I'm not going to comment on the buses. And I am clueless as to where to buy a bus in NM. I've not really seen any places like Wade's in Alto GA out here. There's a place with lots of buses on the South side of I 40 between Coors & I 25 interchange. But we've never stopped. SeanF has his bus for sale in AZ
I believe. If we won the lottery, I would buy his bus for our daughter and we would all head east and up into the Appalachians until we hit cooler temps and green.(Right now, it's 101F here and 75F in Elizabethton, TN). But that's a dream. Back to the heat and reality....
We started out converting our bus in our daughter's backyard. Our immediate goal was to get the thing to the point of a metal tent with a few amenities. We also had to carry stuff with us to use in the stealth conversion so we had a pile in the bus. We had a very good idea (and drawing taped to the interior) of our basic floor plan. A few things have shifted an inch or so and some minor things were changed. We knew what we needed and what we wanted upfront. We had lived long term in a pop-up more than once (1.5 years was the longest). So we knew how to live "skinny". But here's what we started out with as a base...
-- Blanked out the windows we did not need.
-- Stripped apart, cleaned and rebuilt the windows we did keep (hard to do in a commercial campground)
-- Painted exterior (hard to do in a commercial campground)
-- Rolled 5 gallons of Henry's SolarFlex roof coating on the roof to seal and reflect heat (hard to do in a campground)
-- Installed refrigerators and big freezer
-- Installed quick connect LP connection and piping to my home range (I missed it and it was never removed from the bus from the move)
-- Put the microwave on a shelf over the range.
-- Installed the TV (I knew we would have cable at the campground)
-- Installed/bolted down the bed
-- Installed the toilet, vanity sink, water filters and black tank (vanity sink is plumbed into the black tank)
-- Strung extension cords all over to power everything.
-- Hung but did not install the grey tank and the fresh water tank
-- Installed a closet pole for hanging clothes and a couple of plastic drawer bins from Wal-Mart for folded clothes
-- installed/bolted down my cedar chest filled my tiny Christmas tree and part of my quilts
-- loaded a small electric Patton milkhouse style heater on board (later we bought another)
-- installed two RV chairs we had bought off of craigslist plus my little vintage rock maple table between the two (we can use the little table to hold drinks and food as we have no use for a dinette)
-- bought a length of Christmas lights (C7 bulbs) to use as lights. I paid $1 or $2 at the flea market. My daughter uses the tiny fairy lights (non-blinking type) as her ambient lighting and tabletop lamps for task lighting.
We did not insulate at the time as our bus had insulation in the ceiling & walls (but not the floors... Brrrrr!)
Things like cookware and other "stuff" was packed in Rubbermaid totes and loaded into the bus. We had a long table like you find in school cafeterias that we used as a "prep table" across from the range in the galley area. Food & cookware was stuff all around it.
Left Socorro NM for Roswell NM (150+ miles) on Dec 10, 2011. Nice time of the year to end up parked overnight on the side of the road with no heat or any power.Thank goodness we had a sleeping bag, a blanket and 6 quilts to huddle under. And my gas range only requires electric to light the oven. We managed to toast a couple grilled cheese sandwiches on the stovetop since we had matches and candles to see by. Make sure your headlights turn on before leaving out. We have a faulty switch apparently. They worked the day before we left, but did not check them again when we stopped in the campground we were living in to load our clothes from one vehicle to another.
Since we knew we would be in a campground with a heated bathhouse, we did not put in a shower at that time. Just the toilet since I have no desire to walk up to a bathhouse in the middle of the night in the winter. We assumed we would do quite a bit of grilling for our meals like we did in Socorro. Roswell is much windier than Socorro and we rarely grill anything. We did/do rely heavily on the crockpot, microwave and LP stove. The LP stove would heat the bus up nicely in the winter while I cooked. A word... when you are not in a well insulated, heated place, those 110AC electric heated mattress pads work very nicely to keep you warm on cold nights with a sleeping bag spread out over the bed and they do it very cheaply too.
Right now we still do not have the galley finished. In other words... no countertops or working sink (my sink is sitting, upside down on a soft blanket to protect the finish, on the floor in the kitchen until we put the countertop in). We wash dishes using two Sams Club "bus pans" (one wash/ one rinse) that we used on the food cart to load/unload food). We were using water from the vanity sink but have since installed the shower and get our water from the shower. We no longer have to heat water on the stove since we installed a water heater either (same time as the shower). The water was directly hooked up to the filters which was then plumbed directly into the vanity sink. That has changed slightly (we have a perpetual fill/auto shut off fresh tank now).
We are finishing up the bus based on priorities and availability of funds. With the high heat so early this summer, we have broke down and installed two air conditioners (had one and bought one new). We didn't have any air conditioning last summer. Life is so much nicer with air conditioning. That became a priority over getting the galley finished up. Just like getting the shower in (had the pan sitting in place several months before we left Socorro) with hot water became a priority when the campground decided that the bathhouse did not need to be warm last November/December and the water was shut off for repair almost everyday for a couple of weeks. So the fresh tank (already hung in place) was plumbed in and we finished buying the materials to put the shower in. Getting the countertop tiled and kitchen sink installed is back to being a top priority and our next project. We do need to get a wind guard installed on the air conditioners (bought one today to do a "test run" before buying the second vent cover).
Knowing what we need to do and the materials needed to accomplish the project has allowed us to buy things cheaply as we come across them. The kitchen sink is a triple bowl enameled cast iron hernia waiting to happen by Kohler. It was given to us free (old display) by a plumber David sometimes worked with in late 2008. It was loaded it into the bus right after we got the seats out in 2009 and we've not moved it since. It's SOOOOO heavy. I picked up the "plastic" RV kitchen sink faucet (with sprayer) for $5 or $10 at a thrift store three years ago. The water here is so bad (mineral rich) that we will not put a decent faucet on until we can get a water softener system installed. THAT is not a priority. The used shower pan was bought off Craigslist for $25 in Albuquerque long before we left Socorro. It sat in the "shower stall" until we installed it. We bought the laminate flooring that we put on the walls on sale last Thanksgiving/Christmas season. Installed parts of it as needed over the next few months (still need to cover a bit more sidewall but we have the material needed). The Corian that the vanity "sink" (a 6" deep half-size stainless steel steam table pan) sits in was "scrap" from a kitchen remodel. The decking was installed before we left Socorro but the 7" high back and side splash was only recently cut to fit. A "wall" (flush hollow core luaun door) had to be "built" and the laminate floor wall covering and duplex electric receptacle had to be put in. We have also since installed our little Tag-a-long LP space heater on the wall in the bath area for heating that small space as needed. We need to buy the PEX and fittings to plumb in/run ducts for the hydronic heat (our main heater) this fall (then insulate & button up under the floor) and I also need to buy a small blueflame type LP heater for the front salon. We are set up to allow us to close off the back half of the bus (bathroom & bedroom) from the front half (salon & galley). This allows us to shut down the heat/air in the front half when we go to sleep. Why should we waste $$ heating/cooling a spot that we are not in? Same for the back half of the bus.
We do not have much left to do. I'm hoping by Christmas we will be finished, with the exception of the floor which is going to take me time to cut all the tiny mosaic pieces and fit them together. All we need it some more money.....
My long winded point is, we knew and still know what the bus would look like (art deco cottage style with dieselpunk leanings
) and had a floor plan pretty much down pat for quite some time (originally we were going to convert a 40 ft Eagle but could not get ahead of the rust). Yes we have made some changes due to material cost. Our goal is to bring the conversion in at under $5K. I keep a spreadsheet going on both projected costs and actual costs. So nothing is set in stone until we actually buy it and put it in the bus. I'm always trying to go cheaper and still keep my "look" that I'm trying to achieve. It's not easy being this cheap and still have a nice place to call home. Sometimes David & I can get into some heated discussions over some things (like the cabinet hardware
I want and by changing finishes I'm down to $18.50 each and David still thinks that's too expensive
). I started out wanting copper and black nickel finishes. That has proved to be far too pricey. So now I'm going with a brushed silver metal (aluminum/SS/ etc) and black accents. I buy lumber "culls" from the cull bin at Home Depot whenever I get a chance. We have bought very little full price lumber. By modifying some of the construction methods, we have managed to save money on partition walls (we use hollow core flush luaun doors which results in a finished both sides wall ready to paint for less than $1 per inch), cabinets (modified frameless and painted instead of stained means we can use a thinner CDX RTD plywood and fill the rough areas with Rock Hard Putty, then sand and paint), substrates (free pegboard from local craigslist) and wall coverings (FRP sheets in the shower surround and laminate floor worked out cheaper than prefinished wall paneling). By thinking "outside the box" we have saved money on things like air conditioning (used two window A/C units and built them into the bus), heat (reusing the hydronic heat exchanger on the bus, adding an old 6 gallon LP RV water heater, a "hott rod" so we can run it on electric if we choose and a high temp fluid pump... getting all the pet-safe anti freeze in the system should be fun and pricey), a mobile home thru the wall vent instead of a range hood vent (works great... it will suck all the heat and air conditioning right out in nothing flat), AC/DC electrical (plain breaker box, intellipower smart charger and deep cycle marine batteries to try to kill).
By staying away from the expensive but poorly made "RV" stuff, we are saving money both now and later when/if we need to repair something. Since so much of our stuff is from ACE, Home Depot, WalMart, etc, that means those are the type of places that we can stop at and make repairs/buy replacements. No expensive specialty stores or long waits trying to catch the UPS/Fedex guy for the most part. The water pump is an RV item (Shurflow 2088 Classic) but we have one as a back up. Actually we have two since I bought unused one (cheap) at a roadside "yard" sale. I figure our daughter might need one.