A summer reunion to Alaska via yellow school bus
In February this year, 8 friends saved up, chipped in together and bought themselves an old school bus.
An idea much like the Norweigan tradition ‘Russefeiring‘ - where students name a bus and celebrate almost continually at the end of their spring semester. RJ and his friends spent 5 months renovating and fixing up the bus, so that by summertime, it was road-ready for an unforgettable trip up to Alaska. Unfortunately the work put in wasn‘t quite enough, since they had to leave her in Trapper Creek with a broken transmission. She remains by the road, and the guys - now back at home - are planning the next steps for the Rowdy Bus.
The trip did have its ups and downs - but similar to the spirit of Tens, the guys made the best of the situation and clearly had the best time!
We chatted to RJ Bruni from the gang, who spent most of the trip behind the lens capturing the ups and downs of their experience in beautiful stills and heart-warming motion.
Tell us a bit about the crew involved - how do you guys know each other, and what inspired the trip?
We are a weird combination of artists to mechanics and farmers to carpenters that have all been friends since high school. You always hear the stories of friends fading and going separate ways after school…we didn’t really let that happen. We all look at each other as brothers, if one guy is slacking you better keep him accountable, some of us even live together. For the past 3 years a few us had always planned a trip to start off summer, last year it was 3 of us in a Nissan Sentra travelling the west coast. So when we were planning this years trip we made sure every bro could commit and instead of heading south down the coast we decided to go north to the beautiful state of Alaska.
So why a school bus? How the hell did you manage to get your hands on an old yellow school bus!?
The night that we pitched the idea of going to Alaska, the first concern was what vehicle were we going to destroy getting there. So Brendan hopped on Craigslist and within a few minutes found our ride. Some of the guys headed to look at it and ended up talking him down to $400. The previous owner used it to tour in his band. At the time we thought we got a steal of deal but we soon found out that it needed a full motor swap. $400 was still a fair price for that hunk of yellow metal.
What features does it have, and more importantly... what makes it ‘rowdy’?
Before we started renovations it was pretty basic in there. 8 greyhound seats facing each other and a storage space in the back. We figured that staring at the kid across from you was less than ideal so we swapped the seats around to something a little more optimal. Next we built 3 bunkbeds in the back, a table between 4 of the seats, and added hammock hooks. We made sure the sound system was on point and then added a charging station for camera gear. The last project was to build the roof deck. Basically our thinking behind the renovations was that we would have the roof deck to sleep on - but if all fails and it starts raining, we would all still have a bed inside. So we framed and sheeted the deck, painted it, turfed it, and last but not least made sure we had some golf tees to take our drivers to.
I guess the definition of Rowdy is ‘noisy and disorderly‘ and with 8 dudes in a old bus how could it be anything but
The video is an emotional mix of both good and not-so-good times on and off the road. How much time did you actually have to spend by the side of the road?
We spent 3 days 2 nights on the side of road and the whole road trip lasted 11 days. When literally nothing was going right with the bus and we ran out of food and water it was definitely a test of patience but I think we still made the best of the situation and had a good time. But honestly you‘re with your best friends, so how could you not? We definitely got up to some crazy shenanigans on that highway pullout… It was still an exhausting 3 days with all hands on deck trying to help Brendan, our mechanic, change the transmission. When we realised we had broken the new transmission, things got a little quieter.
I hope the Alaska highway crew doesn‘t mind that we used the pylons as jack stands.
What was the wildest thing that happened on the trip?
I am not sure if this totally fits in the category, but on the third night of the trip Tyler and I were on the roof of the bus showing off our golf trick shots. It was all fun until we get a little miscommunicated and the next thing I see is Tylers driver coming straight for my forehead. The adrenaline was pumping so it didn‘t hurt much but when I looked up and heard McKnight say “Oh SHIT dude you‘re really bleeding!” I got a bit concerned since we were out of reception and nowhere close to hospital. Fortunately our first aid kits were stocked up and with a few helping hands I was all patched up. You can see my fresh scar a few times in the video, it makes for a good story and fun memories.
Where is the bus now?
We broke down in Trapper Creek, fortunately we ran into a woman while hitch hiking there whose son happen to be in the middle of building a hostel! With some very vague directions we found his far-from-finished hostel. It’s 11pm and 8 smelly dudes roll up to your house… would you let them in? Crazy enough Levi was more than welcoming and stoked to have us crash at his house for a little while. It was amazing, while we were there it was Mike’s birthday so they threw us a party one of the nights. They invited the town and we all made pies and pizza while playing music together - a great glimpse into the wonderful community of Trapper Creek.
Anyways, Levi had a friend with a tow hitch so we hooked it up and towed her to Levi‘s place. And that’s where she lies.
If you were to start from the beginning, what would you do differently?
I am not sure if we would do anything different. Overall we were very excited on how our trip turned out. Oh, one thing we were choked about was we didn’t see any Grizzlies in Alaska! Next time we better see more bears!
To be honest we don’t totally know what’s next. We would love to go back and get the bus so that we could go on more trips - but right now we don’t exactly have the money to do so. It might be in the plans to raise some cash and get people behind our project. If we don’t end up going back, I think Levi wants to make it a room as part of his hostel! So thats pretty cool and at least that way we will aways have a place to stay in Trapper Creek, Alaska!
Video and photos shot and edited by Inmist Media House’s own RJ . View more of his work here, and on his personal site here.
Follow RJ on Instagram: @rjbruni