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Old 02-17-2013, 11:45 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Southeast raleigh
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Year: 1974
Coachwork: Crown
Chassis: Supercoach
Engine: Detroit Diesel 6-71
B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Hello Skoolie.net! First Post!

After lurking for months, a good amount of research (and tons more to come) we have a general plan to have our conversion "complete-ish" as soon as possible, with no specific time constraints - fingers crossed for 6mo - 1yr. We are building for full time, green, self sustaining for long term boondocking and as little plug up as possible for two people and two cats; as well as towing a 2 deck short stacker trailer for 1 small daily driver, 1 drift car.

In this thread I'll be posting the planning process as well as build process once we acquire the actual bus! Feedback, questions, comments and concerns are more than welcome - we're going to need all the help we can get! Speaking of help, I just found a local "techshop" where I can take classes on welding, machining and wood working for pretty cheap so I'll be jumping on that when the money is available, then just borrowing/renting any equipment we don't have.

We are planning on buying a 78 pass (minimum 40') Bus from the NC School Surplus this coming August. I suspect there will be more available at this time (right before the start of the school year.) From the what I've seen so far, there are similar skoolie's available for cheaper but are usually some distance away. We are going this week just to take a look at the Wake County buses to get a better idea of what we'll be dealing with (and the quality, rust, motors, size, etc.)
We will also be buying (new if we can afford it)/acquiring some of the larger appliances/equipment around the same time we get the bus to ensure reliability and the right fit.

Currently available buses at this size are primarily:
99-2001 Thomas 78 Passenger
198k-230k miles
$3750-$4000 (most are $4k)

Floor Plan:
From Left to Right (rear to front)
Bedroom w/queen bed in the rear, bathroom (Still deciding if we should have the bathroom on one side or split on either side of the main "walkway" to balance weight/roof height - it's fine for the 5'2 passenger, but might not be for the 5'10!), kitchen on drivers side, raised woodstove on the opposite, and living area behind the driver with desk/tv on drivers side, couch on opposite side. The kitchen has an L shape in the diagram which we like, but will most likely be shortened. The diagram does not include the Drivers chair and bus door. We tried to figure the appliances to oppose where we are hoping to put the under bus storage (to balance the weight) and still be able to hook up easily at RV parks when needed, and refill/easily access tanks/generator. There will be lots of storage cabinets above the windows and anywhere else we can manage - we won't be starting with a lot of junk but i know it can accumulate fast!
We are currently working on a layout design for the under storage (will know more once we've looked at an actual bus), and once we have a better idea, electrical and plumbing layouts.


Just noticed the diagram doesn't have the sink, oven, woodstove, etc so I'll upload a new one soon.


Stuff we think know we'll need:

Under bus:
Generator - Briggs and Stratton 5500w
Propane tanks - we would like to have 1 100lb and 2 20lb, one we can have refilled, two we can swap out when needed
Grey, Black and Fresh water tanks - recommendations for sizes? We drink a LOT of water, plus showering, watering the cats, cooking and laundry.
Deep cycle batteries (at least 6 with room for 10)
Accessable storage (tools, supplies, etc.)

On board:
Tankless Water heater - Atwood seems like a good one, but expensive.
Small standing shower
Compost toilet
Sink
Bathroom Vent
Stacked W/D
Refrigerator (we found one that uses very little power at Lowe's, about 5' tall)
Dual basin Sink
AC/LP Oven with cooktop (or only LP)
Wood Stove
Lumber, Electrical supplies, plumbing, sheet metal, paint, corrugated roof materials for wood stove, that list goes on forever...

Air ride captains chair (if it doesn't have one!)

Rooftop:
Possible Deck/Roof rack
Solar Panels
Small wind turbine (foldable)


Work Plan:
We are hoping to get a good bit done as only one of us works full time, so someone will be able to work during the day, then two
people at night and on weekends. We have plenty of space and access to a good variety of tools also.

Paint!!!
Inspect/repair engine/compartment as needed
Remove and sheet over lights/logos/emblems, etc.
Strip out the seats (reuse/recycle and sell) and possibly rails
Pull up the flooring, grind and repair any damaged floor
Clean and repair underside of the bus
Install car hauler hitch set up
Insulate underside of floor
Install ventilated storage for generator, tanks, etc.
Spray underside of bus with heavy duty bedliner type stuff
Seal/Secure (or replace) Bus door
Insulate and install flooring (including stairwell block when door is closed from the inside)
Rough in/frame walls/cabinetry
Install electrical/plumbing/HVAC and vents for shower, stove, etc.
Insulate/wall in
Remove/Skin over unused windows
Screen in remaining windows
Install/bolt down appliances/furniture/drivers chair
Finish cabinets/counter tops/lighting
Install window treatments/window tint/curtain between driver and rest of bus.

Questions!
Not sure how to go about insulating the ceiling/roof. Read lots about using BusKote or similar product for inside and outside, but want to ensure we don't lose heat/stay cool and minimize road sound without losing headspace. Tallest passenger is 5'10, but still want to be comfortable. Definitely not going to do a roof raise.

Rear bedroom - if it's a puller, what do we do with the emergency door? Originally we were just going to close it off after all appliances were put in, but if something like the w/d needs to be replaced, we'll need it.

A/C - window units vs. roof units. pro's/cons to either?

Power usage (I'm trying to think of anything we plug in now)
In the kitchen we won't be using a microwave or coffee pot, only the fridge would be running consistently, oven daily, and occasionally a small george foreman (regular grill for nicer weather). Otherwise, tv (satellite), ps3, laptop, surround sound, a small lamp, occasional hair dryer, phone chargers, wifi charger, occasional sewing machine,washer/dryer (probably 1x a week). Lights will be LED and thats all we can think of for now. We want to use the genny and propane as little as possible, and want to charge the batteries with solar and wind power.
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It's nice to meet you guys and we are looking forward to your input. We are really excited to get started with out skoolie adventure!
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Old 02-18-2013, 11:05 PM   #2
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Hey Ink --- Welcome to the Madness! Sounds like you have the planning part down. Just be prepared to "adapt" as needed. Plenty of X Factors involved in building these rigs. The only suggestion I could make at this stage would be to try for Blue Bird. Far & away the best built buses on the road. Don't know who sells what in your area but surely there are some Birds being retired nearby. And if you can find a pusher, you will nearly double your underbay storage capabilities. The engine access is a little trickier, but hey, everything has its' price. Just do it your way and have fun.

Best of luck on the hunt and do keep us posted. Once again...Welcome!
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Old 02-19-2013, 03:32 AM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Southeast raleigh
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Thanks Tango

The only thing we're really firm on its getting the biggest and most reliable bus possible for up to $4k- as long as we are under 60' (nc legal limit) including the trailer, we'll be good to go. The nc website is bare minimum with info so I'm hoping they have a few pushers we can look at. Undercarriage space is definitely high on our wish list to free up as much space "upstairs" as possible. Do you think there would be any weight balancing issues with our heaviest appliances towards the middle, the engine in the back and then the car hauler? It seems like it would leave the front pretty light, aside from counter balancing with the tanks, generator, etc. I would think just put it all more towards the front, but I know we should try to keep the appliances near the power supply to minimize running long lines and losing power in the transfer? Oh there's so many things... And sooooo many options!

I'm looking forward to getting started, although I can't even imagine the debacles we will come across ;D I think keeping an open mind will be the key to keeping our little bit of sanity!

Also, for those that have bought buses farther from home, how do you get it back? Just say screw it and drive it? I'm not opposed to a bit of travel to get the right bus (and I doubt regular yellow school buses get pulled very often) but I definitely don't want to tangle with the law if I don't have to!
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Old 02-19-2013, 06:28 AM   #4
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

welcome also...GREEN Living and a drift car ........
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Old 02-19-2013, 02:41 PM   #5
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by inkblots84
... 78 pass (minimum 40') Bus
We fulltime in a 40 ft BlueBird All American FE. You are looking at roughly 32 ft in length that you can use and you will have to work around the wheel wells. I have 10 ft (plus a very few inches) from the back emergency door to the back side of the rear wheel well.

Quote:
Bedroom w/queen bed in the rear
Trust me on this one. Make your bed an island. Unless you are very large people, you can sleep in a full size bed. We went from a king size water bed to a fullsize bed. We just sleep a little closer together now. But I no longer have to crawl over David to get in/out of bed. I no longer look like I'm trying out for Cirque du Soliel when I make up the bed or put clean sheets on it either.

Quote:
Still deciding if we should have the bathroom on one side or split on either side of the main "walkway" to balance weight/roof height
We split ours. Toilet/vanity (facing each other) share the same waste tank. The 32X32 shower stall is opposite the "water closet" facing towards the center of the bus. Slightly bigger shower than we could have put in but the few extra inches were worth it plus the shower pan is a common size at most home improvement stores and I got mine (used) off of craigslist for $25.

Quote:
There will be lots of storage cabinets above the windows
Your "upper" cabs over your windows will be 18" high at the most unless you raise the roof.
Quote:
Propane tanks - we would like to have 1 100lb and 2 20lb, one we can have refilled, two we can swap out when needed
Can you transport these tanks sitting upright? Many states no longer allow tanks to be transported laying on their sides and will refuse to fill them if they realize that is the way you will carry them. Personally, we like the 20lb BBQ tanks. We can put more than one together on a manifold system plus toss in an auto changeover valve. We can toss the tank (or several) in the back of the Jeep and haul down to get refilled. OR we can trade in at the tank swap when the tanks start getting too old or rusty.


Quote:
Grey, Black and Fresh water tanks - recommendations for sizes? We drink a LOT of water, plus showering, watering the cats, cooking and laundry
We have a 25 gallon black tank (dump every three days or so), Fresh tank (on a float valve due to the water filters we run) is currently 30 gallons but we will be buying another 30 gallon Valterra ABS Rocket tank this summer. I want to add a dishwasher and a washing machine to the bus. The water tank fills so slowly that we need larger tanks. We will put a shut off valve on one so that we can just fill one tank when we travel. We run two filters on our water. One is a sand/sediment filter that uses a permanent screen. It's only job is to filter out sand and debris that can get into our water (and has, even on city water when mains broke). My other filter uses a whole house style filter housing that accepts a popular size of filter cartridge (the 9" X 2" type you see everywhere). While mine is made by whirlpool, it will accept ,any different brands. I tend to use a filter (0.5 micron) that is generally overkill but we have gotten water from a campground that had Giardia cysts in it. Made our dog and cat very ill and I believe it shortened my cats life. So I tend to get filters like Whirlpools DB2/ GE FXLUC. My last filter (GE) I bought says it's particulate reduction is 0.5 - 1.0 micron. It removes chlorine taste and odor (97.5%), Mercury 6.5ph (95.9%), Atrazine - an herbicide (94.1%), Lead 6.5ph (99.1%), Cysts (99.99%), Lindane - a pesticide (99%), Turbidity - which is sand, dirt, silt, etc (98.7%) and Asbestos (99%). Bear in mind we are now (and normally) on city water. I generally filter for cysts as they can show up anywhere. If we are in farming areas, we get filters for herbicides and pesticides. There is very little price difference once you get past the basic chlorine taste/odor filters. So we do tend to over filter. The filters knock our water flow down to not much more than a dribble. So we fill the fresh tank dirctly from the filters and then pump all our water from the tank. This way, we have good water pressure (Shurflo 2088 Classic 2.8 gpm pump) and we never have to go out and fill the tank thanks to the float valve.

Quote:
Deep cycle batteries (at least 6 with room for 10)
get a good "smart charger" so you don't cook your batteries


Quote:
Tankless Water heater - Atwood seems like a good one, but expensive.
but the 6 gallon tanks do not use much AC. Don't know about LP since we never used the LP side of the water heater in the 5 years we were in the Class C. That's why we put the electric only 10 gallon water heater in the bus. I take a 10 minute HOT shower.

Quote:
Small standing shower
don't get too small. You need to be able to pick up the bar of soap you dropped as well as wash your feet.

Quote:
Stacked W/D
you may rethink that one. We could not put the stacked washer dryer we had in the bus. You have to get one that will fit to the side wall. Ours was a few inched too tall. We couldn't even get it to stand upright in the middle of the bus to bring out to NM.

Quote:
AC/LP Oven with cooktop (or only LP)
We use a 30" house type LP range with a small countertop microwave on a shelf over the range. The range is very frugal on LP. I use about 1/3 of the LP the RV range in the Class C uses plus I cook a lot more now. I would like to replace the cheap 1000watt micro with a Sharp Grill 2 convection micro so that we can toast rolls in the convection over rather than in the microwave. I can't see running the big oven to brown up three rolls.

Plumbing is expensive! We have spent far more on PEX brass connections than we expected... and we already had some from previous jobs.

Quote:
Rooftop:
be careful what you put on the roof. Each hole is a potential leak sooner or later down the road. Watch the height of stuff. Trees like to snatch stuff off the roof.

Quote:
Rear bedroom - if it's a puller, what do we do with the emergency door? Originally we were just going to close it off after all appliances were put in, but if something like the w/d needs to be replaced, we'll need it.
We simply put our bed across it. We will have a removable wall so that we can get appliances in/out as needed. Also we store stuff under the bed pedestal.

Quote:
dryer (probably 1x a week).
get an LP dryer. They need 110 but not the power that an electric dryer does. Those fancy RV combos dry for hours.


BTW, we have found that you need 18" absolute minimum and 24" better but still snug to hold 8 days worth of clothing. That's enough for 7 days of clothes plus 1 outfit to wear to the laundromat. Layers are better than real "winter" clothing. We do have long sleeved shirts that we store in my cedar chest along with the extra quilts and tabletop Christmas tree. Anything we really need we can buy at the thrift stores. We can change our whole wardrobe out at the thrift stores pretty cheap. We only buy socks, undies and Davids pants new. It's hard to get mens jeans in semi decent shape at the thrift store, but it doesn't stop us from looking. We clean out clothing as it gets stained/damaged. We only keep one set of "dirty work" clothes and they get tossed pretty often. Right now I am on shoe overload. David has two pairs (one waterproof/insulated, one not) and I have three (because I can't wear my Dr Scholl sandals to work darn it!, a good pair of cross trainers because I work on concrete floors, and my insulated hiking boots). I don't count my bedroom slippers.

Basically you need to follow "a place for everything and everything has it place" in order to fulltime without being overtaken by stuff. Books & movies (DVD) are our biggest storage problem. We use Redbox a lot but I need to put my movie collection on thumbdrives... lots of thumbdrives! A cheapie used tablet will take care of my book problem.

You will wage a constant battle with "stuff".
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Old 02-19-2013, 04:40 PM   #6
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Thanks y'all! This is exactly why I'm posting now and not waiting until we actually have the bus. You guys rock!!

@bansil: yes i know, drifting isn't exactly the greenest sport out there but it's only on occasion ;D

@lornaschinske: thank you thank you! your fulltiming tales have been a big inspiration in our skoolie ideas! I'm with you on the centralized bed situation. We've lived in a super small space (on a heinous futon jammed in a corner) but i do think it would be more comfortable with some walk around space. Thankfully the bus actually has more room than some of the places we've lived, and we don't have a ton of stuff.
-We were thinking about getting a pre fab shower from HD, but it seems like you sacrifice a lot of space for those and we might be better off building our own. The tallest person on the bus is 5'10, and I want the shower to be comfy for everyone!
-As far as the propane goes, I know horizontal 100lb tanks exist but they are VERY hard to find. Seems we'll end up going with multiple 20lb as you suggest (plus they're easy to swap/refill, even after hours), esp since some 100lbs are refilled by weight, and no one i know wants to move that thing around!
-Info on the water is great. We're looking at a Lifestraw system (http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/lifestraw), which is s a point-of-use instant microbiological water purifier, but their large capacity filter system is not available yet. I intend to contact them to see if we can aquire one, even as a beta test.

@wmkbailey: This info is definitely pertinent for both of us and I have good news! I spoke to Devin Weber at the Wake County School Surplus today and he's very helpful. According to him, their website is not that up to date so definitely call first! NC Buses are pulled out of service at 20 years old, or 200k miles, whichever is first. The state generally buys new buses during the summer, so more old guys go up for sale at that time. Their buses are generally in good condition with minimal rust, and if anything might have some cosmetic flaws, but really depends on the bus. He said steer clear of buses that come from the mountainous regions in nc, they're rust buckets (he's from the north east so he knows what's up with that). The larger buses for Wake County are all Thomas, rear engine pushers about 40' long. He didn't have the specs on hand, but he's about 5'9" and has about 10" +/- of head room. Also said considering there's a lot of junk out there, these are pretty good buses for the price and they're well cared for.

I'm going to try to see what they have tomorrow if possible, and I'll definitely take pictures and measurements. It seems like they pretty much always have some of the larger buses on their lot!

Also on the good news front, we found a local guy here in Raleigh that builds/restores/services food trucks, rv's, and campers who may have some stuff we can salvage for the bus, and also recommended some other local places to get salvage/scavenge stuff which will come in very handy later on.

**I just want to point out that our driveway is so big, the local school bus drivers use it as a turn around.. so I've seen a school bus in my driveway every. single. day. for the past 9 months. It drives me nuts, makes me sad I don't have one, and reaffirms how much we really want a bus.
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Old 02-19-2013, 07:51 PM   #7
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by inkblots84
He said steer clear of buses that come from the mountainous regions in nc, they're rust buckets (he's from the north east so he knows what's up with that).
I'm a little confused. Why would the buses from the mountains of NC be rusty? I hope none of you are under the illusion they actually salt the roads in the winter? Where's the fun in that????? Don't you know that the NC state line ends at the western edge of Buncombe County? That's what they think in Raleigh. And that's why the counties west of Asheville never had enough sand for the roads. Yep that's right.... sand. They haven't had salt in years. I think it has something to do with the ecoterrorists that target the area but live elsewhere. Of course I may be wrong. I only lived in Southwestern NC (Macon County) off/on (mostly on) from 1965 until we left in 2009. Not only did I ride the school buses there but I know what a rust bucket is. We did have an Eagle and it ran a northern route in TX. Now that is a rust bucket. Rust is far worse on the coast and for about 100 miles inland. So perhaps you had better stay away from buses that are from the salty coastal areas too.

I don't know where our bus was as a school bus but I do know it spent several years as a white water rafting shuttle in Southwestern NC, North Georgia and Upstate SC. I know it sounds silly but you would have to see an Eagle to believe it.... we laid under the BlueBird (more than once) and admired the lack of rust under the flooring. But I do have to thank you for the good giggle David & I enjoyed. Sooo funny... salted roads in the mountains. Good one. Gotta tell that one to the kids. That ranks right up there with the folks who moved in to our little end of the valley community and asked when the state would plow out our roads after winter storms. You should have seen the look on their face when we told them "Never, the ones of us with tractors plow out a section until the road is clear". I guess the silly fools thought that because they paved our dirt road and raised our property taxes, that the state maintained it too.


BTW, you can buy the shower pan floor without a surround from Home Depot and probably from Lowes too. We used FRP and curved a single piece up the bus side wall, curved to the ceiling and stopped it at the front edge of the shower. We also used a standard kitchen sink drain/strainer basket in our shower. This was to keep from reducing the drain pipe down with lots of expensive plumbing fittings. We have a standard 1-1/2" drain line for our galley and shower.

Also RV stuff is not very energy efficient. Some stuff is pretty good (we do recommend the Shurflo 2088 Classic Series water pump but not any of their others), other stuff is pure junk. And some is dangerous (which is my opinion of any RV LP refrigerator). Fact is RV stuff does not HAVE to be energy efficient. Shop around and you can find household stuff that is better built and much much cheaper. We have discovered that a small dedicated inverter plus ALL my 110 AC flourescent lights cost half of what the same set up in comparable 12vDC Thinlite flourescent lights would cost. So my AC lights now run off the battery bank. Not to mention that is is far easier to get repairs/replacements on readily available house type stuff over RV stuff. We have a house type hand held shower head & diverter in the shower (David made it a low flow by drilling a hole in a penny which fit perfectly in the hose). Vanity faucet is house type. Vanity sink is a steam table pan set in Corian. Our toilet is a vintage Mansfield 910 Traveler (the RV/Marine china kind). My range, freezer, refrigerators (got two 4 cf ones for a total of 8 cf), triple bowl cast iron kitchen sink, energy sucking water heater, thru the wall vent (specialty mobile home kind) that is my range vent. Well you get the picture. We can repair most anything that breaks with a trip to Home Depot/Lowes.
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Old 02-19-2013, 09:04 PM   #8
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

I'll second Lorna's Shurflo 2088 water pump recommendation. Ours is pretty quiet and doesn't draw very much juice.

Be sure to measure your available wall space before buying a pre-formed shower surround. My shuttle bus has fairly high side walls compared to many school buses but the surround I tried didn't even come close to fitting against the side wall. We ended up using the FRP panels also. More work but saved $100. Home Depot stocks a 32x32 shower pan for about $90 that worked well for us.

We used a combination of PEX and reinforced clear plastic tubing for our plumbing. If I was to do it again I think I'd use the reinforced plastic tubing exclusively. Much easier to work with.

A window AC unit is way cheaper than an RV unit and a lot easier to mount in a rear window. RV rooftop ACs also require an inside control unit that cuts down on headroom by a few inches.

Try to run as much as possible from DC battery power. The inverter consumes about 15% of your battery power when doing the conversion from DC to AC.
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Old 02-19-2013, 11:07 PM   #9
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by richlindquist
J... I think when the guy selling it said it was rust free, he meant that he threw in the rust for free.

Rich
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Old 02-19-2013, 11:21 PM   #10
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Re: B.O.S.S. - A Future Skoolie!

Hey guys,
Good to know about the energy usage for the RV stuff, I've only stayed/visited in an RV-never owned one. From what I've seen on craigslist you're more likely to find a trailer being parted out than an RV. Some people even give them away for free which is nuts! We're going for the lowest energy use possible so we can boondock long term. I'll definitely check on that water pump and have to do energy comparisons for the A/C. We'll also be using all LED for lighting

I have no idea about the rust status or salt procedures in western part of NC, I'm just quoting what the bus guy said. I'm not even from here, my fiancée is. I am from Mass though, so inspecting for rust pre purchase is habit for me - pretty much everything up there that isn't brand new has rust hidden somewhere! We fully intend to look at everything BEFORE we buy, even sneaky spots like under the stairs, engine components, etc.

We're actually going to tomorrow morning to look at a bus that will most likely be identical to the one we'll buy this summer so we can take measurements (which we'll have to redo if we end up with a different type), pictures and spec sheets which will give us a good base to work from. We're going to check out all the large buses they have to get an idea of how things look for Wake County. I've been checking on their inventory periodically for the last 6+ months (and other places) and they have what we're looking for pretty consistently

Thanks guys! All input is greatly appreciated - I'm going to have a whole book full by the time we get the bus!
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