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Old 05-14-2021, 12:41 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2021
Location: Maryland
Posts: 19
I think we are zeroing in on what will work us, thoughts?

Hello, All.

I think I'm getting edumacated... there is a distinct possibility I only know enough to get myself in trouble though, LOL. Who am I kidding? That's precisely where I am! Pouring through the threads here, reading two books (one I'm happy with, the other, meh), and watching more hours of YouTube videos than I care to admit - and definitely not willing to admit to my significant other - I've birthed what I'm calling "What I Want (I think), v1.0". I'd love to hear everyone's unrestrained opinions on where I'm currently sitting.

For context, here is our "What we want to do with our bus" list:
  • 2 adults (51 & 40) and 1 child (3). I know! He was late to the show.
  • Completion goal - Fall 2024.
  • Full-time home/travel - for the first 2-years of use, we will be living traveling full-time in our skoolie.
  • Part-time home/travel - after the first 2-years, we will live/travel in our skoolie 3-5 months a year.
  • Highway travel - Coast-to-coast / U.S. (CONUS & Alaska), Mexico and Canada. Ability to drive safely on highways and interstates.
  • Mountain travel - mountains are life to us. We are willing to sacrifice speed for mountain driving capability - would prefer not to top out at 50mph on the hwy though.
  • Unmaintained roads - would like the ability to reach interesting boondocking locations.
  • Hot weather capable - we anticipate visiting hot weather climates.
  • Cold weather capable - we anticipate visiting cold weather climates.
  • Room for others - would like the ability to accommodate up to 2 more adults for very short periods of time.
  • Ability to work remotely - would like to augment my retirement income.
  • Room for homeschooling - see 3-year-old above.
  • Tow an everyday driver - we don't want the bus to be our mode of transportation when not actively traveling. We would prefer towing, rather than driving 2 separate vehicles.
  • Off-grid capability - Boondocking on BLM lands / would also like to visit Federal and State parks/forests.
  • Ability to connect to the grid - this just makes sense.

Now that I've given our life plan, LOL, here is our "What I Want (I think), v1.0" list:
  • Length - 35' to 40'. Leaning toward the 35' side if it is realistic for our family of three. We like the idea of accessing more locations.
  • Engine - Cummins 8.3L or Navistar DT466. Our next choice would be a Navistar 530E.
  • Transmission - Allison MD3060 or MT643. Wouldn't be opposed to a standard transmission though.
  • Rearend gearing - I may be missing the bus on this one. 4.56 to 5.17. Looking for mountain driving/towing ability, while also having a target speed of 60-65 on the HWY.
  • Brakes - Prefer air-powered, but not a show stopper.
  • Bus style - Prefer RE flat-nose, but open to FE or dog-nose for a clean bus in good condition.

I'm still wrapping my head around how to evaluate coachwork and chassis manufacturers. Pretty sure I've read multiple times to put Vistas toward the bottom of my list though.

What am I missing? Am I completely ignoring something I shouldn't? What would a fair price be for a clean, well-maintained rig in good condition look like with the specs I've outlined? I don't want to sound like I'm not flexible. If my years in the Army have taught me anything, it's that plans need to be flexible. I'm actually pretty excited to struggle through everything we are bound to mess up and plans we'll have to change along the path to building what we (think) want.

Thanks.

p.s. I've got thick skin.

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Old 05-14-2021, 12:50 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2021
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Hmmm. Apparently, I don't know how to work the list function in this forum. The first list was supposed to end with:
  • Roofraise? - leaning toward a roof raise. At a minimum, we want a higher interior height model if we choose to forgo a roof raise.

The second list was supposed to end with:
  • Suspension - prefer Air Ride, but not a show-stopper if the bus rides well on springs.
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Old 05-14-2021, 01:08 PM   #3
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Hello and welcome
Well it sure looks like you’ve been doing your homework and have a great plan.
Just a few notes from my perspective and it seems like you and are are on a similar plan.
40’ will keep you out of some state parks with size limits.
Rear engine makes a hitch install a little more awkward, can do but more custom work equals more$$
Rear engine also reduces departure angle for ditch dragging in some of those back roads.
We have 36’ with a 16’ wheelbase EF transit that handles very well in tight places and the ground clearance is already a proven logging road performer.
Similar layout with two adults but no kids, queen bed in back and two convertible singles up front if we have guests. Seat belts for six.
No tow car but a 400cc dual purpose bike inside the garage.
Good luck with the shopping and again welcome.
Cheers

Oscar
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Old 05-14-2021, 01:36 PM   #4
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It is refreshing to see someone actually going into the hobby of building a home/camper, who actually researches their future rather than impulsively buying a rusted hulk and/or with a roached out drivetrain, and trying to get it road worthy again!

Best of luck to you, and post pics if you get something in the future...
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Old 05-14-2021, 02:16 PM   #5
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Have you considered a Wanderlodge?
They're factory Bluebird motorcoaches.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_B...specification.
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Old 05-14-2021, 02:24 PM   #6
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35'-40' isn't going much of anywhere off the beaten path I think. Top end of length + weight.



Quote:
Originally Posted by 4bluewaters View Post
p.s. I've got thick skin.
Thank you for this, seems rare these days.
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Old 05-14-2021, 02:51 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar1 View Post
Hello and welcome
Well it sure looks like you’ve been doing your homework and have a great plan.
Just a few notes from my perspective and it seems like you and are are on a similar plan.
40’ will keep you out of some state parks with size limits.
Rear engine makes a hitch install a little more awkward, can do but more custom work equals more$$
Rear engine also reduces departure angle for ditch dragging in some of those back roads.
We have 36’ with a 16’ wheelbase EF transit that handles very well in tight places and the ground clearance is already a proven logging road performer.
Similar layout with two adults but no kids, queen bed in back and two convertible singles up front if we have guests. Seat belts for six.
No tow car but a 400cc dual purpose bike inside the garage.
Good luck with the shopping and again welcome.
Cheers

Oscar
Oscar,
Thank you. The 40' length does have me concerned and is leaning me toward 35'ish. 40 was still in my potential list for the extra space in the full-time travel mode. It does make me wonder if we'll need to just understand we won't be able to go everywhere we want. I wanted to have a good idea of what will work for us before we started shopping, but with the idea that issues like ground clearance were things we took into consideration when we are looking at actual buses. Thank you for mentioning what your 36' is capable of. Makes you realize how much of a trade-off all the decisions are - improved capability on unmaintained roads vs noise/heat when driving - Honestly, I think capability wins out for me.

Rob
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Old 05-14-2021, 02:57 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peteg59 View Post
It is refreshing to see someone actually going into the hobby of building a home/camper, who actually researches their future rather than impulsively buying a rusted hulk and/or with a roached out drivetrain, and trying to get it road worthy again!

Best of luck to you, and post pics if you get something in the future...
Thank you Peteg. We aren't looking for a unicorn, we definitely have flexibility, but I can't imagine pouring so much sweat equity into something that won't meet our needs. I'm looking forward to being able to post pictures when the time comes.
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Old 05-14-2021, 02:59 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Have you considered a Wanderlodge?
They're factory Bluebird motorcoaches.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_B...specification.
EastCoast,
I hadn't seen or read anything about a Wanderlodge. Thanks for the input. Do you know how they are on the resale market?
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Old 05-14-2021, 03:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kazetsukai View Post
35'-40' isn't going much of anywhere off the beaten path I think. Top end of length + weight.



Thank you for this, seems rare these days.


Kazetsukai,

That has been on my mind in a big way. Because it will be used for full-time travel over 2 years for 3 people, I'm trying to balance space with off-the-beaten-path capability. While we want to maintain flexibility with many aspects, I find myself worried about how practical lengths under 35' would be for 3 people over 2 years. I think this will be an area where we will most likely be forced to give up a degree of capability. Where do you think we'd need to be in the length/ground clearance/wheelbase length discussion to put us in a good position?

There is no way I'd of been able to survive this long in the Army without being able to take a healthy bit of constructive criticism, LOL.
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Old 05-14-2021, 04:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4bluewaters View Post
Where do you think we'd need to be in the length/ground clearance/wheelbase length discussion to put us in a good position?
All things considered, I still have a reasonable amount of ground clearance, its just the weight, suspension characteristics/etc that make the truly off the beaten path locations a concern to me.

If I was doing it all over and thinking lots of travel, I'd be looking at Sprinters/Transits pretty seriously. And if I needed space, I'd be looking at a pair, dividing the living/work spaces on those lines (because we really only have two people).

A bus + expedition vehicle is a good workaround for the limitations of where the bus can travel.
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Old 05-14-2021, 04:45 PM   #12
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We took our 36' dog nose off the beaten path all the time, but we were exploring the western half of the country. It will be much harder to do that in the east, things are just tighter out here.


The rest of your plan sounds very doable.
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Old 05-14-2021, 04:46 PM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Kazetsukai,
You’ve got me wondering how a skoolie + towable jeep with a roof top tent would work out.
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Old 05-14-2021, 04:52 PM   #14
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew Bru View Post
We took our 36' dog nose off the beaten path all the time, but we were exploring the western half of the country. It will be much harder to do that in the east, things are just tighter out here.


The rest of your plan sounds very doable.

Thank you, Drew.
While we will certainly want to explore the east a bit, we are both much more at home out west. I was just reassigned to the east coast last year - first time since 2004. I have a place in Colorado. Have a 24 year old there, and a 27 year old in Washington state. Most of our traveling / adventures will likely be west of the Mississippi.
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Old 05-14-2021, 05:20 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by 4bluewaters View Post
EastCoast,
I hadn't seen or read anything about a Wanderlodge. Thanks for the input. Do you know how they are on the resale market?
Anywhere from 5-25k and some a bit more than that. But they're NICE and they're well made. Air ride all around, hydraulic leveling jacks, musical horn, they're pretty awesome.
There are a few for sale in the 15k range right now that are real nice... If you google "wanderlodge" the pic it brings up is Large Marge. She's currently for sale for 15k if you're interested I can hook you up with the owner. I believe its either a 35 or 33 footer. 35 and 40 are the common Wanderlodge sized but they were also available in 31' and 33'.

For the money I think they're a much better purchase than a yellow school bus. But I'm partial- I just bought an 83 wanderlodge.
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Old 05-14-2021, 05:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew Bru View Post
We took our 36' dog nose off the beaten path all the time, but we were exploring the western half of the country. It will be much harder to do that in the east, things are just tighter out here.


The rest of your plan sounds very doable.
YOu should point out that yours isn't a run of the mill dog nose bus... You got a real humdinger of a MOUNTAIN bus.
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Old 05-14-2021, 05:42 PM   #17
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Quote:
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YOu should point out that yours isn't a run of the mill dog nose bus... You got a real humdinger of a MOUNTAIN bus.

That's the truth! Highly recommend buying a bus from the mountains of CO, they're made for the driving you do in the Rockies. Still couldn't tow up the mountains, we cracked the exhaust manifold trying. The clearance was the biggest plus on the dirt forest service and BLM roads. That and having a vehicle to scout ahead first.
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Old 05-14-2021, 05:46 PM   #18
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Quote:
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Thank you, Drew.
While we will certainly want to explore the east a bit, we are both much more at home out west. I was just reassigned to the east coast last year - first time since 2004. I have a place in Colorado. Have a 24 year old there, and a 27 year old in Washington state. Most of our traveling / adventures will likely be west of the Mississippi.

Perfect! You're going to have an amazing experience. We got our bus from a govdeals auction, it was from Eagle County (I think).
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Old 05-14-2021, 07:33 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Thank you a ton, seriously! I go back to CO regularly (going in July for 2 weeks). Maybe it would make sense to buy on one of my trips home, and drive it out here.
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Old 05-14-2021, 07:34 PM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Anywhere from 5-25k and some a bit more than that. But they're NICE and they're well made. Air ride all around, hydraulic leveling jacks, musical horn, they're pretty awesome.
There are a few for sale in the 15k range right now that are real nice... If you google "wanderlodge" the pic it brings up is Large Marge. She's currently for sale for 15k if you're interested I can hook you up with the owner. I believe its either a 35 or 33 footer. 35 and 40 are the common Wanderlodge sized but they were also available in 31' and 33'.

For the money I think they're a much better purchase than a yellow school bus. But I'm partial- I just bought an 83 wanderlodge.
Do you have any pics of your on here?
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