- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - What was Mick Longley thinking as he stood with his hand on a pickup for more than two days?

Maybe he was dreaming about the next two years.

In February, Longley competed with 32 others to win a 1999 Dodge Ram. The rules: Last one left touching the truck wins.

As his competitors dropped around him, Longley stayed calm and alert. After 59 hours and 17 minutes, his final rival succumbed to hallucinations and removed his hand.

Longley walked away with the red Ram and a way to help finance his family’s journey through North America.

Mick and his wife, Sara Herrick, boarded their personalized school bus with their two sons, Jesse Herrick, 7, and Sage Herrick-Longley, 2, and embarked on a family adventure.

In November, Mick and Sara bought the 1997 school bus from the Tucson, Arizona, school district for $4,800. Mick cashed in $11,800 from the sale of the Dodge.

The family transformed the bus into their home on wheels. Where students once rubbed shoulders on their way to school, there’s now a full kitchen with a fridge and stove, clothes washer and dryer, a bathroom and three beds. And in the “living room,” the family of four will be able to relax, play games and entertain guests.

The most laborious aspect of the conversion was the two weeks painting the bus a light, sky blue, Mick and Sara said.

Mick, a self-employed mechanic whose specialty is outfitting old Volkswagen vans with Subaru engines, hasn’t done any mechanical work on the so-far unnamed bus. (Jesse has suggested “Nacho Monster.”)

Their plan is to drive no more than two hours a day and park the bus in state and national parks, at KOAs or other camping areas. They will be pulling their Subaru Forester along to make daytime explorations easier.

Many miles lie ahead for a bus that’s already traveled 217,000 miles.

They will head to Florida first, then the Carolinas and onto the Great Lakes region, Niagara Falls, Nova Scotia in Canada, Maine and New York City.

“I wanna go to New York City because it’s a big city,” Jesse said. “I love big cities.”

From the Northeast, they will return to the Southwest for the fall and winter and maybe make a run into Mexico. The Pacific Coast and Alaska are on next year’s itinerary.

Mick and Sara began dating in 2011 and were engaged a few months later when Mick proposed to Sara in New Orleans. The couple began talking about taking a trip to Patagonia soon after they met, but sometimes life has other plans.

Their son Sage was born soon after they married in 2013. (Sara had Jesse from a previous marriage.)

“We had Sage, which is another different adventure, but we’re finally kind of doing another, tamer version of that trip,” Mick said.

Mick and Sara say the bus adventure is about the pursuit of a lifestyle change more than anything.

“With a trip, you have a tendency to dwell on the end. At least I do. ‘Oh, I gotta be back by the 16th,’” Mick said. “This is a little more open-ended in a search for finding our roles within the family and our role as a family within the world.”

“We kind of just need to find our place as a family,” Sara said. “It’s hard to blend together when you’ve had your lives here already. I just think it’s almost necessary to leave and have an adventure.”

Durangoan Shane Lee, who has been friends with Mick and Sara for about six years, is not surprised they’re taking this trip. Mick and Shane were on the same page when the idea came about.

“He texted me out of the blue to ask me what I’d do if I went on a trip. And I responded and said, ‘I would pick up a school bus and travel indefinitely around the country.’ And Mick texted back and said, ‘Well, that’s pretty much exactly what we’ll be doing.’”

Sara and Mick are eager to share new cultural experiences with their children.

Sara home-schooled Jesse in Durango and will do so on the road as they learn about North America and its people together.

About a week before departing Durango, Mick and Sara didn’t hesitate to say that it’s been a very stressful few months of preparation, but they are ready to seek new horizons.

“The default is, ‘You know, that’s a lot of work. Let’s not climb that mountain.’ That’s how I was for us for a while. But let’s climb that mountain now, and see the view. And hopefully, change for the better,” Mick said.

Jesse said he is ready, too.

“I’m outta here.”

[email protected]

___

Information from: Durango Herald, https://www.durangoherald.com


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