By Liesl Greathouse
MONTROSE–Montrose has a new, unique attraction for people that bridges generations. Over at The Boardwalk shopping complex south of Montrose, locals and visitors can check out the newly-customized, bright blue hippie bus, complete with Beatles’ music playing as visitors approach.
Originally a school bus from China Lake, California, the bus is a White, made somewhere between 1947 and 1952. It is 25 feet long and sat approximately 50 passengers.
It was picked up from the old abandoned power plant on Rio Grande in Montrose by Dennis Vanderwist, owner of The Boardwalk shopping complex, who was inspired to get the bus as a new addition to The Boardwalk. “It reminded me of that era,” Vanderwist said. “It sat out in front of The Boardwalk for a couple years, with some people even offering to buy it.”
Vanderwist eventually thought about sending the bus to the junk yard, when a friend sent him pictures of Ken Kesey’s newly restored hippie bus from the 1960s, which gave Vanderwist a new idea. “I wanted to make something that would attract people, an eye catcher,” he explained.
The project to make the old school bus into a colorful hippie bus soon turned into a Vanderwist family affair, with Vanderwist’s fiancee’s son Grant, daughter Wendy, and ex-wife Judy all helping with the project, from sanding to painting to the actual design of the bus itself. “The most transforming aspect of the painting process was when Dennis Schultz (owner of the Turn of the Century Saloon) came by with his airbrush and gave our artwork depth and accent…all for free,” Vanderwist said.
Today, the bus has a Steampunk-themed front end (complete with 3D printed gears), the Beatles’ portraits waving from the windows, song lyrics, flowers, rainbows and other symbols painted across the bus that bring back memories of the hippie era.
Some of the comments from visitors to the bus have included, “Does it run?” “Are you taking it on tour?” “It’s soooo colorful.” and “It caught my eye from the highway so I just had to stop,” which is the ultimate goal of the hippie bus.
As for any future plans to improve the bus even more, Vanderwist does have a couple things in the works. “My son Charles is currently perfecting a motion-activated sensor which will play Beatles’ songs as you walk up to the bus,” he said. “He also plans to install timed LED lights with varying patterns inside the bus that will be activated at night. We also want to do different things for different seasons.”
Vanderwist’s heart for The Boardwalk shopping complex comes through as he talks. “The Boardwalk complex is a collection of very talented shop owners, each with a unique style and presentation,” he said. “My goal is to make The Boardwalk a ‘must’ place to visit when people are in the Montrose area. Visitors tell me that every time they stop by, whether it was last week, last month, or last year there is always something new, something unique or unusual. They love being able to browse through the shops, take a break with a cool drink, and talk to the shop owners. There’s always a new ‘story’.”
For more information, to see the bus, and visit the other Boardwalk businesses, visit them at 17656 Highway 550 S. in Montrose.