During one of Jen’s quarterly checkups, we decided to start looking again at campers. We started with the original plan of getting a bumper pull trailer, but as we physically toured them we noticed that they really aren't built to live in full time, the wear and tear would end up costing much more. Then we talked about trading in our truck and getting a 1-ton diesel pickup and moving up to a 5th wheel trailer. The 5th wheel trailers are nice because they are very roomy (with slides), and can have all the comforts of home. When we got to looking at 5th wheel trailers that were in our price range they felt as though that they wouldn't hold up to the constant use of full-time life. There are lots of people that live in 5th wheel trailers full time it just didn't feel right for us. Next up was full on motorhomes, we skipped class C motorhomes and went straight to class A's. In our price range we could pick up a used Tiffin or Monaco, and we were close to settling on one of those, but something kept us from making a final decision. During my research, I started noticing some of the higher end coaches such as Prevost, Newell, Blue Bird, and Foretravel. I found that we could get a nicer coach if we went without a few of the more modern amenities. Jen's parents own a vintage Blue Bird Wanderlodge that she spent many summers traveling in, so that's where we started.
The Blue Bird hunt began by spending hours on the web mostly at the Wanderlodge Owners Group forum. We narrowed down our choice to the late 80's, early 90's widebody diesel pushers with tag axles. We found two that fit our criteria, so we made plans to go look at them. One was in Little Rock AR, and the other was in Corpus Christi TX. The day before we were going to leave the owner of the bus in Little Rock told us that it had sold. We still wanted to check out the other one, so off we went. While driving I got a message from different bus owner that his sale had fallen through and asked if we were interested. His bus was also in Arkansas, so we decided that we should at least go look at it. Made it up there and spent the night in the bus in a campground near the owner's property. That was a really long night as this was "biting the bullet" as they say on our new adventure. Surprisingly this was one of the hardest decisions we have ever made to give up the conventional lifestyle of a permanent residence. Though we still have many reservations on if we are making the right choice we decided if we don't do it now we likely never would. So, when the owners of the "Short Bus" came back on Sunday to see what we had decided we said let's go for it. We had decided that the layout plus a few other details made this bus fit our needs a bit better than the Corpus Christi bus that we had not yet seen in person. So, the next day we left AR, me in the bus and Jen following in the truck. Shout out to the beautiful canopies of trees under the massive bridges in western AR, sadly no pics as we were both driving. Because of the age of the bus the dash AC didn't work so I was just going to run the generator while driving so I could have the main AC units on, that didn't go so well. The coolant lines had rotted out and the generator was overheating. Good times driving 10 plus hours with it 100+ degrees in the bus.
Upon making it home in Alpine with our Bird it was now time to start the renovations. We are the 4th owner of this coach and it needed some serious cleaning and TLC. We spent the next 8 months working on fixing, upgrading and maintaining many items throughout the entire bus hoping
to have it road ready by April 2016. We renamed the bus to "Roll'n Home" which fits us better than the original name. Finally, in late May we were just about ready, I was just finishing up some maintenance on the generator when we had a pretty major setback. I had replaced the coolant lines and was topping off the coolant when the generator started making horrible noises and smoke started coming from the back. I immediately shut it off. We still needed to leave so it was driving with no AC again this time in June Texas heat.
Here's where we started questioning our decision-making abilities. We took the bus to a generator place in San Antonio they had it for a day. The part they needed couldn't be found anywhere and it isn't in production anymore. The shop didn't seem very interested in replacing the generator head (electric making part). So, no generator. Also took the bus to a shop to have some engine work done. It had a pretty bad oil leak and the alternator needed to be replaced. 5 days later here is where we stood. What they thought was just an oil pan gasket leak was actually the oil pan itself (it was full of pinholes, looked like a star chart when we held it up to the sun). They couldn't source a new pan, but they found one from a junkyard. They convinced me that the 3 of the 5 batteries were bad and that was the cause of my charging issue. It’s better to have the same batteries so 5 new deep cycle batteries. Turns out still wasn't charging so then they said they think the dash gauge is broken, whatever. In the meantime, they managed to completely run down the brand new batteries, they broke a latch on an access panel, and somehow managed to break the rubber end off the rear bumper. Of course, I didn't notice until we were out of town. On our way to Norman OK, I noticed that the bus still wasn't charging while we drove. Got on Amazon and ordered a new alternator. Replaced it myself, and guess what it was the alternator after all.
We made our way to Alaska for Roll’n Home’s true maiden voyage with several nagging issues which I’ll document the fixes as time goes on.