We sold our bus! Yep, that’s right. We passed our bus onto a nice family of five children in Alabama in 2009. We receive a LOT of visits from schoolie enthusiasts out there. Our five years of owning our schoolie was a great adventure. So, we’ve kept this webpage live for all of you who’d like to enjoy our story.
This is a long page with a lot of pictures, so be patient as it downloads.
Chapters of Our Adventure
1. The Bus Adventure
2. Our Purchase
3. Clean Up
4. Initial Prep Work
5. Waiting for Paint
6. Layout & Design
7. Registration and Licensing
8. Harvesting from Old Camper
9. Initial Carpentry
10. Closet & Heater
12. Painting the Top
13. Painting the Rest
14. Finished! (For now)
16. First Time Out
18. Air Conditioner
19. Outings With Our Bus
This Web page is for more than just family; this is for bus enthusiasts, too, who take on the brave world of bus renovation. Our family is a BIG family. At the time that I am creating this Web page, our 11th is on his way (Due June 5, 2004). We already can’t imagine life without the bus. The joys it has given and the bonds it has established has been a gift from God, and I am enthusiastic about sharing this blessing with you. Enjoy these pics, and I’d love to hear from you!
We started looking for busses in ’03 when we had the Heppner Family from Minnesota come to visit us. They had 11 of their 16 kids with them, and DuWayne let me cruise his Blue Bird around. We test drove some great busses since then, this one being from Rocky Mountain Bus in Monument, Colorado. We didn’t buy it, but this picture represents the enthusiasm we were enjoying.
Here’s the bus we did end up buying. We found it parked behind Monument Charter School. The school did not wish to hold onto it anymore, since leasing from the area public school was more economical. Specs:
After a few tours around town and grabbing the attention and curiosity of our neighbors, we began the hefty job of cleaning out our new project. The kids all joined in…
Though Colorado allows RV busses to be yellow, we wanted to color the bus the same color as our house. I did quite a bit of research, since this was the first time I ever painted a vehicle. While I had to wait for warm weather to do the fun job of painting, prep was done in the cool of Colorado winter.
|Those of you who are interested in doing this kind of thing will find comfort that this job isn’t as daunting as you might think. I pretty much just sanded along with the palm sander, using plain paper for the knicks and crannies. It was messy, but simple.|
I used one of those eraser pads with an air tool. I bought them for $12 each at a local paint shop, but you can find them much cheaper at eBay. I went through four pads total to get all the lettering off, and resorted to a 6″ rotary sander for the last two letters. The eraser went much smoother! And the kids liked to help…
We couldn’t paint until the weather got comfortably above 55 degrees, so that encouraged us to tackle the inside projects. We took out all the seats and stacked them up on the side of our house. (Sorry neighbors, only temporarily, and we live in the country anyway.) The bus looked much different when we had it all done.
With the bus now empty, I jumped on my computer and tried to figure out a floor plan. I ordered a bunch of books ($200 worth!) of bus conversion layouts and how-to manuals. They were very helpful and worth every penny. I also subscribed to Bus Conversions Magazine. Even though this magazine is full of decked out coaches, it has a lot of great ideas and tidbits for the “schoolie” owner.
I used a layout-and-design program (Adobe PageMaker) to draw to-size boxes and such. I do not recommend this program; I ended up resorting to plain-old graph paper anyway. Here is a drawing:
I ended up veering from this original plan, and this was a recommendation from one of the books I read. As with many building projects, it is good to start with a well-thought plan, but remain flexible enough to make necessary changes. After I visited the Department of Motor Vehicles, I learned that I needed to gain 4 of 6 items to convert to an RV. Since we will primarily be using this to camp in rather than live in, we decided to not put in a toilet. No biggie, just a small modification to the plans and I was back on track.
And now I should take some time to talk about what many of us nuts who decide to buy a cheap bus to convert to an RV never think about before they do: the government. The DMV has their special requirements in Colorado, and from what I read, every state has their different requirements. And all states require insurance, but not all auto insurance companies will cover conversions. I had the following to-do list before I could register my bus:
- Get insurance. My Farmers Insurance laughed at me before telling me that they would not insure my bus, but I found that GMAC offers a great plan. I talked with a lady and got everything going in less than a half hour. For $300 a year (not too bad!) I received basic collision insurance.
- Get the emissions checked. This is mostly for western states, but Colorado requires it. $15 at a local place.
- Get a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This is a $5 inspection from a local gas station.
- Get a Certified Weight Slip. I drove to a local landscaping place with a big weighing scale, and for $5 got this done.
- Cover 4 of 6 conversion requirements. The DMV didn’t know much about it, and they had to dig in a bunch of file cabinets to find a form that gave me these requirements:
- Cooking facilities
- Refrigeration or ice box
- Self-contained toilet
- Heating and/or air conditioning
- A potable water supply system including a faucet and sink
- Separate 110-125 volt electric power supply and/or LP gas supply
I decided not to go with the toilet or refrigerator. I’d recommend you pay your DMV a visit. They’re nice folks whose eyes will get real wide when you tell them you’re converting a school bus into an RV. They’ll laugh a little, too, but then they’ll get this wonderful look on their faces before they say, “Wow, that’s a great idea!”
Take a look at this ugly thing! Actually, this was a blessing from my friend Scott. He was selling some land and heard of my bus-converting adventure. He and I took a Saturday morning road trip down south and pulled this thing home. He gave it to me for free! Well, actually, we got pulled over for having 1997 plates and had to pay a fine. So, this trailer turned out to be $87.50.
We harvested a few key items: a sink, propane tanks and hoses, stove and oven, heater, and a bunch of cabinet hardware. This was a great way to save quite a few hundred dollars for items that we probably would not have invested in. Scott is going to convert this camper into a big dual-axle trailer, probably worth more now than when we got it!
And if you really want to scavenge around, I’d recommend visiting one of the RV salvage yards. Check out RV Parts & Manuals page at www.rv.net. I spent an entire Saturday morning at Cherokee RV Salvage in Denver, showed them my layout, and they were more-than helpful. A lot of fun, too!
Now let’s take a look at the indoor conversion, the living quarters, the sweet. First, I laid a floor of 5/8″ particle board. I forgot to take pictures of this big project, but I basically pulled up the metal from the floor and left the rest. Some people strip all the way down, but I left the majority in tact. I laid down the particle board to give me support in building walls and cabinets.
Next, I built the bunks in the back:
I used standard drywall screws to secure the boards into the walls. The metal walls sometimes needed a pilot hole first. Placing the frame in and building onto the frame made for a solid bunk bed. (It’ll be a little bumpy for the kids, but they’ll love it!)
Getting the walls level was a little tricky. I laid a level on the floor and drove the bus up on a couple of stacked 2×8’s until I had it level. I then was able to angle off the sides in an even fashion.
The important thing to remember when building the walls is to make sure the supporting boards are solidly placed. Some of the research highly recommended using glue and screws, but I stuck to only screws. I was a little paranoid about glue–I mean, it is so permanent. Besides, this is a bus, not the Taj Mahal.
Now that the bunks were done, I moved onto the kitchen. This was the more daring part of the bus conversion, and I really read up quite a bit on tackling potable water, plumbing, and all that yummy jazz. First, though, I set the structure in place.
I built this closet, mirroring the same structure I set with the bunks. I then built the kitchen off of that, as you can see the board sticking out in the middle. It worked pretty good, all with drywall screws.
Another consideration was the fender. I had to move around it somehow, and I chose to built the sink right above it. I had planned to place the sink above the fender and move the plumbing to the right, in front of the tire. The tanks are set in under the front (more on that in a few pages).
The heater (you can see it in the picture above on the right) needed to have the exhaust cut through the side of the bus. Thinking about tearing through the side scared the dickens out of me, but it turned out easier than I thought. I tore through using both a skill saw and a reciprocal saw. Man, that was fun! I tore the hole and puddied everything into place.
I secured the cupboard with 2×2 boards and 1/2 plywood. Still, drywall screws and some pilot holes. The hardware from the trailer came in real handy.
The nice thing about having a big family, I have plenty of helpers. Here’s my oldest son drilling away.
Here’s the finished kitchen!
You can see that I bought a kichen counter (Home Depot). I also customed the cabinets into place. It will look a lot better once I have a fresh coat of paint on, but right now I am thrilled with how it turned out. The propane tanks (you can barely see them in the back of the bus behind the pantry) run a line up to the stove and heater. It worked pretty well. Everything is sealed up and the stove works great; I still need to hook up the thermostat up to get the heater to work properly. I also need to hook the pump up to run the faucet…which leads to the tanks underneath.
The weather broke (above at least 55 degrees) and we decided to paint the top of the bus. The kids and I had the entire top sanded with 150 grade sandpaper. A mop worked well to soap up the top and scrub away. Can this be any more fun?
I had visited a few times a local paint shop, but their prices were too expensive for my tastes. I ended up finding a great deal of paint + hardner + reducer for $50 on eBay. Actually, the deal went so well, I ended up buying all my paint from the same guy, Larry Bell of Midwest Paint in Michigan.
The plan is to paint the top white and the rest of the bus Mountain Blue. You can see that I taped 1/2 of the window, thinking that that would be enough to keep paint from getting where I didn’t want it to go. If I could do it over, I would tape the entire window, for there was a little splattering on the window.
Another thing I’d do over is use a professional spray gun. I used my household jobby (I have two of them) and it gave me some problems. There were some areas that just didn’t spray on nice and smooth. A good spray gun would have done much nicer.
The top is done! Now onto the rest…
With the top being finished, we turned to painting the rest. We had one of the 16 Heppner kids visit us from Minnesota, and here he is cleaning the top of the bus. Josiah was a huge help, and together with the Jeub kids (mostly Dad) we painted the bus.
I ordered the paint from Midwest Paint in Michigan, as noted previously. I went ahead and ordered three gallons, but I only used two. I figured I’d order more than enough, and now I have a gallon to touch up with. I still used the interior paint spayer, but I feel like it went better than the top. I am satisfied with the job.
Mixing the paint was per instructions. I used a pitcher with a measure on the side, poured the paint into a bucket with 1/8 hardner and 1/4 reducer (per instructions). I immediately painted, so I needed everything taped up.
Taping took about twice as long as the actual painting. I used 1″ and 2.5″ rolls of tape, five rolls of each. I also used five rolls of paper (Home Depot). You can see from the picture on the right that I taped the windows, 12″ of the roof, and the black stripes. With that went the reflectors and lights…all taped up. I took the mirrors off the front.
Now for the fun part! We put three coats on all the bus, four on the hood. There was some bleeding, but for the most part, it went on smoothly. It took a good part of the day to get it done.
Alleluiah! Alleluiah! Al-le-lu-iah!
You can just here the choir blaring out, can’t you! This was a great victory getting the bus painted. Though Colorado is not one of those states, many states require the bus not to be yellow. We just didn’t like the color yellow, so we chose a color that will make it less of an eye-soar: Mountain Blue, the same color as our house.
The time between painting the roof and painting the rest was pretty long, and we finished the interior and ran the plumbing. Wait till you see what we did to the rest of the Jeubmobile…
Even though everything was a learning curve for me with this bus, the plumbing was a bear. There are three types of water in an RV: clear water, gray water, and black water. You can probably guess the different uses: clear is for cooking and drinking, gray is dish water waste, and black is human waste. Each require different tanks and different plumbing. Wendy and I went back and forth about human waste–what if one of the kids has to go potty, we will usually be camping at campgrounds with facilities, what about our long trips. We settled with not putting a toilet in, and instead bought a $20 porta toilet at Wal-Mart. With black water out of the way, we focused on gray and clear water.
So, I harvested one tank from Scott’s trailor and bought one from Denver’s used RV materials ($30), both 20 gallon tanks. We built a 1.5’x1.5’x6′ 3/4 inch box under the bus directly in front of the passenger side rear tires. It is mostly hidden from view, and being in front of the dually would keep most highway debris away from the box.
We distributed the weight of the box (the box alone weighed about 30 pounds) with 30 bolts and washers screwing up into the rivits under the bus frame. The tanks were then set into place on the bottom board and raised into position. We lined up the plumbing and screwed galvenized screws into interior 2×4’s in the box. Not much weight will sit on the floor of the box since the tanks are held in place from the plumbing.
The tanks were trickier. We had to jerry-rig water, make siphen holes, pvc pipe and drains. We took many trips to Home Depot before finally bringing the tanks in to custom some pieces. Their plumbing guys we well aquainted with us and our project. For the clear water, we have a regular hose fitting into one side with an air hole off to the side. Directly on the other side at the bottom is where the water comes out from the draw from the water pump. The gray water tank has a pvc pipe dump directly into the top of the tank and empty when unscrewing a plumber’s clamp at the bottom of the tank (a hole in the corner of the box makes it easy to access). Not the cleanest contraption in the RV world, but better than the Taj Mahal when it was built.
I wish I had more pictures, but we were so into this project that we forgot to snap some for you. Here’s one of Josiah, though, under the bus:
With everything finished we took our first camping trip in the mountains of Colorado. Here’s us standing on the back side of Pikes Peak in Mueller State Park. The bus ran great. The last thing we need to do is get an electrical system all up and running nicely, and I have a friend helping me on that currently. My daughter Cynthia is making curtains as we speak, and I still have a few things to get finished. I’ll post more pictures later.
It has been two years since I fixed up the bus. I’ve done a lot more to it. As of March 4, 2006, I updated this website to add a lot of interesting details.
We’ve owned the bus for a couple of years now. We’ve taken trips to Minnesota and Missouri on two separate occasions, as well as many trips to the mountains.
One of the latest renovations on the bus was March 3, 2006, a couple of things a local welding shop did for me. These guys know welding–a trade I sure wish I had more knowledge in. The way I figure it, welders are invincible. No project intimidates them.
As the pictures show below, we placed a nice 4×4 rack on top of the bus. Centering it was crucial, but we tackled that without issues. Drilling 1/2″ bolts all the way through made for a secure rack. I have an order into Dee’s RV for an aluminum ladder that should fit nicely up the back.
The second project we tacked was the trailor hitch. We will likely not pull a trailer, but a bike rack will sure come in handy. This is where Dustin, someone who takes pride in doing welding jobs right, took on a dickens of a project getting this 5000 lb. towing package in place. We had to improvise quite bit, but we managed well. Here are some dandy shots.
Here’s a project I did last summer. We placed an air conditioner in the back of the bus. This wasn’t so much to bring a ton of cool air into the bus (but is nice in the hot midwest), but to provide some additional ventilation in the rear of the bus.
And you can too!
The traditional air conditioners that install into RV’s are about 5 times more expensive. I read all the instructions on this box (an $89 unit) and saw nothing that hindered the usability of it in the bus. Amp draw was the most important factor to consider. I do not use it off my modest batteries (only when I have the bus plugged in). However, I use the fan quite often to keep circulation in the back of the bus. It also serves as a nice quiet noise at night.
I can’t help but thank God for the wonderful opportunity to own a bus. When our family was growing in size, we joked about the idea: “Someday we’ll need a bus!” God is great, has a wonderful, loving sense of humor. I laugh with joy at how our frivolous joke of many years ago has become a reality. But my joy doesn’t stop with only that reflection. My joy is rooted in the incredible memories and the character traits owning the bus has allowed my family. I can’t fully explain how great it is. But, the pictures speak a thousand words. So, here are some highlights of the past couple of years as bus owners:
We weren’t quite done with the bus here, but the excitement was high. All the kids helped renovate the bus, and they see it as their own. It will remain quite a memory as they grow up.
Camping has been awesome. We’re a little crammed in the bus (and we had twins October 2005). We bring a popup tent with us when we head out to the mountains. The kids love the bus, but there is nothing quite like camping in a tent.
The bus has been great for 1-day expeditions into the mountains. This is a simple pull-over area on a mountain road (up on Rampart Range). No hook up needed.
Yep, that’s Mount Rushmore back there. What a fun trip we had out to Minnesota. Really, traveling in a bus is the way to go. I can’t imagine strapping 13 kids into a 15-passenger van, although that’s exactly what we used to do.
Badlands, South Dakota. They have quite a drive through site-seeing area. Many million-dollar RVs were hauling through there. I think ours was worth the most.
And here’s Estes Park, Colorado. A storm was rolling in, making for quite a display. I used these pics for the header for the website.
Memories. This is how I would describe the adventure of bus renovation.
We want to hear from you!