Category Archives: Build Log

This section is all about the work we’ve done to make the bus into the ultimate roadtrip machine. If you’re looking for more of a instruction guide instead of the incremental advancements here, check the HOW-TOs.

Stencil Man

We passed DMV inspection, should be leaving tomorrow.

Nearly There

So this last week has been very busy, very productive, and very quiet on this blog. I apologize for that last bit, but time has been sparse, and we were always on the verge of something, so I kept pushing back updates since something bigger and better was coming. That’s still the case – we still have more to do, but I’m going to update anyway.

I should start last week, when we brought the bus by the DMV to see if we could get it registered. From all of the research I did online and over the phone, it seemed like there were no requirements for a converted school bus to be registered as an RV, so we rolled into the inspection lane to see what we could get done. Unfortunately, we showed up just as they were closing, because apparently they don’t stay open as late as the main DMV building. Oops. I managed to briefly talk to the inspectors who were there, and they told me that there was indeed an inspection required, and it needed to be “habitable.” One of the requirements of habitable was a “vented stove,” which both the inspectors agreed on. They couldn’t give us a complete list of what we needed, only that it had to be “habitable.”

A vented stove was something that was not going to happen on the bus if we could help it – cooking outside is far cheaper, easier, and practical for our purposes. We went into the main building to see if anyone could supply us with a list of the requirements that would make the bus habitable, but no one had a clue – it’s not a very common question. We finally found someone in the Commercial Vehicle Saftey department, and he supplied us with a list of what we needed, which mirrored lists I had seen elsewhere.

We spent this week trying to meet those requirements, and when we brought the bus to the DMV earlier today, they deemed it habitable (though they didn’t seem to care about that list). They had a slight issue with our veggie system, and didn’t really know what to make of it. It turns out the guy who would know doesn’t work there anymore, so they put in a call, and we waited. We made Tang in a coffee can from DMV bathroom water. We ordered a pizza. And waited some more. Eventually the call was returned, and now we know what we need to change for the veggie system, so we’ll be making changes over the weekend and registering on Monday.

Other things we’ve been up to: enjoying attention from local press, a new snazzy paint job which I’ll show off tomorrow, plumbing installed, electrical installed, and Ned’s blog launched. He’ll be writing about the trip at that website for the duration of the summer, so I highly recommend subscribing.

At the moment, it looks like we shall leave Monday night or Tuesday morning.

False Start

First off, I have to apologize, because we finished the benches and the bunks, but I haven’t taken any decent pictures of video of either. I’ll post them this weekend, and instructables for both interior construction and veggie conversion will appear sometime next weekend.

So, I got a temporary registration from the DMV on Tuesday, and we decided we would take the bus for a short test drive up to Bar Harbor, ME. We packed enough stuff for a couple days, and set out, puttering along on veggie oil. Everything worked great, smelled great, and the veggie was transferring from the bulk to the day tank faster than ever. We’d never tried running the refinery after running the bus for a long time, but that heat really makes the difference.

Mark and I set out from my house, and went to pick up the other two crew members who would be accompanying us on this quick trip. We grabbed Ali, and then Dan, and then set off for Cheney Tech to drop by and see Joe, and make a few last minute adjustments. Joe, Ali and Dan had a quick jam session in the back of the bus, and then we set off North, following bicycle directions, since the route would be a little more scenic. Driving on back roads proved to be really nice, but the routes weren’t very well marked and we had to default on the highway after we ended up making a huge circle.

When we were well into Massachusetts, Mark was driving (and enjoying the hell out of it) when the engine suddenly lost power. Switching back to diesel still would not get the engine to fire, so we coasted off the next exit ramp and pulled over on the shoulder. I should mention that this specific section we stopped on was on a bridge, and the bus took up the entire shoulder. We quickly figured out that the veggie fuel pump had failed, and we tried to get it started a few more times on diesel. No dice.

We called AAA, and got a wrecker sent out to tow us somewhere where we could fiddle with the engine without getting slammed by oncoming traffic. After playing around with it for a little while, things seemed less and less hopeful. As it got darker and the engine cooled, the veggie oil left in the engine got thicker and thicker, and our odds of getting it started dropped dramatically. After nearly killing our battery, and trying to start with a jump from the wrecker, we threw in the towel. We were towed back to the garage, to await a tow to CT in the AM. After a few more unsuccessful tries, we left the batteries charging overnight.


Ali and Dan met some really cool people on this trip, but most of my time was spent with the bus, so maybe they’ll be able to tell you about them.

In the morning, Mark walked outside to check the batteries, and saw they were fully charged. “Let’s see what kind of day today will be,” and then he turned the key. It cranked for a little while, and just before he was about to let up we heard a spark of life in the engine. Hope renewed, we gave it a moment to cool down and charge up, and tried it again, reving it a little thing time. Slowly but surely, it started up, and after a good rev, the engine was clear and back on diesel. We drove the bus back to Cheney in the morning under its own power, and arrived just in time for morning announcements.

I’m pleased to report that this afternoon we got a new pump, and modified our veggie system so we won’t overheat the pump again. It runs beautifully on veggie once again, and will be in for another test next week. Stay tuned…



2009/05/14, originally uploaded by somjuan.

So the benches are coming along nicely, and the framing is just about complete. At this rate, it looks like we’ll be able to get most of the construction done by Sunday (though we’ll need a little more time for painting and finishing.