Mar. 1st, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
I left Boston on Sunday evening in a UHaul truck full of my stuff. Logistical shenanigans delayed the departure, but we eventually got on the road. With me was Natasha, who is one of my bus copilots, and Ben, a friend in need of a ride. We dropped Ben off elsewhere in Massachusetts and proceeded southwest. I had forgotten that the NYC tolls are mostly one-way, so we got across the bridge without paying the $26 that I recalled from my last trip in the other direction. We did encounter one New Jersey toll that was $1 for autos and $6 for 6-wheel trucks, the largest ratio between those categories I've seen. We picked up A, a friend and road trip companion, along the way, and made it to Lancaster PA after dawn. Some negotiating with the hotel clerk got us a room until 1PM, and we napped away the rest of the morning.

After a refreshingly long nap in the hotel, we proceeded to the bus facility. I had originally planned to pick up the bus in East Petersburg where it was being stored, but the owners moved it back to the Red Rose Transit Authority facility in Lancaster for storage. My trip partners dropped me off and they went to get food and otherwise kill time. I got a glimpse of the bus at a distance on my way in, and there was a minor amount of squee involved there. I met someone in their office to sign over the title and get a bill of sale. With the paperwork in hand I finally got my hands on the bus, escorted by their head of maintenance.

First up, there was much visual inspecting. I poked and prodded a lot of the parts, opened hatches, peered into walls and cavities, and otherwise pretended to know what I was looking at. I took a few exterior photos, for posterity (which is something you should do with *everything* expensive and used that you buy, in case there's a dispute later about the delivery condition). Then we tried to start it. Or, we tried to try to start it. He had showed me the battery cutout switch, and he knew it had started earlier that day, so we didn't think power was a problem. Despite that, we literally could not figure out the order of operations to engage the instrument cluster or the ignition. After a few minutes of being mutually stymied, he went to get one of the hands-on maintenance folks. That guy showed us the arcane ritual required to engage the ignition, which I will not reproduce here because that obscurity is currently the only security I have; installing a key interlock is on my to-do list.

At that point, I had a running engine and a bunch of free time while everyone else was out gallavanting. I flipped all of the switches. I turned the bus off and back on. I took a lot of photos, including every part that looked mechanically interesting and everything with writing on it (hooray for wiring diagrams and part numbers!). I got a couple of videos with audio of the engine running, including stopping and starting it from under the hood. Those photos and video will be online somewhere near this post in the near future.

This is the part of the story where I drive off into the sunset, right? Nope. Having learned the ritual for starting the engine, I found myself stuck on step two, engaging the transmission. I googled. I poked. I combinatorially attemped every one and two push or push+hold combination of the relevant buttons on the transmission controls. Then I gave up and called the guys inside. Once again the head of maintenance couldn't figure it out, and called in a specialist. He immediately recognized that the transmission controller flashing the current gear instead of displaying it steadily indicated an interlock condition; that is, some switch on the bus was open and telling it not to go. He shut it down and walked me through a checklist of about half a dozen things, which I suspect is actually less than half of the real whole interlock checklist. Having done that, it went into gear and he drove it to the far side of the parking lot. I was left with a driveable bus and departed to meet everyone else.

After a short drive we met up at the UHaul facility and spent a few hours cross loading cargo. I removed four of the rear seating benches so we could optimize our luggage tetris and was generally quite pleased at how easily they came out. The floor level bolts had rusted, probably from salty snowy wet passengers' feet. They were tough to start and required a ratchet all the way out, but none of them seemed even close to stripping or otherwise misbehaving. The bolts at butt level, both the cantilever attachment at the wall and the diagonal support on the bottom, came out like butter; none took more than 1/4 turn with the ratchet before coming the rest of the way by hand. The seats stack very densely when the diagonal support is removed.

Having returned the UHaul truck and made a quick thrift shopping trip, we set off westward. It was well after dark, and we were tired from sleep deprivation and moving, so we quit early. We got a hotel due to not having converted enough of the bus interior for sleeping yet. Natasha did get her hammock up, and engaged in some entertaining acrobatics to mount it, but we hadn't cleared enough floor space to put down bedding for myself or A. The hotel was accommodating, and we ended up showered, jacuzzi'd, fed, and comfy in time for a long full night's sleep. I am writing this in the AM of day two, as we are finishing breakfast and preparing to depart westward from Carlisle PA.

PS: This post will eventually have a prequel covering the details of the shopping, auction, and purchase process.

PPS: Carlisle PA is where I spent a couple of weeks in the company of my father in the late 90s as he was dying of lung cancer.


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