ORO GRANDE — An iconic bus that was stolen from Cross Eyed Cow Pizza is now back, and sporting a new look as it sits in front of the eatery on Old Route 66.
The new-look Volkswagen now includes a colorful ‘60s psychedelic paint job, with head shots of Elvis Presley, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Brad Pitt, Guy Fieri, Oprah and Carrie Fisher looking out the windows.
“It’s great to have the old van back home again,” said Joe Manners, a longtime resident of Oro Grande who frequents the pizza shop on a regular basis. “The new design will definitely draw attention — especially with Brad Pitt waving out the window.”
Cross Eyed Cow co-owner Jim Granger told the Daily Press the bus came home Friday, with a complimentary vinyl wrap completed by Vinyl Studios, along with free body work done by Super Collision.
“We do plan on having it out,” Granger said. “We take it to all local events and car shows. It’s a delivery van and it’s due to make a delivery tomorrow.”
Regarding the new design, Granger said the restaurant wanted the van to “explode with color,” much like the “‘60s vibe going on” inside the pizzeria.
“People were stopping by all weekend and taking pics with it,” Granger said. “It’s weird, it has its own personality. Everyone asked about it the year that it was gone. So it’s back again and it’s back in action.”
After thieves stole the van last summer, they painted over the vehicle’s Route 66 logo, store’s address and text that read “Best Pizza in Oro Grande.” The vehicle’s California license that read “COWPIZA” was also removed.
The suitcase and surfboards that were stolen from the van have also been recovered and will soon find themselves back on the bus, Granger said.
Both companies volunteered to do the work for free after the bus was stolen, with the wrap job costing nearly $2,400, said Granger who added, “I'm thinking of having it stolen it again, because it gets upgraded every time it does.”
Shortly after the bus went missing, dozens of residents from Lucerne Valley to Barstow claimed they saw the old 1975 van in town. But the recovery of the bus finally came after Oro Grande resident Lacy Smith spotted the VW heading south on Interstate 15.
Smith contacted Grace Preston, the daughter of Cross Eyed Cow owners Jim and Donna Granger, and told her she was following a black 1500 Dodge Ram Truck that was following the VW on I-15 near Highway 395.
Preston called the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department while Smith followed the duo. Smith finally stopped her pursuit when the driver of the truck began waving a gun at her.
The VW was eventually stopped near Day Creek Boulevard in Rancho Cucamonga by Sheriff’s deputies. The owners picked up their “old $700 beater” days later, Preston said.
Calling her “a hero,” Donna Granger and manager Danielle “Dani” Boyd presented Smith with a reward check for $1,000 in July for recognizing and pursuing the eatery’s stolen bus.
Rancho Cucamonga Sheriff’s Station Deputy Jake Bailey reported that Kenneth Jessie Callaway, 33, of Barstow, was arrested on suspicion of receiving known stolen property after he was positively identified as the driver of the VW bus, the Daily Press previously reported.
“That bus is a little landmark that sits on National Trails Highway and points the way to the Cross Eyed Cow,” Manners said. “It’s also something that the people of Oro Grande can be proud of. We're glad it's back home.”
— Staff Writer Paola Baker contributed to this story.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.