My Skoolie Conversion
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My Skoolie Conversion: Gutting the Bus

This summer, I was able to do what a lot of people dream of doing; driving the historic Route 66; that skinny ribbon of highway known as America’s Main Highway, that snakes its way across the great USA. The route, established in 1926, has changed over the years. Originally it began in Chicago, meandered through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before terminating in Santa Monica, California and covered nearly 2500 miles. Today, due to traffic and congestion, the route has shortened–no longer including Chicago, but still ends in Santa Monica.

Route 66 gave birth to popular cultural references, including a television series named after it, a hit song, Get Your Kicks on Route 66, John Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath and Pixar’s animated feature Cars. It has lived through the Great Depression, the Dustbowl, Fireside chats, WWI and II, Hippie Power, Nixon, Regan and today. It has been re-routed, certified and de-certified. In the mid 80’s an attempt to restore and revive Route 66 began in earnest; a yearning to capture days gone by of a simpler time; when we still read books to our children–(the ones that had paper pages), not a blinking screen and going to school was not a lockdown situation.

It would be President Bill Clinton, who would sign an act to preserve and restore Route 66. Neon signs, eateries and tourist attractions would dot the way.

Bubba the Bus and I began our journey in Nashville, Tennessee; because that is where Bubba had lived, as a tailgating bus for the mighty Tennessee Titans, a football team that has also seen its share of ups and downs. We began our trek in July; which is exactly the wrong time to begin such a trek.

As we began driving cross country, people were checking in with me via social media, phone, text and they always asked: Do you have air conditioning? When I responded that I wasn’t sure, the answer was; It’s Nashville. That statement, ‘it’s Nashville’, was explanation enough.

Remember the last time you went to a spa or a gym? You went to the steam room to rid your body of toxins, loosen joints, sweat out some additional pounds and relax after a healthy workout? Your glasses fog, your body glistens, you strip as much clothing as possible and 20 minutes later, you get into a cool shower. That steam room is summer in the South; minus the time limit and the cool shower.

My Skoolie Conversion of Bubba the Bus

Bubba did have an air conditioning unit. I fiddled with it and half-heartedly tried to turn it on. I was unsuccessful, but, not too concerned; after all he is an old bus--(1989, the same as my son), I haven’t driven a lot in the past two decades and I was traveling by myself on a budget of extreme proportions; so, I wanted to ‘baby‘ him, as much as I could. I began and completed my cross-country drive in July, sans air conditioner; which I don’t recommend.

Bubba made it to California with no trouble; he is a beast. We have been on the West Coast for three months now. I have spent most of that time working a lot, trying to ‘get caught up financially’ and slowly gutting Bubba. I have removed the seats, the carpet, metal plates, screws, hoses and more. Bubba has been smogged, weighed, titled and transferred.

I have been looking at the oversized, bulky air conditioning unit for some weeks, contemplating how to remove it and the compressor. Once Bubba becomes a tiny home, the living space will be approximately 80′ square feet. The airco needed to go. I borrowed tools and began cutting the unit out of Bubba. The hoses and compressor went easily enough and then I attacked an electric tape covered wire. The unit leaped to life and I fell back in surprise. The key wasn’t in the ignition and I could find no ‘off/on‘ switch. It was like the car from Stephen King’s book, Christine. I began to panic and then cool air filled the bus. Logic kicked in, and I realized that the airconditioning unit must be running off the battery; that realization was immediately followed by another realization: I could have had access to cool air on my Route 66 journey.

My Skoolie Conversion of Bubba the Bus

I disconnected the battery–(negative coil first); the unit went silent. Then my friend and I went to work on removing it. It was attached to the roof by several nuts, bolts and screws; of which no one was the same. We used everything from screwdrivers, ratchet wrench, and electric saw. Finally we had the unit dislodged with the exception of one bolt. We stared at that lone bolt questioningly. How could that ONE bolt still be holding up the entire unit? As if in answer, the bolt let go and I felt air whoosh by my face, as the unit crashed to the floor, only inches away from my foot–(which would have been broken in many places, had it been 2″ closer.)

This was the final big piece to be taken out of Bubba and it feels great to know that with the exception of a few nails and screws left in random places; the gutting is complete and soon, I will get to start building, instead of demolishing.

I have learned a couple of things:

  1. Converting Bubba the Bus into a Tiny Home is a building that I will never finish; nor should I. Bubba does not mark completion; but, something new every day.
  2. There has been a lot of time-consuming, tedious, dirty, gritty work involved in gutting Bubba and getting a solid foundation; but, it is worth every moment. A strong life cannot be built on a weak foundation.

Until next time…..

Go forth

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