When I was a kid my family didn't do many vacations. There could have been any number of reasons why, but now having my own children and have packed us all up a few times, I have a pretty clear set of reasons that would deter me from vacationing! It's our hope that the custom RV by skoolie will eventually address the biggest of those concerns and make it more comfortable, convenient, affordable, and therefore enjoyable for us to take vacations short and long more regularly.
That said, there's nothing like a schedule to get one moving.. and unfortunately, I'm expert at over-committing on both schedule and scope! In the short term, this is going to be something like Gyre's Project Steel Tent: we have a vacation planned less than two months from now which involves about 1500 miles of driving spread over a little more than a week. The thought of four children and our gear somehow packed in, on, and around our minivan during 30 hours of driving gives me hives. We've also learned from a pair of overnight trips earlier this year that our twin toddlers don't do well sleeping in unfamiliar places (ie hotel rooms). Hopefully we can get this to a state of "relatively usable" in the short time we have, and maybe we'll learn some things on the trip that will help us refine the design as we finish it off later.
Well, anyway, some introduction to The Rig:
It was used for some kind of transit around a ski resort in California. Note the sign on the ski racks "SKIS ONLY - NO SNOWBOARDS." We're very strict about that.
It's a Blue Bird, but not a school bus. So I guess it isn't an All American or TC2000; I have the impression those are specifically school bus bodies. I really don't know what to call this thing.
It has a Cummins ISC 8.3 engine out back with Allison B300R transmission. I've grown quite fond of this drive train already -- my former bus had a 5.9 L Cummins mechanical-injected engine up front. It was a dog and made all kinds of heat in the operator space. This electronic 8.3 really moves, and being in the rear, I don't hear it so much and don't feel any heat from it.
A couple features the electronic 8.3 brings that I'm quite excited about
: push-button high idle control (left of the steering column) and cruise control (right of the park brake knob)!
The cruise doesn't work right now and the high idle is spotty (I have discovered that if I wiggle the dash just so then the high idle works). I hope to find something simple like a poor ground in the dash to fix both of those.
I really like the WTECIII (?) push-button transmission control -- I'm one who likes to manually set the transmission gear for descending hills and who detests those lousy range shifters that offer only 1, D, and overdrive (my minivan.. grr..). The B300R is actually a 6-speed transmission but Blue Bird designed this power train for 5 speed and I haven't succeeded in persuading my local Allison shop to enable that second overdrive for me (yet). With all that said about the gear selector, I don't use it much because of another awesome feature: the B300R
has a retarder controlled by that black box by the driver's left knee. It's AWESOME. I used that to keep the speed under control descending some 6% grades last week -- I only had to use the service brakes a few times going around some tight bends.
Because it came from transit service the bus has a destination sign on its forehead and another beside the front door. These are the fluorescent green-yellow electronic flip-dot type made by Luminator. Nothing says "outta my way!" like "DRIVER TRAINING!"
I usually just leave it showing "OUT OF SERVICE" -- maybe one of these days I'll hack the controller and figure out how to load my own witty messages. At the moment I don't have any so no big rush.
I have most of the seats already removed.
There's a Ricon wheelchair lift hidden behind the rear doors. It came in handy for loading a dirt bike when I took one of my kids camping last week. I'll probably lose the lift, though -- don't imagine using it much and I'd like to free the belly space for holding tanks and storage bins. Maybe I'll find a way to use the hydraulic pump to drive some leveling jacks.. some day..