The Bus RV

Cindy’s Dad had an interesting idea one time that we all got to enjoy the benefit of for quite a few years.  (When this guy thought of an idea to get something done, you usually paid attention to it.  This is the same guy who helped my Dad equip the back of our van with that bench and table that turned into a bed.)  For a number of years, he was the township supervisor for Bath (the town that I have mentioned in earlier stories where I grew up).  It may have been during this period of time, but regardless, he got the news that a school district was getting rid of a school bus that was in decent condition.  His idea?  To have a number of families go in together on the purchase of this bus and make it into an RV of sorts that all of those families could use whenever they wanted to.  I have no idea how many families went in on it, but ours was one of them (I believe quite a few others from my parents’ Euchre Club that they were a part of went in on this bus-turned-RV as well).  Thus began an interesting process to watch this RV take shape…..

It was somewhere around my sophomore/junior year of high school when this project began.  It took at least most of the summer that year to do it, but I remember quite a few trips over to Cindy’s house to help work on this thing.  I remember being old enough to actually do the help of an adult, but only two things stand out in my mind about that phase of the project:  tearing out the green bus seats (which I totally enjoyed doing–there’s something about knowing I sat in seats like that as an obedient little kid that made me want to take all my aggression out on them as a teenager) and painting over the yellow color on the outside of the bus (again, pent-up aggression that probably came from waiting at the bus stop and seeing that yellow-colored beast coming down the road towards me to take me someplace that I didn’t want to go to be with a bunch of kids I didn’t want to be with….wait, this sounds too much like Calvin & Hobbes).

So when it was all finally finished, it really was a sharp-looking RV!  Some of the seats towards the front of the bus had been reupholstered and repositioned for bench seating at tables (like back-to-back restaurant booths) with the capability of the tables being lowered to the benches to become beds for sleeping.  I’m fairly certain that there was a small kitchenette of some sort towards the back, with storage for luggage, camping gear and food stuff on the opposite side of the kitchenette.  I don’t remember it having a toilet, so as much as us teenagers would have liked to give it a nickname like “The Rolling Turd”, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Quite a few of these families that went in on the bus-turned-RV were all part of an annual trip to a fantastic German/Austrian-based town called Frankenmuth in Michigan, which they did every first weekend of December.  They took the newly-constructed RV every year for that trip, and I remember joining them in the RV for the first time my first Christmas out of high school (and I seem to remember that that may have even been the last time the RV was taken for that trip).

My last memory of that RV is when our family went with Cindy’s family in the RV down to Cedar Point in Ohio and stayed in the campground that’s right there on the funpark grounds.  It makes a world of difference staying there on the grounds vs. a hotel somewhere close by!  You can stay in the park right up to closing time and not have to drive anywhere–just walk back to your campsite.  Then you can get up in the morning and enjoy some breakfast and still have time to be one of the first through the gates when they open.  If you get an opportunity to do something like that, take advantage of it!

Funny thing about that trip, though, is the fact that my Dad never got on any rides.  He never did like that kind of thing.  I can remember plenty of times at the county fairs where he just walked around and watched us kids have all the fun.  I believe he did the same thing at Cedar Point.  In fact, he may have just stayed back at the campsite and took it upon himself to be the official fire-stoker.  Of course, Cindy’s Dad would have gladly joined him in shouldering that responsibility and probably did.

That’s a good memory to end the RV with…..

Ring Around The Rosey–Or The Tire

Where were we?  Ah, yes, the other memory I was telling you about….

Actually, there’s yet another one that I’ll give you real quick:  another friend of theirs whose name was Dave (may have even been family somehow) owned a motorcycle/dirt bike of some sort that had really fat tires on it (keep in mind that you’re dealing with someone who’s never had any interest in motorcycles, hardly ever been on one and is attempting to share a memory of an incident that’s going way back to somewhere around eight years old).  They had a decent-sized field behind their A-frame house and Dave was over one day riding his bike along the perimeter of the field.  He asked us three kids if we wanted to ride and we said what any kid under the age of ten would say:  “YEAH!!”  Cindy (the daughter of these friends of my parents) wanted to go first, so my brother and I, being the gentlemen that we were, naturally let her go right ahead (the fact that she had been on this bike with Dave before and we hadn’t been had very little to do with it).  She went around the field with Dave and looked to us to be having a great time.  But when she got back around to where we were and the bike stopped, she let the side of her lower leg brush up against the smokin’-hot muffler as she got off the bike.  Once her screaming dropped a few decibels to incessant crying and her Dad took her in the house to doctor up her leg (we watched it blister up almost immediately), Dave turned around to my brother and I and asked which one of us was going next.  Yeah, right.  Like that’s going to happen after we had just witnessed the carnage this demon bike could produce.  No way!  As it turned out, my brother decided to go, but me?  Ain’t me, babe.  Pass on by.  Nope.  Uh-uh.  Then, after some ridicule, pressure and intimidation, I was forced against my will to get on the bike and go for a ride (OK, maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but in that far and distant memory, it sure seems that way now).  I do have a hazy memory of feeling the bike under me hitting every possible bump in the field, watching those big fat tires turn, hearing the horribly loud noise of the bike (you know me and loud noises) and being absolutely terrified of my leg or any other part of me touching the muffler.  Believe it or not, I’ve never had another opportunity to ride a motorcycle since.

So anyway, on to the rest of the story.  As I was relating to you before, the A-frame house that Cindy’s family lived in was at the top of a small hill at the end of a very long driveway.  Her Mom and Dad had a decent-sized tractor tire that they used for a flower bed.  It was laid on its side in the front yard at the top of the hill.  Well, one late afternoon in the early summer of somewhere between ages seven and nine for me, my brother and I were out there with my Mom to weed our garden which was at the bottom of that small hill that led up to the house.  Somehow, I got myself out of weeding (probably had something vitally important that needed my immediate attention up by the house, especially around the wooden playset Cindy had up there) and had eventually gravitated to the tractor tire flower bed.  (Now, what you are about to read about may have been precipitated with a warning from Cindy’s Mom to stay away from the flower bed, but this is inconsequential and should be ignored.)

The flower bed that year hadn’t had much done to it, so the dirt on the surface inside the tire had weathered away in places, leaving small gaps between the dirt and the inside rim of the tire.  These, by the way, are perfect places for hideous insects to build nests–like, say, wasps for example–whose sole purpose in all of God’s creation is to sting innocent children innocently playing on something that they innocently shouldn’t be playing on.  I had the bright idea of stepping up onto the tire and running around the rim of it as fast as I could go. What happened next is somewhat of a blur, but I remember seeing a very mad something of a dark brown color streak through the air toward my feet as I  ran around the tire rim.  Suddenly it felt like somebody hit one of my ankles with a baseball bat and it burned like fire!  I leaped into the air and my feet suddenly became the whirring circle of constant motion that you see on the Road Runner cartoons from the Bugs Bunny Show.  I also noticed, as suspended animation hung me in the air for just a couple very slow seconds, that a large squadron of these vehement creatures was making its way across the tire with supersonic speed to my very sensitive and now highly-charged-with-adrenaline person.  As fast as my feet were moving, however, the wasps still found their mark–over and over again–as I flew down the hill towards my Mom, screaming like a girl the whole way.  They eventually gave up the chase (probably due to my own version of the Road Runner), but they definitely left their mark.

And so goes another sordid childhood memory of years gone by….

The Tire Bulge

As I was growing up, my parents had some friends who lived in an A-frame house behind some woods.  These friends literally farmed out some of their property by the house, which included letting my parents have a garden of various sizes out there each year.  In my six-year-old mind, that garden always seemed to be huge, and we were stuck with weeding it all summer long.  No kid enjoys that, but these friends of my parents had a daughter whom my brother and I enjoyed playing with–especially the Mousetrap game–so the last thing we ever wanted to do when we went over there was to be forced into any kind of manual labor by the local Communist dictatorship of my parents.  Child labor laws were a pointless and laughable invention at that point of our lives.  But what kid doesn’t feel that way about his or her parents at that age?

I have fond memories (overall) of being out there, but two distinct memories of that place come to mind.  The first involves the Chevy van that we had at the time.  This van had a long history with us, namely due to the fact that my Dad and this friend of his “MacGyvered” a very nice bench-and-table-that-turn-into-a-bed system for the back of the van (it’s what my brother and I fell asleep on when we took those trips to the cabin on Paradise Lake that I told you about some time ago).  Well, my Dad realized one day that one of the van’s tires had a bulge on the outer sidewall that was about the size of an egg.   As you can imagine, that’s not good.  So my Dad contacted this friend and made arrangements to drive the van over to his place and have him help with getting the tire off and the spare on.  I can remember the tense drive over to their place!  What didn’t help my Dad, though, was the fact that this van also had manual shift on the steering column.  Not necessarily a bad thing (I prefer stick shift to automatic transmissions any day), but this van had a particular affinity to being shifted into third gear, particularly when my Dad was the one driving.  Even at that young age, I can remember how hard it was sometimes not to burst out in loud guffaws and raucous laughter as we watched him fight with the gear shift, the van slowly losing speed as it coasted down the road, waiting for my Dad to finally get third gear engaged.  More often than not, by that time the van had slowed down enough that second gear–or even first gear–was needed again before the inevitable attempt to shift into that ominous and intimidating third gear was to once again be broached.

As soon as we got to their place, us kids were told that the tire could blow at any time and we were to stay as far away as possible while they did their thing.  No problem!  (I hate loud noises.  My Dad used to referee high school basketball and sometimes we’d go to a game just to watch him in action [he was very good at what he did!].  As a young kid, I used to have cotton in my ears at those basketball games and the game horn would still make me cry.  Stupid horn…. )  So we played in their very cool “MacGyvered” playset that her Dad had built for her–me plugging my ears the whole time in case the tire blew–while the adults sweated out the removal of the infected tire and got the spare on the van.

So that’s one of my fondest memories out at their place.

Now for the other one….

A Goal Becomes A Milestone

It took my wife and I longer than most usually do to find each other (shared in “How We Met”).  As a result, we are at ages 46 and 44 (respectively–no reason to let you know which one of us is the older one since carrying on about it and really even mentioning it at all would mean that the chances are highly likely that the woman is the older one so since it is my responsibility to keep that type of sensitive information unknown I won’t say anything about it either way so that you can’t possibly tell which one of us is older and the true identity of all parties is kept hidden as it very well should be in a situation like this) with two boys, the older one being 12 1/2 and the younger one being a little over 11.

Our older son, William, is built like his Uncle Brad:  stocky, tall and ruggedly handsome (as awkward as it is to describe my Brother-In-Law that way).  We could tell even at the ages of 2-3 that William was going to be on the tall side.  So much so that all through his childhood, he’s been a head taller than any of the other kids around him.  As a result, it has been his focus–nay, his quest, his life’s mission, his God-given purpose at age 12–to surpass the height of his Dad.  Now, growing up, it was my brother who ended up being taller than my Dad.  As we both got into high school, it was evident to all of us who the taller son was going to be.  (And, as a side story, we wrestled all the time as kids [remember the story about Max?].  But when he got to being taller than I was and I could no longer pin him to the ground for Max to play with, I became uninterested in such suddenly childish things to do.)  So I never experienced the heady sensation that a son being taller than his father can bring.

William asks for hugs all the time.  So, last night being no exception, he asked and I gave.  Only this time, something was different.  It felt like I was hugging someone taller than me.  Now, it must be noted here that for the last month or so, he’s been hovering at a 1/2 inch shorter than me–my height being 5’8″–and this fact noted a mere 3 weeks ago at Uncle Brad’s house of all places.  So I bring him out to where his mother is in the living room and have her check us out.  She begins to laugh and gasp and generally make a scene as she tells us that not only is William taller than I am, but he’s taller by a good inch and a half!  Here’s what she saw:

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Which means that he grew two inches in three weeks.  To say he was ecstatic is an understatement.  Whooping, hollering, smack talk (something about being the tallest man in the house now…I don’t know, I forget…) and other indecent behavior emanated from this 12 year-old that I now literally have to look up to.   If you find this hard to believe, coming from such a sweet-demeanored boy, here’s some hard-core proof of the preposterously out-of-place and distasteful behavior that I was subjected to last night:

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See what I mean?  You know, you think you raise them right–respect for their elders and all that–and this is how you are rewarded.  What’s a guy to do??  How do I live this down?  Thankfully, I don’t want to.  I couldn’t be more proud of our two boys and the mighty men of God that they are growing up to become.  I must say, it does feel oddly milestoneish having one of my sons taller than me, especially knowing that the height difference and the heckling that will come with it is now only going to get worse.  I say “oddly” in an effort to describe that sad feeling that comes with the significant events of a child’s life that remind you the little boy isn’t a little boy anymore.  But I wouldn’t change that for anything.  I love our family!  The God of the Bible is the center of it.  And everyone sees that.  I love that about us.  We’re not perfect.  Just genuinely seeking to walk with God as close as possible every day of our lives.  My boys see that example and the benefits that it brings, and they are far more likely to set that example for their own families one day.

Yup–choosing to walk out this life hand-in-hand with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit certainly has its advantages!