Who Says A Bus Can't Go Offroading?

In many parts of the U.S. of A., we're often told what's not possible. You can't build a house without 2x4s and nails from Home Depot; you can't make your car run without a complete array of expensive tools and a course in auto mechanics; it's impossible to tow things with a small car.

Can't, or won't? In my travels around places where people aren't used to having extra money to piss away and really don't use credit all that often, they do with what they have. They get things done. Our once proud traditions of craftsmanship and DIY ingenuity lurk amongst a select few who are keeping its dying embers glowing while the rest of us stab blindly at the figurative help button with our pudgy office worker fingers (I'm writing this article with pudgy office worker fingers).

We have a lot to learn from people who don't have everything available at a big box store.

Take this bus, for example. It's a normal small bus you see bobbing around corners all over Latin America. But when the going gets tough and the roads transform into steep, rutted tracks in the mountains, these buses get people to the top and back. Clearly buses like this wouldn't be able to handle the worst offroad terrain out there, but on bad roads and steep grades, all it takes is a diesel powered bus, and a driver who can operate a stick shift and isn't afraid of a challenge.

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I rode the bus pictured here up to the San Vicente hot springs in Colombia's mountainous coffee-growing region. It bucked and swayed and grunted, but the driver told me he charges that same route every day without too much of a problem. In a town a few ridges over, I met some people who do a similar journey in a tiny Renault 9 sedan to get back and forth between their coffee farm and home.

Now that's what I call Parking Lot Mechanic spirit. Out-of-bounds ingenuity is what made America great, and I hope our society, as a whole, shifts back to that at some point.

Photo credit: Benjamin Preston