Former local returns on his dream charity trip

By Southern Riverina News

A 12 year dream has finally become a reality for Lawrence Norton, with the former Finley man starting a trip around Australia in his fundraising ‘coffee bus’ two weeks ago.

The 34 year-old is raising money for Eli’s Gift, a charity that alleviates the financial burden on families with sick children, by selling coffee from his vintage 1949 Leyland double-decker bus.

Mr Norton has completely restored the bus, fitting it with a kitchen, bed, shower and toilet.

He has retained its original external colours, which pays homage to its original use as Sydney public transport.

The former Sydney bus is only capable of reaching a top speed of 45km/h.

Mr Norton discovered the bus in a Griffith quarry 12 years ago and has been working to restore it ‘‘on-and-off’’ ever since.

Once the bus was completed the former linesman quit his job in Melbourne in January, and has been living in the bus ever since.

When his vehicle was finally registered at the end of March he hit the road, and Deniliquin was one of his first stops last week.

He started his tour of Australia by attending the Bendigo Tiny Homes festival before travelling through Rushworth and Moama.

Mr Norton made his way to through his old stomping ground including Finley and Deniliquin, and caught up with the Southern Riverina News

‘‘For me it’s like the movie Field of Dreams,’’ he said.

‘‘In that movie the main character Ray sees a vision of a baseball field in the corn crop and everyone thinks he’s lost his mind but it turns out to be a big success.

‘‘I saw the bus, got the picture in my head and all of the pieces eventually came together.

‘‘This bus is my Field of Dreams. I’ve had this vision since I first saw it and now that it is on the road the dream has come true.

‘‘The Deniliquin Riverside Caravan Park allowed me to park for the night free of charge, which is what this trip is all about.

‘‘It’s all about doing nice things for others and in return I have everything I need.

‘‘Now I’ve sold everything I own I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

‘‘I’ve already raised $13,000 for Eli’s Gift which is just amazing.’’

The Twice As Nice Gallery Cafe bus raises funds through the sale of coffee and commercial advertising on the bus.

Mr Norton has always been an adventurous person.

He left home when he was 15 years-old, leaving his parents Greg and Virginia behind in Finley.

He originally came to Deni for four years to complete his linesman apprenticeship at Great Southern Energy (now Essential Energy) before moving on to Griffith, Hillston and then Melbourne.

He also once sailed across Bass Strait soon after buying a yacht and teaching himself how to sail.

‘‘It doesn’t worry me that I’ve quit my job and leaving everything behind,’’ he said.

‘‘I live off the sale of my merchandise and photographs. I have a printer on the bus that prints out my photography work, so I’m all set.

‘‘My last big adventure there was no land, so I’m not too worried this time.

‘‘If the bus isn’t working then I have land that I can get out onto, during the sailing trip I didn’t have that safety net.’’

To learn more about Mr Norton’s charity trip, check out his Facebook page — Twice As Nice Gallery Cafe.