Well, how do we start? My name is Joe, and my fiancÚ's name is Carolina! It's great to meet you, and thanks for reading about our journey! We will both be posting from this account, we'll try to remember to sign the updates when we switch up who writes the updates.
Our adventure was a bit forced, being that we needed a home quickly, and we really had no other options. We have two very big dogs; a 165lb St. Bernard and a 125lb New Foundland, so renting was out of the picture. We are in the middle of trying to expand our business, so buying a house was out of the question. That left one option, a tiny home, RV, or Skoolie.
We had been watching "Living Big In A Tiny Home" for the past 6 months, as well as living in a 30ft RV, off-grid, on a piece of property that we were in the process of purchasing. Unfortunately, that purchase fell through, and we are on the hunt for another plot, but during those times in the off-grid RV, we learned a lot. From conserving water, to understanding about energy usage, we had to "inconvenience" ourselves in a lot of ways, and adapt. It was tough, very tough, and we went through some seriously depressing times. Not so much in the fact that off-grid living was hard, or it wasn't fun, but little did we know, we had a huge situation on our hands with the land deal - man, what a stressful time!
On the other hand, our two pups, Brutus (the St. Bernard) and Louise (Newfie), had 8 puppies, and we were raising them all until just recently. This was an effort in itself, on top of running/operating our own business, living off-grid with no water well, and only generator power. We went through a good bit in a short time! With each obstacle, though, we adapted and overcame, never letting anything stop us.
That said, when the issue arose that we needed to find a place to live, we went right into action. Sadly, our pups went up for adoption, and we found them each amazing homes where they would be individually loved beyond belief. It was a sad time to say goodbye, but knowing they were in good hands made us happy. What a 7 months it was with a full house! Amazing memories, for sure.
Once the pups were in great homes, it was just the 4 of us left. We knew we needed something big enough so Brutus could turn around, walk, and relax without being uncomfortable, so a smaller utility van/mini-bus were out of the question. We have driven big vehicles in the past; trailers, crane trucks, and other machinery, so the thought of a longer bus was where we were leaning to.
Budget. We tied up so much money into the land situation that we didn't have a high budget. All we had was around $8500 to find something ready to go. Remember, time wasn't on our side, so despite us being capable of building from the ground up, we simply didn't have time. So, a pre-built bus would have to suffice, and we could always renovate and make it our own, later down the road.
Living in buses must be popular right now because it was an EFFORT to try and find something. Prices were always nearing $20k, and we did our best to try and score a deal with one of the owners. Sadly, it wasn't working out to well for us. We looked at one, in Maryland, and oh man, was it poorly advertised. 6 hour trip wasted!
Finally, we met a sweet older lady that was selling an older 1984 Chevrolet Blue Bird. She was located in Atlanta, about a 9-hour trip for us, one way. Despite what we read on the internet, the thought of an older bus was actually attractive to us. We could work on it ourselves, being that it was a standard short-block 350 motor. We know it would be slow, but isn't that the point of living in a bus, slowing life down and enjoying each and every moment? It was already fitted with water storage (black tank and clean tank), a toilet, a sink/kitchen, and a 13,500btu roof AC. It had a dining room, and 4 beds in the back (two sets of bunk beds). To us, it was ready to go! Albeit, it didn't have a shower, BUT it had enough room to remove a set of bunk beds, and expand the bathroom to incorporate a shower.
We made the 9-hour drive down to Atlanta to pick it up! Once arrived, we were so excited to see it - it was everything we needed to get started.
Driving is for the first time reminded us of driving our old 1980's Ford F600 DumpTruck; slow, slow and slow. She certainly wasn't getting out of it's own way, but that's okay! We stopped at a nice Farm Cafe, after purchase, and decided to relax a bit, and check over the whole bus before we made the 9-hour trek back. We discovered it needed a few things; all the belts were dry rotted, so we ran to NAPA and got those replaced. We also did a quick oil change (which made the motor sound so much healthier).
Since we had a follow vehicle, Carolina noticed that the wheels were shimmying left to right, almost wobbling. Well, these old buses has split-wedge-wheels, and if they were aligned correctly, they would "dance" down the road. Unsure what it originally was, we found a tire shop that was willing to help us out right away! These guys were awesome, and super old-school. They knew exactly what to do, and we learned a lot about how to align these old wheels. We also found out our tire size was a bit of a rare size, so upgrading the wheels/tires to something more modern is on our future to-do list.
Once this was finished up, the bus felt so much smoother, and it was much easier to control. For $50, you can't beat the sense of comfortability that comes with having things checked over by someone that knows what they're doing while learning something new in the process. Thankful for those guys!
Back on the road, we made it about 2 hours before we decided to call it a night. The BrutusBus cruised at a nice pace of 60-65mph, slowing a bit on long grades, but never below 50mph. We believe the bus has a 50 gallon fuel tank, and we were averaging about 11mpg for most of the trip home. The 350 Short Block has a few power adders to it, so while it's a slouch, it's not a bare bones standard 350.
Joe has driven most of the country on his car-racing endeavors, so staying at a rest area isn't uncommon for him - but staying in a converted bus is luxury compared to the front seat of an F350 towing a race-car.
We brought along our 4000/3650 Generator, and had it strapped to the back deck of the bus - this provided us A/C all night long. It's a big loud, but after our Wen 2000W Inverter Generator kicked the bucket, we wanted to get something with a bit more grunt. BTW - the Wen 2000W generator ran our off-grid RV for 3 months straight 24 hours a day with 8 hour oil change intervals. It was quite the machine and we put it through a serious stress test! We have a replacement on the way since we loved it so much. A good alternative to the pricier Honda 2000w.
We didn't have AC in the off-grid RV, so we were living luxury now! What a good night sleep - finally.
Being able to stop and sight-see, while also having your home with you, is quite amazing. It is such an awesome feeling owning your home, although it's an old retired school bus - home is what you make it, and the feeling of relief, we had, is hard to put into words.
The BrutusBus made the 9-hour trip flawlessly. Running on regular gasoline meant finding places to stop was a breeze. Once back, it was time to load up all of our stuff from the RV, and break free from what was holding us back!
That's all for this post, next time we talk about our first adventure and our first experience staying at a local State Park!
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed our first story!