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Old 10-28-2015, 10:33 PM   #1
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2017 senior trip bus

I am a 17 year old from Massachusetts and I see the school bus conversion phenomenon and I want to be apart of it, 7 of my friends and I want to convert a bus but we really dont know where to start so we found this forum. We want to take the bus on a cross country trip to California. Any and all tips and suggestions are helpful, glad to be apart of this community
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:29 PM   #2
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You might find interesting the build and travelogue by porkchopsandwiches Smells Like Teen Spirit. It's written by a guy who was 19 (?) at the time. He doesn't say a lot about it, but it's evident there was some friction among the group during the trip to the point that one of the four bailed and flew home part way through. Seems that the experience overall was that it's easy to over-plan a trip of that magnitude. It's a good idea to plan ambitions low and the pace slow so that there isn't any rush to keep up with the itinerary.

A project like this as a group can be dicey if you don't start with clear expectations. Kind of like so-called "group" projects in school, where the one who cares does most of the work... Legally "somebody" has to own the thing, has to license it, has to buy the insurance, etc. It probably makes sense for one of you to fund most or all of the bus and improvements, and to own it all when the trip is over. The contribution of the others would be mostly time/labor. Discuss with your friends specifically what you'll all expect from one another, how to handle it if one loses interest and wants out of the deal, what'll happen with the bus after the big trip (is there some kind of ongoing expectation that non-owners would be able to borrow it for outings of their own, for example). Figure out how you'll put up the $4500+ for fuel, tolls, roadside repairs, campground fees, that will accrue during the trip (serious! Say 9000 miles at 9 MPG, that's 1000 gallons at $3 each just for fuel. There should also be one or two $100 oil changes in there, and surely something expensive will break too.).

I'm sure all of that sounds stuffy, boring, and awkward. It's good insurance for having a good time and avoiding/resolving conflict though, and you probably can find a good way to work it into a future job interview as an example of your people-organizing and project-managing abilities.

If there are any romantic interests among the members of the group, it would probably complicate things there every bit as much as it can in a work environment..

It sounds like an opportunity for some great fun. Go for it!
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Old 10-29-2015, 05:30 AM   #3
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Also make sure everyone is over 18 when you set out, or you could be breaking some laws in your travels. Most camping spots do not allowed minors with out a parent or legal guardian (not just another person over 18.) to stay. Make plans for what happens to the bus after your trip is over, if you are just going to punt it when you get back (or when you get to CA and fly back to MA) don't buy the best one you can find. If it is going to be a more temporary rig get a front engine dog nose bus they are cheaper and usually cheaper to fix if something goes poorly as they share more parts with trucks. Rear engines often drive better and since you plan on driving it coast to coast and back? It might be worth the extra money. The person who owns the bus and the insurance on it needs to do 90% of the driving as if there is a wreck and that person isn't at the wheel... well lets say you don't want to find out unless you have a reallllllly good lawyer on retainer. Don't let one of your parents buy or insure it either, unless they have a really good lawyer on retainer.

If you need to pool money to buy the rig and people want to make sure they can get there share back you can always have everyone put a separate lien on the title so it can't be sold with out all those getting cleared. I would instead suggest the person who buys the bus and insures it pays for the only for oil changes while on the trip and everyone else pays in for caffeinated drinks for the driver, gas and camp fees. Every one is responsible for their own food someone ate your sandwich well mark it better next time, you feel bad because ate someones sandwich make it right by them.

Make sure you have an open environment where you listen to each other and make sure everyones needs and goals are being met. The key to success of 7 people living in a space 7.5'x35' is communication and respect. Don't take the itinerary too rigidly be flexible make sure you give yourselves at least a week of wiggle room or if you want to think of it each person gets a day to say I WANT TO... stay, go, see, do something you didn't even know existed when you set out or just a day to rest. If 3 of the 7 of you don't like a spot leave, trust your guts. Don't let anyone person dictate the trip or have too dominate of a voice not even the Captain (bus owner).

There are some other stories out there about a group of Aussies that bought a bus in Canada and drove it around north america I think they called theirs the spruce moose. Hank bought a bus is a blog about a similar project. Read through the smells like teen sprit build log.

With 7 people figuring on 6ft of linear space to sleep you would need 42 linear feet and giving each person 30"or 2.5' of width makes 105 sqft of space (about half of an average bus) so I would suggest bunks either 2 or 3 high or roof top tents! Post lots of pics if you go this route. Don't stress the cooking set up, I doubt many of you will miss good cooking facilities. Read and reread the post in the smells like teen spirt where he talks about what he would have done differently next time.

I guess TL;DR is the logistics and legal side is the hard part the rest will come together fairly organically. AND take a crap load of pictures.
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Old 10-29-2015, 07:52 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Eezy View Post
7 of my friends and I want to convert a bus
8 people in a bus? You must really like each other. Prison cells are 48 square feet and can house two people. So I guess technically you'll have more room than prisoners do. If you get a bus with at least 32' of space behind the driver's seat you'd technically have enough space to fit 4 standard 6'x8' prison cells. But fights break out in prison all the time.

Chances are at least one of those 8 people is gonna find the bus uncomfortably short, so you're gonna wanna do a roof raise.

And you'll probably be doing this trip in summer, so unless you're driving to Alaska, I'd seriously consider air conditioning.

I can imagine that some RV parks might be a little reluctant to allow a school bus full of teenagers to camp, so anticipate boondocking.

Yall are gonna have to figure out how nice you want this bus to be. You can go to wild ends of a very broad spectrum. You may want a mobile bunk house with all the amenities of home (shower, kitchen, toilet, etc). But you can go to the other end of the spectrum and hang 8 hammocks in the back of a short bus, and use truck stops to poop and shower in.

Yall have time now. You should establish what your expectations are for the bus. How nice is it gonna be? Who's paying for most of it? Who's name is it gonna be in? etc.

Sounds like a fun trip. Post lots of pics here.
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Old 10-29-2015, 05:47 PM   #5
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Chances are at least one of those 8 people is gonna find the bus uncomfortably short, so you're gonna wanna do a roof raise.

I can imagine that some RV parks might be a little reluctant to allow a school bus full of teenagers to camp, so anticipate boondocking.

Yall are gonna have to figure out how nice you want this bus to be. You can go to wild ends of a very broad spectrum. You may want a mobile bunk house with all the amenities of home (shower, kitchen, toilet, etc). But you can go to the other end of the spectrum and hang 8 hammocks in the back of a short bus, and use truck stops to poop and shower in.

Yall have time now. You should establish what your expectations are for the bus. How nice is it gonna be? Who's paying for most of it? Who's name is it gonna be in? etc. Notice how we all bring this up this will cause more friction and end friendships than any other thing in life. Everyone needs to know how it is going to work. You then need to stick to it or get unanimous consent to change it.

Sounds like a fun trip. Post lots of pics here.
8, oh, I reread and saw that. I just wanted to say you are going to hear a lot of what might seem to be negativism. That is just really the accumulated experiences of life biting all of us older folks in the ass, and our way of trying to get you to position yourself to not get bit in the ass by life or at least get bit a little less hard.

Reasonable expectations and goals is something everyone needs to be on the same page about. There will also be no privacy what so ever. With 8 I really suggest one person buys the bus and pays for nothing else on the entire trip other than oil changes, being that you can't legally waste money on booze. An extra 1/7the cost seems to be a good off set to taking on the risk of buying and insuring AND driving the bus for a cross country trip. Don't try to put off building till the last min, Start this summer, if you can buy the bus before then do it. I would expect that there will only be 5 or 6 that will stay with this project till California.

Stick to state, national, and regional parks for campsites they will be the least likely to say no to a buss loaded with eight 18 year olds.

Lastly while a roof raise might be nice to do. If this bus will be disposable don't waste time or money on upgrades like insulation or raising the roof. Do those only if some wants the bus for the long term. Mind you those things really can only be done at the beginning of the project, so think about that early on.

We all are in admiration of the goal, challenge, and opportunity you have before you, above all else remember to enjoy the adventure and have fun.
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Old 10-29-2015, 05:59 PM   #6
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Wish I had done something like that when I was 18... Go, man, go!

But each of you should carry on reserve enough in traveler's checks to get a bus/train/plane ride home.
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Old 10-29-2015, 06:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Eezy View Post
I am a 17 year old from Massachusetts and I see the school bus conversion phenomenon and I want to be apart of it, 7 of my friends and I want to convert a bus but we really dont know where to start so we found this forum. We want to take the bus on a cross country trip to California. Any and all tips and suggestions are helpful, glad to be apart of this community
This is basically what I am doing. The way I am doing things is counterproductive some times but i think it will work out.
Currently, the plan it me and 5 other people on a bus that effectively has 20 feet of living space. If the bus were mine, i would have got something alot bigger.
How I acquired the bus is.....basically an adult friend of mine purchased 2 identical buses. One he will be driving to Guatemala all the way from Canada.
The one I "have" was going to be spare parts, but i was able to convince him otherwise. It is a T444e makeing a measly 175hp backed by a 5 speed manual, it will cruse at 100kmh (60mph) at 2500 rpm.
I am doing the vast majority of the work, as long as the others provide at least token sweat equity.
90% of our materials have been either scavenged or traded for. I/we have decided to take the "rolling wreck" approach and do bare-minimum simplistic work. However I will have 100 gallons fresh water capacity, 3000 watt generator (traded for--its a 3000 watt honda unit), and 200 watts solar power.
For paint, only the bottom half of the bus was painted.

In total I will have around $400 into the conversion when done.

Because the bus is so small, I plan on towing a 20 foot flatbed trailer to be made from an old camper frame.

I figure we will mostly boondock to save some cash. We plan on $500 per person for diesel, always rounding up, we should make it 5000mi

You can check out my "build"
"Dirty Canadian"
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Old 10-29-2015, 10:04 PM   #8
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Wish I had done something like that when I was 18... Go, man, go!

But each of you should carry on reserve enough in traveler's checks to get a bus/train/plane ride home.
You want them to go to the ATM in their town, withdraw $400-$500, take it to the bank, pay a fee to get a piece of paper, drive half way across the country hoping to not loose the piece of paper, when they need it they take the piece of paper to another bank, that bank gives them cash, then they take the cash to the bus depot to buy a ticket?

I would just pay for the bus ticket with my debit card. Or worse case, go to an atm at the bus station and pay a $3.00 service fee to get cash, then buy the ticket.

I would lay a nickle on the fact that not a one of the 18 year old kids even knows what a traveler's check is. (and I'm not even a gambling man)
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Old 10-29-2015, 10:09 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Eezy View Post
I am a 17 year old from Massachusetts and I see the school bus conversion phenomenon and I want to be apart of it, 7 of my friends and I want to convert a bus but we really dont know where to start so we found this forum. We want to take the bus on a cross country trip to California. Any and all tips and suggestions are helpful, glad to be apart of this community
You can do a lot of prep work and discussions and understandings and rules, and planning or you can just do it. With 8 people at least two of them are going to get really pi$$ed off. One of them you are going to hate. At least one of them will get left at a rest stop. One of them is going to be the cheapskate that never wants to spend money (event though he has a ton of it). One of them is going to stink so bad you want to kill him. One of them is going to be singing Journey songs the whole time. etc. etc.

Just do it....
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Old 10-29-2015, 10:28 PM   #10
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I would lay a nickle on the fact that not a one of the 18 year old kids even knows what a traveler's check is. (and I'm not even a gambling man)
I've never seen one, and I've made it into my 30s.
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