I was just thinking about fifteen minutes ago, “I don’t think I’ve ever personally used the word foist before”. Not that I remember every word I’ve said, necessarily, but I think I’d remember if I said foist. Today I resolve to use the word foist at least once in a natural context – so watch out for that.
When we last left our heroes, we had just taken all of the seats out of our mighty new school bus.
To get this party started, check out the official BtyB-Time-Machine satellite photo of the bus. This is in no way blantantly ripped from google maps :
Before going any further, we wanted to get some driving experience under our belts. I pulled up behind a bus at a bus stop and got out. The real bus driver was smoking a cigarette and waiting for his bus to fill up.
“I have a question… we just bought that school bus and want some practice driving it. Can we take some of your customers?”
It was an insane request, and I really had no expectation that he would allow it. He glanced at the giant school bus tentatively.
“Yeah, I guess that would be ok.”
“Great. Can you come with me on your bus so that people will believe me?”
We got on the front of the nearly full bus. It was full of students, teachers, and a few families. The end of the day had come and they were ready to go home.
“Hi,” I began, “Right behind this bus is another bus that my friends and I just bought. We want to practice driving it, so if anyone wants to ride on it, it’s free and we’ll take you to your door.”
No one budged.
“It’s true,” chimed in the bus driver.
Slowly a Chinese family stood up. Our first passengers.
As they climbed into the bus it was obvious that they were not expecting what was inside. Five college kids filling the carcass of a school bus, with nowhere to sit. I could see that they considered leaving, but got on the bus anyway.
By the time we reached their house they had accepted the discomfort of sitting on tool boxes and the floor, and were grateful for the ride. On the way back we stopped at another bus stop and told the girls that their bus was broken and that we’d give them a ride. They didn’t believe us.
We had a plan, but it was rather rudimentary. The plan was this : “build a kick-ass school bus and go to Alaska”, so you can see that we had to come up with some of the details on the fly. We’d read somewhere that insulating the floor and the walls was important for keeping the temperature and sound levels reasonable (note : it did neither), so we built a new floor and walls that went up to the bottom of the windows.
When I do something, I do it right. Usually. We were in Home Depot, deciding which plywood to use, and for some reason the cheap plywood wasn’t good enough for us. No… six college students traveling around the US in a giant school bus had to be surrounded in nothing but Home Depot’s finest oak paneling.
None of us had any practical experience building anything. My father is a carpenter, so the role of “guy who knows what he’s doing” was foisted upon me. We had a motley collection of tools, including several hand me downs from my father, a table saw stored at Austin’s parents’ house, and whatever other tools we could find around there. After doing something wrong with the table saw and having a piece of 3/4″ oak shot at my stomach, I shyed away from future table saw use.
How is that thing even legal? I can’t think of anything more dangerous than a table saw, besides a wild pack of tigers. And no one uses tigers for construction. To this day I hate the table saw and refuse to use them.
We drew out some rough plans. The bus was to have a large living room area in the front, a kitchen, pantry, and storage room in the middle, and a bedroom in the back. Then we winged it. The first order of business was building the counter for the kitchen and the storage area. By the time we got working on that we realized that bunk beds in the back were going to be far too difficult.
One lingering problem was carpeting. I did some research into it, and it turns out that laying carpet is no trivial task. Further complicating the problem, the rest of the bus was coming out so well that we couldn’t have a second rate carpeting job done.
Adam and I went to a carpet store with our story ready to roll.
“Hi, we’re from the Christian Students Association, and we’re making a school bus to travel through the US and go on mission. Could we get a discount?”
Ok… so we’re not Christians. And we’re not going on missions. And also we are in no way a student association – but we did have a school bus, and that’s what was important. He agreed to give us a good price, and we began shopping. We settled on a brown, hoping that it would conceal dirt pretty well. I felt a bit guilty about the whole charade, to be honest, but my only priority was to get this school bus done. We worked on it nearly every single day for three months, and it was quickly becoming our baby.
We finished the interior, and were lucky enough to find a huge sectional couch set that was exactly the right size, if not the right color. They filled out the living room perfectly, leaving enough room for the hallway through the middle. Unfortunately we never considered that we might want to try lying down on these couches, since a few of us would be sleeping on them every night – they turned out to be slightly more comfortable than sleeping on sharp rocks.
Additionally, we bought a blue recliner to serve as the shotgun chair. It was pretty awesome – when fully reclined the footrest was at the same level as the dashboard.
A mini roadtrip to Houston was executed to meet with a shady car audio guy in a flea market. We bought dual 12″ subwoofers, four 6×9 speakers, an amp, and a head unit. We rigged it up as we drove home.
Next we went to a tinting place and worked out a good deal to tint the whole bus. We had initially tried to do it ourselves, but that proved to be an enormous disaster. We got the darkest tint available, hoping to keep some of the heat out of the bus. After all, we had no air conditioner.
With a week until our first trip, the bus was finally complete. The day we departed we were presented by Austin’s parents with a huge sign for each side of the bus with the bus’ full name spelled out : “The Great American Old School Giddyup”. My mother got us a little framed Ken Kesey quote that said : “Either you’re on the bus or you’re off the bus”. True indeed.
The trips we went on with the bus were legendary, and full of unthinkable adventure and memories in their own right. Coming soon are stories of those trips complete with pictures and video. Until then, here are pictures of the final product :
Ok.. fine… and a preview of one of the trips :