Breaker Breaker

Although I had used my CB in my Nisson Patrol four wheel drive vehicle and on my Honda CX500 cc motorcycle, it really came into its own on the bus we called Buster, for the dirty old man bus driver poltergeist who inhabited it. “Breaker, breaker. Hey blue bus. Come back?”

I liked to listen in to the long haul truckers on the interstate highway just to hear what was going on down the road, but sometimes someone would cut in whom I didn’t know with a message I needed to hear. When we drove the bus to Fargo, North Dakota to visit my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law and his family, I got such a call near Walla Walla, Washington. A call about an emergency that I knew nothing about.

“Say, buddy, do you know you have a flat on the left inside dual in the back?” Well no, I didn’t know. “You may not see it or feel it yet, but I can see it’s flat from back here” said the 16 wheeler behind us, who knew about such things. He also told me there was a truck stop a few miles ahead. I thanked him, drove to the truck stop and stopped.

Unless you have had to deal with dual wheels on the back of a truck (or a bus) you would have made the same mistake I did. To save money and time I was going to remove the tire myself. I had a great hydraulic jack to lift the bus, a tire iron and a length of pipe to add to the lever, applied to the fulcrum, to unscrew the lug nut. (I was a physics teacher. I knew about simple machines.) But the more I groaned and the more I jumped on the length of pipe, the more it wouldn’t come undone. Then the mechanic told me why.

The first set of lug nuts, the ones holding the outer rim that I had to remove to get to the inner rim, were threaded backwards. Instead of “righty tighty, lefty loosey” it was loose in a clockwise motion. Once I knew that and once I had cracked the outer lug nuts in the proper rotation, the inner wheel was easily removed. Soon the tire was patched and we were on the road again.

The next CB call was from a truck driver headed west. “Breaker, breaker to the blue bus. You carrying any water on that thing?” Why yes we were. We had 20 gallons of water in the tank. “Well there’s a truck beside of the road a few miles past Butte who needs some. Do you think you could help him out?” Why yes we could, I said.

We saw the truck beside the road, on the other side of the road, with a barrier in between. I hailed the driver and told him we had water. He said his truck need it as it had overheated. We emptied a plastic waste can and began to fill it and a mop bucket with water to take to him. He came to us before we could get to him and took the waste can full of water and I followed with the mop bucket full. We did this several times until he felt he had enough water to make it into Butte for repair. He said thanks and we left feeling like a real road rescue bus. Buster was so proud.

When we drew near the eastern border of Montana the generator light came on and stayed on. Although I could plug in a trickle charger when we were staying somewhere, I needed that generator for the two batteries on board. Someone on the CB told me the next town was Glendive, Montana (who had recently (2015) been in the news regarding an oil spill in the Yellowstone river.) We found a gas station and pulled in to see if they could help. The mechanic was happy to help. He sent our two kids, John and Casey, and pregnant Betsy to his farm where there was a swimming pool.

The reason he was so happy to be working on Buster was easy to see once you got the hood up. It was a straight six GME engine and nothing else. The heart of Buster was simple and unadorned. The mechanic called his friends over to look at it in awe. Anything he would work on was available and visible.

In this modern age (1977) cars and trucks no longer had generators, they had alternators. So once he had removed the generator he had to call up his old friend, who was an old mechanic, to tell him what to do with it. He told him to connect it backwards and see if it could run. (When you reverse the wires on a generator, you have a motor. It was called ‘motoring the generator’ and it would tell you if something, some wire, was not working.) After following this procedure and identifying what was wrong they sent to the auto parts store to get the necessary piece and we were ready to proceed. Although he had been working on the generator all day, he looked into his fee book and charges me for one hour labor only. Whew, we dodged a bullet on that one.

While he was reassembling the generator on the bus my wife and family had returned from their swim. Before we left town we stopped at what had to be a national heritage site of the last Woolworth five and dime in the country. Exactly like to one I used to hang out in in Fort Collins where I grew up, it was like stepping into the past. We found a T-shirt that said, “Where in the hell is Glendive, Montana?” and left town with smiles and happy memories.

But when we turned on the CB, we learned that there were other problems ahead. According to the truck drivers ahead of us on the Interstate, there were three tornadoes following the Interstate eastbound. We were to trail them across North Dakota. We knew just where they were thanks to the CB. When they turned north to Jamestown, we continued east to Fargo. Whew, we dodged another bullet, a big one.

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