5:30 am Wake-up call.
5:32 am We mobilize into the bus with our sleeping bags and pillows and hit the road. Destination: Missoula, MT.
8:30 am Destination reached. Early. Really Early. We pull into the parking lot of The Good Food Store.
8:32 am Mechanics begin work on the waste vegetable oil system – they’ve been having trouble with it for 3 days now.
9:01 am Kelly claims her hair is starting to dread. We all could use a shower.
11:30 am Mechanics have spent the last two hours trouble-shooting while the rest of us have cleaned the bus, shopped for groceries and run other miscellaneous errands.
11:34 am Kelly has been debating whether she should get an iphone for 2 hours now. She should definitely get an iphone.
1:30 pm Projected departure time for Yellowstone National Park. Mechanics are still troubleshooting. Ari, meanwhile, has been waiting at the Missoula airport for us to pick him up. Looks like we’re going to be a little late.
2:30 pm Mechanics have called Rob. Looks like they have to try at least one more thing before we can even begin to think about leaving.
3:00 pm Kelly experiments with the blender.
3:30 pm The veg system is working! Except, oops, we need a filter. One more hour of work required.
4:00 pm I crush Nick and Kate at Crazy 8’s. We begin a game of 3-card Rummy.
4:30 pm Filter installed. We clean up our mess. A big one – we’ve distributed kitty litter over a large chunk of The Good Food Store’s parking lot. Unfortunately, we’ve attracted no cats.
5:00 pm We pick up Ari from the airport and get on highway I-90 E. Everything has worked out perfectly. The veg system is running and, if we travel without our usual myriad of stops, we’ll probably make it to our campsite before midnight (a real luxury these days)!
9:28 pm Stop engine light flashes on the dashboard. Kelly pulls over. Light disappears. We continue driving.
9:30 pm Engine fails. We lose power. Bus stops in the middle of a 2 lane highway. Bus starts sliding backwards. Kelly brakes.
9:31 pm Everyone gets off the bus. Stares.
9:32 pm We migrate to the back of the bus. Oil is everywhere – road, bikes, wrap.
9:35 pm Maya calls 911.
9:58 pm I look up Greyhound service centers in the area. They’re aren’t any. The rest of the girls huddle in the back of the bus, frantically reviewing drivers logs. Last edited entry: July 23rd. We’ve got a lot of making up to do before the cops arrive.
10:30 pm The cop shows up, assesses the situation and calls a tow-truck. “Looks like you blew your turbo.” Crap. “It could take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to fix.” Crap x 2.
10:56 pm I look up from the map on my iphone. Smiles. Wait….smiles?
This had been one of the most grueling days the bus had experienced, and yet there were no complaints, no signs of dejection. Oddly enough, we were all relishing in the moment, taking in our first real breakdown. And there were smiles. Smiles as we united around our less-than-optimal situation. Smiles as Mike told stories of his past experiences with the police department (little sneak has gotten out of a few tickets), and smiles as we cohesively prepared the bus for its ultimate departure, via tow-truck, to Bozeman, our home for the next few days. You’d think something like an engine failure in the middle of nowhere Montana would result in something different. Anguish maybe? Stress? Confrontation? But it didn’t. And somehow I wasn’t surprised. People have a wonderful tendency of coming together during times of adversity – something I’ve always found heartening. People temporarily sacrifice their self-interests to support the needs of the group. In our situation, everyone on the bus was volunteering themselves in any way they knew how – calling service stations, sending out emails to family and friends about possible places to stay, wiping down bikes, and making sure the vegans were warm enough waiting for our cab outside in the cold. And a thought occurred to me – what would our trip be like if we were all like this all the time? Unrealistic, surely. But not entirely impossible. Reminiscent of a video I watched on Youtube titled “Fish! Philosophy” about the workplace management system* created by John Cristensen and modeled after Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, I couldn’t help but think that we might be happier and more productive operating in such a post-misfortune manner all the time. Maybe our little set-back will give us perspective in this way, allowing us to work towards making the interests of the group our own individual interests. Maybe. What we will have taken away from this experience for sure – a story for the books.