Bluebird Bus-Michigan or Bust!

Moving the Bird (And Ourselves) out to Michigan.

When we first got the Bluebird, back in 01 or so, our consulting business operating out of the Bay Area was going pretty well, however just about the time that our biggest client moved to Michigan, all of our other mojor clients went out of business, one by one.  New business in 02/03 was very scarce.  We were still working heavily for our one big client, but that was supposed to have an expiration date.  We made an arrangement to continue our consulting arrangement with them, and Sara became an employee of the company on Jan 1 2004, working remotely from our west coast office.  We planned to rent a place in Michigan to relieve our client of lodging expenses, however our client would cover our travel expenses.  It wasn’t long though, before it was obvious that NOTHING was going to go on in California, and we closed up shop there and moved everything to MI.  This was in two trips, (Well, three really, but “The Excellent Adventure” is another story) the first was our Durango (Modified for heavy towing) pulling our 24′ Wells Cargo, containing the hog, tools, the MIG Welder* and personal belongings (Which wasn’t much since we lived on a boat in San Francisco).

Our first moving trip to Michigan was with the Durango, modified for serious towing.

At the I-80 Rest stop at the Bonnevile Salt Flats.

The second trip was the Bluebird, with our daughter Cassie, and her boyfriend David It was sometime in July 2007.

Who knew an F250 hitch fits right on a Bluebird Bus?

We hastily fastened a ClassIII hitch and rented a U-Haul ramp trailer to haul “Orange Crush.”

Things went pretty well after leaving the Bay Area, and we made our first fuel and rest stop in Sparks, NV.  Parked the bus at the far end of the parking lot and went in for something to eat.  After we ate, we pulled the bus around, and noticed a young couple sitting on a bench outside.  While refueling, they came over and asked where we were headed.  We told them Michigan, and they said they were heading to Vermont to attend the final “Phish” concert.  We had the room, so sure, why not?

Off we went through the night until we got to the same rest area as in the photo of the Durango shot above.

We wanted to get something to eat, and fuel up, so we pulled off at a place called Lake Point, just west of Salt Lake City.  We pulled off the freeway, stopped at the intersection, and…..nothing.  Wouldn’t go.  Engine revs up but just like we were in neutral.  Someone in something big pulled us out of the intersection and out of the way.  Checked out everything we could and couldn’t find anything obvious.  We went over to the Truck stop and asked for advice of what shop I could call and Smith Power Products was recommended.  They recommended a tow service, we called them and they loaded us up.

Note:  If they tow you with something called a “Landoll”  It’s going to be very expensive.

We had to leave Crush parked on the trailer while we arranged to stay while repairs were carried out.

Sara did an amazing job of securing the hitch. Seriously, she thought of everything. There is absolutely ZERO slack in that chain.


Riding along with the tow driver to Smith’s in SLC.


Right next to the truck stop, there was a Oquirrh Mountain Inn, they had one suite that could handle the six of us.  Sara rented that room while I dealt with getting the bus in for repairs.  Somehow, I got a ride over to a place that rents pickups (So I could tow Crush) and got myself back to the room.  It took 4-5 days to get the job done.

The problem was found to be an external gasket had failed.  There is a spot on the allison MT640 for a PTO.  It has a paper gasket that dried up and blew out the side of the cover.  It probably failed somewhere as we entered Utah and spat out all 24 quarts of trans fluid.

Smith has a full trans facility, including a trans dyno.  I could have bought a reman, but the counter guy said that there was only a couple of parts that were damaged in my trans and he had them on the shelf, and they had a veteran trans guy there to do the job.  Still it was $4,800 to do the job.  Also, like $500 to rent the pickup, same for the room, etc….  On our previous trips through SLC, we said we’d like to stop some time and check it out.  Be careful what you wish for kids.

Somehow, we have no photos from our stay in SLC, if we find them, we’ll update this page.  We did venture out and do a bunch of things–Had dinner in the “Salt City Jail” which apparently, is closed now,   Went to the big Surplus store, shopped around, etc…  The really unexpected part is:  A)  how hard it was to find a grocery store and B)  The abundance of Strip Clubs.

When the bus was finally ready, we turned in the pickup and went on our way.  It was good to get back on the road again.

Yes, we did channel Willie Nelson for a while…


Unfortunately….Even though the trans was solid as a rock, they missed the alignment when the put the trans back in, and somewhere just west of Chicago (About where the pic above was taken) we started to notice a vibration.  We thought we could maked it home, but it got worse and worse, until we finally pulled over near Gary, Indiana.

Ok, here we go again.


Tow Truck, Towing A bus, Towing a Trailer, with a car on it.


View from inside the bus while “On the hook.”


We rented a room for the night, then rented a car in Gary.  Smith’s in Salt Lake, covered the Tow, and the repairs that were done and Inland Detroit Diesel Allison in Gary, IN.  Unfortunately, the U-Joint yoke is Bluebird-Specific and had to be ordered in.  We drove the rental car back to our house in MI and then went back and picked up the bus when it was done.


As with any project, there are always things that come up and this is definitely and example of this.  We’ve really not done anything on the Bluebird since coming to Michigan, other than collecting a few things for it.  We ultimately bought a house here (When they were practically giving them away) and have built myself a shop for the numerous projects I have.  Hopefully I can get started on the Bluebird soon because of all of my projects, this is the one I most want to work on.




*Home is where the MIG Welder is.


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