Get Away Land (Part 3, The School Bus Conversion)

Converting the bus was fun.  I can’t lie, I love working with tools, cheap or expensive.  I’d like to tell you that I had a plan, but I tend to play fast and loose and let visions evolve as things happen.

The first order of business was removing the seats.  There were a lot of them.  It’s a 64 passenger bus.  Most of the seats were in rough shape.  Years of gum, slime and soda were stuck in the cracks between the seats and wall of the bus.  The bolts were rusted and most were stripped.  I bought a grinder at Harbor Freight and got to work.  The kids helped me scrape up all of the rubber flooring, which is what makes a bus smell like a bus.

What’s under the rubber floor?  I’d love to tell you a metal subfloor, but it’s actually plywood.  Years of moisture hadn’t penetrated the wood much, so I decided to seal it by painting it.  We happened to have a few gallons of yellow paint hanging around, so that’s what we used.


Using recycled lumber that I got from the dump, I made a counter top over one of the wheel wells.  I sided it with pallet wood and put a curtain over the front.


Using my neighbor’s torch, I chopped up the seats for a new purpose.


They are now convertible benches and beds.

My neighbors also helped me frame up and build the bathroom.  I’ve got a toilet lid for a 5 gallon bucket.  We use sawdust and empty it after each stay.  It actually works pretty well.  We also installed carpet tiles.  We’ve got four kids, so if somebody craps on a carpet tile, we just rip it up and replace it.


I also installed a utility sink.  It drains into a three gallon bucket below and we dump it when it’s full.  My mom painted it red like a hooker’s fingernails.  To boot, the brand name is Homart.  I laugh every time I look at the logo.

Above were the initial photos.  It has morphed into a real comfy place now, with fold out couches, futons and bookshelves.  Here are recent pics.  Pardon the clutter.

We’ve utilized solar desk lamps from Ikea for lighting, as well as fold out tables and a fold out couch.  I cut the bottoms off of pallets and made them into book cases.

It’s about 140 square feet.  Believe it or not, it’s comfy, even with six or seven people.  But you have to like each other.  And we do.

Next up – the functions of staying at the bus and some scenic pictures.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

Get Away Land (Part 2, Alternatives to a Cabin)

We had the land.  The next question was how to get a structure on it so we could stay there.

I thought about a camper.  I would only be able to afford an older one.  I knew that it would likely be prone to mouse infestations.  The winds can be high in our area and I don’t think the thin metal of a camper would hold up in the long run.

Then, we discussed a Tuff Shed.  Funny, right?  Have you seen the tiny house movement?  It’s a great idea.  Our original plan was to save for a 10×12 Tuff Shed with a loft and make it into a small cabin.  As we were saving our mo, we started researching county laws and found out that in order to have a shed on your land, you first need a permanent structure of 600 sq. ft., a septic system, and a well.  Crap.

I work for a non-profit and have four kids.  Most days I have lint and pennies in my pocket. The pennies mark a good day.  Realistically, the pennies are actually half-chewed breath mints that my kids put back in my pocket.  Putting that much money into a piece of land so we could stay the night was absolutely cost-prohibitive.  We had to back up and punt.


I started looking into school buses.  Why?  Structurally, school buses are built to roll.  That was idea number one.  They’re built well and rust isn’t much of an issue out here.  Number two?  The county can’t tax you on a mobile structure.  And it’s my right to park my vehicles on my property.  The taxes on the land are currently $75 a year.  I’d like to keep it that way.

I found a group of 1986 GMC Bluebird school buses for sale on craigslist in Elbert, which is a long drive from where we live.  We went and looked at them anyway.  They were all fleet maintained school buses, each with their individual problems, from bald tires to cracked bell housings.  That didn’t matter much to me, as the plan was to get the bus to the land and leave it there.  I gave the guy $2,800 and got behind the wheel of a school bus for the first time.  Mind you, I’m not licensed to drive one.


By the time I hit the town of Parker, I knew there was something wrong with me.  I have lots of food allergies and thought I was having a reaction to something I ate.  My lips, hands and feet were numb.  I pulled over and my wife started giving me water and told me to walk.  In ten minutes, I felt better.  Turns out, the old bus had a biblical-sized exhaust leak.  I opened all of the windows and the slider door and drove home.


The conversion was……fun.  I really can’t say that enough.  I spent about 40 hours and $400 on the conversion.

Next up:  The Conversion.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.