Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday June 3, 2011
Some things in life are a labor of love.
Most things in racing are a labor of love-out of pure necessity, really, because racing is expensive, all-consuming, and sometimes cruel. To make a life in the sport is both glamorous and grueling.
For one fan, the labor of love came from the love of racing, but has led to so much more. The love of family, the love of life itself are evident here. It’s old school race fan and it’s modern convenience, all in one beautiful-and functional- package.
It’s the Boogity Bus.
It all started with an invitation. Ron, the bus’s creator and chief operator, was visiting the infield at Michigan with a friend. Race fans are typically hospitable, and in short order, Ron and his companion were invited to go topside on a converted school bus to enjoy the race. It turned out to be the best seat in the house, with the bus parked right at the fence line, mere feet from the action on track. Between the hospitality of strangers and the view, the entire experience left an impression on Ron, who was thinking about a life after retirement. He believed that “everyone should, before they retire, give some serious thought to what they’re going to do and not sit in a rocking chair.”
There was no rocking chair in Ron’s future, but there was a trip to Talladega. The Superspeedway boasts the mother of all infields, and Ron again experienced the outgoing and fun-loving nature of NASCAR fans, all while watching cars speed by 150 feet away at 200 miles per hour. That sealed the deal, and the idea for the Boogity Bus was born. On the way home, Ron says, “I said ‘that’s it. I will have a bus for retirement.’”
In August of 2009, Ron’s search for the perfect bus came to fruition in the form of a 1991 Bluebird snubnose. At 38 feet long, it was the perfect size, with the Cummins diesel engine and Alison transmission and just 94,000 miles. It was time to begin an extreme makeover of epic proportions.
Ron, an engineer by trade, wasn’t going to settle for just any run-of-the-mill converted school bus. Oh, no. This one was going to be special. He worked on a floor plan to assure that the bus could comfortably accommodate four people, including sleeping, cooking and relaxing, and its own water and plumbing supply. The catch? The first race was going to be the 2010 Daytona 500, just six months away.
The bus is truly beautiful inside. Walk in and you’re in a spacious area with a table and benches for eating and lounging, and a full array of appliances for keeping food cold and heating it up. A flat-screen TV hangs over the countertop for when there isn’t a race going on a stone’s throw away. There’s enough storage to make some home kitchens envious. The floor is tile, so if it is damaged, a section can be easily replaced
The back of the bus has four twin-sized bunks with full mattresses and ample space for dressing. There’s a shower and bathroom facilities as well; a 125-gallon fresh water tank ensures that no trips to the shower house will be necessary. A Honda generator supplies power to the bus.
While it’s not the typical bus convert, it’s not a luxury motorhome, either. It’s better. It’s not as fancy, but it’s friendlier, more homey. Walk in, and you feel right at home. You don’t have to worry about ruining the carpet, because of that tile. Ron’s sister-in-law, Sherry, made the curtains-black and white checker, of course, and the beds have checkered sheets. That is why they come, after all. Nephew Warren and his assistant Clayton did all the woodwork. Ron thanks Kevin and Tim for (eventually) doing the lettering on the outside. Its story is personal, and that gives it that feeling of home. Nothing here is commercial or industrial.
But what about the racing? Oh, but the racing is great. The emergency escape hatch on the roof lends itself perfectly to climbing a ladder to the viewing platform. And what a view there is-Ron tries to reserve spaces right along the fence line. In Charlotte, that meant just at the exit to Turn 4, with a full, unobstructed view of the high banks. The platform comfortably holds ten or so with folding chairs. It’s carpeted for traction and boasts a double chain and toe board all around for the faint-of-heart. Ron’s wife suggested the safety measures, and they add a level of comfort not offered on the nearby motor homes with their bare, flat roofs. The fridge is just a few steps away, the restroom just a few steps further. Think the convenience of watching from your own living room with the thrill that only the track can offer.
The bus was ready for the Daytona 500 last year, except for one thing: it was not yet the Boogity Bus. It was a lovely shade of grey…plain grey. Ron says the maiden voyage “really turned out good, but there were a lot of things you forget. After 3-4 races I had it down pat. But I didn’t have the bus lettered. I didn’t have anything at all on the outside. It was plain, because I had to think. I didn’t want to rush into it. I didn’t want it to look tacky. I wanted it to look nice.”
There were eleven races on the docket last year, and the bus attracted some attention. Unfortunately, in some cases, it was the wrong kind of attention-it was once mistaken for a prison bus. Yeah, it needed something on the outside. And so the Boogity Bus was born. Ron’s wife, a Darrell Waltrip fan, suggested Waltrip’s now-trademark catchphrase, “boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing, boys!” that Waltrip sends each race he broadcasts to the green flag with. Any race bus worth its salt needs flames, so it has those, too. There are 24, Hendrick Motorsports, and Dupont stickers on the sides for Ron’s favorite driver, Jeff Gordon. The back door of the bus-which disguises a huge storage area-has stickers for the No. 24 and the No. 1. The 1 is because Jamie McMurray won the bus’s maiden race, but also because McMurray bears a remarkable resemblance to Ron’s son. That made him an instant favorite. The rear décor is completed with Ron’s motto and a No. 46 sticker-Ron and his family have become friends with members of the Whitney Motorsports team and driver JJ Yeley. “We’ve gotten to know JJ and what a great person and driver he is,” says Ron’s daughter Kristie.
Ron comes by his racing bug honestly-he’s an ex-drag racer. “45 years ago I drag raced and I had quite a career-9 years,” Ron says. “While going to college, I set a bunch of records. It was in the Midwest, a series called NADS that ran at about 6 tracks. I worked there, had my car in a car show, and had a little spread in the newspaper every week. Then like everything, you get married and have kids and it’s all over with. But I’m glad they came along. That was drag racing back then. There were no computers. You had to do it the hard way.”
Ron doesn’t regret leaving racing behind to start his family, because the Boogity Bus is truly a family affair. Kristie was with her father in Charlotte, and if she’s not there, the racing family also includes Diane, Dewayne, Drew, Hailey, Tim, Charlie, and John. So many family members enjoy the family time spent on the trips that they have to keep a rotating schedule to accommodate everyone. While the trips to the track naturally feature racing, it’s also about family. That’s the real attraction.
This year, there’s no mistaking Ron’s Boogity Bus as it travels the highways from North Carolina to tracks across the Souteast. Ron says that he got at least 34 acknowledgements from people on the way home from Daytona this spring-that includes waving, thumbs-up, horns honking, even cameras coming out and taking pictures. “Nobody boos, they’re all waving,” Ron says, adding, “You can’t stop and get fuel without people coming up to you.”
Other fans weren’t the only ones to take notice. This spring at Martinsville, Ron’s neighbors included none other than Ol’ DW himself, and of course the bus caught the future Hall-Of-Famer’s eye. Waltrip toured the bus and was duly impressed. “DW came in the bus and I got pictures and he autographed the bus and I clear-coated the signature,” Ron remembers. “ I’d rather have him than any driver. Of course he liked it because of the boogity boogity, boogity.” Besides Waltrip’s signature, this year’s additions include several racecar shaped decals all around the top of the bus. “If you don’t see someone you like, keep looking,” says Ron.
If home is where the heart is, Ron’s bus is a home in every sense of the word. It’s made special not only by it’s design-which is spectacular, but by the family. Ron is hospitable, like most good NASCAR fans, and has invited others to enjoy the view from atop his bus as he was once invited. At Pocono last year, the group included Tom Logano, who discovered that the buss provided the best view of his son, Joey, as he zoomed around the Tunnel Turn. That’s the kind of folks Ron and his family are-they share their traveling home with others of like (read one-track: the racetrack) mind. They share each other, which, really leaves the greatest memories of all.
That motto on the back door? It says “Living the Dream.” Ron is living the dream, eleven times a year, with memories enough for forever.
Author’s note: If you’d like to contact Ron for more information about the Boogity bus and how it was created, you can use the link below.
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