Video Walkthrough and A Second PodCast Interview

Finally got a video up after many requests! You can now see our skoolie with all of our stuff in it. Also, after you watch the video, be sure to listen to our interview with Wardeh at the Know Your Food Podcast. The player is embedded below.

Here’s my oldest giving a tour on her iPod from her perspective.

Here’s the pod cast. Please have a listen! We talk about preparing food, how we like living here, and more.

Skoolie Interior Looking Front

The Day Has Come…

I apologize for our lack of presence here for a while. Turns out moving into a bus took quite a bit of time to get everything situated (more on that in future posts), plus we were having wonky internet and were lucky to catch small bits here and there. We have been in the bus almost two months–hard to believe! But for now, I would like to share about the last days of construction.

I’ve told you before how we lived next to the best neighbors in the whole wide world, perhaps I haven’t, but we really did. In fact, that was truly the saddest part of leaving our old home. Anyhow, when our house sold sooner than we anticipated, our neighbors agreed to let us park the bus in their back yard and have full access to their shop and tools to finish the conversion. I know, right?! This was around early October at this time and we made a written agreement (they’re wise, too!) to be out of the yard by January 10th. It seemed like we wouldn’t take nearly that long, but of course, money runs out and time is short, and before we knew it January 10th was sneaking up on us. Thankfully, our neighbor was more than willing to extend our stay as long as we needed it really, but we did not want to outstay our welcome and decided we needed to work double time to get out of there asap. Every free second was spent working on the bus from that time on, and it’s amazing how much we accomplished in a short amount of time.

My last post was on January 4th and we only had in a kitchen (no plumbing), closets, kids’ bedrooms, and our bed. By February 2nd, when we began moving in, everything was (mostly) complete including plumbing, bathroom, shower, couches, and a bunch of little things.

Skoolie Couches

Our couches are made with some foam that I measured and cut with an electric kitchen knife and then upholstered to 1/2 inch ply. Fits nicely into the framing Ant made. Yes, I know the fabric is light, but it was free since I had it on hand. I’ll recover when necessary. There are storage compartments under the seats. Seatbelts to be installed at a later date.

Girls and Their Tools

Ant gave the kids a lesson on using a nail gun. Here the girls are (frills and all!) nailing in some molding.

Skoolie Looking Back

Ant made me some built in shelving in the wall that separates the kitchen and shower. I don’t think I’ll be keeping the caulk in there though. Also notice my GIANT kitchen sink. Yes!

Shower in the Skoolie

Shower is 42″ long. Ant can actually sit down and take a bath if he wanted to. That’s the water heater hanging on the wall. It was not supposed to go there, but ended up being bigger than we realized and so we bumped the wall out to accommodate. It actually makes more room for dressing. Don’t worry, we added curtains. The shower is located directly behind the kitchen.

Toilet Room in Skoolie

I really ought to get a new pic of this since it was dark outside when I took it, but you get the idea. It’s small in there and difficult to get a pic. Here you see the sink Ant made out of a small mixing bowl at Target ($15 vs. $90 RV sink) and part of our really cute mirror. The counter is made of ply and lots of Polycrylic. And, yes, we have a door on this one. :)

Skoolie Murphy Bed Down

Here’s the Full Murphy bed when it’s down. It’s very simple to put up and take down and not a big deal at all to do every day. Just part of the routine of making a bed. On the right you can also see the open shelf Ant put up in the kitchen. It may be converted to cabinets eventually.

Skoolie Interior Looking Front

Here’s the table out of the way and placed in the kitchen.

Finally, we are ready to move in. First things are that we need to get curtains up, move in the furniture and start figuring out where to put everything!

We did not end up at the church property like we thought because permits are still not coming through, so for now we are on Ant’s mom’s extra property with the gardens. It’s actually going to be a blessing. Now we will have fresh eggs and a small piece of land to garden this summer, plus family to enjoy!

Murphy Bed Up

I Can See the Light at the End…of the Bus

We are so close to move in! I am getting so excited and anxious, and really just want to work for the next two weeks without sleep so we can be done. Well, not completely done. We plan on moving in once we have all the major things in place. Since we are not taking on any debt to build this bus we can only purchase supplies as funds come in. More or less, we have around $400-$600 a month in our budget to purchase things we need. Once it’s gone, work ceases.

Because of the way our funds are working, we had a very slow month in December with the holidays and two of our childrens’ birthdays.  Our latest goal was to move in at the end of December, but it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen. Though I was sorely disappointed, I know that God’s timing is perfect, so we will diligently press on and eagerly await.

We had some wonderful friends donate some angle iron to us, which Anthony cut up and welded into frames for our Murphey bed and the couches. Pics to come of the couches soon. The bed frame is installed and currently awaiting me getting the mattress put together, some framing, and a more secure latching system. ;)

Murphy Bed Frame

Angle Iron welded to make the frame. Works on a locked bolt pivot.

Murphey Bed Up

In the up position. Will have framing and some latches soon.

After a long time deliberating over stain colors for our cabinets, we ended up with black. For some reason the other colors weren’t working for me and the original red oak was too pink to just seal and leave. Although I like the black, it appears that we are going to end up with a more modern look than I had in my head. At least we won’t be able to see stains as much.

Kitchen Cabinets Stained

Kitchen Cabinets Stained

Lastly, here is a night-time view of the kids’ bunk area. We installed dividers between the beds that will eventually get painted something fun to suit each kids’ personality.

Kids' Bunk Room

This is looking through the doorway into the kids’ bunkroom. These beds are built on top of the engine. There are three beds total. One bed on each side of the one in the middle seen here, with storage built underneath the foot of the beds.

This weekend we tackle the bathroom!

kitchen and floors

A Place to Park!

November was not as productive as we would have hoped. It was a busy month. Originally, we hoped to be finished by November’s end, but it just wasn’t to be.

Here’s what we’ve been working on:

1. Painting.

Specifically, this has been my big project. Covering that green bus ceiling has not been easy. It seems to take about 4 good coats. This is tiresome when you are working just a foot or so above your head and are looking up the entire time. Needles to say, it’s taken many hours of painting to get it to this point. The walls are paneled with thin wood (I’m not sure what it’s called). If we had the money, we might have used RV paneling, but we didn’t. Hopefully, we won’t have any issues with moisture. We primed it with BINZ and will be painting the walls a nice neutral color.

Kids Bunk Primed

Here you can see the extension we added to what was originally built to be our bed. We added this extension to make the bed area longer. Our bed was going to be parallel with the back of the bus, but the kids will be sleeping side-by-side, parallel with the side of the bus. We painted the ceiling and have primed the bed and walls.

2) The Kitchen.

We parked the bus at Lowe’s and loaded the kitchen cabinets right in. They are unfinished, and I’m not sure what finish I want them in yet. Overhead cabinets or shelving will go in above this.

Anthony has the cold water plumbed in and the propane connected to the stove.  We need to purchase our hot water heater and shower before he can finish the plumbing.

Countertop and cabinets

Here is a shot at some of the kitchen cabinets (still unfinished) and the new counter dry fitted on top. This is where the sink will go.

3. Finishing the Floor.

Anthony has the entire bus floored with the leftover laminate flooring we had from our house. The only exception are the entry stairs. I’m not sure what we will do about that yet.

kitchen and floors

You can see the kitchen here on the right. We will probably put some overhead cabinets or shelving above as well. To the left, across from the kitchen, will be our Murphy bed.

4. Building Closets.

Here is the biggest difference in our bus. We are going to have two large closets that span over the rear wheel wells. Originally, we would have liked the bathroom next to the back bedroom, but there was no room for a black water tank to go underneath it.

The closets will be huge storage areas that most RVs are lacking. We will need them since we will be living in our bus full time. One side will be a closet for the kids and the other will be for us, and perhaps some bulk food storage.

Dude levels

Dude helps daddy square up some framing for the closet wall.

Closets

Looking to the back. The newest wall for a closet on the left. There will be two large closets, one for us and one for the kids, that will basically house all of our personal belongings. We are using leftover laminate flooring for the walls (and floor) that we had in our house. It’s free.

We have a dream of being moved in by the end of the year, though I doubt we will be completely done. It really depends on cash flow. Anthony’s mom is buying our family the kitchen sink for Christmas! We are excited about that. Our last large purchases are an on-demand hot water heater (about $500), the shower stall and shroud ($500), the couches, and a new driver’s seat. It is up to the Lord at this point.

When we do move in, we now have  a place to park our bus! It’s a temporary solution for about a year. Our church is in the process of putting in temporary buildings to use as classrooms. During the building process, we can file for a special permit to park an RV on the premises for security purposes. This is a somewhat nice opportunity, as we will be able to park for free and get electricity, sewage, water and WiFi. It’s really close to Anthony’s office (about 100 ft!), and within walking/biking distance to downtown and Anthony’s mom’s house (where our chickens and garden are).

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Registration Complete!

OK, the project is far from complete, but the end is in sight. We had enough complete to pass the inspection for changing the body type from bus to RV.

We had a couple complications. The first was with the VIN. Thomas contracts out the chassis (come to find out) so there is no VIN on the frame plate. The DMV wants to see 2 VIN numbers. I assured the inspector that it is right and asked him to verify that the two plates (one inside with a VIN and one on the frame with the VIN blank) had the same chassis number. He accepted that.

The second complication had to do with the completeness. He looked at it and said he could not register it because it was not done. I told him I read online that you only need a bed, stove and toilet. He went into the DMV for like a 1/2 hour and came back with a printout of their policy. Turns out in CA you need any 4 of a list of things. As I remember:

  • AC/Heating
  • Cooking Facilities
  • Contained Toilet
  • LP Gas Installed
  • Refrigerator or Ice Box
  • I think there was one other which I can’t recall at the moment.

So, I had the first 3 complete. Lucky for me I left the window AC and electric space heater in the bus. But, I had to go down the street to Home Depot and buy a propane tank and adapters to meet the 4th requirement.

Returned to the DMV, waited in line again, paid money and presto! Plates on the bus.

This definitely seems like progress at this point.

Oh, one other thing you might want to know: In California, if your bus is over 39′ you have to go through a far more rigorous process through the Housing Authority to get your bus changed to an RV. The DMV cannot do it. Lucky (providentially) for me, God is good. My bus was 39′ exactly–to the fraction of an inch. The guy measured it twice because he couldn’t believe it.

Bi-fold Bus Door Modification

From Bus to “Housecar”

Each DMV seems to have their own requirements for what they expect to see in order to change a vehicle type. Some states only require you to sign an affidavit, but most require a visual inspection. Our DMV wants to see that there are sleeping bunks, toilet facilities and kitchen facilities in order to change the title. Now, the thing is that some want to see more work done than others. Several people on Skoolie.net have gotten away with a bar fridge and a microwave with a mattress thrown on the ground. It’s important to get the vehicle type changed as soon as possible because the registration and insurance fees are considerably less. Not to mention that you can drive a housecar with a regular class C license, but a bus requires a Class B commercial license.

We have an appointment on Monday for our inspection. Hopefully, the inspector will give us approval with the small amount of work we have done. To prepare, we have the back bunk area built and mostly painted. The toilet is installed, sans walls, with the black water tank temporarily mounted. The stove is in temporary place and ready to be hooked into propane.

Anthony has also changed the front door to open more like a traditional door instead of being bi-fold. This allows us to put a regular locking doorknob. Yay! He first removed the bus hardware for opening the bi-fold door and then placed bars across the back of the door horizontally to keep the piano hinge in the middle of the doors from moving. I will upload a video so you can see it later. The door is beautiful and I love it.

buslayoutthumb

Too Late to Change the Floorplan? (Again)

It seems like every time we are out working on the bus, I have a new idea about how to arrange things. You know how it is. You have to get used to a space and what it feels like before you can truly understand what you’re working with. In any case, Anthony was no doubt becoming annoyed with my musings, which usually amounted to nothing as we concluded that the previously agreed upon floor plan was still the best option. That is, until the other day.

We were finishing up the insulation and paneling on the walls of the bus, and I seem to think it was Anthony who said something about putting the kids in the back where we had designed a Master Bedroom-ish and then putting a Murphy-style bed for us where we had planned on putting the kids’ bunks. At the very beginning of planning, our original idea was to put our bed in the front as a sort of living space/bedroom to it could double as sitting space, but we couldn’t get a Full size bed to work in the plans and the thought of sleeping on anything Futon related made my hips ache to think of it. So, we settled on putting our bed in back over the huge engine hump. This made a lot of sense design wise as it fit back there perfectly once Anthony built a little bunk for the mattress to set on, which allowed for storage underneath. This layout would also allow us to have a door to shut for privacy, if such a thing exists in an RV.

The problem we kept having is that because of where the wheel-wells were and where the black and grey water tanks had to go, there was only one place to put the toilet and shower, which pretty much determined the rest of the layout. I was not too keen on cooking in the kitchen with my back practically up against one of the kids’ bunks and/or storage areas.  (By the way, we never posted a pic of the layout with the kids’ bunks only on one side of the bus, so don’t go looking for it here. It allowed for a bigger kitchen for me.) No more late night popcorn snacks for us without waking up the kids! So when Anthony suggested a possible layout change, I was all ears.

Skoolie Bunk in Back

Here’s the back bunk area over the engine hump. It was going to have a Full for us, but now we are thinking about putting the kids back here.

What he suggested is putting the three kids’ bunks in the back parallel to the bus, side-by-side, right next to each other. We already have some storage and things built back there, o we would have to work around that. The bunk in back is roughly 54×88″. It was enough to fit a Full Sized bed (which we are used to sleeping in already) perpendicular across the width of the bus. 54″ is much too short for the length of most people, but our children are still small and, for the time being, it will work. I have an idea for building in drop down extensions when the time comes.

We want the kids to each have their own little space or cubby to be able to get away and read or play quietly and this new arrangement would still provide that. The storage space back there is a little less that what they had before, but we would likely make them a closet area above the back wheel wells next to ours to expand it. We have looked over a hundred RV or Skoolie layouts it seems and have not seen one layed out like this yet.

The Murphy bed would be horizontal and parallel to the bus pretty much directly across from the kitchen. What this means is that we can easily push our bed back up against the wall when not in use and allow for more walking/working area in the kitchen. Under the bed will feature storage to hang my pans, spice rack and other kitchen do-dads, so when the bed is up, there will be a wall with much of my kitchen go-to things. We are devising ways to hang these items so they don’t fall when the bed is lifted to be put away or being put down. I’m excited!

Here is the final layout (probably not):

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Zoning, Moving and Progress

Surprise! Our house sold MUCH sooner than we anticipated. As such, we now have to concentrate on moving and finding an interim place to stay while we finish the bus. Thankfully, we live next to the best neighbors in the world. Without them, we wouldn’t have made it this far, since we have full use of their tools and shop to make all of our custom pieces. These same good people are allowing us to park our bus in their yard while we finish up. By far, the hardest thing about all of this is leaving them. They are dear friends and I can’t imagine not living next door to them and shouting, “Good morning, neighbor!” across the yards.

We were hopeful to find a quiet, safe, cute mobile home park to stay in with our bus. Ant works here in town as a Youth Pastor. It has been the only steady and available work we have been able to find the last couple of years. We have looked. There does not seem to be anything, even out of state. For this reason, and many others, we are not about to leave the area and the only work we have been able to find in this economy, even if it is marginal monetary remediation. That’s why we needed the bus in the first place. So, we have been looking for a local spot.

As the close of our house drew closer, we stepped up efforts to find a place and it is not looking well. Every respectable place we have called within 20 miles is full. No spaces. It’s possible something could open up in the next few months, but it will take a miracle. Apparently, we aren’t the only family down-sizing. We were offered to stay on a piece of property that Ant’s mom owns as “caretakers.” The idea seemed promising as we would have a large property to continue gardening and keeping chickens, and we would pay only a small rent. However, after combing through zoning laws and several calls to regional planning to try to find a loophole, we concluded that there is no legal way to live on your own property or someone else’s in an RV (The ONLY exception is if you have an active permit to build a permanent structure on the property). *sigh*

This lead to a drive out to some nearby RV parks a town away to see what they had to offer. There were two we were considering and both were about 18 miles from the church where Ant works. Not ideal. Difficult with only one vehicle. That means that the kids and I would be stuck at the RV park all day unless we went with Ant to work and I used that day to do my shopping and visit with friends and family that live in our old town. It’s not so bad.

One of the RV parks is HUGE. It is nestled in a canyon and has more green than I’ve seen the entire time I’ve lived in the desert, I think. There are many “monthly/permanent” residents, many with kids. I was incredibly excited to see cute fences, landscaping and even vegetable gardening in the surrounding area around the permanent RVs. I would not have thought that was a possibility in an RV park. After driving around the grassy park, which is 260 acres, has 2 pools, play areas, hiking, a creek, mountain views, clubhouses and events, I was sold. This is where I want to park the bus. Ant is not convinced. It will be a 30 minute commute for him everyday and that makes it difficult for him to be as available to the teens as he has been. Rent is $500/month and includes utilities (even WiFi!). This is considerably less than we were paying our mortgage and utilities and will fit nicely in the budget, but then there will be an increase in Fuel because of the commute. For now, we are still hoping something more local will turn up.

Here are some photos of progress. Still a lot more to do.

 

Breaker box and charger/converter.

Electrical

The electrical was a lot of fun. Got to learn some things along the way. I used a regular household breaker box. It takes in the 30 amp plug and distributes it to the bus and to the charger/converter.

The charger/converter is a 45 amp. I don’t have a battery bank yet, but I will soon. Right now, it is just converting some of our 12 volt stuff. I have it running up into a fuse box in the bus. That fuse box then distributes the 12 volts to the stereo–the original bus speakers actually sound pretty decent, so I’ll keep em’ for now–to the lights and a handful of other 12 volts things.

We ran a lot of 110 outlets because I know I won’t be able to run it easier if we want more later. We even ran one to the drivers seat. I plan to build a convertible computer desk into the drivers seat so I can have a small office when we are parked.

If I were to do anything different, I would order my terminal ends online in bulk. I had to buy a grip of misc. packs to get enough yellows to wire everything up. I’d also wait till I had help to pull the wires. That was a bear to do by myself. My seven year old daughter helped for a while–which was awesome!–but I could have used more help.

 

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Covering unneeded windows.

So, there is almost always a need to cover some windows. For our floor-plan, we need to cover 17 of them.

Most people rivet sheet metal to the outside of the bus and remove the windows. We thought we had a really cool looking bus and wanted to preserve the architecture, so we went with an internal window covering.

We had 17 panels made out of #18 galvanized steel. We painted the outside high gloss black so it will match (not fool anyone, just match) the rest of the windows which will receive limo tint down the road. Here is the inside of a panel:

Notice the fold. That’s really important to the integrity of the metal and to getting a good fit. I cleaned the sills out real nice. Here is the slot it goes into.

This is a crumby photo, but if you ever took a bus window out, you get the idea.

Here is what they look like all installed from the inside:

Again, a bad photo, but here is the outside:

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Home. Abundant Life.