2007-04-19 / Community

Ugly bus is beautiful to couple who make it their home

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

Jennifer and Marcus Ratafia inside their bus Jennifer and Marcus Ratafia inside their bus Vandals who object to a bus parked on streets in Newbury Park may have committed a crime that will result in the bus staying around longer.

"Someone put sugar in our gas tank," said Jennifer Ratafia, owner of the bus.

That sugar ruined a new engine that will cost the Ratafias $10,000 to replace- money they were saving to buy a home in North Carolina this summer after their baby is born, she said.

Marcus and Jennifer Ratafia come to Newbury Park to help Marcus' parents, who are in their 80s, renovate their home so they can sell it. The older couple has lived in Newbury Park for 27 years.

Marcus, a Newbury Park High School graduate, moved to that house with his parents when it was new, back in 1980. He grew up in the area.

"We have done everything we can do to get along with our neighbors and follow the law," Jennifer said.

Still, the bus has been egged, covered in graffiti, its license plates have been stolen and threatening letters have been written, she said.

"We've traveled many thousands of miles throughout this country, and parked in what are considered some very bad neighborhoods. However, it's not until coming to Newbury Park, a supposedly good place, that we've ever experienced any sort of vandalism," Jennifer said.

The bus' cozy interior is their home, where they live when not visiting their elderly relatives.

"It's too bad some of the residents cannot see beyond the exterior of our so-called 'ugly' and 'creepy' bus," Jennifer said. "If they could, many, I am sure, would find it interesting and quite a work of art."

Artist Jennifer, 34, and musician Marcus, 36, say they've spent more than $12,000 converting an old bus into an energy-efficient home on wheels. It runs on vegetable oil.

"While the outside may not be much to look at, the inside is quite charming and nice," Jennifer said. "We've put our heart and soul into the bus."

It has hardwood floors, paneling and handmade cabinetry along with a wood-burning stove for heat. The power comes from 350 watts of solar electricity.

The clean-burning vegetable oil fuel didn't mix with sugar.

"Putting sugar in our gas tank has resulted in the complete and total destruction of our engine," she said.

Whoever put sugar in their gas tank also glued shut the bus' locks and left profane graffiti on it, Jennifer said. On hold now is the couple's plan to use the money they'd saved to move away with their new baby, due in June.

"Because of this act of cruelty we now will have to take that money, as well as some borrowed money, and buy a new engine for our bus, or we and our newborn will soon be homeless," Jennifer said.

They've already added a locked gas cap.

Anyone who has information about who vandalized the Ratafias' bus is asked to call the police or e-mail Jennifer at pixie@enchantedgypsy.com.

Return to top