It may surprise you to know that most of these flashy, garish buses are owned by ordinary folks. I know this because my wife, Teresa, and I joined this particular club of itinerant travelers a few years back, when we bought Sarah Palin’s tour bus. Yes, that Sarah Palin.
But other than a “Drill Baby Drill” bumper sticker that Teresa found tucked away in an overhead cabinet, there was little evidence that this bus had once served as home away from home—and rolling campaign headquarters—to a former governor, vice presidential candidate, and lightning rod for modern presidential politics.
“Like owning Napoleon’s horse,” one wag quipped.
|Author's Country Club Coach (with siders extended) was once owned by Ex. Gov. Sarah Palin|
We bought the massive coach because I had a new novel coming out, and I convinced Teresa that I desperately needed it for book signings. I may be an unknown author, but what reader could resist taking a walk through Sarah Palin’s tour bus?
|Cranky Diner's Country Club coach|
|Palace on Wheels|
When not traveling for our own entertainment, or when not making appearances with the bus at book club meetings, where we flatten neighbors’ shrubbery, crush curbs, and knock over trees, Teresa and I keep our Country Coach parked in an industrial building on the US-Mexico border. The cavernous space is climate controlled and fully secure. Our Country Coach is one of perhaps 100 similarly sized, jaw-dropping buses kept in the facility, called the Big Toy Depot.
The crackerjack staff monitors air, power, and water levels on the coaches, coordinates maintenance, and even washes the rigs when they’re delivered back to the barn. Like a marina, the Big Toy Depot charges its tenants by the foot.
At the RV park in Borrego Springs, our friends John and Debbie graciously held dinner for our late-night arrival. They had recently bought a new motorhome—a dazzling 45’ Essex luxury motor coach by Newmar that dwarfs ours. As we filed in to their stylish, tastefully appointed living room, John and Debbie passed us big goblets of red wine as antidote to our road buzz. They introduced us to their good friends Robert and Sandy, who travel in a brand of coach that is the envy of all RVers: a stunning two-level, steel and glass Prevost bus.
Pappardelle noodles, a red meat sauce, and garlic French bread never tasted so good. Sandy made a fresh green salad. The four couples clicked. We went through eight bottles of wine. Robert’s Hispanic ancestors, we learned, once owned New Mexico from Las Cruces to Deming.
The ensuing afternoon passed quickly. I tinkered with a circuit breaker panel, trying to figure out why our coach wasn’t getting hot water. Teresa and I tow a Jeep Grand Cherokee behind our bus. I used the Jeep to drive Chris, Carla, and Teresa to the local grocery store, where we bought $400 worth of food, wine, and spirits. Our same cancer-fundraising nurse was in the checkout lane ahead of us, buying Cheez-It crackers and wine. Chris wondered if he’d been scammed.
As twilight fell, Teresa went for a shower in the Country Coach and got nothing but cold water. Luckily for both of us, this RV park had showers in its attractive, Santa Fe style pool complex. The showers were clean and hot, but the night air was chilly as we walked back to our coach.
|Sunsets and the fun begins|
At well after 11:00 p.m., back in our Country Coach, Teresa and I put an extra woolen blanket on our queen-size bed. January nights in Borrego Springs, we’ve learned, can be quite cold.
Our Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system was bone dry of its necessary boiler antifreeze. Miraculously, I found a gallon of the stuff at a local hardware store. Robert soon restored our hot water system to operational equilibrium.
|A product of the Bloody Mary bar.|
Meanwhile, at the adjoining campsite, preparations were underway for Chris’s birthday lunch. Carla draped two outdoor picnic table with fresh tablecloths. Chris and Sandy teamed up on a Bloody Mary bar, Chris furnishing the vodka and tomato juice; Sandy setting out a mouthwatering array of garnishes: shrimp, bacon strips, pickle spears, horseradish, olives, cubes of cheese and bits of salami.
Carla served a beautiful egg frittata with potato, onion, kale, and roasted peppers. She had turned the previous night’s leftover rib eye steaks into a tasty beef hash, and Teresa’s leftover vegetable tian found its way to the table. For dessert, Debbie served strawberries and raspberries. After lunch, Chris, Robert, and I sat in the warm sunshine and smoked those cheap cigars. We doused the harsh aftertaste with lusty swigs of ice-cold beer from tall cans of Miller High Life. John, a reformed cigarette smoker, abstained from having a cigar, but his witty conversation never flagged. He drank scotch.
We spent the rest of the day at the pool, reading and napping in the sun. From our horizontal position on the desert floor, the views of the surrounding mountains were astonishing.
As dusk fell and the temperature dropped, Teresa and I showered and dressed for dinner. Thanks to Robert, our hot water troubles were behind us. Teresa and Carla worked together in the galley, creating a zesty Caesar salad, which we carried to Robert and Sandy’s campsite. To our surprise, Robert and Sandy had elected to eat alfresco, in spite of the cold night.
The outdoor lighting around their Prevost bus was stunning. A few extra jackets and Chris, Carla, Teresa, and I were good to go. Robert grilled enormous Alaskan halibut fillets. He’d caught the fish himself and had it flash frozen and shipped to his home near San Diego. Robert is an accomplished chef. His garlic and onion sauce on the halibut, along with Teresa’s Caesar, made for a memorable dinner. The wine flowed. Sandi put out two bowls of guacamole, which Chris and I reduced to rubble.
Sunday, January 28
Back at the RV park, standing alongside his gleaming Prevost bus, Robert was grilling thick burger patties. Teresa contributed roasted asparagus soup and a pack of Old Wisconsin polish sausages to the impromptu lunch. Carla passed around what remained of the previous day’s frittata. Robert’s burgers were huge. It was a good—and filling—meal. After lunch I lay on the bed in the bedroom of our Country Coach, and to the gentle hum of the air conditioning, I took a long nap.
Later in the day, while Robert and John treated their wives to a round of margaritas at the swanky Casa Del Zorro resort, Chris and I set out in the Jeep for the liquor store (again). Chris was out of Tito’s vodka, a near-fatal condition on a camping trip. We bought more wine. As the sun fell behind the rugged mountains, Teresa and I took a dip in the resort’s swimming pool. While there, we couldn’t help but bask a few minutes in one of the hot mineral baths. Robert and Sandy settled into the roiling spa next to us, Robert disgusted with himself for having put our six-pound prime rib roast on his new smoker too early in the day.
|Smoked to perfection|
Monday, January 29
John and Debbie left next. They swung their imposing coach east toward Arizona, planning to spend the rest of the week at the Phoenix Open golf tournament. Chris and Carla caravanned with us out of Borrego Springs, through the wasteland of Ocotillo Wells and the stop-and-go streets of El Centro, and finally west on I-8.
Our three-hour run home to San Diego was marked by strong winds at the higher elevations, but behind the wheel of our heavy Country Coach, the gusts felt like little more than a gentle tailwind. We reached Otay Mesa at 4:00 p.m. Teresa and I filled the back of our Jeep with food, dirty laundry, leftover booze, and hanging clothes, all to be sorted out at home. We left the coach in the capable hands of the crew at Big Toy Depot.
Not glamorous, but it’s how these trips generally end.
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