Short School Bus Conversion with 64 square feet of easy living.

-Written By: Brock Butterfield

-Conversion By: Ryder Karkus

If you scroll through Ryder's Instragram feed you'll start to get a feel for the kind of man he is. Motor head, jet ski enthusiast, adverture seaker and likes to make things with his hands. It's no surprise that all of these key components led Ryder to the future of owning and converting a short school bus into a tiny home. His bus conversion sits on the highly sought after Ford 7.3l diesel motor which is know to run for as long as you keep putting oil and fuel into it.

I reached out to Ryder for an interview and small tour of his bus conversion of which he has given the name Tumbleweed. It goes wherever the wind blows...

Bus Specs:

-Make: Ford 

-Model: E350

-Motor: 7.3l Power stroke

-Year:2003

-Interior Square Footage: 64sqft

-Current Location: Fonthill, Ontario, Canada

-Purchased From/Location: Cayuga, Ont, Lomoca Auto Wreckers

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $700 for interior, $4000.00 mechanical. We bought a bit of a lemon that we suspect spent some years on a farm being abused.

-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? In progress, finishing touches

-Does your bus have a name? We noticed on a trip to Nashville a Tumbleweed or piece of dried grass on the antenna, it stayed with us for the entire road trip. That’s when it came to us… Tumbleweed,it goes where ever the wind blows it.

Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.

From the start I have always talked and fantasied about buying A bus and converting it into a home on wheels to take a trip to a place called Peace River. No particular reason except we thought it would be such a spiritual place because of its name. Over the years friends and I often talked about this dream, mostly on tent camping adventures or around the campfire. The talk and some friends faded away and even grew apart.

Except for one, Years went by of me and my very good friend Tom Tom, adventuring, camping out and always coming back to the same topic… imagine if we had a bus.... we didn’t know why a bus. But something about inventing our own layout in such a large diesel machine just made our imagination run wild. A lot has changed since those noble conversations around the fire.

I found the love of my life at an event actually where I was camping with 4 other guys in one tent… talk about a gross feeling in the morning in a scorching tent. We hit it off instantly. Within weeks we met again by me picking her up from the train station near my work. 9 month’s later we bought a house together.

About a half year into us now attending events together in a ford ranger sleeping under the truck cap my dream of the bus came back to me.

The vision of having a strong powerful diesel bus converter into exactly what we need, done for cheap! So I put the ranger and cap up for sale and set out shopping, it took a little while to find a bus and I talked to many different people online as well as on the phone about the different laws, restrictions and problems. I then found myself at a wrecking yard in Cayuga. It was there we purchased our bus and were on the quest to convert it to our family adventure camper mobile. Since that time Tom Tom and myself have taken trips in the bus. “A guys weekend” but majority of the time and to this present date my girlfriend, our puppy and I have really taken our bus life to the next level.

Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus?

My direct family, my Father especially has been an extremely large help mechanically in making our dream bus built come to light. But I mustn’t forget the few friends that have helped with the initial painting.

What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?

Mostly plywood, with L brackets, with a good plywood surface you can screw almost anything to it. Also, yes, we did purchase a set of lower kitchen cabinets from Habitat for Humanity, which is all donated home items.

 

 

How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?

The bus is currently setup with a double bed at the back with enough floor space to setup a cot need be. The bus seats 4 + driver.   

What is your kitchen and cooking setup?

We have a complete kitchen counter top, using a hot plate to boil water. And we have a small microwave for warming up something premade quickly.

What is your power source?

Our recently updated power source is a EU3000iS Honda gas inverter generator. This unit producing enough power to run an entire household.

Do you have a heat source for colder weather?

We have a portable electric fire place right now but are going to be switching to a Kni-Co Trekker wood stove, same as our friend Adam Sauerwein owner of #ThePursuit

How do you stay cool in the hot summer months?

We have a portable apartment AC that runs off the generator. Typically, only run the AC at night for sleeping, but our generator is more than capable to run it continuously.

 One way to keep cool!

What are you doing for water source? Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit?

No indoor bathroom source

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

We have a delicate balance of hominess and functionality. Our bus is setup for hauling toys and long distance ventures with or without local power sources.

Back deck for hauling dirt bikes was added after this interview.

What do you do for income while living in the bus?

We only vacation in the bus. Work 5 days a week typically

What do you do for Internet while on the road?

We haven’t encountered a problem with this. We use our phones as a Hot Spot need be, if there’s service.

What’s the hardest thing about living bus life?

Not enough time for adventures

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

Instagram is a greats source for ideas and help. Everyone is very helpful, you can follow me @koonamaflopa on instagram

 

Craft beer on tap while you hang out inside a converted school bus.

 

-Interview By: Brock Butterfield

-Bus Conversion By: Joe Quinlin

 

When I first came across this bus conversion I was drawn in by the extensive woodwork and in particular the countertops. It was after I saw beer taps in the background that I realized that this was not your normal bus conversion and I sat scrolling through the Instagram feed. Shortly after Joe actually mentioned Bus Life Adventure in a comment and said we should come have a beer in the bus. If I was closer or had the time I would have driven there that night!

I realized Joe had taken the bus conversion mindset but used it for another means. Rather than creating a tiny home he decided to create a bar. A mobile bus bar serving high quality craft beer. Food trucks are hot right now so Joe decided to take it a step further and spread the beer gospel to locals in Oklahoma by means of bus.

This interview and writeup is nothing like I've done before so I tried to hit Joe with questions that were specific to his unique idea of taking a bus conversion and turning it into a mobile bar serving high quality craft beer. Enjoy.

 

Bus Specs:

-Make: Chevy

-Model: Bluebird

-Motor: 454

-Year: 1995

-Interior Square Footage: 200

-Current Location: Oklahoma City, OK

-Purchased From/Location: Pawhuska School District. Pawhuska, OK

-Cost in materials for the conversion:

Cost of bus: $1,850 

Refrigeration: $1,550

Mini Split: $1,000 

Honda EU6500 Generator: $2,550 

Exterior & Interior Tap System: $1,300 

Wood and steel: $1500 

Upholstery: $240 

Paint: $2,000 

Electrical and Plumbing: $1,000 

Custom Refrigerator: $600

Total: $13,590

-How did the idea to serve frosty beverages on a bus come into play?

I've been involved in the local brewing scene in OKC since 2010 when my brother moved here from San Diego. We started brewing together and soon were creating flavorful batches almost once a week. I began going into a local brewery, Coop Ale Works, and giving my time each week to clean tanks, wash kegs, clear out mash tuns, and occasionally watch the boil. In return I would often get ingredients to brew with. Eventually I was hired part time to work on the manual canning line, which made for some good times and great memories. Being exposed to the craft beer scene in this way allowed for opportunity to help build into the brewing community in unique ways.

 

The more my involvement with craft beer deepened, the more my love for it grew. I began to have a desire to develop my vocation around it. Blending my hobby, with business, and community sounded like a lovely idea. I really wanted to figure out how I could use business to spread the gospel of craft beer here in Oklahoma. With the local food truck scene growing, it seemed like having beer on wheels would be well received. This is where the idea for turning a school bus into a beer bus came to life. I dreamed of getting an old bus and building a tap room inside, where old and new friends could sit and enjoy meaningful conversation while drinking a tasty beverage. The feel would be warm and welcoming. The Big Friendly is Oklahoma City's nick name, and it was the perfect name for the bus. And so the journey began.

 

-I'm seeing a lot of beautiful wood work in your bus. Where did you get most of your material from?

The 2 booth tables and the bar that runs along the passenger side were crafted from re-purposed pallet wood. The top of the main bar in the back of the barrel tap room has rough cedar that was found in a buddy's garage. The face of this bar is made of old wooden doors that were found in an airplane hangar. There were four doors that we sanded down and cut to size to incorporate into the interior design in a few places around the tap room. The wood that makes the barrel ceiling and exterior signage is 1 x 4's purchased at our local lumber store.

 

-How long did the conversion take you?

I bought the bus in October of 2014 and it sat through the winter while I planned out the design and color schemes. In March 2015 we started working on the base paint for the exterior and interior, as well as artistic paintings. The interior remodel began in June and was complete for our first event in October 2015.


-What was the hardest part of the conversion?

The custom walk in refrigerator was a beast to complete. We had to figure out how to design a fridge that would hold plenty of beer for the larger events we'd go to, and also would compliment the flow of the interior and exterior look of the bus. The goal was to have 8 taps on the inside that were synced to 8 taps on the outside. We had to create a large hole in the ceiling and mount a refrigeration system that wouldn't interfere with the integrity of the structure of the bus. It had to be large enough to keep beer cold in a bigger space 24/7. It was a chore for sure, but in the end it turned out to be one of my favorite features that goes mostly unnoticed. 

Another difficult undertaking was removing 3 of the original bus windows on the passenger side, and welding them so they would open together. After consulting with a few friends, we really felt the original look of the bus needed to be kept in tact – so using the original windows was a must. I really wanted to have a large opening that connected those who were on the inside of the bus to whatever might be happening on the outside of it. We placed 5 bar stools along the inside of this window, and it really has become an integral piece in intimately integrating the barrel tap room with whatever event we happen to be at.

-How many thirsty patrons can you pack into the bus?

We have room to comfortably seat 14 people, although at times we've had a few more than that with standing room only.

-How many taps do you have?

8 exterior taps synced with 8 interior.

-What do you do for power?

When the bus is parked at home, we plug into the house. On the road, we use a EU6500 Honda generator but always have 100 feet of cord in case there's an available plug in.

-Besides the beer taps, what's the most unique thing about your bus?

The Barrel Ceiling: The ceiling is covered with wood, and at each of the ribs we put 3 inch wide pieces of steel that gives the feel that you're sitting in an old wooden beer barrel. It really compliments the space well.

“Everything's OK” Marquee Sign: On the back of the bus there is a sign that is composed of artistic paint, artistic steel, and lighting. This was somewhat difficult to engineer, but with the help of some pretty talented friends we made it work. The sign is a play on words – letting people know that Everything's OK, and that everything we sell is from OK.

Artistic Renderings: Art that blends Oklahoma and beer has been painted in a few locations by 2 local artists. More notably, on the hood of the bus is the Oklahoma state flag, with hops replacing the peace pipe, and barley replacing the olive branch. Along the side of the bus there is a Scissortail, the state bird of Oklahoma, where the bluebird once was. Behind it are hop cones blowing in the Oklahoma wind.

-How do people find out more about your beer bus?

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @thebigfriendly

 

 

 

 

 

- Bus conversion with upper cabin and outdoor deck. -

Interview By: Brock Butterfield

Bus Conversion By: Guy and Kayla

I thought my bus was unique in design with a snowmobile deck on the back but Kayla and Guy have definitely set the bar high with their bus conversion that includes an upper cabin with 88 square feet and a 160 square foot outdoor deck on the top where they store their snowmobile.

This bus conversion has had an enormous amount of custom work put into it. The creative process behind it still blows my mind each time I see a photo of NED a.k.a. Never Ending Dream posted on Instagram.

Enjoy this little interview and photos of their bus conversion. They also have a video of their bus and travels that I've posted below the interview.

 

Bus Specs:

-Make: Blue Bird

-Model: Handi

-Motor: Navstar/ international 7.3

-Year: 1993

-Interior Square Footage: 1st floor 200 square feet, upper cabin 88 square feet, outdoor deck 160 square feet. 

-Current Location: We have recently moved the bus from Alaska to the Nevada area 

-Purchased From/Location: Public surplus, an online auction site. 

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $8,000 

-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? Complete and available for updates. Always ideas to improve and let our spirits act upon. Right now the dream list includes motorcycle racks, turbo kit, awning system and an improved storage sleeping space in the back.

-Does your bus have a name? Yes, NED. Stands for Never Ending Dream. A tribute to the guy at the paint shop who was stoked we were building the bus and wanted to do the exterior paint job. Ned is the first 3 letters of his hard to pronounce last name and birthed the acronym Never ending dream. 

Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.

The dream to be free and available for all the activities we desire. A space that only has room to collect only so many things. Being available to experience the world with play time in mind. To own our living space and work because we are moved to not because we have a mortgage to pay.

 

Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus? 

Kayla and Guy are love birds who live in the bus full time. The crew involves the parents, friends and family who helped build NED, and whoever finds themselves on or near the bus can consider themselves involved. 

What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?

We used the top of an old van from a junk yard to create a sleeping space on the top of a deck we recycled from another converted bus. The stove, oven, furnace and fridge were up cycled from a trailer in a junk yard. The rocket stove was build out of old drill casing. Hanging bars and racks were used from a bus Guy had previously owned. We used tumeric, beats, and spirulina as the wood stains. I would also recommend using spent coffee grounds. 

 

 

 

How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?

The upper cabin sleeps two on a queen mattress. The 1 st floor has two couches for sleeping and floor space for two more. 6 people under a roof. Can sleep 4-6 under the stars/ northern lights or midnight sun on the upper deck.

 

What is your kitchen and cooking setup?

A lovely kitchen with plenty of counter space, a sink with 11 gallons of fresh water and a gray water holding tank, a 4 space propane stove, oven, fridge, freezer and compartments and drawers that make the food and cook wear easily accessible. 

 

 

What is your power source?

We have 3 100watt solar panels and 2 12volt batteries for auxiliary power. We have a converter to charge those batteries off of a 120 house plug or generator. We have a switch to gain off of the bus motor's alternator. We can also boost the bus starter with those batteries. We have a 2000 watt inverter to run our 120 house plugs inside the bus. We are also powering our 2 12" subs and 6X9s with a 2000 watt amp with those batteries. We are able to charge phones, computers, cameras, run led light strips, the stock bus lights, craft with hot glue guns, grind coffee, etc. 

Do you have a heat source for colder weather?

Yes. We built a rocket stove out of old drill casing, they are efficient stoves that use less wood and we run a heat powered fan to move the warm air around the bus. There is a man named Paul Wheaton, who has the rocket stove and permaculture info, we highly recommend checking him out for plans and encouraging "out there" ideas. We have a propane furnace and 66 gallons of propane on the roof. There is also the option to plug the bus into house power via the inverter and run electric heat.  

 

How do you stay cool in the hot summer months?

Haven't experience hot summer months yet. Maybe an AC will be an update. Feeling a travel to the South may call for a solution.

What are you doing for water source? 

We collect water out of the mountain side in 3, 5 gallon buckets once or twice a week to fill up our 14 gallon water holding tank under the sink. We have an electrical pump to run the water through a faucet which drains into a 14 gallon holding tank that gets emptied in appropriate locations. 

Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit?

We have a portable toilet for emergencies, but haven't had to use it yet. 

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

The upper deck sleeping quarters. It looks cool, is super cozy, and allows for more living space on the main floor.

What do you do for income while living in the bus?

During the winter Kayla coached ski racing and Guy made snow for Alyeska ski area, allowing plenty of time to play on the mountain. During the summer we both ran the TA surf company renting paddle boards, taking people surfing in the turnagain arm on the boretide, as well as mellow tidal floats. You can check out the company at TAsurf.com Guy also worked for a rafting company Chugach Adventures out of Girdwood and Kayla on an adventure boat out of Whittier. Currently we are picking up odd jobs around the Reno/Tahoe area, creating an online store to sell rad bus trinkets, paddle boards, and ride along adventure tours with us and NED. 

What do you do for Internet while on the road?

Let our phones create hot spots in the US and find wifi spots while out of the US. 

What’s the hardest thing about living bus life?

 Leaving a rad location, and keeping the stuff down to a manageable amount.

We heard you guys are into SUP. Tell us a little more about that and how bus life allows you to SUP more often.

Living in the bus allowed us to move closer to the shop and even right to the surf spot. We started incorporating the bus with our tours, as the shuttle vehicle and a nice place for paddlers to end an adventure, a surf lodge of sorts. 

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.) 

Instagram: neverendingdream

Facebook: NEDbuslife

website: tasurf.com

Couple living in Uganda convert a short school bus into a home and explore the US.

 
-Interview By: Brock Butterfield -
-Bus Conversion By: Mark Crozier and Karin Bridger
 

Karin was drinking cocktails and Mark was serving them up at his brother's bar in Uganda when they met. The two eventually began talking about traveling the US together and explored different means of transportation but it was Karin's deep fascination with American school buses and how cheap you can get one for that led them down the path of converting a short school bus into a tiny home.

While Karin worked on a film project in Uganda to raise funds for their upcoming adventure, Mark secured a bus in Arizona and became best friends with an angle grinder. Upon finishing the bus conversion they hit the road with their 6.5l diesel motor purring. I was lucky enough to cross paths with both of them and got a full tour of their bus. I sat them down for an interview of which you can watch in the video below. It's a good one and I love seeing more and more couples traveling and living together in unconventional ways.

 
 
Bus Specs:
 
-Make: Collins bus on a Chevy chassis
 
-Model: Chevy P30 Collins bus with a right rear wheelchair door
 
-Motor: 6.5 Diesel
 
-Year: 1995
 
-Interior Square Footage: 80-90 square feet
 
-Current Location: Chandler, Arizona
 
-Purchased From/Location: Phoenix - Canyon State Bus Sales
 
-Cost in materials for the conversion: 3k +/- including tools
 
-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? Collins probably won’t change much apart from minimal aesthetics. He’s somehow managed to worm his way into us so deeply that to rip anything out and recreate would seem sacrilege. Maybe solar panels and a roof rack. And in my lofty wrenching dreams a four by four conversion…
 
 
 
-Does your bus have a name? His name is Collins, cause it’s written all over him. I’ve always believed cars/trucks/boats/planes should be female but Collins is Collins and he’s a dude. He’s gender fluid.  
 
Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about. Karin and I had lived in Uganda for almost four years and were ready for a different pace - a different way of living in the world. I’ve always held the belief that there’s no better place than the western states so I wanted to show her (she’d never visited) and get more of it myself. We explored driving a car with a tent, renting an rv, buying an old rv and fixing it… We explored all options. It sort of came down to Karin’s semi-obsession with American yellow school buses. She’s grown up in west Africa and Germany and had never had the experience of a school bus apart from seeing them on television. Kind of seemed perfect when we realized we could buy a school bus really cheaply and make it into a comfortable home on wheels for less money than most of the other options. 
 
 
 
 
 
Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus? Primarily it’s me and Karin. She flew back to Uganda to do some film jobs to make the money for me to work on Collins for three months and to finance the following three months of our travels. Secondarily, my folks let me park him in the ubiquitous “side of house rv space” that all houses in Phoenix seem to have. They also let me drink their coffee and eat their food while I built him out. Thirdly, the next door neighbors were pretty cool with me using the angle grinder while their toddler took his afternoon naps.
 
 
What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items? Used a lot of Home Depot lumber for framing things out, bed frame, table top, etc. Building on a budget is fun though! I scoured a Phoenix RV salvage and found some upper cabinets, heavy duty battery wires, and reading lights. A Habitat for Humanity store nearby had the perfect table mount. Karin brought some really beautiful pieces from Uganda to accent the cabinet doors and decorate the walls. Our privacy curtains at the front are Ugandan fabric sheets.
 
 
How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed? Collins could sleep three in a pinch. He’s designed for two in the full bed in the back but a couple mats on the floor are pretty comfortable for a third. 
 
 
What is your kitchen and cooking setup? We’ve got a pretty capable kitchen. A four burner stove (from a mid seventies airstream sourced through craigslist)  with an oven connected through the wall outside via quick connect to a standard lp tank. Water is a five gallon tank under the sink through a cheap chinese 12v pump from Amazon. The top loading Whynter fridge doubles as counter space. Karin has made quiche, lasagna, brownies and the best carbonara you’ve ever tasted in Collins. I’ve fried some eggs. That’s about all I can do responsibly. 
 
 
Whynter Fridge built for 12v and highly efficient.
 
 
Simple sink setup with the 12v pump and 5 gallon jug of water.
 
 
What is your power source? We’ve got a couple flooded deep cycle batteries in a box under Collins. They’re charged as we drive with a voltage sensitive relay from the engine battery. When we can plug in a three stage smart charger tops them off. As it is, we can have two or three days of silence and cold beer from the fridge before I freak out about not letting the batteries get below fifty percent. I’d love to get some panels on the roof and upgrade the amp hours but it hasn’t been necessary so far. 
 
 
 
 
Do you have a heat source for colder weather? We cried for a wood stove in Capitol Reef National Park last April when we woke to snow on the windscreen. But no, we don’t have a separate house unit. Our heat source is the proximity of human bodies under a blanket. 
 
How do you stay cool in the hot summer months? Drive faster and open the windows more? I took out the massive stock AC unit that came with the bus - it owned the whole head room above the bed. We didn’t have the budget to accommodate the power supply to run a full time house air conditioner. We got a pretty good 12v fan that works well in the dry western states. Things will have to change if we head to the humid midwest and south. 
 
What are you doing for water source? Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit? Water is in a tank under the sink. 5 gallons does us pretty well for a few days of cooking and washing hands and a bucket bath when we need it. When we street park we’ve got a bucket with a lid. A few scoops of kitty litter and tie it up tight. 
 
What is the most unique feature of your conversion? Strangely, until we parked behind you and Valerie, we never once ran into another short school bus conversion. We expected to see at least a few along the route we took up the coast. So the most unique thing still is that it’s a school bus! And we love that. Another is that somehow we’ve managed to create a tiny home that feels like it has a lot of space. At the Joshua Tree Music Festival we had six or so people dancing in Collins. 
 
 
 
What do you do for income while living in the bus? Working on that one. Would love to figure out the solution. Any tips are welcome. 
 
What do you do for Internet while on the road? We use my phone hotspot. 
 
What’s the hardest thing about living bus life? Being together with one person for 24 hrs a day can be hard. It’s also the best thing about bus life. As you learn to adapt to being with someone you love around the clock you refine what makes you tick together. We’ve learned that what’s hardest about it is also what’s great. Sometimes it’s unnerving not knowing where we’re setting the parking brake tomorrow night but that uncertainty makes it more worthwhile. 
 
Great organization tool. Shoe organizer turned storage space!
 
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.) On Instagram - @collins.tagram is the account we set up exclusively for Collins. I’ve also got an Instagram @markcrozier