Tag Archives: fuel pump

Frank’s Wild Years (En Mass)

The next thing I know, we’re on a highway bridge over Littleton, MA. This is an account from the hands, ears and eyes of a non-mecahnic, so I’ve obviously forfeited all the technical details pertaining to the internal bus-hiccups to those who are more knowledgeable. Within 5 to 10 minutes of the bus becoming immobile, we noticed a town cop car pull directly under us to see a magical school bus stranded ontop of a highway bridge. A minute later a state trooper slowly pulled up behind the towney. I couldn’t help but interpret the dialogue the towney had on the radio:

“You won’t believe this…. No, no seriously… Yea. Fuck no, you wanna deal with it? Me neither…”

Mark explained to them (the po’s below us) our situation and apparently they offered to send us a towtruck, but on the condition of us paying in cash. Legitimacy questionable at best, me thinks. To further explicate the fictitious dialogue above, we didn’t see a cop or statey for the remaining hour or so that we were stranded dangerously at the foot of an entrance ramp to a highway. What’s totally interesting, in retrospect, about our interaction with the Law Enforcers, is that we set off in this bus EXPECTING to be pulled over at some point (dare I say arbitrarily?) based on the demeanor of the bus itself. This little interaction only revealed that even the COPS were either afraid, or couldn’t be bothered to deal with us. I’m sure we’ll take that as major cool points in our pockets.

When triple A arrived eventually with a wrecker, we were towed to the nearest Diesel station, where I jokingly asked him (the AAA driver) if he was doing much for the rest of the night. I then re-phrased: was he still getting paid to deal with our bullshit. I’m pretty sure his response was “are you kidding? I love my job..” I like him, he’s a jovial guy. In fact, everyone Dan and I (the only ones with absolutely no automotive knowledge) met in and around the town of Littleton were truly wonderful, stand-up individuals.

We pulled in to the Diesel station at around 8:50pm, just as they (an elder couple whose names I cannot possibly remember) were about to close up shop. Of course, I apologized to them relentlessly from the side lines while we watched the automechanics work. The guy told us “hell, how often do you think we get to see a magical school bus attached to a wrecker roll into our station?” Life truly is all about the stories. The least we could do is give them a good one to take home with them that night. I think they (the couple) were just totally surprised at how unphased Dan and I were about our maiden voyage abrubtly coming to a close. In truth, even up to this point I have had absolutely no regrets or complaints about our situation. We had a totally farcical exchange with Law Enforcers, hung out with a laid-back Tow driver, and heard wonderful stories from that elder guy about his adventures in strip clubs on Sunset Boulevard way back when. I told the Dude if him and his girlfriend weren’t doing anything for the rest of that night (clearly we weren’t going anywhere too fast) that we would love for them to kick it with us. Dan and I told them that we were Musicians by vocation and that we’d love to give them a free show for all the trouble and impositions we’ve placed on them thus far. At this point in the conversation, the bus had been towed across the street to a lot where I’m sure Mark, John and the AAA dude were working meticulously on getting the engine running again. Unfortunately John ushered from the distance for Dan and I to get over there and our relations with the folks at the Diesel station came to an end. I hope our paths will cross again in the near future..

Before we were abandoned at the wrecker lot for the night, my compatriot Dan asked the AAA driver as he was departing if there was a Liquor store around town within walking distance (obvioiusly). Stuck in a bus with musical instruments in Littleton, MA? WWJD or something like that.. Precisely. we set off down the road to catch the package store before they closed, but of course the doors were locked and lights were off 9 minutes before the posted closing time. Oh well. The driver did mention to us that there were some spots if we walked in the opposite direction a few hundred yards. And sure enough we stumbled upon a Thai Bar/Restaurant, when we were informed by the waitress that last call was in 10 minutes. She was kind enough to serve us a cold one anyway. As Dan and I were shootin’ the breeze over brewskies, the bar manager over-heard our funny Connecticut accents and rightfully assumed we were from out of town. Brief conversation insued. He told us check out the Elk’s Club on the other side of the road, to make up a silly story about our father being an Elky and that we might get lucky. We didn’t. Returning to the bus, slightly inconvenienced by our failed venture, Dan and I decided hell, we can always play some music and eat peanut butter and (mutually exclusive) cheese sandwitches all night over spooky stories or something..

10-15 minutes after we got back to the bus, we saw headlights pull into our lot (we were in total darkness, completely bereft of light in order to save battery power) and of course were immediately suspicious. Two figures pull out of the car and walk towards us..

“Massachussetts State Police, listen up! We’ve come delivering beers..”

Of course, the thought in everyone’s mind was “Police officers don’t deliver beer!” It was the Bar manager from the Thai joint! He only knew of Dan and I, so he only brought a couple cold ones for us (presumably as they were closing up the restaurant). We told him and his girlfriend to come kick it with us (instruments at hand) and as he mentioned Foggy Mountain Bottom to Dan (with the banjo) I thought to myself this guy seems to know his breakdowns. I then decided to play one of two breakdowns I knew well on the guitar in hopes that it would convince the couple to stay. It didn’t, but at least we got a couple beers out of it. We finally caught his name this time round, and so Frank wished us a goodnight ere parting ways.

15 minutes later, another car pulls in! Nah, it couldn’t… noooo, Frank? It was Frank yet again! with a bottle of wine and a round of beers for the four of us. Since John and Mark were still optimistic about drivin’ back that night, they opted to stay dry. And so my compatriot Dan and I spent the evening singing songs, spirits ever-lifted, eating mutually exclusive peanutbutter and cheese sandwitches, star gazing at the Massachussets sky ’til bedtime beckoned us. Not a care in the world, and yet somehow we knew, despite NOT waking the next morning at the foot of Cadillac Mountain, we would be returning home with some more than satisfying stories in our pockets for a-tellin’.

False Start

First off, I have to apologize, because we finished the benches and the bunks, but I haven’t taken any decent pictures of video of either. I’ll post them this weekend, and instructables for both interior construction and veggie conversion will appear sometime next weekend.

So, I got a temporary registration from the DMV on Tuesday, and we decided we would take the bus for a short test drive up to Bar Harbor, ME. We packed enough stuff for a couple days, and set out, puttering along on veggie oil. Everything worked great, smelled great, and the veggie was transferring from the bulk to the day tank faster than ever. We’d never tried running the refinery after running the bus for a long time, but that heat really makes the difference.

Mark and I set out from my house, and went to pick up the other two crew members who would be accompanying us on this quick trip. We grabbed Ali, and then Dan, and then set off for Cheney Tech to drop by and see Joe, and make a few last minute adjustments. Joe, Ali and Dan had a quick jam session in the back of the bus, and then we set off North, following bicycle directions, since the route would be a little more scenic. Driving on back roads proved to be really nice, but the routes weren’t very well marked and we had to default on the highway after we ended up making a huge circle.

When we were well into Massachusetts, Mark was driving (and enjoying the hell out of it) when the engine suddenly lost power. Switching back to diesel still would not get the engine to fire, so we coasted off the next exit ramp and pulled over on the shoulder. I should mention that this specific section we stopped on was on a bridge, and the bus took up the entire shoulder. We quickly figured out that the veggie fuel pump had failed, and we tried to get it started a few more times on diesel. No dice.

We called AAA, and got a wrecker sent out to tow us somewhere where we could fiddle with the engine without getting slammed by oncoming traffic. After playing around with it for a little while, things seemed less and less hopeful. As it got darker and the engine cooled, the veggie oil left in the engine got thicker and thicker, and our odds of getting it started dropped dramatically. After nearly killing our battery, and trying to start with a jump from the wrecker, we threw in the towel. We were towed back to the garage, to await a tow to CT in the AM. After a few more unsuccessful tries, we left the batteries charging overnight.


Ali and Dan met some really cool people on this trip, but most of my time was spent with the bus, so maybe they’ll be able to tell you about them.

In the morning, Mark walked outside to check the batteries, and saw they were fully charged. “Let’s see what kind of day today will be,” and then he turned the key. It cranked for a little while, and just before he was about to let up we heard a spark of life in the engine. Hope renewed, we gave it a moment to cool down and charge up, and tried it again, reving it a little thing time. Slowly but surely, it started up, and after a good rev, the engine was clear and back on diesel. We drove the bus back to Cheney in the morning under its own power, and arrived just in time for morning announcements.

I’m pleased to report that this afternoon we got a new pump, and modified our veggie system so we won’t overheat the pump again. It runs beautifully on veggie once again, and will be in for another test next week. Stay tuned…