Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lock it up

This week we took the time to install a lock on the front door of the bus. We would like to eventually replace the front door with a traditional door or an RV door, so for now this is a temporary solution.  As  per usual, we came up with some fairly complicated, expensive ideas on how to accomplish this and then after seeing the price tag and amount of time necessary for such an endeavor, paused and reevaluated the situation.

A barn door latch was our first simple idea, however the spacing between the two doors created an issue as most barn door latches that we could find only allowed a 1-2 inch gap and the metal on our doors is three inches apart.

After much deliberation, Chris came up with an excellent, simple, affordable solution. My favorite kind! First we bought 2 u-bolts like the one below and then drilled 4 holes in the bus door for them to slide into.

We used this chisel to widen the hole because our bit was a bit too small.

Then we put the nuts on the bolts on the inside of the bus so that the u bolts can't be removed from the outside. We used a bike chain and lock that we had sitting around to loop through the u bolts and tahdah! A $6 solution!

Chris was nice enough to stand there holding that large saw while I took this picture.

We keep it locked up to one side when we're working so no one can lock us inside.
The back of the bus had an even simpler solution. Since the door uses a lever to open, we just tied the lever to the bed frame. The outside lever is much shorter than the inside so it would take an huge amount of strength to break this tie due to the fulcrum of the larger inside lever.

We also *finally* finished the last of the screws in the ceiling. There were a few that we were unable to get back in their original place so we ended up drilling new holes in the cross beams and then inserting the screws. 

We wedged small 2x4 pieces behind the panels to help even them out
so we can reinstall the side panels to cover the gap above the windows.
We've also been working on a lot of mockups to get a better sense of how we're going to be building up the walls for the different areas. They typically look like the picture below but since we are in no way professional builders, it really helps to see in person where studs, walls and joints are going to be.

The closet walls are coming along nicely and we've made some minor adjustments to our floor plan. We took  today to enjoy some time at the beach with friends and we hope to have a very successful bus day tomorrow!

A Sunday in Paradise

Monday, May 20, 2013


So last week we set about to start building our bed. We (Chris) created a blueprint of how we're going to put it together and we bought all of the materials before we started to realize how much we had to do first before we could actually start to build. In order to start building the bed we had to make the side walls. To make the sidewalls we had to finish putting back the last of the side panels. To put on the side panels, we had to first put back the rear metal walls. To put back the rear walls we needed to finish the wiring, insulate and clean/paint the panels. So we started by scrubbing, rust converting, and painting the rear panels.

We also filled the rear area with insulation
They looked pretty nice back in place

Once the rear plates were back up, we began building the side walls. Our first use of wood! This involved making 2x4 studs to attach to the walls so we could fill between them with insulation.

We cut the studs into two pieces in order to work around the chair rail,
one on top and one underneath it.

I gave my Dad this laser level for father's day a few years ago.
It was just what we needed to ensure the 2x4's were straight!

We filled the area between the studs with insulation. Chris' Grandfathers' staple gun made this part go nice and quick. I'm ready to be done with the insulating phase. So itchy!

And finally, late into the night (well, ok it was like 9) we got the plywood up to finish the back walls!

We plan to add a windowsill on top of the walls.

This is the outline of the bed frame. The mattress goes in the middle and
the side areas are for storage.

Our original plan was to make the frame 20" high to accommodate an 18" water tank, however once we put it temporarily into place we realized it was way too tall. Chris would hit his head on the ceiling trying to climb in and I would need a running start to get up on the bed. So we went back to researching the water tank and decided on a 70 gallon one that is 13" high. This allowed us to make the bed frame 15" high.

We had our first siesta (nap) in the bus this week.  In college, while we were in the Dominican Republic on a medical mission trip we had a Siesta every day. We've decided that when we grow up and can dicate our own schedules, we will Siesta Daily. Siesta on everyone!

Once we got the frame supports in place we put the frame on top and then discovered that the walls are narrower at the top than at the bottom. This resulted in a 1/4 inch gap between the side and the wall, go figure.

We didn't want this gap to forever be there to steal and wedge pencils, earrings and other small and important items so we ended up having to move the side 2x4 over 1/4" in order make it flush with the wall.

You can see the wedge in the corner where the overlap occurs
We also were able to install the last of the roof panels and the very back panel.

Here's all of the back panels installed and the completed bed frame
The 2x2 forms a frame to hold up the plywood that goes under the mattress
We also cleaned the bus, organized all of our tools and vacuumed up the tiny shards of metal and wood that seem to throughly enjoy embedding themselves in my tush when I scoot across the floor. The organization lasted about 15 minutes and the floor was clean for about 20 until we put in the next piece of wood and created new shards of metal and wood.

We really enjoy hanging out in the bus, chatting and listening to music and definitely feel like we're progressing in the right direction. I still have the occasional "oh my god, we're going to live in a bus" moments but I have to admit that it's so exciting to see progress and plans put into action. I know that Chris and I could be happy anywhere as long as we have each other, but I think there will be something really special about living in a place that we built with our own two hands, together. Up next is more appliances, electrical work and building the closets and bathrooms, so stay tuned!

I caught Chris taking a siesta tonight when I returned from work.
P.S. Some people have mentioned that they have tried to post a comment on the blog and haven't been able to. Please let me know if you're experiencing this issue by emailing me at or by posting on our facebook page. We'd love to hear any comments or thoughts you have on our project!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Officially a Motor Home!

It's been a very busy May so far and despite heavy rain early in the weekend, we were fortunate to have some wonderfully cool and sunny weather today. Now, some updates on the bus.

We bought an LED light to replace the bulbs in the ceiling of the bus. At $9 each we decided to just get one to see how we like it before buying  all 6. They're interesting lights and are actually made up of 9 lights in 3 rows of 3.

Unfortunately the pictures I have are from the night the bulb arrived so they're not the best quality, but you can certainly see the difference in the old yellow bulb and the new LED.


Chris also took some time to rewire the lights in the back of the bus. Originally, the top orange and red lights were flashers that only went on when the bus was letting children on or off. Chris wired the top yellow lights to the blinker lights on the bottom, and the top red lights to the break lights.

Here's a video that demonstrates the rewiring halfway completed so you can see the difference.

We also made a big purchase this weekend! It came in a big box and we drove over to the West Marine store in Tarpon Springs to pick it up.

It's our new Origo 6000 non-pressurized Alcohol Stove!

Just as there were many people wondering why we bought a bus instead of an RV, I'm sure many of you are wondering why we went with an alcohol stove instead of a propane or traditional electric one. An electric stove was out of the question from the get go. We're aiming for off-grid capability and will use a battery bank and solar array (eventually) to power all of our electrical needs. Appliances that create heat require the most electricity. Using all of our battery power to power our stove was counter intuitive.

Chris was against propane from the start of this project. Despite it being used safely in thousands of households, there are risks and potential complications of plumbing a combustible and potentially explosive gas into a small living space. We hope to travel regularly in our home, so the added concern of leaks after bumpy travel or shifting terrane was a big concern. Also, although there are plenty of safe propane detectors out there, if a leak occurred when we weren't home, our dogs would be at risk of harm and that was unacceptable to us.

So we settled on a non-pressurized alcohol stove and oven. These types of stoves are frequently used in boats. They're hardy, simple, and easy to use and fix. Alcohol is not explosive and it's actually the vapor that is flammable. You can have a whole glass of alcohol and light it on fire but only the very top will have a flame and the bottom will remain relatively cool.

When you lift the lid of the stove you can see the two fuel tanks held inside. Inside the fuel tanks is a white fabric type thing that absorbs the alcohol and releases the flammable vapor.

The black circle you see on the left fuel tank below is a rubber gasket that seals in the alcohol into the tanks when they're not in use. The stove is started easily with a lighter and turned off by turning the knob to zero. This slides a metal flange over top of the flame and puts out the flame.

There's an additional fuel tank underneath the oven and it works the same way as the stove. I intend to create a ceramic disc in my pottery class to help distribute and maintain a constant heat evenly in the oven. I read several reviews of people doing this and they said it works very well.

I won't lie, I was a little hesitant about the alcohol stove at first. I love cooking and we eat a majority of our meals at home. The proposition of a cooking device that was anything other than what I was used to was a bit scary. After doing a pro-con list comparing alcohol to propane, I was comfortable with the alcohol stove with 1 important requirement. I'm the official pie baker in my family and people rely on me for these baked vessels of goodness, so I wanted to ensure that I could keep this position. The first thing I did when we took the stove out of the box was pop in my trusty pie dish and voila! It fits!

So Shiny!
On our way back from Tarpon Springs we stopped by another construction site and picked up some more lumber (with permission) that was tossed in the dumpster.

To legally be considered a Motor Home you must meet at least 3 of 6  DMV requirements. Now that we have a way to cook (our alcohol stove), electricity (even if it is an extension cord from my parents back porch) and a place to sleep (it may just be a hard old box spring that we plan on throwing away, but Winston and Willow sleep on it regularly) we're official!

We accomplished some other things since my last post but they're still in development. I'll post another update later this week with what's going on inside the bus.