It's a bus life, chapter 1: The backstory
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
Labor Day weekend of 1995 marked an end to the summer and the beginning of a life-changing family adventure that was to last nearly three years.
The weekend started out as most Labor Day weekends do, with our family determined to enjoy every last bit of summer before we started another school year. Our church** holds an annual family camp each year at Palmer Gulch Resort in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and up until Thursday, we hadn’t even planned to go. But then, for some reason, we ended up deciding that we really did want to go, and when we called to find out if there was room, there just happened to be one cabin left. We told the church secretary we’d take it and got ourselves packed and ready to go.
We arrived Friday evening and got settled into the cabin, while the kids went off to find their friends. I don’t really remember all the details of Friday, but I am sure singing around the campfire and roasted marshmallows and ‘smores figured in there somewhere.
Maybe this would be a good time to actually introduce you to our family before I go any further with this story. My name is Vicki and I am married to Bob. At the time of this story, we were raising our three kids in Rapid City, SD. Our first born, Joshua was 14, Micah was 12 and our daughter, Tasha, was nine. We had been home-schooling from the time Josh was in first grade. We owned our own training and consulting business, which we started just before Tasha turned four. It didn’t take long for our business to grow, and more and more Bob’s work was taking him out of town. In fact, Bob was gone from home a good share of 1995, leaving the kids and me to “hold down the fort” while he went off to work with clients in cities and towns all over a six-state region.
Now back to the story. Saturday morning arrived bright and sunny and promised to be a perfect day. Bob got up at sunrise and already had some campfire coffee brewing when I got up to join him. We were enjoying some much needed time together, just the two of us, conversing in the quiet and beauty of the pine-wooded campground. We chatted about kids and business and squirrels that flitted from tree to tree nearby before the conversation turned–as it had many times before–to the subject of Bob being gone from home so much.
In reality, I suppose I was complaining a bit. I remember saying that with him gone all the time, I felt more like a single mom and I really wasn’t into raising our kids all by myself. I questioned the wisdom of his traveling so much and asked him if there was some way he could be home more. Then I said something that would change our lives forever. “Either you stop traveling, or take us with you!”
I was shocked when Bob’s reply was an incredulous, “You’d really want to do that?” and he was even more shocked when I said, “Yeah, I would.”
Both of us started talking excitedly about how fun it might be to take our whole family on the road, living in campgrounds just like the one we were staying in, seeing the country, learning as we go. What a grand idea! After sharing the idea with the kids, there was no turning back. Our whole family was definitely committed to pulling this off, though we had literally no idea how we would do it. If this was what we were supposed to do, we believed God would work things out for us. We knew our friends would probably think we were crazy, but even so, we couldn’t resist telling a couple of people that weekend–and we were right. They did think we were crazy.
We decided early on that we would need to work together as a team if our family was to pull this off. Fortunately, our family has always been big on the concept of teamwork, which just happens to be one of the many subjects Bob teaches about in his seminars. The kids had always worked with us in our household and business. We saw this adventure as bringing us all closer than ever and expected to achieve even greater levels of teamwork and cooperation than before.
Estimating it would take about a year to get everything ready to go, our family began to build our plan. We would work together to decide what we could sell and what we would keep in storage and what we would take with us. We set about to determine what best would fit our needs regarding what to live and travel in. For sure, we’d need plenty of storage to accommodate five people and all the stuff we needed to home school and conduct business on the road. But could we really reduce the amount of stuff we had to fit into the smallest place we’d ever lived in our lives?
There seemed to be no end to the questions, such as: Where will the money come from to finance this adventure? How would we get our mail and do our banking? When should we tell our landlord? When would we be able to leave? What would people think? Would we be able to make it financially on the road? The list went on and on.
Space doesn’t permit me to tell all that happened, but I will say we sold nearly all that we owned, purchased a 1948 GMC Greyhound bus converted into an RV, and had some electrical work done on the bus and a bit of remodeling to accommodate the five of us, all while working together with the help of friends to solve each challenge as it arose.
On November 4, 1995, which was our 17th wedding anniversary, we moved into our new home. Almost two months to the day after deciding to take our lives on the road, Bessie (our name for the bus) rolled out on the highway en route to our first destination as a traveling family. The adventure had begun!
** We attended Open Bible Christian Center in Rapid City, at the time.
Note: Stay tuned for future blog posts recounting our bus story and our life on the road adventure, which took place long before people were blogging. As I dig through my journals and photo albums, I hope to have plenty to share!