V.I.S.I.T. – Tourister Transplant Edition

My bus can beat up your bus. Shut up! No you shut up!

Question: You’re rollin’ cool, minding your business, cruising at speed deep in the US heartland when you suddenly – and there’s no way you could possibly freakin’ not do so – see these things across the way as you pass right by.  And somehow in that fleeting moment, instead of wondering just when the heck the local school district decided to do something cool (because they won’t – e v e r), you mange to note the Euro-style license tags still proudly affixed, with nary a US-DOT approved marking in sight.  What the-?  How in the-?  Ebbebbeh?  What do you do?

If you’re me – figuring they’re about to leave at any instant – you make the quickest, hardest, safest-yet-still-technically-questionable (but-God-wouldn’t-dare-convict-me) U-turn you can.  Whilst nipping your spouse’s would-be protestations in the bud by blurting  “Hold on, yes this is happening – make peace with it” just before you pitch the wheel.   Who says life isn’t an adventure?  It is when you backtrack to stop and smell the diesel.  (Besides, screeching tires generate a fantastic echo under an overpass, but I digress…)
Admit it: you too used to wonder why those canopies are so high.

In a rare moment of universal serendipity, it turns out the giant yellow invaders are held up against their will (good!)… which conversely means your CVT-defying hoonage shaved a few thousand miles off your tires for nothing (bad!).  But no matter, we’re not in Kentucky anymore Cletus… or Belgium or Scotland or England or… or… well, just where the hell are those things from, anyway?
After snapping a few quick pics from my car I realized the apparent custodial crew wasn’t from ’round these parts either.   One saw me snapping and gave a bemused wave, so I approached to ask the obvious: “I see Euro license plates – is that for fun or are you guys actually here fresh from the UK or something?”   After explaining they were having trouble with the diesel pumps and card reader, but ultimately confident they could get squared away with the clerk inside, the lead driver (whose name I unfortunately neglected to ascertain) clued me in on the history of the blinding walls before me.
Both are war vets, having served their home country ferrying all manner of hooligan, rugrat, and haggis-bag around the idyllic streets of Edinborough, Scotland.   They soldiered along stuck in their endlessly looping, thankless task, with nary any collateral damage but a few blinded passersby until earlier this year, when they were finally retired.    And that’s when their real journey begins.
A businessman on the west coast had a standing agreement with the garage to purchase the busses upon their retirement.  So they were driven to Liverpool, driven onto a ship, and sent across the Atlantic to the Port of Baltimore.   Upon their arrival last week, a call was placed to the garage in Ayrshire; a select crew of familiar drivers then flew into Baltimore, tossed their gear and provisions aboard, drove off the boats and embarked west on a grand tour of the USA on their way to Los Angeles.
There, the busses will be delivered to the buyer… who will promptly set his own local employees upon the federalizing and retrofit process that will transform them into two of these:
I will now think of a chop-top bus as the equivalent of an automotive combover.

Whereupon they’ll finish the rest of their days plying the streets of San Francisco, trading a charge of protecting Scotland’s future for the indignity of tourists and mon-monned seafood.    To that end, the drive west across I-68 from Baltimore to West Virgina was doubtlessly the perfect break-in: a true test of Leyland’s finest (yeah, let that one sink in for a moment… Leyland… though they tried to paint it out, the scarlet badge was still clear as day).
Hmm… do they have A&W across the pond? I sense an opportunity…

I was given welcome reign to take as many pics as I wanted, but it soon became obvious the gents were still having trouble with the pumps.   Since this happened to be my own usual station I went to lend the proper “motivation” to the card reader… and the credit/debit/pin menu… and the balky fuel selector…  at which point the pumps finally activated and the subject of fuel economy came up:
“So how do these things manage on fuel?”
“Oh, they’ll do about 10mpg loaded with no problem.”
“Dang, that’s not bad at all!  Especially since my ’75 Lincoln is lucky to see that with just me.”
“Yeah, you Americans have a thing for the thirsty cars, I’ve heard….”   Fortunately his tone was jovial, otherwise I’d have regretted playing Goodwill Ambassador.
Wait: universal healthcare, and now sunroofs for the wee folk? Commies!

In hindsight are plenty of other questions I’d have loved to ask (Are those Imperial Gallons?  Licensing issues for the trip?   How’d they like the Appalachian grades en route to here?   How old are they?  How many miles?  What’s the maximum midget capacity?)  and pictures I could have taken (upper deck, d’oh!), but not wanting to get in their way or hold them – or my own family – up any further in 100+ degree heat, all I could manage was the next most obvious statement:
“Well, if you guys need another guy to fly to Baltimore and drive one of these to LA, let me know!  Better yet, you wanna buy one of ours and fly me over to drive it across Europe for you?”
Hey, I can dream can’t I?   Maybe over there GM Fishbowls are still looked upon with reverence.
Um, no, no they aren’t.   Pity… I would have loved to try upstaging Sandra by jumping one across the English Channel…

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38 responses to “V.I.S.I.T. – Tourister Transplant Edition”

  1. clunkerlove Avatar

    I saw that chop-top bus at Fisherman's Wharf a few weeks ago and wondered how it got there. I can't look at a double decker UK bus without seeing massive opportunities for a colossally plush RV …

    1. Goingincirclez Avatar

      I keep thinking I need to come into some money, buy a vintage race car, and turn the bus into a hauler with the car riding top-deck. Imagine the fun during loading! Then again… knowing me that could only end in disaster.
      Yeah, I like your RV idea better.

    2. K5ING Avatar

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that these things would make a terrific 2 story RV. Party downstairs, sleep upstairs. What more could you want?

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        Uh, sleep upstairs, party downstairs?

        1. K5ING Avatar

          Uh, yea. What's the question?

    3. njhoon Avatar

      There is a company here in Philly that uses the chopped version for tours. When I see them all I can think of is an RV, with a hot tub "upstairs on the deck". And it might be the ultimate NASCAR infield RV.
      <img src="http://resources.tourcorp.com/images/phi_big_bus/big_bus_2.jpg"&gt;

    4. dr zero Avatar

      I'm sure I once had a children's book where they did exactly that, turned an old double decker into a mobile home. Can't remember the name of the book at the moment. I didn't think that it was all that plush though.
      Just don't go singing "Summer Holiday".

      1. dr zero Avatar

        Bugger. Too late!
        We're all going on a
        Summer holiday
        No more working for a
        Week or two…"

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          I've had that stuck in my head for months… and yes, I got the reference.

          1. dr zero Avatar

            You poor soul. I wouldn't wish Sir Cliff on my worst enemies.

            1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

              It's just that one song, at least. I used to like it, even. Horror.

  2. tonyola Avatar

    Cool in theory, but unless there's a taser-equipped adult riding along, 40 unsupervised kids on the upper deck seems like an opportunity for massive mayhem. Especially if the windows can be opened.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      That was my first thought too. I wonder if the driver at least has a video camera view of the upper deck.
      I think that "sunroof" is actually an escape hatch. Most US buses have those too.

      1. engineerd Avatar

        The Deuce bus service in Las Vegas uses double decker buses. There is a camera that gives the driver a view of the upper deck goin's ons. We had one driver giving the people up top crap for being boring, and another driver told us that he's seen all sorts of stuff go on in his monitor. It's not like the camera is hidden or anything, either. It's kind of obvious. But, I guess when you're drunk and you're paying for the whole hour you might as well get your money's worth.

        1. Tim Odell Avatar

          "I guess when you're drunk and you're paying for the whole hour you might as well get your money's worth."
          I want that on a tattoo.

          1. engineerd Avatar

            Or a t-shirt.

            1. Tim Odell Avatar

              Sissy. Go all in.

              1. engineerd Avatar

                I'd sell the t-shirts on the Strip. Yeah, that's it.

      2. retro Avatar

        Since these pre-date cheap video systems, they actually have a more interesting solution. The driver has a kind of periscope arrangement, with a convex mirror mounted on the top to allow him to see the whole top deck from his seat.
        The rear window of the top deck is an emergency exit, the bottom deck has an emergency door on the right hand side of the rear row of seats.

    2. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      One good shake of the steering wheel left and right should quell any shenanigans…
      Allegedly.

    3. dr zero Avatar

      Cameras? In the UK? Surely not!

  3. longrooffan Avatar

    Definitely the V.I.S.I.T. of the year. And not one but two double decker buses in one sighting. FTW!

  4. Goingincirclez Avatar

    It IS mine, but it's actually a 2011 Explorer. Heh.

  5. Alff Avatar

    It's cool to see them in the U.S. but I'm a bit disappointed to learn of their ignominious fate. I though some progressive school district was giving the concept of higher education their all.

    1. dmilligan Avatar

      Ouch. I should give you a minus for that one.

  6. skitter Avatar

    I really didn't think those would fit under overpasses. This increases the desirability tenfold.

  7. engineerd Avatar

    There is some weird stuff in the heartland. Ginormous crosses, balls of yarn, and corn palaces dot the landscape like some kitschy path of bread crumbs helping the coastal elites find the way home across flyover country.
    This, however, is both weird and wonderful. Seeing the topless double decker in San Francisco, Hollywood, New York and other tourist destinations makes sense. Seeing school bus yellow (with school bus markings) double deckers complete with foreign drivers would definitely make any hoon do a double take. I'm glad 'circlez took the time to not only do a double take, but whip his whip around and get the scoop. Great job!

  8. LTDScott Avatar

    There's a company here in San Diego that uses them to shuttle people to the San Diego County Fair. I look forward to riding in the upper deck every time I go.

    1. dmilligan Avatar

      Ooooh, drive that one through Texas.

      1. CptSevere Avatar

        If you survive that, drive it through Utah. Filled with drunks. That would take some big brass ones.

  9. Goingincirclez Avatar

    But what if it takes more than an hour to get the tattoo?

  10. Tim Odell Avatar

    “Hold on, yes this is happening – make peace with it”
    I like that…

    1. Impalamino Avatar

      Agreed. It works on so many levels!

  11. Owlman Avatar

    Well I can help with one answer. The licence plate prefix is A – that makes the one bus registered between August 83 and July 84. I assume the other is much the same. These will have been municipal buses before being demoted to school services so could well have have between 600k – million miles on the clock. Then remember – Leyland

  12. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    The Glasgow area's finest-ever non-alcoholic export. Trust me. My keyboard is right up there, though.

  13. fruitbaticus Avatar

    I feel I should point out it's "Edinburgh". Unless that was a joke, in which case, I fail 🙁

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