What is the Big Blue Bus Tour?
Our Travels 2013 – 2014
We’re a family of six having the most amazing adventure of our lives! In July of 2013 my husband, Jake, took a 6 month sabbatical from work while he transitioned from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Air National Guard. With six months off, we decided that rather than twiddle our thumbs waiting for time to pass, we’d hit the road. We bought a old school bus and customized it for full time living!
Our bus is a rockstar! We purchased it on Ebay and it was already painted a gorgeous blue and was in tip top mechanical shape. It had 137,000 miles and still has lots of life left. The bus cost $8300 and we think we got the better end of that bargain! Jake and our sons did the interior work of removing the seats and building bunks, storage, benches, etc in ONE WEEK! We were on a tight time crunch and that was all the time we had. We drove 5000 miles from Florida to Alaska and boondocked the whole way! Boondocking is when you overnight in parking lots and rest areas rather than a campsite. We got used to brushing our teeth in a Walmart parking lot!Some of our favorite experiences were driving through Canada enjoying the magnificent vistas. The bus doesn’t drive too fast and we’re perched up high and can see for miles. In fact, our most favorite night of all was in Canada while boondocking on the side of the highway!
We were blessed to spend a month visiting and touring Alaska (which is home to us). While there we also painted the interior and finished the upholstery. We drove south to Seward and north to Talkeetna and spent a week on Kodiak Island! We had to bypass Denali and Fairbanks due to early snow in the passes.Soon enough it was time to leave Alaska. We had planned to drive from Anchorage to Seattle, but because of the afore mentioned snow we opted to ship our bus! That’s right!! We shipped it from the port of Anchorage to the port of Seattle! It was tucked in the belly of a large ship and made it safely with no incident. In case you are wondering, it costs about $4000 to ship a bus from Anchorage to Seattle.
We spent October, November, and December exploring Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. What an experience! Much of our time was spent on the Pacific Coast and I would head back there in a heart beat. If you haven’t had a chance to drive Highway 101 through Oregon and California, put it on your to-do list!
As a photographer I was thrilled to be able to stop along our route and capture family photo sessions as well as teach photography workshops! It was a dream come true to meet so many amazing families and pursue my dream of teaching. You can learn more about my photography workshops (which are now offered online!) here.
In the craziest turn of events we spent Christmas in Houston, Texas with a family we didn’t know very well, but who has since become like family to us. That was definitely a tender mercy from our Heavenly Father. In fact, our whole adventure has been filled with tender mercies that we are so thankful for!
We had anticipated that The Big Blue Bus Tour would be ending by February 2014 and Jake would start his new job with the Air National Guard. However, as so often happens, The Lord had other plans for us. It turns out that the military needed an additional six months in order to process the paperwork and to get Jake a training date. When we heard the news that we would continue to be unemployed (or on sabbatical) for another six months we were a bit overwhelmed and nervous about what would happen.
Rather than continue to move around, we opted to stay in Texas for a few months. Our friends have a vacant house near San Antonio that they graciously offered to us as a soft place to land. It was perfect timing as at the exact same time the bus decided that after 12,000 miles in six months, it needed some maintenance! While we’ve been here Jake has been working and doing day labor for our friend. It has turned out to be a blessing for all of us.
In March we had the chance to take three and a half weeks and finish the loop! We drove to Florida where the whole thing started. Within 8 months we circled the U.S. and Canada (we even managed a stop in Mexico while we were visiting Arizona!) and drove over 15,000 miles! Whew!!
So, that’s where we are. Jake is now working on putting the bus back together after taking it all apart. We expect to take it out for a few weekend adventures as well as possibly a month of travel before Jake starts his new job at the end of summer. Never a family to stay still too long, our next visit will be to Utah for a couple weeks this month. We won’t be able to take the bus, but we’re looking forward to it none the less.
About The Earles:
Our family consists of me (Amy), my husband Jake, and our 4 children. I’m a photographer and Jake is a pilot in the military and has years of experience in home building and construction. He’s a handy guy to have around! We’ve been homeschooling our children for 8 years and it’s been perfect for our family!
Jacob is our oldest. He’s 18 and in February he left to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He’ll be in The Czech Republic for the next two years! I’m so glad we got to have this epic adventure with him before he left! Josh is almost 14 and Sam is 11. Our little Miss B will be 5 in June! Jake and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year! Family means everything to us and given the opportunity we’d choose crazy adventure over predictable life any day.
The Big Blue Bus Tour has been incredible! We’re not sure what lies ahead, but we invite you to follow along! You can follow us on Instagram @simplybphotos and on Facebook. Stop by and see what we are up to and be sure to leave a comment and let us know you are following along!