We Bought a Bus…Again!

You read that right and if you follow us on Instagram and Facebook (and you should if you are into this kind of thing) you are already aware that we bought a huge, beautiful, full-size school bus to replace our little 4-window that has been so good to us over the last few years.

How and Where did you find your new bus?

As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold in the United States, Rachael and I saw the writing on the wall that full-time travelers were about to have a rough time finding places to work, shower, and get supplies.We made a plan to retreat back to Oklahoma where we have a super supportive network of family and friends to hunker down with throughout the lockdown.

We knew that we would be extremely bored sitting at our parent’s or sibling’s houses with nothing to do, so we made a plan to start a project that we have dreamed about since we first bought our little bus. We scoured Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other online resources to find a bus that was long enough to accommodate our plans and that had a serviceable engine and transmission. We inspected a couple of busses before finding one that we liked in Lubbock, TX, approximately 500 miles and 7 hours of car driving away.

We loaded up a makeshift overnight vehicle consisting of a borrowed Chevy Suburban and an air mattress and took off for the Texas panhandle. We observed as many Covid-19 protocols as we were able and noticed that the majority of Texas was acting like the coronavirus didn’t exist. We made a deal on our bus and drove the two hours to Amarillo to sleep at a rest area. We couldn’t help but take a few photos in the lot.

What have we done?

We got on the road early the next day to make our way back to Oklahoma. I reached for what I thought was the headlight switch and nothing happens. As rain started to sprinkle on the flat windshield in front of me, I thought to myself that people drive in the rain without headlights every day, this will be no big deal. An hour down the road, the rain picked up to a pour and the driver’s side windshield wiper stopped wiping. Now I was driving a 16,000 pound behemoth of a bus down the Interstate at 58 miles per hour with no lights and no windshield wipers…these trips are always an adventure.

No lights, no wipers, no problem!

We stopped for lunch and to take a conference call a few hours in and decided to try and let the rain pass…PS, it didn’t pass. The rain kept falling and we kept trudging along at slow speed for the interstate crossing into Oklahoma. Traffic around Oklahoma City was a really unique experience and taught me a lot about the handling and weight of the new rig. Nearing Shawnee, OK the water temperature gauge started rising and the warning alarms starting ringing as I began to smell coolant coming from the doghouse. I pulled into a truck-stop to inspect the engine and found no obvious sign of failure, so I filled up the radiator and drove another 10 miles before the temperature started to rise again. Upon further inspection, I found a tear on a heater hose that was leaking a strong steam at this point. The rain had picked up to a cold deluge and darkness was getting close, so we parked the bus at a truck-stop and returned the next morning to fix it.

We returned the next morning, replaced the hose, filled it with coolant and took off for the 2 hour drive that was left between us and our destination. The bus ran solid on the rest of the drive and the temperature never moved once warmed up. We pulled into the bus’s new resting place for at least a few weeks and sighed a breath of relief that it made it in one piece. On a side note, the Cummins 5.9L 12-valve diesel got 10-13 miles per gallon on our return trip.

Why buy a new bus?

This is a great question and it has a few reasons that we have slowly been compiling for the last two years of traveling full-time in our shorty.

  • We Wanted More Room- We found a 4-window school bus is great for 2-week long trips down a forest service road or even for long-term travel when traveling is the primary concern. However, when you mix in the reality of having to work most days for at least a few hours the space becomes very small, very quickly.
  • We Wanted a Home Base- After traveling around North America for two years full-time we grew tired of how much work it was to have a weekly (much less, daily) routine that involved showers, work and a toilet. We found ourselves sleeping in our short bus, driving into town with our 4Runner and spending all day in town to get all of the errands done that we couldn’t do in our bus. The new bus will have a full shower and toilet as well as a separate living area from the bedroom.
  • We Wanted to Haul Our 4×4- This spring we drove both of our vehicles separately, our bus and ’86 4Runner, out West and frankly, we didn’t enjoy driving separately but we loved having a capable off-road vehicle to explore with and commute into town for supplies. We briefly considered flat towing our 4Runner but the wear and tear on both the toad and towing rig made this less appealing to us. Our short bus is not a powerhouse and we were not confident in it’s ability to tow our fat truck around safely.

What’s the Plan?

Our build plan is broken into a few phases: demo, infrastructure, and build out. In the first stage we will completely gut the interior of all panels and stock insulation and return the bus down to it’s metal framework. In stage two we will raise the roof 10-12 inches and remove most if not all of the bus windows, and build out a storage area for the 4Runner on the back half. Later in stage two we will skin the entire bus in sheet metal and add actual RV windows and insulation. In stage three we will build out the interior to resemble a typical camper or RV including running water, a solar power system, and fridge/freezer combo.

We haven’t decided on final details of the garage area, but ideas have circulated around a regular flatbed, half-enclosed like you see above, or fully enclosed with a garage door. We are working our way through the logistics of each and which one fits our travel style better. We will undoubtedly let you know when we decide on a design.

As always, we will be updating our social media channels first followed by detailed blog posts here and bi-monthly videos on our YouTube channel. Any support online is greatly appreciated!

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2 thoughts on “We Bought a Bus…Again!”

  1. I have to say that design leaves a huge amount of weight behind the rear axle. I doubt the bus is designed for that and you could be looking at a frame failure. After all that bus was designed to have a few people back there not a big SUV. Also that weight behind the axle will unload the front wheels and probably cause steering problems and maybe excess wear on the rear tires.
    I’m not a mechanical or automotive engineer but maybe you should consult one..

    Reply
    • Appreciate the comment and concern for our frame!
      The 4runner will park the front tires on top of the rear wheel wells and replace 10 seats (5 rows of two seats) that have seating for 2 football players each at 150 lbs each equals 3000 lbs plus the weight of the seats and roof gets us close to the 4000# mark of the truck. The welder doing the cuts is an engineer with 40 years of experience, so I will likely go with his advice if he thinks it will be safe, besides his daughter will be riding around inside so I don’t think he would design something that puts her in harms way. We are planning on adding some reinforcement for the sides of the platform on the back to insure no side-to-side flex either.

      Steering has been a concern with weight on the back, but we have planned for our water tanks, batteries, underbody storage boxes as far front as possible and a front bumper storage box should offset the weight nicely.

      Reply

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