Shake Down Trip #2

Published by on October 22, 2016 at 9:12 am

If you missed my post on our first shake down trip, you can read about it here.

After completing our first weekend trip (just barely) and fixing the belt issue, we were confident that this one would go more smoothly. It did, relatively speaking.

I had a four day weekend. So, Thursday night after I got off work, Zack and I packed up the bus and headed north to Rock City Bluff in Calico Rock, AR. There is a cool overlook that we had been to before. We would be there early in the morning so Zack could get some photographs. He knew he had service there so he could work on Friday, and we would be close to the place where we would be spending the weekend. It was the perfect plan.

When we got to Rock City Bluff Thursday night, it was around nine. We pulled into the parking area (which is tiny if you’ve ever been there, especially in a bus) but we weren’t level. So Zack pulled out and drove down the road a little further so he could turn around and back into a spot that was more level. We were turning around at the top of someone’s driveway when we hear a loud thud and a jolt. Zack quickly throws the bus into drive but we are stuck. Crap.


This is how you know you’ve made it to Rock City Bluff. 

We both got a little panicked. We are stuck in the middle of a dirt road, blocking 90% of the road. We got out to see what the problem was and when Zack was backing up, he backed up into the ditch. That itself wasn’t the problem as the ditch was no more than 6 inches but the back of the bus was sitting on a mound of dirt. Every time Zack tried to go forward, the tires just spun. We tried everything we could think to do with what we had before we gave in and called a wrecker service.

We tried to use tree branches shoved under the tire to give it traction. We also had some couch pillows we stuffed under the tire. The bus would gain a little traction but inevitably everything would get sucked under the wheels and we would go back to spinning. The back was stuck on too big of a mound. I also sat on the ground a while and tried to dig us out.


That poor pillow.

Eventually we gave in to call a wrecker service. We were not looking forward to that cost. On top of that, all the wrecker services we found for Mountain View, when we tried to call it said their number had been disconnected. Why Mountain View, Why?? So we had to call someone in the next closest town, Mountain Home. Which is not necessarily close, at about 45 miles away. But with no other options we had to do it. And thankfully they had someone that could winch us out of the ditch.

It’s crazy how things turn out. That someone, who came to pull us out, happened to be quite the adventurous person himself and had just returned from a 6,000 mile trip out west with his family.  That’s not all though, they are currently in the process of PURCHASING A SCHOOL BUS to convert to an RV to live within!  Absolutely wild what a small world we live in.  He was blown away by the work we’d done to our bus and loved it.  We probably could have stayed to chat all night about this lifestyle, but seeing as we were blocking traffic (the one guy who happened to be unfortunate enough to be driving down the road at midnight) we went ahead and got down to business of winching the bus out.

Fast forward to around 1:00am when the bus finally got unstuck. Zack and I drove back up the road and parked it back at Rock City Bluff. After a long night, Zack still drug me out to sit on the bluff and see the stars. And it was well worth it.

Friday we spent the morning in the same spot while Zack worked.

City Rock Bluff at Calico Rock, Arkansas

City Rock Bluff at Calico Rock, Arkansas


City Rock Bluff looks a lot less scary in the day time. 

That afternoon once he was finished, we headed down to Blanchard Springs Caverns. We had both been there as kids but didn’t remember much. Anyone who lives in Arkansas or in a nearby state should definitely go here. It is an incredibly cool place. Not only did we go to the cavern but they also have a spring and Mirror Falls on the property. It is all very beautiful up there. We went on the Dripstone trail. That tour runs all year and is shorter and great for kids or people with disabilities (it is a wheel chair accessible trail). I would love to go back and do the Discovery trail but it is only offered in the summer months due to the bat’s hibernation schedule.


Some of the sweet caverns at Blanchard Springs. Shoutout to Alex and Christy for being awesome tour guides. 


The spring at Blanchard Springs.


You can find this little gem in their gift shop. Zack and I regret not buying it. 

Friday night and the rest of the weekend was spent in Calico Rock on a friend of a friend’s property. We planned to kayak down a creek at the end of their property but being unsure of how low the creek was and the previous late nights, we just took it easy the rest of the weekend.


Matt in his shawl by the fire.

Annie & Zack by the fire

Annie and Zack by the fire


Zack, not doing anything.

We did cook our second meal (the first being tacos) in the bus. There is nothing not to love about this recipe. Chicken. Bacon. Mushrooms. You should try it. And our carbon monoxide/ smoke detectors did go off, but no biggie, right?!?  We found out once we got home that we had a very light propane leak behind the oven, which we quickly rectified by tightening the every living crap out of the connectors.  A good way to test for CO leaks is to get a spray bottle with soapy water and spray all the connectors. It quickly narrowed down where the leak was coming from and made fixing it a breeze.  With that said, we recommend turning off the propane whilst driving.  We believe the bumpy roads could be the cause of the leak, but haven’t had the problem again since we tightened down the lines; crossing our fingers there.

Bacon cooking in the bus

Bacon, cooking in the bus


Pure Deliciousness.

Cooking the meal went well, but that evening we cranked the oven on to heat the bus and found that our propane was not burning off properly in the oven. We had a lot of orange flames which caused soot to form in the oven, and smoke to come from it.  After some research we found that high humidity can cause this with gas ovens/stoves, which would make sense considering that evening the dew fell and temps dropped dramatically causing moisture in the air; thus moisture in the bus. In any case, we put our air conditioner back in the bus and dehumidified it down to around 50% humidity.  At that humidity the flames burn blue as they should and that seemed to have fixed the problem.  We will have to be aware of this though and also purchased a thermostat with a hydrometer to help keep an eye on it.

All in all it was a good trip, and of course we learned more. Lessons learned:

  1. Our next purchase should be Max Trax. They can apparently get you out of most scenarios
  2. We need a shovel and a hammer. And while we do own a hammer, it was (shocker) not in the bus.
  3. Backing up in the bus will now be a two person job with the use of our newly purchased walkie talkies.
A born and raised Arkansan, Annie has always had the desire to get out and travel. To explore new places and experience new things. It wasn't until she was in college that she really discovered her love for the outdoors: biking, hiking, kayaking. Growing restless with her 8-5 job in a cubicle she and Zack were looking for ways to get more fulfillment out of their lives and to do what they really loved. So what better way than to buy a school bus and travel the country!

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