Frequently Asked Questions
Why a bus?
Ever since he was a little boy, Sean dreamed of traveling the world while living in a converted bus. Louise, who had did not have such particular (and peculiar) dreams, is nonetheless also interested in traveling, and has come to see how comfortable travel by bus can be. All the reasons for RV travel apply: convenience, comfort, security, autonomy. Added advantages that a bus has over a conventional RV are durability (a bus chassis and engine are designed to go a million miles) and smoothness of ride (buses are made to carry people; conventional RVs are built on the same chassis as UPS and bread delivery trucks. Buses carry people buns, RVs carry poppyseed buns.)
Why this bus?
The Neoplan Spaceliner has a number of distinct features that appeal to us. One, the quasi-double-decker design means that the luggage bins underneath are much taller than those of most buses (and certainly taller than any RV's.) This allows us to store small motorcycles in one of the bins.
Two, having the driver compartment underneath means that the usable upstairs space is longer and doesn't have a steering wheel in the living room. Three, not having the steering wheel in the living room means that the view through the upstairs windscreen becomes a focal point. We find that we are always drawn to that large front window, and plan to park where we can sit and ogle the view as often as possible.
How did you fit your stuff on the bus?
We got rid of a huge amount of stuff. We kept clothing, basic kitchen items, a few good books, CDs and videos, tools, motorcycles, bicycles, skis, and camping equipment. Every nook and cranny of the bus has built-in storage. For instance, the loveseat is completely hollow and the back is accessible from the side of the sofa. One of the end tables in the bedroom has two file drawers to store necessary paperwork.
What about your furniture?
Conventional furniture is not a good choice for RVs. It is large and, more importantly, not designed to be crash-worthy or to have seat belts attached. Many people who full time in RVs get rid of everything they cannot fit into their rig. We have a handful of things that we can't get rid of, such as Louise's business records, which must be kept for 7 years for tax purposes. We have a storage locker big enough for a bunch of boxes plus a few pieces of valuable/sentimental furniture and highly breakable things like Sean's family crystal.
So, when did you hit the road?
The date was a moving target, due to construction delays. We're happy to report that we finally moved aboard at the end of August, 2004 (even though the exterior paint was not done until September).
Do you have a route plan?
We don't have a long-range plan, per se, but, rather, a list of places we want to see, people we want to visit, and things we want to do. We try to take each day as it comes, with a handful of "fixed" dates on the calendar (mostly attached to specific events such as rallies and festivals). You can learn more about what we are doing from day to day by reading the web log.
Did you take your pets with you?
Yup, all three of them: Opal
. They are perfectly happy living in the bus. The dog rides in her carrier when we are under way, in case of sudden episodes of motion sickness, which are very rare.
The cats had been in an RV before, taking a 5-day trip with us to Redmond, OR in our old Fleetwood Flair. They spent the first 24 hours wide-eyed, with claws latched into the nearest soft surface. After that, they got used to it and settled right in. George even decided that the best place to ride was inside the Flair's dashboard, which has prompted us to make sure Odyssey's dash is hermetically sealed.
The litter box is in the bay over the tag axle, with an access hatch under the bathroom sink.
We've used the Littermaid brand of automatic, self-cleaning litter box for years and our cats are used to that. We're currently investigating the legality of dumping toxic cat waste in all 50 states. The EPA website is remarkably silent on this issue
Will you tow a car?
Car? What's a car? We are motorcyclists; we don't need no stinkin' car. We have two smallish motorcycles (Suzuki SV650s) stored in the forward bay. Here's one parked next to the hot tub.
The main reason for this is, well, cars are no fun at all. A big side benefit is that we don't have to tow a vehicle. When you tow, you're limited to which highway lanes you can drive in and often have a lower maximum speed limit than a single vehicle. Not to mention the additional difficulty driving around, backing into camp sites, and the like with a trailer in tow, and the fact that 55-foot long parking spaces (for example, at the grocery store) are even harder to come by than 40-foot ones.
The general plan is to drive the coach to a suitable campsite, then spend most of the rest of our time exploring on the bikes. We have taken many, many long trips by motorcycle, and are used to carrying camping gear, groceries, and other miscellaneous stuff on the bikes. We've also chosen to use 11-lb. propane tanks so we can carry those by bike to be refilled.
We're even set up to carry the pets via bike. All three have mesh backpack carriers. Sean would carry two (one on his chest, one on his back) and Louise would carry the third pet on her back. Of course, we'd both have to wear our armored jackets to avoid being clawed, and hope that Opal the Barfing Wonder Dog could keep her cookies down. Obviously, this setup is for emergency purposes only, since carrying a pet in front makes the animal the Mammal In Control, and neither cat has a valid class M drivers license. The dog has a learner's permit, but she can't parallel park and tends to bite meter maids.
Did you keep your condo in San Jose?
Yes. It is a well known fact that if you sell all your real estate in California and leave the state EVEN FOR 24 HOURS, you can never afford to move back. So we rented the condo out, just in case we ever want to live in the state again. We hope to pretty much break even in the rental market, so this shouldn't be a big financial burden.
What's it like to drive the bus?
As far as the controls go, it's just like driving a car with automatic transmission. There's a steering wheel, an accelerator pedal, and a brake pedal. And since the driver's compartment is downstairs, we have about the same view as a medium sized car, too. In other words, we can't see over those %$#& SUV's, either.
Do you need a special license to drive it?
Believe it or not, no. As long as a bus has been converted to a motorhome, anyone with a valid passenger car driver's license can drive it and carry up to a total of 8 people. So next time you see a giant motorhome being driven by a 95 year old man in a hat, consider that he may have just picked it up from the dealer that day and is learning to handle a large rig right at that moment. Scary, huh?
Even though it is not required, we have both studied for commercial driver's licenses (CDL.) After all, the thing is 40 feet long, 13 feet tall, and weighs over 20 tons. It has air brakes and a diesel engine, not something we usually deal with. A little training is a Good Thing .
How much did it cost?
This is a question that is frequently asked, and so we have included it here in the Frequently Asked Questions. It is rather along the lines of What's your salary? or How much do you weigh? If you get us sufficiently drunk, we might tell you. You might then be amazed, or appalled, or unimpressed, or even vaguely unsatisfied. You might be tempted to ask other questions, like, What are your political leanings? or How many angels can dance on a pinhead? This type of discourse has been scientifically proven to ruin cocktail parties, and really is best left to the professionals.
When will you publish a book about your travels?
Uh, Louise doesn't own a publishing company anymore, so don't hold your breath. Seriously, Louise will write a book if and when the mood strikes her. A regularly updated website is a more reasonable goal.
How long will you do this?
Until we get tired of it.
How do you keep in touch?
Four ways: email, snail mail, telephone, and visits. Gee, aren't those the same four ways we've always kept in touch?
How do you get mail?
There are mail forwarding services that cater to the full-time RV crowd. (See, a niche you didn't even know existed!) We have set up mail forwarding in Washington, our new state of residence, near our property there. See the Contact page for details.
Do you have a telephone?
Yes, two of them, in fact. That might seem redundant until you realize that the person Sean is most likely to call is .Louise. C'mon, admit it, you've used your cell phone to call your spouse from the opposite end of Home Depot. (I'm in plumbing. Did you say you wanted ½ or ¼ pipe?) Our phone numbers have remained the same as they were in California, so if you were privy to the number before, call it again. If not, we're certainly not going to divulge the numbers to you NOW.
Don't you drive each other crazy in such a small space?
Crazier than we already are for doing this whole thing? Nah. In the five years we've been together, we've found that we prefer to spend our time in the same room. We spend most evenings sitting side by side in our comfy chairs, reading or surfing the 'net.
All three pets are curled up either on laps or nearby furniture or at our feet. When we travel on our separate motorcycles, we get plenty of alone time, using our two-way radios to communicate occasionally. We're comfortable with silence, and also seem to have plenty to talk about.
The bus does have doors that separate the bedroom and bathroom from the main living space. Should one of us need a little separation, Sean can always sleep on the couch.
Can you have guests?
Yes. We have installed a hide-a-bed sofa in the living room, which folds out into a double bed. We deliberately selected one that is comfortable for one night, tolerable for two or three nights, and gives you a hemorrhaged disk on the fourth night. After all, fish and houseguests stink after three days.
Will we ever see you again?
Of course you will, especially if you have RV parking! Part of our plan is to visit relatives and old friends as we pass through your part of the country. Other than having a giant, 40 foot bus in your driveway, you'll find we make excellent guests. We don't need a guest bedroom or guest bathroom, since we bring our own. We won't bring our pets into your home unless you invite them. We'll drive you to your favorite restaurant to impress your friends with our limo service (believe me, a 13 foot tall bus commands local attention). And Sean is a very good cook.
Where will you go?
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas need I go on? Anywhere we want, provided the overhead clearance is greater than 13 feet. If it isn't, we'll park the bus, get out the bikes, and hit the REALLY good roads: the tight twisty ones with low overhanging trees, that end on a mountaintop with a view of the wilderness.
What do you do on the bus?
Eat, sleep, bathe, read, think, dream, write, read, laugh, cry, learn, observe, wonder, talk, listen, visit, leave, nap, puzzle, think, sing, caress, play, cook, clean, absorb, relax, meditate, fight, love. Then we figure out what we want to do with our extra time.
Can I go with you?
No, you'll have to get your own bus.