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Old 12-02-2009, 06:13 PM   #1
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Originally Posted by punctualalexx
It will also be less than half the work of refinishing a full-size bus.
Actually, it will probably be twice the work, since you will have to build inventive storage spaces to get your belongings into every spare inch of space. It can be done, and since it is your lifestyle it may be the way to go. If you are touring and going off the beaten path, and really need odd places to park, then you may not be happy in a long bus. If you are just going to camp on friends' properties, you may find some extra space will make a bus more livable.

Once you get the hang of your vehicle size and maneuvering, you might find parking isn't such a problem after all. You can judge backing much more accurately using outside mirrors than by looking over your shoulder. Learn to think outside the box. For example, if you stop at a burger stand without truck parking, back into the last space in the rear near where the U-turn for the drive-up is. The nose sticking out extra far along the back curb won't block traffic. In a shopping center, find two back-to-back spaces that are open, and pull through or back into both rows.

I don't want to discourage you from following your own plans, but don't handicap your thinking with preconceptions, either.

Oh, and by the way, Welcome.
Someone said "Making good decisions comes from experience, experience comes from bad decisions." I say there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their mistakes, those who learn from the mistakes of others, and those who never learn.
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Old 12-02-2009, 08:07 PM   #2
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Originally Posted by punctualalexx
Remove the wall panels and install insulation and drywall everywhere that will not eventually be covered by cabinets.
I hope your not seriously thinking about putting drywall in. Besides the enormous weight that drywall would add, I have a feeling that after going down your first rough road you might start to see the drywall crack and breakdown from all the vibrations and body flex of the bus. I would suggest going with wood paneling. unless you like to live dangerous. Then in that case I would suggest going with wood slats and plaster.
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Old 12-02-2009, 09:42 PM   #3
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

If all you've expanding to space-wise at age 22 is sharing an apartment, then a short bus will be fine. Look on Craigslist for a cheap or free camper to steal things out of. I have a 18,000 btu propane heater out of a pop up in mine. (kinda small)
One thing I'd do is while you're planning-get out the calculator + start figuring out all the wattage you'll be drawing with all those 12v items you listed + how much the solar panel will give back. I'd go leds for lites. I'd also pass on the onboard storage + filtering of of the veg-It means you'll have to use the bus to go out collecting. ( And the only way you can get steady supplies-is to be consistant on pick up.) Also more math-how far you plan on traveling with it? Any trip under 20 miles isnt worth switching to wvo.
Don't make a fuss-just get on the bus!

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Old 12-02-2009, 11:23 PM   #4
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Good to see another cyclist on here. I would add more advice, but your getting a bunch of good advice already. Just good to see another two wheel guy on here. Welcome.
Im Johnny. I Bike For The Light. I love missions. I think students rock. I make my mark.
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:54 AM   #5
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Make a plan on paper or in CAD or Floorplanner/website. Figure out the sizes of what you want to put in and adjust/make stand-ins for the plan. It should give you a better idea of what size bus you will need, what you can put into it storage wise, and alot of fun moving the pieces around trying to figure it all out. Plus, you ideas will evolve and change as you go and as you see what you can and cant fit in or do.

I like I tend to use it to make visual plans. If I get a new inspiration, I start a new plan. Look at the old plans that I tried and use parts from them in new plans.

*edit*...that will teach me to type out the link myself.
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Old 12-03-2009, 06:10 PM   #6
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Originally Posted by punctualalexx
Ah ha, this is a good point, something I hadn't thought about... are there any other options for wall treatment? I was thinking of drywall because it's something I know how to work with, something I know I can find for free or cheap, but that wouldn't be worth much if it started falling off during every trip... on the other hand, I don't plan to have too much wall space that isn't occupied by cabinetry, so it shouldn't be too hard to panel a few small sections.
I plan to use luan or some kind of smooth paneling, it depends on what I can get my hands on at the time for the cheapest. for other ideas check out what others have done with their buses on here. I find that I get a lot of great Ideas by just browsing the photo gallery or checking out their web pages. a lot of people on here have their project thread and/or web pages listed in their signature.
Good luck
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Old 12-04-2009, 10:48 AM   #7
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Plenty of planning and reading up on different aspects of your conversion will help a lot. I am converting a short bus for my girlfriend and I to live in and travel the country. We will not have as much room as a larger bus, but we are trying to live as basic as possible.

Even if you are not going to be traveling long distances very often a Veggie Oil Kit will eventually pay for itself with the price of diesel today. And its always a great back up plane to have two sources of fuel. Check out they will have what you need for a larger diesel engine. Its probably gonna cost you at least $1500.00 for the kit, and the larger the engine the higher the price. But these guys may be the best on the market for veg kits.

For heat Smitty sent me a link to youtube which shows how to build a small pot-belly wood stove out of an old propane tank. Thats one way to cheaply heat your bus. And check out this link it talks about a small wood stove. This one is a little larger than a short bus would need.

If you dont want the extra wheelchair door then hold out for a bus without one. The less work you have to do the better, and I hear those wheelchair lifts are heavy! Scrap yards will take seat frames. Or use them to weld together a cool safari rack for the roof. Keep us posted!
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Old 12-04-2009, 07:49 PM   #8
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

you are looking for a bus like I have. Page 11 in gallery Putters bus. It does have the lift on the side but I figure I can get 350 for it anyway.
Will be looking forward to your progress as I am looking for plans myself. Are you looking to be on solar only or hook to land power some?
See if you can find a wrecked camper or rv to salvage parts also. just a suggestion putter out
see my conversion at
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Old 12-04-2009, 08:01 PM   #9
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

Great balls of fire, man! 3-D bus design! How amazing! Fantabulous! That's what you can't get a feel for by talking about and designing buses in terms of single plane floorplans: cubic! Don't tell me you have VR walk-throughs, too. It's top-shelf!

I like the plans, not just the bus, but the travel and the lifestyle. People say, "someday I'll travel," but it doesn't happen unless you plan and execute, and you are on the way!

(This monograph started as a short note (that I started and lost twice over the last few days), and morphed, so some of it is specific advice to you, and some is more general advice aimed at the people thinking about getting a bus. All of it is free advice, and well worth what you paid for it! I apologize in advance for the length, and I hope the tone is not critical except in the sense that my ideas are my thoughts as applied to the general argument of bus length in the universe of shorty vs. standard bus (of course, there are other length arguments to be made among "standard" bus lengths, etc.) Besides, lady friends have assured me that size really doesn't matter.

Disclaimer to anyone thinking about getting a bus: The following is my opinion about designing a bus. Your bus is all about you! Do what works for you and makes you happy. My ideas are great for me, but not all of them may be good for you. Take what you need, leave what you can spare...

With all due respect to your planning and your knowlege of your own needs and desires (not to mention your engineering training and superior CAD kung-fu.) I second Smitty's suggestion about a longer bus, especially if you are full-timing.

Do some measuring in parking lots, and I think you'll find that it's going to be a challenge to get that usefully parked in any white-line space. I
understand your concern about travelling in cities and parking. We had issues with school operated shorties in our parking lots at the park: if
they angle parked, they blocked travel lanes in *our* parking lots, and there are a lot of other non-standard parking lots out there. Finding convenient parking for a 24' bus might not be much easier than finding convenient parking for a 30' bus (which is, granted, not always simple.)

The shorty has it hands down. My bus has a 240" wheelbase. (I'm really concerned about having to drive it across a 30 foot wide creekbed in the near future...) You have to have a certain amount of room to turn it around. The short bus would have a much smaller turning radius because it has a shorter wheelbase. I see a big advantage to that in a city. (The downside is that the shorter bus is going to be much bouncier.)

BUT... are you actually going to be driving around much within a city? If you are just driving into a city and parking for an extended stay,
you may be driving more, in terms of total driving, between cities than within cities. Plus, you ride bikes! They are great transport,
weather and traffic permitting. There is an equilibrium point there between useful vehicle size and the practical difficulty of driving/parking any
large vehicle. OTOH, I could park my bus in downtown Grundy during the day, right across the street from the school (but I don't
because I always have tools spread out everywhere, and the fuel cost would be prohibitive,) and it sure would be nice to commute by bus on long days --
walk home, have a cup of coffee between classes, etc. If you're in a really big city, where you can't find parking and have to commute from the suburbs,
could you use a scooter, motorcycle, or small toad (towed vehicle) as auxilliary transport?

My bus is 30' 6" bumper to bumper (dognose IHC/Thomas 60/40 pass.: 8+1long window), an I can get around strip-mall parking lots pretty well
if they aren't totally packed. We have a lot of urban sprawl in the Southeast, so, while we do have quite a few metropolitan areas, even our big cities
are pretty spread out except in the midst of "downtown." (Generally.) What likely destinations do you have in mind? What structural advantages
do they offer in terms of transportation like bike paths, bus service, sky-ways, metros/trains? City design -- big streets, small streets? Are you going
to spend your in-city time visiting large public facilities like museums (usually in town, but often with bus parking), or in areas developed for white
collar business (usually high-rise parking/rental lots/street parking)?


Where you plan to go, how do they like people like you, who live in a bus? Did you plan to paint your bus hippie style? Do you have dreads? Or are you
planning a nice cedar suit-closet to keep the moths off the wool suits you wear everywhere you drive in your limo-style high tech bus? Your lifestyle
choice is a personal decision, like your bus decoration, but people react to those things differently in different places. Hippie bus driving rasta-man is
going to get along better in Seattle or Asheville than in Juneau or Jacksonville. Vice-versa for the mobile yuppie. (Side note: I should do some legal
research on search and seizure laws in the several states, and post here the results. It's an issue of importance for people who drive used buses.)

I really like the 3-D CAD, because it expresses better the parameter that we are concerned about: cubic space, not just length. My bus is 24' from the
back of the driver's seat/stairwell area to the rear door. I have about 950 cubic feet of space in the bus: 87" surface to surface interior width x 65"
average height x 288" length [corrected length]. My front living area is of a very open design with no fixed structures. I can clear it to have an 87"wide
x 87" long x 65" high workspace (actually a foot longer on side for 2/3 of the width.) That is 284 cubic feet of WORKSPACE. You work on bikes: would
you rather do it between your counter and your table, or in a bigger, more open area? The living systems of a short bus could fit in a long bus and leave
you a good bit of space left over. OTOH -- part of doing more with less is about being creative in using space, and maybe a big open space really isn't
necessary to your requirements.

I can't help but put in my obligatory plug for going refrigeration-free. Life is very little different when you don't own a refrigerator. Let Wal-Mart or
Publix pay for the electricity and equipment needed to keep food cold. If you are going to be in cities, there will be grocery stores everywhere. You can
keep lots of staple food without refrigeration, and only get perishable items on demand. Corporations use demand based inventory control all the time.
(Usually their schedules incorporate delivery, but if you're riding by the grocery store on the way back from the coffee-shop...) Take advantage of the
vendor's capital investment (in refrigeration facilities and storage space.) Things that keep well (one week minimum) without refrigeration: root
crops like potatoes, onions, carrots; celery; peppers; fruits like oranges, apples, banannas, tomatoes; bagels and bread; powdered milk (not as bad as
people make out, seriously); canned goods (tuna, soup, veggies - but watch the sodium on prepared foods); green beans; eggs (yes, eggs); pickle
relish, ketchup, horseradish (pickled), oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce; sugar, flour, yeast. Don't make me go on...

How much better could you use that 2'x2'x2' of cubic? What percentage of your total cubic is it? What percentage of your total electricity demand will it
be (i.e. how much smaller and cheaper could your solar system be)? What percentage of your budget? How much do you really need it?

If you do nothing else, you really should get ahold of "RV Electrical Systems" by Bill and Jan Moeller ISBN 0-07-042778-X . It cost $22.95US about 5 years
ago. It is the shizzle. Everything you need to know to design a total RV-specific electrical system is in there. The time you will save in research
alone will make this book worth the money.

It's a good idea, IMHO, to wire for dual (12VDC/120VAC) electrical systems. You have more options that way. The expense is greater, but the future
savings in labor and remodeling is worth it. I wired for 12VDC and 120VAC because I wanted to have solar day. One day finally came, and
my 8 ga. bus-wires are all in place for my conversion to 12VDC. All I have to do is wire my existing lighting to the 12VDC system (I'm using primarily
12VDC florescent bulbs that work in standard sockets.)

My ultimate plans incorporate using my laptop as a digital entertainment system. That means no more CD cases to store or figure out which CD goes in
which case.) You can hook a laptop to more recent 12VDC car stereos. Then you don't even need a car stereo with a CD player, just an AM/FM receiver
(you can find them if you look.) The laptop (and phone) can charge occasionally from your 12VDC system, as well. (If you gave up the fridge, you could
use that electricity for charging the laptop and phone and running the stereo REALLY LOUD.) Take advantage of OPE (other people's electricity) when
you can, though. Charge laptop at school or library or coffeeshop.

Think modular upgrade when you design your 12VDC system, not just in terms of your electrical demands, but in terms of your physical space. Build a big
enough battery box now, so that you don't have to rebuild it in the future. What do you want long term? Where does it need to go? (12VDC
supply/charging/storage should ideally be mounted to have the shortest necessary run for the greatest circuit loads -- generally centered in the bus.) You
can run a small wire a long way to power that small outside flourescent light over your back door, but your cranking 12VDC stereo system (or fridge)
should be closer to the power supply and it should have a much fatter wire.

I designed my solar system to give me adequate power in the winter when there often will be several days in a row of limited sunlight. It's basically
designed to produce a lot of power (21Ah @ 18VDC) in a few hours each day. I'm going to have power to BURN during the summer or if I move south out
of these rainy mountains one day. The W/Ah of storage ratio on my system is a bit high in that regard (but when I add my second 290Ah battery, it won't
be as high!) Where are you going to travel? AZ in the summer, or AK in the winter? That is something to consider as well.

Whew...I should stop now...but

(note: this is addressed to people who might be going into fulltiming, and some of it is addressed to "those guys" (you know who they are,) who make life miserable for everyone else.)

A couple of more things. Friends may say, "park the bus here and work on it," but landlords and neighbors may get involved. So might police, and when they point a gun at you, put your face in the dirt real fast and say "yes, sir" a WHOLE LOT. (see my early posts ) People may say, "sure, use my kitchen and bathroom," but good intentions are sometimes eclipsed by the realities of shared space. A good way to prevent problems is to be very specific about terms, and to stick to them (at least on your side of the equation.) Consideration and tidiness in shared living spaces are critical, both inside and outside the house. If you pee on her toilet seat all the time, or leave a heap of bus junk in the front yard while you work on it, someone's going to get irritated. If you say, "I'll have the painting done by the end of the week," have the painting done (and cleaned up!) by the end of the week. If you borrow tools, make sure they get back clean and undamaged when you say they will. If you can pitch in and help out with things beyond the amount expected of you, people will be grateful. If you don't take the trash out on your day to do it, people get grumpy.

Okay, I gotta study Contracts...
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:59 PM   #10
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Re: My future full-time short-bus: A brainstorming thread

I have a small portable camp toilet-it seemed kinda short so what i did was set it on the wheel arch + squared off the anlged portion of the arch. Set the toilet right on the edge + the height worked great, (even for my 5'5'' wife) the back 1/2 of the arch is the floor of a closet.
As far as going fridge-less--the newer coolers are real good at keeping things cold. I've had ice go 5 days in a plastic Colman. ! less powered thing you need.
Don't make a fuss-just get on the bus!

my bus build
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