On the 13th of March, 2017, everything changed. I won. I bid and I won my dream bus. Going into this bus buying thing, I had specific requirements. With the intentions of converting it into a tiny house dream home, that would immediately scour the states for our upcoming home and coffee shop, I had 3 possible motor and transmission combos. At the top of the wish list the Cummings 8.3L 24 valve engine with an Allison MD3060 transmission stood alone. KING, with no challengers that dare. That transmission is an electronic 5 speed with the ability to unlock the 6th gear, with a letter from Allison approving it. This power combo is rare to come by in a school bus. Most schools have no need for that type of power on local bus routes. Whenever you do come across them, they're always listed at a dealer for $25k-$40k. Worth it, if you can afford it and that’s what you need for your road plan, but FUCK that's a hefty price for most of us. I decided on the second best option in my opinion. That would be a Thomas bodies bus with a caterpillar 3126 engine and the Allison trans. I think that set up might well be the best bang for the buck and my overall budget doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. BUT I needed a powerful motor and transmission that could tackle anything if I was going to navigate mountain roads with Kayley and my dog, OG.
For 6 months I watched auctions. I took note of selling prices and began to make contacts in the skoolie community. I didn't know anything. Just that this idea, living in a converted school bus and traveling to rediscover passion was an attainable goal. My friend Mike in NC, proved to be exceptionally helpful in teaching me all about buses and their powerings, how to spot good buses from bad ones, and sent me tons of videos he made explaining things to me featuring his own Thomas school bus (cleanest one out there [till mine] sorry Mikey ;). The skoolie community has proven to be rather special. Mike, dinner is on me when I make it to NC sir.
Days, turn into weeks and then months and finally I have a pretty good grasp at what is a good deal on a decent bus. On March 3rd I came across the perfect bus. I watched it for 2 weeks and then, then auction day arrived and I wanted it. I bid early and often on that Thomas with the Cat3126 and MD3060. Best part? It was about to go for cheap! I was ahead at $1,825 with 3 minutes left when the counter bids stopped coming in. I couldn't believe my gleaming green eyes and then with seconds left I was outbid. I panicked, anxiouslyI mistyped and lost the auction for my first near perfect bus for $1,850. Devastation set in immediately.
I’ve been planning this conversion and road trip since April 2016 and it felt as if time was getting away from me. I was still waiting on my insurance settlement for the whole broken spine thing and well, I just couldn’t keep waiting, not at under 2k! Big breathe.. I lost that one.
Just as quickly as the devastation set in, a 2001 Blue Bird All American got listed in Oregon. This, this bus is the elite of the elite. Top of it’s class and I assumed it would sell for 10k even at an auction site. None the less, I watched a few opening bids. There it sat somewhere just over $2k. I scraped together every cent I had. $13,845.34was in the bank. I calculated how much I could realistically afford to spend on a bus before receiving any settlement money. I went back and forth regarding what felt responsible, but this bus was THE dream and if I waited for my check I may end up paying 30k for this set-up. That just seemed outrageously silly to me. I’m not getting rich, just a helping hand. Besides if I am being serious about this dream then I need to sacrifice for it and put myself out there like I have gambled countless times before.
With 4 hours left I was winning the auction for $4,150 and I was elated. Could I get this bus for under $5k I thought. No. Can't. Maybe. This is killing me. I'm pacing and rocking back and forth whenever I talk myself into the chair in front of the laptop. The bidding war started between myself and one other guy. My $4k suddenly turned to $6k and I had to revaluate what I was doing. I limited myself to $6,500 , that was the most I could spend on this bus at this time. I bid it. It got outbid almost immediately. FUCK! Fine, just a little more. I took the top again at $6,750 and set my proxy bid (automatic bid if outbid) at $7,200. I couldn’t possibly afford more responsibly. If I got beat, I got beat and I prepared for tears. BUT not today, today I win. I remained the the top bidder: $6,950 plus auction and wire transfer fees; I stole this fucking bus at $7,675. At least that’s what I tell myself, I’m sure plenty would disagree as the wealth of buses out there is astonishing. I did though, I pulled the trigger and I paid $7,675 for a go at my dream. Seems pretty reasonable when I write it down like that. I was taking the first major step and I was investing in the type of future that I wanted to have. An unconventional one by most, but intensely logical to me.
I love being uncomfortable. If I feel calm then I must be missing something because there is always something that needs attention. I choose not to ignore but rather attack any issues on the horizon big or small immediately. The best offense is a good defense but the opposite is also true. Why wait for things to occur to you or over you, when you can take the initiative and grasp at what you want the outcome to be?
It's the 16th of March, Kayley and I are on a spirit airlines flight to Portland Oregon. Money is tight and we’re saving it where we can. After buying the bus, getting insurance for the bus and storage reserved back in LA the account is reading a sizzling $4,083.51, but I refuse to stress. Tonight we land in Portland, rent a car, and check into our Airbnb studio. Tomorrow we wake up and drive two hours to Springfield, Oregon and pick up our future home. THEN THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. Actually, that's not true. Kayley our adventure began in August 2016. Thanks for being my co-pilot. I love you infinitely.