Magic Bus

Kegan Stedwell Issue: Section:

“we donated it twice to be used at an all day music
festival as the breast-feeding baby-changing station”

Some friends call it the banana, or the banana slug, I like to call it the banana split. It was about a month after we got it that it dawned on me: this was Barbie’s Dream Machine. You know? The outrageous accessory for Barbie that a hippie kid secretly longed for, like Kraft cheese and noodles-in-a-cup for lunch, and maybe once or twice got to play with at a friend’s who had the luxury of a motor home for their collectable doll. And now we were actually driving it. Was that where the seed was first planted?
The 1973 Sequoia is the first year GMC made a motor coach, back when we were still making things, making them well and building to last. It has a shade of green inside only the 70’s dared produce.  The shag-pile–carpet is original the whole interior of asian-inspired dragon-cloud upholstery and white vinyl trim feels familiar in my soul. There are original plastic dishes, cups, and bowls, all made in America by mom and pop producers I’ve never heard of.  Maybe the coach has a bead on this part of our country’s story; we used to design stuff, make it, take pride in it, hire ourselves and buy it. Now, well you know the story, things are so cheap, they break sometimes before you even get them home, it’s cheaper to have them produced halfway around the world, plus shipping, then to do it here. The low cost is artificial, the cheapness has an acrid aftertaste these days, blue collar workers out of work, all the money being spent outside of here.

But this is a road story, not a history lesson. Can I tell you about it? We’ve drained the batteries and been stranded in Aptos, twice. Ran out of gas on the 101 outside King City. Met a really cool guy who was an outboard motor expert, mechanical engineer who panned for gold when he camped 10 months of the year on BLM land who helped us fix the generator. Did a photo shoot for it.  I had a full-blown identity crisis in a KOA in San Diego, full of rednecks and NASCAR lovers who all had 3 kids or more; (to put it mildly, I couldn’t relate).  But that was on the way to Baja, an amazing adventure into the Mexican desert, that eventually landed us on an exquisite horseshoe-shaped bay with all types of shore birds, parked next to a palapa for shade, where we swam every day. We’ve been to hot springs, parked in friends’ driveways, donated it twice to be used at an all day music festival as the breast-feeding baby-changing station in the kid-zone, which while it was enjoyed by many grateful mammas, made it possible to make cups of tea throughout the day, which turned out to be so very civilized indeed.
It is like owning a boat, our GMC specialist mechanic told us when we brought it in yet again. Is it a folly? Is it a cultural remnant of what we were doing right at one time?  Should it be kept but updated? Like made electric, quiet, emission-free? Now that’s a rockin’ fantasy, an electric dream machine, charged up by solar-collected electricity, free to journey the once-pristine, now potholed pathways.
Maybe we’ll keep it.

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