Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Update on the Just Right Bus

Well, it has been busy as usual around the bus and we have been working hard to get ready for the Tiny House Conference, which is now just TEN days away! I want the bus to look as finished as possible as this is truly its debut to the world. Not only will this be the first time strangers get to see the bus, it's the first big road trip it has taken. To prepare, we made a long list of things that have to get done before we can leave, we hope to be on the road on April 1st. Here's some of what we've accomplished so far:

We turned the space in our closet wall into a medicine cabinet and put a lid on our hamper. This helped to clear out some of our closet drawers which were holding a lot of our toiletries.


The hamper was horribly inefficient and frustrating, it was basically just a bag sitting on the ground in a space and you could see it from the top and the side and clothes frequently missed the bag opening and ended up on the ground in the corner. You could also see the wheel-well and insulation beneath it. It bothered me every time I walked past it.


We put a hook in each corner of the hamper to hang the clothes bag on. Such a simple solution to a problem we'd been living with for months. My mom gave us the hamper bag and it just happened to fit perfectly, a Just Right Hamper.

We also added some additional lighting to the front of the bus under our overhead cabinets. We bought these lights from Ikea a few months ago and just hadn't gotten around to installing them.

It was a fairly simple install, in fact I did it all by myself. Chris is typically the one to mess with wiring and electrical so this was an accomplishment. The nice thing about a lot of Ikea products is they run off of 12v with a 110v inverter attached so it can be plugged into a house outlet. We just cut the wire right before the inverter and wired it directly into our 12v battery system. The lights didn't have a switch on the 12v side of the wiring so I added one that we bought from home depot. We ran the wires for these lights way back when we did the electrical so all it took was adding a fuse to our breaker box!

I made a little square aluminum plate for the switch to latch on to and then attached the plate to bottom of the cabinets.

At 1.5 watts each, all four of these LEDs together use half as many watts as one of the six lights on the ceiling of the bus (which use 12 watts each). Way more efficient!

They really help us to see the grime when washing dishes
Another big task completed that couldn't have been possible without the help of my amazing mother was covering our couch cushions and pillows. We had denim fabric from my awesome cousin Kim (who sewed our curtains) and we used that for the base couch cushion. Originally I was going to use the same fabric as our curtains for the back of the couch but we were concerned it would be too much of that color. Chris and I went to the fabric store and found a pattern we both absolutely loved and my mom worked her magic.

First she covered the foam cushion with a case she made out of white sheets.

This "pillow case" will help keep our foam clean.

She made us several pillow cases out of the extra pattern fabric and extra curtain fabric. They all blend nicely on the couch and are super comfy to snuggle in.

The couch gets a lot of use!

A lot of our followers have asked about how Chris' hand is doing. Fortunately he is making a wonderful recovery. In fact he just recently finished cutting the piece of wood he was cutting when he had his accident. There's some sort of romantic happily ever after in there for the tale of his finger.

This scar on the wood is the damage it suffered from Chris' accident. Poor wood!
Scardy Willow cowers under Chris' chair during a thunderstorm

I also finished painting some areas of the bus that were never finished including the front above the windshield and both of the closets. I'm not the biggest fan of painting and I especially hate using oil-based paints as they're a pain to clean up and they always end up in my hair. I believe I'm done painting for a while now though, thank goodness!

Before, we ran out of paint 8 months ago when I first painted the ceiling
so some streaks were left green.


Another big change was to the outside of the bus! We had to sand off the name of the school district the bus came from when we first got it and I always hated the big grey splotches on the side. Also, we haven't had to chance to cover the 5 windows that we blocked off with our closets and fridge so this whole time you've been able to see our insulation through them. What an eye sore!

After some research I decided the best and most affordable method to make these windows attractive would be to spray paint them black. I bought a can of Rustoleum metal spray and prepped the windows by using painters tape and plastic bags and gave them a nice even double coat. I then did a couple of coats of Rustoleum clear spray paint to hopefully help keep the black from chipping or wearing off over time, at least until we can get them covered permanently with metal. This was a simple, $10 solution!

I learned the hard way a while ago that spray paint can go everywhere so I was extra careful

To clean up the side of the bus where the grey splotches lived I decided to paint a stripe of color down the side. Chris and I agreed that this royal blue Rustoleum paint was acceptable, though we may change the color when we get around to painting the entire bus. I just used a peanut roller and two coats, less than 1 pint of paint total. It was easy breezy!

Our supervisors for the day

We also finished most of our cabinetry work adding overhead cabinet doors, handles and catches. The catches hold the doors closed so that we don't have to worry about things falling out of them when driving.

These handles were just $.25 at the habitat for humanity restore

Some little touches
 On our list of stuff that has to get done before we leave is to mount a passenger seat for me. We bought this red seat off craiglist for $70 a few months ago and quickly figured out it's much too large to be a passenger seat, it nearly blocks the entire doorway. So Chris cleverly removed the original seat and mounted this one in its place. It can also slide forward and backwards much further than the original seat and will make it much more comfortable for me to drive (as I'm particularly short).

The original seat will be mounted here when we're traveling and removed when we're home. It can swivel so when we're not moving it can be an additional seat for the living space.

Other small touches we added were this tabletop on my side of the bed. It helps to contain the air conditioner pipes and hides the hot water heater pipes. It's carefully designed to be the perfect width to hold my lap top and the cup of coffee Chris delivers to me each morning (what a guy!)

We also used 1.5" strips of cedar as moulding to help finish off the floor. It's a subtle difference but we love it! All of our moulding cost less than $6!

We also prepared by purchasing some roadside assistance through Good Sam. For just $80 a year we have unlimited: distance towing, lockouts, battery service/jumpstart, tire service and delivery, emergency fuel and fluid delivery, locksmith service and RV mobile mechanic dispatch. They'll also cover up to $1200 in costs if we have to spend a night somewhere that's more than 100 miles from our home due to a breakdown! From everything I've read, Good Sam is supposed to be a great service for school bus conversions and yes, they're aware we're not a "typical" RV. Hopefully we will NEVER have to use them!

Left on our list before we leave includes the following:
Secure everything
Restock groceries, cooking/hot water heater fuel
Checklist of bus things (fluids, tire pressure etc)
Mount passenger seat
Finish securing screens
Test water system (pump, tank, greywater storage)

Hopefully it's a smooth adventure and nothing goes wrong. Luckily, we both have some time off where if something does go awry, we will be able to make it work. One thing I'm certain of is that we will learn a LOT while on this trip and have a wonderful time. All we really need to be happy is each other and our dogs and building this bus made it possible to have all of those things while still traveling.

The last thing I'd like to reflect on is our one year anniversary with the bus.

The day we bought the bus

1 year later, what a difference
It's strange, in some ways it feels like we've been living in the bus forever, yet I can so vividly remember the day we brought it home. The way sounds pinged off of everything inside and that rubber musk smell that didn't dissipate until every inch of rubber was removed and metal painted. It was scary, it was exciting, it was so much work but it was SO worth it. We've never had so much pride in anything before and although it has some quirky uniqueness to it (like a bathtub next to the kitchen sink), it feels so much like a part of us. I don't know how long we will live in the bus or if it will have a "resale" value but I do know that I'll look back on this part of my life as a great, happy, loving time where we weren't afraid to do anything.