Where do I even begin? I’m sitting here, all the kids are in bed, and I feel like so much has happened in the last week; it has just flown by. Remember back about 10 months ago when my husband drove home with a school bus to convert into an R.V? Well now here we are, sitting in a converted school bus with our four kids, four cats, and dog doing the bus life thing:) Oh boy has it been an adventure, and we are only one week into living in our converted school bus!
As you know if you have been following our skoolie conversion since the beginning, we have been trying to hit the road since month three of our school bus conversion build 😉 Yes, jokes on us I know:) However, we finally bit the bullet and left exactly one week ago; February 6th at 6:12 pm.
But want to know the funny part? The bus still wasn’t done 🙂 Even after all this time.
The previous week had actually started feeling like we could finally say that we were almost “done”. As in we could count the number of tasks that had to be completed before takeoff on one hand.
However interestingly enough, the closer we got to being “done” the more jobs we discovered that needed to be completed before leaving. Why that is? I’m not quite sure. My best guess is that like any enormous project, everything takes longer than you think it will. In addition, I think when you are that close to the finish line, it feels like there is no reason to not take the extra time to finish the rest. As a result, our take-off date kept getting pushed back so we could wrap up all these little tasks.
Then life laughed at us. Up until this point, it had been a mild winter. Not so great for snow lovers, but for us trying to finish a school bus build, the mild weather was amazing. It meant that the act of actually pulling the bus out of our driveway and hitting the road was feasible. That is until winter decided to actually hit Montana.
That week the forecast showed that a cold front was moving in with temperatures in the negative double digits. For us, this meant that time was up for our bus build. Regardless of whether or not the bus was “done” we needed to leave if we wanted to make it out of town and through the passes.
Thanks to an overly excited child, I got a beyond early wake-up call at 2 A.M. on our take-off day. She was raring to go and wanted to help get ready. Unfortunately for me, once I’m up, I can’t go back to sleep. So instead of trying to fall back asleep, I took her up on her offer and we started packing. Together we worked on finishing tasks to get the house ready to leave, packing, and last-minute to-dos like sewing curtains 😉
Once everyone woke up, it was all hands on deck. The kids and I ran around the house packing and cleaning while Glaucio was trying to finish up the final to-do list on the bus. While we knew that our entire list wouldn’t be finished, there were a couple of tasks we wanted to complete while we still had Glaucio’s garagemahal full of tools.
We worked hard until noon. By then it was obvious to me that if we didn’t just leave, we would never make it out. And of course our list was far from finished.
Lunchtime arrived and I knew that there was no chance of finishing our to-do list and also leave. Quickly the mentality shifted from finishing projects to simply packing the bus. The race was on to load the bus with everything. Gone was my plan of organizing and putting items away as we brought them in. At that point, the goal was to simply get everything from the house into the bus and pray we didn’t forget anything.
It was chaotic, it was stressful and it was exhausting. The kids were troopers, but I remember at one point my oldest just laying on the floor at the top of the stairs not saying a word. Just simply exhausted.
It was the race to beat the weather and get out. And guess what we did it! Somehow with the help of all the kids, we managed to load everything in the bus and take off with everyone, including the animals!
Night 1: Whitehall, MT-truckstop
With a quick stop at the McDonalds drive-through per request of the kiddos for food (since my kitchen sink was overflowing with stuff), we were off. As it was already dark as we were leaving, we knew we wouldn’t get far. However, we needed to at least try and get through the mountain passes where the roads would be the worst.
We were able to make it a little over 60 miles before we had to call it quits. By then, we were both exhausted and the roads were getting worse. Ultimately our goal was to find more isolated boondocking spots while on the bus. But until we hit warmer weather we decided to stay in gas station parking lots and keep moving quickly.
With the temperature dropping outside the bus, we turned up the heater in the bus, turned out the lights, and crawled into bed utterly exhausted.
Day 2: drive day
Day one of our bus life adventure began at the crack of dawn with a 5:30 am wake-up from our toddler. But with lights and the heater going we were toasty inside. The only problem? The temperature was quickly dropping outdoors and the snowfall was only getting heavier. With many of the semi-trucks deciding to take off and our solar battery running low with no chance of recharging it with all the heavy snowfall, we decided to follow suit.
Shortly after, we found a snowplow to follow, and we were on the road. The first hour was horrible. Typical Montana winter storm road conditions, paired with no internet or entertainment for the kids made it one of those drives you wish you could simply fast forward. But all in all, the kiddos were troopers. And the little baggies full of special surprises from Nana certainly helped 😉
Clearer roads ahead
Finally, the roads began to dry up and the sun started to come out. At this point we finally felt like we were living what we had heard so much about; the magical bus life. Sun was beginning to stream in through all our windows warming us up, Alexa was playing our road trip music and the roads were bone dry!
Our first day of bus life was a full day of driving complete with a couple of fun break stops. The goal was to get South as quickly as possible. But of course, it’s impossible to make any stops without some drama from my Houdini dog 🙂
The great dog escape
We stopped for lunch and to grab a few pet supplies we had forgotten for the animals. While Glaucio went in, the kids and I took the dog for a quick walk. But of course, he had to pull out of his collar during our lunch stop and begin sprinting around the Petco parking lot. As the kids and I were running around the empty parking lot trying to catch this darn dog; Glaucio was inside getting harnesses and leashes for the cats. Knowing that Glaucio was in the store, Bo decided to take himself on a walk into Petco.
I waited outside the front door with a naked toddler in her slippers and the other three kids (because we didn’t have our masks to go inside) and watched the front door; knowing our dog was inside. Glaucio, who by that point was checking out, overheard a sales cashier mention a loose dog in the store. A second glance led him to realize the uninvited guest into the store was in fact our dog. Can you understand why we went with the bus name we did? We live in a circus:)
The day ended with a quick break visiting my sister and letting the kiddos get their energy out. It was great to see her and her new home, as well as get out in the fresh air after driving all day.
Night 2: Beaver, UT-truckstop
Night #2 on the bus was just the beginning of the crazy. We stopped at another truck stop just past Salt Lake City. Little did we know that we would wake up to no power or batteries.
Day 3: Camperland
Remember the saying “there is no growth in your comfort zone?” This morning is when I finally understood the full meaning of this quote. We woke up to cold weather and a frigid cold bus with no heat and no power.
We still aren’t quite sure what happened, however, during the night we used up all the stored battery energy and killed the batteries. Waking up at 5 am to nothing working, we started to panic. Not only did kids have school that morning and Glaucio had work, but allowing the batteries to get that low also meant that there was a good chance we fried our bus batteries. If you know anything about batteries, you know that not only are they really really really expensive, but they are essential for solar power to work and for us to do the type of travel we were looking to do.
Stress levels were high, everyone was cold, there was no coffee and it was still dark outside. So after a little panicking, Glaucio found a nearby rv park with hookups and off we went.
The ability to find silver linings and quick problem solving we have quickly realized are essential to bus life. What started off as a stressful day transformed into hot coffee = happy mama, kids in school, and Glaucio working thanks to RV hookups. We even got a dozen fresh eggs from the owners of the RV park!
After school, kids were happy to be biking, playing with the goats, and just playing outside. We spent the rest of the day outside and even took our first hot outdoor showers. Then around dinner time, we decided to hit the road to continue to try and get further south. By this point, we realized we needed to get to warmer weather while we worked to figure out the solar.
Night 3: St. George, UT- park
We made it as far as St. George, Utah, and decided to call it quits for the night. Deciding on where to park for the night, we ended up at a local park. We wanted to move away from truck stops but with solar power issues, we still wanted to be in town. Our goal was to stay at a place where I could play with the toddler outside while kiddos were in school and Glaucio worked.
Day 4: St. George
This was our first real boondocking experience. Granted it was in the middle of a city, but waking up to a massive park out of our windows, and kiddos playing non-stop before school, during breaks and after school was amazing.
Seeing the kids enjoying this park so much, we actually considered staying a few days. Because we left in such haste, our bus was still a disaster zone. Choosing to live tiny in an organized space is one thing. It’s another when it’s a mess. Therefore finding a place that we could stay that would allow the kids a place to play while we re-grouped was appealing. However, like most of our plans in regards to this bus; our plan changed last minute and we were on the road again.
Night 4: Valley of Fire State Park-pullout
Keep in mind that we had no set plans in terms of a route in regards to any part of this adventure. We have always had a general direction we are heading. However, other than that, we are completely winging this bus trip. So once again we arrived at dark, pulled off on the shoulder to the entrance of the state park, and camped.
Day 5: Valley of Fire State Park
I thought that staying at the park in St. George was our first boondocking experience. That was until we woke up to this. So I take my previous statement back; this was our first real boondocking experience and it was amazing. Not only did we wake up to a gorgeous sunrise, but the view outside our windows was incredible!
Waking up to warm weather meant that kids wanted to be out early exploring and walking the dog with Glaucio. What began as a morning walk turned into several hours of adventuring before school started; it was incredible!
We spent the morning doing online school for the kiddos and work. During a lunch break, we decided to check out the inside of the State Park. We wanted some stability while we worked on our solar. By dinner time the last couple of nights, our batteries would be out and we lost power. So while we worked on figuring out the issue, we were hoping to find hookups in order to avoid the daily power outage.
Night 5: Fire canyon
With all campsites inside the state park full, and almost no cell signal inside the park, we opted to move back to the spot we found at the entrance. Which in all honesty was great! The pullout provided ample room for our rig, and with amazing rock formations out the front door, there was plenty of space to play!
But once again by night, the batteries ran low and we had to turn everything off.
Day 6: Fire canyon
This was the worst day for power up until this point. We awoke with absolutely nothing. Kids had school which we had to have the power for in order to get our internet signal. But with nothing when we woke up, we kept praying that the sun would rise quickly and we would be able to get enough to our panels to at least start the internet.
During the day we were “ok” on power because of the amount of sun. But mornings and evenings were stressful and there was a lot of power conservation during these days.
That evening after work we made the decision to move to another spot. While we loved this location, we needed water and were hoping to find a different campsite with hookups and a cell signal that would give us time to diagnose our solar issue. Because by this point, there was a lot of anxiety and stress surrounding bus life.
Night 6: Lake Mead- boondocking
Stewarts Point-A short drive from Fire Canyon State Park put us at a great boondocking spot right by the lake.
We arrived with plenty of time to go explore and play in the water, take outdoor showers, and then head to bed early; with the power once again gone.
Day 7: Another side on Lake Mead
While we continued to see some amazing places, the end of our first week didn’t get much easier. We awoke early again to a gorgeous sunrise but again with low low power. This was nothing new by this point. We had spent the last week waking up to the same scenario; bus batteries almost empty and waiting on the sun to come up and power them back up. However, up until this day, shortly after waking up, we would get enough sunlight that we could get the internet going for school and work (which was the priority), and get enough to “last” us through the day.
Unfortunately, what began as a blue sky morning and gorgeous sunrise quickly became a dark gray sky. We were 100% reliant on the sun during the day to keep the bus electrical going for cooking and school/work. With a storm rolling in, we knew there would be no way to sustain ourselves for the day.
So, once again we went in search of hookups. We found an RV park online about 40 miles away and decided to head there and plug in while we waited for Sunday when we would head to Vegas to pick up our generator; thanks Amazon locker!
The great bike disaster
An uneventful hour later, we pulled into the RV park. We glanced out our side windows to a couple frantically waving at us as we pulled in. Initially, we assumed that they were curious about the skoolie. We were the only bus in an RV park full of fancy RV’s. Unfortunately, what we assumed was curiosity, was instead to question if we realized our bikes were dragging behind the bus?
Well shit. I’m sorry but there really is no other word. We had no power, kids were supposed to be in school, Glaucio working, and now we had brand new Trek bikes dragging behind the bus?
We walked back to a pile of carnage of what used to be five really nice Trek bicycles and a Thule bike rack. The Thule rack had broken on the weld of the rack. As a result, all five bikes had been dragged on the highway behind the bus for who knows how long.
Then to top it all off, the RV park wouldn’t allow us to stay because we weren’t a new RV.
Once again we had to find the silver lining 🙂 Although the RV park wouldn’t allow us to stay, they were very helpful and sympathetic to our situation. They allowed us to use their dumpster to toss our now useless rack and permitted us to use their parking lot to move all six bikes up to the roof and tie them down.
Knowing there was nothing we could do at that moment about the destruction of the bikes, we decided to make the most of the day. Thankfully while we were moving bikes around, the sun came out and started charging our solar. So we headed to a little public beach and parked for the day.
By that point school was almost done for the kids, but Glaucio was able to logon and work. We spent the day playing and enjoying the location.
The end of week one
After another beautiful sunset, we decided to ditch the boondocking and just head to Vegas early while we waited for our generator.
Being that we were only 5 miles from the Hoover Dam, we took a short detour to go see the dam. After a drive-by of the dam since it was closed, we headed towards the lights and bustle of Las Vegas.
We ended our first week of bus life driving the Vegas strip in our converted school bus and heading to our second RV park to plug at the only RV park on the Las Vegas strip; The Circus Circus RV Park. Fitting don’t you think 🙂