Posted on Leave a comment

Where to Park Your Bus: Article

Where to Park Your Bus

(Article as featured in November 2018 Bus Conversion Magazine)

After spending a year and a half converting our ‘99 International Genesis, Chitty Bang, into a Tiny House/Skoolie for our family of four, I started to wonder how hard it would be to park at a typical rv park or campground? What about a resort? Would they love my bus as much as we did?

She definitely does not look like an RV with the few school bus windows that are still showing from either side. The RV door does not disguise her total originality of previously being a big yellow bus that carted kids and boogers around Arizona’s ISD.

Of course, we did not want to “run with the pack” and be in crowded places. We wanted to boon dock and use this amazing solar setup we installed. We wanted to park on friend’s and family’s property while we visited and explored their state and sights.

So who cares if we don’t fit in at an RV Park with all of those unoriginal motor homes? The different “suburbs” of the traveling world, as we came to describe them.

Well, believe it or not, despite our passion for off grid living, we did find ourselves staying at just a few RV parks, campgrounds, and even a resort while traveling around the last 2 years.

Randomly, I would see a post on a Skoolie or Bus Conversion Facebook Group Page where yet another bus converter was turned away from an RV park because of stereotypes, the way their rig looked, the rules of the park itself, etc. It totally happens!

After seeing this become more of a common post, I began to exercise my due diligence before having my husband drive our big rig and entire family somewhere just to get turned away. It really is stressful enough driving our big rigs, isn’t it?

So, I researched. I start with GOOGLE MAPS and search the terms “RV”, “rv park”, “campground”, and “resort”.  Then I search the area where we are wanting to go and search a certain radius. Next, I open up each place’s website (if they have one) and write down any contact info they have.

The website itself can give a lot of information about a place. You can see the amenities, the costs, the rules and regulations, pictures, how close it is to attractions, etc.

My requirements on where we stay usually depend on the reviews, what kind of rules they have, and how it looks. If I do not think we will be comfortable there, then I pass. I also use the street view on the maps as well to get an idea of the surrounding area.

By the time I go through the site, I know if it is an adult park where kids aren’t even allowed, a 55+ park where none of us are allowed, or if they even allow rigs older than 10 years, or my English Mastiff.

Let me tell you a secret though, even though they have these rules, if you really want to go, JUST ASK.

Email them. Call them. I have emailed many places just being honest about how old the rig is, who is traveling with us, that my husband is Retired Army (I think that helps let them know our character as well), and I send pictures of the bus (one inside and one outside), as well as a family pic of all of us. I feel honesty is the best policy especially if you are staying there for more than a few days.

To my surprise, I would get responses from 55+ and Adult parks saying it was totally fine if we stayed, but no more than a month since we did not meet the age/no children requirements. I would get replies from parks that would not allow rigs 10 years or older, but yet we were invited to stay.

Now, a few things, I believe, influenced the decision from these folks. One, we were always asking parks during their non-busy seasons. Two, we keep our bus pretty well maintained and painted, and she looks really nice inside, which is why I send the inside pics. I think it helps to show people that we are clean and will respect their property if we respect our own. Three, I also mention that we were in Bus Conversion Magazine and send the Cover Photo from the Magazine! That definitely helps!

I get the occasional replies, “We are full,” “We don’t take older rigs,” “We don’t take school bus conversions”,  or no response at all! That is fine. Do NOT get your feelings hurt! Just take your answer and move on.

We did not get into this kind of a tiny home or lifestyle if we wanted an easy route or to fit in with the crowd. We just research, reach out, take the answers, and celebrate or move on.

chittybang
(The park is High Chaparral in Casa Grande, AZ. We have landed in an Adult park with a pool, spa, laundry facility, dog park, level/gravel spots, outside pickle ball courts, etc. and made friends with the management. Come to find out, they love vintage RVs and motor homes alike. They invited us back this year when we drove through again and we were happy to accept. We are always needing a space during their “off season” so the park is pretty empty, which we like anyway! They also own a couple of golf courses near-by for those who like to golf! Let Kay know we sent you!)
distantdrums2
(This past summer we were parked at Distant Drums RV Resort in Camp Verde, AZ. They have Full Hook Ups and some great features; fitness room, laundry room, pool, spa, dog park, trails all around, vineyards, Sedona near-by, swimming holes, etc. IT was during their “off season”, but they had a “No rigs over 10 years old” policy. I emailed a couple of months before we needed to arrive and they were happy to accept us. We paid $600 per month +$35 flat rate for electricity. You could also apply to workamp there.)

As the features and amenities added up, so did the price of our rent. We had previously stayed on private land for $100/month, $200/month, with just water and electric hookups; Workamped for Full Hook Ups at a campground; Workamped in the middle of a city with full hook ups and we get paid for that gig as well; on the higher end, the Resort we stayed at was $635/month. So as you can see, the prices vary greatly depending on where you go, what you get, and what work you do.

We are the type of road warriors that like to stay in one spot for a month or more to really figure a place out. We learn about the people, the sights, and the opportunities for the kids to become a regular somewhere. We found that we also save money when we are not always traveling because the cost at places is less for a whole month as opposed to weekly or daily rates. And you save money on gas!

In the spirit of saving money, let us not forget about the FREE places that most already know about, but why not list them here too? Places like BLM land where you can stay up to 2 weeks for free boondocking, but there is no special requirement for your rig and they have some pretty great spots to camp (i.e. South Rim of the Grand Canyon)!

We have even stayed at truck stops from one night for up to 3 days! Rest areas are a great stopping place for a break too, as well. Most have a “No More than 8 Hours” Rule, but we have always stayed like 10 or 12 hours and never had any issues.

restarea.jpg
(FREE! Parked at a Rest Area in New Mexico completely off grid!)
Roswell2017.JPG
(Parked at a Truck stop in Roswell, New Mexico for 3 days to check out the alien sights. We went to Walmart on the 2nd day and asked to borrow their outside hose at the garden center to fill our fresh water tank. They were super nice and had no problems with us doing that.)

You may ask, “How do you know when a rest area, truck stop, or free place is available and how far are you from it?” Great Question! Technology has really come a long way helping those of us who live a life of traveling!

I use the apps TruckersPath and FreeCampsites.net. There are also a number of great RV park/campground applications you can download that all pretty much do the same thing for those search options.

I mostly use the two aforementioned apps while plotting the course to our destination before we head out, as well as during travel. TruckersPath will have up to date information on if there spaces available at rest areas, truck stops, and parking lots (i.e. Walmart, Home Depot, etc) as long as people are using the app.

FreeCampsites.net app links you to their website and shows a map of places people have personally used and reviewed to camp or park for free or small fee. Lots of BLM land, state land, parking lots, truck stops, etc. Use the tools at your fingertips to make traveling less stressful!

With every place we went, the price changed, the effort for services was different, and amenities were variable. You pay to play. If you are traveling in your bus conversion and just never bothered with the perks these other RVers are taking advantage of, take it from me, it is definitely worth the ask.

Just make sure you research and do your due diligence before you roll into a place, get rejected, and have a bad night at a rest stop somewhere! Take advantage of technology and apps, prepare as much as you can, and enjoy the journey! Safe Travels! 

ChittyBangHalloween
 (Parked on site at our winter Workamping Gig (managing a pumpkin patch, tree lot, fireworks stand) in Arizona. Totally fenced in, with lock and key. We were the only ones on the site and had water from a local business, gray water dump service, and generator power provided by the company. We also had 2 weeks off in between seasons and were allowed to stay and use the generators and all while we went and explored. Free Hookups and Paid Gig.)
easttx
(Private property in East Texas near my parent’s house. This spot had a 30 amp electric hookup meant for a food truck. There is also a big building pretty far from the hookups that the owner runs a flea market out of Friday-Sunday. Gray water was leached onto an area she wanted us to water via an old hose, and there was a dumpster on site for our trash. We had lots of privacy here too! Paid $200/month.)
cropped-farmlandaz-2.jpg
(We met a local farmer whom we sold some honey for while we workamped the tree lot who offered us a spot on his private property for as long as we needed. We only stayed a few months, but we had a water hookup, 30 amp electric, and the gray water leeched a dead area he wanted some grass to grow at, a dumpster was on site, and it was fenced off too! The people you meet on the road may surprise you so keep an open mind and be friendly! $200/ month +electric which was normally $75)
WashingtonState1
(Parked at a friend’s house in Washington State Spring-Summer with water hook up only. The panels and batteries provided 100% of our power and the gray water went into a drain that was installed on the property. They let us use their laundry room and did not charge us to stay. Great friends!)
cropped-17855244_1839156409681850_7538296816770962458_o.jpeg
(Parked on a friend’s private property completely off grid with full water tanks. We stayed a week before hitting the road. Ask friends and family what they may think is available, because you never know who has a piece of property you can boondock on for a bit! The neighbor even let us fill our tanks when we got low towards the end of our stay. No payment!)
kampklamath
(Workamping at Kamp Klamath in California the Redwoods during our first Summer in the bus. We had a spot away from other RVers, Full Hook Ups, local attraction discounts, free laundry, free BBQ on Saturday, food from the garden we would help tend, and a store discount. The cost was us working 4- 5 hour days in the office/store. We were in charge of reservations, selling items from the small store on site, rv escorts, and simple store/office cleaning duties.)
cropped-mesaverdervpark.jpg
(In Cortez, CO at Mesa Verde RV Park in late March. We got a snow day which had us extend a couple of days, but it was our first RV park ever that we stayed at and a great learning experience. A great spot to stay for a few days. This was about $30/day for full hook ups and a laundry room.)
blackcanyoncitycampground
(We stayed at Black Canyon City Campground in Black Canyon City, AZ about 45 minutes North of Phoenix. The spot was cool and out of the dust of Phoenix for the month of May when we were there. The pool and hot tub they featured was not cleaned very well. We paid $575 for that month and were ultimately disappointed. They ended up charging us $175 for electricity that month as well, which is by far the most I have ever paid. Bus Conversion friendly, but at what price?
CentralTX.jpg
(Stayed at a friend’s house out in the country in Central Texas for a couple of weeks. This was actually our first trip after the conversion was complete and was our half way point on our trip to East TX. We were totally dependent on the solar for two weeks with access to water to fill the fresh water tank They also let us use their laundry room! Great friends!)

Also check out my other blogs/vlogs that will correspond with this article and more on our experiences. Links are below:

Places to Park Your Skoolie/Tinyhouse: Differences in Features and Costs

Where to Park Your Skoolie/TinyHouse and How to Research

How to Set Up You Skoolie/Tinyhouse at an RV Park

Advertisements
Posted on Leave a comment

Episode #3: Ruthardt4Adventure: Conversation About their Journey, Full Time Rv Family Life on the Road, and Adventures to Come

ruthardt4adventure-youtube

Check out our 3rd Episode where we interview another full time rv family, The Ruthardt’s! We literally just met them 2 hours before the podcast, so everything is very genuine! They tell us about their inspiring journey that led them to this lifestyle, what the plan is for the future, life on the road with kids, their Homeless Outreach Program, and so much more! We chatted for 3 hours people! Curl up and listen, with a belly full of Turkey bits, to this awesome conversation of 4 like minded people!

We literally tried ending the podcast 3 times but these guys were just so much fun:)

Check them out on:

Facebook

Instagram

Here are some talking points and time marks:

00:00:00 -Matt and Casey’s Story

21:00:00- Dave Ramsey

24:30 -What Debt Freedom Means

35:00- Finding their “Dream Property”

1:10:00 -Alaska

1:15:00- Homestead Future

1:36:00 -Book Release

1:38- BC KNIVES

1:38:50- Harris Custom Knives

1:45:30- Kindness

1:48:50- Homeless Outreach

1:52:50- What our husband’s use of ours

1:58:50- Good Cries

1:59:00- Passion

2:09:00- ADULT PRIVATE Time in the RV/BUS Life/ Matt & Casey’s Chapter 10 of their book

2:29:30- Material Things

2:32:40- Responsible Kids

2:38:30- Taking Q & A’s on Facebook live

2:39:00- Thanksgiving Plans

2:46:20 – Giving Thanks

2:50:00- Sno-Cone Stand Dreams

2:52:30- Trump’s Book, The Art of the Deal

2:58:00- Ryon and Mo Give Thanks

3:03:00- Happy

3:14:50- The Wegman’s

3:17:50- Spouse Gabbing

 

Follow us @

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

www.thecrabshomestead.com

Here is the full Episode on Youtube!

Posted on 1 Comment

HEAR US @SkoolieToday PodCast NEXT WEEK!

podcast pic.jpg

Ryon and I had the honors of being guests on the Skoolie Today Podcast (found on itunes and castbox) a couple of days ago, and will be released sometime next week for anyone who would like to listen! It is a free download for either app, and free episode downloads or playbacks.

Hear us talk about Chitty Bang, life on the road, mechanical stresses, our experience building the bus, homeschooling, and more!! Stay tuned for more info on the release!

Follow SkoolieToday on Instagram

Follow SkoolieToday on Twitter

Podcast Link to Skoolie Today

Skoolie Today Website

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Workamping a Pumpkin Patch 2018: Videos 4-6

Here are our other 3 videos on our workamping gig at a small pumpkin patch in Sierra Vista, Az this October. We have some time off, and will be back to selling Christmas Trees sometime around Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Previous 3 Workamping a Pumpkin Patch videos!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Stage 25: Building the Tiny Bathroom And Some on Plumbing, Propane, and Safety

The bathroom was a bit complex bc I wanted a shower that was comfortable for Crab to stand in, comfortable to use the large compost toilet, and have room to put in the American Made RV water heater we decided to go with, Precision Temp’s RV 550. The size of the bathroom was adjustable at this point, but we went with interior measurements of 32″ deep (The exterior depth was the same as the bunkroom located on one side of the bathroom) x 70″ long. (Measured with the corrugated metal we used as the paneling). Exterior length down the bus, the bathroom measures 77″. The shower pan was 32″x32″ from Home Depot. Remember, we ran our electrical after we built because we had no idea what the space would really look like or how it would function really until we built it. Total Newbies!:)

20160116_113928.jpg

20160121_134641.jpg

20160120_165335.jpg
We went with a 32″x32″ shower pan.

We painted all of the framing wood in the bathroom with Red Guard. Thus was suggested by a contractor We met. He swears by it. It paints on pepto bismol pink, but dries a red plastic covering over whatever you paint. So if water ever gets through, it will save the wood at least! We then used galvanized corrugated metal as the walls and used hex head screws with rubber washers to help seal where we had to install. I used a clear silicone to caulk the seams.in the shower and where the wall met the ceiling.

20160507_172634.jpg

20160507_172639.jpg

We had to cut a hole in the side of the bus to install the tankless water heater and allow it to vent properly. Well we cut it too big….and then hung a piece of metal to cover the mess up lol. We had some experience with metal work so this part no longer seemed so scary and daunting. Confidence was building:) We actually felt good about making a hole in the bus. Wowza…

20160122_163653.jpg

20160118_162211.jpg

IMG_20160213_122921.jpg
As rookie welders, we realized you can not weld the bus exterior metal…total fire hazard with out spray foam insulation lol…but we did rivet it after the failed welding attempt. Poor Chitty Bang looked like Frankenstein during this stage lol:)
IMG_20160213_122004.jpg
RV 550 Plumbed for water. The piping continues down the side of the wall to the kitchen where the sink is on the same side. We made all water sources on the same side for easier building. Also a good shot of the shower pan!

The Plumbing for the shower looked like this:

20160128_163845.jpg
Because Crab is 6’2″, we ran the plumbing so the shower head would be on the highest point of the ceiling. It works ok for him. He only has to duck a little since our ceilings are a little higher than a standard bus’. A roof raise would have been good for this instance though to be totally comfortable.
20160128_163851.jpg
We went with PEX pipiing and the crimp rings. We bought the crimping tool and a “go/no-go” gauge at Home Depot. Click the link for a direct link to them on Amazon.
20160120_165237.jpg
We ran our plumbing down behind the walls to the master bedroom on the same side where one of the 2-100 gallon tanks were positioned. We created the plumbing system out of pex and will be continued in a seperate Article for just PLUMBING. (coming soon)
20160505_140245.jpg
This is an unfinished look of the plumbing we created to fill our tank only. We then used a water pump. That overheated and died every 30 days bc of our RO water system. A later post will show the stages of plumbing we did while traveling. We eventually hooked up a city line which saves our pump, and then later we even scratched this set up and went with typical rv connections…more flimsy i think but more comfortable for us. That is coming soon!

The Toilet:

After much research on youtube and seeing how people liked their composting toilets, we decided to not build a black water tank and just use a compost toilet! The Nature’s Head was what we decided on, as it was really the only one I could find! I wrote an article The Dirty Rotten Truth About Compost Toilets for an in depth look at how I like ours.

wp-image-1272894512jpg.jpg

We positioned it in the corner of the bathroom so we would have space to sit comfortably, and be able to vent it properly, and plug it in to a power source so the small fan inside runs to keep it from being stinky.

Venthole copy.jpg
The Vent Hole for the Nature’s Head Toilet to be able to exhaust outside. Covered in screen, stapled, and polyurethaned down..

Plumbing Propane: (link to full article coming soon!)

This happened towards the end of the build when we were finished with the propane “cage” we fabricated at the rear of the bus on the extension we also built on. This way, we knew exactly the distance and we were just measuring, cutting, and flaring. We had our great Mentor, Robbie, to show us how to do a double flare that was perfect (we had a lot of re-dos doing the flare at first, but it is very important it is done without having cracks or uneven edges on the flare). A double flare is RV standard for double safety, basically, you can find this out on a google search. However, a single flare will do the trick, but if you already have the Flaring kit, you might as well do a double and be safe. (If you do this, have someone look at it that approves. Try a heating/cooling business, A/C repair. You can even have a licensed propane inspector check it out. Might cost $100 but its worth it if you are not sure. )

We ran copper piping from the propane cage we built underneath the bus up through the floor underneath the water heater. Underneath the bus, right underneath the water heater, we “T”ed a connection to also connect the RV refrigerator to propane since we bought a 2 way by Norcold (info on that in a future article) and it was just a few feet away on the same side of the bus.

Romex is in the gray tube, 12 volt wiring to solar batteris in black loom. Copper is in the black foam. It “T”‘s here, one side going into the bathroom for the water heater/fridge side of the bus, the other running up through to the furnace and splitting to the oven for that side of the bus.

And since we are talking about propane, lets talk safety. NO BUILD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SAFETY. At every connection (2) inside of the bus, I have a Propane Sensor on the ground (PROPANE IS HEAVY AND WILL DROP TO THE GROUND NOT FLOAT) connected 12 V to the SOLAR battieries and they are on 24/7. That is not to say that spraying febreze or other chemical wont’s set off the sensors…that has happened…but I know they work! We also put on and off valves inside underneath the water heater and fireplace so we could turn off the propane easily in here without going outside.

The Water Heater with the 12 volt wiring hanging out. The 12 volts powers the pilot light on the heater and another set of wires powers the propane sensor that is installed on the box that covers this. Also notice the red shut off valve on left.
Not a Bathroom pic, but notice the shut off valves. This goes through the floor and up to the propane furnace, and right to the stove/oven. Notice the wires hanging out of the loom. Those connect to the other propane sensor we have in the bus. Just not hung up in this picture.

Also, we wrapped our copper in foam insulation so that it would not rub against anything underneath the bus. REMEMBER VIBRATION IS YOUR ENEMY. ALWAYS THINK OF HOW THINGS WILL VIBRATE or TWIST while bumping down the road! And things move! We also attached the foam covered pipe with metal hangers securely to the frame of the bus with TEK metal screws.

20180909_161450.jpg
The Black Foam is the copper pipe running under the bus and secured to the chassis. The foam keeps anything from hitting the soft copper and prevents rubbing via vibrations during travel. The black loom is the wiring from our rear camera, LED bar, and wench running to the solar/bus batteries.

FINISHING:

Crab built a box to cover the plumbing, propane, and water heater and I put a basket on top of it for an air freshener, lotion, and TP holding area. We also trimmed around the bottom of the box and the doorways! We should have gotten a type of cover for the top, stone or wood, but we always keep our eyes open for something to add later.

14192655_1733719236892235_4849920146818121817_n.jpg
I originally hung the lights on the ceiling but they fell. Now they are on the actual shower curtain. They are waterproof LED lights. The shower curtain doubles as a homeschool tool too!

I use a friend’s old shoe organizer to organize our bathroom necessities. With 3 girls and guy that shaves his head, there are quite a few pockets filled with feminine hygiene, extra soap, razor blades from dollar shave club, sunscreen, face and hair masks, all of our toothpaste and brushes…etc. It works Great!

20170515_175029.jpg
In this picture, the organizer is folded back in half. I have played around with all 4 pockets out, and just 3…we adjust to our storage needs at the time.
BathroomShower.JPG
The magnet strip on the shower curtain on either side helps keep water from getting on the floor! I hung a mirror with velcro…a few times lol..and added a basket to hold stuff. The top of the box gets wet sometimes so we are looking for a topper for this. And if the water heater goes out, we will take this all the way out and try out an ECO TEMP that hangs to give us more floor space! *MOST RECENT PICTURE 2018*
BathroomToilet.JPG
I added hose clamps to hang jars and containers for things we always use and we stack the TP behind the toilet for easy access! The black wire that runs to the toilet is what connects the fan in the toilet to a power source. *MOST RECENT PICTURE 2018*

We have a curtain for privacy when showering that we tuck behind the organizer when no one is in their. I also orginally had a towel hanger there but it was in the way a lot so it was removed and we have since found another place for towels.

DRAIN LINES: (another article coming)

When it came to installing the drain lines, again, this was something never done before. We read the lines should hang at a 1/4″ slant all the way to the end. This lets gravity do its job. So we used some of these awesome metal straps with holes in them (we used these for lots of stuff and hanging things) to hang the 1″ PVC from the sink drain under the bus to the shower, all the way to the rear of the bus to the Gray water tank we installed at a later time while on the road (that will be in the future drain line article).

A Look Back:

The Rv550 has worked decently the last almost 2 years. Here are the issues we had. The first time we installed it, the face that goes on the outside of the bus didnt really fit.

20160130_161440.jpg
This did not fit in the hole And the unit’s copper pipe did not fit behind the opening to the left either.

20160130_161436.jpg

The company has great customer support. They sent us a new one, no issues. After about 8 months and tracking from Texas to Washington then down to Cali, the water heater sprung a leak shooting water down the outside side of the bus. At least it wasn’t inside. The company sent us another new one, took back the old one, all paid for. It just sucked to have to deal with. Over a year later we traveled from Cali to Arizona and have been exploring the state, no issues. It is hard to find the correct setting for how hot you need it, and lately the hose being in the sun is enough to get the perfect temp shower lol. If it craps again, though, and isn’t covered with the warranty I want to take out the box Crab made to cover it, and install an Eco Temp or other style I have seen other skoolie/tinyhousers use. And we will get some floor space back in the bathroom which would be a cool change:).