Hello all. I've been lurking this forum for a month or so. Great conversion projects in here. I especially like Reprobate's and Jake Von Slatt's conversions.
I recently got into RV-ing and bought a 1987 Georgie Boy Encounter. I've been enjoying taking my 11 year old son up to the mountains for ski trips with the RV. But it's an old stick and staple rig, and I've been dealing with leaking and other issues. I've noticed a bit of delamination which I'm concerned about. I'm not willing to put a lot more money into this old rig so I'll probably only keep it for a few more years.
The catalyst that got me into this at this time (now rather than later) is the fact that my unincorporated neighborhood is being annexed into the adjacent city (Kirkland, Washington), effective June of 2011. Kirkland has some rather strict ordinances about parking RVs on one's own property. One of them is a 24 ft length and 9 ft height limit. However, RVs in the annexation area that are registered within 6 months after the effective date of the annexation will be grandfathered in, and allowed to continue parking on property.
So here's the thing. I need the right RV that is durable and will be the last one I will ever need. When I bought the Georgie Boy I thought that would be it. But after dealing with a few of its issues, and after realizing the poor quality of construction of stick and staple RVs, I had serious second thoughts about this.
Then, I discovered school bus conversions. The more I researched the subject, the more I began to think that a school bus conversion would be the right combination of many factors: Cost, durability, weatherproofness (after sealing), customization, diesel fuel economy and potiential for WVO conversion, etc, etc.
I have to say though that if someone had approached me on the subject two years ago, the prospect of actually doing such a project would have been too daunting. However, about that time I was looking into recumbent bicycles and discovered a home brew recumbent bicycle site called Atomic Zombie Extreme Machines:
I ended up learning how to weld so that I could build these two bikes:
The first is my version of the Marauder
The second is a Street Fox tadpole trike, modified to include underseat steering and hybrid electic/pedal drive, intended for my 21-mile each way daily work commute:
I learned a lot with these projects, and I think they gave me a lot of confidence for taking on and tackling larger and more complex projects. This is especially significant when you realize that I am not an engineer, never took a shop class, and have been a desk jockey (administrative office worker) my entire career. After successfully completing these projects, I felt like this guy:
When I viewed some of the projects in the Skoolie.net gallery and elsewhere, I thought to my self (in Atomic Zombie parlance): Now THAT'S the ultimate hack! I was hooked.
So now I'm looking for a bus. I'm leaning toward a flatnose RE diesel pusher like the Thomas Safe-T-Liner, Bluebird All American or similar International Amtran. I'm undecided about the high top models because I'm not sure even they will have a high enough ceiling. After reviewing some of the roof raises in the gallery, it doesn't look that complex, just labor intensive. I also want lots of basement storage. It occured to me, however, that the factory basement storage of buses like the Thomas Saf-T-Liner and others may be placed in exactly the wrong spot. Most of the floor plans I've seen position the toilet just in front of the rear wheels, which is where the factory basement storage usually is, especially the pass through type compartments. This is where the blackwater holding tank needs to go. So I'm not sure whether I should be looking for a bus with basement storage, or for one without it and then just build my own. Any advice along these lines would be much appreciated.
I'll probably need to do some extensive basement mods anyway, because I intend to use it year-round, including ski trips. This will involve protecting the water lines and tanks from freezing up. In my current RV, I have holding tanks hanging from the underside exposed to the weather. So I installed electric tank heaters and insulated the tanks with spray foam. However, these use up considerable battery capacity and my genset is hard pressed to keep up.
So what I think I'd like to do with a bus conversion is to hang the tanks, but enclose them in insulated housings, with the furnace ductwork blowing heated air through the compartments. This will reduce electric current draw and the need to run the genset, without greatly increasing the use of the furnace. The freshwater tank will likely be above floor, under the master bed.
I'm happy to have found this forum. Seems like a great bunch of folks that are happy to share their experiences.