Blue Bus Adventure

 - Just over 100 square feet of converted living space in this 1988 Mighty Mite Thomas school bus. The bus sits on a Chevy P30 chassis with a standard late 80's Chevy 350 motor. Originally used to move a family from Idaho to Nevada, the bus now is being transformed into the ultimate skoolie conversion with a dance floor on top the roof, pot belly wood stove, bamboo hard wood floors and LED light strips inside the bus that accompanies a killer sound system for those spontaneous dance parties.

The goal is to have a sustainable home on wheels for Burning Man and other music festivals. They've kicked around the idea of opening the bus to the public as an AirBnB or VRBO in beautiful Lake Tahoe where they currently reside. How cool would that be to stay in a converted school bus just a short walk from the shores of Lake Tahoe?

We got a hold of Nick to ask him a few questions about their conversion. Enjoy the interview and photos! Hover over the photos to make them interactive with details and facts.

Bus Specs:
-Make - Thomas Built “mighty mite” originally 33 seater 
-Model - Mighty Mite
-Motor size and type - Thomas is built on a super common Chevy P30 chassis. Its got the your standard late 80s Chevy 350 carbed motor under the hood so just about any auto parts store carries what we need. Very convenient to say the least.
-Year - 1988
-Length - I’m not 100% sure on this, but approximately 30-32 feet in length
-Interior Square Footage - Just over 100.7 sq feet of space, not including stairs and driver’s seat area. 
-Purchased From/Location – Private Owner; Yerington, Nevada. The previous owner trekked this bus down from Idaho and essentially used it as their U-Haul to move down to Yerington. 
-Name Of Bus – Thomas
-Owners - Nick Cahill and Jessica Perez
-Conversion Status - In Progress
 
Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.
My girlfriend, Jessica, and I were originally looking for a trailer to take to Burning Man 2015. We attended last year’s burn, and quickly realized we wanted to have our own adventure mobile to gain some independence from sharing a trailer/sleeping space at Burning Man. In January 2015, we were browsing Craigslist with a buddy, when he excitedly proclaimed, “Dude, you guys HAVE to get this bus! It’s so perfect!” Thankfully, the bus was only a few hours away from Lake Tahoe, NV (which is where we live), and the price was unbeatable, $1,500. Within 18 hours of discovering the bus on Craigslist, we purchased it, (for cheaper than the advertised price), and drove it home. It was one of the most sporadic decisions Jess and I had made, and in addition - it’s also our first major joint purchase together as a couple. We were beyond ecstatic to begin building our tiny home on wheels. After countless hours of researching “tiny homes” and “bus conversions” we had a vision for our bus layout. Jessica had pumped out a few different layout options and we quickly started brainstorming everything we wanted inside.

 

 
Who is involved or part of the crew with Blue Bus Adventure?
Jessica and myself are the owners, we split everything 50% down the middle. The bus was our first joint purchase together and we couldn’t be happier. We consider this the “love bus” and have already received help from close friends and family. Everyone wants to be involved with the bus in some way, whether its help with layout planning or building. We’re quickly growing a social media following and everyone around us is super willing to lend a hand because they love the project and the idea so much. It seems people can vicariously live their dreams through us and our bus.

 

 

What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?
Materials so far have been a laundry list of items. We’re actually keeping very specific track of every dollar spent and screw used, which we think will be pretty cool stats once we grow a bigger following and more articles/blogs start posting about us. So far though, most of our materials have been purchased at Ace Hardware (i.e., interior paint, screws, etc.) and we purchased plywood from our local store. As for upcycling, Jessica’s mom gifted us this rusty old pot belly stove that required sanding. We will also have a fully reclaimed wood dash in the bus made, from a local friend of ours: https://instagram.com/tahoewoodcraft/
 

 

 Hover over the photos to make them interactive with details and facts.

 

 

 

What are your future plans with the bus?
We would love to just hit the road and make our travel dreams come true. As you guys know, that isn’t exactly easy to just go ahead and drop everything and do that, but we’re determined… and we will! The overall plan is to finish the bus before Burning Man (August 30, 2015), and make it a sustainable place to take extended road trips in. We aren’t sure if we want to straight up live in the bus long-term, however for the time being, we hope to perhaps Airbnb it as a unique vacation rental. This bus will also be equipped with a storage/party roof deck. We wanted to have an elevated space that we could hang out, set up an additional tent, and enjoy the views. 
 

 

 

 
I just landed the cover of National Geographic for my night photography, so we’re brainstorming ways to incorporate my photography and videography skills with the bus. We have bigger plans for this bus than to simply take it on road trips and Burning Man. We are hoping to connect with younger generations to help educate them that they don’t need a lavish lifestyle to be happy, but rather living more simply will allow for more freedoms. 

 

 Nick recently landed the cover of National Geographic with this amazing photo.

Walk us through your kitchen setup (stove, sink, water source, etc.) and what items you're using (make, model if applicable).
For our kitchen, we’re keeping it simple with no plumbing. As you guys know, it adds a lot to the build, so we’re thinking we will go this route for our “sink/cleaning area” 
 
We’ll probably do a 20-50 gallon tank on the roof deck that will be gravity fed into the sink as we need it. We aren’t opposed to the idea of plumbing, it’s just not a priority for us at the moment. 
 
For a shower, we’re going to go with one of our supporters products. Nemo makes this really rad pressurized shower that’ll be perfect for all of our adventures.
 
For our stove, we knew we wanted something that was removable so we could cook outside as well as inside, but we didn’t want to be subjected to a little jet boil/backpacking setup. So we went the Camp Chef route. The little stove/oven combo so far has been amazing. We were able to bake cookies and cook eggs pretty much at the same time, and the price isn’t bad either.

 

How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?
Our sleeping arrangement is inspired by Hank:
 

 

 

The main convertible bed is slightly larger than a queen sized mattress. In addition to that, we’ll have either a futon or a couch that should seat 2-3 and/or sleep 1-2.  So in theory we should be sleeping ~4 people comfortably. Once the party roof deck is built, we can also throw a tent on top for additional sleeping space. The bus is really built with intentions for just us two to sleep, but we know we’ll have plenty of friends join us on our adventures, so we’re making space for them. 

 

What is your power source? (make and model of items your using).
Currently we're reaching out to various companies for sponsorships and partnerships for our electrical power. We originally wanted to go the Goal Zero Yetti route but dug deep enough that we figured since we’re doing a totally custom tiny home on wheels... we should just build a larger, faster charging, and more efficient system ourselves. The goal though is two solar panels on the top of the bus, tied into a battery bank that’s also linked to the motor. So if our battery(s) die…say in a two week storm in Haines, AK... we can fire up the motor and recharge the batteries, as well as charge them while we drive.
 
We will have 120v power outlets for laptops, camera batteries, a blender and Jessica’s LED hoop. We will also have a ton of USB outlets all over the place for anyone to recharge their smaller devices. Everything will be wired up into a circuit breaker.
 
Our lighting will be somewhat inspired by Hank as well, we’re going to have LED strips down both main rails on the sides, white and RGB strips that will be on a controller. We want to have the ability to have a straight up dance party whenever and wherever we want.
 

 

 

 

What is your source of heat if any? (make and model of items your using)
We’ve been gifted this beautiful little antique potbelly stove from Jessica’s mother. So that’ll be our main source for heat when we’re not using the original bus heater. 
 
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)
@BlueBusAdventure on Instagram, and when we can get around to building a basic blog/website www.bluebusadventure.com
 

Bellingham By Bus

 - This 1992 Bluebird sits on top a GM P30 chassis with a powerful 6.2 L GM/Detroit Diesel. Zach and Shauna had fallen into the "American Dream" or nightmare if you will, and found themselves trapped in the 9-5 grind with Zach taking on college at the same time because that's what society expects them to do. Shauna mentions in relation to her job as a teacher, "...what if you do complete college and that happiness you were told would come didn't..as in my case?"

The two reached a breaking point and after Zach stumbled upon the idea of converting a school bus into a small home, they were hooked. To have their freedom back and explore the great country that we live in from a skoolie seemed like the cure for their routine of go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. 

The road is a magical thing and opens up so many opportunities and creates experiences and stories that many of us will never get to. As I read through their answers to the questions for this blog post I knew that they felt the same thing I did before converting a bus into a Tiny Home on wheels. Enjoy this amazing bus conversion and geek out on the massive amount of wood work they did. 

Bus Specs:
-Make: Bluebird/GM
-Model: Schoolbus on P30 chassis
-Motor size and type: 6.2 L GM/Detroit Diesel
-Year: 1992
-Length: 24 ft
-Interior Square Footage: Unsure
-Purchased From/Location: Advertised on Craigslist, purchased in Kansas City, MO
-Name Of Bus: Lady Buster
-Owners: Zach and Shauna Flemming
-Conversion Status: in progress...just need to finish shower.

Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.

Honestly, Zach came up with the whole idea.  I was working as a teacher aide and he was attending college in pursuit of a Environmental Biology degree.  We were living in a small town in IL, the state we were both born and raised, but never felt truly connected to. Neither of us were happy. I love working with children, but the anxiety and stress that comes from working a 9-5 (7-3..same deal) job was so overwhelming that I found little joy in much else. All I thought about was work. The constant thoughts of, "Should I go to sleep now so I have enough rest for tomorrow?", "I'm not tired, but I have to be up in three hours!", "Will (insert child's name here) have a good day tomorrow?, "Will he/she bite,spit,pee,smack,or kick me?".... kept me up so many nights.  

Zach was also unsatisfied with his schooling.  After five years in the Army he was medically retired.  He decided to go to school right away...because isn't that what he's "supposed" to do? At least that's the crap we'd always been given.  "Go to college, earn a degree, and life will be grand." Well, what if college isn't for you...like in my husband's case? Or...what if you do complete college and that happiness you were told would come didn't..as in my case?

Our routine was also dull.  Wake up, go to work/school, come home, eat, watch tv, go to bed. At 25 and 27 we had already fell into an old, married routine. Something we swore to never do.

Finally, one day my husband had enough.  He is amazing when it comes to research and once he gets his mind set on something...it's full force until he has completed what he set out to do. After stumbling upon the idea of skoolies, he was hooked.  We fell in love with the freedom of living on the road, of completing a challenging task such as renovating a bus on our own, owning our own house... at a much cheaper cost, and being able to meet new people and experience places we'd never been before.

Who is involved or part of the crew with Bellingham By Bus?

- Bellingham by Bus includes myself (Shauna) my husband, Zach and our two dogs Charlie and Buck. I handle the social media involvement of Lady Buster (Instagram, email, FB), while Zach is in charge of the renovations.  For a month (May-June) we also had my 17 year old sister-in-law with us on the road, but she has since left.

What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?

-We tore out all the old insulation from the ceiling and floors and replaced it with 1.5 inch polyiso insulation for the ceiling and 3/4 inch foil backed polyiso insulation on the floors- all purchased at a local Menards. To hold the floor insulation in place Zach created a frame out of Cedar 1 x 2 boards purchased from Menards.  One of the smartest things we did in the rebuild was adding the new insulation. It helps tremendously with temperature regulation.

(This is how Lady Buster looked before we started any renovations, how we bought her)

 

 

 

- Man.  We used a ton of wood.  We wanted our home to have a nice open, homey, country feel so we stuck to all natural woods including: cedar for shelving, pine for shelving and ceiling, aromatic cedar for bathroom, live edge walnut and reclaimed oak for counter and trim, bamboo and maple flooring, hard maple bench, wormy chestnut as an accent on bed front and cherry on the wall by the passenger seat.  We used left over flooring from my parents kitchen remodel when we ran out of flooring.  We used some of the same flooring on the outside bathroom wall to save cost.  The same for the front wall coming into the bus.  We used leftover aromatic Cedar that we placed inside of the bathroom for odor protection, to the outside wall.  Zach created a wonderful kitchen counter from reclaimed wood and epoxy and utilized an old door found in my parents basement to add a small pantry inside of the bus.  To hold the food in place he used bungee cords.  All flooring and tile we plan to use for the bathroom was purchased from a Habitat for Humanity Resale shop.  The bead board for the ceiling, framing for the walls, plywood for the subfloor, and some wood used for the shelving were purchased by us at a local Menards while the rest was upcycled wood from my Father's carpentry projects. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Another helpful item for temperature control with Lady Buster are the curtains.  With 11 side windows, and two large front/back windows total, we decided to make our own curtains rather than purchase that many.  With some help from this amazing little tool called stitch witchery I was able to make our own curtains from some clearance aisle light blocking curtains and some fun fabric.  I also decided to make our bench cushion out of a cheap Amazon memory foam padding, backing, and pet durable material purchased at Walmart, rather than spend a ton of money on one.

 

-For the bathroom Zach created a composting toilet.  He used a 5 gallon Walmart bucket to act as the composting toilet placing a funnel inside to separate the excrements. He then built a custom cover to hide the bucket and to be more aesthetically appealing.  

 

 Hover over image above to make interactive. Click on icons to learn more.

What are your future plans with the bus?

-To live in, and enjoy her.  We are still working on future plans.

Walk us through your kitchen setup (stove, sink, water source, etc.) and what items you're using (make, model if applicable).

-The sink is made from a 18" galvanized feed bucket, from the local farm store, and then fitted with a standard 3 1/2" sink drain. To fill in the height difference and so water could completely drain, Zach added a two part epoxy until level with the drain.  The faucet is a 1/2" copper pipe with a U bend with a ball valve at the base.  Water supply is through 1/2 " pex to a shurflo pressure tank, which is supplied by a shurflo on demand water pump.  Storage is in a 30 gallon freshwater tank inside of the bus with a 40 gallon tank underneath the bus for waste.

 

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We do not have a stove within the bus.  We have a few portable items we use to cook with. One being a Coleman cooktop for cooking inside we we have to, but we'd rather cook outside.  For outside cooking we use a Biolite Grill and a small Weber Grill.

How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?

-So far we've had 5 people sleeping in here at once (sitting in the bed as we speak), but that was a fun night and not a very comfortable sleep.  We have one queen size mattress that my husband, myself, and the dogs sleep in.  We also have a 6 foot long, 2 foot wide bench that with the homemade bench cushion is very comfortable.  From May-June that is where my sister in law (zach's sister) slept while she was part of Bellingham by Bus.

Queen size bed setup.

What is your power source? (make and model of items your using).


-For electricity we also added two 160 watt Grape Solar panels to the roof of Lady Buster.  Those panels are controlled by a 30 amp Morningstar solar controller which chargers two 160 aH 12 V Napa golf cart batteries wired in parallel.

 

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What is your source of heat if any? (make and model of items your using)

-Heat is interesting.  We have three queen size comforters we utilize as well as our winter gear when needed.   We have also been using a Mr. Heater Big Buddy Portable Heater.  It allows for one or two small propane canisters to be used at once, or you can purchase a hose extension so that larger propane tanks can be used.

What has been the hardest part about living in the bus?

Mmmm... this is actually harder to answer than I thought.  I honestly do noy have an answer for the living in a school bus part... but while on the road the hardest part for us by far is being away from family.  We experienced two family deaths while on the road and it made us truly appreciate for the loved ones we have and the time we have to spend with them.  But as for living in a bus...we love it!

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

- Instagram:@bellinghambybus

-Blog: bellinghambybus.wordpress.com

-Facebook: www.facebook.com/bellinghambybus

Here are some current photos of the bus.