Bus # 1
Our Bus! <3
Yes...you read right! We finally bought a school bus and fulfilled a lifelong dream of my husband, David. He's been talking about buying a bus for as long as I've known him, which is going on 30 years.
I will be switching gears back and forth between posting recipes and posting all the progress we're making on our new, old home...our newest member of the family...our beloved bus.
The catalyst that made this dream come into fruition is that the Grateful Dead announced their last 3 shows together and they play in Chicago July 3 - 6. In addition to the bus, it has been a dream of ours to tour with the kids around this beautiful country in which we live. Now is the time too, before our girls graduate college and start careers and families of their own. And Dylan will be heading off to college in the blink of an eye as well. David has decided to take off a month or so, so our "Jamily," can have a fun-filled, family vacation. A side note is our friend, Treavor came up with the name Jamily for the 5 of us crazy McQuaids....which, I must say suites us all quite well. :-)
The process started with us looking at an old '79, 40-foot commuter bus that was outside of Austin. David and I drove the nearly 3 hours to check it out. A little interesting tidbit about the owners of this bus is that they're expecting their 17th child...his wife is only 38. He's a pastor at a Baptist church and his wife home-schools all their children. It makes me tired just thinking about that. Anyway, the kind pastor proceeded to show us this behemoth of a bus. What attracted us to this bus initially is that it had all the bells and whistles...or so we thought. The kitchen has all the appliances including a washer/dryer combo...I was sold on this bus right then and there. It also has a full bathtub with shower and nice sizable sink. The bathroom connect the bunk room that houses 4 bunks to the "master" that has a queen sized bed. It had some major work that would need to be done but the configuration is do-able, as we we're planning on gutting the whole thing and starting with the bare bones. It was a bit concerning when he started off by telling us we'll have to let the bus warm up for at least 15 minutes. The pastor then walked behind the bus where he had part of the exterior that was "cattawhompusly" rigged and wired shut. The exhaust was moved from facing the bottom, as is usual, to facing upwards and in an awkward location no less. None of the windows opened...I could go on and on. The pastor explained to David that there is no fuel guage so you have to knock on the tank to get a feel for what the level might be...he told us "...it's always better to be on the safe side." Now came the moment of truth, it was time for David to do the test run. The pastor got the bus out onto the main road as it is a challenge getting the bus out of their white, picket fence. I was following in David's car as the exhaust was spewing fumes from the back of the bus. Not even 5 minutes into our test run, David had to pull over so that the pastor could add 2 containers worth of oil. We try it again and not much longer we had to pull over again because the bus needed anti-freeze as well. The plan was to take the bus to a mechanic that David found about 30 minutes from the pastor's house. After winding and weaving around in the tightest of service roads of whatever highways, with concrete barriers due to construction on either side of us...David amazed me with his ability to maneuver the bus as well as he did. There's no way I could've done that. One of the most funny visuals of my lifetime was David behind the wheel of this massive bus, looking like Lily Tomlin's bit where she's on the huge rocking chair with her feet hanging off...David's right foot barely was able to touch the gas pedal as the left one dangled in the air. Hilariousness!
Anyway, we FINALLY found the mechanic's place of business and David took out their make-shift mailbox while trying to turn into their driveway. Not bad for his third or fourth time driving a vehicle that size. We decided to leave the bus there overnight and dropped off the pastor before venturing back home. During the drive home David and I were discussing the bus and we finally came to the conclusion that this was not the bus for us. David has always envisioned converting a school bus into an RV. This was a 40 foot long, 14 feet high beast. We both agreed that was not our bus.
The following week our 15 year old son, Dylan found a 1990 35-foot school bus on Craigslist, which is totally what David had in mind. I however, was not too sure. It was in Shreveport, which also is about a 3 hour drive. We rented a car at the airport so if this was the bus for us that we could enjoy the maiden voyage together. Super nice guy showed us his bus that he, himself converted into an RV. Brad, the owner, truly put his blood, sweat and tears into this bus. He and his 4 year old daughter loved taking road trips together during the 4 years he had it.....his wife was not a fan. After a test drive we decided this is our bus. Brad was quite sad as we drove off, which made us sad and now I totally get that. We miss our bus and it's only been in Denton for her makeover for 2 weeks.
A major item that needs immediate attention is the wiring. It's a little scary because it was wired with extension cords throughout There's no plumbing as of yet, but we really like the configuration Brad has working. We knew we would be pumping some money into our new vacation home on wheels to get it just the way we want. A lot of the windows are covered, which we plan on exposing all windows. As best we can tell at this point, it will end up comfortably sleeping at least 8 people. There's a table with 2 benches that makes into a bed. There's a futon-like sofa that also makes into a bed. We're hoping to reconfigure the bathroom so we can add a shower in addition to a toilet, etc... The kitchen already has a brand new small frig and decent cabinet space. We hope to extend the counter just a bit and add some drawer space and butcher block counters. I will use my trusty toaster oven to cook in and we will have a 2 burner, induction stovetop installed as well. Beyond the kitchen is the bunk room that sleeps 3 and we will add a dresser to help with our lack of storage The very back is big enough to fit a queen-sized bed perfectly. We would like to try and push the wall back between the bunk room and "master" so that we will have a little more wiggle room.
David had the biggest smile on his face the whole way home. We pull up to our house in the Park Cities with our old, silver school bus with "PANTHER PRIDE RUNS DEEP" boldly displayed on both sides of our vacation home. We enjoyed her for our first weekend before taking her to Denton to begin the transformation and address any and all mechanical issues. Of course, David and I head out the following Monday to drop her off and she wouldn't start. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that a screw driver is the key Brad gave us. David tried to jump start it with his car only to have the jumper cables melt. Luckily we already had our bus insured so we were able to use road-side assistance. We finally got to Denton and dropped our newest baby off. Almost 2 weeks into it, they've done a lot of the mechanical stuff, replaced tires, oil, hoses... the works. This week we get to go up and discuss what we have in mind for the interior. The shop it's at is an RV dealer and they've never converted a school bus before. How much different can it be from upgrading an RV?! I guess we're about to find out. Wish us luck! To be continued...