The tropical afterlife of old RFTA buses
April 14, 2003
Old RFTA buses never die, they just retire to the warm, friendly climate of South America, as former valley residents Chrissy Cousins Odom and Tim Odom discovered in Costa Rica.
The couple, who bought a hotel in Costa Rica and relocated there from the Aspen area in November 2001, were traveling recently when they saw something that reminded them of home.
“We were driving down the streets of San Jose, the capital city, and lo and behold, a RFTA bus drove right past us,” Cousins Odom wrote in an e-mail.
They chased it down after another encounter and snapped some pictures of locals getting on with a backdrop of palm trees rather than piles of snow. The old Blue Bird bus still had “RFTA Roaring Fork Transit Agency Aspen Colorado” printed on the side.
“I think it’s probably a 1978 vintage Blue Bird bus,” said RFTA director Dan Blankenship. The buses were originally purchased either by the Aspen Skiing Co. for its skier routes or purchased by the city of Aspen for the skier routes. Many of the Blue Birds were retired in the early 1980s.
Blankenship, who joined RFTA in 1989, said the agency now tries to paint over its logo when it retires buses and sells them. “Back then I think we were pretty glad to see them gone,” he quipped about the old Blue Birds. The buses labored to get up hills to Snowmass Village.
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Blankenship said several of the buses were sold to transportation companies in South America. Shipping costs probably were greater than the purchase prices, he said.
He wasn’t surprised the old gals are still making the rounds. Parts are still available for the Blue Birds so they might run forever, as long as they don’t rust out. RFTA has a problem locally with corrosion even in its newer buses because of the use of magnesium chloride on the highways, Blankenship said.
The old buses aren’t the only connection the Odoms have kept with the Roaring Fork Valley since buying the Hotel Poseidon in Playa Jaco. They hired Patricia Ferguson of Aspen to be the chef in their restaurant last November. Ferguson interned in the kitchen at The Little Nell.
The couple have also made numerous improvements to their small hotel after owning and operating it for 16 months. Information on it can be found at http://www.hotel-poseidon.com.
“Opening a business on your own for the first time can be hard, but doing it in a Third World Country and in the Spanish language makes it even more difficult,” Cousins Odom wrote.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.