We took a Ski Trip from Kissimmee to the mountains of West Virginia, North Carolina or Virginia every year from 1995-2000. To be completely honest, they all run together a bit and it is hard to remember what happened on any given trip. But I am certain that what you are about to read is true, even if it does sound like the plot from a terrible made-for-TV movie!
Our adventure begins in Princeton, WV, where we had arrived the day before after an all-night bus ride. We would be skiing at Winterplace, located about 8 miles north of our motel. All of our arrangements for the trip had been made through a company called Carolina Tours, a group that we knew well and trusted completely. A year or two before their representative Robert had saved our trip by moving the entire excursion from Boone, NC to Winterplace at the last minute- because Boone had no snow. This year we had a different problem. It was brutally cold. We were warned about what the wind and cold up on the mountain could do our skin and our health. We were warned to stay out for short runs and then visit the lodge often. We were not warned about what the intense cold would do to a Floridian bus! When we woke up and loaded the bus on our first day of skiing, our fearless drivers Dave and Vern were trying to warm the bus for us, but it just wasn't working. As we left the motel and tried to merge on to I-77, we discovered the heater was not the only problem we had. We couldn't accelerate. We moved onto the highway doing a robust 8 miles per hour. Dave pulled the bus over to the side of the road, hoping that letting it sit and run would thaw out the diesel fuel and get us going. It didn't. We continued on, and everyone on the bus was freezing. Our pace continued until we had to climb our first major hill, and the bus almost stopped moving. We once again pulled over to see if we could thaw out; Vern left the bus and went to the woods by the roadside to relieve himself. He came back explaining how peeing outdoors in 10 degree weather was not a good idea! It took us over an hour and a half to drive the 8 miles to Winterplace that morning, but we got there. And we skied and had a great time, I am sure. But the fun was just beginning.
While the group was out on the mountain, Dave and Vern were talking to professional bus drivers who had driven to Winterplace that day about fixing our problem. They were told to add a very small amount of kerosene to the fuel mixture, and that this would help the diesel move through the engine more freely. They took the bus down to a gas station and added the kerosene, and drove back up- but they couldn't feel any difference. When we left Winterplace late that afternoon, the bus was a bit better but still very sluggish. As we headed south on I-77 to our motel, we felt a sudden jolt, and almost instantly we were moving at full speed again. The kerosene had worked, and all was right with our world!
About the same time, Erin Augenblick yelled to me from her seat in the back of the bus that she thought she saw fire behind the bus. No one else had seen anything, and we were finally moving again, so we just ignored Erin. In fact, I believe we made fun of Erin. A few moments later we arrived back at our motel, and as the bus doors opened an SUV pulled up next to us and out jumped Robert, our Carolina Tours friend. He looked panicked about something, and began asking me if I had seen "them." I am sure I looked confused, so he began to explain. He had been behind us coming up the interstate, and had seen an amazing thing. When the kerosene kicked in, we not only gained speed, but we began shooting flames out of our tailpipe. Not just one or two, but a series of five foot long streams of fire. He could see the fear in the faces of the other drivers on the road. We became a rolling flame thrower! And all we could do was thank God that no one was injured.
The bus was just fine the following day, and we headed back up to the mountain for some more skiing. When we arrived and entered the lodge to claim our tables for the day, there was a buzz. People were pointing at me. I could hear the murmurs; "That's the guy with the bus!" Robert had shared out story, and it had instantly become legendary. I returned to Winterplace a number of times and with several different churches after that, and every time someone would remember that I was "the guy with the bus." I guess it is good to have a legacy...even if the legacy is a flame-throwing bus!!!
The moral of this story is adventures take many forms, and sometimes the "oops" stories stick with us longer that the perfect ones, And also, NEVER doubt Erin Augenblick!
Because of Jesus,