, going, gone.
Mid-parade and The Honey House quits before finding the finish line.
Known for its world class skiing and white winters, Breckenridge, Colorado hosts a tight-net community who live for the outdoors. By November of 2017, a new addition parked itself within the city limits: a yellow school bus. As the new year approached, the sun leaned over the southern horizon, giving the Rocky Mountains shorter days, colder temperatures for a healthy snow pack but slower speed limits and constant traffic jams thanks to the growing (non -native) population Denver has to offer. However by the end of January, one of Colorados' quirkiest festivals hit Breckenridge: The Ullr Fest.
Norse god Ullr is known to be the patron saint of skiing and every year The Ullr Fest attracts followers who worship the snowy belief. Traditional bon-fires light up and warm the cold night, ice plunges are held in a nearby lake, the worlds longest shot skis are taken back, and during its annual parade, vast arrays of costumes walk through the streets such as vikings, saucer boys, and/or Yetis. The Honey House Bus had only but one option on the day of The Ullr Fest: to celebrate by driving in the parade and down main-street. With skis bolted to its frame, chains wrapped around its tires, and a group of Ullr worshipers in its cabin, the bus began its slow-ride through the festive crowd. However, by mid-parade The Honey House quit before finding the finish line.
To be continued...