Okie Nomads: An Introduction to the Bus

January 07, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I have spent most of my adult life been coached like most members of my generation to find a good job, buy a house, and drive a nice car. I accomplished most of that by the time I was 25. I checked off a lot of these "accomplishments" by taking a couple of jobs that I didn't really have a passion for, taking on an "acceptable" amount of debt, and spending a lot of my free time working. Along the way, something has been itching at me. I felt that I was following along this plan that had been set in front of me to sacrifice my quality of life now so that I could afford things that I don't really need and that I can maybe retire by the time I am 70, then I can really start living. No thank you. I would rather make moves now to be happier, less environmentally burdensome, and require less to know more. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said it best, "The more you know, the less you need."

In the back of my brain the idea of living a simpler and more nomadic life appealed to me for many reasons. In that time I experienced a lot of life: I figured out what some of my passions are, that how I treat people should be of the highest priority, and that I am most satisfied when I follow my dreams and make them reality. So I did, I bought a bus. 

Not only did I (we) buy a bus, but I found someone else that had fantasized over the nomadic lifestyle for as long as I had. After seven years of living in Tahlequah, I met my future travel partner. Her travels took her to working at Ski Resorts in Colorado, bike shops in Alaska, and even a bicycle tour down the West Coast. She is impressive, intelligent, and even more excited about the bus than I am. Without further delay, the bus.

The Bus

We shopped for several months for the right vehicle. We bounced around between 80's conversion vans, sprinters with too many miles, and school buses. The criteria for our vehicle were as follows:

  1. TALL. I needed to be able to stand somewhat comfortably in the vehicle. This practically eliminated anything that wasn't a bus, sprinter, or high top. 
  2. CHEAP. This entire process has been centered around a modest budget. We could have worked until we were 60, retired and bought a $100,000 Sportsmobile and camped in every state park until we died, but that wasn't the point of this vehicle. We needed to pick something up for $4000 or less.
  3. EFFICIENT. Both of us are used to 30+MPG cars that can get us to most any trailhead or river and do it in style, so efficiency was important. Obviously a van/bus won't get that kind of mileage, but 10-15 MPG was expected. More than likely this meant we were shopping for a diesel. 

We found what we were looking for less than 30 miles from our town. A local church was upgrading and posted a craigslist ad that we found online after looking at a really sad bus a few miles away. We test drove the bus and returned home to research the motor and model of bus. The bus checked out for the most part with the exception of a missing rear air conditioner and a saggy floor. We drove away with a bus that fit our needs and our budget. Here are the craigslist images of our bus.


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The bus is a 2000 Chevy 4-window with a 6.5L Detroit diesel with 107,000 miles on it. The bus was ordered and owned by one school district for it's entire life. Registration and insurance wasn't as difficult as I expected it to be. Insurance is affordable and cheaper than any vehicle I have ever owned. By mid-November 2016, the bus was tagged, titled, and ready to be built to our desired specifications. The initial design looks something like this:

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The build plan includes the following key features:

-Plenty of storage

-Queen-sized bed platform

-300 watt solar system

-Bike storage on the back of the bus (think roof rack mounted vertically)

-On board fresh and gray water tanks

-Hardwood floors

We are looking forward to tearing the bus down and getting our hands dirty with the build. If you want to follow along step by step, here are a few ways:

-Follow us on Instagram.

-Follow us on Skoolie.

-Stay tuned for videos posted to our YouTube page.

Thanks for reading and as always comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcome!



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