Thursday, February 19, 2015

bus back story.

Hey all, as promised, here is a little more of the story about my new and lovely bus.

Thats the bus!

A few months back I heard about a bus that belonged to a friend of my dad's. He had been taking the bus to Burning Man for a while and was talking about new ideas for turning it into an art car. It sounded like a fun project to get in on, but when I decided I was serious about converting my bus this summer so I could start living in it full time in fall, I figured I shouldn't get involved in a second bus project.

Fast forward a few months and I find out the bus owner is considering getting rid of his bus. A bit later I also find out that he doesn't want to sell the bus, he wants to gift it.

Side information. If you don't know about Burning Man, then go read about it because it is amazing. I was lucky enough to go last year with my dad and while we've had a bit of a hiccup this year, we're determined to go back next year as well. One misconception about Burning Man is that it is a barter economy. While it is true that no money is used beyond buying tickets, ice and coffee, bartering is not the way to describe the economy- its gifting. All things including food, drink and services are given. You might think this system would be taken advantage of, but that is where another big aspect of Burning Man comes in- mandatory participation. Unlike other festivals one (theoretically) can not come to Burning Man and not participate in the community. 

Okay, enough side information. This past weekend I went up to Oregon to visit my family and also got to sit down with the bus's owner to work out some details! Currently the bus is located in eastern Oregon, so I wasn't able to see it this past weekend, but things are all sorted out so it can make it's way down to the bay area soon. The plan at the moment is for my dad to go out and fetch it in a few weeks and soon after that do a little road trip and bring it down to me!

Monday, February 16, 2015

free bus.

I mentioned some big bus news last week, but was keeping it quiet until I had confirmed it. No more bus disappointments for me. Well my news has been confirmed; I'm getting a free bus. 

That is right my friends, not a $2,000 crappy needs repairs bus, a compleatly free bus, gifted to me from a fellow burner and friend of my dad's. 

I have so much more I want to say about burning man and the gifting culture that will be saved for another post. But for now let's just linger in those glorious words. Free bus. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

big big bus blog news.

I've got big big news, but I'm not quite ready to share it. I will tell you that I'm not buying a bus this weekend, because a much better offer came up. I'll be sorting out this new offer when I go home to Oregon this weekend and then will tell you all about it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

registration and insurance.

With the possibility of buying a bus next weekend (egads!) I realized I actually need to know about insuring and registering a bus. Here is what I've learned...

For insurance you've got to find an insurance company that is cool with the idea of a converted RV. You'll be insured as an RV in the end, but some companies are confused about the fact that you made  your RV. From reading some forums on, State Farm (the insurance my family uses) is pretty cool about insuring buses. As far as transporting a bus when you first buy it, the internet suggests insuring it right when you get it, if not for realsies than at least with a temporary (30 day) trip insurance so you can drive it to its new home. This sounds tempting to me since I don't think I'll be driving it much when I first get it, though that could change. I am anticipating driving it to Berkeley, finding a parking space and only moving it around the block every few weeks to not get tickets. I plan to park it in the neighborhood near my work (there are lots of other rvs/buses parked in the area) and then I can use the shop at my work to work on it after hours!

As far as registration goes there is some solid info and some grey areas. The solid info is what you do when you register it as an rv. It differs by state but the gist seems to be that you've got to prove its an rv by having some combo of a bed, electricity, stove, refrigerator, heating and toilet. Some states seem to want you to have receipts for these things or do an inspection to prove you've got it. Luckily it is sounding like Oregon just needs you to sign a paper saying you've got it. No proof needed. So theoretically I could re register it before I finish converting it. It may be easier though to wait until its partially finished (maybe by when I bring it back to Oregon in July) to re register. The reason you should re register as an rv is that most buses require a commercial drivers license. The internet's advice on when you buy a bus is to drive it home sans correct registration (and hope for the best. Everyone had stories of having no problems) and to wait until you've done the bulk of the conversion before re registering. Another thing I am kind of hoping for though is that this bus I'm currently looking at may be registered as a van or automobile since its small. Then I'd have to look at my options and see if its worth it to re register. It may come down to insurance at that point and also prices of registration. We shall see, more info is needed. 

hooray spending money!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

yellow bus.

I am sad to say purple bus was not the bus for me. After losing in on Monday I re scoured the internet for my next bus option and low and behold there was another great bus waiting for me in Eugene. I don't want to get my hopes up too incredibly much but things are all looking good for this bus.

-Its located closer to where I am visiting in Oregon.
-Its slightly larger than purple bus- a better size for me.
-The owner has been working well with me to get more pictures and info about the bus.
-Its exactly the price I want!

-It needs a few parts replaced, they are not very difficult ones though and I may even be able to do it myself with some help from a friend.
-It has a lot of miles on it already. As another friend told me though- if its made it this far...
-There isn't a lot of info on the ad at the moment, but the owner seems very willing to work with me.

Soo next step, my dad and a good friend will go check it out for me this week. I'll be up in Oregon this weekend and will check it out myself. If all goes well I will drive it back to California on Monday! I possibly have a friend who would drive back with me, but my dad has also offered to drive with me, which would be all kinds of wonderful.

I know. I'm a crazy bus lady. ;)


Sunday, February 8, 2015


I've thought a lot about layouts over the past few months and when I first decided I wanted a short bus I did a quick layout with paper to make sure it wasn't too small. Now with this super short Portland bus hopefully in the picture I thought I'd throw together another layout with more specific dimensions to really make sure I could make a tiny tiny bus work. 

oops. chair was still selected when I did a screenshot...

So let me tell you about this layout. 

To start I found interior dimensions for this bus are 10' long by either 7' or 6.5' (different sites had conflicting info) so I went with 6.5' just to be safe. This is not including the door which is up front with the driver's seat. 

First order of business is the bed. As I've talked about before I really want to put the bed along the back wall of the bus. I've got a mattress at home that I think I'll be able to turn into a folding futon style couch bed, but I'm starting to consider other options. If the bus is in fact 6.5' then the mattress will just fit, probably too tight to fold in and out though. :P My options if this doesn't work are either get a new futon type mattress (one that is made to fold to a couch would probably be a good idea) or to switch to a non folding twin sized bed. Also not idea cause I want my bus to have the option to sleep two people even if just me is the primary resident. This will take a little more figuring once I have real dimensions, but I've got options. 

Next I put in the toilet. I am looking at the Nature's Head composting toilet which is surprisingly small and less expensive than some (but an investment.) I have yet to do the math about how much power it uses and if it is viable, but we will get to that later. Anyway, that is the toilet I used for my dimensions. I put a 3'x3' shower around it. I've been thinking lately about the bathroom walls and think I'd like to have one solid wall and one curtain wall, this way it is less intrusive in the room. Switching to a solid door later wouldn't be too hard though if I change my mind. 

The kitchen wedges nicely between the bathroom and the bed's 'out' position. I did 2.5' deep counters with a 1'x1' sink. Pretty small but I'm hoping to keep things tiny. Under the counters I'd have a mini fridge and drawers for kitchen things. On the counter I'd have a hot plate and probably a toaster oven. Above the counters I'd have some additional shelves for more kitchen things. 

Along the opposite wall will be my work space. I'd like to do a work/dining table that folds down so it is flat against the wall. This will have to be folded down for the bed to be pulled out, but while the bed is in couch form it can act as another chair at the table. 

For additional storage I will have a layer of drawers under the bed, perhaps with shallower drawers accessible from the front and an additional storage space accessible from the back door of the bus, behind the bed. The front accessible drawers would have my clothes in them. I would also like to have some shelves/cabinets above the bed to hold books and other knickknacks. For these shelves/cabinets as well as the ones in the kitchen I would ideally not be blocking any windows. They would start right above the window line and go to the roof (not a huge amount of space.) 

This layout really doesn't have a lot of storage. I was hoping to incorporate a cabinet on the full height of the bathroom wall that could house my clothes, leaving the under bed storage for crafty supplies. I may try out a few more layouts to see if this is still possible, maybe by switching the table/chair with the kitchen. 

Back to storage- I have a plan to also add storage on top of the bus. I would like to create a roof rack of sorts, accessible by built in ladder on the back of the bus. This roof rack can store things I don't use often and maybe my water supply (so it can be gravity fed) though this might be too much of a pain, lugging 5 gallon jugs up there all the time. My secret plan for this roof rack is also to use it as a balcony on occasions. By occasions I obviously mean Burning Man. 

So there you have it. My life in tiny form!


Saturday, February 7, 2015

portland bus.

Folks have been asking me lately what the bus update is and I've been sadly replying 'none.' Since the last round of buses I found online there haven't been many good buses available plus I lost some steam after having the buses I wanted not pan out. But I am happy to say the universe has provided a few new bus options and my enthusiasm is back!

I've got a three day weekend coming up and since it is birthday month for me and my mom I figure I'll go up and visit my parents for the weekend. My mom also hinted that I should look at some buses while I was Oregon bound. Low and behold there is an adorable little bus up in Beaverton that is in my price range and has no problems! With this steam I also poked around at new buses in my area, and there were a few. All with some problems, but its worth the debate about distance (gas money) vs fixing things money. I've got a feeling gas money is my preference tough. 

I did some math to see how much it would cost to drive a bus from Portland to Berkeley. Its about 625 miles all total according to the Google. It tells me that it is a 9.5 hour drive, I'd been leaning more towards 11 hours though. Maybe one could make it in 9.5 if you're driving fast and not stopping, logically though I would be driving slow and stopping here and there. The bus I am looking at is diesel. I'm using $2.80 as a gas price, because its a bit higher than what is for sale no, so you know, if prices go up next week or if regional differences make that much difference, I'm rounded up. A lot of buses have between 10-15 mpg. I am going to use 10 mpg, again so its rounded up. 

So that is 625 miles, divided by 10 mpg, multiplied by $2.80 per gallon. That my friends is only $175! I totally don't mind paying that much to get a bus from Portland to Berkeley. All that driving will be a pain. I don't mind doing it all myself but what I'd really like is a companion to keep me company. I may have a friend coming with me to Oregon, but is not a for sure yet. 

The cost of fixing stuff in other buses is tricky. I just see myself getting stuck paying way more than I want to get a bus working. No fun. So as of now if this Portland bus doesn't pan out I'll look more into these other buses, but for now its Portland bus all the way.

So more about the Portland bus! Its a shorty, shorter than the shorties I've been looking at so far. I saw a bus on the street that looks to be the same bus as the Portland bus, looking at the size I think it is doable, but it will be tight. I may be reconsidering a full bed, it might have to be a twin for now. I'm also thinking of how to downsize the bathroom even more. If I get this bus I'll figure it out though!

Next thing about the Portland bus, its bright purple. Not my ideal, but still cute! It was previously owned by a daycare, so its also got flowers and frogs and other cute things on it. I've been thinking of a grey/blue color scheme for the outside of my bus, but maybe I can work out something with purple...

I called the owner on Thursday, he had two people interested who were going to look at it this weekend (one Saturday one Sunday) I told him I would call back Monday to see if it was still there. Fingers crossed! If it is still there on Monday I will ask him if he will hold it until I can visit on Sunday (maaaaybe Saturday morning if I have to) If this isn't the case I have some friends in Portland who may have agreed to do a scouting mission for me so if necessary I can tell the guy that yes, I will buy it, and I will pick it up on Sunday. 

The next step for all of this is looking into registration and insurance so its actually legal for me to drive it from the top of Oregon to the middle of California. That however, is for another post.