09 Sep 5 Crucial Things to Know Before Your First Skoolie Adventure
Is your family ready to camp for the first time in a converted school bus? Maybe your bus is your tiny home and this is your first adventure. Either way, don’t push that air brake until you know these 5 Crucial Things before your first bus trip.
Get To Know Your Bus
I don’t mean know her like a one night stand. I mean get to know your bus like you know every inch of her beautiful body.
Know her measurements, know how to take care of mechanical issues, know how she rides, know how much money it is going to cost you to keep her up and know how to empty her tanks.
Here are 5 Things to Know Before Your First Bus Trip
#1 – Measurements
One of the first things you will want to know before your first bus trip is the bus measurements.
Crawl on top of the bus and measure from the highest point to the ground. Write this down on a index card and tape it where the driver can see it at all times.
Next, get under the bus and measure from the lowest point that hangs down to the ground. Add this to your card.
Finally, measure from side to side. Write down the width of your bus on your “Bus Information Card”.
Now, let me tell you why knowing these things are so important.
- In the event you cause damage to an object – say a bridge, convenience store, or an airport, the responsibility will rest in your wallet.
- If there is no damage structurally, you may be like us and damage your pride.
Bear with me for just a minute while I tell you our most embarrassing moment in our bus so far.
We were on Katie’s Make A Wish trip traveling to Florida. Before arriving at Give Kids the World, we had to pick up our rental van. Keep in mind that neither Jeff nor I enjoy flying. Therefore, we do not frequent airports. Our first time going to the airport, in our bus, will be one we remember for a long time.
I was watching for the signs for where to pick up the rental van. (I really think that there should be signs 2 miles back that say which lane to get into.) Suddenly, we see a sign about 500 yards from where we were suppose to turn that read, “RV, Buses, Large Vehicles exit left.”
Well, we couldn’t get over without taking out the little Prius that was speeding around us on the left. We could tell the driver knew which lane he was suppose to be in!
Just as I looked up Jeff drove into the airport toward the car rentals. ‘Thank goodness,’ was my first thought!
Until….. straight in front of us was a sign reading “Clearance 7 foot”.
Oh MY!! Yep!
“STUCK like a hair in a cheese biscuit!” – Jeff
The Orlando International Airport just became our resting spot as we listened to the sounds of car horns behind us. We were to embarrassed to move. Just then, Jeff noticed a security guard standing to the right. Jeff exited the bus shaking his head, because we all know this was now MY FAULT (even though I was not driving). The gentleman let us know that this happens several times a day. Well, that didn’t make us feel any better.
While Jeff waited over an hour on 3 security guards to back up traffic, stop traffic in two places and help Jeff back the bus out, and enter the “Bus Parking” lot, I set off to go get the rental van. Let’s just say after this event, not only will we KNOW our bus but we will also KNOW which road we are suppose to take.
Check out this unforgettable moment below.
The second issue you need to be sure you know before your first bus trip is the minor mechanics on your bus. How old are the tires? Are the batteries going to need replacing any time soon? Do you know how to check the fluids in your bus? When was the last tune-up? Is any part of your bus under warranty? Make sure you have a folder with all your warranties near the door.
Here is why these are important
- If a tire blows out going down the road, it can be dangerous.
- When you know how to take care of minor mechanics it saves you expensive repairs and having to call roadside assistance.
If you know how to take care of some minor repairs you will have more cash available for fun. It’s not fun sitting on the side of the road waiting for assistance. Jeff made this crucial mistake this past spring. He was on the way to deliver a bus we just sold when, not 2 miles from our house, the bus blew a tire.
Roadside assistance and a new tire just set us back six hundred plus dollars and 2 1/2 hours behind schedule.
Did you know that your tires have a date printed on them? If we had known the date on the tire (1989), we would have replaced it before departure day.
Don’t make this crucial mistake!
Know your tire size and date before your first trip. Write this information down on the card with your measurements.
In addition to the tires, know the size of your batteries and when they were installed. Do you know how to check the oil, where to add antifreeze or do you know a place that you can get this done before leaving out in your bus? Find out this information and reduce surprises to your wallet.
When you jump into the seat of your bus, you very quickly realize that you are not in your pickup or the minivan. Heck, you’re not even in the SUV. Driving your bus safely may take some getting used to; not only because of the size but because of the bumpy ride. How does your bus ride?
Remember the song, “The Wheels on the Bus”? There is a reason one line is, “The children on the bus go up and down, up and down.”
This leads to me the third crucial item to know before your first bus trip. Your ride may be bumpy, so secure your belongings. Make sure all your cabinet doors can not come open. Secure your microwave or you will have to buy a new one at the first Walmart. Do not leave anything sitting on your counter that could fall off while traveling.
On our first trip in a Skoolie, we thought we had everything secured. I ran through my checklist and was quite proud of myself. All of our items were tucked safely away and the bus was neat and tidy as we secured the children in their seats. We said our good-byes to friends and set out in our new tiny home.
About 15 minutes into the trip Jeff took a sharp curve and …
Our refrigerator door flew open, and my coveted gallon of tea was now all over the bus floor. Not only was I aggravated that I had a mess to clean up but MY SWEET TEA was gone! If you only knew how much I love sweet tea!!
No one told me that we should get some locks for our refrigerator and freezer. Consider yourself told.
Secure everything to avoid a mess!
Oh and one other important tip – don’t let a child complete this task. This mistake is why we had to buy a microwave just last month.
The fourth crucial thing that you need to know before your first bus trip and probably the most important is how much money you will need for minor repairs.
If you start out with new tires, new batteries, a recent tune-up and a budget, you will have less stress during your first trip. Believe me when I say that you will spend more money on your first trip. You will eat out more, tour more attractions and want to enjoy your new found freedom. Having a budget written down and putting money back every so often will relieve some frustrations when an unexpected expense arrives.
My final crucial tip that you need to know before your first bus trip is routine maintenance.
We all know, “What goes in must come out!” Just like this applies to you, it applies to your bus tanks. It’s not a pleasant job but it doesn’t have to be embarrassing. Heck, it actually isn’t even messy if you know how to empty the tanks correctly.
Do you know how to empty your bus tanks? How do you level your bus? Do you know how to work your propane stove and your generator? Do you know how to turn on your water pump and hot water heater?
Why is knowing all of this important?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not crazy about walking up to a neighboring campsite and having to ask for help. Looking like an inexperienced idiot is not how I like to start out my full-time tiny house adventure.
Now, don’t get me wrong… Everybody has to learn. My suggestion is to learn these thing BEFORE your first trip.
I would include a funny story with this tip, but this post is getting kinda long. Check back next week and read 4 Must Know Maintenance Tasks.
So, you think you are ready to put the bus in drive and head out for adventure? If you read this far you know that it is crucial to KNOW your bus intimately! How well do you know your bus?