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Will Stevenson
April 2, 2023
23 views

Finding the Bus of My Dreams and Touring America 

I  was born with wanderlust.  When I was sixteen, I hitchhiked all over the country.  It was certainly an adventure, meeting new people and relying on the kindness of strangers for a ride down the road.  As the years passed, my tolerance for roughing it diminished, and traveling in a vehicle became a necessity.  

I first acquired a Class A motorhome and used that for weekend trips and vacations.  All the while I lusted after a bus conversion.  I was drawn to the Eagle and the GMC PD-4104. After researching both buses, I decided on the shorter PD 4104.  The shorter length opened more possibilities for campsites and made it easier to get around in metropolitan areas. 

I can’t really explain my affection for the PD-4104.  I just liked the look of the bus.  I could imagine myself traveling the country in such a vehicle.  I imagined feeling a sense of pride as I looked down at the lesser vehicles around me. The bus’s unique design and classic look instantly set it apart from the cookie-cutter cars, trucks, and RVs on the road. Anyone would feel proud to be behind the wheel of such a one-of-a-kind vehicle.

The bus as it was found at an RV park in North Las Vegas.
The bus as it was found at an RV park in North Las Vegas.

The distinctive rounded roof and sleek lines make this bus a true conversation piece and a perfect rolling home for a cross-country tour. With its iconic look and unmatched character, the 4104 bus is a true symbol of Americana and a one-of-a-kind vehicle that turned heads wherever it went.  

I was in Las Vegas, traveling in an old Class A motorhome when I stumbled upon a 1960 PD-4104 for sale.  I could see the potential in the bus even though it had been sitting unused for several years. The bus was converted in the 1970s by a private party.  It was owned by a California man who had taken it several times to Alaska.   

The bus was found with the bay doors falling off.
The bus was found with the bay doors falling off.
The rear of the bus with a motorcycle ramp.
The rear of the bus with a motorcycle ramp.

The owner had given it to his brother to live in and it was parked in a campground in North Las Vegas.  The bay doors were falling off and there was a motorcycle ramp welded and bolted to the rear bumper.  In addition, the old owner had incorporated a hoist for loading his motorcycle on the back of the bus.  Large exhaust pipes or stacks were bolted to the side of the bus.

Bus interior, looking from the rear to the front of the bus.
Bus interior, looking from the rear to the front of the bus.
Interior showing the kitchen area.
Interior showing the kitchen area.

The interior of the bus was brown.  Everywhere.  It did have a dishwasher and trash compactor that did not function.  Something that I had never seen in a bus before.  At one time it had been a very nice bus.  

Despite its aged appearance and disrepair, I could envision myself fixing it up and making it my own. I knew that the task of bringing the bus back to operating condition would be a challenge. The thrill of breathing new life into an old bus and the possibility of fulfilling my dream of touring America in it was too much to resist. So, I took the leap of faith and purchased the bus, determined to restore it to its former glory.

I was thrilled to finally have my dream bus in my possession, but it was clear that it needed a lot of work. The interior was dated and worn out.  I decided to remove the motorcycle ramp and take off the exhaust stacks first.  

The engine needed a lot of work to get it running properly. I had never worked on a diesel before and needed a knowledge bank.  I purchased a copy of the Bus Converter’s Bible from Bus Conversion Magazine to learn all about how to convert a bus.  I had to replace some parts and do a full tune-up.  

Photo of the bus and toad parked at Yellowstone National Park.
Photo of the bus and toad parked at Yellowstone National Park.

One of my first challenges was finding a throttle cable.  I learned about everyone’s favorite parts guy, Luke through the grapevine. Eventually, I got the Detroit Diesel 671 engine running smoothly. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it to finally be able to drive my 4104 down the road.

It came time to begin my adventure and hit the road.  I was not born independently wealthy, so I had to figure out a way of supporting my adventures.  Work camping is a unique way to travel and see the country.  It involves working part-time or temporary jobs in exchange for a place to live and camp. This type of work-and-travel arrangement allowed me to explore different regions and communities while earning a bit of income to support myself.   

I worked in a variety of settings, including national parks, RV parks, resorts, and other tourist destinations. I had jobs that ranged from maintenance and cleaning to customer service and hospitality. Work camping provides a chance to experience the country and its people in a way that traditional tourism didn’t.

On my first work camping job, I spent six months living and working in Yellowstone National Park.  I worked twenty-five to thirty hours a week in a gift shop at Fishing Bridge RV Park.  I spent the remainder of the time exploring the park and surrounding area.  It was amazing.  The natural beauty of the park was truly awe-inspiring. From the towering mountains to the steaming geysers, I was constantly amazed by the majesty of the place. I hiked over one hundred and fifty miles in the backcountry of Yellowstone.

I have worked and lived all over the country while work camping.  I spent six months in Maine on Mount Desert Island, mowing grass in a large campground.  I tended chickens on a farm in Pennsylvania and did maintenance work at resorts in Tennessee, Texas, and North Carolina.

Editor’s Note:  A bus conversion is ideal if you want to travel around the country and take on temporary jobs and explore the areas on your time off.

During my travels, I also wrote and published two novels.  The first was a book called “Constant Vigilance”. It was published in 2015.  The book deals with conspiracy theories, disinformation, and a plot to reduce the world population by releasing a virus.  Who knew I could predict the future? 

The second novel was my first attempt to write romance.  It is called “The Mountains of Yellowstone.”  The book follows two souls looking for meaning in their lives.  I learned a couple of things from this writing experience.  The most important thing was that I don’t know anything about romance.  Another was that you can’t make any money writing books. 

Making friends while traveling and working as a “Work Camper” is a truly amazing experience. At each of the places I worked, I was part of a large group of people who were also Work Campers.  The shared experience of exploring new places and adjusting to new lifestyles brings people together in unique and meaningful ways. You develop a camaraderie with the people you meet, as we all support and encouraged each other through the ups and downs of life on the road.

The bus got attention everywhere it went.  I once got pulled over by a state trooper and after talking about the bus for a while he admitted he only pulled me over to get a better look at the bus.  In campgrounds around the country, other campers would have their picture taken in front of the bus.  The bus was a celebrity.

As my journey continued in my bus conversion, I realized I had discovered something valuable. I had discovered a sense of freedom and fulfillment that I had never experienced before. I was no longer tied down to one place, and I was able to explore and experience life in a way that was truly authentic.  At each location, I explored the community, landscapes, and cultures.  I lived and worked all around the country for twelve years.

Last year my health became an issue.  Out of the blue I was diagnosed with acute kidney failure.  I was in and out of the hospital and lived with tubes sticking out of my sides while my kidneys healed.  I have come through most of it and I am finally feeling like I am on my way to recovery.  I had to park the bus during this time and there was a water leak near the driver’s seat.  The floorboard collapsed and the bracket for the pedals became loose.  There are other issues with the plumbing and electrical systems.  And of course, from not starting the generator for almost a year, the carb was gummed up.

After owning the bus for fifteen years and traveling the country, it has fallen into a state of disrepair.  Despite the countless memories and experiences, I have had with the bus, it has become clear that I may no longer have the physical ability to bring it back to its operating condition. The wear and tear of traveling, combined with my age and limited resources, have made it difficult to keep the bus going.  I often find myself staring at the bus, overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done and feeling discouraged by my own limitations. 

I have read and followed many stories of finding and converting buses.  I have not seen any stories about what happens when the journey ends.  Watching the deterioration and being unable to fix it is deeply saddening. I know it’s natural to feel a sense of attachment and nostalgia for an object or place, especially if it holds memories or holds sentimental value. This sense of loss and powerlessness is difficult to cope with.  This bus is a symbol of a simpler time and represents a part of my identity.  I cannot bring myself to abandon the hope of breathing life back into this bus.

In conclusion, traveling across America in a bus conversion has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It has allowed me to see new places, meet new people, and experience new things. I have discovered a sense of freedom and fulfillment that I never thought was possible, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have had this experience. I would encourage anyone with a passion for travel and adventure to consider taking a similar journey. The memories and experiences that you will gain will last a lifetime.

Article written by Will Stevenson
Will is a writer and former entrepreneur who has established himself as a thought-provoking author. He has published two successful novels, “Constant Vigilance” and “The Mountains of Yellowstone”, and is now working on his third book, “Excessive Force”.After leaving the business world, he chose to live a minimalist lifestyle and reject the excesses of modern society. He currently travels in a converted 1960 Greyhound bus and documents his adventures on his Facebook page and YouTube channel.With his unique perspective and creative writing style, Will continues to be a source of inspiration for many.
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