Sometimes, a Good Story is in Your Backyard. Rick and His Antique Bus

Rick Inside His Antique Bus, North Port, Fla., Aug. 2, 2014
Rick Inside His Antique Bus, North Port, Fla., Aug. 2, 2014
Rick Inside His Antique Bus, North Port, Fla., Aug. 2, 2014

Sometimes, a good story is in your backyard. My travel this summer has been intentionally limited and in an earlier post, I shared how I’m using this time to regroup. One of the thrills of traveling is meeting interesting people willing to share their tales. Yesterday, I was reminded we don’t need to travel thousands of miles to hear a good story.

While running into Publix for a few things, a bus looked out of place in a disabled parking space. It wasn’t because it was parked in the spot. Living in a retirement community, a mini-bus in a parking lot is a common sight. It was because it was from another era and looked to have about half-a-dozen people on board.

A Publix Shopper Snaps a Photo of the Antique Bus, Aug. 2, 2014
A Publix Shopper Snaps a Photo of the Antique Bus, Aug. 2, 2014

A man had stopped to take photos of it. As I approached, I could see they weren’t real people inside but mannequins which looked like stars from Hollywood’s glam era, such as Laurel and Hardy, Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields. I wasn’t sure if the driver was a mannequin too, or a breathing human.

“You can take a picture,” the man behind the steering wheel called out.

I did want to take a few photos but I was more curious as to what exactly it was and why this man with salt and pepper colored hair and blue ball cap was driving it.

"Old Bus. Antique Driver." Aug. 2, 2014
“Old Bus. Antique Driver.” Aug. 2, 2014

As I began talking to the man with a full, white beard, other people stopped to take photos, too. A couple of giggly teenage girls stopped and wanted to take a selfie with the driver.

His name is Rick, and like me, he’s also a North Port, Fla., resident. The antique bus is his hobby. I took mental notes, not the kind with a notepad and pen or on my iPhone, so I don’t recall the specifics, other than being intrigued with his passion for this antique bus.

“I’m going to add Mae West and have her dressed in red velvet,” he told me, saying women always ask, why does the bus only have women?

Why Mae West? She was the alleged girlfriend of W.C. Fields.

“As I drive this, the heads bob back and forth like real passengers,” he said with a sparkle in his eye and added, “Every time people see this they laugh and smile. And what else do you have if you can’t laugh?”

Passengers in the Antique Bus, Aug. 2, 2014
Passengers in the Antique Bus, Aug. 2, 2014

“He has ‘The Munsters’ car,” a man said to me, and Rick pulled out a few photos of ‘The Munsters’ car. For those of you who are too young to remember, ‘The Munsters’ was a 1960s television show featuring Herman (a Frankenstein-type character), Grandpa (a vampire), and Eddie, the son of Herman and his wife Lily, a vampire.

Apparently, Rick drives ‘The Munsters’ car around town frequently, which is another head-turner. Grandpa and Eddie are sitting in the back seat. And, it’s because of this car that he has the nickname, “Herman.”

In addition, he has a car from “The Waltons” and said he plans to build the Godsey storefront in his backyard.

I don’t know if his ‘Munsters’ car is the actual DRAG-U-LA from the series or if the Walton’s car is from the TV show and just replicas, but I have to say, they looked pretty nifty in the photos.

Rick Speaks to a Curious Publix Shopper, Aug. 3, 2014
Rick Speaks to a Curious Publix Shopper, Aug. 3, 2014

I almost didn’t stop at Publix yesterday as I was in a rush to get home. A little bird convinced me to make a U-turn at the intersection and go back. I imagine eventually I would have run into Rick and heard his story but hearing his enthusiasm and passion for his vehicles yesterday was the feel-good inspiration I needed at that moment. Seeing the bus and hearing my neighbor’s story made me smile and laugh.

Yes, traveling away from home can be an adventure but there’s always a good story waiting to be heard in your backyard.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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