We had it all planned out.
During our trip out west in September (2018) we would look at school buses for sale. The forums we’ve read say that buses out west have less rust and can come from from school systems that have a bigger budget for transportation which can mean nicer buses. That would give us time to wrap up life in North Carolina and move before having to worry about the logistics of a school bus.
Then the NC Tiny Home Festival came around and we had the chance to see homes in person and talk with owners. There we got to tour the Navigationnowhere bus, Midwest Wanderers and the Frugal RVers plus others. Everyone was super friendly and helpful with answering questions about the bus build process. We left the festival feeling so encouraged and excited about this adventure.
Paul and I decided we just needed to get on some school buses to get a better idea of what size bus would work for us. Going into the idea of converting a bus we initially talked about looking for a 35-40ft school bus. After the festival and hearing skoolie owners say they would go smaller if they did it over, made us think that maybe we should consider something smaller.
Fast forward to the following weekend and the closest place we could find buses for sale was in the county next to us -New Hanover County. We arrive at the bus lot and find that there are 7 buses for sale; a mix of long and short buses. After walking through a few, we end up at one that didn’t particularly stand out but as we started hearing more of the bus specs Paul began to have that look in his eye. Turns out that bus had a lot of features that were on Paul’s list, based on his research: flat front, engine in the back, Allison transmission, no mechanical rust and space for bay storage among other things.
The bus is a Thomas and the engine is made by Caterpillar which are both different than what we had been looking for in a bus (we went in wanting a Bluebird bus with a Cummins engine). We left the school lot that Friday and Paul spent the weekend online researching Thomas and Caterpillar; reaching out on the skoolie forums to find out about others’ experiences with that bus/engine combo. One of the benefits to getting this bus from this school system is that we were able to deal with the mechanics directly; so they were able to tell us about the maintenance history of the bus. We also found out the bus had been in the same county it’s whole life.
With all that information we decided to go for it! Since it would take a few days to finalize paperwork with the county and for the mechanics to get the bus ready; it gave us the chance to find a place to keep the bus. We had a few ideas but went out on a limb and asked our apartment complex about keeping it there and they said yes!
Our plan is to really start the bulk of the conversion in October when we get to Florida. In the meantime we’ll being doing a few things on the bus so check back here for updates on our journey!