Bellingham By Bus
- This 1992 Bluebird sits on top a GM P30 chassis with a powerful 6.2 L GM/Detroit Diesel. Zach and Shauna had fallen into the "American Dream" or nightmare if you will, and found themselves trapped in the 9-5 grind with Zach taking on college at the same time because that's what society expects them to do. Shauna mentions in relation to her job as a teacher, "...what if you do complete college and that happiness you were told would come didn't..as in my case?"
The two reached a breaking point and after Zach stumbled upon the idea of converting a school bus into a small home, they were hooked. To have their freedom back and explore the great country that we live in from a skoolie seemed like the cure for their routine of go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed.
The road is a magical thing and opens up so many opportunities and creates experiences and stories that many of us will never get to. As I read through their answers to the questions for this blog post I knew that they felt the same thing I did before converting a bus into a Tiny Home on wheels. Enjoy this amazing bus conversion and geek out on the massive amount of wood work they did.
-Model: Schoolbus on P30 chassis
-Motor size and type: 6.2 L GM/Detroit Diesel
-Length: 24 ft
-Interior Square Footage: Unsure
-Purchased From/Location: Advertised on Craigslist, purchased in Kansas City, MO
-Name Of Bus: Lady Buster
-Owners: Zach and Shauna Flemming
-Conversion Status: in progress...just need to finish shower.
Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.
Honestly, Zach came up with the whole idea. I was working as a teacher aide and he was attending college in pursuit of a Environmental Biology degree. We were living in a small town in IL, the state we were both born and raised, but never felt truly connected to. Neither of us were happy. I love working with children, but the anxiety and stress that comes from working a 9-5 (7-3..same deal) job was so overwhelming that I found little joy in much else. All I thought about was work. The constant thoughts of, "Should I go to sleep now so I have enough rest for tomorrow?", "I'm not tired, but I have to be up in three hours!", "Will (insert child's name here) have a good day tomorrow?, "Will he/she bite,spit,pee,smack,or kick me?".... kept me up so many nights.
Zach was also unsatisfied with his schooling. After five years in the Army he was medically retired. He decided to go to school right away...because isn't that what he's "supposed" to do? At least that's the crap we'd always been given. "Go to college, earn a degree, and life will be grand." Well, what if college isn't for you...like in my husband's case? Or...what if you do complete college and that happiness you were told would come didn't..as in my case?
Our routine was also dull. Wake up, go to work/school, come home, eat, watch tv, go to bed. At 25 and 27 we had already fell into an old, married routine. Something we swore to never do.
Finally, one day my husband had enough. He is amazing when it comes to research and once he gets his mind set on something...it's full force until he has completed what he set out to do. After stumbling upon the idea of skoolies, he was hooked. We fell in love with the freedom of living on the road, of completing a challenging task such as renovating a bus on our own, owning our own house... at a much cheaper cost, and being able to meet new people and experience places we'd never been before.
Who is involved or part of the crew with Bellingham By Bus?
- Bellingham by Bus includes myself (Shauna) my husband, Zach and our two dogs Charlie and Buck. I handle the social media involvement of Lady Buster (Instagram, email, FB), while Zach is in charge of the renovations. For a month (May-June) we also had my 17 year old sister-in-law with us on the road, but she has since left.
What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?
-We tore out all the old insulation from the ceiling and floors and replaced it with 1.5 inch polyiso insulation for the ceiling and 3/4 inch foil backed polyiso insulation on the floors- all purchased at a local Menards. To hold the floor insulation in place Zach created a frame out of Cedar 1 x 2 boards purchased from Menards. One of the smartest things we did in the rebuild was adding the new insulation. It helps tremendously with temperature regulation.
(This is how Lady Buster looked before we started any renovations, how we bought her)
- Man. We used a ton of wood. We wanted our home to have a nice open, homey, country feel so we stuck to all natural woods including: cedar for shelving, pine for shelving and ceiling, aromatic cedar for bathroom, live edge walnut and reclaimed oak for counter and trim, bamboo and maple flooring, hard maple bench, wormy chestnut as an accent on bed front and cherry on the wall by the passenger seat. We used left over flooring from my parents kitchen remodel when we ran out of flooring. We used some of the same flooring on the outside bathroom wall to save cost. The same for the front wall coming into the bus. We used leftover aromatic Cedar that we placed inside of the bathroom for odor protection, to the outside wall. Zach created a wonderful kitchen counter from reclaimed wood and epoxy and utilized an old door found in my parents basement to add a small pantry inside of the bus. To hold the food in place he used bungee cords. All flooring and tile we plan to use for the bathroom was purchased from a Habitat for Humanity Resale shop. The bead board for the ceiling, framing for the walls, plywood for the subfloor, and some wood used for the shelving were purchased by us at a local Menards while the rest was upcycled wood from my Father's carpentry projects.
-Another helpful item for temperature control with Lady Buster are the curtains. With 11 side windows, and two large front/back windows total, we decided to make our own curtains rather than purchase that many. With some help from this amazing little tool called stitch witchery I was able to make our own curtains from some clearance aisle light blocking curtains and some fun fabric. I also decided to make our bench cushion out of a cheap Amazon memory foam padding, backing, and pet durable material purchased at Walmart, rather than spend a ton of money on one.
-For the bathroom Zach created a composting toilet. He used a 5 gallon Walmart bucket to act as the composting toilet placing a funnel inside to separate the excrements. He then built a custom cover to hide the bucket and to be more aesthetically appealing.
What are your future plans with the bus?
-To live in, and enjoy her. We are still working on future plans.
Walk us through your kitchen setup (stove, sink, water source, etc.) and what items you're using (make, model if applicable).
-The sink is made from a 18" galvanized feed bucket, from the local farm store, and then fitted with a standard 3 1/2" sink drain. To fill in the height difference and so water could completely drain, Zach added a two part epoxy until level with the drain. The faucet is a 1/2" copper pipe with a U bend with a ball valve at the base. Water supply is through 1/2 " pex to a shurflo pressure tank, which is supplied by a shurflo on demand water pump. Storage is in a 30 gallon freshwater tank inside of the bus with a 40 gallon tank underneath the bus for waste.
We do not have a stove within the bus. We have a few portable items we use to cook with. One being a Coleman cooktop for cooking inside we we have to, but we'd rather cook outside. For outside cooking we use a Biolite Grill and a small Weber Grill.
How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?
-So far we've had 5 people sleeping in here at once (sitting in the bed as we speak), but that was a fun night and not a very comfortable sleep. We have one queen size mattress that my husband, myself, and the dogs sleep in. We also have a 6 foot long, 2 foot wide bench that with the homemade bench cushion is very comfortable. From May-June that is where my sister in law (zach's sister) slept while she was part of Bellingham by Bus.
Queen size bed setup.
What is your power source? (make and model of items your using).
-For electricity we also added two 160 watt Grape Solar panels to the roof of Lady Buster. Those panels are controlled by a 30 amp Morningstar solar controller which chargers two 160 aH 12 V Napa golf cart batteries wired in parallel.
What is your source of heat if any? (make and model of items your using)
-Heat is interesting. We have three queen size comforters we utilize as well as our winter gear when needed. We have also been using a Mr. Heater Big Buddy Portable Heater. It allows for one or two small propane canisters to be used at once, or you can purchase a hose extension so that larger propane tanks can be used.
What has been the hardest part about living in the bus?
Mmmm... this is actually harder to answer than I thought. I honestly do noy have an answer for the living in a school bus part... but while on the road the hardest part for us by far is being away from family. We experienced two family deaths while on the road and it made us truly appreciate for the loved ones we have and the time we have to spend with them. But as for living in a bus...we love it!
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)
Here are some current photos of the bus.