PUNTA GORDA — Residents at Water’s Edge RV resort were exposed to an iconic symbol of British pop culture over the holiday weekend.
In stark contrast to the blandly colored motor homes that normally occupy the sleepy trailer park, Joe Phillips, 32, of London, said he caused “quite the stir” when he parked his bright red 1967 Routemaster, named “Doogle,” in one of the available lots. Phillips was visiting his uncle for Christmas.
Phillips converted the Routemaster, one of the original two-story buses designed for London Transit, into a motor home, and plans to take it on the “rural route” across the country over the next year.
Life has been good for Phillips since he and Doogle voyaged across the Atlantic on a ship and arrived in Virginia last month. Phillips said he is relying on his savings and the generosity of others to complete the 25,000-mile trip by November 2013.
The plan seems to be paying off; all sorts of people have donated to the cause. They have offered Phillips food, necessities (i.e. a phone and a skateboard) and places to stay over the course of his trip.
“It is phenomenal how generous Americans are,” Phillips said. “I never ask for anything, but people seem to understand the dream and they want to help me achieve it. The bus makes them smile.”
He participated in Art Basel in Miami where famous artists, such as Army of One advocate Jef Campion, volunteered to decorate Doogle with graffiti. Phillips also was given a complimentary room for three nights at the Seminole Hard Rock casino.
“He is doing something every young person would want to do,” said Cecilia Shaffer, a resident at Water’s Edge. “It is a really inspiring story.”
But Phillips has run into some problems along the way. Only a month into his journey, the big red bus broke down and had to undergo some work. The repair wasn’t cheap, and Phillips had to spend four days in a truck stop located in a rough neighborhood.
“The first night the mechanic gave me pepper spray and told me, ‘Good luck,’” he said.
Another crisis was narrowly averted when Phillips forgot to bring tea with him overseas; luckily he found “a proper British” brand in the states.
“Feeling much better now that I know there is decent tea available in the U.S.,” he tweeted with an image of PG Tips black tea on Dec. 19.
Phillips said he has always had a love of the open road; in London he worked as a motorcycle paramedic, where he sped through the city dodging traffic to service the most serious calls. He spent the last 10 years of his life saving up for his North American road trip.
“There is really a great sense of freedom in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s a vast expansive roadway system, and you really do have the ability to go where you want. In London, we live right on top of each other; there are designated areas for motorcyclists — it’s very different from here.”
Phillips’ parents are both American, meaning he has dual citizenship in both the U.S. and the U.K. He said he decided not to waste his right to live and work in the U.S.
The big red bus is scheduled to make appearances in the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans in February, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California in April. Fans can follow Phillips’ adventures on Twitter at twitter.com/Doogle_9.