Minnesota, USA – The Magic Bus, Family and World History – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Minnesota, USA – The Magic Bus, Family and World History – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


The Ekstrom family has always been a bit of an anachronistic bunch. For example, my father adheres to an unspoken code of conduct that prohibits him from driving any car manufactured in the 21st century, my grandpa, sister, and I spent many hours playing Super Nintendo throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s (and even the ‘10s, now and then), and my family is the proud (and probably only) owner of The Brady Bunch:Greatest Hits CD.


Our everyday attire back in the day. We’ve tried to update it just a little bit since then.

Perhaps the pinnacle of our retro reverence is the “Magic Bus”, our 1976 Dodge Cruise Air motor home. We received the bus in the fall of 1999, as the previous millennium was drawing to a close. This could be interpreted as a symbolic gesture of holding on to the past as our world surged ahead into the dawn of a new era. Stepping into the bus instantly transports you back in time to the psychedelic and idiosyncratic world of the 1970s, as it features all of the stereotypical hallmarks of Seventies aesthetic culture. Its marvelous features include shag carpeting, wood paneling, and generous sprinklings of a distinctive puke green hue that seems to have been highly revered during that decade.

I distinctly remember stepping into the bus for the first time and viewing it with an odd mixture of wonder and terror (my sister Paige shared my sentiment). My parents spent their formative years in the 1970s, and thus when they stepped into the Bus, it conjured a flood of nostalgic childhood memories; thus, they fell in love with it right away. Eventually, my sister’s and my initial fear of the bus melted away and we became endeared to it. It quickly became our chief means of transportation to exciting summer adventures, including trips to our grandparents’ cabin, beach bonanzas, hangouts at the Hinckley RV park (complete with swimming for the kids and gambling for the grandparents) and even a rollicking’ 8th birthday party in Duluth. We associated the bus not only with the Seventies, but also with the warm weather and liberation from scholastic studies that came with summer vacation. Thus, as our calendars inched closer to summer, the whole family would anxiously await for the bus to take us on our next summer road trip.

Unfortunately, the bus’ momentum, like disco fever and the popularity of polyester pants, could not last forever. After having a peak run in the early 2000s, tire troubles and high gas prices heralded the end of the Bus’s travelling days by 2005. Today it stands outside by our garage and serves as a makeshift hotel on the (RARE) occasions that we have an overflow of guests staying the night at our house. Even in its retirement, the bus continues to stand proud and tall, basking in the glory days that created so many summer and travel memories for the Ekstrom family.


Despite the unlikelihood that we will ever travel via the Magic Bus again, we nevertheless treasure the memories of driving down roads while jamming to Fleetwood Mac, the Beach Boys, and other retro superstars on our impressive collection of 8-Tracks. When we first got the Bus , I viewed it as a time capsule that granted a glimpse into the wild and wonderful world of the Seventies and my parents’ wonder years. Now that I am older, and as I continue on in my journey towards full-fledged adulthood, I have come to appreciate how large of a role the Bus played in my Nineties and Noughties childhood. It’s not everyday that you see a vintage RV parked by someone’s house– but then again, the Ekstroms have never really been a normal bunch, and we all admire the contribution that this mobile museum gave to our collective family memory.


Marin Ekstrom serves as Senior Editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under Marin Ekstrom, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

39 responses to “Minnesota, USA – The Magic Bus, Family and World History – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Carley Nadeau

    I love this story. Coming from a rather “traditional” family, I like see things from the perspective of the more adventurous and out there family. Even with our differences, our families did similar things, like staying at the Hinckley RV and Cabin Park. I just find it interesting how these coincidences happen.

  2. McKenzie Ketcher

    I find this article to be very inspiring. Not following the ways of today’s society and updating to everything modern, makes a statement. It shows an unimaginable amount of pride in your past. One of the motor home’s main attractions is all the memories that appear to be attached to that era. For me, this shows that to that family, sentimental and meaningful objects mean more to them then brand new, expensive cars, which I envy.

  3. This was a wonderful piece to read. Your writing style made it particularly fun and exciting. I could almost picture myself standing on the shag carpet and feeling the wood panels of the RV. Was there any particular reason or circumstance that led to your family’s possession of the “bus”? It seems an interesting way to develop a family tradition. Would you say it has helped your family continue to hold on to it’s love for the past? Do you think it will ever be used for a trip again or restored to it’s “former glory”?

  4. Holly Kampa

    Thank you for sharing your story Marin, I enjoyed reading it. In our society today, people worry about image and what others think about you. They would see the “magic bus” and judge, but I think it’s fantastic! I love seeing families dive into something they love and not give two cares what the world thinks! We too as a family had an old motor home, I think from the early eighties. The best childhood memories came from that old beast of a wagon. It just goes to show that you don’t need new and fancy things in order to make great memories.
    Thanks again!

  5. Jacob Carson

    I think that it is amazing that you and your family got to share this wonderful reminder of what culture used to be like back in the 70’s. There were so many unique and wonderful influences in that era that I would have never known about had my father not showed me his prized music collection. In today’s age it is so easy to become immersed in technology that we sometimes forget about what it was like not even 40 years ago without all of what we take for granted today. I hope that you continue to spread your knowledge of our groovy history to others in the future!

  6. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    What a unique story! I especially love the pictures you included to show the interior and the special connection your family has with this automobile. I’m not sure if it can top your “magic bus,” but I have a similar family car story. My dad has driven an Astro (not sure if anyone knows what those are anymore) ever since he married my mom. Us kids have called it “the box.” I believe he has had three Astro’s and is still convinced the box can last several more years. Even though it is not particularly safe to go over 40 mph, the windows do not work, and it has a distinct smell to it, my dad refuses to give it up the box and continues to be apart of our family.

  7. Emily Ciernia

    Marin, thank you for sharing this piece of your family history. It seems that it really impacted your childhood. I also think that it is really cool that you got to experience all of those special things with your parents because this is a way to connect with them. I know that I like to connect with my dad because he always likes to tell me about what he did when he was younger and his music collection. What a neat story!

  8. Rachel Reicher

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Marin! It brought back many memories that me and my family did as well that gave me a certain feeling each time I endured them. One that specifically comes to mind is my father playing his records on the stereo after dinner. The old records played Lover Boy and Rhythm Corps. Each time I hear those bands today it brings me back to those moments in the living room with my entire family jamming to the glorious songs. I believe that these moments will live on with us forever even though we grow up and begin our own lives.

  9. Gina

    This was really funny and interesting! Families are so different, but so similar at the same time. My family may not have a old camper like yours, but we definitely have our quirks. It’s funny how time moves so fast but some things never change!

  10. Meghan Lozinski

    The bit about the Nintendo made me smile because my family still has a Super NES and whenever my brother and I are home we make a point to play Super Mario World (and usually beat it within 48 hours of starting). It’s always fun to have these memories with your family, especially when they were such a big part of your life. I often times mind myself gravitating towards things or traditions we always had around the house when I was growing up, filling up my own apartment with different versions of these things.

  11. Roman Schnobrich

    Great writing, I felt like I was right there traveling with you, your family, and the legendary bus! It’s strange how strong some things can hold nostalgia; if the memories involving the bus seem awesome now, imagine how cool the stories and trips will be to explain to your kids and grandkids some day. I bet the bus had a peculiar smell too, as it seems all homes do, and I’ve realized smells can be some of the strongest facilitators of memories and nostalgia. I’m not sure about you, but it can be frightening and overwhelming to realize that every day adulthood becomes nearer, but it’s memories like these that you’ll look back on fondly.

  12. Kyle Dosan

    I absolutely love this very unique article that you have shared with us! It goes to show to never underestimate the power of nostalgia. The pictures especially bring out the uniqueness of you and your family. Every family has their own memories in a scrapbook, but you guys have the ability to hold on to the vehicle that you guys have shared so many road trips and memories with.

  13. Sara Desrocher

    This is a great article! I really enjoyed the pictures included, I think they really added to the impact of the article. I think every family has some sort of nostalgic place that reminds them of adventures of the past. My family, for example, spent an endless amount of summer days at our cabin and to this day, it is a special treat that we rarely all get up there together. When we do, however, it is full of laughs and memories like when we were little.

  14. Catherine McConnell

    This article is great. I found myself thinking back to my grandparents home and how it is too the perfect time capsule back to the 70s. Nostalgia is a powerful force that creeps into our daily lives more often than we realize. For our parents generation it is obviously incorporating their glory days of the 70s. For us who knows? Maybe we’ll still be sporting the weird trends of today all throughout our adult years.

  15. Bryce Gadke

    This “living” example of an object that binds families together is something that you captured quite well in this essay. I have to admit that the bus seems to be an example that not many can say they have experienced in their life, but the way you’ve laid out the way that it coheres your family together, I’m sure everyone can draw a connection in their own life. The specifics of your adventures will likely fade away as time passes but the symbol of unity in your family (the bus) will live on in physical form (in your driveway) and in your mind as well.

  16. We have a similar throwback in my family. The cabin up in northern Minnesota is literally stuck in the early 70’s no technology beyond a record player and an old television set exist. No wifi, and only a land line. Its a breath of fresh air all the hours spent unplugged playing lawn games, fishing, reaping wild rice, and the board games. I never realize how stressed having technology 24/7 can stress oneself. Strange kitchen utensils i had never seen and an endless supply of jello molds fillet knives and intense holders. All 4 of us siblings would sit on the orange shag carpet in front of the record player listening to the beach boys or some early rock. The library contained anything written by Billy Graham. I hope to one day bring future generations to the cabin, teach them how to use a record player, and a typewriter like I taught my little brother.

  17. Courtney Banks

    I love your family story! It’s so interesting reading about other families. Our legendary vehicle/home combo is our truck that has lasted my entire life even through being rolled, stuck in deep ditches, AND my father’s driving! We took it camping and ice fishing. It would always pull our homemade ice fishing shack behind, which is this rickety little building that has actually fallen off of its tires multiple times, just big enough for a little table and a few chairs. It’s so neat comparing stories. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    Thanks for sharing! It is always fascinating to hear about the histories of other families, especially one as interesting as yours. It is hard to really understand what an age like the 70’s must’ve been like, we can see pictures and hear music but I’m sure travelling around in a van like yours truly made you feel like you had a connection to this wacky era. My cousins used to have a camper fan that seems to resemble yours (although a bit more modern), and every summer we would go on camping trips in this camper. These camping trips are without a doubt some of my best childhood memories so I fully understand all the joy you had while travelling around in that beautiful van.

  19. Kyle Hellmann

    Its awesome that you have something that you can associate so many memories. It makes me wonder what kind of ‘retro RVs’ I have in my life! You can definitely take a trip down memory lane when you see this RV. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, and I will look for memorabilia like this in my own life.

  20. My family occupied a 15′ by 60′ Homette motorhome that was built in the 70’s. While it was small, it had very inventive use of space. Angled counters and wood paneling were very prominent. I enjoyed your piece about the Magic Bus. I find it interesting that while it was a glimpse into the past, it is now an intrinsic and central part of your childhood.

  21. Nichole DeBoom

    What a fun article to read, and what an awesome family story to tell! Your writing style was absolutely fabulous. Your family seems so unique and fun, nothing is better than spending time with family and what would make it better than adding a taste of the 70’s. These are memories that will last with you forever, and although the van might not be up and running, the memories will last forever.

  22. Sarah Fall

    I loved this! Your writing really brings through how much you loved this experience. Most of my fondest memories from when I was younger are from the travels that my family took using our old pop-up camper- man did that get a lot of use! It’s so interesting and heartwarming as well, hearing the stories of other families.

  23. It is wonderful to learn about your family tradition and memories associated with the Magic Bus. It is particularly heartwarming that you were able to experience what your parents loved about the 70s and they were able to share that with you. I hope you continue to share your memories of the Magic Bus in the future!

    It is true that every family has a story. Family quirks are special and proprietary. Embrace your family quirks as a natural part of having a family. You own them.

  24. Donovan Blatz

    Reading this story has brought back some memories of my childhood of me wishing we had an RV to take camping. Unfortunately, I never had to chance like you so it was cool to read your story about your RV. It would be cool, with the recent decline in gas prices, if it was possible to start up the Magic Bus and see if it still runs. I also love the outfits you and your family were wearing in those photos! Maybe it would also be cool to bring those back as well!

  25. Andrea Ramler

    I find this article very interesting, its awesome that so many memories could be shared and made with just a simple bus. Its awesome to learn about how different families are brought up and compare and contrast how different they are from one another. This way of living I think really brings a family closer together because you are always with one another so you are forced to get along. This then causes a close knit family that shares many memories and experiences with one another. The memories and fun times seem to have impacted you greatly, I can just imagine how much these stories will mean to you later on. I enjoyed the way you wrote this article, it made it seem like the reader was there as you explained the bus. This is a very cool tradition and im sure many more memories will be made!

  26. Jena O'Byrne

    This was a wonderful piece to read. It is neat how your family was able to make connections to the past to create memories in the present. My family did a lot of traveling with our camper as well. Like you described we also created so many great memories. I find camping and traveling with family in an RV to be very important. Like you said it connects your family on a greater level. It is neat that the RV was able to allow your parents to reminisce while it was at the same time building upon even more memories to come. The symbol the bus holds for your family will be an everlasting memory. As well as something for you too look back on just as you parents did. Great story and thank you for sharing.

  27. Jessica Richart

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! It is so nice to hear about family traditions and I love how unique yours is! We had a camper similar to your bus growing up, but unfortunately it was too old to even moved from its spot in our grandparents yard. Thank you for sharing the photos too, they really helped tie in your story. I love how something so unique yet simple helped your family create so many great memories!

  28. Nick Campbell

    This was a very fun article to read and was very enjoyable. The part where you discussed riding in the Magic Bus jamming out to Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys reminds me of my childhood, having my parents show me their favorite music. To this day, my mother still has her vinyl copy of Thriller. Seeing that vinyl, which is hung up on one of our walls, is a reminder of my childhood in a sense.

  29. Jodi Moran

    What an interesting story that is a prime example of how one can experience another decade without actually being in that decade. It’s amazing how elements from the past can conjure up feelings that allows one to go back in time. Also, what a unique way to connect with your parents! Not many people can say that they were able to bond with their family in this way with a trip back to the seventies. Even though my family didn’t have a “retro” van, my grandparents had a motor home that they would drive when they would visit my family in Wisconsin. It was always so fun to be able to ride in that motor home to experience a different way a living. Thanks again for sharing your story, very interesting!

  30. Nancy Thao

    I find this article really fascinating and your journey was a very extraordinary experience. I think it was a wonderful decision for your family to have kept the bus for it is fill with many memories. Would you continue this with your own future family? When you and your family travel nowadays, what kind of changes do you see in the the type of traveling you do?

  31. Jimmy Lovrien

    What a fun essay! Thanks, Marin. I think a lot of families have items (relics?) that no longer work or serve a purpose, but are held on to by their owners. For my family, it’s a rocking chair and a piano that’s at least 116 years old. The rocking chair was used by several generations of women on my dad’s side of the family when they nursed their children and would be passed on to relatives with newborns. But it hasn’t gone anywhere since it reached us, partly because the sentimental attachment and memories are too great.

  32. I loved reading your story because my own family has a van that we call “The Berry Bus.” I have to admit it didn’t look as cool as the Magic Bus, but we created a lot of memories by taking it on many trips to Florida and using it to tow our boat. I’m sure you have many memories, as well. I think It’s awesome how a vehicle, that may not be the most popular to society, can have so many memories and almost becomes a part of our families. Great read, thank you!

  33. Thomas Landgren

    This was a fascinating article! I really liked the idea that every family has a special place that just talking about it can bring back so many memories. It is sad that the magic bus is retired but at least it is still a part of the family. The amount of memories that your family created in that RV is something that will stay with you even if you are away from the magic bus. I really liked the amount of pictures you used, it helped me create a visual of what it was like for you in the summers and how awesome the magic bus really was. Great article!

  34. Martti Maunula

    Interesting article showing your family’s tradition, even if it only got to last 6 or so years. This reminds me of how I viewed my family’s minivan when we first bought it. It was green and a minivan, I thought we had just turned into a soccer mom family. We had a brown manly suburban before. But as we traveled more the minivan grew on me, it was a 2003 Ford Windstar and as we traveled across the country to relatives I started to enjoy the backseat, squished as I was with my two brothers back there with me. I had never thought about how even just the minivan became an iconic part of my younger years and traveling on vacation.

  35. Time capsule indeed! I remember being obsessed with the sixties and seventies as a preteen… It’s odd how we can latch onto the aesthetics of past decades, even if it’s not out of nostalgia like it is with your parents. I can’t help but wonder if some time in a few decades, UGG boots and skinny jeans will make a ‘retro’ comeback? I know that some young teenagers who never saw the 90s are dawning ‘vintage’ flannels and doc martens. Fashions and aesthetics and the way they roll over and reappear in later times is just really interesting.

  36. Mike Zupfer

    I liked your article! IT is great to see that many families are still holding on to items that are from the past that may not work anymore. I know my family has a few items that are a few generations old. My favorite item that i have now is my dads 1970 roadrunner which i plan to restore when i have a career established. My mom also has quite a few trinkets that have been pasted down since her great grandmother. I think it would be cool to pass these down to the next generation, provided i have kids!

  37. Dylan Brovick

    I really enjoyed reading your article on the magic bus and the memories that it brought. First, the 70s interior and shag carpeting sounds like my grandparents house and the style that many parents of kids my age probably grew up in. I wonder if the shag carpet and bright floral colors of many things in the 70s will ever come back into style? My family never owned an RV but also went on road trips to visit family and other sites across the United States. Road trips are a great experience to have as they are filled with memories that are great and also memories of arguments and anything that went wrong on a trip. Most importantly I think what I got from your story and from thinking about the trips I went on is that many of the memories made in the summer months and on road trips were with family. Lastly, I enjoyed the feeling you talked about with the bus representing summer time and a break from school work, and I think everyone has something or some place that represents the feelings that come up in everyone around summer time.

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