Staying Dry and Warm – Winterizing the Bus

Living in a converted school bus in the Pacific Northwest can be cold, wet and damp if you're not properly prepared. We learned and are still learning through trial and error the best way to winterize our Skoolie for the season.

Making sure our bus-plants are getting enough sun; Putting up the tarp to cover the bus from all the rain.

“At the end of the day, this IS a School Bus. They were never meant to be homes.They were built to transport, not live in,” Charlie Kern pointed out at the Tiny House Living Festival. “None of these buses are perfect. Miss-matching parts, different manufacturers. They all have their own personality.” 

Each bus at the Tiny House Living Festival is as unique as it's owner.

Welcome to the Bus Life! It feels like camping, you're not quite home-less as much as house-less and whenever you feel like it, you tie everything down, button it all up, start the motor, and drive somewhere else. Can you say that about living in a house or apartment? 

Free camping spot overlooking a serene lake in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.

 

Freedom of the road! Adventure!

What happens when you're not on the road, and you start living the #HomeIsWhereYouParkIt instead of the #OnTheRoad #NoStress lifestyle?

What is the reality of #BusLife in a cold and wet climate such as the Pacific Northwest?

Well, it’s cold, dark, and can be extremely unwelcoming. The days are dreary and short; the sun rarely peeks out to release any warmth.

State Park camping spot in Oregon.

While it’s nice to be able to pack up our home and drive it anywhere, it’s also really nice to have a permanent spot to park, serving as base camp. It’s not always possible, money wise, to fill up the diesel tank and go. My fiancee and I have agreed that we want to park in the Northwest this season. Enjoying the downsized, tiny lifestyle, but not having the worries and stressors of the road.

From Beach Boys to Nirvana

One of the first pictures of the bus the day I bought it.

When I bought the Big Blue Bus in March of 2015, I doubt this 1990 Church Bus ever thought it would become a Tiny Home and drive almost 25,000 miles across 42 states in less than 3 years.

Living mostly full-time in the bus since then, I believe the best part of living in a school bus is the view!

The bus is currently parked among the trees in an old-growth forest, and I’m staring out one of the drivers side windows, watching tiny snow flakes falling all around. Ferns, pines, shrubs, moss, mushrooms, bugs and birds.

Sitting in the “dining room” area of the bus, I lean over into the “kitchen” area and grab myself a cold La Croix from the dorm sized fridge. I turn slightly to my right, still sitting down, and get myself a snack from the pantry, which doubles as a convenient head rest when I’m sitting at the table. It’s all about convenience and efficiency in our bus home.

We are about an hour’s drive north of Seattle, tucked away on a dead end street away from any major roads. The silence out here can be quite deafening. Being able to sit motionless, listening to and seeing nature right outside my home is magical. Year after year, I am happy that I did not remove any of the windows in the bus; my fiancee and I initially felt so closed in when we first had the tarp wrapped over the bus, covering the windows and our view. We felt like we were going mad when we did not see sun or anything outside of our windows.

Since then, we’ve strung a 20x30ft tarp over the bus, in order to shield the bus from the majority of rain and snow which we will continue to experience up here in the Pacific Northwest. It is so peaceful out here, I can hear the sound of the snow drops as they fall and land on everything. Not much has fallen, less than half an inch, but a layer of white covers the forest and surrounding landscape.

The first time the bus has seen snow since I've owned it.

Past Winters in the Bus

The first winter I spent in Florida, parked in my friend’s driveway. I stayed warm with 1 single electric space heater, which was right behind the driver's seat. It was enough to warm up the front of the bus to a comfortable 60 degrees or more, while it was in the low 40’s outside. For about a week, I considered buying another space heater that I would use in the back of the bus in the bedroom. The front one was permanently mounted, and not able to heat the 189 square foot space.

Parked for free in my friend's driveway in Florida.

Living in a bus in a driveway, my friends were gracious enough to let me shower in their house, as well as do my laundry. I dumped the waste tank into their septic system. “Wintering” in Florida was therefore not a problem at all.

 

Only source of heat the first two years. Next to a hot/cold water dispenser.

The second winter I spent in Vegas, parked on my parent’s property. While it can get blistering hot in the desert, it can also become incredibly chilly once the sun goes down.

Parked beside the house within a gated community, we thought it was best not to live full-time in the bus due to HOA regulations.

So during the day, I would spend my time in the bus, since it is my home, but once it got down into the 50’s and 40’s, I spent my time in my parent’s guest room. It was unnecessary to try and heat the bus up, when there is a perfectly heated up house right next door. The bus became more of hangout over the second winter. No problems with the bus.

Cutting some wood with my dad, for the Skoolie interior.

But this year! This winter I am legitimately living and wintering in the bus.

Home is Truly Where You Park It!

Mary, now my wife, moved onto the bus on September 1, 2016 and we have been living on it full time since then.

We started our journey in Florida, and drove to the west coast to attend the Tiny House Living Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Throughout the trip, we were networking and actively searching for places to park our bus for the next few months. We placed ads on Craigslist in both Seattle and Portland, hoping to end up somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

After attending the Tiny House Living Festival, we still had no idea where we would park the bus. We decided to extend the road trip, and headed down to the California Redwoods, which we both had never seen. From there, we headed north again towards Bend, Oregon to attend the Van Life and Bus Life gathering ‘Descend on Bend’, with hopes of finding a place to park. 

Hanging out with Jessica from BlueBusAdventure.

The weekend long event was a blast, and we connected with so many wonderful people. We also had our first taste of the Pacific Northwest Bus life: condensation on the windows, not enough solar power to charge the batteries and realizing we did not have an adequate way to heat ourselves.

remember looking at Mary with a concerned look, wondering if being up here would be a good decision. We both really wanted to park and live here, so we set out to make that happen, even if we knew there would be hurdles along the way. When aren't there any, right?

Welcome to Seattle!

Parked at one of the only campgrounds that would accept a Skoolie. Just outside of Seattle.

 

With no electricity and no way to heat ourselves, we bundled up with blankets.

The first night in town, we parked the Bus at an RV park so that we could use their shower facilities, charge our solar/interior batteries and finally have enough power to run our space heater to keep warm. The windows were wet with condensation and we needed to get the bus dried out.

We had 2 Damp Rid RV buckets in the bus, Damp Rid closet hangers, as well as a routine of wiping moisture off the windows. We still had nowhere permanent to park, but my fiancee had a work meeting in the morning. When she initially turned in her 2 Weeks notice, her manager told her to reconsider, to take the time off for the bus trip, and when she came back she would get a raise. The meeting in the morning was a “welcome back, when can you work?” check-in with her manager. It was important for us to be in town, even though we would be boon-docking around the city with no actual place to park yet.

The RV park we found was only 1 of 3 that allowed RV’s older than 10 years (some are 15) and being a converted bus for that matter. They unfortunately did not have another night available, and regardless, we did not have a car, we needed the bus to get around.

We left the RV park in the morning and parked the bus along a busy residential road as Mary got ready to head over to her meeting. It’s always an uneasy feeling to be sitting in our home, as cars whizz by right outside. It was a great spot to park though, and I saw 3 other RV’s in the vicinity. The only catch was that we would have to move by a certain time, when the road becomes so busy that they need that lane to be unobstructed so cars can drive there.

Sitting on the couch, parked in the city, I logged onto Craigslist to see if there were any RV spots available on someone’s property. I also researched “Driveway Hosts” on the VanAlert App, and was emailing back and forth with someone.

"Unfortunately, we don't have a space as big as your bus. I would love to help you, but that’s like 6 vans you're essentially bringing in with your bus size."

After her interview, Mary mentioned that her friend offered for us to park in her driveway, it’s plenty big. So we took off from the roadside spot, just in time for when the lane opened up for the busy traffic. 

Temporary street parking to figure out where we could permanently park.

Cars whizzing by extremely close as we get settled in for overnight parking.

At the house, I tried every which way to get the bus turned into the driveway to temporarily park and figure out our long term situation.

I was unable to get the bus into the spot next to the house. The bus was simply too big to make the turn (11 windows, ~34feet), making sure not to hit the house behind me, the cars in the driveway on my right, and leave the brick wall intact on my left. There was no way to fit.

At a loss of where we would park. It was a high stress and highly demoralizing turn of events. Coming from such a beautiful road trip, covering almost 4,000 miles in less than 2 months to being cold, wet, hungry and miserable feeling, trying to find a spot to park your one and only home. 

"Park where you can" is our motto. Suburb of Seattle.

We ended up driving the bus to one of the neighboring cities and parking along the side of a busy road, every other street taken up by apartment street parking. We had to fold the mirrors in, in case someone got too close.

The leaks in the windows were getting worse, and it was obvious we need to get the bus tarped soon. The next day we drove north and parked in a casino parking lot for 3 nights. We had a lead on a permanent parking spot, and we were getting ready to meet a couple that owns a few acres and would love for us to park with them.

 

Nature reclaiming this van and ancient television.

Check out:

Surviving Winter in a Skoolie: Number Juan Bus

Stuck in South Dakota | Staying Warm With a Wood Stove: Rolling Vistas

MORE WINTER RELATED ARTICLES

10 Essentials for a Comfortable Bus Life- Vapor Barriers, Preventing Mold, HyperVent material under mattress, bubble wrapping windows, curtains and more!

Thank you all for taking time out of your day to read about some of the challenges of living in a custom Bus Home.

Make it a wonderful day!

Articles By Skoolie Love

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Dear Bus Life Community,

Seeing the 3D visualizations and images of Australia on fire has rocked me. I have always been aware and supportive of efforts to resolve climate change but it wasn't until seeing a few of these images online that something inside of me awakened.

I'm writing all of you because out of all of this I've realized that the biggest thing each of us can do is create more awareness. One Instagram post by you on climate change could reach someone in your circle that isn't fully aware of the magnitude of the issue placed upon us. One conversation with a friend or family member or random stranger could get them thinking and hopefully get them to realize that we need to do everything we can to change what is happening to our little paradise in the unforgiving universe.

There is no bailout option from the universe. Once we're done, we're done.

I've also been thinking about my parents recently. My parents are amazing people with huge hearts that would do anything for anyone yet they don't reduce, reuse and recycle to the extent that I do and they buy cheaper and unsustainable things to make their dollar stretch further. Why? This has been a question on my mind for a while and I have finally realized that it's because they were never taught to. They didn't grow up in a world that is in the state that we are now. Nobody educated them on the effects of their daily routine. That lack of knowledge and education got passed onto myself and my two siblings. I didn't know any better because I was never taught. Sure, there was some light discussion of recycling newspapers and such but nothing about plastic, fossil fuels, over fishing and the impact that eating meat has on our environment.

So rather than blaming my parent's and older generations for the damage they've done to our planet I've decided to do two things to spread awareness:

1) I'm going to do my best to help educate older generations on how to reduce, reuse and recycle along with why it is so important to our existence. I am not going to shame or guilt them for what they may not have known.

2) I'm going to do my best to help educate younger generations on how to reduce, reuse and recycle because they are the future and if we can start to help educate younger generations, our planet might just stand a chance.

I'm also going to personally donate some of my own money to organizations that are doing everything they can to help with the situation in Australia. Not only are there Skoolie mates down under but there are humans just like you and I and I'll bet money that the more of them that survive, the more of them that will be 100% on board to help start making changes to help our climate get back on track.

Australia Fires Anthony Hearsey 600x400

3D Visualization By: Anthony Hearsey

Patrick Schmidt (our social media manager), his wife Mary and I have looked into organizations that we feel are the best options to donate to so if you're curious and want to donate as well then look into the three organizations below. I personally am donating to all three with as much as I can afford to.

NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund

NSW RURAL FIRE SERVICE

Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities

If you're like me and don't have much money to give, you can still make a difference in the bigger picture by helping spread awareness. Take your younger cousin, niece, nephew, etc. under your wing and help get them to start thinking about their future. Post about it. We live in a world were information can be spread across the entire globe at the tap of a button.

What are you doing or have been doing to help make a change? Maybe you're doing something I wasn't even aware I could do. I'd love to hear from our Bus Life Adventure community. Drop me a line: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I'll try my best to reply.

Much love,

Brock Butterfield @brockbutterfield
Founder - @buslifeadventure @thebusfair

Don't miss out on tickets for The Bus Fair 2020.

Presented by Bus Life Adventure

The dates for The Bus Fair 2020 were just announced and we've even added a whole new feature to the event. We're adding a whole additional day that is packed with nothing but seminars covering 7 different topics. You can see the whole list of seminars here but a few to mention are:

  • Solar System Design and Component Selection - taught by AM Solar
  • Metal Work / Fabrication / Roof Raises - taught by Chrome Yellow Corp
  • Planning and Building The Interior - taught by Yetibus LLC

June 19-20, 2020

Oakridge, OR


2019 Official Video

Tickets went on sale 11/25 and we've already sold over half of our VIP Camping and the limited seminar tickets are going quick as well. Seminar attendees get discounts on camping for both VIP camping and Camp 2, additional day tickets for friends/family and if you buy more then one seminar ticket, a discount is applied to both tickets making it that much more affordable to bring your partner in crime.

Learn from the best and save time and headaches in the long run. What's your time worth to you?

We predict the event to be bigger than last year and the small but beautiful venue of Greenwaters Park could sell out.

To get all the details about The Bus Fair head over to the website: https://thebusfair.com

The Bus Fair 2019 

Attendees toured 30 Skoolies at the 2019 Bus Fair.

The Bus Fair Attendees

Art and product vendors interacted with over 1,200 people during the one day event in 2019.

The Bus Fair Art Vendor

A local jewerly maker displays his work at The Bus Fair 2019.

The Bus Fair Family Friendly

Kids 12 and under got in free and were able to enjoy family friendly games while parents enjoyed local craft beer, cider, wine and spirits.

The Bus Fair Music Norm Coyer

Norm Coyer took the music stage and entertained the crowd all while battling a fever. That's dedication!

amazon publisher picture

Five years.

 

That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.

 

It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.

 

Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished―the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box―she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.

 

Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...

 

Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”

 

Borrowed from Amazon : "The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

My wife was browsing Instagram Tuesday night and came across a bus account (True.North.Bus) which had a caption about a new book they just came across and fell in love with.

A book about road-tripping in a converted yellow school bus? In an International 3800? THAT'S WHAT WE LIVE IN!

Mary went straight to Amazon to check it out and saw the hardcover was on sale for $11.72. She bought it immediately.

900skoolie love bus life coyote sunrise

Some books have changed my life tremendously and come around but rarely.

"Into the Wild" in 2007.
"The Alchemist" in 2009.
"Planetwalker" in 2013.
"Ishmael" in 2014.
"5 Love Languages" in 2016.

This is one of those life changing books.

“The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise” in 2019 (Buy Book**)

**While we are providing you with an affiliate Amazon link to buy this book, this is in no way a sponsored blog post, nor we are getting paid to promote this book. We genuinely love this novel and want to help the author sell as many copies as possible because he has written something amazing and heart warming. There are no other books like it. We smiled ear to ear as soon as we found it. It's a book about us!**

900mary reading The remarkable journey of Coyote Sunrise

Two days after ordering the book, it arrived. Mary tore open the packaging, cancelled all her plans, and started reading it immediately.

She started smiling to herself, only two paragraphs into the book. We recently started a fun routine of her reading stories and books to me, because she is a much faster reader than I am. She started reading out loud, until the first chapter was done. We were hooked immediately.

I started working on this article on my laptop in the back bedroom, while Mary continued reading in the living room. Every so often I heard her burst into laughter and a few minutes later heard her sniffle, because she was crying. Then she would laugh again and cry some more. She finished reading it a few hours later.

It is hands down one of the best books we have come across in the last few years. Not too many books have the power to move your soul like the story of Coyote and her dad Rodeo.

“Every mile of the road trip inexorably brings Coyote closer to confronting her past, and its inevitable sadness, but Gemeinhart avoids any sense of mawkishness. He tempers Coyote’s grief with her triumphant growth from a girl whose sole purpose is keeping her father on an even keel to one who realizes that she alone must find, and even fight for, her own happiness.” ―Horn Book

This story hits extremely close to (bus) home. We have not come across ANY stories that relate so much to us, as far as adventuring in a converted school bus is concerned. This is truly a story about US, Bus People, and really solidifies our slogan of "Driving the Miles, Delivering the Smiles."

900 skoolienation miles smiles coyote sunrise

Little Free Library #82563 - The SkoolieLove Bus

As a Christmas present to my wife, I registered our little bookcase in the front of our Bus as a "Little Free Library

The bottom two shelves are some of our personal favorites, and the top shelf is a "Take One – Leave One" for those folks we meet during our travels.

We have multiple copies of Into the Wild, The Alchemist, 5 Love Languages, The Shack, Nickel and Dimed, and The Last Lecture because we absolutely love those books, and recommend them to everyone. After reading about Coyote Sunrise, her dad Rodeo, and the friends they meet along their Bus Life Adventure, we cannot wait to fill up our shelves with as many copies as we can find once people catch onto how amazing this book is.

900little free library skoolielove coyote sunrise

"Sometimes, when you're on the road for a long time, and the highway is humming along underneath you and the sun is shining sideways through the windows and the world is blurring by through the glass, something magical happens. No. "Magical" ain't the right word.

"Magical" feels glittery and fake and cute. This feeling, the one I'm talking about is this: It's a rising up, like you're taking flight and leaving the road behind, like you're in a moment that somehow lifts up free from the rest of your life. In that moment, wherever you just were and wherever you're about to be don't matter one little bit; just for a few breaths, you're everywhere and nowhere, and you can feel your soul touching something big, some kind of truth that's hidden most of the time.

It's like the first time you ride a bike: All at once, out of nowhere, the wobbling world settles down to a thrumming harmony, there's a balance that goes down to your bones, a kind of balance you never knew was there until it came alive all around and inside you; the falling stops and the flying starts and everything just hums, everything just rings true. Its like that, this feeling I'm talking about." 

Quote from Chapter 17, Page 127

 skoolielove crying the moment

I have struggled, as a writer, to come up with the "right" and "perfect" words to explain that kind of feeling. And here it was, coming out of my wife’s mouth, as she read this passage out loud. I teared up, as that kind of moment was written exactly as I had felt it before, driving my own International Skoolie bus. The way the moment came together was perfect. Where had I been? Where was I going? Everywhere and nowhere, as I found a hidden truth.

free library coyote sunrise skoolielove bus life adventure

For Parents and Kids

For all current and soon-to-be Skoolie owners, dreamers, and adventure readers - this book is a must-read. A MUST READ!

For those parents who are un-schooling/Bus Schooling/Home Schooling, is this a book for your kids?

It is advertised as being a kid's book, written for ages 9 and up. The mom in the story passes away early, and is a main focal point of the story. The idea of losing a parent is going to be a tough subject for your kids. I do think that the story does an amazing job of explaining it, and has an overall happy and wonderful feeling to it. 

However, it's always a great idea to pre-read books like this, to make sure you agree with the message it might give your kids. I would definitely be prepared to have a talk with your child(ren) about questions that might arise about the subject.

Is there a chance you will cry throughout this book? Very likely. It's a book that will move you. 

You will love and cherish this book forever. We promise you that!

We are all Coyote and Rodeo, navigating the road of life, looking to find our own happiness. Some of us believe that doing it in a School Bus will help get us there faster. Well, slower, because it's a Bus.

Thank you Dan Gemeinhart for writing this story. For learning and having the ability to move us through your writing. We will all be better off for having read your novel.

900stay home liveedge coyote sunrise bus life

 Make it a wonderful day everyone!

 

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