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Happy Monday! I am super excited to share this guest blogger’s story with you! Everyone, let’s give a warm welcome to Sharon Butler! Sharon is a blogger at DeeplyRootedLife.com, where she writes about her adventures of faith, family, love and life. She is a 50% crunchy, 100% abnormal mom of seven beautiful and intelligent children whom she homeschools, and she dreams of traveling the Americas in a converted school bus, ending slavery and introducing others to the love of her life, Yeshua. Please see more great articles from her at her blog, DeeplyRootedLife.com.
Some people buy sports cars… I bought a school bus
When I was preparing to turn 40, I guess I became aware of my mortality, how little I’d accomplished in my four decades, and how different my life had turned out from how I’d always imagined.
I’d always wanted to travel. I was a foreign exchange student in high school and I had a dream of traveling the country after finishing college… working for a year in one city before moving to the next. Seemed like a good way to spread my wings, add adventure to my adult life, to embrace the world and really live.
Instead, I stayed in Texas and did the practical thing… I got a real job. I had a boyfriend, I had student loans… and so quickly, my dream of travel and adventure flew away like dandelion seeds on a breezy summer day.
In a blink, 20 more years passed by. Those seeds were far from my fingers, probably planted and uprooted in some other young woman’s heart.
So when 40 crept up on me with no dandelion dreams left in my heart, I knew I had to do something.
I know some people buy sports cars or change careers, but I bought a bus-a big yellow school bus.
Why a Bus?
Well, when a person buys a bus it’s often for one of these reasons. For us, it was a little of all of it.
1. They’re cheap(er). Or they can be. We were able to buy our bus for about $1000 from a bus company where retired buses go to die. The bus was in remarkably great shape. It needed tires and a gasket or something but was very well maintained by the school bus company. It had only 87,000 miles on it, which is like nothing for a diesel. *Note: We got a steal of a deal–not everyone does.
2. They want to make something custom. For us, this was as important as cost. As a family of nine, finding an RV that can sleep our big family was probably not happening, but building out a bus allowed for some creative space management, including two sets of bunks (one bunk bed can even convert to a double crib with a gate), two camper sofas that convert into full-sized beds, and a queen bed in the rear.
3. They’re safer. A wise bus build out can create an RV that is significantly safer than any RV. RV walls are typically made of plywood coated in a sort of plastic. In an accident or a rollover situation, they don’t perform well. Buses, on the other hand, have to abide by some very strict safety rules (via the federal government regulations for school buses). As a result, these suckers can survive a lot. Rollover? No problem. Aside from some scratches and minor dents, you may be able to tip it back over, clean up your spilled popcorn and sodas, and get back on your way pretty quickly.
4. Bus owners are, well, a little a) extreme b) eccentric c) adventurous d) abnormal. Take your pick of descriptor, but anyone who buys a schoolbus to convert, fits at least one, and possibly all of, the above descriptors. And that’s really ok with us. Being normal is not that much fun anyway.
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The Challenges of Converting a School Bus
Now, don’t get me wrong! Converting a bus isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not without its challenges. For starters, literally the very beginning, getting it home after buying it was an ordeal. You can’t get a temp plate in our state to drive home a bus, so do the math… there’s only a few options and they vary in risk and expense.
Next comes tearing out those seats, and that can be a total nightmare! My husband has some pretty hefty tools and it was still a big job!
But wait! There’s more! The floor must come up, any rust must be repaired, the floor plan requires tiny house creativity, knowledge of the underside of the bus, and architectural design know how. Or you just fake it and hope for the best.
We were able to score a barter deal with an RV company for credit on parts which was amazing. We found nearly new sofa beds in stock and discounted, ordered bathroom fixtures, a back-up camera, and an awning. We bought a chest freezer because apparently that is how it’s done. They save on energy and keep things cool longer, plus adding a thermostat can convert it to a fridge. Clean, black and gray water tanks had to be built into the underside and for that you must be a welder.
My husband can build almost anything and has experience in so many fields that helped with this project and it was still just a lot of work and tinkering.
Then we also had to paint it. Back to the wonderful group of Skoolie Converters online for help! Tractor paint was recommended and we used a paint sprayer and got the job done in just a couple hours.
Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Skoolie Project
It’s been about a year of converting our Skoolie in our spare time, and it is still not quite road-ready. It’s a much bigger project than we originally realized, and I didn’t think we entered this world completely ignorant of its complications.
Nonetheless, I wish I had gotten a list of what would be required to pass state inspections in advance. I wish I’d known the complications of registering a bus so we could get it on the road. I wish I’d known that insuring it would be more difficult and that only a few companies would touch it. I wish I’d known I’d have another baby that would be tying up my free time making me a lot less available to help on the project… as a good friend says, “if wishes were fishes,” but they aren’t.
Still, we love our Skoolie! It’s perfect for our odd not-so-little eccentric family. And while we can’t start our cross-country adventures just yet, I’m living my dream, midlife crisis averted.
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Have you ever done a DIY project this big? If so, tell us about it!