The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Al Stover 

#ThatNWBus finds home outside of Washtucna

 

NEW HOME. For decades, #ThatNWBus has sat alongside Highway 261 and served as a canvas for passing artists. The bus has found a new home outside of Washtucna, and will continue to serve as a roadside attraction. -Photo courtesy of Lee Ann Blankenship

A popular attraction that sat on the side of Highway 261 near Washtucna now has a permament home minutes outside of town.

On July 7, the unofficial graffiti-covered landmark, known affectionally as #ThatNWBus, was transported to a lot near the intersection of Highway 26 and Highway 261, which was leased by the Washtucna Historical Museum and Community Center (WHMCC)

The bus was originally used by a local crop duster to store equipment near an air strip. It had been abandoned on Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land for several decades.

Over the years, residents and visitors covered the vehicle in spray paint. Some travelers have left political messages while others wrote inspiring words like “Love yourself,” “Dare to dream” and “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

The combination of a graffiti-covered bus with a backdrop of wildlands and beautiful skies made it a popular site for people on their way to Tri-Cities and Palouse Falls to stop, take pictures and post the images on social media.

Bob Redling, Washington State Department of Natural Resources spokesman, explained the vehicle was on land the department leased to a farmer for agricultural purposes but was not being used for farming.

Although the vehicle garnered a fanbase among residents and visitors alike, DNR was concerned with the possibility of someone being injured on the vehicle. There were also occasions where law enforcement responded to parties at the bus.

“Our role is to manage state resources and preserve environmental quality,” Redling said. “Although we do have recreation areas we manage, it’s (the bus) not the type of site we could manage adequately.”

DNR was in the process of moving the bus to a scrapyard when it received a letter from WHMCC President Lee Ann Blankenship, who explained the bus’ historical significance to the area.

“It’s kind of been a landmark for local people,” Blankenship said. “It’s been a canvas for other cultures. There’s a lot of great photography out there and the bus has gained its own following.”

Blankenship told the story of Theo Pena, a geologist from Flordia who recently moved to the area. Pena had planned to visit the bus for over two years and when he could not find it in its old location, Blankenship said “he was very upset.”

“He got on social media and located it,” she added. “He was very happy to have found it.”

Blankenship has her own history with the bus. Over the years, she had taken photos on her way to her work in the Tri-Cities.

After DNR received Blankenship’s letter, it donated the the bus to WHMCC.

The department loaded the vehicle on a trailer and hauled to the lot with assistance from Jaegar Towing, out of Pasco and Agr-Fix Towing and Tractor Report, from Moses Lake. DNR covered the cost of moving the bus. Redling said it would have actually cost the department more money to haul it to a scrapyard.

“Hopefully it saved us a lot more good will,” he added.

Because of the museum’s liability insurance, visitors will not initially be allowed inside the bus to take photos. However, they will soon be able to stand on top of the vehicle, at their own risk.

The lot is scheduled to open in September. Museum staff will clean it and add a picnic table for people to utilize.

Blankenship said the purpose for bringing the bus closer to Washtucna is to connect the community and bring an interest to the area.

“We still want it to be a canvas for photographers and people who like to paint and draw,” Blankenship added.

 

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