Yes, as a matter of fact I did live in a school bus.
My Experiences Living in a Bus
I have been living in a school bus for a little over a year now. The bus itself is a 1972 Chevrolet C50 with a 54 passenger body built by Superior. The engine is a 350 V8 which I rebuilt after a fateful shakedown run (broken crank, among other things). The rear axle has two speeds- a good thing to have. The transmission is a standard GMC truck type unit and other than digesting a first gear bushing in southern Nevada last June it has been bulletproof.
The reason that I am living in a bus is quite simply that I could not come up with a good reason not to. It has been a lot of work and is still an ongoing process. Click here to see a couple pictures of what the bus looked like right after I bought it.
I started the renovation process by giving the bus a good cleaning inside and out. New rear tires were put on because both inner tires were flat and all four rear tires were bald. That was when I found out the big difference between car tires and truck tires- truck tires aren't cheap. I ended up spending a little over $600 on four tires with tubes. $600 can buy at least a dozen Volkswagen tires. Anyways, after the cleaning was over I painted the interior and layed down carpet. A kitchen cabinet was built and I moved in a full-size office desk to serve as a computer desk/kitchen table. I built a workbench in the back and a queensize futon frame for my bed. All was well and I decided to go on a weekend-long shakedown run. That is when I found out that the engine was trashed. To make a long story short, I built a new engine and proceeded to drive from Tucson Arizona to Eugene Oregon in late June 1997.
About twenty miles south of Kingman Arizona I noticed that the transmission was making expensive noises. Loud, rumbling, cracking noises.They would come and go and the bus never lost speed, so I continued driving. Once I reached Kingman I camped out by the airport and the following morning I began looking for transmission shops. After the second shop told me "Nope, trans guy is out sick, maybe Vegas?", I decided to continue heading north. I made it to Las Vegas Nevada and along the way I got used to the death noises emanating from my ailing transmission and decided to keep going. Finally, after a gas stop in Beatty Nevada, the transmission stopped making noise for no apparent reason. I figured that whatever was making the noise had ground itself up between the churning gears and there was nothing to worry about. That thought turned out to be true, and I made it to Eugene Oregon around July 1st. Click here to see my bus in the middle of the Nevada desert- one of the places I spent the night on my trip.
Once I reached Eugene I resumed the bus renovations. A sink was installed and the AC electrical system was put in place. After about a month of having to climb over the bed to reach the rear of the bus I decided it was time to do something drastic. The inside of the bus was becoming really cramped so I moved the bed to the only logical place- the roof. I pondered this whole problem for a week or so and finally came up with an 8 foot by 8 foot wood frame design that would include an opening roof so I could sleep under the stars. Two weeks later the top was complete. Click here for a picture. The biggest problem with this whole addition design was making it water tight. After all, it rains a lot in Oregon. I thought that garage door seals would do the trick between the two 4x8 foot doors that made up my roof but was shocked back into reality at about 2am on a rainy August night. I ended up making an interior rain gutter that would drain into a gallon jug to keep the rain off of me and my bed. This arrangement would prove to work well enough to allow me to remain reasonably dry until my return to Tucson in late October 1997.
After my arrival in Tucson I noticed that it was geting really cold in my bus at night. I partly solved this problem by installing a catalytic propane heater and "totally" solved it by insulating and paneling the upstairs addition. Also installed was an apartment-size stove set up to run on propane.
I then turned my attention to the issue of personal hygiene. Up until that time I was content to using the shower in friends' houses on a semi-biweekly basis. The solution was to make a shower in my bus. I constucted a three sided plywood enclosure and inside poured a thin concrete floor finished with leveling cement for drainage. An under sink water heater was procured and I could then take showers in my bus.
The following spring I noticed that the previously attached plywood siding on my rooftop bedroom addition was beginning to shrink and buckle in the desert heat. It was time for another radical redesign. I disassembled the wooden addition that had originally taken me a solid two weeks' labor to build in about four hours. The last ten feet of the roof was cut out with a Sawzall just above the side windows. That done, I lifted the roof enough to fit in two by four blocks. Lifting the roof was the hardest part of the whole operation- mostly because I did not realize how heavy the sectioned roof was. Finally, after a solid day of trial and error (and dropping the roof three times) the roof was ready to be attached to the main body once again.
Before this project I had no had experience whatsoever with welding. After talking with people that know a little bit about welding it was decided that a wire-fed welder would be the best way to go. I bought a 70 amp DC welder and practiced for a week before I tackled the bus project. As with the TARDIS bus, I overbuilt the steel frame that was to support the roof in its' new position. All told, there is about 70 feet of 1.5-in. Steel tubing in the resulting frame. To see a picture of my bus with its' new 'hat' in the construction phase, click here.
After the frame was completed I covered it in aluminum sheets
attached with rivets. I then filled in all of the gaps with roof
cement and painted the whole thing with Cool Coat. Pictures of the
completed exterior can be seen by clicking
here. The inside has yet to be finished- I
need to insulate the walls and install some sort of paneling, as well
as build shelves. My bed was installed in left rear corner of the
raised section, about five feet from the floor. The bed is mounted to
the wall with hinges and with the winch setup I devised it can be
raised up and out of the way when not in use.
Last April I bought five acres of land southwest of Tucson to park the bus on. The mortgage payment was much less than I would have to pay anywhere else to park the bus, so, well, I had no choice. Come October, realizing that the bus had not moved substantially for quite some time I realized (having hit ny head on the ceiling one too many times) that it was time for a change of domicile. So in mid November I bought a trailer/mobile home/manufactured home. After raising the trailer 4 feet (my land is in a floodplain) I moved in and the bus has turned into storage space.
The schoolbus engine is now housed in a pickup truck that I traded my old Jetta for. Now the bus is really storage space. Or a guest bus. I made the big decision after I got a horse- something that I have been thinking about at least subconciously since summer camp when I was 9. A pickup can haul hay. Anyways, so the bus sits.
I have begun thinking about getting the bus back on the road. Burning Man is coming up, and I have the old oil-burning engine that was originally in the pickup to work on. Postings to follow
(More to come) last updated 3/03/2001
TARDIS This site has the bus that inspired me to raise the back 10 feet of my bus' roof in 6/98.
1950 Packard Motorhome I know it's not a bus, but, jeez..., it's really cool (BTW this might be for sale, let me know if you are interested)