Stage 5 of Operation Chitty Bang is Sanding and Killing the Rust. We decided to take off the next two days after the night of scrubbing and the day Crab passed his driver’s test for his Class B License. Once we were restored and free of appointments, we decided to tackle the rust on the floor. We had a hand held drill with a wire brush attachment, and a bigger tool with a bigger wire brush on it. I can’t remember the name of the tool, but we also used it for grinding down the rusty nails. We definitely could have benefited from renting a sander, but we stuck with our attachments Crab just purchased to try and do it ourselves with what we had.
I used the hand drill/wire brush and wheel attachment to get in all the cracks where I saw any rust, as well as the sides of the bus. Crab used the bigger sanding tool on the big spots on the floor. In the pic below, you can see what the rust spots looked like after we were done sanding.
Next, we tried a “car guy” on YouTube’s advice and mixed together a 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar solution. Then we used the “scotch brite” green pads (the rough kind only) and scrubbed the solution into the floor. I showed the girls how to do it, then let them take over that job!
The final results of all of the back breaking work we all did. Thank goodness we have kids to help:)
This definitely is not the end of the Rust “removal/conversion” but while we researched what products were best, we took a couple of days off for some appointments we had and then started..
Later that night, after removing the rest of the flooring, heaters, and upper side panels, we decided to go ahead and give Chitty Bang a good Scrub Down so we could tell where the dirt ended and the rust began. We blew it out with our leaf blower, bought a big work light and some scrubbing brushes (broom with hard bristles and a handheld hard bristle brush), made a soapy bucket with Dawn Dish Soap, and went to town.
We kept our big workshop fan blowing to help dry it faster, and we would clean in sections and then wash down with the hose. Crab used our broom with the squeegee on it to help move the water out of the back of the bus. After just a couple of hours, Chitty Bang was as good as new, and we had a better idea of where our Rust was.
Stage 3 of Operation Chitty Bang was finishing up the prior day’s floor demo and tearing out some lights/speakers/panels that run along the top sides of the interior. This was the day we actually removed the heaters (did a little research on skoolie.net for heater help) and looped the coolant hoses under the bus.
We finished the side panel removal where the speakers and lights were. This also exposed the fiberglass insulation that was underneath and under the roof. That project will prove to be a little more difficult than anticipated…
The hoses for the heaters went through a hole between the floor and behind the driver’s seat (something we will need to seal soon!). So we followed the lines under the bus and “looped” them the only way that seemed possible by cutting the hoses much shorter, and reclamping them to the pump they were connected to. I am sure we can take out more of the hoses and maybe even that pump, but that will be a project when we are with our diesel mechanic friend!
We let the bus run for about 20 minutes after we looped it and refilled the coolant to make sure all of the gauges stayed in the green, and no codes came up on the scan gauge reader. This helped us to be sure we did it right:)
Nuts and Bolts, Nuts and Bolts, We Got Lots of Screws!!
Yes, we are totally keeping all of these treasures because you know how it goes on a homestead. You can always re-use it!! Even if it’s broke, you can still try to fix it or use it in some other way. Or you sell it and make some money off of it:)
Operation Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Stage 1: Purchase and Deliver School Bus
We did it! We found an old school bus that fit all of our criteria and were able to purchase it the first week of April in Phoenix, AZ! She is a 1999 Genesis International with a DT466 Engine, Allison Transmission, 250,000 miles (which is nothing for this engine), and in great shape! Crab flew into Phoenix to purchase it, and then drove it all the way back to Central Texas! A few things to think about if you are doing something like this, is to find insurance, check your state laws on types of drivers licenses needed to drive a bus, have enough money in gas (costs about $200 to fill the tank on average), have a friend who is or knows a diesel mechanic, and look for a bus in areas that have less moisture which will keep you from having any major rust issues.He also ordered a gauge reader from Amazon that he could plug into the bus to check to be sure there were no major codes that came up while he drove the bus before he bought it. We were able to find a dealer that had 4 of the same types of buses, 3 were left by the time Crab was able to get there. He checked under the buses, around them, the codes on his gauge, drove them, and then decided. Thank GOD he bought the gauge reader, because codes popped up on 2 of the 3 buses, and when he inspected under the hood and under the buses, he saw hanging lines and leaky hoses. He is not a mechanic, and only knows some things about vehicles, so the gauge reader helped him keep an eye out for things he may have missed. The third bus had the most miles, but no codes and looked the best over all. Then, he bought her for $4,700.
I was able to contact a local Texas insurance Company (not a name I ever heard of, and I can’t remember it) and the agent I was given was super helpful. He was able to get us coverage through Progressive under a Commercial Policy, for now. I am going to try to change this once we can register the bus as an RV as it is more expensive under commercial. The cost is $1400 a year…a little steep for just liability but for peace of mind for Crab to get home, I can handle it.
In Texas, you need a Class B license (not a CHL license) to drive a bus. You have to pass a written test and bring your bus to take the drivers test, to get your license….so how do you get your bus with no license? Find a friend, or play the “dance in the gray area game”. Crab has driven several types of military vehicles during his service in the Army as an Airborne Infantryman. They ranged from Susvees (spelling) in Alaska to Stryker Vehicles (tanks on wheels). His confidence in driving the bus was pretty high to begin with, so that helped my nerves! After studying all night, he passed his Written Test with flying colors before he left to check out and buy our bus. The DMV employee told him to remove all of the seats and have “school bus” painted over before he brought it to her to do his drivers test. Since none of our friends who possess CHL licenses could just up and leave their jobs to drive our bus back from Phoenix, we decided to dance in that gray area of the law. I don’t recommend it, as it was definitely stressful! But it worked out. Having insurance for Crab on his way home helped him look somewhat squared away if he was pulled over, and since he would be so close to border checkpoints it made his nerves a bit more shaky! But even after stopping at a checkpoint, he was clear to go and did not have any issues on his way home:) We def had to break the law to become in compliant with the law, but it worked out. And Crab passed his driving test this week so now we are 100% good to go until we need to register the bus as an RV, still doing research on that one though.
The driving and written tests does not include the school bus portion as long as your bus does not have school bus on it or the seats in it. Definitely check your state laws though because they are VERY different state to state.
We surround ourselves with quality friends, as quantity doesn’t matter. This is a lesson we learned a few years ago as we hit some milestones in our ever growing and changing lives. One of those great friends, Jimbo, was an Army buddy of Crab’s and his brother-in-law is a diesel mechanic. His house is a little north, in west Texas and more than half way between Phoenix and our place. This made an excellent stopping spot for Crab to have the bus inspected by a no Bull**** mechanic (I hear there are some that rip you off), especially after driving 1000 miles from Phoenix. That bus probably never went that far for that long. The mechanic confirmed the gauge’s readings and said we got an excellent deal on the bus. He suggested one thing that would need to be replaced in the future, but overall it was in great shape. We plan on going back to him when we need to work on the bus so he can teach us how to do it ourselves.
Crab finally sent me a picture of him driving the bus to curb my excitement a little. The girls and I were completely ecstatic and could not wait for him to get home with our future tiny house!
When we originally came up with the idea to live minimally, we loved the idea of building our own tiny house. It is definitely an up and coming idea, and people will choose to live tiny for so many reasons; environmental, downsize their debt, live with less “crap”, and many others. Everyone has his or her reasons, but ultimately it encompasses that overall freedom every human being on the planet yearns for. The freedom we long for is to be debt free. We are not like some people who have thousands of dollars in credit card debt, or filed bankruptcy, or live beyond our means in a “normal” American society. We have always lived within our means, and kept our credit score in excellent condition. We never made decisions that would effect our family negatively, and thought we were doing the right thing. We paid off our vehicles, made every note on the homes we had purchased since we were 21 years old, paid every bill, and this year we are 30 years old. “Living the American Dream” with our mortgage and never ending cycle of interest rates. When we started talking about how much money we would save every month by getting rid of our mortgages, it boggled my mind. But where do you live if you want to raise a family and save money? What about, if you want to travel around the US? What if you don’t really know where you want to “put your roots” like your mom and dad or grandma and grandpa always talked about?
Crab and I have been married since we were 18 years old in 2003, and had gotten used to the Army life of moving every 3 years or so, and always knew we did not want to go back to our hometown. How do you make the decision to just settle down somewhere if you haven’t seen all the possibilities? We each have lived in California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, and Texas. We have traveled to many other places, but would we want to MOVE there? We felt there were so many options now compared to when our parents were our age. The world is so accessible and it is only getting more so as time passes. Ultimately our question was, How do we make sure we are happy with where we decide to put roots?
A tiny home seemed completely logical for us…and totally exciting. However, it was going to cost us between $30-$40,000 after doing some research and we don’t have that stashed away anywhere. Also, since we wanted our tiny home on wheels, the codes for traveling with a tiny house and heights and all kind of scared me. Many people have done it, check out “Tiny: The Story of Living Small” on Netflix, because it is totally awesome and is what inspired us to start living small. Buying an RV just wasn’t going to happen either because we heard of how expensive they are, how crappy the insulation is, if something breaks a dealer has to fix it (and we are total DIYers!), and that they do break eventually. So, we came up with some options and tabled the discussion for later until we got rid of more crap we were selling. We knew we couldn’t really do anything until our home sold, as then we would have the money to do something with. The plan was to move to my parent’s lakehouse temporarily, maybe even “Squat” at friends houses while visiting different areas, and go from there.
Then, something amazing happened. Ok, it wasn’t really amazing. It was a simple late night conversation we had about how to travel around the US with our dog and kids, and everyone comfortable, but also be a project we can DIY and it be affordable. The solution was so simple, but unbelievable. I thought, how weird is this? What will people say? Then I thought, Wait a second. I really don’t give a ****. HA! Not caring what others think has to be one of the greatest mental freedoms I have ever felt. We have always been “weird” and rubbed against society norms. We played the “Keep Up With the Jones’” game and it is exhausting and financially straining. Who really needs all those clothes, shoes, toys, and other crap we buy to entertain us. Why can’t LIFE be entertaining enough? Why can’t Time with your family be entertaining enough? When did buying crap and getting into debt become fun? Hence, our homestead was born. Self reliant living. Our newest idea was definitely the next non-normal thing, and the most realistic one for us. It was our next step to the freedom we have been talking about for a couple of years, and to get us to a place where we can finally build up a bigger and better homestead much sooner than we thought was ever possible!!!
A SKOOLIE. AKA CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
That is right. A school bus converted into an RV. What??!!! Yes this is totally real and yes, they are totally cool. Some people are completely not into it. They say, “How can you be with your family that long in that small of a space?” “What about your space?” “How will you guys build that? It sounds hard.” Then the other negative nancy’s we told, and well, we don’t talk to people like that anymore. And anyway, The answer to those questions really lie in each person. If you asked me those questions 3 years ago, I would have told you that I could not imagine us all cramped up in a small space together because we had not tried it. After I lost my job, the four of us were together all the time. Saving money, stay-cations, lots and lots of family time. Whether we wanted it or not, lol. Now, we love being around each other. We started homeschool October 2014, so we are used to our kids being home. They help out tremendously with house work, are respectful, do what they are told, they do not wait for us to entertain them because they know they will have to clean something if the words “I’m bored” exits their mouth, and we have all learned to respect each other’s privacy/private times, which is a must in a tiny house/skoolie. Also, after all of the failed attempts and successful ones of building Aquaponics systems, grow beds, chicken coops, poultry tractors, dog houses, repairing lawn mowers, and a plethora of other things, we have the confidence to jump in and just do it. YouTube is amazing, because you can find how to do anything on there as well as the internet itself. I really don’t know why there are so many schools anymore. You can literally learn anything you want to on the internet. And did I mention the cost to do one is literally half of what it would cost us to do a Tiny House? I believe the major factor in the cost is that the “frame” is already there, and it is steel! Did I also mention that we could live in it while driving? And it is big enough for all of us and our 130lb English Mastiff? 🙂 And please remember folks, we do not want to just sit around in our awesome skoolie all day. This tiny house is meant to take us all over the United States! National Parks and Monuments are begging to be seen, life learning will be happening, and adventures are within our grasp! We plan on using our tiny home as a way to make the world our front porch (gosh I love that old country song!) Momma is happy 🙂
So a dream was born. Buy a school bus (lots of research on types and engines and lengths), renovate it to an RV, sell our home in the process, travel, maybe even learn to sail, figure out where we want to set roots, and live in the bus until we finish building our new home/homestead. We have sold off everything we needed to, and will sell the rest of the furniture when the house sells….but if I can’t get the price I want, into storage it will go with the rest of our crap. Hey, I can’t get rid of everything. We need all of our equipment and stuff for the new homestead, and a place to store out of season clothes and such. But it is definitely not a house payment. 🙂
Now, Let the dream of Operation Chitty Chitty Bang Bang commence…….