School Bus Conversion: We can see the finish line


It has been almost a year since that rainy June day when Toby woke with the grand idea of attending a school bus auction. (Yes, such a thing exists.) We were a year out from our big, once in a lifetime, “our children will be leaving us soon,” “we are running out of time,” trip across the United States.

As a child my family took two trips out west to see some of the awe-inspiring National Parks. I look back on those two trips as some of my fondest childhood memories. I wanted to take our kids to some of those same sites that I look back on with such fondness.

We will be visiting a lot of those same sites but many of the places we will be traveling to will be a first for us as well.

As we began the planning for this month-long adventure we began calculating the most affordable way to travel as a family of seven, and after pricing out the cost of two hotel rooms per night over the course of a month, or the cost of renting an RV and paying by the mile, we realized that Toby’s crazy idea of buying a used school bus and converting it into a home on wheels might be the most affordable option of all…

especially if we could get a used school bus for the right price!

The added benefit of investing our money into converting a school bus into an RV as opposed to putting those same funds toward hotel rooms is that at the end of our adventure we will have a finished RV that we can enjoy for years to come.

The renovation process began with removing the seats and gutting it. Over the next eight months we worked as a family whenever we had a free evening. The bus was rewired and plumbed for a kitchen and bathroom. Walls were added and the bus began looking like a home.

In the last month our RV has really begun taking shape as the progress becomes more visible. For a few  months much of the work that was happening was important but “behind the scenes” details that weren’t too thrilling to see. Now we are into the more visible and fun stage of renovation..

We are nearing completion of the inside of the bus and are ready to have it inspected and be cleared to take it on the road. Inside the bus we still need to install cabinet doors, cover and finish the bench, and add some last finishing details.

This summer we will be painting the outside of the bus. The kids are looking forward to this big summer project.

Here is a look the latest progress:

Toby has finished building our master bed. The headboard lifts revealing a deep storage cabinet within the headboard. Toby also used the hinges off an old truck bed to make it so our entire bed easily lifts for access to the vast amount of storage beneath our queen size bed.

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Doorknobs have been added to the bedroom, bathroom, and closet doors.

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The girls have been given the assignment of sewing curtains for all the windows in the bus and privacy curtains for the boys’ three bunk beds.

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Rusty has been helping Toby with some of the wood projects on the bus. He was given the assignment of cutting, sanding, installing and staining safety rails for the three bunk beds.

Here is a look at the finished bunks. Rusty will be on top, Tyler in the middle, and Ozzie claimed the bottom bunk.

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The kitchen is done with the exception of cabinet doors. The stove is installed, the kitchen sink is hooked up, and the fridge and microwave are strapped down.

The bathroom is nearing completion as well. Our bathroom consists of a sink and toilet. We opted not to use our valuable and limited space for a shower but rather for a storage closet, knowing that most places we would be camping offered public showers.

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In the “living room” area of the bus we have a futon that will lay flat at night and become the girls’ bed for sleeping. Toby also built a bench for additional seating. Originally we planned on have two matching futons face each other in the “living room” but discovered that the depth of the futons resulted in a very narrow walkway, so instead Toby built a bench which will be stained, cushioned and covered. The seat on the bench will lift up providing a spot for us to store the girls’ futon bedding during the day.

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Between the two couches in the living room Toby installed brackets on the floor that our dining room table will lock into when set up. He designed the table to be removed and stored behind the seats when it isn’t meal time and then can be set up when it is mealtime or when the kids need a table to do schoolwork at. We found a table top made of cork at Ikea, making it easy and lightweight to put up and take down as needed.

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In the front the bus Toby has installed seats for traveling. We decided that we wanted the kids to have seats with seatbelts for traveling. This was due in part to the  safety laws that varied from state to state that we were traveling through, but also for this Momma’s peace of mind. I just felt that when the kids didn’t need to be up and moving I’d rather them be buckled up. Toby found used seats out of an old van at our local junkyard. These seats recline and are more comfortable than the original bus seats that we considered reinstalling. (Plus they have seat belts.)  🙂

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Toby also rebuilt the bus steps, covering them with beautiful hardwood flooring, making them turn at an angle, thus allowing room for my co-captain’s chair to be installed next to the driver’s seat.

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Behind Toby’s head hangs a TV with a DVD player for those 8-10 hour days of travel,

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And beneath my feet Toby built a nifty shoe holder that the kids can stash their shoes in when they enter the bus. Toby has truly found every square inch of unused space on this bus and come up with ways to turn them into creative storage solutions.

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We are getting more and more excited about our trip as this “home away from home” takes shape.

I think a certain puppy is going to be very disappointed to find out she isn’t coming along!

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