March of the Microbuses

Adam Hurlburt
Richard Kimbrough

Something will break on the Shasta Snow Trip. Could be a valve. Could be a transmission mount. Could be the driver's resolve. The roads are battered, the distance is great, and the drive is challenging. There are rivers to bog down in, ledges to roll off of, rocks to smash into.

The average SST bus is an unholy amalgam of random Germanic parts. Preparedness is the difference between reaching the destination and a DNF. Each bus carries -- at minimum -- a tool kit, spare parts, tire chains, a tow strap, food, water, and a CB radio. If something breaks and the driver doesn't have the necessary parts or tools, someone on the CB might.

Snow has been scarce on the past few SSTs, but it's still an important part of the experience. The Sunday after the trip is snow day, and the only serious goal is to stay on the road. A small caravan bombs down the unplowed road to Gumboot Lake, eager to battle the deep, wet snow. Here's how to do it: The technique is to line up the front wheels with any tire tracks in the snow and pour on a steady speed in first or second gear. Like a giant slot car, the VW follows the tracks. Big steering inputs can burst the front wheels out of the tracks, but on uncut snow they'll just push straight ahead -- in the author's case, straight into a ditch. To steer on uncut snow, enlist a friend to push the front of the bus sideways until it's pointing in the desired direction. Get back on the gas and gun for the summit.

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