Today I bought a bus. Yes, a bus. At first glance this might seem crazy; but, I’ve had a few days to sit with it….and I’m not gonna lie—it might be crazy.
About a year or so ago—or in San Francisco terms, three rent increases ago; I began to wonder how long I could hold out in the beautiful City by the Bay. I won’t deny, I have a great deal in San Francisco; but, I am not sure it’s such a great deal for me anymore. Let’s face it: it might be the best deal in the world, but, if the deal doesn’t work for me, then, it’s not the best deal for me. I love San Francisco; it’s beautiful, walkable, an orgiastic feast for the senses. I live in a beautiful and modestly appointed apartment, in a lovely building located in a safe, quiet neighborhood; a mix of Russian pastries, Irish pubs and Dim Sum. A well-maintained bike path wanders down tree-lined streets, with easy access to various beach outlets, where my heart soars, as I walk along Lands’ End Trail; foghorns echoing in the distance, the ocean breeze caressing the air. I love my job at Starbucks and adore my Starbucks family—guests and partners. I live on the #1 bus line; arguably one of the best in the city; and my BFF lives only blocks away. But as my rent inches closer and closer towards the heavens, I begin to wonder.
I also tend to be nomadic; a trait embedded in me as a young girl, trying to escape Indian land. The first time I left the high desert plains of Oregon; I boarded a plane in San Francisco and flew to Australia, where I spent a year in the Outback. That was 1982 and I was 15 years old. Since then, wanderlust has ebbed at my soul and tickled my feet. I have been to several countries in the world and traveled to many places in the USA. This combination of high rent and wanderlust prompted me to begin researching the idea of a ‘tiny home.’
For the past year, I have joined tiny home communities online, chatted with people who have converted buses, vans, and trailers into cool, living spaces, read tons of articles and made lists of pros and cons. I scoured online sites from eBay to Craigslist and beyond. I learned about diesel versus gas engines, compostable toilets, insulation, titling, insurance and the cost of converting a vehicle from DIY scratch to hiring professionals. I determined that my skill set landed somewhere in the middle. I am not going to be able to pull out bus seats and saw down screws, but I can sand a countertop or do tap finishing nails in place. I am not going to be able to install a swamp cooler, but, could probably lay a floor.
A big question has to do with personal goals. What did I want to achieve? What was the purpose of the tiny home in my life and how does that manifest into day to day living? Ultimately, I decided that a bus was the route, I wished to take. Not any bus; a short bus—bigger than a van, smaller than a school bus. It appeals to the buried, but not forgotten, Burner in my soul and it seems like a project that I can accomplish.
Where to find the bus? I began the search and it was not easy. Craigslist is replete with scams and many other online sites have expensive buses, located far away. I soon realized that I needed to find a bus parked in some forgotten backyard or back forty; but, there aren’t a lot of those—(yards and back forties)—in San Francisco. As my cross country trek approached, I pulled out my Indian tool belt—(crystals and divining rods)—and began to meditate on finding the perfect bus. I felt it would be somewhere in the south, perhaps a church parking lot or abandoned in a field.
Having never been to the Deep South before—(which is different than the regular South)—I was greatly inspired; as there were lots of steeples dotting the hillsides and I came across lots of converted and abandoned things; Air Streams and Canned Ham Trailers; school buses and church buses. I had a great time in Alabama though. I sank my teeth into one of the best burritos ever; pulled pork, pickles—(pickles seem to be on everything in the south, by the way), and some crazy Alabama coleslaw. No beans. No rice. No cheese; just goodness. I met fantastic people there—don’t believe all the hype on the news or give up hope; there are some great Alabamians in that state; but, I didn’t find my bus.
I love beer, boys and country music, so I decided it was time to go back to Nashville. I made a reservation at the Downtown Nashville Hostel; it was so great the first time, I was happy to stay again; and here, in Music City, I found a bus online. I asked my dear friend, Sister Faegala, if she would drive me over to have a gander. The moment I saw it, I knew he was meant for me. He proudly proclaimed himself a Tennessee Titan Bus, covered in all manner of Titan decoration. The Titan wrap–is exactly that, an advertising wrap; easily removed with the heat of a blow dryer–although I imagine, it is going to take a minute or two. He had been used as a company team-building event bus, specifically tailgating parties, for the Titans—(who I have learned is a football team). The owners had gotten a little older and had left their tailgating days behind. He isn’t new or young; he isn’t pretty or stylish; but, I loved him.
We all piled into the bus and tooled around the outskirts of Nashville for a bit; passing Waffle Houses—(and yes, I LOVE the Waffle House) and billboards advertising Bonnaroo and CMA Fest.
When we returned, I asked if I could have him taken to an independent mechanic. If he passed his health inspection, he would be mine.
The next day, he went to the mechanic, where it was reported to me that he had new brakes, no leaks or immediately imminent repairs. He would need a tune-up, new tires and his brake light was broken—“but I went ahead and fixed that for y’all,” John told me in his native Nashvillian drawl.
I returned to the owner of the bus, asked him if he’d split the cost of new tires with me—he said sure—which sounds like ‘sshhooorrreeee’. I paid for him. He gave me a bill of sale and signed the title over. I told him I would be back in two months to pick him up and he agreed to keep it stored until then.
Step one is done; which brings about the next questions; titling, insuring and getting him ready to drive to Oregon or Sacramento—or (insert idea here)– for the conversion process.
I am open to ideas, suggestions or thoughts.