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Old 09-02-2006, 07:18 PM   #1
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The BLOSSOM EXPRESS - let's paaaaaarty!

Welcome everyone to our project.. we are John and Linda from NE Ohio. Besides normal jobs (not driving) and normal lives.. okay, that's a lie, but anyway.. in spite of our pretentions, we like to drive busses.

Linda and I both have CDLs w/School Bus endorsements and current School Bus Certification in Ohio. So... we like to pick up driving jobs when we have some time off.... partys, girls nights out, bachelor parties.. stuff like that.. its just fun and we make a few extra bucks.

Anyway.. one night we're bussing a bunch of drunks to our a local concert amphitheater (called Blossom Music Center) and we were surrounded by over 300 limos stuffed with other drunks trashing the limos and acting like fools while they had a really good time.

So.. an idea was born.. why not give 'em exactly what they want?... I mean a leather lined 150,000 dollar no-smoking limo with doilies and champagne glasses is NOT what they want... they WANT a party bus where they can get down.. smoke, dance, drink and carry on.

What you will see here is the evolution of that idea into reality. But first, I want to give all of you my sincere thanks .. and especially Steve.. for all the help we've gotten and will get from you. Your experiences have been exceptionally valuable to us and have so far helped us avoid the learning curve and wasting a lot of time. Your comments are most welcome and I will try to contribute here with passing along our own tips about how we got stuff done.

Hope to see you 'round the site and, well, here goes...
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Old 09-02-2006, 07:40 PM   #2
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First Step... Buying the Bus

There's lots of stuff around on how to buy busses so I won't go into all the detail. We found our busses on eBay from a dealer close by (Toledo). Turned out we bid on 20 or so busses just to see what would happen and we ended up with two busses for a really great price.

Before you go to eBay, though, remember that almost every school district in the country is selling busses at the end of the school year and you can buy them directly if you're heads up on the auctions. Eliminates the middle man and his fee.... But, its a lot easier to see a lot of busses if you go to the dealer auctions... there are huge ones all over the country.

As soon as I figure out how to put pictures in this blog, I'll post them.. which means, actually, that I have to stop here until I do that. In the meantime, here's a few things we learned:

1. We should have been more up on makes and models. As it turned out we got two really fine busses in great shape but .. they were 10-window not 12 or 14 which is what we should have for our project. So, they're smaller than we wanted.

2. Next we found out that busses come in different ceiling heights. I guess the most common is 6 feet even but they are available with higher ceilings. Something to look at....

3. We should have considered transit style vs conventional for several reasons. Transit style may be easier to floorplan and have higher ceilings.

4. The 7.3 liter diesel is one of the most common engines but it did not come with a turbo charger until 1994. Our busses are 1992 and, thus, are not turbo charged. This would have been a good thing.

I guess those were the major things that I can remember right now.. more later.
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Old 09-08-2006, 11:12 AM   #3
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The wife was talking about doing this with our bus, but I thought she was nuts. Now that I read your post, I'm wondering if that's the case. While I don't want to have a bunch of drunks in my house, schoolies are cheap enough to do another bus just for that.

I'd be interested in hearing about the licensing and liability end of such things. While I'm sure the laws differ everywhere, even a general idea of what to look for would be helpful.
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Old 09-09-2006, 12:49 AM   #4
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re: making a party bus

Zim,

I can't vouch for the viability of the idea yet because we are still under construction but take a look at these:

http://www.topshelfpartybus.com
http://www.tumblebus.com
http://www.furbus.com

... and see what you think. We think its viable and are getting terrific responses from every age group and profession... especially lawyers and real estate people.... of course, college kids.

Our design is rugged, includes a kegerator, hot dog machine, karaoke, and other stuff. We allow smoking and encourage drinking (just kidding). For a price/hour, minimum 4 hours, the ride includes a keg of beer. Extra for the hot dog machine, nacho machine etc. (see TopShelf for pricing ideas)

My direction to the design team was that we have to use everything that came with the bus.. seats, etc.. and they came up with a very comfortable, easy to build seat using the exising frames and cushions (recovered, of course).

We are staging the build-out to match the season.. that means A/C will be built and installed over the winter so we can get rolling sooner. Same with under-carriage lockers, bustle deck and observing bubble (on the roof).

The design includes flexible elements so we can change the configuration from party bus to touring bus.. for examble.. the back has no seating so it can be used as a "dance floor" but we provide 5 bean-bag chairs so we get 5 more pax but they can move the seats around to where they want them. If we have an older crowd, we take them out and latch down 6 hard seats. The kegerator rolls off and can be replaced with a soda unit or something else we might think of like video games or slots. The front most seat doubles as a tour guide station with electric and a counter top for paperwork etc.

So we are able to sell the bus to college frats, nursing homes, the red=hat society and day-care but we are NOT transportation.. we are entertainment on wheels for all these markets....

Insurance is handled by only four brokers around the country.. so I am told... I have posted this info somewhere here but don't have it handy.. will get back to you with that information. In Ohio I have to register as a pax bus and I have to have a PUCO registration ($35. .. no big deal). It is the same for all states that you must get a FEDERAL license to cross state lines and even more stuff to go into Canada.. I haven't even asked about that, yet. We have to use CDL-B drivers for this service since we are carrying the public in this type vehicle.

Hope this helps... I will be posting some pix.. in the meantime, if you'll tell me your email.. I'll send you some stuff that may be useful... Keep in touch..
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Old 09-10-2006, 12:00 AM   #5
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I'm just going to throw this out there....In Minnesota (and many of the surrounding states) it is quite illegal to drink in any moving vehicle unless it has a person licensed as a chauffeur driving. In addition, the vehicle must be registered as a limo and operating as such and that carries special restrictions as well. I know that BY-plates (private bus) don't cut it as a limo here. I'm sure it is a very gray area and will vary depending on locale, but it is something to SERIOUSLY look into. Don't just assume because you have a hired driving or some sort of wall between them and the passenger compartment that an open bottle is legal. A lawyer might honestly be a good starting point. If the area is truly that gray, atleast they can have your defense ready beforehand
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Old 09-10-2006, 09:35 AM   #6
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The alcohol is my biggest concern for the whole affair. I don't mind getting a CDL and the necessary endorsements or registering the bus as the appropriate type of commercial vehicle. But the liabilities associated with serving alcohol, especially with the focus on getting people as tanked as possible, frigthens me. They hop in another car after you drop 'em off? The person providing the alcohol is still liable. Also, cleaning up after someone that couldn't hold their liquor doesn't enthuse me, either, but that's what security deposits are for.

If we did decide to try this, we'd probably provide setups and make it a BYOB affair and make the rental contract signer assume responsibility for the guests. I would also want to partition off the driver section just so there was no question about alcohol up front.. if that's not already a FL requirement. A laywer would definately be consulted.

Still, it's all very interesting and meets with the long term goals of my own business and being able to play with busses We've also talked about a mobile spa and mobile game room (LAN party on wheels). Who knows.. maybe a forum will spring up for commercial ventures based on Skoolies.
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Old 09-10-2006, 10:03 AM   #7
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I know there are a few in the Minneapolis area that do the "bar hop trips". It is usually the group brings their own beverages. Glass bottles are usually not allowed and kegs are in some.
For the most part the police don't seem to care about open bottles since they have a driver that isn't drinking.

Now before getting too in to the whole idea, insurance is the big one. You may find to operate as a charter bus legally it may be more expensive than it is worth.
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:13 AM   #8
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re: Alcohol

Your points are well taken about the alcohol thing but here's my experience:

In Ohio and Georgia... almost all the services allow drinking on bus or limo and many provide the alcohol.. see TopShelfPartyBus.com.. their price includes a fully stocked bar.

We use CDL drivers exclusively and have no hard barrier between the driver's area and passengers.

I have taken many many trips with some pretty drunk folks but have only had to do one clean up... most people don't like to puke so if you avoid the most immature (or severely limit their activities) you should not have much of a problem.. I haven't had.. here's what we do:

1. $150 cleaning charge goes on the credit card if someone pukes or makes any other mess... $150 for a seat torn up.. and we have their credit card number ahead of time and an agreement that covers cleaning and damage... Like I said, I have never ever had to charge anyone for anything other than overtime.

2. Drivers must be in control of the bus AND the passengers. When I'm driving, I always read 'em the riot act before the trip starts. I tell 'em I want them to have have fun but I also want them safe and sane. I have had to discipline groups and they always respond.. Police can be a big help here and let them know that you don't want any trouble with the cops so to keep it to a reasonable level.

3. Do not be afraid to throw someone off the bus.. not on a deserted country road, of course, but I have done this a couple of times and was thanked by the party leader who wasn't able to control the person. Or, you just end the trip early and still charge your minimum hour rate.

So you do have several ways to discipline a group and have a lot of fun. Most groups just want to have a safe fun time and won't cause a lot of trouble.. esp professionals and office people... they don't want trouble any more than you do. Like I said, you have to kind of pick your customer.. maybe you don't want to take a trip with a rock band's road crew?
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:26 AM   #9
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Other commercial ventures

... our bus is designed to double as a guided or unguided tour bus. We have a modular hot dog/nacho/microwave unit that we can take on a trip and, in place of the bean bag seating in the rear, we can latch down 6 more chairs.

The idea is that you can't run party bus during the week.. so what do you do? We are putting together guided tours for groups like red-hat, nursing homes, retirement villages, schools, day care, etc... for example, for 35 bucks each we can take 30 seniors on a trip to the arboretum then for a picnic in the park.. leave at 8:30 and have 'em back by 3 or so.. we hire a grad student for 75-100 with appropriate expertise to be the guide and use Boston Market for the box lunch. Our total cost is about $375 for the trip.. please do the math.

I don't care if you steal this idea because I think it's pretty cool.. my personal favorite is our "shutterbug" tour... we hire a pro photographer and an art student to be the guides. Pick up 25 amature photographers at 4:30 in the morning and start with a sunrise breakfast photo shoot. then on the fly lessons in digital photography as we go from spot to spot depending on the theme of the tour (landscapes, nature, architecture, people, events). Feed 'em lunch and go for a last shot somewhere. All for like 75 to 100 bucks includes food. And a camera full of near professional pix. Cool, eh?

There's a million ideas like this.. I think we should share.

Ciao!
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Old 09-27-2006, 09:32 PM   #10
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Progress Reporting

PAINTING

Well, after a lot of research we figured out how to paint a school bus what to do and what not to do... That's pretty well covered in this site but I'll give you my short take and hopefully that'll help someone.

1. There is no need to go down to the metal.
2. Prep with a light sanding, tack cloth then go over the entire bus with paint thinner to remove any grease, oil, dirt etc. then paint right over the yellow.
3. PAINT.. We used BPS Truck and Trailer Enamel for both the black base and the decorative elements. This is a Valspar product and they have great technical support. Available at Tractor Supply Company

&bsp

4. Remove clear coat with a spray Clear Coat Remover.. WalMart has it ...and then lightly sand the fiberglass bonnet.

5. THINGS THAT WILL MESS YOU UP: Humidity, moisture in the spray equipment, dust, not practicing to get the right lay down. Too much lay and it runs, not enough and it comes out grainy looking. Also.. do your interior and all exterior metal working first.. paint the exterior last. Don't follow our example!

Anyway... here's our bus, nearly completed.



Here's a close up of some of the scroll work that you can't see on the above pic.

[/b]

We switched methods midstream... the blue and red is airbrush but the yellow and green are vinyl applique. Vinyl is definitely the way to go for complex designs esp on the uneven surfaces through the rub rails.. you just can't get good result with masking tape for this kind of stuff. So.. more later.
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