I think travel is one of those basic human impulses that everyone shares to one degree or another. As amazing as the quality of pictures and videos have become, there is still a desire to see things with or own eyes up close.
Some of use spend our lives looking at pictures and daydreaming. Some of us save up for that dream vacation that is over before we can blink. There are folks that take the opportunity to explore every nook and cranny they can. Than there are others who never even leave their home state.
Regardless oh how much one travels… I think that in the end everyone would like to travel and seen more of this amazing world.
Before I become sick with Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) I had been all over the Eastern side of the United States… Not everywhere, and certainly not to as many as I would have liked, but a lot of places.
I’d pretty much set foot in all the eastern states until you get up around the North East past New York. I’ve not stayed in as many of them as I would like to have. Some of them I’ve merely traveled though on my way to someplace else. And personally I don’t count it if my entire experience involved interstates and rest stops.
That’s just me though. You can keep count however you like. I just like to spend a bit of time in a state exploring before I check it off my list.
Regardless of how much I’d seen or missed in the eastern half of the country… I had never been west of the Mississippi. There was tons I wanted to see and always planned to go some day. But then I found myself having a harder and harder time trying to breath…
I ended up in the hospital and the chance of enjoying my dreams “some day” didn’t seem quite as likely anymore.
Laying in the hospital… ECMO beside my bed, dozens of tubes running in and out of my chest, liters upon liters of oxygen being pumped down my nostrils, my only nutrition flowing from a bag directly into my stomach…
I pondered how “some day” never gets here. I’d always thought things like, “Some day I’m going to see the Grand Canyon.”
Well… we are not promised our next breath. Let alone “some day.” All we have is this current moment. That doesn’t mean we can’t make plans of course. But putting things off until a vague undefined “some day” is risking that those vague plans will never happen.
Thankfully I was blessed with more days through the gift of organ donation. Once I was graceded with my new lungs, I began planning the ultimate trip. A month long trip (at least) that would take me all over the lands west of the Mississippi. I wanted to make “some day” a reality.
I started looking at car rentals, and hotels, and routes, and making plans… Right there in the hospital as I recovered. Then it happened.
I fell down the rabbit hole known as YouTube.
I don’t know how… I clicked on something travel related… That lead to something else, then to something else… I think I saw something about “stealth campers” and somewhere in their I came across something called a skoolie.
Which for those who don’t know. Because I sure didn’t. It’s a retired school bus that people have converted into a tiny homes on wheels. Basically a do it yourself RV
I thought to myself, “I can do that… I’d be way cheaper then renting a car with hotels and eating out all the time.” I’m not sure if that’s really been the case but it’s what I thought at the time.
So I started looking for school buses. Friends, family, acquaintances… they were all supportive, but I’m sure they also thought the anti-rejection meds were suppressing my better judgment along with my immune system.
Long buses, short buses, flat nosed, the kind that resemble a van… I looked on FaceBook market place, Craigslist, auction sites, dealers, classifieds… I was clueless. But I educated myself as I went.
Then I saw her… A 1989, Carpenter Built, 25 foot long, Ford B700, painted white with the seats already removed. Amazingly the listing was in a town located just 20 minutes away.
I went and looked at her. Aaaaaaaannnnnnd… I feel in love with her.
The owners had purchased a bus with the same idea in mind as me. Gut it, fix it up, convert the inside to living space, and see the world. Unfortunately they had run afoul of the home owners association and had to part with her.
They were asking for more than I had budgeted for a pre-converted bus. But I slept on it. No sense rushing into something when I don’t have to. Then made an offer based on what she was worth to me.
I didn’t try to low ball them or anything. I just said this is what I can afford offer… and now she’s mine. I drove her home to a lot I had purchased to build a house before I became ill. Using the space instead to build a home I could take with me on adventures.
Originally I thought her name was going to be Serenity. Because I like the name and the TV show from which it comes. But unsurprisingly, a quick search turned up several Serenitys. Soooo not exactly an original idea on my part. But to be fair it was a really good show.
Ultimately I decided on the name Midna because… well… I like the way it sounds. A quick google search didn’t reveal any other skoolies with the name and honestly I am a waaaaaaay bigger Legend of Zelda fan than I am a Firefly fan. So Midna fit.
Working on her was a slow process. Health hiccups, a short hospital stay, and a really cold winter put a delay on things. Not to mention learning as you go increases the time involved. If I were to start a new skoolie it would probably go a lot faster.
But I started out by jumping right into the deep end of the pool. Not completely sure of what I was doing… Heck I still don’t completely know what I’m doing. It’s really like owning a house and car rolled into one. There is always something I need to learn how to do. But I’ve been willing to learn as I go and continue to puzzle things out.
Along the way as I was keeping folks updated her progress, I decided to use her as a way to spread awareness for pulmonary fibrosis. Both idiopathic and non-idiopathic. As well as organ donation and just trying to help motivate people.
So I painted her up in with Green and blue strips, a pair of lungs in each side and the web address to this site. I know it’s not as good as some professional auto shop could have done. But I did it myself with my own two hands. Two new lungs chugging away as I went. Which I hope inspires others.
On the inside Midna’s couches/pull out beds have cushions with blue and subtle green details. The blue and green thing by the way has to do with pulmonary fibrosis and transplantation. They are the colors I kept seeing used and worn by IPF/PF and donation folk… Aaaaand I like these colors. So I use them.
The cushions and their covers are actually a homemade venture. Which was actually pretty funny to do because you’ve never truly lived until you’ve walked through Walmart… pushing and pulling a pair carts overflowing with pillows that had been marked on sale.
There were a lot of stares and the occasional question. Which I responded to by telling folks, “I’m buying them for a huge pillow fight that I’m having.” It was fun. Telling people that is. I never actually had the huge pillow fight sadly… missed opportunity.
There are other little details scattered through out Midna, like my coffee mugs and cooking utensils, that are green and blue. But I didn’t want to go overboard with it. She is still suppose to be my home away from home as I travel. If it was just full blow pulmonary related design top to bottom I wouldn’t enjoy it as much.
Everything I’ve been through is a huge part of my life and it’s helped mold me into who I am today. But that doesn’t mean I want to be reminded of it every time I look at something onboard.
Maybe this whole venture will end up being a silly idea… Maybe its been foolish to do… But maybe I’ll inspire some people and help get them through their day.
My first real trip I drove Midna from my home near Indianapolis all the way to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation’s summit in Austin, Texas.
Let me tell you it was a neat experience. Even without Midna’s paint being complete when I left. I still got lots of questions about her. Several times as I was filling her fuel tanks, I’d get a question from the person an the pump next to me. Pulling into state parks turned heads and got me questioned by rangers or fellow campers.
Everyone I spoke to learned that Pulmonary Fibrosis exists and organ donation saves lives. What they do with that knowledge I will probably never know. But it’s knowledge they know have and hopefully something good comes of it
The experience of receiving new lungs taught me that waiting to long for “some day” is a good way to miss it. We may never be able to see everyplace we’ve ever wanted to visit. But we can certainly try.
Personally I plan to convert as many of my “some day” dreams… into as many actual experiences as I can. Attempting to spread awareness of pulmonary fibrosis and organ donation to as many folks as possible as a make my way is a huge bonus.
Midna may be worn and a little rough in places, but so am I. Pulmonary Fibrosis doesn’t play nice. But I think Midna might just be the trusty steed to get me wherever I go on these journeys and I look forward to many miles in her.