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Author Topic: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed  (Read 26996 times)

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #30 on: January 26, 2010, 02:29:18 PM »
wow, no update since august.

Let's see... last we saw, I had pressure washed the interior of the bus, and left the windows down prior to trying to remove them, with plans to remove the floor.

september...

october...

november...

december...

january...

The bus still sits there, with the pressure washer still inside, windows still down, leaves everywhere.

RL got in the way for a while there. Also, we've had some bad weather, and pretty much non stop wind.

This spring, I really want to get the roof raise done. However, I have serious reservations about accomplishing that with the near constant wind we have around here. I have a vision of doing the final cut, and a gust of wind picking up the roof and flipping it over on top of all the cars...

Right now, I'm shopping around for an inexpensive garage to be able to get the bus inside to work on it. Ideally, said garage would include attached living quarters, so I could just move there and work on it without having to schedule the work. I have a line on a place that might not open up until june or july for a decent price, but I want to get started prior to then.

Anyway, still refining the plan in my head and on paper, and just trying to work out logistics. Also trying to find a new (to me) commuter vehicle by the end of feb.

so, I'll post more as there is more to post...

jim

PS, the engagement ended, taking with it a bit of financial drain, making the budget for the conversion get back on track.

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #31 on: March 13, 2010, 06:35:38 PM »
So we've had a lot of snow (blizzards even) here this winter, and now we're getting tons of rain. This has been an unusually wet winter, and most of the roads have standing water. The ground is beyond saturated.

During the blizzards, we started to store trash (in bags) in my bus. We also did some major housecleaning, and that went into the bus as well. Today, when the rain stopped and the sun came out, we decided to haul off the trash, and since the gas station and the trash transfer station are across the street from each other, I decided to take the opportunity to fill up the tank.

Before I could move the main bus out of the yard though, I had to get the shed bus (the stowaway) out of the way. I had mom drive it so she could get some experience with it. Well, about 10 feet from it's final parking spot, the left rear wheels sunk into mud, and we lost all traction. It sits there now, with the wheel sunk into the mud, waiting for a dry day to get moving again.

pictures: shed bus stuck in the mud

Now some of you might see where this story is heading already. I admit it is tragically funny.

Our driveway is carved into the ground quite a bit due to years of people driving in and out. It is also a bit narrow. Getting the bus in and out of the driveway has been a chore in the past, and I decided to try going out differently this trip. I didn't swing quite wide enough, and took out the mailbox. That's the second time in a month the mailbox got taken out, once by the snow plow. So, after killing the mailbox, I figure we've had our excitement for the day.

After getting onto the street, I started to worry, as I couldn't seem to get the bus up to 2nd gear, and it finally did it when the engine got around 2200rpm. Then, it didn't seem to want to hit 3rd. It took me a while to get the bus all the way up to 4th gear and lockup. After that though, it seemed to be smooth driving. I think I need a front end alignment unfortunately. I got up to 55mph, at 2500rpm, with only a small amount of diesel smoking. The ride was fairly smooth (for a mostly empty bus). Getting into and out of the transfer station was fairly easy. Unloading all the trash was also easy.

As luck would have it, the gas station was mostly empty, so it was trivial to swing in and get pulled up to a pump. Unlike when I took my trip from GA to VA in the bus, the diesel pump at this station had a really nice automatic shutoff when the tank was close to full. I put 20 gallons of fuel into my bus in less time than it takes to put 10 gallons into my little corolla. I really like that fuel pump.   

As I tried to figure the best way back home from the fuel station, I realized it would be all left turns, with no spots really adequate for swinging such a large vehicle around. So, I took a right, and took the long way home. This gave me an opportunity to run up to 55mph for a while on several different roads, and to get a feel for her again. It was enjoyable.

Then, I arrived at home. Here's where the fun really began.

I missed the mailbox this time. I swung wide, but not quite wide enough... The left front wheel went up over the ditch bank on the far side of the driveway, but I should have gone another 3 feet out. The right rear wheels ended up coming into the shallow part of the ditch before hitting the right side ditch bank... And the storage box is on the right side. The storage box dug into the ditch bank, then the wheels started spinning on that side. You can't hear that from inside the bus like you can in a car.

Mom got out and looked to see what the problem was. She says the storage box was barely touching the ground. I sent her to get the 4x4 (5000 pound vehicle... but all we had to try with), while I sat there trying to think of a better answer. By the time she got the 4x4 pulled up in front of the bus, the bus had sunk into the mud up to the axle, and the box was definitely in the ground.

pictures: main bus stuck in the mud

We used the 4x4 to go down to the neighbor's house, and got them to bring their small tractor (not small, just the smallest one they have), and they pulled me out of the mud. I don't have pictures of that, as I was operating the bus at the time.

After he got me unstuck, we talked for a bit about the situation, and I asked him what he would recommend for us to do to get the driveway widened at the end and shaped properly for decent ingress/egress. He said legally we are supposed to get the state to do it, but that it takes many months to get them to do anything, and costs a lot, and even then, it won't be how you want it. He then offered to do the work for us, as well as install a 21' culvert, and make sure everything would drain properly. So, when the area dries out, he'll be fixing our driveway for us.

All in all, it has been an interesting day.

I have to say, I definitely liked getting the bus moving again. It's been too long. I definitely need some new tires on the back. I think if the right rear tires weren't pretty much slick, I might not have gotten stuck, as I probably could have kept moving enough. I also learned that hydroplaning isn't a concern in a big bus. I had to hit a large area of flooding faster than I would have liked, and the water just parted (leaving a huge wake) and the bus just drove right on.

Anyway, I'm hoping that in mid april to early may I'll be able to do the roof raise. I can't wait. Then I can fix my clearance lights, and actually be mostly legal on the road.

Anyway, I'll post more if I ever make any progress.
jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #32 on: April 09, 2010, 12:04:56 PM »
I just realized my picture links didn't paste correctly.  Oops.

shed bus stuck in mud: http://gallery.giffords.net/v/shedbus/stuckinmud/

main bus stuck in mud: http://gallery.giffords.net/v/thomas/stuckinmud/

Sorry,
jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #33 on: April 09, 2010, 12:16:42 PM »
In just over a week, I will be starting on the roof raise on my bus.  I'm taking a week off of work to focus on this project.  Everything else on the bus conversion is waiting for the roof raise, and I'll finally get to work on that roadblock.

The basic construction method of a school bus is that there are a bunch of tubular "bows" or ribs that run from one side of the body to the other, up through the window pillars and back down the other side.  On a Thomas built bus, the ceiling is constructed with steel panels that over lap at each rib.  The exterior is similar, with a slight difference (which I can't remember off the top of my head).

My plan is to remove all the windows down each side, as well as the inner and outer skin panels for the front most and rear most sections, causing the main strip of the roof to be separated from the front and rear caps of the bus.  I will then secure a set of 4 jacks at the four corner ribs of the remaining section, making sure it can't come apart.  I will then use a cutting blade to separate the top section from the bottom section with a cut made within the window pillar region of the ribs on each side.  The jacks will then be carrying all the weight of the ceiling.

I will jack the roof up being careful at every step.  Once the desired height is attained, I will insert steel tubing in 4 of the window pillars and tack weld them in place.  I will then work on making sure that everything remains square and plumb and true, and once that is verified, I'll tack weld in steel tubes in all the other window pillars.  I will then go back and weld up the seams that are left after the tack welds.  Once I'm certain I have enough support from the new steel tubes, I'll carefully unload the weight from the jacks, and remove them.

I plan to put in some Z bracing between the window pillars.  I want to maintain structural integrity, and this will be the most cost effective way to do so.

Eventually, I will re-skin the outside, and mount windows, etc.  That will be planned for during the week that I'm off, and I hope to be able to finalize the floor plan and know where the windows will end up being by that time.

I will eventually also have to deal with re-attaching the front and rear caps to the roof proper.  I plan to do a sculpted front so that I'm not stuck with a huge wall up front, but I want to maintain as much interior space as possible.  Basically, I want a less brick-like brick when I finish.  I haven't determined how I'll deal with the rear cap yet, but I have several ideas.  I will need to play it by ear as I go along.

I'll post as I make progress.

I really appreciate all the support I've had from everyone here.

jim

34footer

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #34 on: April 10, 2010, 09:15:00 AM »
Good luck with your project, one day I want to do a conversion. I wiil be following you along the way.
How doe's the gas bus perform compared to the DP?
J
1988 Pace Arrow, 34 feet, Chevy 454
                       So Cal

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #35 on: April 12, 2010, 10:45:23 AM »
Good luck with your project, one day I want to do a conversion. I wiil be following you along the way.
How doe's the gas bus perform compared to the DP?
J

Thanks.  I'm looking forward to finally getting moving on this project.

The gas powered bus is a smaller unit, and lower weight bus.  It has a manual transmission.  It has a 366ci throttle body injected engine known as a "tall block" engine.  It has plenty of torque, and a reasonable amount of horsepower, and is actually a little peppy (for such a large vehicle).  It isn't a speed demon by any stretch though.

The vehicle is governed at 55mph, and I haven't found the governor to disable it.  It has a shorter wheel base than the pusher, so is easier to turn, but the tail swings wider than the pusher does as it has a larger amount of body behind the rear wheels.  Driving/riding in the gasser is about what you remember from going to school... rough.  Think farm truck with slightly better suspension.

The pusher is slow and plodding to get up to speed, but tops out around 65mph.  It takes longer to get there, but can hold it for hours.  The ride is nice and gentle.

The gas bus, being lighter, is affected somewhat more by wind when driving it.  The pusher is a dream to drive in wind.  I can't speak about severe wind though.

Making turns while sitting in front of the turn wheels does take some getting used to, but after you do, it is wonderful.

The diesel is averaging 8.5mpg.  I don't think the gas does that well, but I haven't paid for any fuel for it yet, so I can't say for sure.  I basically siphoned out all the gas from the old RV tank and from the secondary tank on my old pickup truck I sold, and that's what is in the tank of the gas bus.  The diesel bus has a fresh tank of fuel, as well as a fuel stabilizer, and algicide, and some sea foam.

Having driven both, I'm very glad I decided on a pusher.  Next week before I start the roof raise, I'll be getting the bus weighed empty at the local farmer's market (for free).  Then I'll know how much wiggle room I have for my conversion and cargo.

jim

34footer

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #36 on: April 12, 2010, 11:20:27 AM »
If you were going to convert the gasser, would you need to raise the roof. (just wondering, I'm 6'3' tall)
J
1988 Pace Arrow, 34 feet, Chevy 454
                       So Cal

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #37 on: April 12, 2010, 11:29:58 AM »
If you were going to convert the gasser, would you need to raise the roof. (just wondering, I'm 6'3' tall)
J

You probably would.  I'm definitely raising the roof in my diesel.  The ceiling height (in both busses) is right around 6'0" or so in the center, and much lower at the sides.  After you add insulation, etc, you lose more.

A roof raise on a school bus isn't really all that bad from what I've read.  In a week or two, I should be able to relate my own experience with it.  There have been 3 or 4 really well documented roof raises on the skoolie.net forum, which all came out quite nicely.  And once you make the decision to raise the roof, 6" vs 36" is just a matter of scale.

hope this helps,
jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #38 on: April 20, 2010, 10:33:30 AM »
Friday, I got started early on the roof raise prep.

I removed 2 windows, and managed to get one of the window pillars fully exposed.  I need to put together a steel order, then go pick up the steel.  I've managed to have some fun with the angle grinder.  I did break one of the windows getting it out.  The window frames are aluminum, so I'll have a nice pile for the scrap yard.

Yesterday, I took the bus to the farmer's market to get it weighed.  It's 21,560 pounds, leaving me 11,720 pounds for the conversion and cargo.  I hope I can keep it under the limit.   ;D

I've also figured out the trick to getting the bus in and out of the driveway without casualties.  I didn't get it stuck, and no mailboxes were damaged.  woohoo.  It'll be easier once the mailbox has been moved and the driveway end widened, but until then, I can at least not cause more damage.

I hope to get the steel ordered today, and hopefully even get it picked up either today or early tomorrow.  I'm waiting for the truck to get out of the shop to see how much money is left in the roof raise budget, so I know how much of the steel I can get.

The weather is improving.  It's nice and sunny, temps in the 60s, with a very slight chill to the breeze.  Nearly perfect.

jim

34footer

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #39 on: April 20, 2010, 05:41:46 PM »
If I'm going to do a project like that I'd better take a welding class. Are your welding skills top notch?
J
1988 Pace Arrow, 34 feet, Chevy 454
                       So Cal

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #40 on: April 20, 2010, 05:51:31 PM »
If I'm going to do a project like that I'd better take a welding class. Are your welding skills top notch?
J

I'm learning on the fly.  My cousin has been taught how to weld and will be giving me pointers as I get started.

jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #41 on: April 26, 2010, 10:11:17 AM »
Unfortunately, no progress to report.  :(

My budget fell apart before I bought the steel.  So, I spent my vacation doing nothing, which was a refreshing change.

jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #42 on: May 21, 2010, 10:35:24 AM »
Exterior LED Lights have been ordered.

unleashed is missing some of the exterior lights that are required to make it legal to operate it on the road. Since those were incandescent lights, and my intention has been to replace them all eventually with LED lights, I finally broke down and figured out what I would need.

I decided to stick with simplicity. I'm only replacing existing lights with new lights in the same exact location as the original lighting. Sure, I could have taken the opportunity to try to improve on the aesthetics of the light layout on the rear. However, I finally decided to just stick with what was proven to be good, which was the original layout.

I ordered 4 red 4" round LED tail/stop lights, which will replace the existing 2 4" round and 2 7" round tail/stop lights.

I ordered 4 amber 4" round LED marker/turn lights, which will replace the 2 7" round marker/turn lights on the front, and the 2 on the rear.

I ordered 2 white 4" round LED reverse lights, to replace the 2 that were there previously.

I ordered a single unit 3 lamp LED clearance lamp fixture, a red for the rear, and an amber for the front.

I ordered 4 amber clearance lamps (2 outside edges at the front, and 2 at the midpoint), and 2 red clearance lamps (2 outside edges at the rear).

I also ordered 2 amber marker/turn signal lamps that go on the sides, above the front wheels, so that someone beside the bus can see when I activate my turn signals.

I'll be doing some minor rewiring as I install these, removing the wiring harness for these functions from the interior of the vehicle and relocating it under the vehicle. The midpoint clearance and marker/turn signal lamps will still be wired via the interior for now. Once the roof raise is complete, they will be rewired differently, but still within the shell walls somehow.

Hopefully the LED lights will arrive before Memorial day, so I'll have a fun project to do.

Jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #43 on: May 28, 2010, 09:54:52 AM »
The new LED lamps arrived Wednesday. I didn't realize when I ordered them that only the upper clearance lamps were surface mount. The rest of them are flush mount. This means I need to put some really big holes in metal.

I managed to get a 4.5" hole saw from Lowes for just under $45 w/tax. This should take care of the mounting flanges for the 4" LED lamps (stop/tail, turn, reverse).

The side turn signal lamps are 2" x 6" oval, and those holes will be a bit more fun to cut. However, I have a plan for that.

One thing though is that since the new lamps have to be flush mounted, some of them can't go into the original locations. So, it looks like I'll be redesigning the lamp layout on the rear of the bus after all.

Thursday I picked up a box of stainless steel sheet metal screws for mounting the various surface mount lamps. I also picked up a box of stainless steel bolts and stainless steel nylon lock nuts for mounting the flanges for the 4" lamps.

Dad and I tested some of the lamps Wednesday afternoon with a 12V power supply. I pity anyone riding behind that looks directly at one when it is on high (stop or turn). These things are really bright!

This weekend I hope to get many of the lamps mounted and hopefully even wired, weather permitting.

Jim

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #44 on: May 29, 2010, 08:18:49 PM »
Today, I installed the front turn signal lamps, and the rear turn signal, tail/brake, and reverse lamps, as well as the license plate illuminator.

It takes a lot of batteries and a lot of time to drill 10 4.5" diameter holes in the skin of a skoolie. That metal looks really thin, but it's much stronger than it looks. I ended up dulling my hole saw before I finished, and used a jig saw to make the last 2 holes, so they aren't perfectly round. Fortunately, the bezel covers them nicely.

A few minor issues remain. Firstly, I haven't installed the new wiring yet, so things are just tied into the original wiring. I forgot to tie in the license plate illuminator today. Also, the front turn signals can be parking lights, but I don't have the wiring to it yet.

The right front turn signal has a straight power connector, and I should have gotten a right angle one. It pushes against the air handler, so isn't mounted properly yet.

pics:

Front:
click for image

Rear:
click for image

Front turn signals lit:
click for image

Rear turn signals lit:
click for image

Rear brake lights lit:
click for image

Reverse lights lit:
click for image

Tomorrow I get to work on the upper clearance lamps, weather permitting. Oh joy.

Jim

Fixer58

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #45 on: June 16, 2010, 11:27:27 PM »
Exterior LED Lights have been ordered.



Jim

Jim,
How have you done with the inside?

Have you ever shopped with these guys?

www.led4rv.com

I had some good luck with them.

Fix

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #46 on: March 15, 2011, 05:55:37 PM »
With the weather warming finally, and the days getting longer, I can actually find some time to work on this project again.

Over the winter, I made the decision that this bus needs to be habitable by the end of the calendar year (dec 31, 2011), so that I can move to SC to be closer to my fiancee.  This decision was not made lightly, but was given a lot of thought and planning.

So, as of the end of this year, I'm quitting my job and becoming a fulltimer.  I plan to find a rv or mobile home park near her and whatever employment I can find and live there while continuing to finish the conversion.  While I'll probably be earning less money once moved, I'll be spending less of it on supporting a long distance relationship, so more should be available to finish the conversion.

Yes, eventually we'll actually hit the road.  I still hope to find a good source of income that fits me that will let me work from the road, and this move might make that easier.

So, with all that said.. progress!

This weekend, I got most of the junk moved back out of unleashed and into the stowaway (the storage bus).  The last two days after work I've managed to get 2 of the ceiling panels removed.  I've documented this in my blog in more detail.

My fiancee and I have been spending many hours per week for the past few months working on measurements and planning the details.  She has done some great work with sketchup modeling our plans in 3D, and helping us to see what will and won't work.

There are some parts of the conversion plan that aren't yet determined, and I'm not ready to discuss them much yet.  However, if they do work out, it'll turn out quite nicely.  I'm optimistic that it will work out though, and can't wait to share more details as I can.

I'll try not to spam this thread with daily "got another panel down" posts... that's what the blog is for.   ;D  However, I will try to post status updates more regularly.

Next week I'll be in SC, and we'll be touring some RV lots, looking for good parks for my move later in the year, and of course spending quality time together.  We'll also be refining the digital plans.

Thanks everyone for all the well wishes and encouragement I've gotten here.
jim

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #47 on: March 15, 2011, 06:12:28 PM »
Jim,

If your lady has never done any RVing, she needs to be aware of something for that modeling she's doing.  Just 0.25 of an inch can make putting stuff in cabinets a real hassle.  As many of us long-time RVers know, if you have to replace something like a toaster or a blender or even a type of canned good the new one may not fit.  Traveling to Canada, for example, generally presents pantry issues because their canned foods are in different sizes of cans - usually larger which means the same product doesn't fit into the allotted space.  What I'm getting at is that she needs to be sure the "must take with" items actually will fit into the cabinets she's designing.  Most fulltimers have the "buy new item, discard old item" rule so they don't get overrun with too much stuff, the collection of which can cause overweight issues for the RV.

 ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

baadpuppy

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #48 on: March 15, 2011, 06:37:51 PM »
Thank you Ardra, we will keep that in mind.

We haven't yet gotten down to the cabinet level of detail, but we're working on it.

jim

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #49 on: March 17, 2011, 07:00:42 PM »
Yay, another update!

Long story short, I have all the interior ceiling panels down.  Those sheets of steel can easily get away from you if you don't pay attention.

More information is in the blog post (link in signature).

I still have the final joint sections at the front and rear end caps, but they're fairly minor I think.

Then there's the insulation... I'll need some kind of protection before pulling that stuff down and bagging it for disposal.  It's in pretty good shape for 25+ year old insulation and steel.

jim

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Re: baadpuppy's schoolbus conversion... unleashed
« Reply #50 on: March 31, 2011, 10:12:22 AM »
Ah, another lack of progress...

Towards the end of February, I did some work in the drop ceiling space at work over the course of 3 days, and on the 3rd day came down with something that I thought was a cold or flu. I was sick for 6 days total, with fever, cough, congestion, aches, etc. After returning to work, I had a lingering cough that was annoying, but didn't seem to cause much problem.

The week before my vacation, I started having difficulty breathing and the coughing got a bit worse. This was during the time I was taking down the interior panels, so I just chalked it up to irritation from that.

During the week of my vacation, it got worse. I took cough suppression medicine the whole week, and munched on halls, and it kept me going.

Monday of this week, I finally gave in and went to the doctor. He believes I got into something in the ceiling at work (not surprising really), and that that is what triggered my bronchitis. So this week, I've been on some serious antibiotics and other drugs to help get my breathing back to normal. So far, things seem to be getting better.

I want to get as cleared up as possible before I attack the insulation, and I'll definitely be using lots of protection.

I poked my head in the bus the other night, and saw many of the pieces of insulation had already fallen on their own. I suspect if I just keep out for a while, it'll all eventually fall... however, that doesn't fit my schedule.

I must have this bus habitable by the end of the calendar year. I intend to be living within it by then. The plan we've come up with is aggressive and grand, and will take a lot of time and money to complete. I need to stay focused on this project. I definitely need to make sure I don't impede my progress by neglecting my health.

Anyway, there'll be more progress reported as soon as I have any to report. Or something like that.

jim

 

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