The Bus-Man Cometh (March 28-29, 2010)


Yep, we bought a school bus. A 35ft, International school bus all set to be our home on wheels. We looked for many months and found one that had already been started down that path. The early drudgery has been done – seats removed! Also, the previous owner had already taken care of the paperwork to make it officially an RV (no CDL needed to drive) and procured many of the items (bathtub, range, tanks, electrical) needed for constructing a comfortable home.


This step started with a flight to Spokane early Sunday morning (poor Diana had to spend a much deserved day off dropping Noel at DIA before sunrise). Paul (the owner) graciously picked me up at GEG and then to his home and a great tour of “the bus”. After exchanging paperwork (title and dollars) Noel started his trek to Colorado.


This large, loud vehicle now lumbers in city streets and some winding ones in search of I-90. It seemed that on several of the downhill turns, particularly when pressing the air-brakes, I could feel the rear lift up. After I experienced this several times I concentrated on the rearview magnified mirror to see if it was true. Yep, I was running over curbs nearly every turn! Man, the learning curve was huge . . .


I filled the ONE HUNDRED gallon tank with diesel just into ID. I was very curious as to the mpg this baby would get. Fortunately it came with a ¾ full tank (1/4 empty?). The test proved to be significant, too, as I-90 is extremely mountainous and windy and the wind was gusting over 60kts in some places. Both my driving skills and the efficiency of the bus were tested. Fueling was uneventful as the Flying-Js are well laid out for ammeter big rigs. Only had to add $87 dollars in fuel to “top it off:. Whew! (Flying-J offers a Customer Card giving a one cent discount. Big deal , you say? Well, yep, it is when a complete fill-up would cost $10 less with one!)


About two hours later, along the very picturesque and very windy, winding stretch along the north shore of Lake Cour de Alene I realized the right directional was on. I figure it had been at least 50 miles since I’d made the turn . . . . Oh, Well!


After finally reaching some flatter lands in Montana it becomes obvious that the engine is governed to not exceed 60mph. Bummer. On a straightaway, 6degrees downhill, the bus can reach 62mph. Wheeeee . . . Many other “small” incidents over the next 36 hours but I’ve chosen to erase the memory, I think.


Monday, midday, I chose to filler-up again to calculate the mpg. The previous owner estimated (though never calculated) much lower and I’d hoped for a tad higher (plans for some changes to help with that) but got a very respectable TEN miles per gallon. Yay!


Wind through Montana and Wyoming still gusted to 60+kts. The bus doesn’t notice 20kts or so sustained but there where stretched closed to Semi traffic and I took the recommended detours (through small towns) when they existed so after a very long tiring Monday I finally parked it at our Johnstown home a few minutes after midnight. Driving was better after sunset so I HAD to push on and was glad to get home to Diana . . .

The bus . . .

The inside as purchased

Mt Greeley in Montana

The bus from Motel6, Butte, MT window

A BIGGGGGGGGGGGGGG gap in time until we can do anything else on the bus. First the bus got stuck. It took multiple raising of the bus, then filling in the hole, raising more before it could be driving out.


close up

Blocked for more jacking


This took a couple weeks from April that could have been used for renovation and once extracted a huge oil leak occurred, That was a simple fix, as it turns out, but took well into May before work could resumed. Just then we find the new place and moving is on! Bus renovating begins July 2nd!

Diana caulking holes on floor

Back half ready for floor

Finally got the rear carpeting, bed frame raised above the wheel wells and air conditioning in and the opening sealed (July 27, 2010)

Specifications: 1997 Amtran / International 66 passenger school bus. T444E engine, (7.3 PSD with international components) AT545 tranny- 190 HP w/ turbo, air brakes, heated mirrors