Living in a Bus Step 12: THE BUS IS FINISHED!!!

My bus is finally finished!!! Well, it’s livable at least.  And I’ve hit the road on my first solo-road trip.  I’m driving across the west from Missouri to San Francisco, California, and then it’s off to Burning Man. My family had a nice party for me in which we set up everything in the bus.  And then I had another party to celebrate with friends.

37982001_10154802776767614_643977174340075520_o
Moving out of my parents house…..again. 

We had a blast picking out a name for the bus. I set up a little survey on and had my friends vote on a name.  The winner was Lovely Rita.

 

Naturally, I had to paint the name on the top before taking my trip out west. The paint job is pretty ghetto, so I’ll have to come up with something better.

39512477_10154840816117614_6041211701888548864_n

Now that the bus is finished, I’ve spent my first couple of nights in it. The futon is surprisingly comfortable. However, there are a few temporary solutions that I would like to sort out and make more permanent later on:

  • mini-fridge (I’m using a cooler at the moment until I can come up with a better way to power a small refrigerator.)
  • solar panels (my brother mounted a generator on the back, but my electrical needs are so low, that I’d like to have solar panels just to top off the battery.)
  • compost toilet (I made a compost toilet and I’ve only used it once. I’m not sure yet how I’ll like it. Eventually, I’d like to buy a proper one.)
  • gray water tank (In my haste to start my road trip, I forgot to install a gray water tank. I’m sure it’s against the law to let the water just run through the drain onto the ground. Eventually, I’ll need to fix this.)
  • shower (I bought one of those solar-heated shower bags that people use for camping. I haven’t used it yet, but I’ll try it out soon. It’d be nice to have a proper shower.)

I have plenty of time to invest in this bus, but one thing at a time. For now, I just need to get used to driving it and living in it. What better way than to take a 30 hour trip out west! Fortunately, I’ve got a great family cheering me on. And now my first road trip begins! Wish me luck!

38545819_10154815517467614_4271311024155525120_n
My nieces and nephew give their approval 
Advertisements

Living in a Bus Step 11: Safety First!

My bus is basically finished and I’m hitting the road in 3 days to go to Burning Man. Sometimes I do things a little haphazardly, but my safety is very important. I’m still in the process of finding a safe place to park where I won’t get towed or broken into. This might be the hardest step of all.  But there are other safety precautions worth thinking about. I found a great website that lists a lot of safety precautions for those dwelling in a camper van or motor home.

https://www.beerandcroissants.com/how-to-keep-you-and-your-campervan-safe/

I’ve gone through the list and checked off many of the important features as well as added a few of my own.

Get proper insurance

Getting the vehicle insured was a challenge. Many major insurance companies won’t cover converted vehicles. My personal insurance said they could provide it if I had the vehicle appraised and re-titled.  For convenience sake, I ended up going with my Good Sam membership and signing up for National General Insurance. The rates seem reasonable, and I’m relieved to have the vehicle covered properly, but make sure you read all the details. I don’t believe my personal belongings are covered.

https://www.goodsam.com/insurance/

Sign up for road-side assistance

Towing can get expensive. And I’ve already had to tow this stupid bus twice. I really don’t want to deal with a crisis while on the road. It was difficult finding road-side assistance. Triple A does not cover converted vehicles. Again, I went with the Good Sam Platinum Plan because they cover skoolies.

https://www.goodsamroadside.com/

Secure Belongings

Boy did I learn this one the hard way! One of my first trips into town was a disaster. My entire counter top fell over when I made a sudden turn. Thank goodness it didn’t damage anything but a few drawers. These were easily repaired. I’ve also had a few casualties come off the shelves and almost got hit in the head by my medicine cabinet when the door flung open. Make sure you’ve properly secured everything before you start driving.

Have a working smoke and CO2 detector

I bought a 2 in 1 smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. I plan on using propane to conserve my electrical needs, and if you want to do the same, having a working CO2 detector is a must! I’ll sleep better knowing it’s there for sure.

Have a working fire extinguisher

I have a fire extinguisher, but I need to test it out still. If you have one, make sure it’s in working order and up to date. It’s easy to overlook these things when you don’t anticipate using them.

Make sure all doors lock 

My bus has a lot of doors and the two back doors have no locking mechanism, so I bought a bicycle lock for one and some zip ties for the other to keep them locked.  Eventually, I can invest in something a little permanent.

Install an alarm system

I had an alarm system installed by Car Fi mostly for my own peace of mind. I’m more worried about my bus getting broken into than I am about my personal safety. There are several shock sensors on either side of the bus that set off an alarm anytime it’s messed with or someone attempts to open the doors.  I think I’ll sleep better at night knowing an alarm will go off in anyone attempts to break in.

Have professionals do the large jobs

I did a lot of my own work inside the bus such as the painting, floors, and furnishings. But as for the electrical and the plumbing, I relied on professionals. I read a lot about it and even watched some YouTube tutorials, but I’m glad I paid the extra money to have a professional do the work.

Park in a safe place

This is one step I’m still working out. I want to find a safe place to park that’s not violating any laws or going to attract a lot of attention. I’m worried about my bus getting broken into. I found a few useful websites that give advice about finding a place to park

https://www.tripsavvy.com/unique-places-to-park-an-rv-2912609

http://thevanual.com/sleeping-and-safety/

Trust your intuition

I’m a big believer in trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore that feeling. If you feel unsafe in a location, change locations. My bus adventure is just beginning, and I’m looking forward to the experience.

Happy trails and stay safe.

Living in a Bus Step 10: Furnishings!!!

The most fun I’ve had so far with this bus project was picking out the furniture and the decor. Though my standard of living is lower than most, I do need my space to be clean, tidy, functional, and cute, of course. I recently had a “bus-warming” party with my family and they helped me set up my furnishings and closet, and this is what I’ve got.

38433223_10154810872257614_3446338168410865664_n

I bought 3 larger storage ottomans off Amazon and 2 small ones to create a seating area in the back of the bus which also serves to store what few items I have. People keep asking me what I’m going to do with all my stuff, and I can’t help but laugh because literally all my possessions fit in the bus. If you haven’t given minimalism a try, I strongly encourage it.

38503201_10154810872297614_5541380690928467968_n

I bought this nifty recliner at a liquidation store for about $120. I love being able to sit in a comfortable chair when I’m working on my laptop, especially one that lets me put my feet up, but I can’t stand that Lazy Boy style recliner. This was much cuter and went with my color theme of neutral grays and blues.

38284447_10154810872132614_2883406906687225856_n

I found the futon at Walmart. I love the black leather. And it’s surprisingly comfortable. Currently, I’m using a sleeping bag and pillow, but if that sleeping arrangement gets old I can always invest in some proper sheets later on.

38411803_10154810872217614_1497756212530249728_n

I have to have my books. I found a small bookshelf (or what might actually be a plant stand) to fit in this narrow space.  My brother secured it to the wall so it doesn’t fall over when I’m driving. I keep the books in place with bungee cords.

38265795_10154810872192614_8304042524893249536_n

The original owner of the bus made this beautiful cherry wood counter top and I painted the cabinets a nice blue color. The counter top is by far my favorite piece of decor in the bus, and I get a ton of compliments on it. Decorating the bus was easy because I don’t need much. I have a few nice scarves that I’m currently using as curtains, some small accessories, and a few house plants and there you have it. Simple, but lovely!

Here’s a before and after shot. In the first shot my brother and I were just starting the floors, and in the second, my nieces and nephew are enjoying the finished project. It’s been a fun adventure, but I’m not entirely done.  There are a still a few small things left to do:

  • mount the generator to the back of the bus
  • secure the AC in the window so I don’t have to take it out when I drive
  • finish connecting the plumbing to the gray water tank
  • work out any other potential kinks
  • find a safe place to park
  • work out the legal details and insurance

And of course, I have to start thinking of name for the bus! More details to come.

Peace!

 

Three Weeks until Burning Man!

Pictured above are some of the people I’ll be joining for Burning Man. In less than a month I get to experience several firsts.  I’m going to Burning Man for the first time (which has earned me the nickname “burgin” by my travel mates). I’m also driving across the country by myself for the first time in a yellow school bus I’ve converted (mostly) into a motor home. The drive will take roughly 25 – 28 hours from Springfield, MO to Reno, Nevada (or possibly San Francisco) where I’m picking up my comrades. Well, I’ve got less than one month to prepare my bus, get packed, and plan for the worst.  Did I mention I’m also selling my house? Man, August is going to be a busy month!

So I’ve decided to compile a list of safety precautions to make my trip a little more organized and give my parents some peace of mind. Here’s what I have left to do:

Step 1: Finish the Bus

The bus is almost done!  I still need to have the generator and air conditioner mounted and a drain installed so I can use the water.  I haven’t gotten it properly insured as a motor home yet, and I’m not sure if I have to do that before I leave for my trip, but I imagine it’s a good idea. I talked to my insurance company (American Family) and they said in order to get it properly insured I have to get it appraised and then it have it re-titled as a motor home. Here’s a list of what I need to do before I leave for my journey west:

  1. double-check the tires and condition of the bus
  2. install a drain so my running water can work properly
  3. have the AC mounted
  4. have the generator mounted and theft-proofed
  5. get the bus properly insured as a motor home

Step 2: Sign up for AAA

I am not an automotive person, and twice already I’ve had to tow this stupid bus. Once because the starter needed to be replaced and once to replace the valve gauge connector. I really don’t want to get stranded in the middle of the desert with no one to contact. Unfortunately, my insurance company doesn’t offer roadside assistance, so I’m going to look into some options later this week. It would be nice to just insure the bus through one company that offers free towing should the worst happen, but Geico doesn’t cover converted vehicles. I might look into other options, but currently I think Triple A is the way to go.

https://www.autoclubmo.aaa.com/membership/why-join-aaa.html?area=vanity_join&zip=65897&stateprov=mo&city=springfield&devicecd=PC

Step 3: Pack and Prepare

This is my first time at Burning Man. Fortunately, I’ll be meeting up with a group of very experienced people who apparently go every year. The Burning Man website gives a lot of advice about surviving and packing.

https://burningman.org/event/preparation/

Since I’m technically living in the bus, I’ll pretty much have everything I need, but here are a few items and things to do according to Matador Network. Most items from this list I have covered, but i’m going to make note of the ones I still need to do.

https://matadornetwork.com/goods/ultimate-burning-man-packing-list-75-items-to-bring-to-brc/

  1. Printed out map
  2. A spare car key (and hide-a-key)
  3. A gas can and jumper cables
  4. A camp stove
  5. A bicycle
  6. A headlamp and goggles
  7. Glowsticks
  8. Costumes and art stuff
  9. Trashbags
  10. Lots of food and water to last the week and drive there

Step 4: Plan the Route

I think this will be the most fun step of all. I’ve never done a big road trip like this before and I’m eager to see some sites on my way to the Playa. So I’m setting up an itinerary to follow:

Untitled.png

I could take the fastest route north or make a slight detour and see Denver, which I’ve always wanted to see.  There’s also a more southern route that would allow me to tour Las Vegas and visit an old friend. I figured I could do one route on my way there and another on my way home. The possibilities are endless and I’m both nervous and excited!!!

Do you have any advice for me? I can’t wait to hit the road. Fingers crossed nothing goes terribly wrong!

Happy trails, y’all!

Living in a Bus Step 9: Internet, Security, and Other Details.

I officially have a date to move into my bus! But before I can start moving in the furniture, I had a few last minute details to take care of:

Air Conditioning:

So my brother and I made a redneck air conditioner out of of pickle bucket, fan, and frozen gallon of water. But I didn’t have a lot of luck with it. I got some advice, but even if I could get it to work, I just don’t think it’s going to keep my bus as cool as I need it to be in the hot summer months.

So I invested in an actual window AC unit from Lowe’s. It cost me about $129. The only problem is, it uses so much energy that I had to get a generator to be able to power it because my regular electrical system won’t do the trick. I’m okay with this and I happened to get a pretty good deal on a generator at a liquidation store.

36029553_1999266663466026_760853611105222656_n(1)

Generator

The generator cost me about $350. I still need to have the generator and AC fixed to the bus. The generator is too big to be mounted under the bus, so my brother’s going to help me build a cage and mount it on the back of the bus. There’s a lot of crime in my hometown, so we’ll need to make it theft-proof. The AC will need to be fixed in the window using a bracket of some kind. Again, I’ll be calling on the kindness of my older brother to help me with that.

37789537_10154796384437614_4919976743709704192_n.jpg

WIFI

So I looked into a lot of options regarding internet and I decided my best option would be to get a hotspot. I have service through T-Mobile, but unfortunately, they don’t have the best coverage. So I decided to get a hotspot through Verizon with unlimited data which will cost me about $70 a month. I can’t remember the last time I paid for internet. I hope this is a good deal.

Ellipsis_Jetpack_MHS900L

https://www.verizonwireless.com/internet-devices/verizon-ellipsis-jetpack-mhs900l/#sku=sku2400108?cmp=CSE-C-HQ-NON-R-AC-NONE-NONE-2C0PX0-PX-PLA-MHS900L&cvosrc=cse.google.MHS900L&cvo_crid=198345139852

Security

As I mentioned, I’m worried about crime in my city, so I went to Car-Fi and had an alarm system installed. I’m not worried about my personal safety so much as I’m worried about someone breaking in and trying to steal my stuff. I had Car-Fi install a radio, speakers, two shock sensors, and an alarm system. The alarm itself is fairly quiet and I’m not sure if I can adjust the volume. We’ll see.

3105v-1.png

So there you have it. I’m almost done.  Just a few more finishing touches:

  • mount the generator
  • mount the air conditioner
  • a few touch ups inside
  • install the drain

Next Step: the furnishings. And then I can move in!

 

Living in a Bus Step 8: The Bathroom: toilet, shower, and water

The plumbing is finally done! Well, mostly done. I still need to install a drain, but I have running water, at least. After a lengthy break from working on the bus due to a valve gauge connector that had to be replaced, I’m finally back on track. The plumbing was the last big hurdle. And this is the set up I’ve got:

The Sink

I bought the sink and faucet from Lowe’s. The sink was about $90 and the faucet was about $170 or so. I chose a sink that could sit on top of the counter because I wanted to put as few holes as possible in the beautiful counter top the previous owner of the bus had made.

36824579_10154768471627614_2107862085068128256_o.jpg

The Set Up

A friend who happens to be a plumber installed both the sink and faucet and then I ran into a problem. I had no idea how to hook up the water pump. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this project it’s the importance of thoroughly doing your research before you start something. I just assumed water pumps plug into outlets, but they’re a little more complicated than that. So, I bought a 12V water pump, returned it, looked into other options, then bought the same 12V water pump after talking to another friend who said he could hook it up.

37584954_10154788055222614_8593615658145546240_n

There were a lot of suggestions made about how to hook up the water pump. Apparently, the proper way is to have a wire running back to my breaker box which was located above the driver’s seat. I didn’t want to bother with running wires behind the wall, however, so I chose the easier route: hooking the wires up directly to the house battery. After talking to an associate at the RV Parts store I realized I would also need an on/off switch and some additional wires, as well as an in-line fuse in order to connect it to the house batteries. They just don’t really explain this stuff in the tutorials online.

37626375_10154788055377614_2352529346670886912_n

So my plumber came back and installed the rest of the set up along with the water pump and the 16 gallon water tank.

37592893_10154788055217614_4116598966349463552_n

Then the following weekend, my other friend helped hook up the water pump to the house batteries which involved putting an on/off switch in the cabinets.

 

After that, he hooked up the wires to the pump and ran them to the house batteries. Once everything was done we decided to test it out. We filled up the 16 gallon water tank I had purchased earlier and tried out the pump. And thank goodness, it worked like a charm. Don’t you love it when things work out properly? And I can’t tell you how grateful I am to my friends Yankton and Victor for helping me set this up.

37641068_10154788055517614_807041367283859456_n

The Toilet

Now, I’ve gotten a lot of funny looks from people when describing the compost toilet. In a nutshell, a compost toilet is not like a traditional toilet with water. In fact, it’s kind of like a glorified litter box. Basically, you separate the liquids from the solids, and dry out any solid waste with saw dust or some other drying agent. All the tutorials online swear that if done properly, there’s no smell. Now, I could buy a new compost toilet for around $1500.00, but I’m just not willing to spend that much money for something I’m going to poop in. So I built one using a pickle bucket, funnel, and plastic container. The goal is to use it as little as possible. If I visit public restrooms often enough maybe I won’t have to use it hardly at all. However, I’m determined to be both eco-friendly and independent in this adventure, so it will be used eventually. Here’s a video I made of me setting up the compost toilet. I posted this video on Reddit to get advice.

The Shower

So I had another problem regarding my shower. The space left in the floor for a shower pan was 26″ by 16″, or very small, in other words. I required a custom shower pan to be made because you can’t find ones that small. I talked to Lowe’s but their custom shower pan would’ve cost me $392! Fortunately, the same folks I bought the pump and plumbing parts from knew of a gentlemen who could make me one for $75. So after a visit to a small locally-owned business called Performaglass, I now have a perfectly-sized shower pan (not pictured). As for the water in the shower, I have a temporary solution. I bought one of those solar-shower bags, but I’ve never used one before, so we’ll find out how badly I’ll miss having a real shower, but like I said, one of the main points of this adventure is to live an eco-friendly existence and what better way than to use as little water as possible.

images

 

Everybody said the plumbing wouldn’t be complicated. Well, it was a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. It’s a good thing I like learning experiences. If I could do this over, I would’ve done my research a little better and probably would’ve done the plumbing before I did the walls and the painting and other cosmetics. So I’ve done a few steps out of order, and I scrambled to make this system come together. I’m nervous about how well I’ll adapt to the simple shower set up and the compost toilet, but what matters is that I’m happy and I can always invest in a different system later on.

What do you think?

Next step: a security system.

Living in a Bus Step 7: Insulation and Walls

I’ve passed the halfway done hurdle and I’m trucking along! The next step in my project is the insulation and the walls. Here’s what I’ve accomplished:

32756147_10154671770552614_150270477506445312_n

I added some reflective insulation to the walls by taping it into place. There’s gaps because I’m not terribly exact in my measurements. I mentioned this type of insulation on a Reddit thread and a lot of people said it wouldn’t do the trick. so I eventually bought some of the foam insulation and added it over the reflective kind. I sure hope it works.

32592862_10154671770712614_3245300842458251264_n.jpg

After laying down big sheets of plastic, I started painting the ceiling.  I chose a light blue color which everybody assumes is supposed to represent the sky, but it’s not. Eventually, I want to paint a world map mural on the ceiling, so the blue is actually supposed to represent the ocean.

32760133_10154671770417614_4349800735446138880_n

It doesn’t look like hard work, but man, my arms were tired after doing the ceiling. I also ended up with blue paint all over my hair and clothes.

32619783_10154671770402614_4416885573399085056_n

It’s hard to see on account of my crappy camera, but the ceiling turned out pretty well.  After painting the ceiling, I proceeded to do the doors and trim.  I followed a template with a color scheme called “Vintage Finds” because I’m going for kind of a Bohemian look. The trim is a pear color and the doors are supposed to be orange, but all the shades came out lighter than they were on the template, but that’s okay.

My six year old niece, Tori, insisted she help with the painting and she did a great job.

32750598_10154675149562614_6830389157727043584_n

Next up were the wall panels which were tricky, but my brother helped a lot. I chose a light gray color because I want the flooring to stand out more than the walls.

Cutting out the windows was no easy task.  I used a jigsaw which I couldn’t control very well and my cutting was pretty sloppy.  Fortunately, weather stripping works as great trim around the edges.

I’ve done a lot of the work myself, but some tasks were more difficult than others. My brother did all of the drilling when the screws had to go through metal because no matter how hard I push, I couldn’t get them to go through. Curse these weak arms! So my brother drilled many of the wall panels into place along with the shelving.

I was, however, able to put up the medicine cabinet.  I sure hope it doesn’t come crashing down on my head while I’m driving.

34016874_10154695100487614_2471270774200074240_n

Now that the wall panels are done, I’m currently working on the trim pieces to cover up some of my mistakes. Once the trim is in, I can’t start putting in my furniture, but I have one more big hurdle to jump before I’m completely ready to move in: THE PLUMBING!!! And my brother and I are going to attempt to do it ourselves.  Wish me luck!