Little Advances in A Big Campaign

Hi everyone! I’ve been taking a break from blogging these last few weeks to concentrate on getting the bus polished up, prepped for paint, going through mechanical issues, ordering parts and of course, working my full time job to pay for this whole project. “Balance” is definitely the operative word when it comes to a project of this magnitude. When we first hatched the plan to buy a bus, gut it and turn it into a high-speed living room, I envisioned attacking the project head-on with every moment of my spare time, every ounce of spare energy and every penny or dime we could find. I envisioned myself waking up at 5 am everyday to get a few hours of work done before going to work, spending every single day off grinding metal, throwing saw dust and basically kicking a constant stream of tiny-house construction ass. That might have worked on a smaller project. Or if the bus was parked in our backyard. Or if I was 18 again.

But this is a big project, the bus is parked 45 minutes away and I am 30. What does that all mean? I’ve got to consider my real life (my job, my partner, our dog, our bills, not to mention the health of my back) and balance that with my insane drive to finish this project as soon as possible. SO, I’m trying a new tack: I’m accepting that this project will easily reach into the summer but I’m also doing my very best to appreciate and nearly savor every moment I spend working on the bus and celebrate every little accomplishment; whether it’s a major job, like mounting the generator or a little task, like replacing a single burnt out light bulb, they are all pretty awesome little successes that take us one step closer to hitting the open road in our tiny home.

Here in Northeast Florida we have had a lot of wind and rain and generally lousy weather lately. This has really affected how much we can work on the bus and has honestly changed some of our priorities. About three weeks ago a major thunderstorm storm ripped both of our roof escape hatches from their frames, threw them across the truck yard and damaged both of them. The morning after the storm, I found one cracked laying atop a low-boy trailer about 20 feet from the bus but the other one was no where to be seen. I searched anxiously for about 45 minutes before I found it. I actually climbed on the roof twice before I spotted a familiar silhouette nearly 150 feet away under the back two axles of a newly arrived flatbed trailer. I jumped down to investigate and realized that our hatch had landed gently in a mud puddle only to have been backed over by the trailer sometime early in the morning. I was pissed.

A fallen soldier: our escape hatch lies in pieces under the merciless axles of an 18-wheeler.

One hatch was mended with some duct tape and some shoring to keep it in place but the other was crushed. It still held it’s shape but it’s days of keeping water on the outside of the bus were over. I threw a trashbag over it and braced it in its old frame. It sort of keeps the rain out now. SO, new hatches or skylights just got moved way up in out priority list! More on that soon!

Making some art work. We decided that we want a larger shower in the rig so we voided out another window to borrow some more space from the living room/kitchen. Our shower should be right about 4’5″x4′, a little better than the 3’x3′ coffin we had planned originally. Also, maybe a day with rain in the forecast wasn’t the best time to rip big holes in the side of the bus.

At this point, all of the windows that are getting removed are gone and are sealed up. I’m really happy we saved most of the sheet metal from the ceiling because it has provided us with great material to void out the old windows. I have also been mercilessly tracking down and patching any leaks in the window frames and bus roof that I can find. Come to find out that the way the Blue Bird Bus Body is assembled, there are some very unfortunate weak points where the stantions (the vertical posts between the windows) meet the bus sidewalls where if a little strip of caulk is missing, water pours down the inside of the bus walls. Not an awesome design for keeping the bus dry but I’m sure it’s main intention is just to add more rigidity to the body of the vehicle. To add to the problem, a lot of our 22 year-old caulking is failing. I’ve spent the majority of my last 3 visits to the bus just laying down fresh caulk and scraping out the old crap.

It feels great to get this beast resealed and lay down some fresh material.
Recaulking, one window at a time.

I’ve also been prepping for paint. Initially, I thought we would wait until our interior build was finished to do this but our roof has a few leaks in it, mainly from old rivets that have just been bashed loose or little seams that are opening up between layers of sheet metal. It doesn’t make any sense for us to put fresh wood, insulation and wiring into the bus only to have it get soaked, so rather than slathering the roof in caulk and hoping for the best, we decided to just go ahead and apply a fresh coat of primer and elastomeric RV roof paint. This stuff is thick and rubbery and should do a lot to keep the water out and also keep the surface nice and cool when we’re parked in the sun.

The first step of a good paint job is good prep. I really wanted pressure wash the bus but our storage yard doesn’t have running water and I don’t have a pressure washer. They can be rented but they are expensive. My immediate though was to just give her a good scrub instead. I rigged up a wash down system in the back of our SUV with an old 55-gallon drum, some wire an awesome expanding hose (which helps to keep hose pressure) and the brand new freshwater pump for the bus.

Off-the-grid bus wash set up. Check.
Soap and elbow grease has got the roof white again! Yippie! This was an incredibly gratifying day at the bus.
Our multi-thousand dollar investment suddenly became less of an eyesore; all we had to do was add water!

That’s about all I’ve got for now, thanks as always for following our progress and look forward to a lot more updates in the coming weeks!

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