Simply b Photos » The Big Blue Bus Tour

FAQ | The Big Blue Bus Tour

See pictures of our bus here.
See a video of our family on the bus here.

1. Why are you doing this?

Jake is switching jobs and we have 6 months of down time while the transition occurs. We had to do something. Why not something life changing? You can read more about the actual decision to buy a bus to live in here.

2. How can you afford to do this?

Initially having Jake take six months off work seemed daunting. How could we make that work? We knew that we couldn’t continue our lifestyle in Florida for six months without income and so we had to do something different. We looked at dozens of options before settling on The Big Blue Bus Tour.

We’ve streamlined our monthly bills, paid off most our debt with the sale of our house. Our biggest expenses now are the payment on our minivan, our cell/internet service, LAUNDRY, and of course food for our giant sons.

We are using our savings and have a limited amount of funds. It’s meager and we’re making it stretch as best we can. I’m also supplementing our savings with photography sessions along our route – which helps. Want to book a session?;)Email me!

Each day we look for ways to save money. For dinner last night we ate Cup O’Noodles. Dinner for all of us for $1.80. We look for activities that don’t cost a lot of money, while still having fun. Perusing Pike’s Place Market in Seattle is the perfect example. We had such a great time and it cost nothing except parking!

We bought a Thousand Trails pass, which allows us to stay for no/low cost at certain RV parks along our route. That is a huge blessing and will help immensely with stretching our monthly budget. When we can’t utilize that, we’ll boondock (stay in parking lots) or stay at state parks which are more economical than RV parks – though we may not have electricity or showers when we stay there.

It’s a stretch and we are absolutely concerned about the money aspect. There are so many “what ifs”. What if Jake’s job takes longer than we thought to work out – especially in light of this government shut down? Believe me, we have lots to worry about. But in the end, we decided it was worth it. Our savings will be gone by the end of our adventure, but we’ll have done something that was worth every penny and every moment.

Someone wrote on our Facebook page recently: “Your Bus Tour will be one of the top 5 Best-Decisions-You-Ever-Made over the course of your life, Guaranteed.” I believe it.

3. How is life on the bus?

It’s awesome. Really. It’s been 10 days since we started this new leg of our adventure here in Northwest Washington and other than Miss B getting sick, it’s been smooth sailing. Our systems are pretty much in place, which makes life much easier.

4. What do you mean by “systems”?

I mean our routines. The things we do on a regular basis and everyone knows just what to do. We have morning routine and evening routine. We have routines for setting up camp and for breaking camp. Everyone has responsibilities and knows just what to do.

5. What is your routine like?

We’ve been so busy that it varies each day. But there are some things that we do regularly. Our morning routine is a family affair and ideally looks like this:

a. Wake the dead (aka Josh and Sam).

b. Workout. Go for a walk, jog, etc. Hopefully we’ll get our bikes back soon and can go on family bike rides!

c. Make beds. To most efficiently make Jake and I’s bed, someone has to go outside, open the back emergency exit door and help from that side.

d. Shake out the rugs and sweep the floor.

e. Put away clothes, books, dishes, etc. that may have been left out from the night before.

f. Breakfast.

g. Shower and get dressed.

h. Morning devotional and scripture study.

It’s simple and quick and involves more arguing and fighting than it should. My boys can argue about anything. ANYTHING.

6. Do you have a bathroom?

No. We have a wag bag toilet for Miss B and a pee jug the boys can use at night. Other than that, we use public toilets.

7. Do you have running water?

No. Though, it’s not as bad as you would think. In fact, it’s not too hard at all. Every place we have stayed has had a bathhouse that we’ve been able to use. We’re learning the tricks of using public showers.

A. ALWAYS wear shoes. ALWAYS. NO EXCEPTIONS. We wear crocs or flipflops while in the shower.
B. Get in, get out. Make it quick, you never know how much warm water you will have. And in some facilities, we are paying by the minute so the art of the 3 minute shower is being perfected.
C. Get dressed quickly. It’s public shower: there is no privacy. Get over it.

In the kitchen we have gallon jugs of water for drinking and for preparing food. We purchased an electric kettle that heats water for cooking and cleaning. It works like a charm. (Thanks to my Aunt Arlene for the suggestion!) We still use lots of wipes and hand sanitizer.

8. How do you prepare meals?

Our kitchen is stocked with a cooler that plugs in. It does a good job keeping our food cool, though it doesn’t fit very much. We keep milk, juice, cheese, yogurt, fruit, condiments, etc. on hand.

Along with the electric kettle which heats up water for hot chocolate and oatmeal, we have a skillet that works perfectly for grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, soup, pancakes, eggs… pretty much anything we would need a stovetop for. We also brought our crockpot but haven’t used it yet, though I imagine it won’t be long before we do. For family night we were sure to bring our popcorn popper!

So far we have everything we need. We have to shop every couple of days for the fresh stuff, but we don’t mind.

9. Do you have electricity on the bus?

No. Though we do have a generator that we can run if we need it. We’ll use it while we are driving to charge cell phones, computers, camera batteries, etc.

When we arrive into a camp site, we have extension cords that we feed though a window (or two) of the bus. We’ll use those to plug in our space heater, my big computer, and anything else we need electricity for. So far it’s been pretty simple, though we haven’t had a lot of rain.

10. When did you get your minivan? Are you towing it?

Jake went last week to Sacramento to pick up our van. Before that we relied solely on the Big Blue Bus to get us around. Now when we are traveling from town to town, Jacob and Josh drive behind the Big Blue Bus. Sam, Miss B and I drive with Jake in the bus. Although we’ve only had the van for a week, we are very thankful to have a smaller mode of transportation to run errands and go sightseeing in!

11. What do you do when you are traveling in the bus?

That varies too. Currently I’m blogging on my laptop, Miss B is in her car seat, and Sam-a-lam is in his bunk sleeping. I’m sure the boys are singing along to the radio in the minivan.

The next few months we aren’t traveling long distances like we did on our way to Alaska. We are usually just driving in the bus a few hours when we are moving from town to town.

12. Why a school bus and not an RV?

We chose the bus for several reasons.

First we were looking for something out of the ordinary and an old school bus definitely fit that bill, especially a Big Blue Bus.

Second the durability of a school bus appealed to us. A school bus is built like a tank. Typically school districts retire busses after 15 years and they still have a lot of life left in them. Our bus is 16 years old and had 137,000 miles on it when we bought it. It has a Cummins diesel engine, which should last forever. It definitely has a lot of life left in it!

Third and perhaps most importantly we had to look at the cost. We didn’t want to finance an RV which could cost tens of thousands of dollars and then we would have a payment for twenty years. Especially when we could pay for a bus out of pocket. You can pick up a school bus just out of service for between $3,000 and $5,000. Ours is a rockstar Blue Bus with lots of work done to it, and we got it for a steal at $8300. We figure with the work we’ve done to the inside we’re into the bus about $13,000. Not a bad investment for our awesome tour mobile!

13. How are you and Jake having “alone time”?

This was perhaps my biggest concerns going into this. Jake and I are used to simple things like weekly date night, and sleeping in our own room. We knew heading into this, that our privacy would be greatly reduced.

Alone time was one of the factors in picking up the van earlier than we had planned. Now, with Jacob being almost 18, we can leave the kids at the bus and have time away together. And if we need time alone together on the bus – we can send the kids away for ice cream or to a movie. Voila! As Jake puts it: Necessity is the mother of all invention.

14. How do you insure a bus?

It’s very similar to insuring an RV. The cost isn’t terrible, though it is liability only. So if our bus goes down in a fiery inferno, we’ll be out of luck.

15. What did you do with the seats you removed from the bus?

We sold them on Craigslist. The buyer was going to put them into a home theater.

16. What will you do with the bus when the tour is over?

I imagine this bus will be in our family for years to come. We’ll take it to Ohio with us when we go and continue to use it for family camping trips.


17. Do you have a theme song?

No – but we should! Any suggestions (other than “the wheels on the bus”)?

18. Does Jake need a special permit to drive the bus?

No. It has an RV title because of the reconstruction. You do not need a CDL to drive an RV.

19. Does anyone else drive the bus?

I drove it once in Illinois. Just to say that I did and also so Jake could check out a possible problem with one of the wheels. But Jake is pretty particular and keeps the driving to himself. Though he does have plans to teach Jacob how to drive it.

20. What have been the most challenging parts so far?

Good question! The worst day ever was when Miss B was sick and vomited all over the bus and Jake was out of town picking up the van.

Another challenge that we meet regularly is lack of cell/internet service. With my photography business and Jake looking at getting a new job – we need to stay connected. But many of the places we have stayed, there has been limited or no cell and internet service. That makes it tough!

Perhaps our greatest challenge is living in the moment. Because our future is so unclear right now, it is often difficult to be present and enjoy the time that we have been given rather than worrying about what is to come. We are combating that with lots of prayer and being grateful for what we have.

21. What do you miss most not being in a house?

Amy: The bathroom. This includes a private toilet, sink, and BATHTUB! Oh – and INTERNET! I miss having unlimited high speed super internet. It’s a tie between the internet and the bathroom. What does that say about me?
Jake: I miss privacy.
Jacob: The ability to get away.
Josh: Bathrooms
Sam: Bathrooms.

22. What do you like about being on a bus more than being in a house?

Amy: This bus is the easiest thing in the world to clean! We remove our shoes when we come on the bus and everything stays pretty tidy. We made sure that everything has a place. It takes all of 10 minutes to clean from front to back. Love that!!

Jake: The simplicity.

Jacob: I like not being overwhelmed by stuff.

Josh: The simplicity. (Offered this answer completely independent of Jake.)

Sam: How relaxed it is. There’s no rushing around.

Miss B: Playing with my toys.

23. What kind of gas mileage do you get?

Our bus rocks! It gets 12-14 mpg!

24. Do you homeschool?

Yes! We’ve been homeschooling for 8 years. Our oldest son graduated from high school two years early and is preparing to leave on a mission for our church. The early years of school around here look a whole lot like unschooling, so this trip is working out perfectly for us! Plus, there is so much learning to be had on an experience like this! We brought our favorite books to read and with all the places we get to visit and it’s a dream education!

25. Are you Mormon?

Yep! A great thing about being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that no matter where we are, on Sunday we can find a church and attend with other members. It’s like a piece of home out on the road!

Our oldest son just received a call to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a missionary for the church in the Czech Republic! He leaves February 5th and will be gone for two years. I’m so glad we have this time with him before he leaves!

26. Do your kids get to spend time with other children?

Miss B makes friends wherever we go. Plus we have friends at many of the places we are visiting and so she gets to visit with lots of other children. Just yesterday she spent the afternoon playing with old friends from Kodiak!

The older boys are in a different situation. In Alaska they played nonstop with their cousins, but since getting on the road here – they rely mostly on themselves. It’s a good experience for them to work and play together. Strong family bonds is something that will always bless their lives.

27. Do you have a Facebook page?

YES! Follow along with us here! We’re also on Twitter as @bigbluebustour. Still trying to get the hang of tweeting!

October 18, 2013 - 11:09 am

Lia - “Life is a highway” seems pretty fitting. I love seeing all of your wonderful adventures. Amy, you are a marked individual – an inspiration – a person who inspires – you take something and transform it into a thing of beauty and usefulness (who else in the world has taken a big blue bus and remodeled it?)

October 18, 2013 - 3:28 pm

Amy Earle | Simply b Photos - Lia – thank you so much for the wonderful compliment! I love the song “Life is a Highway”! Great suggestion! I’m hoping that our family crosses paths with your again!

October 18, 2013 - 5:46 pm

Camille Packer Duckworth - You mentioned a theme song. did I tell you about the song my brother wrote for his musical called the Big Blue Van? Well, of course you could just change up the words! I thought I would ask him about doing a re-write for you. Actually, you could rewrite the words and then he could record it for you~! It’s upbeat though, not sure if that’s what you had in mind!

October 19, 2013 - 1:13 am

Mikell Boshuizen - I love being a part of your journey! Thank you for sharing with us.

October 19, 2013 - 2:28 pm

Sarah / Wheel Education - Love what you guys are doing! We often sing “Life is a Highway” as we head out! Another one we like is “Extreme Days” by Toby Mac.

Thanks for sharig your adventures.

October 21, 2013 - 1:02 am

Emmaline Billman Hoffmeister - I love seeing another LDS family traveling. We are a full time family for the past 18 months. We homeschool, find church every Sunday, and ADORE that every day is family home evening.

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