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Old 09-14-2020, 11:48 AM   #21
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 1,147
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
Cadillackid, that was a fantastic reply, thanks for that!

I would add that converting a bus will take six months to a year of your non-working life. Although it is not as exotic, buying a used RV might be a better choice if you are absolutely ham-handed and know nothing of the trades.

On the other hand, if you have a reasonable set of tools, willingness to learn, a lot of patience, you can probably do a conversion that works for you better than any other vehicle. Even if it takes a few iterations and periodic rebuilds/upgrades over time.

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Old 09-14-2020, 11:50 AM   #22
Bus Geek
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 17,832
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Originally Posted by Rucker View Post
I don't know of any books, but like others have said, YouTube is the place to learn about skoolies/shuttle bus conversions. There is an active thread in this forum right now called 'E450 Floor Plan' that may give you a good starting point for actual design considerations.

While doing our bus conversion we recently rented an RV for a 2,000 mile road trip. That was also eye-opening. I am a writer and imagined it would be cool to be able to work while someone else drove. Huh. Too many cool things to see.

We have a lot of camping and boondocking locations within a few hours of the house (north central California) so we'll use it to get somewhere, then I can try to write.

Welcome to the community.

how was renting an RV? ive never been one to camp really.. but before I embark on actually tearing a bus apart (usually im putting them back to original style.. lol). I want to try RVing just to see if I like it.. I suppose the first time I soak myself with the black tank ill noit want an RV anymore lolol
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:24 PM   #23
Bus Nut
Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Wild Wild West
Posts: 690
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC RE
Engine: 8.3 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
how was renting an RV? ive never been one to camp really.. but before I embark on actually tearing a bus apart (usually im putting them back to original style.. lol). I want to try RVing just to see if I like it.. I suppose the first time I soak myself with the black tank ill noit want an RV anymore lolol
I have dumped the black tank many times without ever getting a drop on me. I have definitely learned a few things doing so, and watching others get soaked. The system I build into the belly storage of my bus will be fool proof. Best black tank scene ever is Robin Williams in RV. I have never personally witnessed anyone getting it that bad, but close!
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:28 PM   #24
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 1,147
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
Good question-here goes:

We were trying to finish our bus for a trip from CA to CO to drop our son off at school, but weren't done in time, so we sprung for a 28' Thor Majestic.

I kept detailed notes on what worked and what didn't, and was hoping to post them here under a new topic heading like 'Things we learned renting an RV'. There are already a bunch of YouTube posts on this, and other sites-maybe even this site, frankly.

RVs come complete, so there's no work to convert. That is, until you realize your RV doesn't do what you want it to.

For instance, A/C while driving. Our rented RV was an oven unless we ran the generator and ceiling A/C, which was problematic on just so many levels (noise in particular).

RVs have lots of storage space. Big spaces, little spaces. But hardly any of those spaces were easy to get to because they took advantage of dark corners of the RV. A four inch high cabinet above the fridge; drawers beside the bed that nobody could reach. I learned how importance accessibility to storage was, not just storage capacity. Again, lots of YouTube videos discuss this-have lots of purpose-built small containers, not big bins that require you to take out everything to find that charger.

Gas: we knew this but were reminded of it every time we stopped for gas. RVs take a lot of gas. Travel is expensive and you have to budget for it. Enough said.

The bathrooms in our RV was tiny and awkward. On the other hand, the bathroom door opened wide created a 'room with the back bedroom, shower and toilet. Nice feature.

On this theme, it's helpful to remember that RV manufacturers have been upping their game since the beginning. Some things you only learn by doing and there were a bunch of cool features only someone designing RVs over a long time might think of. I have a bunch of notes on those and have benefited from their literal road experience in RV design, and only learned of them by needing them while on the road. For instance, floor lighting on a three way switch so you don't trip at night. That was nice to have but I wouldn't have thought it so important before using it while boondocking.

Dumping was not a big deal. Black water first, then gray water. Have a box of disposable gloves where you keep the freshwater hose. This RV had a tube the hose was stuffed in; it went back a foot then took a turn, and you closed the little door and it was stowed nice and neatly. That was cool. Maybe they're all like that.

Climbing mountains requires patience. We learned our RV just needed to plug along at 3200 RPM, in whatever gear the automatic transmission chose. Downhill grades were equally challenging. Nothing like a few tons of RV behind you on a steep, long downhill.

City driving was fine as long as you didn't stress people constantly swerving around you, even if you're going the speed limit. Small cars just naturally take an RV on as a challenge.

On the other hand, driving straight is surprisingly stress free once you get over the speed racers. A couple of hours on the highway is no different than in a car.

Changing lanes requires days of planning. We already had the backup camera mounted in our conversion, so renting an RV without one was a step down. Side mirrors are only so helpful. We haven't mounted the side cameras yet but we definitely will-that is almost essential to keep from driving someone off the road when you change lanes.

Walking is a bigger part of travel with an RV. Park where you can, then walk. Sometimes much further than expected. On the other hand, you can always find a bathroom and don't need to stop on the road (unless you're driving). If your conversion does NOT have a bathroom this will add to your frustration and possible discomfort. Yay us, we are making sure the bathroom is spacious and functional in all respects.

Checking supply and waste tank levels, battery level and propane level is really important when you're crossing a desert stretch. Having a single bank of gauges to check them all at a glance is really helpful. I would say that was a real nice feature easily overlooked. You don't need to have it all electronic, either. My tank capacity in my conversion is the same for freshwater and graywater (no blackwater tank on mine); when I run out of fresh water, the graywater needs dumping. My freshwater tank is partly visible so I can see how full it is without working too hard. I'm still trying to decide how to measure propane tanks, but know that I want it to be easy to do now.

Air circulation is a critical feature for me. Our bedroom in the RV was like a coffin, and the window curtains were secured on a slide on both the top and bottom. It was always difficult to get them open or shut.

On the plus side, a bed that did not need to be opened/pulled down/unfolded/blown up is a must-have in my book. That, and the ability to leave things on the bed during the day without worrying whether they would get crushed was great-think laptop, iPad, etc.

When boondocking, you'll need leveling planks or something because sleeping in a crooked RV is not conducive to good sleep. Our RV had a couple of level bubbles, one over the door and one over the sink. Of course, I couldn't see either of them so it was a two person job. I have a self-leveling laser level that attaches magnetically to any surface and I'm going to try that.

I think our RV said it could sleep 8. We drove a thousand miles with four, and another thousand miles back with three; there was barely enough room for us, especially as later in the journey we got a little more spread out in the RV. Who wants to take down the kitchen table to set up the bed? Nobody.

On the plus side, the dometic fridge worked great. I didn't expect it to work so well, based on the comments I saw in this forum and elsewhere. I could see dropping a grand on one now.

We didn't use hardly any propane on the trip, so having a couple standard refillable propane tanks should be just fine. I'm even skipping running the stove off the refillable until it becomes annoying, before I run the propane lines inside.

The water pump was loud and annoying, like having the donkey in Shrek on the journey with us. Not sure if they had an accumulator and if it was just flat (no air pressure); it ran whenever you touched any faucet, and was mounted to some portion of the RV that acted as a speaker diaphragm. I knew this was going to be a problem and isolated ours, we'll see when I fill the freshwater tank for the first time.

The RV had a 3 gallon water heater, and that's great for washing dishes but not enough for a real shower. And it seemed to take forever to heat (or reheat).

Kitchen counter space was nearly nonexistent in the RV. Cooking became a juggling act and if we didn't have the kitchen table to work with it would have been nearly impossible to cook. See notes above if you are planning to use the kitchen table/bed conversion on your trip.

The cushion back of one side of the seating area was right next to the stove. This is a ridiculous design for many reasons.

Hardly any open surface had rails, so any abrupt driving dumped everything into the sink or on the floor. This made driving in traffic stressful until we got boxes for things so they couldn't slide around.

That's from memory, I have a couple of other notes I'm sure. Like, you can't turn the sink on wearing a hat because of the aforementioned ample cabinet space over the sink.

Same with brushing your teeth in the bathroom, or washing hands-the sink was impossible to get under or spit in.

So yeah, rent one, even if only for a long weekend. Worth every penny in what you'll gain in improved design.
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Old 09-19-2020, 06:24 PM   #25
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Posts: 37
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: All-American flat face
Mobile Internet folks

This group is always amazingly informative. I used this collective knowledge to drive my bus decisions and will be on the road in my 2001 Bluebird 30' in a month.

I have high electrical needs and here's a snapshot of what I found useful.

I went with 600 watts of solar on the roof and Battle Born lithium batteries as well as a shore power system.

I also joined the RV Mobile Internet group. They focus exclusively on connectivity on the road. They have collected tons of information, test everything on the market, and pay attention to where the good deals are today. But what pushed me to pay their annual fee is that once a month the founders have an informal Q&A where you can ask them about your own needs. Just that alone saved me hundreds of dollars and days of frustration.

I hope you find the information you need.
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Old 09-20-2020, 05:10 AM   #26
Bus Nut
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Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: Freedom Field, New Mexico
Posts: 434
Year: 1998
Coachwork: International
Chassis: Amtrans
Engine: 444E
Rated Cap: 84 pas
Originally Posted by SaraA View Post
The financing of the trip is not the part I'm worried about. Nor is it something I'm going to discuss here, except to say that for other people who might like to do something similar, you definitely want to be a writer first and already rather than trying to start your writing career and going on the road or taking on any other big project at the same time and thinking that's how you're going to make money. In any case, this is not a writers forum, but one focused on bus conversions.

Do you have book recommendations? What are the relative merits of a big bus vs short bus vs van?

And if you don't think power for laptops is a problem, what kind of system should we use (solar rather than a generator because I hate the noise) to power two laptops for long periods of time? More than just an inverter, because we regularly pull 6-8 hour days. Or longer, depending on what is going on. "Writing" includes interviews which we record, et cetera. Could we also run a hot plate off of it and use that for cooking, rather than propane?
Please forgive the poor formatting and occasional strange word. Typing on my cell phone while my hunny bunny sleeps. Church in the morning.

I noticed a bit of flack from a few naysayers so I thought I might pipe in. Ruth and I live in our bus year round. We have land in the desert here in New Mexico that is mostly undeveloped. We have a well. No power. No sewage. We built our bus to be self sufficient, and comfortable. Not to be a work of art, but very functional.
We are not at home often because we just live where we stop moving. Sometimes for days at a time, even locally.
We love the skoolie platform because school buses are built for the road. They are a very sturdy platform to start from. Another platform that is great especially if you want to build a spacious tiny home that blends in in a Walmart parking lot and even affords you stealth camping capabilities is a straight truck. Something in the 25 plus foot range with a dry box will give you a space in the 150 to 190 square foot house with 8 foot ceilings. The running gear is prepared for the additional weight of water tanks, furniture, and infrastructure. We built one of those and lived in it for a couple of years it was great but we did it on a 20 foot e350 cut away van. It really wasn't designed for the extra weight and it was old and tired when we bought it.
When we made our current bus purchase we were bidding on this bus and a 26 foot international truck. The truck was shorter than the bus, and that concerned us when we were figuring out how much solar we could get on the roof. We decided on the 84 passenger international rear engines bus because there was enough roof real estate to mount up to 16 solar panels. Like I said, we wanted comfort. It is a comfort to be able to run air conditioning day and night even on cloudy days.
We power, a 7.5 cut ft deep freeze. Two 4.5 cu foot fridges. Microwave, instapot, coffeemaker that never stops brewing, 12000 btu mini split air conditioner, laptops, hotspot, phone chargers, swamp cooler, 50 inch tv, not all at the same time but sometimes pretty close. The ac runs all summer. We have a shore power cord and a generator we never use.
I am reasonably handy so within a few days of the bus purchase we had a bed, 8 solar panels an inverter, our first battery bank ,tv , cooktop ,fridge and ice chest, lots of heavy extension cords, and we were off doing what we love, wandering around.
A year in the process of living in and building we are close to what we envisioned when we started. We have 12 solar panels on the roof and four big BYD LiFeP04 batteries for about 800ah of storage.
We did a very open floor plan with our king bed and big tv at the back. We use canvas tarps and magnets to make room separations when we feel like it an open up by stowing the curtains when we like.
Some of our infrastructure is still a bit primitive but we live it and it is functional.

If you want to travel and do hotel rooms a van is better tha a car for an extended journey because you can make it an easy access rolling closet with sleeping space for those times when there is no room at the inn. We've done that kind of travel and got tired of it and the expense as well as depending on restaurants for meals.
Motor homes are fine, except not really sturdy. You can spend 100k and still be driving sticks and styrofoam down the road. I watched a brand new Winnebago Adventurer roll over in the median 20 miles from the dealership it had been bought at, the guy dozed off and drifted into the median. It was soft. And the motorhome was top heavy. The end result was that it dissintigrated in seconds. It was just all gone.
There are a couple of companies that build motorhomes on bus chassis. One of the is Wanderlidge. They are privy but really well built. You can sometimes find an older one in the 25k range.
Skoolie is a great way to go if you are handy and want to make that part of your adventure. We paid 1898.00 for our international amtrans rear engine bus. We have about 1600 in solar panels, 2k in batteries, 2 inverters, a primary and a backup, about 400 bucks each, 3 solar controllers, 200 bucks each, 500 bucks in wire, outlets, breaker panels etc. 800 bucks in the mini split. And perhaps another 2k in construction materials like plywood, screws, insulation etc.
No money in labor, because we do it all ourselves and we are a couple of 58 year old fat people with a fraction of the energy we had a decade ago.
I guess my whole point is, it's not so bad to build the sailboat and then go sailing if you have a plan, have some aptitude for the task at hand, and perseverance.
Avoid buying a rusty rig be it bus or boxtruck. Rust will waste a lot of your time.
If you decide to build you can hit many of us who are doing it or have done it for guidence.
Good luck.
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