Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bohemian Chic

Here are all the seats placed. This is not the exact spacing yet, we'll need to all get in and sit first. I guess the 2nd batch of seats was not exactly the same color as the first, but they do all match.

I hear it's not called the "eclectic" look anymore.

It's Bohemian Chic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Measure twice, cut once

Today we cut, laid, drilled and screwed plywood to the bottom of the bus. The plastic underneath is to try to cut down on the moisture. This first piece was a doosy!

Measure twice, cut once....That's Matt's motto.

See that little hole on the right side about 2 feet from the door? He measured and cut a perfect hole. In the wrong place. Forgive him? He's got an awful cold.

And for you Mom and Dad, a picture of the kittens. We've had them just a little over a year and they've never seen them. Even when they "cat sat" for a week. They only come out at night when the kids are in bed. Mater lounges on top of Maddy, while Millie , not wanting to be accused of such an obvious display of relaxation, keeps an eye out for intruders.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More Salvage Yard Etiquette

Well, here we are back at the salvage yard. Here are those drasted swivel mechanisms. They're stuck, no amount of elbow grease will make them give up their position.

"Ya know" Matt says to me, "Fleet farm has them for $30.00 a piece." "Really" I say not wanting to give up hope for cheap ( I mean recycled) parts , "Let's look around some more." I've got the bug. This is my Black Friday without the crowds. The van did not prove to be so stingy with its overhead lights though, we are able to muscle 3 sets away from her.

While I am new to this whole scene, Matt has been doing this for years. BUT he's never looked through conversion vans and campers before, it's a whole 'nother world. He's area of expertise is FAST stuff. You know, under the hood stuff, engines, transmissions, turbo chargers and intercoolers. It turns out as we wander to the camper van to check out the "kitchen" again, we come upon another gaggle of conversion vans. All with swivel seats. Apparently, these are widely available.

The refrigerator is small but in great shape and runs on 12/120 volt and propane. Under the counter top are 2 burners and a sink. After 2 weeks of pondering (and pricing new) we think it's worth taking. The owners manual and operating instructions are even in the glove box. I'm big on owners manuals and instruction books.

After we lug the unit to the van we decide check out the "new arrivals" section. These were not here last time, their doors are still closed, and they have not yet been thoroughly ravaged. We unearth this treasure. The swivel mechanisms are not rusted completely to the frame AND attached to them are really nice comfy driver and navigator seats. I know we were planning on a 60/40 split bench seat, but that's been harder to come by than we thought. Matt tells me the S.M.'s at Fleet Farm aren't nearly as sturdy as these.

We leave this yard 3 hours later with 3 light fixtures, 2 captains chairs, 3 swivel mechanisms, and a kitchen for $200.00.

Since we're still looking for 3 bucket seats from an Astro van, it's off to "Gibby's". The mother of all bone yards. I'm giddy with anticipation. Matt tries to explain that this will be a much different experience. There are rules here, waivers to sign, bigger selection does not always mean better selection... He's right, there is no cat snoozing peacefully in the front office, there are menacing signs warning of "tool box inspection" and "No admittance", There are lots of people here wandering through aisle upon aisle of cars that reminded me of a turkey carcass picked clean after Thanksgiving dinner.

We find nothing in the way of seats, but do come across a utility truck with some interesting locking side panel doors that might come in handy for under bus storage. It is getting late and since Matt had pared down his toolbox to the bare necessities and left the the power screwdriver back in the van he decides to get them at another time. I am happy to leave there. He is right, bigger is not always better. While we are walking out, we discuss (I talk) of how we (I) would run a salvage yard if we (I) had one.

Matt had called another salvage yard a few weeks ago to see if they had any seats. "Scotty" had called back to say they had them but the price tag was quite a bit more than I was willing to fork out. I was confident we could find them elsewhere cheaper so I didn't return their call. We needed to drive by on the return trip anyway so we decided to pay them a visit. My confidence was failing after we turned up nothing in a whole day of hunting and I was now willing to part with a little more cash for the seats.

It was 3:30 when we pulled in. We were met in the office by the owner, a young guy, who was apparently working with a bare bones crew in the shop due to the holiday. When we explained what we were looking for, a light bulb of recognition could be seen in his eyes. He remembered the request and the fact that we had not called back. This set him off in a tirade about John Q. Public being rude and cheap how we could not expect anything to be done at this time of day. Now, if we were one of his buddies it would be different. Do we think he's gonna drop everything to help a guy who spend a couple hundred bucks a year here or the shop owner who doesn't give him crap about what he's charging....blah, blah, blah. YIKES, High prices, bad customer service... I think he failed The Customer Is Always Right 101. Or maybe he was just coming to from a Tryptophan induced coma. We high tailed it out of there with no seats.

Somehow we had overlooked what was right underneath our noses, the local yard only a few miles from our house. Although Matt hadn't remembered ever seeing any vans there, he was wrong. They had 4. We were escorted to and disappointed by the first 3. It wasn't looking promising until #4. There they were, 3 seats, in great condition, same color as the ones we already had. I said out loud, "We've been to 3 junk yards today and haven't found anything this nice." Matt slowly turned to me with a look of disappointment in his eyes. "Salvage yards, Kari" and then to the young boy who had been summoned as our guide, "I'm trying to teach her."

They'll pull all 3 and we can pick them up on Monday afternoon for $80.00.

Will I ever be proficient in Salvage Yard Etiquette?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

3 or 2-1?

What do you all think? Seating arrangement......2-1......or.....3 across? It's hard to believe there's the same amount of walkway isn't it? Our first plan was 2 sets of 3 across, but now that we have some actual seats to look at, I'm thinking I like the 2-1 split better.

The plan still remains to have the front 3 (whatever the configuration turns out to be) swivel, but now, instead of one big (removable) table in between them we'll have one medium size table and one small one.

I think I'm going to call the small area the "breakfast nook".

This will cause a bit more work with our flooring though. The original plan was to have carpet under the seats with a small walkway of hardwood flooring going to the kitchen area (behind the seats) which will be all hardwood and then carpet again in the bedrooms. What's the problem with this you ask...two "carpet/floor intersections" instead of one. We've never carpeted before and we're not sure what they do where the carpet meets the hardwood. And now, we'll have to do it twice, once on each side of the path. I'm sure Matt will figure it out.

Above the seats will be enclosed cabinets or open bookshelves. Like the overhead compartment of an airplane only prettier. We'll also have reading lights. I found some websites with similar cabinetry.

I absolutely LOVE these bookshelves.

And I like these enclosed cabinets.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A successful hunt

His first deer! "Was it as bad as Grandpa's last year?" I asked when he called me on their way home. "No, there was a little bit of guts hanging out but not as bad as Grandpa's". Last year he was there when Grandpa had a not so quick kill. I'm glad he had that experience though. *"I'm sorry you had to see it, Son," he said, "but it's that sort of thing that makes a fellow into a man."* relevant excerpt from our current read-aloud, Little Britches by Ralph Moody.

And then there's the Great White Hunter himself! It wasn't his first, but I'm sure it was just as exciting!


"Helloooo? Anyone there? Have you forgotten me?" This is what I heard when I got up this morning. I opened the dining room curtain and this is what I saw. Errabundus S. Bus was peering through the window. "I've been rather lonely" she admitted. "Sorry Skoolie"(our pet name for her) I whispered "The boys went hunting, and I had loads of nothing to do while they were gone. You know, a laundry mountain to whittle away at, football to watch, organizing, deep cleaning all while NOT preparing meals three times a day. Whatever was in the fridge is what we ate.....all weekend! You know....nothing." If she could given me a thumbs up, she would have. I just know it. It's funny how just not having to prepare meals and having two less people to attend to makes one feel a little like they're on vacation. I assured her she'd have a floor by the end of next weekend, the salvage yard will receive a visit to retrieve the swivel mechanisms and maybe we can find more seats. I closed the curtain certain she felt less lonely.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Matt was on call last weekend so we didn't get much done on the bus. We bought the plywood to cover the bottom, caulked up all the holes that were left after the removal of her seats, and gave her insides a good scrubbin'. Nothing picture worthy.

I will say though, as clean as the bus looked when we bought her...... EEEWWWWW! I can't believe all the gunk you can't see until it's gone. Reason #36 to homeschool your kids. Or at least drive them there and back yourself because at least, then, it's YOUR gunk.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Our quest for seats

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Today we went to the junkyard (I mean salvage yard). I forgot my camera. Actually, I didn't forget, I never even thought of it until we were on our way home. I was really upset because I want you to all be involved in this whole process as much as we are.

This was the third time I had been INTO any salvage yard. I've been TO them lots, but not often IN them. The first time was in 1989 when Matt took me to see his car, his first baby, his first love. Or maybe it was his second. What I'm saying is Matt + cars = tru love 4 ever. I knew this when I met him. In High School I used to sit in his parents garage with him as he worked on his car or his snowmoblie. He'd take me out on dates too, but if it meant spending time with him, I was THERE. It didn't matter that it was too cold or too hot, or if my hair was going to get frizzy...this was true love.

Anyway, 1989, he took me to see his car that was totaled by a drunk driver in a crash 2 years earlier. He happened upon it by accident. I wanted to see it, to get my things out of the glove compartment, to remember to not ever take him for granted again. You can do that at the salvage yard you know. It wasn't pretty. I did get my sparkly heart keychain back though.

The second time was not as memorable. Many years and a couple of kids later. It was cold. There was snow. I had to wear a hat, causing my hair get messy. It was for parts for "Her", the "other woman" who lived in our garage. The one who would steal my husband away from me on weekends. I guess it was memorable.

This time was different. There were no ghosts. This was for our project. Our mission was to find seats for our Errabundus Bus. More specifically, captains chairs, in great shape, from a Chevy Astro van. He and our oldest son had been there the earlier to nab two, but there was one more to be taken. Also, during the earlier visit he had come upon a Volkswagon camper-van that had a cook-top/fridge unit he wanted to check out. We decided against the kitchen setup and headed over to the van and successfully removed the seat.

We were also on the hunt for a front seat for us. Preferably a 60/40 split no more than 4 feet long with a "console" armrest and possibly an extra seat belt. No luck there but we did find an old conversion van with three swivel seats. Our plan is to have the middle 3 captains chairs swivel (only when parked) to face the back row and in between them have some sort of removable table thereby combining our travel seating with our indoor dining room. Matt had never had any reason to research these before this project so he was curious as to how the swivel mechanism worked. Upon examination, he concluded that he didn't have the right tools to remove them. I innocently suggested he ask the guys in the office if he could borrow something, it was getting dark and we had traveled 30+ miles...blah blah blah. You know, female reasoning. After a few tense moments he explained to me quite seriously that it would be a major faux pas to borrow tools. "But, what if they crush the van before we're able to get back?" I said sort of desperately, thinking more of me than salvage yard etiquette. He laid on the ground and shoved his arms under the wheel-less van to try with the tools he did have. He really loves me. It couldn't be done. I closed all the doors of the van to try to conceal our prize find. You can do that at the salvage yard you know. We made our way out of the bone-yard to pay for our seat.

I'm not going to tell you where we were because Matt can't get back there for a week or so and I don't want anyone to snag them up before we can get them! Cuz I know you're all looking for swivel mechanisms. They'll be $10 a piece if he removes them himself. What a deal! I must say, I can't believe I let him go alone all these years. I don't ever want to be left home during a junk run again. It was almost as fun as the used book sale at the library!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day Four

Today we were welcomed back on the bus. The boys banged on the floor with hammers to loosen the rust and blew it out with the leaf blower. Matt sprayed rubberized undercoating on the bottom of his patches. I then swept while Hailey shoveled the residue from the driveway. The loose rust so far has filled a whole garbage can!

While painting the floor I used up the full gallon in only 192 square feet. Since it's now fall and the temperatures are falling Matt put the kerosene heater inside to help with the drying time. This week we should be able to scrub the walls and ceiling and start with the interior paint job...

...And more haircuts.

Banned from the bus

What did we, the Banished, do yesterday while Matt had all the fun?

Gave goofy haircuts.

After I saw 3 of the 4 boys primping in the bathroom I decided it was time to cut their surfer boy hair.

We thought it would be fun for them to run around like weirdos for the day.

They're normal shaved headed boys today. I promise.

Slow but necessary project

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Today Matt spent the entire day sanding, cutting and welding the rusty bottom floor. Today, he wore a mask. Last weekend's escapades left him with bronchitis from inhaling all that mold and gunk. No one was allowed on the bus except me, his photographer and special friend. He didn't really like me standing around though, he made me leave, told me I was a distraction. Imagine that....Me? a distraction?
Here are before and after photos of the rust spots.

And two more just for good measure

Don't call ME a distraction.

Friday, November 2, 2007

You're doing WHAT?

I've had a few people ask some very good questions on the WHY of this adventure. I'll try to address them here.

If you "google" School bus conversion you will find a myriad of websites featuring this sort of thing. That's how it started for us. Well, that and the fact that Matt doesn't want to sleep on the ground anymore when tent camping, pop-ups are too small for our family, a school bus (even with conversion costs) is thousands less than a purchased trailer of any size and I can't forget this one, "Why not?". Then there is the safety factor. According to Lyle, the 92 year old founder of Lamers Bus Lines, from whom we bought the bus, "You could roll one of these and if you could get it upright, you could probably drive it away." Matt's a huge safety nut when it comes to transportation.

Our interior plan is to have enough comfortable "seatbelted seating" and sleeping for our family. This will include a queen size bed (with possible bunk on top of that) and at least 2 sets of twin bunks. In order to get RV insurance, we need to have a working toilet and/or sink. So, we'll fit that in where we can. I've done a "walk through" and it looks like we'll have plenty of room for everything, but we won't know for sure until we purchase our seats and get them where we want them.

The laws on seatbelts are so vague and varied from state to state that we felt it important to have a good seating plan in place that will accomodate both our wants and satisfy safety requirements.

As for Lynn's specific questions... I don't think we'll be needing your old couch (but, thanks for the offer - wait, is it a hide-a-bed?), I suppose one of the kids could move out there is they promise to keep it clean, our other modes of transportation are still operational and we will continue to use them on a daily basis, I'm pretty sure it gets about 10 mpg (thereabouts) and I'm thinking that if those little old ladies can drive kids to school in it, I should not have a problem learning!

More to come.........the weekend is almost here!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day Two

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Day 2 begins with a trip to Fleet Farm to buy more cutting wheels, plastic sheeting and paint for the floor. Matt’s optimistic that they’ll get all the flooring up and painted today.

The plywood was soggy and heavy and gross. I’m glad we decided to pull it up. I’m using “we” in the very loose sense.

The heaters and the cockpit area caused a bit of trouble.

But in the end, she cleaned up nice. There were a few rusted through spots, but there’s plenty of patching material (all those seats) to take care of them. The job of taking up the floor was much more involved than “we” thought but it was good to get that much done, and done well. The painting will have to wait.

Day One

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When our 2nd youngest woke up on Saturday morning he asked if we could do read alouds on the bus. I told him it was the weekend and there would be no school today, but if he wanted, he could take his blanket and books to the bus.

Soon the whole family, plus a friend who had stayed over night, was aboard. I sat in the cockpit and figured out what all the buttons were for, turned on the radio, played with the strobe light on top, learned to swing out the stop sign and blink the lights. Our neighbors on the driveway side momentarily opened their bedroom shades. I’ll have to make it a point to meet them one of these days. But definitely NOT at 7a.m. on a Saturday.

Then the boys went to work. They stripped off the padding and vinyl off the seats.

And piled it on the curb.

Then came the labor intensive job of cutting all the heads off the corroded bolts and removing the metal frames.

Which they piled in the garage.

They found wonderful things hidden inside and underneath those seats. A Gameboy game owned by A.M.W. , an owl charm (which I think we’ll keep), various wrappers, some empty, some not, a few ziplocks with leftovers still inside, and to date - $.38!

Everyone took their turn
with the power tools.

Some in a more productive way
than others. The cut off bolts
needed to be pushed through the
floor of the bus and out the bottom.

Matt ran out of cutting wheels with only 2 seats to go!
I guess it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. The clean up begins.
Good Night Errabundus.

Good Night Junk pile.