Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 05-04-2018, 11:46 AM   #1
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
Wilderland Bus AK _ '04 Thomas 32' FE

I think it's time to start documenting our conversion now that we have all our seats stacked in piles along the bus bulkheads & windows, ready for a trip to the dump!

Just a quick run down on us before I get started. We're a family of 7...one mom, one dad, two 16yo boys, one 9yo boy, one boy dog, one girl dog. Home is Palmer, AK. Like many, we have an itch for adventure, but sometimes have a hard time pulling the trigger. It sure is easy to stuck in life's daily routines. For years. We've managed to pull ourselves out of that routine a few times...the latest attempt as the purchase of our bus, which happened one week ago.

I hopped right into the forums not long ago, mentioning my planned route home after purchasing our bus just outside of Spokane. It seems like the whole “CDL, air brake endorsement (our bus has them), weigh station & traveling through Canada” thing is a hot topic on here. I get why it is, most of us like to operate within the law & really don't know DMV details because it was a long time ago that we actually studied those laws. Staying out of the pokie is good & so is not paying the government anymore dollars than already requested.

Here’s my interpretation of our experience, from purchase in WA to our driveway in AK. About 2640 miles over 4 days...actually 3.

After (not before) Kelly & I committed to the purchase of our bus, we thought it might be good to study up on licensing & registration. I’m glad we became emotionally locked in prior to doing our homework...I think we may have backed out after listening to all the noise on this forum. It didn't hurt that we also sent a cash deposit, sight unseen. I’ve been around enough half converted buses at bluegrass festivals & GD shows to know it couldn’t be that difficult to get it home. I did some solid research of state & federal code, the results confirmed thoughts of a few skoolie members that sound much more experienced than I. My interpretation was that I was legal to drive it home (sort of...maybe). In the end, we were comfortable with pretty much any worst case scenario, up to & including having to ditch the bus somewhere in Canada. I would have been OK knowing I provided shelter for someone, even if it was for a washed up homeless curling Olympian.

After handing over a cashier’s check & shaking the owner’s hand, we went into town to transfer title, bill of sale, & purchase trip permits. I left the licensing office with a bill of sale, a title for the bus classed as a motorhome & a couple three day trip permits. Piece of cake. I had a hammock, bucket & single burner stove with me, which was permanent enough for me to feel good about this school bus disguised as an RV. I was convinced that the WA trip permits had that potential hiccup covered anyway. In addition, I had pages of Alaska & Federal code with me, which talked about personal use exemptions. Anyway...after returning to the bus, I packed up my stuff, fired the purring 3126 off & headed for my driving partner’s house. Wayne, who is my boss’ father, lives a couple miles south of the Porthill border crossing in Idaho. The plan was to get a good night’s sleep and head out to cross the border when it opened at 7AM.

After coffee, we headed out & got to the border at 6:59, just in time to watch the US border patrol guy walk out & unlock the "wall"...a rickety, squeaky, red metal gate. We drove through and pulled over at the Canadian border. We probably could have slipped into either of the lanes under the roof, but I was still a little uncomfortable with the buss’ girth, so I pulled way over to the right, way out of the way. We were the first and only people at the crossing, and the bus was about 100’ from the building. Wayne and I grabbed out passports & headed in. The patrol guys greeted us with a smile and asked the typical questions about firearms, drugs & destination. I anticipated the question about the bus registration & told him about our trip permits. I showed him a photo of the permit from my phone, taped to the back window of the bus, taken as I walked into the building. He asked me about a couple “young man lapses of judgement” that appeared on his screen as well. No real issues there. He peered at the bus from his chair, over the top of his computer screen and asked what we were doing with it. I told him I needed a winter project because my life as a tugboater kept me busy all summer & jobless all winter. “Safe travels, you’re good to go.” as he handed back our paperwork. Whaaat? Yeah, he never left the building. I was disappointed actually. At least come out and admire my beautiful new vehicle! Maybe I look less like a drug smuggling weapons dealer than I think. I’m certain that bus has more places to hide illegal stuff than the last 100 rigs to move through that little border. Off we went!

Other than the unrivalled scenery, that came in the form of mountains, buffalo, moose, elk, deer, rivers, frozen lakes and much more, the trip was entirely uneventful. We drove 18 hours a day for the first two, slept in a Grand Prairie truck stop the first night, the Whitehorse Walmart parking lot the second, and was in my driveway in Palmer by 7PM on the third day of travel.

I’ll back up a bit...we did pass a dozen or so weigh stations. Only two were open, one in BC & one in YT. The BC stations have signs that say ALL vehicles over 4500kg must stop. I made the decision way before seeing the green “OPEN” sign to fly on through, so that’s what we did. I eyed my rearview mirror for a few miles but soon forgot we even drove through it. The YT stations have signs that only require commercial vehicles over 5000kg to stop, so I didn’t feel like an outlaw there.

The US border crossing was easy as expected, we didn’t even have to get out of the bus for that one. We handed the patrol guy our DL, Passports, insurance card & answered a few boilerplate questions & off we went.

The trip couldn't have turned out any better. The bus ran like a top, got better MPG than I anticipated & my driving buddy got to check off the ALCAN from his bucket list!

I apologize in advance for the photo duplicates, some of them are on a previous post or two...just wanted to get this diary started of right!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_3423 (1).jpg (246.4 KB, 57 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3424.jpg (182.1 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3440.jpg (157.6 KB, 42 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3507 (1).jpg (272.6 KB, 48 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3490.jpg (134.0 KB, 35 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3577.jpg (255.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3588.jpg (225.4 KB, 37 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3603.jpg (197.0 KB, 39 views)
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2018, 09:36 PM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 211
Nice
Pretty cool trip
Seriousracer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-06-2018, 06:42 AM   #3
Bus Crazy
 
david.dgeorge07's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Posts: 1,343
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Thomas
Engine: CAT 3126
Great story! What mpg did you actually get? And what transmission do you have?
__________________
My Build Thread:

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/4-...ner-18205.html
david.dgeorge07 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-06-2018, 10:06 AM   #4
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by david.dgeorge07 View Post
Great story! What mpg did you actually get? And what transmission do you have?
We got 10.5 mpg. My guess is it'll get better from now on, we weren't shy on the throttle for most of the trip. I won't ever be that aggressive in the future. I had a few reasons to get home sooner than later. After the initial couple hundred miles I knew we had a good runner so I figured what the hell...lets try to beat out any deep seeded gremlins. I feel pretty dang good about what we have. The transmission is an Allison 2000. On the grades less than 4-5% she would motor over in the highest gear at about 55-60. Anything steeper would kick it down one less than that overdrive gear, at about 52. Only the 7% or steepers would slow us down less than 50.
__________________
One...slow...step...at a time.
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-06-2018, 10:48 AM   #5
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
As I work on my second cup of coffee this morning, thinking about removing our heaters & 60' of coolant line, I figured I'd share a few photos from yesterday's work. Kelly and Alex probably slept well last night, as they both labored much more than I. All I did was sneak around and take photos.

Anyone have problems closing their windows all the way into their final position? Many of ours wont latch all the way up unless I remove the gasket that sits up top in the frame. There are a couple pics below of what I'm referring to. The tracks are free of dirt and grime, so that's not the problem. I think the gasket is too old & dry and doesn't compress enough. I need to dig around on the forums & online to see if there is a vendor that sells the stuff. I'm sure the gasket not only keeps water out, but also helps reduce the school bus rattle we all have known since grade school.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_3630.jpg (186.5 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3632.jpg (110.8 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3654.jpg (197.8 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3666.jpg (213.4 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3672.jpg (210.6 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3680.jpg (221.5 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3685.jpg (226.3 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3656.jpg (405.5 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3629.jpg (130.2 KB, 25 views)
__________________
One...slow...step...at a time.
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-07-2018, 11:08 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
Ran to the dump today....scales say the bus is 600 lbs lighter. Mostly seat skins, foam & a bit of metal coolant hose coverings. I kept the seat frames because they stack nice in the shed. A good(ish) source for bracket material & small sheet metal. If I don't use any of it for the bus, which is likely, I'll bring it to the scrap pile.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg dump run.jpg (235.9 KB, 18 views)
__________________
One...slow...step...at a time.
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-09-2018, 12:14 PM   #7
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
Rubber Floor Removal / rubber over metal, no plywood

Seems to be quite a bit of conversation about "best practices" for rubber floor removal on here. So much good info. I think the best methods vary depending on the materials you're dealing with. Here's a video showing the process we used...may work for some, may not. A little patience & heat was the trick for us.

__________________
One...slow...step...at a time.
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-09-2018, 09:29 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Interior BC
Posts: 52
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Thomas
Engine: 8.3l Cummins
Good solid start, very nice that there wasn't any ply (and all the associated nails). 5/7 of you in 32' is going to be interesting, any thoughts on layout?
Curious Slug is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-10-2018, 09:54 AM   #9
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious Slug View Post
Good solid start, very nice that there wasn't any ply (and all the associated nails). 5/7 of you in 32' is going to be interesting, any thoughts on layout?
Thanks & agreed, 5 humans and 2 dogs will be tight for sure. However, the shorter length was a conscious decision, it fits in our driveway & it'll benefit us in all these remote campgrounds up here. It doesn't hurt that this bus is a gem... a great runner & zero rust or dings. We'll likely use it as a weekend warrior type motorhome prior to the 16yo twins moving on in life. After they are gone we'll actually explore more permanent residence. We'll improvise the sleeping quarter situation if they're still around when when it's finished. We are definitely kicking around layout ideas. My wife has had scaled graph paper out on the table for weeks now.
__________________
One...slow...step...at a time.
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2018, 11:03 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
tugboater's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Palmer, AK
Posts: 238
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf T Liner MVP 11 window 32’
Engine: CAT 3126E
Rated Cap: 72
Coolant heaters removed with a question or two...

One last task before I abandon the bus for a few months. We're off to pursue an adventure of a different sort. I'm a bit bummed I won't be tinkering for a while. My wife promises to send photos of anything she decides to do while I'm on the boat.

I removed the heaters today, following the advice of folks that shared their experiences on here. Sure is nice to learn from others, I'm quite the hack on my own. Just looped the hoses back together using a plastic 90 that was used in line as part of the system I removed. I'm expecting a gold star from the EPA, not a drop of coolant spilled...on the ground.

I'm going to read up a bit more on the booster pump (is that what it's called?) & decide whether or not to remove it at a later date. It is still in the system. Is there a benefit to keeping it other than as a backup method to cool the engine? As it is now, I doubt it'll even do that. It needed the heater & 50' of hose for that. I'll probably keep it in place until I've run it up a mountain or two & am OK with engine temps. Seems like a bunch of extra hoses hanging down there for nothing. Less is better eh?

Removed the wires all the way to the switches. Is it a bad idea to leave the power to each switch? Work for now? I’ll remove them completely...another days project. I feel like what I did is cleaner than just terminating them with tape or caps. Better read up on that too.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_3864.jpg (236.7 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3875.jpg (244.3 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3883.jpg (360.6 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3881.jpg (197.4 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3885.jpg (267.4 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3890.jpg (203.2 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3891.jpg (219.4 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3899.jpg (301.3 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3900.jpg (260.2 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_3905.jpg (158.7 KB, 23 views)
__________________
One...slow...step...at a time.
tugboater is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:31 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.