Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The state of play

The countertop for the kitchenette is almost done. The legs and structure need some work now. The idea is to get the kitchenette to be 65 inches wide and 20 - 35 inches deep and 31 inches high which is the height of the window bottoms. A nasty thought came to me that I had forgotten to make space in my plans for a fridge underneath the countertop. Thus, there will now be a slight redesign to accommodate a dorm fridge.

Today I spent an awful lot of time weighing up using metal or wood for the internal structures. In the end, wood won out by virtue of being cheaper and a shade lighter though harder to work. Most of my problem is tied to the lack of a vice. I managed to cut the wood today by bracing it on the remains of the back shelf that I removed from the bus a while ago.

There is a toilet seat available but not quite where its final location will be. I can put the toilet together fairly quickly but after the kitchen is completed. I can simply slap doors on for the insurance photo and afterwards take them off and replace them with drawers. As far as I can tell, it's only the presence of a toilet and a kitchenette that's needed. If they want a bed and a shower later, they're much easier to put together. In fact, the original steel bed frame can be used, from the original installation. The shower is even easier - plastic sheeting and a wide, long shallow container. None of this has to look as if it's made by a professional.

I misted the windows where the toilet and shower will be with a frosting spray. With any luck, that should work. I also sprayed some of the kitchenette with yellow paint but the yellow is a little too severely yellow. That needs to be redone with a more muted yellow. It's not quite school bus yellow but it's somewhat vomit-inducing. All this though is procrastination. I've been holding off carpentry because I didn't have a decent saw until today. Today on my trip to Lowes, I got a nice saw for $10 that really rips through OSB in no time at all.

Tomorrow - as I have been saying for several days - I will have to get down to building the rest of the kitchen cabinet. The heavy point is the side where the microwave will be. That will need more support. For that, I need to measure the fridge that I removed from the first incarnation of the bus. There will have to be a cupboard under the sink. There should be drawers in at least one section. These will eventually hold crockery and cutlery. Food will be stored underneath the seats in the dinette.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

No work today

Today is a day of rest and recuperation. My poor little foot is turning a lovely shade of burgundy from where it was subject to a vicious and unprovoked attack by a vicious, rampaging bedframe. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow with luck.

The plan for the motorhome is simple. There will be a solid partition between the driving compartment and the living compartment. The living compartment will be divided exactly in two. The front half will have the kitchenette on the driver's side and the toilet. The other side will have the dining area, a shower and possibly a bookcase.

The kitchen area will have a small fridge with an inverter because a small fridge and an inverter is a load cheaper than buying a 12v fridge. The kitchen will have a microwave and an inverter - again because this combination is a load cheaper than a 12v microwave. There will be two or three 110v sockets for electric kettles, slow cookers and steamers. There will be no cooktop because quite frankly I never use a cooktop. I've lived for 3 years in my current accommodation and have never used a cooktop. This does not mean I might not have a movable electric ring.

The toilet will be a self-contained unit that will require emptying, hence my decision to position it next to the emergency exit. Exactly opposite will be the shower unit. This will be a unit with a seat on the basis that the ceiling of the bus is not tall enough for me to stand to shower. The seating for the dining area might contain storage. It is hoped there will be sufficient space for a tall yet slender bookcase also containing a USB charging station.

The other half of the bus will be devoted to a bedroom with a bed down one side and a closet down the other side. Beside the rear emergency exit on the bed side will be a small desk - if there's room.

The dining area will most likely be a bright and cheerful yellow with pine-look furnishing. The bedroom will be a cheerful magenta with white or red trim. The exterior of the bus will remain grey with a reflective strip along each side and the back.

Construction materials will be the angle iron that was part of the 4 beds that were originally in the bus, a sink that was already in the bus, some treated 2x2 and OSB. Due to the use of OSB and the fact there is condensation inside the bus, it will be necessary to use a dehumidifier. With luck it might be possible to locate a 12v dehumidifier. Ventilation will be straightforward with plastic tubing and a fan. 

110v plugin input will be provided with the fuse box situated in the toilet area. It is not envisaged that 110v will be supplied to anything other than the kitchen and shower. There will be a 12v line to the bedroom powering LED lighting (which will be used throughout). There will be a USB charging station in the bedroom.

The one afterthought is  garbage disposal - cans, packets etc. That's usually such an afterthought. This will have to be something I will have to work into the system somehow.

Power and water will be things that will be worked in later. The important thing is to get the motorhome livable soon. There will be some small water tanks on board and a small amount of onboard waste water. Below decks there is intended eventually to be a 50 gallon waste water tank, a 25 gallon sewage tank and a 50 gallon fresh water tank. There will be solar panels on the roof and a bank of rechargeable batteries under the bus. It is anticipated that solar might not be sufficient to power a shower, microwave and so on at least in the early phases. Thus a small Harbor Freight generator might be necessary.

It is anticipated construction will recommence tomorrow and that replacing the rotted floor panels might be challenging. None of this is complicated. It's just a matter of persistence and problem solving.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

First construction

Today, after checking various avenues, it was decided to start construction. Certainly sanding the floor would have been a good idea but speed is currently of the essence. After a trip to Lowes to check drop in cabinet prices which turned out to be a horrendous $179 average, the idea of cheating and using drop-in cabinets was shelved. The next idea was to build a countertop and stick a vinyl surface on top. The cheapest vinyl surface was $43 which was ludicrous.

The eventual decision was to cut the steel from the former bedframes and use the steel to support the countertop then steel for the legs and wood/OSB for just about everything else. Needless to say the angle grinder purchased earlier for removing the rear shelf off the bus came in handy for cutting the steel bed frames. Of course that was after I dropped an entire steel bed frame on my foot. Ouch! That had the air colored blue for a few seconds. That's going to be sore tomorrow.

Speaking of sore, my muscles from yesterday's scraping action are tender but bending down in Lowes to pick up a can of paint from the lower shelves. For a bit of fun I decided to make the inside bright and cheerful. The outside is grey. The inside behind the driver's partition (which will be an austere grey) might be sunflower yellow. The bedroom will be largely fuschia color. There will be a partition between the bedroom and the kitchen/dinette area. The toilet & shower will be opposite each other, right between the bedroom and kitchen/dinette area.

Measuring the wheel arches, they protrude 23 inches in from the sides. Thus, the cabinets will all be 23 inches wide. The kitchen countertop will be 31 inches high as that's level with the bottom of the windows. The driver compartment will be large enough to hold bus tools and possibly a spare wheel.

Before it went too dark, the first two girders for the kitchen countertop were cut at 65 inches wide. The plan is to have the kitchen and toilet done by the 7th in order to be ready to beat the insurance companies deadline. The bus needs to be livable fairly soon. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Scraping by

Today for the first time, I used a Spyder scraper attachment in a reciprocating saw. Having found that scraping vinyl tiles up with a paint scraper is rather hard not to mention time-consuming, on the suggestion of somebody on a bus conversion forum, I invested $7.95 in the scraper attachment. According to the person that suggested it, it would make somebody using a hand scraper look like a fool.

Starting work sometime after midday I started with the intention of just scraping enough away that I could install the required kitchenette. That went so well I decided to scrape both sides of the floor between the cab and the middle emergency door. Well, that went well and it was still only about 2pm so I hastened to scrape as far as the wheel arches. Of course I continued on and didn't stop until all the tiles had been removed.

During the process I had to make room by shifting the wood purchased the other day around. Then It was a case of tidying up. Fortunately when I bought the bus, the rear shelf had a huge tarpaulin and that came in very handy. I placed it on the ground under the back door and simply shoveled and brushed all the debris out before finally setting to with a blower.

Eventually, I had a huge pile on the tarpaulin which I had to use all my strength to drag away. Tomorrow I will probably set to and sand the floor. The floor is a little sticky from the tiles which seem to have been self-adhesive. Needless to say about 15% of the tiles were in no way attached.
It's possible now to see that the rotted plywood on the floors is limited to the side emergency door which has no seal, the bit that was underneath the old water tank and at the back where the door seal had been neglected. Sanding should identify more clearly the plywood pieces so I can replace each partly rotted sheet in its entirety.

Tomorrow also, I might start constructing the new kitchenette cabinets - if there's time.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

interesting issues

Today I looked at the cab area of the bus and other things. Measuring the windows, it appears the window aperture is around 25.75 inches in each dimension. The folding shelf removed from the side of the bus affords enough aluminum to cut two window replacements. That suits me just fine. The next question is whether the window that I'd like to move, can be moved. If it can, fine. If not then I do have an alternative plan.

Here are a selection of photos from the bus. There are some mysterious looking wires just hanging. My latest discovery is that the strange button on top of the door access is some kind of horn. I pressed it and a horn sounded. That's a bit odd. I still have to fix the real horn. The problem there is the cable's a mite short and thus the connector is broken, having been yanked out so often. Thus, it won't stay connected. That fix is easy - just insert some wire and change the connectors.

There are a couple of leaks inside the bus and, as I said, some odd looking wires. It's going to be interesting to find out what these wires do or did.

I haven't done anything aside from measuring as today above all days is a holiday from work.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The dreaded day of planning has arrived

Looking at the inside of the bus, I was filled with a sense of utter bafflement. What to do and how to do it. I lifted one of the metal sheets from one wall and it seems to have been put on by Carpenter. Thus, I replaced it. The problem is how to do the interior.

My original plan was modified toward retaining the existing windows but simply blacking them out. As the hillbillies had managed to make two windows disappear, they need to be replaced. As the folding table from the side of the bus was a decent-sized sheet of aluminium, that might replace at least one, possibly two windows.

An idea popped up of just putting curtains over windows but that just doesn't seem so homey. The original idea is back. There are some tasks to complete before construction can start. The first is fixing the floor - at least as far as the wheel wells. The toilet is something I'm not 100% sure about yet but it could well end up being my favored cat-lit toilet - at last for now.

So, plans for the next few days are to replace one - preferably two windows with metal, fix the floor then start construction of the kitchen and toilet areas.

Photos from the past few days

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A phonecall

Apparently my bus needs to show some progress. I had a phonecall today from the insurance agent who said the insurance company wants to see a toilet and a cooking area by January 13th. I'm pretty sure I can get a toilet and cooking area cobbled together fairly quickly. Thus, today I took the bus to Lowes to buy some materials. 

Looking around the shelves I found some 2x2 treated lumber and some 1/2 inch OSB with an insulating reflector. The plan is to use the OSB to line the walls with the treated lumber between the wall of the bus and the OSB. Between the OSB and the bus wall, I will probably inject waterproof foam. That's for a later date though.

The toilet will be the first thing after the driver's seat with the kitchen area next. I'll probably have a small water tank underneath the sink together with a small gray water tank. The toilet will be a fairly basic affair. All that's required is that there is a cooking and a toilet area. The cooking area only needs a microwave and a place for a kettle, crock pot and steamer. I have a deadline of January 13th for that. I should be able to meet that deadline without any problems. On the other side of the bus, I might put a dining area with a small closet between the driving compartment and the seating area. My thought is that the first thing people want to do do when they come in is to take their coats and or jackets off and visit the toilet.

Personally, I think the insurance company is rather tiresome. On the other hand, somebody might be suspicious that the vehicle might be being used for something other than a motorhome - which is fair enough. I did use it as a removals truck. I feel that while they're annoying wanting a deadline, their deadline is more than fair, given that I've had the bus for quite a while already.

On the way to the store, a jerk decided to stop suddenly in front of me. The road was wet and I did manage to stop even though I managed to skid and lock the wheels. Clearly that bus does not have antilock brakes. Interestingly, the speedometer and rev counter stopped working. I rather suspect that the odometer cable popped out from where it's supposed to be. Now I have to find that and plug it back in.

Meanwhile, continuing my trip to the store and back, acceleration was better and the bus seemed faster. Perhaps the governor is linked to the odometer cable. If so then I can adjust or remove it. There were some strange noises from the transmission and I could definitely feel the gears changing. I'll have to take a good look underneath the hood.

The plan over the next few days is to build my kitchen, dining and toilet area. The shower and bedroom will be next, followed by storage though there will be storage added in the kitchen and dining areas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Out of battery power!

Today the plan was to remove the floor tiles using the scraper in the electric saw. As it was belting down with rain, it seemed more appropriate not to run an electrical cable through puddles to the bus. Thus I spent the day removing the plywood panels the hillbillies put around the inside of the bus below the windows. They certainly had a thing about using 3 inch self-drilling screws to attach 1/4 inch plywood to 1/32 thick steel plate.

At the back of the bus, covering the access panel to the driver's side light cluster was plywood attached with no fewer than 50 screws. Clearly the morons didn't consider for one moment that they might need to perform any maintainance. I managed to remove all but quarter of the panels and filled a large container with screws before the electric drill I had been using ran out of power.

I'm considering getting a real electric screwdriver on the basis that the chuck on the drill was one of the funky keyless chucks so the chuck kept coming undone. If it could be charged or run from the bus power supply, so much the better.

Some of the screwheads had been covered over by glue which had to be cleaned off using a brush in the drill. That worked pretty well. The heads had to be cleaned out with a nail in order for the screwdriver to achieve purchase. I have absolutely no idea how many screws I removed. I do know I have more to remove tomorrow.

Beneath the plywood is metal sheeting. Unlike the bus, this is not painted. I'm undecided as to whether this is a hillbilly addition, an aftermarket add on or original. I'm tending toward thinking that it's not original because it's bolted on a little crudely. On the other hand, as there's a fish transfer on one of the sheets of metal that was clearly put on by a child, I'm a little puzzled. All will be revealed though, when I remove the first steel sheet to see what's underneath.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of water leaks at the front end. One small leak that probably comes from a window seal that drips on the fuse box and a bigger leak that dribbles somewhere around the brake pedal. I'll just have to seal the heck out of everything after the painting is done.

At the moment I'm puzzling over rewiring the top flashers into the braking and turn light system. It was mentioned that they might overload the wiring or the fuses. The fuses can easily be upgraded. The wiring is a little trickier. It might be possible to use LED bulbs in place of the filament bulbs as this will lower the power usage tremendously.

Another thought is about the power system. The bus uses two car batteries so either that means it has a 24v system or that it needs about 60amps to start. At some point I need to install some 12v fag lighter sockets to power my GPS unit, to charge my phone etc. That will be complicated by a 24v system.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A day of little fixes

Today was one of those grey days that ended in the drizzle and miserable weather that I though I'd left behind when I left Britain to commence my life in the New World. It's high time this weather ceased! Needless to say I did go outside and work on my bus after a shopping trip to Lowes.

On Friday, on my way to Pelion, I'd picked up a can of spray for the wheel arches since the coatings looked in poor condition on the rear arches and non-existant on the front. It was a big, expensive can and barely coated the two rear wheel arches. I'll have to have another look but it looks as though one of the front mud flaps is missing on one rear wheel.

Otherwise, I fitted the new reversing light assembly, finding that it needed a new screw hole. Of course I started by fitting it upside down and putting extra screws through holes that should not have had screws. Then having discovered that, I was very lucky and had not stripped the threads for the lens cover. I drilled a new hole and screwed the assembly in place. Then I used the two other screw holes in the assembly and found that the center hole for the back which was larger than needed pretty much accommodated the other two screws. They held on though so the assembly is secure though I'll probably drill at least one new hole and put a screw through. The screws I'd bought for the task were too short so I had to ferret around in the box of screws rescued when I disassembled the previous interior.

Having done all that, I looked intently at the front door as to why it would not seal properly. It appears that the seal has been put on at an angle. Probably yet more of Carpenter's workmanship. I had a look at the strangely installed components - windows that aren't quite square with their apertures, supports that aren't vertical nor centered, cuts to the steel that aren't all that accurate. It's definitely a hand built bus that shows questionable workmanship. Thank goodness the bits that matter are by International and not by Carpenter!

Just as the light was fading, I spray painted the front grill and areas that would be tricky to paint otherwise. The paint really isn't drying well today. Too chilly, I reckon. I tried some of that foaming sealant on the mis-set window. It didn't foam - more dribbled. Maybe it's too chilly for that though I was comfortable in a shirt and windbreaker.

The bus has now been fully emptied. Tomorrow I shall commence removing floor tiles. If there's time after that, perhaps sanding too and then definitely sweeping all the garbage out through the back door. Ideally, an electric blower so I don't have to breathe fumes.

Speaking of fumes, Lowes had a board set up for people to "test" spray paints. There, I saw a couple busily "testing" many different colors of spray paint. I had very much the impression that the "testing" they were doing was based around inhaling paint vapors.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Woohoo. Holdays are here!

Not an awful lot got done today. It was just a case of moving the bus a hundred yards down a winding country trail to a place nearer m'lady's house in order to plug the cables into the power supply. Before doing that, several large things were removed that had been transported in it.

Looking carefully at the front door, it appears to have been bent at some point - presumably when somebody accidentally locked the front door. The bottom does not fit into the receiver while the top does. There could be two explanations - either the door has been forced or I need to adjust the door opener as that could be pushing the door out a little far though the first explanation appears more likely.

The rain was coming down hard today so there wasn't much chance of doing any painting. Previously I'd considered the paint to be a little soft-setting. It seems a little harder now. I suspect using a brush meant it went on a little too thickly and thus took a long time setting. Meanwhile, I'd been afraid of scraping the paint and revealing the underlying yellow as I drove the trail. While branches certainly scraped loudly along the vehicle, no damage to the paint was immediately noticed following after a cursory glance. It looks like I got away with that!

The next couple of days are forecast to be gloomy with rain and a wet atmosphere. The plan is to remove the rest of the transported belongings from the bus and to connect the electricity then use a power-saw with a scraper attachment to remove all of the vinyl tiles. The next stage will be to sand the floor boards and discover where the joins are before lifting all the damaged sheets. Those will be replaced with new plywood a few days later.

Last night, a new idea came to mind for the tin sheeting inside the bus. Going back to the original plan to paint the windows black and back them with sheeting while filling in with foam, that would seem to be a really good idea. The windows are designed to fit. The plastic panels that somebody else installed were really not a good fit. The whole aim is to keep the weather out and the temperature in.

Insulation for the bus is always going to be poor because the roof won't take much insulation before it becomes necessary to stoop when walking inside. That's not going to be too comfortable but on the other hand, at home, one's time is mostly spent sitting anyway. There is currently no specific plan as to where things should go.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A target date

I've decided on a target date for my bus being habitable of January 1st. It's something I will work toward but I fear it's not an achievable date. Still, without targets and ambition, where would we be?

The original idea was to finish the painting on Saturday but due to inclement weather forecasts, this is probably not going to be possible. Instead, the goal is to empty the interior of items that have not been removed from when I moved the lady in my life from one house to another.

The next stage will be to drive the bus to a different area on the property in order to access electricity and thus use the reciprocating saw with the scraper attachment to remove the nasty vinyl floor tiles. Vinyl tiles on top of wood on top of metal just does not work. it traps moisture and the wood disintegrates.

Once the vinyl tiles have been eliminated, the plywood underneath will be sanded with an orbital sander. That will tell me where the edges of the boards are and which boards need to be removed - also where the screws are that hold it down. The goal is to remove any boards with rot and fasten down new boards where the old boards were. Plywood should keep the floor from passing too much heat outside.

Another couple of interior tasks will be to replace the non-working driver fan. Then to rewire the amber flashers and rear red flashers to be parts of the turn signals and brake lights respectively. Then there's always the question as to why there's extra internal metal added to the bus. My suspicion is there's no valid reason but as always, proceed with caution though that metal looks as though it would be excellent to replace the windows with.

There's a whole load of things to be done inside and outside the bus, irrespective of the weather. One task is to fix the horn. It has a connector that barely makes contact and the connector doesn't hold together well. That's a prime candidate for some extra wire and some adhesive tape. Then I should have a working horn. Truth be told, there's enough work to keep the bus situated where it is for several more weeks. Having said that, it's best to move a bus about twice a month just to keep everything in tip top shape. Thus, having finished the paintwork, possibly on Sunday, it will be time to take the bus to Lowes to pick up some plywood and maybe some treated 2x2 since metal angle bracket seems expensive and hard to obtain. The goal is still to have the bus livable by January, even though that date may slip by a month or two.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The painted lady

Looking at my handywork from the previous day, there are some dribbles from over-zealous rollering but the rollering worked just fine. There's clearly need to go over it all again with the roller. There are also massive areas on the front and along the eves that need to be done with a paintbrush. I'm estimating that I might need another quart of paint after I've completed the roof with a needed 2nd coat. I didn't get time to do anything today, what with it being a work day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mostly painted

Today was another bright and sunny South Carolina day. Having spent pretty much the whole of yesterday doing nothing but riveting screw holes, it was nice to get on with some painting. From when I started - sometime after brunch until dusk, I was busy painting.

This time, an extending roller brush was used and a paint tray. A grand expenditure of some $17 made the day before on my rivet buying trip. Holy Cow, that brush sped up painting tremendously. Simply by extending the handle, it was possible to paint beyond the center of the roof from my stepladder. There was a little rust on the roof and that was dealt with speedily with a combination of an abrasive brush in the pistol drill and some rust converter spray.

By the time the entire roof had been covered, only half of my gallon of paint had been used - if that. The roof supports got two coats while the roof got one. The hood and school bus sign also had some paint rolled on. Last night's painting in the dark had pretty much covered large areas of the hood but there were plenty dribbles. As I keep saying, it's an old bus - not a new bus so I'm not really bothered about a perfect finish.

The roller paint gave a slightly stippled effect that's not unpleasant. There were areas that could not be reached with the roller that will need to be done with a paintbrush and others that are intricate enough to need a spray. On the whole I'm happy with what I've done today though as ever I am disappointed that I could not have done more.

My long-suffering ladyfriend patiently puts up with my bus obsession but threatens to charge me 25 cents every time I mention the bus. I'm so grateful that she allows me to store my bus on her land while converting it into a motorhome. I estimate that next weekend, the painting will be completed and I will be able to start work on removing the vinyl floor tiles. Then I should be able to sand the floor and identify which floor panels need replacement.

Meanwhile with the plummeting price of fuel, consideration has been given to buying more diesel since the tank is almost empty. I'm not really sure that there's much point in having fuel just sitting in the tank when I'm not doing many miles. Next week will mark two weeks that I've not driven the bus. The plan is to drive it once or twice a month just to keep it in operable condition. A solar panel dedicated to keeping the starter batteries charged must be a consideration.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mystery noise

When I put the key in the ignition on my bus; not turning the key far enough to crank the starter motor, the gauges all go to maximum and an electric motor starts. All the switches on the console are off. I have no idea what this motor is doing. Suggestions have been made about it being a brake booster though why that should start when the handbrake is on I don't know. I asked the question on a forum and predictably the Peanut Gallery said it was the Lithium Drive unit (from Star Trek). Any ideas, anybody?

Slow progress

The plan today was simple... to fill the screw holes in the body, apply the second coat of paint to the part as yet with but one coat and to roller paint the roof. As ever, things are never quite that simple. To start, the rivets were too large which necessitated a trip to the store for smaller rivets. While in the store, I picked up a couple of other goodies.

So, the plan upon my return was to coat each rivet in epoxy glue then to put it in the hole, rivet and cover over with glue. I believe I managed batches of 4 before the epoxy had hardened. Having done that, the side that had not yet been covered with a second coat had its second coat. During this phase I discovered that a better technique for painting was short brush strokes in a generally upward direction. I painted a couple of the supports then as the light was beginning to go, finished the whole of the back with a first coat, managing in some places to do sections in a single coat.

The light finally gave out and the paint can still had half a cupful of paint left. Rather than seal the can and come back to dried up paint wasted in the can, I opted to paint the hood by moonlight. Eventually, the hood had as much paint as the can had to give so the can and brush were tossed to one side. It was too dark to see to clean the brush - even if I knew where my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend kept the gasoline for the mower.

Tomorrow I get to see my handy work and will be able to fix errors. With luck, tomorow I'll manage to get the roller into action and do the roof. That will leave the supports, the rest of the hood and the front of the bus to complete. It's getting there. It feels very slow but it's definitely getting there. As ever progress is too slow for my liking.

The Rustoleum finish is soft. Branches could easily scrape the paint away, revealing a yellow finish. Thus, it will be a good idea to keep a can of spray paint in the bus. The price of a gallon of cellulose paint worked out at $386. Rustoleum is about $25 to $28 a gallon. You can see where I'm heading there! There's no immediately visible reason not to use Rustoleum. If it bubbles and peels off then I could look into other paints on the areas that are peeling. For the moment, with my current budget, $75 including brushes will have to do for the outer finish.

After the painting is completed, the front tow hook will be removed and the wiring rearranged so that the school bus only lights become a useful part of the braking and turning indication system. The stage after that will be to rearrange the windows and to fill two window apertures with aluminum sheeting. The stage after that will be to seal most of the windows then to put a privacy coating on several and paint those that won't be used black. The floor has to be dealt with before the windows though then the partitioning can be put inside. I'm optimistically hoping for January completion but it could be longer away.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The electrics

Today is a day of looking up electrics for my motorhome. Various naysayers have been saying heating and water heating should be done with propane. The awkward sod in me says let's look at an electrical solution instead. I usually buck the trend.

The first thing I did was to check the internet for an electric shower. Low and behold, there is one at Home Depot for $103. That's affordable. Here it is! The specification is for 2.5kw which seems a trifle excessive. The amperage of the unit is stated to be 23 which means at 110v the power used is 2530 watts. Elsewhere, a Chinese supplier was offering a 300w shower. Thus I checked to see what was on offer in Britain. Britain is very happy with electric showers. The lowest rating on their B&Q website was 7.5kw. At 220v that would be around 34amps. All of that, honestly seems excessive. The goal is not to luxuriate in a hot shower for 20 minutes but simply to get clean in warm water. There's a limited amount of water available in any motor home. 2500 watts straight off an inverter with no losses at all. A 38 ah 12v battery would supply just 456 watts. It would take 5 linked together to provide enough power for that shower. This, of course, is the point where most people say "screw it" and go for propane.

A shower does not have to be hot. It just has to be warm enough not to be perceived as cold. Thus, the 300w shower might well be a solution. The next things to turn our minds to are the power consumption of the fridge, microwave and other appliances. Then we need to look into power generation using wind and or solar power.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The truth about the Motorhome

Until now I've given lots of fairly opaque good reasons why I have opted to move into a motor home. This is the absolute down gritty truth.

1. I was working quite happily for Barnes & Noble, full time as a Head Cashier. I wasn't making much but I was comfortable. That job ended in January of 2014 when Barnes & Noble closed the store. There was a lot said about the reasons for it and a lot of surmising but at the end of it all, my 40 hour a week job ended and there was no real opportunity to transfer elsewhere.
2. Concurrently with working with Barnes & Noble, I was completing a course with Midlands Technical College that was entitled "Medical Billing and Coding Specialist". This was sold to me as a course that would definitely get me work as there was always a need for coders and billers.
3. Subsequent to Barnes & Noble ending, I managed to obtain a temporary position with DHL that could have become permanent but did not. I can't say I'm sad about that as their computer system was very haphazard in operation.
4. After DHL ended in February I was on a miserly $153 unemployment from the state until that ended some 20 weeks later.
5. A couple of months after the unemployment ended and I'd been living off savings, trying hard to get work ever since February, I landed a part-time position minding children in an after school program that I didn't even remember applying for.
6. The income from the after school program is not enough to pay all my bills. So much so that I still receive Food Stamps and still have to dip into my rapidly depleting savings - even when my bills are... $525 for rent, $28 for electricity, $45 for cellphone and (now) $20 for internet. Adding gas on top plus car insurance depletes my savings. I really don't make much.

I analyzed my situation and came to the conclusion I was paying the lowest possible rent and that the only way to get cheaper was to get a motorhome and maybe pay $100 a month lot rent. Needless to say I keep applying for jobs. Good Heavens, I'm qualified - a Bachelor's degree, work experience, worked with people - a people person, been in management and have a medical coding/billing qualification. All I get is agencies responding and calling me to interview in distant locations then promising to get back and not doing so - even when prompted. Employers interview and promise to get back but never do. I never know whether they want me and can't get hold of me or can't be bothered to get back to me to let me know. So for the moment I'm stuck on a low wage job trying to make ends meet.

Thus, my dad gave me money to buy an old bus. I bought it and am now converting it into a motorhome. The goal
is to be living in it in January. Even if there's no cooking, shower or toilet installed, January is my goal. Christmas will be hard because my after-school job does not pay if there is no school. Thus the summer will be desperate poverty.

I cannot guarantee to get a really decent position given the state of things in South Carolina. I feel very much that the only jobs that my course created were jobs for people working at Midlands Tech. Certainly I see jobs for Billers and Coders but every medical admin job I apply for locally gets the same results - either no response or horror when they realize I'm not a woman (not that they have any reason to believe otherwise). As an example:
1. I was offered an interview by email from a surgeon's office. I rang and the secretary became hostile and denied that the email was genuine, said there were no jobs and nobody was recruiting. My ladyfriend rang and was told there were plenty jobs - by the same woman, 20 minutes later.
2. I was offered a job interview by a dentist for his front office. I rang to book the interview and was given an interview time. 20 minutes later they rang back to cancel because the dentist would be out of town and they would ring back. I rang back a couple of times and had fob-off answers. Then I realized that like the surgeon's office, it was sexism. Subsequently when I visited my own dentist I mentioned that dentist to her and she knew of him and laughed because some of her female patients had been propositioned by him at a party and were not amused.
3. I was offered another job interview which was canceled when they realized I'm not a woman. I can't recall the exact details now.

So, it makes sense to reduce costs to a point where I can survive off my earnings. Living without heat and air conditioning reduced my electricity bill to $27 a month. I can't do without internet or cellphone as I need both in order to apply for jobs since ALL job applications are now online. I hate being in this position but I am forced into it by the endemic sexism in South Carolina. Thank God I'm not black because then I'd be facing endemic racism as well. As far as the course to be a Medical Coding and Billing specialist, I feel Midlands Tech lied to me about job opportunities with it and thus took money under false pretenses. I feel the only jobs they secured with that $3,000 (approx) rip-off were their own. Not once did they say "Only women get work in admin in South Carolina" and recommend a more suitable course. If there ever was an American Dream, it's a bad nightmare in South Carolina for this educated White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

Now you know why I'm getting a motorhome together. Another side effect of the motorhome is that I can simply drive it closer to wherever I work and just use my car to commute.

Monday, December 8, 2014


It seems that waterproof rivets are not really utterly needed. What was suggested was to use an ordinary pop rivet but to dip it in glue then to use it then after use, to dab more glue on top of the rivet head. That makes sense. Apparently this technique is often used on small boats. Small boats will be subject to far more waterpressure than the occasional downpour. Indeed, I rather suspect that somebody jetwashing my bus might wash my freshly applied paint off which would be exceedingly unwelcome.

In daylight, up close it's possible to see ripples and runs on the paint. From a distance it's possible to see where the second coat has not been applied. On the whole, it looks better than school bus yellow. I'll attack the rivet holes in the roof this coming weekend and will probably roller the roof at the same time.

I'm not too bothered about a pristine paint finish because this is an OLD school bus. It's not a new bus and NOTHING will increase or reduce its value. As I've already stated, paintbrushes are $1.99 each and the Smoke Grey Rustoleum is $25 a gallon plus a few hours work at the weekend. My time is free and doesn't cost me anything. My helper's time is also free. He helps me for something to do at the weekend in order to escape the household.

A paint roller would be more expensive and spray painting would be horrendously expensive since none of us owns a sprayer. Individual cans of spray paint are pretty worthless as they really don't cover more than a couple of square feet before they're out. Spray cans are handy in hard-to-reach areas.

The whole aim of the paint job is to produce something of a different color and to protect the bus. Mostly its a different color thing, just to differentiate the bus from a school bus.

One of the tasks after this will be to couple the indicator lights and brake lights to the top lights so that when the brake is pressed, the top rear reds come on. The amber lights at the top will be used as turn indicators. On the front, initially only the turn indicators will be used. If, however, a clear lens can be found for the red lights then they could well become a second set of side lights. Other than that they have no particular use and might well end up as spare brake lights with steel plate riveted over their positions.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I can't remember what the plan was for the day but it was a bright and sunny day with a light breeze and a blue sky. My girlfriend's sister's boyfriend decided it was time to unload the bus so I drove it down a narrow, winding track surrounded by tall vegetation and trees to the unloading site. There, the bus was unloaded and I commenced trying to fill some of the screw holes with screws and shower sealant. It wasn't very successful but as most of the holes are in the upper part of the body and there was tape over the holes anyway, the idea was paused for the moment.

The beauty of an older bus is that the paint finish does not have to be perfect. Nobody cares. Thus with the bus emptied - during which I noted that the shower sealant seems to have secured the loose door gasket to the door quite satisfactorily, I pulled out a $25 gallon can of Rustoleum Smoke Grey paint and a brush. I started painting and basically just slapping a first coat onto the bus, expecting to have to do a second coat. Then my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend leapt into action and followed me as the paint dried rapidly in the sun to do the second coat.

Eventually, painting as high as the bottoms of the windows only for today, we made our way along the one side and the back with two coats. The second side has one coat along half the length and a second along the rest. I'd started on the front but the light escaped and the temperature dropped. As the wolves howled in the distance we cleaned our hands and the paintbrushes with gasoline and returned to the fold.

The paint has been mostly used but there should be enough left to complete the side and possibly one coat for the front end. For some areas, a spray will be needed. The roof can be done with a roller.

Meanwhile, two ideas came to mind for the holes (some of which have just been taped and painted). The first idea is to remove interior panels and put bolts through to seal the holes. The second is to use non-waterproof rivets and a dollop of sealant on the rivet heads. On the whole, the bolt plan is far more appealing.

Rustoleum was used rather than automotive paint because it's available in most hardware stores in tubs and in spray cans. As I'm not after a flawless finish, it really doesn't matter if it's applied with a brush, a roller or a spray. Brushes are $1.99 and rollers aren't much more. All the paint has to do is to protect the body from rust and to give it a color other than school bus yellow. It was mentioned that the bus now looks like a reformational institution bus which had me jokingly calling it the bus of the corrective institute for delinquent women.

Further thoughts came to mind about the windows and that was to apply a darkening film on the insides of the windows that will be used and black paint to the insides of the windows that won't be used. If there's an opaque black film that can be applied, that might be worth investigating.

Photos of today's progress are attached. In all, this was a day of great progress. The insides of the wheel arches desperately need to be re-coated. The coating - if indeed there was any has vanished. The yellow paint has chipped away and only the galvanized coating on the steel remains. Clearly I need to get underbody or wheel arch sealant on that desperately.

In general, I am happy with today's progress. One area I'm lagging behind badly with is financial documentation. I think I have most of my receipts but I'm not sure. I can definitely see progress with the bus. The interior will still be a kind of erector set but instead of OSB, plywood will be used due to its lighter weight and greater dimensional stability. It has a higher cost but the cost is probably worthwhile.

Originally the idea was to use waterproof rivets to fill the holes in the bus but at $138 for 500 the cost was ludicrous - especially when doing it either of the ways that I've considered today are so much cheaper though more labor intensive. The whole goal of doing this bus conversion is to save money. The bus cost $4,200. I'm trying to get the conversion in for $1,000 though some of the funkier aspects such as electrical supply, shower, sinks and toilet might go over budget a bit. Those problems will be surmounted when they arise.

Two windows are missing from the bus. Various ideas have come to mind to deal with this issue. One was to cut the aluminum folding table from the side of the bus into window-sized sheets and use it to fill the holes. Another was to search scrapyards and school bus depots for scrapped busses. Since Carpenter went out of business in 2001, school districts will be dumping old Carpenter stock when it needs major repairs.

A task for another day is to remove the crudely welded tow hook from the front bumper. That was a bizarre place to have a tow hook. The hill billies that owned the bus and converted it to a hunting lodge did a whole load of strange things. Craftsmanship was not high on their agenda as the crude welding on the tow hook demonstrates. It looks almost like a classic example of bad welding put together for welding students to see what not to do.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rainy day

Wouldn't you just know it! The weekend and it's raining so it's not possible to work on the outside of the bus nor since it's chock full of m'lady's belongings is it possible to work inside either. Thus the solution is to work on my receipts to see where the money is all going.

Meanwhile, I had some new ideas about the interior. Instead of spending a ton of money on steel plates to replace the windows, the two missing windows will be replaced by steel or plywood or something and the others will simply be painted over. All the windows will have a sheet of semi rigid plastic stuck over them to reduce condensation inside the bus. Velcro will be used to attach insulation to the interior panels in order that it can be removed if there are issues that need attention. The interior structure will be built of a framework of angle iron with OSB paneling, faced with something more user friendly but inexpensive.

The plumbing and electrics will be interesting to do. Immediately I'm thinking about the interior structure. Plumbing and electrics will be interesting in their own rights but will be handled separately. There will be a 12v lighting circuit using LED lights only and a 5v circuit with USB sockets for use for charging phones beside the bed. There will also be a charging station. As far as plumbing is concerned, it makes sense to have the shower, toilet and kitchen area on one side of the bus, all next to each other.

The whole idea is to have everything simple for installation and maintainance. The angle iron will be bolted together rather than riveted on the basis that if need be, it can be disassembled easily in order to resolve possible future problems.

The main aim is to do this as cheaply as possible. This is why a schoolbus is used instead of just buying an ordinary RV or motorhome. The cheapest RV was $14,000 from a dealer and had a gasoline engine. This was $4,200 and has a diesel engine. Diesel is more advantageous as it's more powerful though slower burning. Diesel engines tend to be slower but more economical. Despite the bus being heavier due to its more solid construction methods, it's still better in my opinion.

One thing I laugh at is that while my bus was parked here, somebody pinched a few gallons of diesel. As nobody around here runs anything that has a diesel engine, my best bet is they put it into a gasoline engine and then had to call a tow truck and have a mechanic to fix their gasoline engine. There sure are plenty people dumb enough to do that!

The only bus-related activity completed today was to put shower sealant on the back door to try to glue the rubber door seal back into place. Other than that I collected most of my receipts to add them all up.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bogus mileage part 3

A few days ago I contacted Calcasieu Parish Schools to determine the mileage of the bus. Today there was a reply in my email. It seems the person I contacted is leaving the district but passed my email to somebody else and said that Perterson Auto Auctions would have sold the bus on their behalf.

Elsewhere, somebody looked at the odometer photo and commented that on bigger vehicles the digits almost never line up. A former school bus driver commented that school bus routes tended to be 15 - 30 miles twice daily at 180 days a year. Checking my local school district calendar, the students started on August 18th (a Monday) and end on June 3rd. Again, it's emphasized that it's a 180 day calendar. Given that 30 - 60 miles daily for the 16 years the bus was in service (1995 - 2011) the mileage could be 86,400 to 172,800. The bus was in private hands as a hunting lodge from 2011 - 2013 and in somebody's yard from 2013 until I bought it.

If the mileage is genuine then the hunting lodge owners didn't get much use out of it before they sold it on. The owner I bought it off had it sitting in his yard for a year, apparently. The wavy digits make me suspicious though. In 1992 I bought a Suzuki Alto FX with 46,000 miles listed. The digits didn't line up correctly until I reached 78,000 miles. It is beyond belief that a 1983 car would have 46,000 miles when the low average mileage is 8,000 a year or 72,000 for a car of that age. I thus compare these wavy digits to my old Suzuki.

Even if the odometer has been wound back from a maximum mileage of 30 per trip and 2 trips per day times 180 days times 16 years or 172,800 miles, that is barely broken in for a commercial vehicle. I shall investigate further but as I've said before, I'm only irked about possible deception. The bus seems like it's good for a good few years yet. The body is in great shape. The engine and transmission seem pretty good too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Followup to bogus mileage.

Today, feeling a little concerned about the actual mileage, I rang the original bus operator - Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, Louisiana. A very pleasant lady put me through to somebody's voicemail. With luck, they should ring back in the next couple of days. Meanwhile I emailed their director with information and questions.

I don't really care to go after the individual that altered the odometer suffice to say that if it was done illegally with intent to defraud me or the previous owner then I'll be happy to let the state take care of it all. All I want is to know approximately how many miles are on the bus so that I can compare that with the expected life expectancy of the components in order to budget for repairs and to estimate how much likely use I'll get from the bus before repairs are uneconomical.

In theory this information should all be held by the schools for at least 7 years and should be available under the Freedom of Information Act. Having said that, a cordial approach usually gets all the information very easily.