Thursday, March 28, 2013


Chris had some pictures hiding on his phone that I haven't had the chance to share yet. Enjoy!

This is the day we picked up the bus. They had just finished removing the seats.
It was very dirty!

At least it came with a broom!

This is the radiator contraption we removed. We recovered about 2 gallons of
fluid from the hose, strained it and will reuse for the radiator in the engine.

Scrubbing away at the inch of thick ickness along the walls

Dumpster Diving for wood!

Our Tub Arrived. Winston is not amused with the new addition.

Just Right fit!

We're thinking it will go about here
Today we're preparing to paint the ceiling and floors so that we can get that done this weekend.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cleaning, Tubs and Freebies

This weekend we spent most of our time sanding, cleaning, scrubbing and planning. The difference in the bus is amazing. The floors and walls are literally a different color and that dirty bus smell is far less apparent, woohoo! We also had a very successful garage sale and removed about 70% of the stuff from our rental house. 

Those masks used to be white!

After sorting out the insurance, license plate and title, we're pleased to announce we're finally road-legal! We celebrated by taking a quick ride around the neighborhood. 

Chris is a natural! Maybe he should rethink his career and go into
the transportation industry.

Since we removed all the seats, lawn chairs suffice for the passengers

Our weekend also included several trips to Home Depot and Lowes and a lot of planning. Once the floors were clean we were finally able to lay down painters tape to map the layout. A digital version is currently in development, stay tuned.

As of Sunday, we hadn't quite figured out what we wanted to do about the shower. I had the idea to get one of those walk-in tubs that are frequently associated with old people. They take up less space than a tub and would make it so we didn't have to tile in a whole shower stall. One look at the price tag quickly change my mind on that idea though. $3000! No thank you.

So we started exploring other solutions. We obviously want to be able to take showers. However, due to the layout of the bus it would be way more convenient if the shower was off to one side or the other to create a comfortable aisle to reach the back of the bus. This restricted us some, although Chris can stand up straight in the middle of the bus, he has to duck slightly when he gets to the very sides. With the added height of a shower pan and tile, he wouldn't have the most comfortable bathing arrangements.

We toyed around with the idea of a built-in seat in the shower so he can sit and bathe. This added some potential problems of water proofing, water containment, structure of the drain and of course wasted space where the seat is.

We literally stumbled upon a solution while at the local feed depot (yes, you read that sentence correctly). We decided that a 3x2x2 water trough would work perfectly as our bathtub/shower stall. It's galvanized metal that will resist rust (we may paint it with rustoleum boat paint as well) and it was incredibly budget friendly (the whole thing cost less than just a shower pan). We plan to build a seat to use in it when showering, or it can be used as a tub (heated by our previously purchased, tank-less, on demand water heater). Also, we'll have a cover of some sort to go over it when it's not being used for additional storage/seating/etc. It's ordered and will be here next week!

Not for everyone, Just Right for us.

I had read about people "recycling" used materials from construction sites. Deek Diedricksen from RelaxShack discusses this a lot in his videos. In his opinion, you could build a tiny dwelling completely made of recycled materials. He uses some pretty funky stuff in his "Micro Architecture" like old coke bottles for windows and bike tires for "pressure bookshelves". One tip he mentions in several of his videos is that, with permission, you can recycle materials from construction sites. On Monday we stopped by a house under construction nearby and managed to snag 2 full carloads of wood! Bunches of 2x4's, 2x6's, 2x12's and really durable 1 inch plywood. It was quite the find and we plan on continuing this strategy to save money and resources in the future (lucky us, they just broke ground on 3 more houses!).

We arranged them by size and took an inventory of what we have so we can
plan accordingly when the time comes to start building.

The plan for this week is to rust-proof the floor and paint the ceiling with Nasa-developed, insulating paint.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Divorcing Big Living

In the past year or so I've read my fair share of alternative dwelling articles and blogs. In fact, the first exposure I had to tiny living was though the Tiny Tack House blog. This house is one of the cutest tiny houses I've seen to date.

So Cozy!

We've also drawn a lot of inspiration from the spectacularly documented Good News Bus, as well as a host of other pages on the popular School Bus Conversion Network website, Skoolie.

This bus has top-of-the-line everything and sleeps 7!

However, one thing I've noticed about all these blogs is that they somehow manage to sum up transitioning out of "big" living in a couple of sentences. Usually it involves "I sold my house and got rid of most of my stuff" and they the move on to tell the story of the build, etc. etc. I wanted to devote this blog post to the painstaking task of divorcing big living and all that it entails.

First of all, I'll start by saying we live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom 1600 square foot house with a 2 car garage, large back porch and 1/3 acre lot. For 2 people, 2 small/medium dogs, a bunny and a fish, that's a lot of space. In the past 2 years, we've managed to fill up the space quite well. We got a large pool/air hockey table for the front room, a hammock, patio furniture set, fire pit and gas grill for the back porch, and garage-saled weekly to find knick-knacks and furniture to fill the rest of the rooms. Buying stuff became our hobby and even though we got great deals and most of it was used, it kills me now to think about how much time and money we actually spent doing this.  Then, we got married last year and registered for a whole new set of stuff! New kitchen sets, bake ware,  appliances and decorations. This resulted in finding ourselves with duplicates, even triplicates of  items that served the same purpose. Who needs 6 cutting boards? Me, apparently. I started to stress about becoming one of those cases on the A&E show, Hoarders.

Ok, our house didn't get this bad, but sometimes it felt like it.

So began the purge. We started small by going through dressers and donating clothes that we don't wear anymore and then  moving room by room. I posted a few things on Craigslist each week and was pleasantly surprised when they sold. Most of the things, in fact, I sold for more money than we bought them for, which felt great! Giving ourselves plenty of time to do this was a big plus. I can't imagine having to make all of those decisions in one day. Some things were hard to let go of, like the box my engagement ring came in. I had to force myself to think practically: I have the ring and the guy, why would I need the box? However, there were also days when I'd peek into a room and imagine how I'd feel if the whole thing and everything in it just disappeared. Poof! Gone! More and more often, I didn't care.

While selling our stuff, we met some great people along the way. One lady who bought my bookcase just moved back down from up north to restart her life in the area. We helped transport the bookcase because it was too big for her car and she promised to pay it forward in the future (Thanks Crystal!). I love the idea of our things being used by others who need them, instead of just being thrown away. I also liked the extra cash we got! We hope to rid ourselves of the rest of our unnecessary stuff this weekend at a large garage sale.

Now, don't get me wrong, I couldn't imagine getting rid of everything. Many of my belongings are quite precious to me, like the artwork Chris and I have collected over the years, pottery from my friends or tokens from our travels, not to mention my pie baking supplies. Also, my family has generously offered to house some small pieces of furniture that, at this time, feel irreplaceable.  Our goal with this change in our life is to eliminate the urge to buy things to make us happy and instead determine exactly which things we *need* to be happy (and I seriously hope the list doesn't include 200 pieces of flatware, 6 cutting boards, or 25 different colors of nail polish, because I just got rid of those...)

This week has been a little slow for work on the bus. Chris has a test tonight and I've been tutoring at night so we haven't had a ton of time. We did start sanding the floor though and man are we impressed! The pictures below were taken with my phone so they're not the best quality but our old girl's floor looks like new after a light sanding. My dad said we could just shine her up and keep the contemporary chrome look. A nice idea but would probably be a little cold, not to mention the sound of dog nails on metal all day..uhg.

Please ignore the pile of dirty towels in the corner. Yeah, those ones that you noticed
right after reading this caption. Thanks.

I can't express enough how much it means to us to have the overwhelming support of our friends and family. I was hesitant to share this project because I expected a lot of weird stares and push-back from naysayers. Instead I received warm comments, encouraging facebook  and texts messages and a lot of enthusiasm. Thanks guys, you're the best!

We hope to have lots of work done after this weekend so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Week 1- Clean Up

Our Bus' new Just Right parking spot

Once we settled on an ideal spot in the yard to start working on the bus, a shady area in the side yard, we began the somewhat nasty task of cleaning/stripping/deconstruction. This involved peeling up the floors, removing the side panels and ceiling panels and replacing all the insulation. Simple enough right?

This is what she looked like to start.
Can't you just smell that school bus rubber smell?
We quickly found out that the bus is a fun place to hang out,
especially when it's equipped with chairs and a cooler of cold beer!

 From everything that we read, the floors of buses are composed of a metal bottom, plywood layer and rubber layer. Chris discovered that ours lacked the plywood and instead our rubber was glued directly to the floor. After many hours of pulling, scraping, and banging with a mallet, paint remover scraper and crowbar, we finally had all of the nasty rubber removed and bagged. We feel very fortunate that the floor is in such great shape, almost no rust at all! I feel bad for the trash guy though, those bags were heavy!

Chris peels up a large section of rubber.
 Next, Chris began unscrewing the side and ceiling panels. I have a feeling I'm going to use this phrase a lot, but from everything that we read this would be as simple as unscrewing and pulling everything off.


We encountered *hundreds* of stripped screws. I say we, but really I mean Chris and my Dad. I was relatively useless in that department and instead set myself to the task of sanding off the school bus signs on the outside and cleaning the gum like substance that was sticking to the floor along the walls. After getting out all the loose screws, Chris made his first big purchase, an impact drill, which worked for about 60% of the stripped screws. My dad was nice enough to pick up a manual impact driver which helped with a good chunk of them that didn't work with the electric one, that is until the drill bit broke. We were also bummed to learn that our side panels actually go up under each of the windows so unless we remove the windows, we can't remove the side panels. We've decided to leave the insulation in there alone for now. As for the ceiling panels, we really wanted to get those down so we could replace the 21 year old insulation and get a good look at the shape the roof was in and understand the electrical stored up there. After 5 long days of working away, we finally got them all down! There are 10 panels across the top of the bus and 22 side panels, Chris did a rough tally and estimates he removed over 1400 screws this week. What a guy!

Chris prepares to remove the LAST screw!
First attempt, electric impact drill

Take two, manual impact driver.

Take three, dremmel to saw off screw head.

Take four, beat the crap out of it.

The roof finally begins to come down
Almost all the panels removed.
Rather than wasting the insulation we installed it in my parents attic
Reduce, Reuse etc. etc.

Still lots of work to do but this was a milestone for us!

We also sanded off the School paraphernalia so we can go on joy rides.
I wanted to leave it this way but apparently that's not allowed.
We're still making final decisions to our floor plan. I created this nifty graph paper with to-scale furniture that can be moved around to see what could work. Once the floors are cleaned and sanded we'll use painters tape to draw out our floor plan to get a better sense of spacing and practicality. This part of the planning is very exciting, but a little stressful since this is the layout we'll be living with for several years. Any suggestions are welcome!

Friday, March 15, 2013

We bought a bus and it's Just Right for us.

You may or may not know us. My husband Chris and I are high school sweethearts with big dreams. It wasn't until this year, however, that we realized our "big dreams" are being held back by "big stuff". Over the past 4 years we moved from one apartment to another, the whole while collecting more and more "stuff" until finally this year it hit us. We've been buying things that we don't need to fill space that we don't need. Although we're a ways away from any permanent damage, we started to dread the idea of becoming stuck in the stuff-filled world of so many Americans drowning in debt.

Kelly and Chris on their first date, 2004
Although we'll have a considerable amount of debt to pay back anyways (Chris just finished his second year of medical school) we decided to dig our feet in and come up with a change, a solution. We've spent months researching alternative dwellings. For a while we considered building a Tiny House like the ones made famous by Jay Schaffer and the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. However, it was one afternoon when I stumbled across the Enchanted Gypsy Bus that I felt this was a true option for us. We decided that a bus would provide the mobility and size that we're looking for and enough safety to please our families.

So we began our search, and after meeting Greg over at BGA buses in Hudson, FL, we knew we had our "Bus Guy". Greg was so incredibly helpful during our search. He talked with us for over 3 hours until 10PM the first time we met and encouraged me to email him frequently with any questions. Every time I emailed him a question I got a very thorough response (in his words he writes "books, not letters"). After about a month Chris and I drove up again to see Greg and ended up purchasing our wonderful bus.

She's a 1991 Ford Thomas-11 row/64 passenger with a 6.6L Fort New Holland diesel engine. These engines are used in tractors and are "indestructible". She came with an automatic transmission (AT545) and air brakes and only 127,000 miles. This is incredible considering that's fewer miles than my car and these engines have been known to run for 500,000-900,000 miles! Greg had just driven her 800 miles from Lynchburg, VA the day before and said she ran great the whole way. Lynchburg is a very dry county (not as in beer, as in weather) and receives less than 18 inches of snow on average a year. This limited her exposure to salt roads and as a result she had essentially no rust underneath. We found out later that the reason for the low mileage is that she was a "spare bus" and didn't have a regular route, at least for the last 5 years. She's Perfect!

Chris pulling up for the first time with our new home!

Showing off our engine

This storage box was bolted shut and we were sure there was treasure in it.
Instead we found a pile of sand and Bailey!

I know many of our friends and family members will have a lot of questions and we're happy to answer them. In fact, I plan on having several posts that answer some of the more FAQ's. For now though we want you to know that we're very excited about this next step in our adventure and so appreciative of the amount of support we've received.

For those that doubt this is doable or question our sanity we have this to say. It may be too small for you, it may be too old for you,  it may be too much work for you,it may be too crazy for you. All we can say to that is, it's Just Right for us.

Bailey says the bus seems Just Right for her too.