23 July 2014

garage sales are for the birds...

Talk about feeling like a caged bird... We decided to start culling some of the crap we had been storing in our basement cupboards (our of sight can no longer be out of mind, right?) and let me just say - this is the most incredibly boring thing a person could opt for.  Kijiji is WAY more exciting.  Actually, washing my toilet might even be more exciting.  I know now why I've never done one before, and will likely only ever do this once more...

Now that our holidays are done, we *should* be looking at getting some work done on the bus but anytime there is "free" time we seem to find ways of filling it up with social engagements, emergencies, non-emergencies, and pretty much every and anything not related to finishing work on the house and yard or gutting the bus.  I don't want to be a nag but Oh. My. Gawd.  I sit down to work on the weddings I have shot - the funds from which are paying for important things like the bus, renos, property taxes, holidays and tuition - and no one is shovelling the dirt STILL piled up in the yard, weeding, cleaning, moving...  When I start doing it myself I get shit.  If I ask other people to do it, I get shit.  If it doesn't get done, I feel frustrated.  It seems like we are never going to get anywhere.


How do YOU motivate everyone and get everyone on the same page without being a whining, nagging, bitter "I'll just do it my goddamned self" type?

Go home, zealots. You're drunk.

It is difficult to avoid defining people by the labels that invariably end up being put upon them based on certain lifestyles.  Someone who recycles is an environmentalist.  Someone who breastfeeds is a lactivist.  Someone who takes great pride in their career is a workaholic.  Someone who travels a lot is rich.  Someone who takes pride in their appearance is shallow.  You get cross-labelling too - someone who is a vegan must be an environmentalist, someone who breastfeeds must be a homeschooler, someone who works lots is a bad parent...  you get the idea.  It's equally difficult to avoid being defined, and subsequently judged.  I'm a bicycle-commuting, meat-eating, atheist, working, legally married mother of a large blended family who recycles, blogs, and wants to live on a bus.  I do all of these things passionately, without being militant.  I don't need to change your mind.  I just need you to accept me the way I am, the same way I accept you the way you are.  Warts and all.

I shared our plans to move onto a bus recently and while most people are supportive even if they don't think they could personally do it, they're generally supportive.  Have less, do more.  Then every once in a while someone says something that catches me completely off guard.  To paraphrase... "Well, I don't feel guilty for my money or my things and just because you don't have enough money to live like we do doesn't mean you should try and make me feel bad."

WTF?!  Did I miss the part where I said that I was morally superior to everyone else.

So today I stumbled across this letter to angry vegans.  There are vegetarians and vegans who can be vegetarians and vegans without trying to feed their cat a cabbage-based diet.  There are people who quietly breastfeed their babies without once making a sound about bottle feeders.  There are people who drive a Prius but have no intention of strapping themselves to an oil rig.  There are homeschoolers who don't shun the public school system.  There are people who buy recycled paper who won't ever participate in a hunger strike in the crotch of a tree.  There are atheists who think religion provides an important social function.  And there are people who live in tiny houses who don't give a flying rat's ass about where anyone else chooses to live.

  1. a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.
    synonyms:fanaticenthusiastextremistradical, young Turk, diehard, true believer,activist, militantMore

Extremists who operate exclusively in absolutes can give everyone who shares the same opinion a bad name, sometimes bordering on dangerous.  There's a line between someone holding an opinion - even a strong one - and someone who actually believes they possess inherent moral superiority to those who do not share their viewpoint.  Most of us can't define exactly where this line is until it has been crossed and at that point, we seem to develop a distaste or aversion to that viewpoint.  People who insist you walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk eliminate our ability to indulge our human curiosity, to learn about what makes us different, and to find common ground.

The way I figure it, we all want to enjoy life on our own terms.  Some of us will measure that enjoyment by how much we have, while others by how much we do, and as far as I can tell, the only surefire way to fail miserably is to spend too much time worrying about what everyone else is doing.  I don't begrudge people who enjoy gardening and home maintenance.  I don't think people who spend money on things are evil.  I don't want to convert everyone to living on a bus.  And I certainly don't have any intent whatsoever to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed about their lifestyle choices.  If someone feels guilty because I say I want to live on a bus... I'm fairly confident that's something going on inside of them that has nothing to do with me.

Ultimately, we need to measure our successes individually, based on our own values and goals.  In a consumer society, we often hear the message that more is more.  More is generally measured in cash and possessions.  Having the most stuff is the ultimate goal.  Work lots, spend lots, have lots.  The currency I prefer to operate in is time.  If I wanted more stuff I'd need more money.  If I wanted more money I'd need to work more.  To work more I'd have to use more time.  My solution then is to have less so I can do more.  Less is more.  Have less do more.  Success for me will therefore obviously not look the same as someone who wishes to own a boat, several quads, take elaborate holidays...  I don't want those things, but it doesn't mean I don't want other people to have them.  I don't get you, but until and unless you are hurting me personally I actually don't care how you live your life or what your personal life goals are.

Go home zealots.  You're drunk.

23 June 2014

a week of reclamation

I'm not even going to pretend like the last 2 weeks has been a cakewalk.  Despite our growing excitement over being ready to skin the interior of the bus, the biggest frustrations we've had (vehicles, weeds, house...) are only now beginning to be resolved.  We're therefore declaring the first official week of Summer 2014 "Reclamation Week."

Since the last blog entry, life has been one big frustrating jumble and it wasn't until Friday night when we met the friendliest Polak ever who traded our sick Mazda for his working PT Cruiser, and we finally felt like we could breath again.  I would never have picked a PT Cruiser for myself, but I honestly feel like I lost my ability to be picky.  Major downsides to the Cruiser: it was previously owned by a seriously heavy smoker and it gives me asthma, it's an automatic not stick, and it was decorated by either a) a billiards junkie or b) a coke junkie since it was covered with 8-balls - window decals (removed), baby- and regular-sized fuzzy 8-balls (like fuzzy dice) which have now become as much fun as Steve to plant... even the door locks are 8-balls...

Anyhow.  Now Bill has a truck that he can haul crap with (it's currently loaded up with the last of the concrete pile we've been tripping over for a month) and I have a little compact car that isn't a road pig to park.  For almost 2 weeks we had only one working, insured vehicle (Clementine) and she seats ONE.  By Friday we had one working insured vehicle, one working uninsured vehicle, and one insured but not working vehicle.  Saturday afternoon when we managed to fix what was going to be a $1500+ repair by simply tightening contacts on Bill's truck battery, we had 3 working, 2 insured vehicles, and as of Monday morning, we have 3 working, insured vehicles.  The only shitty thing about the vehicle situation now is that ATCO is blocking our alley off for the next 3-4 weeks while they replace the gas lines and that means no Clemmy outings.  It also means that all of our garbage will have to be set in front for pick up.  It's going to be such an ugly 3 weeks...  ~sigh~

Bill finally conceded that hand-weeding the grassy knoll of dirt we need to use for regrading is not a viable solution given our time constraints.  I grabbed some non-selective herbicide and tried 2 heavy doses but to no avail.  A friend of ours said she would bring us the industrial strength stuff they have access to, but I think before pouring more chemicals I'd like to try the torch method.  I'm sure I'll have an impossibly difficult time convincing him to go shopping for a fire toy...


North Country Fair obviously didn't happen, so we decided to make use of our weekend off and dive into yard and house-work.  Clemmy got a good airing out and we started setting her up for our "garage sale slash bus warming" party next weekend, and I tackled the nightmare of a living room where everything from the studio got dumped.  I'm close to being done but here's the before - I especially like all the random body parts laying around since Bob, Lucille, and Maria had most of their limbs removed for easy transport.

Saturday night we took a much-deserved beergarita break in the nice shady bus to ring in the summer with my BFF in Toronto.  Sad as I am that we have had to miss every single one of her legendary Solstice parties, and sad as we were to miss out on NCF, I think we had if nothing else a whole lot of much-needed progress.  Tonight I'll detail the Cruiser (who still needs a name - suggestions?) and finish reclaiming the living room and kitchen, then have big plans to move onto the basement cupboards with a vengeance while Bill finishes up reclaiming the yard...

Onward, onward!

16 June 2014

so much to do, so little time...

This week is all about the neglected bits of life that inevitably happen when a lot of stuff happens in a very short period of time.  Pictures will show better than words the chaos that is our life right now.

The City of Edmonton tickets people who have creeping bellflower in their garden.  My whole front garden is/was infested.  We have turned the entire thing over and we've made some headway but it's tenacious stuff and needs to be ripped up a second time already.  We currently can't get in and out of the back yard without going through the house or walking all the way around to the back because until we fill in under the gate with some dirt, the dogs will be able to get out.

We tore up the sidewalk weeks ago.  We managed to rent a truck and haul away the clean concrete and asphalt but there is still a load or two of wired concrete sitting beside the trampoline.  The grass is 3 feet tall now because we can't physically move around in there enough to get at it with a mower or weed whacker.

All of the plants I wanted to save from the front flower bed were put in pots, tubs, and alternate beds until we get the bellflower sorted out.  We can't put the swings, the canoe, or the firepit away until the concrete and dirt are moved.  And we still have a little temporary doggy fence around the concrete patio, thought Art has figured out how to escape.  We will need it to stay up at least until after our garage and yard sale.

When the people who were supposed to take over the studio lease shit the bed, I was left with a LOT of stuff to deal with.  I sold as much of it off as I could but it wasn't enough so now I have things like an entire box of hangers, and another full of styrofoam heads, some items that sold but weren't picked up yet, and of course the big stuff I had planned to leave at the studio since it would make more sense than dragging it back and forth like my backdrop stands and the folding card tables.  To keep the dogs from getting in there, we have it temporarily gated off with boxes and chairs.

I was definitely off the wagon this weekend.  Friday night we were greeted with a bill for snow shovelling and a summons to court over the ice we hadn't been able to chip off the sidewalk when it was -40 in February.  That stack of paper and the box beside it are nestled on the floor between the sewing machines I can't put away until I get the front room cleaned up and the computer I should be using to finish 2013 taxes and my sister's audit.

Of course we still don't have a functioning bathroom upstairs.  And there are 4 folding tables and a china cabinet blocking the upstairs hallway.  I have smashed my toes so many times in the last 2 weeks I'm surprised they're not broken.

On the up side, Clemmy came home on Friday.  We managed to get the path clear enough to pull her in.  She made that funny noise when we cranked her steering wheel again - I still think it's a belt but I'm not a mechanic so... we will be getting a once-over done in the very near future.

Kaelan loves the roof.  I have to get up there still - there is some sort of symbol on the roof that indicates it's a police bus.  She was pretty filthy inside - several layers of dust, straw everywhere, the smell of manure - but we were happy to have her home anyways.  There wasn't a lot we could do in the dark on Friday night so we chilled out, ready to haul some serious ass on Saturday.

There a good sized path along the port side so we can get into the compartments if needed, though we will definitely need her to be further away from the fence when we start doing the body work.  That's a loooong ways off though.  I still need to clean the wheat and chaff from the intake, and I certainly hope we don't blow a tire anytime soon - the spare we have is scary bald!

We knew about the damage to the rear bumper but hadn't really noticed how the front bumper is a bit askew on the starboard side.  The rust.  Oh my word, the rust is frightening.  I'm not looking forward to dealing with all that rust.  ~sigh

We saved a couple of slabs from the sidewalk to park Clemmy on so she wouldn't sink into the dirt.  We're going to move her a few feet forward once we have the fence finished up, which is why we didn't mother countersinking and levelling the slabs yet.  (in the bottom right of the photo above, you can see Art has already marked his territory...)

We definitely want to leave as much of Clementine's character intact, including getting the bus phones and PA system back up to snuff.  We're also going to try and get the closed circuit TV to work with the back-up camera.  I'm pretty excited about having heated mirrors, even though the likelihood of us doing any winter driving is slim to nil.

There is a TONNE of graffiti all over the inside of the bus.  The girls kept giggling because there were so many swear words.  The double layer of plexiglass left on some of the windows will be coming off this week, hopefully, along with all the l-brackets on the ceiling that I keep walking into with my head.  We're going to have to figure out which heating units we keep and which ones we toss.  they had two separate "rooms" on the bus so there were 4 units at ones time but we only have 3 still in there.  They aren't leaking or rusted but they are disconnected, so for now we'll just put them in storage.

We didn't find a single mouse turd (which is miraculous) but the pale shade of dust, the straw, and the distinct odour of cow pie from her being parked in a barn makes me believe there was a fair bit of dried manure on the bus.  We didn't want the girls playing in Clemmy until the particulate (shiticles, as Bill would say) had been dealt with so, after we hauled all the cabinets, garbage and sheet metal out we gave her a good sweeping and vacuuming before letting the girls mop and wipe her down with bleach from tip to tail.  You've never seen three more excited girls than when we walked to the dollar store to get mops so they could "swab the decks." Weird weird weird...

We were able to see that she has fibreglass insulation, which is likely why the smell of manure is still so strong.  I assume the rest of the barn smell will go when we take that out.  Despite the mild stink, the girls wanted to camp out so we moved in a couch and the bistro set, hooked up the projector, and let the girls have a sleepover in her.

The dogs were excited about a sleepover on the bus, too.  It wasn't until morning that I really got to admire how nice the cockpit was looking after a bath.  Sweet!

We're still debating whether or not we're taking her up to North Country Fair this weekend, as it might be the only opportunity we have to take her out travelling before we get too far into the work.  We're going to leave the interior skin of the bus intact at least until after June 29th when we are hosting a buswarming party and yard sale.  Since pulling the skin out involves removing the windows and floor, too, we won't be going anywhere until after she's re-insulated and panelled with all the electrical and plumbing roughed in.


The Mazda will be getting permanently parked in the next couple of weeks.  Once we have the first garage/yard sale, we'll pull her into the garage and apparently the neighbour, who we bought our truck off this weekend, is going to help us rebuild the engine and set the timing belt so we can use her (or at least sell her for more than what she'd be worth for parts.)  She's a great little car and I'm hoping we can get her back running - I'm nervous about car shopping.  She's the devil we know, right?  Then there's the part of me that says, screw it, I want her gone because we need the money.  Whatever the case may be, we now own a big green diesel truck.  Whether the Mazda stays or goes, I won't worry about getting myself a little city car until the fall.

13 June 2014

the lay of the land

ImageThis was a rough guesstimate of the layout and is not final nor is it to scale. This floor plan uses the assumption that only 1 or both of the girls will be coming with us when we move onto the bus - if one or both of the boys decide to join us we will have to seriously rethink the layout to accommodate 6 people instead of 4. I prefer a symmetrical layout over one with an L-shaped kitchen and side hallways - I want the bus to be as airy and open as possible( for a bus) so a clear view from front to back is what I'm aiming for. This is a verbal tour from front to back with an end note about things like flooring and paint. I welcome your thoughts, input, and expertise if you see something monumentally stupid/newb in this plan.

COCKPIT: We will remove passenger side door, fill in floor, install passenger seat. We are going to remove the door, flatten her to a board, and slap her back on with hinges so that we a) have an emergency exit and b) she looks intact (and pretty) from the outside. Where the stairs were will serve as additional storage. Storage cabinet/benches will be right behind both the driver and passenger seat - hopefully we can install some boat-style jump seats with proper seatbelts for the kids, but if not these will just be top-loading trunks (the dimensions are wonky in the picture because the lettering wouldn’t fit on my Google drawing lol)

MASTER BEDROOM: I refuse to give up my very expensive, very wonderful back-saving mattress. Our version of a “Murphy” bed will be our mattress built into a queen mattress-sized cabinet with a queen mattress-sized door. A pocket door on either side of the "master bedroom" area will allow us to have the widest doorway possible and leave the area open to the front for extra floor space and daylight from the windshield when we aren't in transit, while also permitting us privacy when needed. There will be curtains between the bench seats and the passenger/driver seat. I have a $300 crystal sconce I grabbed for $30 at a liquidation sale that will be going over the desk/dresser.

LIVING/DINING AREA: We are bringing a loveseat and barber chair with us, which will sit across from the built-in 4-person dinette that will convert to a double bed. I want to put the dinette table on a salon chair style hydraulic base so that it swivels, locks, raises and lowers. The tabletop will have a hinged extension so that we can seat more than 4 people from time to time. We are going to use the bases from original schoolbus seats with the belts attached so that we can use them as extra seating when in transit (and because they will look cool). We might build boxes around them to make them useful for storage but I'm kind of hoping to have the bus seats in the dinette can still look like bus seats. Since we have belly storage along the entire length of the bus on both sides (minus the diesel tanks) I'm hoping we can allow ourselves a few luxuries like this. I'm torn about putting in some windows in this area - a small slider window on either side, one above the dinette and one above the loveseat - would be lovely, though if we decide to leave it closed off we do have beautiful artwork we can hang instead. I have a $500 crystal chandelier I picked up at the same liquidation sale for $90 that I plan to hang over the dinette - toughest part will be modifying it from having a chain base to having a post so it isn't swinging around while we're in transit.

KITCHEN: I found a sweet-ass fridge and stove from a vintage 1949 trailer that I’d love to use if they can be refurbished. I think the stove can be done fairly easily but the fridge, even if we can get it recharged and running again, will likely not be very energy efficient and if we're off-gridding it, that simply won't do. I am also trying to figure out how to convert my antique buffet into our counter without completely trashing it - I think if I can put the top on locking hinges, I should be able to hide the sink in there. Option B would be to just cut out a hole for the sink and drop her in there, but then I'd have to saw the legs off to adjust the height. Of course, the buffet coming on the bus at all is contingent 100% on whether or not we have the space for such a large piece of furniture, even if she is being being used as sink and cupboard space.


ENTRYWAY: The storage closet right inside the door will be for brooms, boots and jackets. If we decide to grab the vintage fridge and stove, this is where the fridge door will end up as decoration if we can’t upgrade/update it to work and we can't figure out how to hide the real fridge behind it. 

The wood stove will be installed mid-cabin over the wheel. Having the wood stove located centrally will hopefully allow us to get more even heat through the bus, and having it right beside the door will avoid us having to traipse through the cabin with firewood. I want to eventually replace the angled stairs with straight stairs. Once we remove and flatten the door to put her on a hinge same as the front door) I’m hoping we can figure out how to make a nesting design that when it flips out creates stairs all the way to the ground but flipped up creates a solid floor area. Kind of like this:


BATHROOM/UTILITY/STORAGE: We wanted to maximize privacy which is why we have the bedrooms at opposite ends of the bus. I also hate the idea of having to walk through someone’s sleeping area to get to the bathroom if it's not absolutely necessary. (Guests can suck it up lol.) I wanted the (chemical for now, composting/incinerating later) toilet separate from the shower as well - living in a house with 6 people and 1 bathroom for the last 11 years I cannot tell you how many times there's been someone stuck sitting outside the door yelling for whoever just got in the shower to hurry up. I think that having the toilet and the washing area in the same room is actually a design flaw in modern housing - there's nothing nice I can think of about laying in a tub beside the shitter. Whose idea was that anyway? But I digress. 

I knew the shower looked extra-wide - I forgot to put in my photography gear storage cabinet there, which will be a 2ft wide closet that will hold my stands, lighting heads, and other gear. Paring my gear down to a space that size will be challenging, I assure you... I have a feeling my newborn poser will not be making the final cut... ~sigh~

KIDS' BEDROOM: The girls' bedroom at the back of the bus will have a single bed that flips open to a double, plus a 2-seater dinette that converts to a single so that essentially the entire room can be one big bed. If needed, we could also look at making the single bed into bunks. I have to check where the roof hatch is - if it's not inside the room we will have to cut out a person-sized window somewhere so we have an egress. Again, I'm really torn about putting a window in there regardless of where the emergency exit is - lots of light comes in from the little prisoner-proof porthole windows and I know bigger windows will let in more heat travel in and out of the bus depending on the season, but it's certainly not much of a view.

FLOORING, LIGHTING, INSULATION, ETC: We have bamboo flooring we're planning to install from tail to tip. I am hoping to replace the interior metal skin on the ceiling of the bus after we strip and put the spray-foam insulate her. I really want a punched tin ceiling in the kitchen area but that can always be added wayyyyy down the road. With the exception of the crystal chandelier and sconce, most of the interior lighting will be LED, though whether it'll be bulbs or strips remains to be seen. I think we're going to stick with the same dark (police call box) blue for the exterior of the bus but we're definitely painting the roof white with insulating paint (probably both inside and out). I imagine the interior walls will be mostly white as well to help reflect light around and keep it bright in spite of out lack of big windows. Solar panels will go up on the roof along with a bike pen. Not sure if we'll do an awning - it's not a priority right now. And I'm still trying to figure out where to build in the dog's kennel without ruining the aesthetics, too.

What did I forget?

*edited to say, I forgot the damned washer/dryer! Back to the drawing board!

11 June 2014

when it rains it @^#%$%^# pours.

So the Mazda, she be dead.  It would cost us upwards of $5K to get her back up to snuff and that's more than we paid for a 40ft ^#@^%$#@ bus!  We had already talked about the need to transition from a single to a 2-car family, which would involve some sort of compact hyper fuel efficient car and some sort of vehicle large enough to haul *stuff* but of course the timing is impeccably shitty, what with it being Property Tax Time and all.  FML.  Luckily, one of the techs is interested in buying it.  At the very least, the work they put in diagnosing her won't cost me more nickels than I have to spare...  I'll take that.  And in case he chickens out I've already posted her on Kijiji for parts.  Adios, Mazda.

By some weird coincidence, my sister-in-law just acquired a newer car because it was too good of a deal to pass up and so she retired her other car (a Cavalier I believe).  She offered it to us a few days ago as a loaner interim vehicle.  Also, our neighbour offered us his older van quite some time ago for cheap cheap, and while I think a pick-up truck would in some ways be more practical for the sh*t we'll be hauling, a full-size 1-tonne van for cheap cheap sounds like a bangin' option right now.

I'm learning things as we go along like that a car you haul behind your bus is called a "toad."  While my dream car at this point is the little black diesel Smart Car with standard transmission that I found on Kijiji this morning, it might in fact be more practical to get something that can at least seat 4 people.  The Barbie pink Eclipse is really appealing to me but Bill says he'd rather have an old 70s or 80s Volvo station wagon.  Like we'd find one in running condition that wouldn't cost us an arm and a leg to pass inspection.  Pssht. I found a little red VW bug on Kijiji that's *sort of* within our price range but until we get our tax return, we would have to decide whether to postpone paying property taxes or incurring new debt.  And incurring new debt wasn't on the playlist for this party.  ~sigh~

How weird would it be if we were to acquire 3 new-to-us vehicles in the next 48-72 hours?  From a 1-vehicle family to a 4-vehicle family, just like that.  The micro, the family sedan, the boogie van and the prison bus.  At least we would have enough cars for when the boys start driving.


We finally got news back from the mechanic that Clementine is indeed ready to come home.  While I had made an assumption that a complete electrical overhaul would be required due to the complexity of having it pimped out to contain prisoners, my assumption is now a confirmed fact.  Looks like we'll be starting from scratch for sure since whomever was tinkering with it before us did a bang-up job of bypassing and conglomerating, disconnecting what ought not be disconnected and connecting things that ought not be connected.  He also said that with the bus up on the lift it looked like someone had stored it underwater for a couple of years.  It passed inspection so at least we can assume at this point there aren't any holes rusted through the frame, but his concern makes me concerned.  I mean, I knew we had rust to deal with under there but now I'm feeling more than a bit nervous.  Not sure if all the Ospho in the world will save us if it's as bad as he says.  But whatever - let's get her home and start gutting her before we start freaking out.  Once we strip her down we'll know, but I think it's a safe bet she won't be making any road trips this summer.  I want to start fixing her up and even if the only voyage she ever makes again is to our land to get permanently parked, I'm still OK with it.

Onward, onward.

10 June 2014

rock that body

I think one of the first things we may need to deal with is the rust situation.  There isn't a lot of rust, but if you've ever had rust on a vehicle you know exactly why they nickname it cancer - it spreads like wildfire and is unstoppable without deep intervention.  We'll grind off and Ospho as much as we can but for the parts that need more TLC I figure I watched my Dad and my friends Bondoing enough cars I'd at least like to give it a shot.  I started youtubing tutorials to listen to/watch while catching up on my photo processing.  Some are really in depth (20+ minutes) while the 3M series (obviously a heavy plug for their own product line) offers short tutorials that cover just the facts, ma'am (which I prefer because a lot of the banter in the other videos just annoys me - stick to the script, boys!)  We have a bit of rust on the rear wheel wells of the Mazda which I think I'm going to attempt before taking on any parts of the bus, since I have a feeling taking the car in to have any screw-up I make repaired will be a lot less expensive than the bus.  So far, it looks pretty much the same as mudding drywall.  I think I can handle that.

Of course after the body work repairs are done we'll need to consider paint.  Most bus conversions are not taken in for professional painting.  They aren't generally sprayed either - access to a ventilated bay large enough would be difficult for most people and spraying outdoors is messy and a health hazard - so from what I've read, they are generally rollered.  This allegedly gives the bus the same kind of slightly bumpy texture walls have (as opposed to the super-smooth polish of a spray job.)  Most folks seem to stick to a pretty basic solid colour or solid colour with a white/light roof, while other people get a little more creative with their exteriors...

I'm not entirely convinced we should change the colour of our bus - the paint is actually a lovely deep blue and in sunlight the metallic sparkle is kind of aqua-tinted.  With a good wash, wax and polish I bet she's beautiful!  It will be damn near impossible to match the paint where we patch up the rust but I'm willing to give it a shot - close will be good enough, at least for now. to prevent the cancer from spreading.  I do like the idea of painting the roof white, though - it's probably a really practical thing to do... will be useful during summer when the bus will be hotter than stink since we can't open most of the windows.  Ultimately, if the touch-up paint on the repaired rusty spots looks too ghetto due to a really poor colour match, we'll just go in for an all over rollering.  She'll still be dark blue, just not sparkly metallic dark blue.

The windows are actually going to be all kinds of challenging, when you think about it.  Where most bus conversions involve blacking out or removing a few windows, ours will involve cutting a few bigger ones out.  I feel like I'd rather pimp-tint all the side windows so we don't have to cover any of them up where appliances or taller cabinets end up going.   There's no window on the rear of the bus, either - it's like they wanted to block off all potential exits or something.  However you slice it, we certainly have our work cut out for us.  Or maybe our work is to cut out...  ~snicker snicker~


I recently stumbled across a thread in a conversion forum addressing the matter of doors.  It would be a foolish assumption that Clementine is anything even remotely secure from anyone or anything with the current doors.  The rubber flaps that seal the existing door will I doubt keep critters at bay, and the shoddy old locks I certainly wouldn't trust to keep a wily thief at bay.  We could look at adjusting the door frame size and putting an RV door in but RV doors are (in my recollection) wicked flimsy and the idea of putting a storm door on isn't appealing aesthetically.  One of the conversions in the forum featured the door being removed and backed with plywood so that you could maintain the look and feel of the school bus door while allowing you to put in a sturdier lockset (like a traditional deadbolt).

We're also debating, since we have the luxury of a side door, whether or not to leave both doors intact as man doors or not.  The Schaub bus "Bessie" (pictured above) appears to have had the front door closed off, and I assume this would now accommodate a passenger beside the driver.  We could even salvage the emergency exit off another bus to install so that we don't have to lose the front egress completely while creating a nifty little extra storage area where the stairs are.  The other option would be figuring out how to install something like the folding jump seats you find on planes and boats and behind the seats in little trucks, which with a small floor panel to level off the stairs under the passenger's feet would allow us to still have both man doors while also making it possible for someone to keep the driver proper company while travelling.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both closing the door off and installing a jump seat but the one thing I know for certain is that not having a passenger seat right up front is not an option I'd like to consider at this time.

Off to shovel some more dirt and relocate more pieces of the mountain of concrete... driveway ain't gonna clear herself off...  

09 June 2014

brass tacks

The Mazda is still out of commission, but the bus is allegedly ready for pick up.  They are going to hang onto her until Friday for us, which means we have a lot of dirt to barrow around this week.  I mean, A LOT.  Our finances took a serious hit this month which means I will now be opting for whatever the cheapest method of completion is.  A couple of weeks ago, for efficacy and kindness to ourselves, I might have otherwise said about the concrete, "Let's just hire the guys who come and haul it all away to come and haul it all away," and about the dirt, "Let's just hire the guys who move dirt to come and move the dirt."

However, those being not the cheapest options, it looks like we are in for a back-breaking week of re-grading the side of the house one wheelbarrow load of dirt at a time and manually breaking the sidewalk into small enough hunks to throw in the bed of the pick-up we're renting next weekend.  Thankfully there's no charge for recycling the concrete, but we better cross our fingers my replacement credit card shows up by the time we need it on Saturday morning or plans will be bumped back yet another week or two.  At this point, attending NCF is looking sketchy at best.  ~sigh~  If anyone is bored and feeling helpful feel free to stop by any night this week after 5pm to shovel and/or hammer along side us like you love us.

I managed to have one of those amazing HOLY CRAP I LOVE BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER weekends, which has done a lot to lift my spirits in light of the perpetual stream of BS we've had to deal with over the past few weeks.  I'm tired of reminding myself about speedbumps v. roadblocks.  I can only say it to myself so many times before I stop believing it, you know?  But with the NCF programme off to print, my notice handed in to the Relay for Life, and school being out for summer in a couple of weeks, I'm feeling both motivated and relieved that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Being un-stuck is just about the best thing that could happen right now.  Bill and I are setting out a kind of priority/critical path for ourselves so that we are both clear on our intent.  Setting some attainable goals and posting the specific tasks associated with achieving them on some sort of physical binder or something in the house where it's visible to everyone will be (I think... I hope...) an asset.  I've tried looking for some generic goal/task sheets but what I want doesn't seem to exist.  I need something like a cross between this:

And this:

Which means I'll likely be spending some quality time making spreadsheets in the near future...


With the bus so close to (finally) being in the yard where we can start working on her, I've stopped looking for aesthetic inspiration in favour of mechanical and technical inspiration.  Getting down to brass tacks, one might say.  Before we make her look pretty we will need to look after electrical, plumbing, internet, wires, tubing, hoses, seat belts, air conditioning, propane, and other such exciting stuff that will eventually be hidden by walls and furniture like any other house, as well as bodywork/rust management.

I found a couple of websites that have chronicled bus conversions and I'd like to buy the so-called "Bus Converter Bible" but the Bus Nuts Online peeps don't seem to have a working storefront.  Dave's Bus Conversion seems to have some fairly similar goals identified in terms of the off-grid capabilities but his site is organized in a weird sort of way and I am finding it difficult to navigate.  My favourite thing about his bus is the desk, but holy hannah - the visible wiring/plug situation in his "open floor" concept is and not very pretty to look at... we are hoping to avoid visible rat's nests on our bus!

The Schaub family from Quebec has a teched out bus (I love the solar panel layout!) with hi-speed satellite internet/IP phone which would make couch commuting substantially easier, but they have very little information about the conversion process as they assumed ownership of "Bessie" in her current state.  Their travel path is remarkable - they live in their bus on an island off Honduras now but (I presume) still couch commute for work.  Sounds good to me...

So far, one of my favourite conversion blogs (and by far the most helpful in terms of big picture) has been the VonSlatt site, which has a bangin' pictorial spread of his process along with some really handy tips and tricks.  The Mazda is still in the shop so we've been using a loaner car from the shop. The loaner car has push-button start and a back-up camera installed, which Serejane this is the cat's meow.  I started thinking about it and a back-up camera makes a LOT of sense.  Since future plans include pimping the place out with all kinds of tech-y goodness and there's going to be a foreseeable wastage of space on the dashboard once we remove all the police-y type stuff, I went shopping on eBay and found one for under $100.  If we love it we can always upgrade later.  And Serejane will be so happy.  The VonSlatt site even had pictures of them laying out the grid to get the bus camera aligned properly.

Von Slatt used the original bus seat frames with the seat belt attachments to create the dinette seating which is brilliant.  Sign me up.  I think our first official "shopping for the bus" trip will be to Merv's, as it is obvious that in addition to some seat frames, we will need to reclaim many bus parts to retrofit our bus, including front flashers.  Von Slatt chose to remove the light hoods and covered up the front upper flashers but left the rear ones on. 

I hafta say, I prefer the look of a schoolbus with the front flashers intact.  Our front and rear blue flasher covers were smashed out before the bus was sold to a private individual (for obvious reasons) but I kind of like the idea of repurposing the sockets.

While I'm sure the bird whose nest is currently in there would likely argue it's a perfect spot for raising a family, I'm thinking if we reroute the wiring properly we can install some kind of useful exterior lights.  Like custom gobos that will turn them into bat signals.  Or disco lights.  I might have to run the idea past Bill first.

05 June 2014

It gets worse before it gets better

I didn't even want to blog, that's how stressful, disappointing, frustrating, and expensive this week has been.

Now, if you recall, the bus was still at the shop last week.  What I didn't mention when I blogged last week was that our Mazda 5 was booked in for some work, too - she started making the classic sputtering noise of a misfiring engine (think cartoon jalopy) on the way back from shooting a session in Elk Island on May 24th, but we couldn't get her booked in for service until May 29th (Friday).   We finally got news last Wednesday that the Bluebird was ready to come home (as predicted they had to rip out and replace most of the electrical between ignition and the starter), and so in the perfect world, we would theoretically have had both the Bluebird and the Mazda returned to us in near-perfect working order last Friday.  What actually happened was Clementine didn't want to start despite her new pieces parts, and the Mazda was so sick, the computer at our local mechanic was unable to get a read so we were advised to take her directly into the dealership.

But wait.   It gets better.

Being unceremoniously dropped on my ass by the would-be new tenant just 10 days before my exit date from the Studio made for a frantic move-out on Saturday.  Adding to the excitement was the fact that because we were so close to month-end, there wasn't a rental truck to be found anyplace other than at Home Depot.  Which ironically didn't matter anyways because it appears both Bill and I have misplaced our credit cards so even if we wanted to, we would be unable to rent any vehicle.  Translation: despite aggressive selling on Kijiji and Facebook in the weeks leading up to the move, the remaining contents of the entire 1200 sq ft were moved to the dump, the Goodwill, and the house in about 8 carloads in the little sick and sputtering Mazda.  They are currently all sitting in our living room, which is a little too reminiscent of summer 2012 when the gap between moving out of Point A and into Point B had me storing copious amounts of excess stuff in my house.  Right down to having to gate off the living/dining room area to protect stuff from our stupid pug in case he felt a sudden urge to mark his territory and subsequently piss all over my things.

But wait.  It gets better.

Because we have had pretty much nothing but rain for the last 2 weeks, the yard work is still not done.  We have weeds growing from the dirt pile that still needs to get spread around, a lake of mud where the former garden sat, chunks of concrete from the sidewalk we removed for grading still laying all over the yard, and the perennials from the front flower bed are still sitting in pots and random flower beds everywhere waiting for the creeping bellflower situation to be remedied.  So, even if the bus HAD been ready to come home this Friday, it's dubious we would have been able to put her in the yard.  Which is OK, since even if the yard work was done we wouldn't be able to rent a vehicle to bring home the plywood for her on sit on anyways, what with being credit-card-less and all...

But wait.  It gets better.

For the last 12 or so years I have done the programme for North Country Fair.  It has always been in direct conflict with the Relay for Life, in which I have participated in some capacity for I think about 9 of those 12 years.  Because of the unexpected move and the sickly vehicles, the occurrence of the Relay and the Fair this year were really stressful.  They are both commitments I have said I was ready to drop a couple of years ago but kept going out of loyalty despite feeling the tug to spend my volunteer energy in different directions.  I made the resolve some months back to make this my last year but holy hell, if I'd have known how difficult leaving mentally would make it... I feel like since I left in my head already, my heart's just not in it.  I feel like I did a half-assed job with the Relay and as of this morning we are officially 2 days past the final last call sudden death print deadline for the NCF programme.

But wait.  It gets better.

While we still don't know what is draining the battery on the bus, it's not hard to see what's draining the bank account - we got news back from the dealership today how much the car is going to cost us in repairs and may I just say, Cha-ching~  $3000 is the low estimate.  The repairs are, I believe, costing us more than the vehicle (a 2006 with ~250,000kms) is actually worth.  Unfortunately, while ditching her in favour of another vehicle sounds tempting she's pretty much worthless as a trade-in until she's fixed up, and once she's fixed up we may as well drive her, right?  Of course, the parts won't be in until Friday at 2pm and I have a wedding to shoot out of town on Saturday.  Of course.  Thankfully the service manager is a fellow photographer who took pity on us and gave us the service loaner so I can go shoot my wedding this Saturday.  We still don't know when the Bluebird will be ready to come home, much less if we will have time to get her clean enough to take up to the Fair on the 18th of June, we can't physically get into our living room, the weeds are thriving, I still haven't had time to sit down and finish filing our tax return, and with all the money we have to dump into the Mazda now (conveniently during the month property taxes are due, I might add) it's highly likely most or all of our summer travel plans as well as the first year of renos on the bus are about to get modified.  And by modified, I mean cancelled.

I realize the saying goes, "It gets worse before it gets better," but honestly... I'm tapping out here...  enough is enough...