I looked at you — you looked at me,
I smiled at you — you smiled me,
      And we're on our way ...
— The Doors, 'I Looked at You', 1967

Learning to Drive a Bus

As Summer moved into Fall ridership went down on the Seattle run and Gardner decided it was time to do some marketing. One plan that had worked before was to have someone hang up posters and deliver flyers to all the little towns that the Tortoise serviced along the I-5 corridor between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco. He also decided that I was the guy to do it.

The Tortoise owned a well-used Volkswagen Rabbit and Gardner's idea was to take out the passenger seat, fill the rest of the car with posters, flyers, and Tortoise newspapers. I was supposed to spend about two weeks distributing all those materials and sleeping in the car. When he told me how this would all work I could tell that he was uncertain that I would go for it.

I thought for a second and came up with an idea: "OK Gardner - I'll live in a car for two weeks and hang up posters, but I'll need something in return — driving lessons".

I could tell he didn't like the idea, but he agreed to take me on the next training run, though not without emphasizing that I'd have to really impress him for him to take a chance on me.


I drove the Rabbit up to Portland the next day, then turned around to head south and distribute my carload of Tortoise materials. I broke a CV joint in Eugene, where one of the mechanics came out from Lowell to set me right, then headed south through rural Oregon and California. I spent about 10 days sleeping in the Rabbit. Each night I would find a quiet lot to park the Rabbit and arrange the pile of paper into a bed and go to sleep with my head against the back seat and my feet against the glove box. By day I got an up-close look at the towns surrounding I5. Gardner knew I was doing my job well because he got several calls that week from towns I visited telling him that if he sent any more Hippies to hang more of those damn posters they'd be shot on sight. At least I was proving that I was tenacious.

Driver Training

A few days after I got back from postering the West Coast Gardner took myself and a couple of prospective drivers who already had bus licenses out for a "tryout". We drove from San Francisco down to Half Moon Bay along Big Sur and he watched as each guy tried to double clutch the aged transmission without grinding the gears or missing the turns. Finally it was my turn and Gardner made it clear to the other guys that I was a total beginner who had earned a shot to try, but didn't have much chance of making it. Having been practicing driving those old busses for the past few months I did better than most of the experienced guys and Gardner nearly fell of his seat. Suddenly I was "a natural talent" who had a bright future with the Green Tortoise.

A week or so after that I borrowed a bus and one of the other drivers and drove it to the local DMV where I passed my test and was issued a bus driving license from the State of California. Now I could get onto the schedule and drive the Tortoise.