After much dreaming, planning, working, and packing we are on the road for the trip of a lifetime.
This is a road trip that has been years in the making. It began as a seed of a dream early on in our marriage. We both have a love of travel and exploring new places and when we shared our favorite childhood vacations we both had fond memories of traveling out west.
Two of my most treasured childhood memories with my family involved two different cross country car trips to visit many of our beautiful National Parks. What made the trips magical was more than just the amazing places we visited, it was the concentrated, quality, family time. For those few weeks we were away from the distractions of friends, activities, work and household chores, and we were able to connect as a family in a way that is hard when at home.
We sang along to the radio, played travel games, told story rounds, and visited the coolest of places, creating family memories that have stuck with me for the last 20 years.
I knew someday I wanted to recreate that experience for my own kids. For the last 10 years we have talked and dreamed about what that cross country adventure would look like.
Around three years ago we started getting serious about making it happen. We knew we wanted to make this trip happen before Grace left for college and we began setting extra money aside and saving for this trip. Two years ago we started seriously planning and weighing our travel options, considering which means of travel would be most affordable and doable for our family of seven.
After considering the options of renting double hotel rooms, camping, or renting an RV, Toby came up with the crazy idea of building our own mobile home to take on the road. After researching school bus conversions we took the plunge and one year ago attended a school bus auction and purchased a 72 passenger school bus.
The next year was spent gutting and renovating the school bus into an RV. We were blessed that Toby was able to do the work himself using many materials we already had in the garage thus keeping the cost minimal.
When the inside of the bus was complete we began work transforming the outside of the bus from a yellow school bus to the “Rolling Gnomes.” We worked as a family for a few days, with the help of our friend, Matt, and hand painted the outside of the bus into this:
While we were going through the process of converting our school bus we were also putting hours of research into planning our road trip itinerary. We planned out our general route and then filled in stops along the way. We spent 100+ hours online reading reviews, pricing out various stops, and finding “must see sights” along the way.
Using travel guides, Pinterest, and recommendations of friends we worked and reworked our itinerary until it was just right.
The past month was spent getting ready to go. Piles covered our dining room table as we added things needed for the trip. The menu for the trip was created along with the corresponding shopping list.
With the exception of a few special meals (like the two birthdays we will be celebrating while traveling) most of our meals will be cooked in the bus. We knew what a huge chunk of travel budget would be eaten up by meals out which was another reason we decided to convert a school bus rather than travel cross country by van and be reliant on meals out. Toby built me a beautiful kitchen with ample counter space, a stove top, ¾ size fridge/freezer and a microwave. By cooking our meals on the bus I will be able to use our current weekly grocery budget for feeding the family and use money that would have gone for meals out for amazing experiences instead.
The plan is to use our crock pot daily. Dinner will be put in before we take off in the morning and then when we arrive in the evenings a hot meal will be ready.
This past month was also spent getting outfits organized. We decided to grocery shop weekly and do laundry weekly. The space in the cabinets really doesn’t allow us to store much more than that.
To store the kids clothes they each received a container to hold their 6 outfits. (The 7th outfit was worn) We laid out a shirt, shorts, sock and undies and rolled them up to save space. This way all 6 outfits fit in a small container. These containers are stored in the hall closet. Then their PJs are kept under their pillows, the swim suits in a swimming bag, and jackets will be kept in the headboard of our bed.
In our bathroom we have containers on the wall that will hold daily toiletries like tooth brushes and deodorant, but because we opted not to use valuable bus space for a shower we will be showering at the campground showers, so shower supplies are stored in buckets that can be carried to the showers. There is a boys’ bucket and a girls’ bucket. To address the need for shampoos for separate shower stalls we packed a sleeves of medicine cups that we have had for years. Toby will be able to squirt shampoo from the big bottle into small individual cups for the boys to take in the showers with them.
Packing the bus has been a lot of fun. I love organization and challenges in efficiency. I also love the adventure of small house living. It has been fun deciding what we need to bring and how to best organize it and fit it all in.
A big part of that task was finding a solution for school. Because we will be doing school on the road for the next month and a half we had to create a school area with all the school books, computers, and supplies for doing school on the road each day.
In addition to preparing the bus for our trip we have also been getting things ready at home. We have friends staying at the house while we are gone to care for the animals, so we needed to prepare the house for their visit. There was grocery shopping to do, runs to Tractor Supply to buy enough animal feed to last the duration of the trip, paying bills ahead, stopping mail, and getting the house in order.
And now after all that work, all the dreaming and planning and saving, we are on our way,
And we can’t wait to take you along with us!
Curious where you are going??
Next post I’ll share our planned itinerary.
Ready or not…Here we go!