Adventures with Gus the Bus
Bob and Carol Braisher are avid travellers and RVers, but some of their favourite memories involve their early RV days when their rolling home was a school bus
Bob and Carol Braisher live on a ranch in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. It’s the same property that Bob grew up on, but just because their roots run deep doesn’t mean that the couple doesn’t also have a healthy dose of wanderlust. Since they met in 1978, the Braishers have explored virtually every method of travel and have seen everything from the hidden corners of their home province to the streets of Europe.
Bob and Carol originally started out tenting. On a trip to California, they noticed some interesting converted buses that were parked on the beach. Once the idea had caught their attention, they acquired a copy of Rolling Homes: Handmade Houses on Wheels by Jane Lidz for further inspiration.
“We said, ‘well, there's the way to go.’ So we bought this old bus off of this Sunday school minister who had brought it from the oil patch,” said Bob. “We paid $1,700 for it. It didn't have many miles on it, but they'd used it as a crew bus, so they would throw a cable around the front axle and drag it in and out of these well sites.”
Life with Gus
The Braishers bought the bus in 1982. The seats were in a pile in the back, and the undercarriage was packed with dirt and grease remainders from its work days. Bob rolled up his sleeves and the bus got its start on the travelling life. Officially christened Summerhaven after several different names, Bob and Carol have always referred to their own house on wheels as simply Gus the Bus.
The first trip the Braishers took with Gus was to Barnes Creek Country Faire near Whatshan Lake, also in the Kootenays. They travelled with another couple, and only basic plywood conversions were finished. Still, the music festival and the bus brought great memories.
“Barnes Creek Country Faire was something,” said Bob. “There were all these meadows and just thousands of people. There were good bands and everything. . . . The bus was like the Hilton after tenting. It was dry and there was plenty of room for us in those days.”
Gus was still a work-in-progress. Eventually he would be outfitted with a bathtub, a fold-down bed, a homemade awning, hot running water and a fridge. With lots of wood and brass trimmings, the interior is somewhat reminiscent of a sailboat.
After a few years at Barnes Creek Country Faire, Gus was recruited to travel farther afield. Bob had English relatives, a couple in their 60s, come to visit. Gus and the group headed for Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. The Braishers still name the trip as one of the favourites they took with the bus. They bought salmon directly off the dock, cooked English breakfasts outside every morning and scared the British relatives with stories of the Sasquatch.
More than just a bus
In 1998 the Braishers bought a camper because they wanted to travel to Alaska. Although Gus was a bit slow for long journeys, he continued the important task of taking the couple to annual music gatherings near Kimberley, B.C. Gus wore many different hats at these occasions, masquerading as everything from a Mexican marketplace to an old English pub. The Braishers also began attending the original annual Spilli Chilli cook-offs in Spillimacheen, B.C., often creating a winning recipe. For these festivals, Gus was decked out in Mexican attire and added chili bar to his repertoire.
Bob, Carol and Gus are all retired these days—although the Braishers prefer to say that Gus is laid back, as opposed to permanently off the road. The bus has a garage all his own and takes a jaunt outside once a year or so. Bob and Carol purchased a fifth wheel in 2009, which has allowed them to continue both the long and the local journeys they love. The Braishers have taken their trailer all the way to Nova Scotia and often travel in Washington, Idaho and Montana. Efficiency is one big plus of the trailer over the old bus. Carol said they also enjoy the roomy bedroom, the slide and the extra storage space. The new unit is also brighter inside than Gus was.
“You've got your own home away from home, so you're sleeping in the same bed every night, you've got everything you need to make a meal with,” said Carol.
The way to travel
Bob has found that the 28-foot unit is the perfect size for the two of them. They installed two recliners and have made the new home on wheels more than comfortable. When they’re travelling, they refer to their trailer as home.
Still, the Braishers fondly remember the uniqueness and the tough workhorse qualities of old Gus. They miss meeting new people every time they took the bus out, simply because people were so interested in their mode of transportation. Gus has left the couple with memories that can’t be replaced and could never be duplicated.
Whatever the unit, the Braishers have found that RVing is a form of travel that suits them just fine. After all, Bob believes they’ll be RVing for as long as they can drive, enjoying the constantly changing scenery in front of their home.
“(We most enjoy) the freedom of it,” said Bob. “A lot of people buy a cabin, and they have to go to the same place every year. You go there a few days, you drive away and you're finished. With RVing, you’re not tied down to anything—it's just the freedom.”