Hey guys!

My name's Hank, and I bought a bus.

For my Masters of Architecture thesis I converted the bus into a tiny living space. After graduation I took the bus on a month-long 5000 mile road trip with friends. My buddy Justin was along for the ride, and photographed the journey. You can check out our blog of the journey here: www.hankboughtabus.com

Our story ended up being more popular than we anticipated, and was published all around the world. Which is really exciting! At least until you start seeing articles with false information telling the world you can't afford rent and live on the bus...

So with all the questions people have emailed us over the last year, we thought it might warrant doing an AMA so you could ask us about our experiences, tiny living, photography, social media, debt, futures, cats. whatever.

Also, you guessed it: we've got a kickstarter. http://kck.st/1uyTtMe We're mainly doing it to publish a photo book of the bus and our journey, but we're also offering a chance to ride the bus.

Lastly, I just want to thank the Reddit community for helping us share our story. You were the first place we shared our content, and you guys took it from there. Reddit changed my life. Thank you!

So, Ask Me Anything! (As long as it's about Rampart.)

proof: https://twitter.com/hankboughtabus/status/511931792681484288

Comments: 301 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

laserfish493 karma

Is there any truth to the rumors that you've been known to talk dirty to food and/or architecturally pleasing buildings?

Edit: despite his weird propensity to whisper sweet nothings to a meatball or send a Cosmo to that "sexy mid century modern over there", Hanks a good guy with a cool bus, and you should all be funding his Kickstarter instead of buying me gold. Or at least in addition to buying me gold.

hankbutitta511 karma

Frank god dammit I know it's you.

edit: You know damn well I talk dirty to my food, and now because you've asked me that while I'm legally required under AMA oath to tell the truth, so does everyone else. Thanks.

oahmed64127 karma

Was there sexual encounters during the road trip at all?

hankbutitta196 karma


puffgiant1945 karma

So... Was that bus a rockin??

Krusha211731 karma

Did anyone come-a-knockin'?

mister_gone110 karma

If you're hearing knocking while coming, you may want to switch to a higher octane fuel.

hankbutitta102 karma

I laughed! And then cried. The bus needs a checkup :/

Mo8ius94 karma

Would you recommend converting a bus into a living space as an alternative to RV homes or even as an alternative to some regular (or perhaps smaller) houses?

How much time and money went into creating the bus?

hankbutitta125 karma

I've got about 12k in the bus, and 4 months of full-time work, plus plenty of hours/weeks/months here and there doing research, maintenance and improvements. It's still not possible to live in it full time, and I'm not sure the midwest is somewhere I'd do that even if I had better heating and plumbing. It's pretty cold here. And I hate the cold.

The major advantage to using a bus as a starting point is that it is that you have a relatively blank slate that moves itself around. And you can reliably find them for cheap. For someone comfortable with construction this offers a ton of flexibility, and a lot of embodied energy (already has floor, walls, ceiling, windows, doors,). It's not for everyone, but I think it has more potential than many existing RV's.

However, I do see them as a bit extreme. The headroom isn't great, and many people don't want to be in such a transient space indefinitely. I picture the bus being the perfect transitional space for young people who refuse to pay rent, but still want a bit of flexibility (want to try a new city? go for it.) To me it's not a permanent situation, but what is these days?

adamsmith9377 karma

How ironic that you're doing this AMA. A few things.

Me and my friends are looking to do the exact same thing. We want to buy a bus, fix it up, modify it for housing conditions, and travel from Ontario, down to Chicago, over to Alberta, left to BC, down to Cali, through Arizona and Utah to Colorado, over through until Florida, up through New York, further up through Quebec and then back home for a total of around 10,000 miles and roughly 3 months. So my questions.

  • What's the MPG for a bus like?
  • How often are repairs needed?
  • Do you think 4 people could effectively live in a bus for 3 months?

We plan to just shower in natural lakes and maybe a quick normal shower whenever someone is nice enough. We want to bring kayaks, bikes, all that jazz. Do you have any tips or anything that we need to know about? I'd love to talk to you and get some ideas for what it's going to be like. I assume between the each of us it will probably be around $3000-4000 for the round trip.

hankbutitta89 karma

That sounds like one hell of a trip!

The bus got around 10mpg, which isn't terrible when you consider you're splitting it a handful of ways, and you're never paying for hotels or lodging.

We made it 5,000 miles without any real trouble. It was looked at by a CAT dealer before we left, and they gave it the green light. Sadly, when it was parked last fall it was difficult to start, it probably needs a checkup (hasn't been moved this year. been using it as a cabin). That said, diesels are typically long lasting if they're maintained. Should run many hundreds of thousands of miles.

4 people could live in the bus for 3 months, but it's going to take a lot of patience and cooperation. After the first couple of weeks, you'll get over the lack of privacy. It doesn't even phase you anymore. But as the weeks wear on small things about each others personalities will get under your skin. If you're going to travel together that long, I think taking personal time is essential. Stay in every once in a while when your friends go out. Take a day to explore by yourself. If you survive the trip intact you'll come out the other side like family, having shared an experience your other friends can never really understand.

$3-4k is probably doable, especially if you can take it easy on the eating out and drinking at bars (adds up quick when every day is a party). But if you have a strict budget, make sure to lay that all out ahead of time.

Showering is easy at campgrounds, and between the four of you there are probably friends and family you can visit all over the states. Don't underestimate the value of a hot shower, a private toilet, and a home-cooked meal. Use this as an excuse to visit people all over!

As for tips, we winged most of it, but one of the biggest challenges was parking. If you're working with a vehicle as long as ours, make sure campsites you're staying at have RV sites, and see if your friends in the cities can secure you parking in front of their place (hooking up an extension cord into their house can be a huge help if you're running off battery power.)

Best of luck on your adventure man!

adamsmith9321 karma

Glad to hear the bus won't be needed a checkup every 5000 miles or so :) How much did it cost to renovate your bus when you first got it? We've seen people who put down hardwood floors, and folding beds, but we're basically aiming for the bottom of the barrel, carpet & shit. We're college students so we thrive off shitty. And do you remember how much $ it was to fill the tank?

The privacy thing is definitely true, but we've all been great friends for 7 years now and we've never had problems. One of the guys is my current roommate anyways. The main focus will be sight seeing in forest and national lakes, etc, why we're bringing bikes and kayaks and what not. We've tried to estimate food, which we don't think will cost that much. Honestly, I plan to get the best experience I can out of this, if that means helping someone off cragslist for a meal, I'd be glad to do it for the adventure. We're all really friendly so meeting friends who can offer meals and showers I think is doable. I'm sure everyone will love to hear our story!

We plan to wing it too like you said and not really plan a bunch, just let what happens happen. Parking is a thing we do have to think about, and like you said RV sites is good. I guess finding a bush to park in will be pretty hard.. which is what I was planning on for now.

And thanks so much! If I have any questions in the future, I'll probably message you. It would be great to get some insight from a dude who went through the same thing we're going to go through!

hankbutitta30 karma

I had about $12k into renovations total. $3k initially for the bus. It's tough to say where it all went. Adds up quickly.

It was about $200 to fill a tank, but it's a huge damn tank (40gal). I think we got like 400 miles out of a tank.

good luck!

two_off38 karma

Did the trip strain or improve your friendship with Justin?

Have you had any offers by people to buy the bus or commission a new one?

hankbutitta84 karma

Oddly enough, Justin and I didn't know each other very well before the trip. We knew each other through a mutual friend (Ethan) who I was going to meet in California. I asked Justin to join the trip largely because he was a great photographer and I wanted someone to take decent pictures of the bus. To my surprise, he offered to come for the whole trip. His photos ended up selling the entire project.

At the end of the trip, we were like brothers. We love each other, and at times we can't stand each other. We work well as a team, and our motivations our similar (creative, freelance, risk-taking, etc). It was one of those serendipitous pairings that, through a lot of work, has led to unique content that I'm terribly proud of. This project wouldn't exist without him.

hankbutitta64 karma

Not sure how I missed the second half of the question...

A number of people have offered to buy the bus, but the only person who threw out a number (20k) was only 8k above what I had invested in materials. The amount of labor I have into the bus was worth much more than that to me. 20k wouldn't buy me the time to replace it, and I built it so I could use it. (mostly as a cabin.)

A bunch of people have asked about commissioning a new one, but the problem is that once they spend the money on decent materials and systems (better than mine), and the necessary design/labor costs, they realize they'd rather just by a used RV. I'll potentially be renovating a double-decker for a hostel in NYC next year, but we'll have to wait and see if that deal comes through!

HappyLeprechaun12 karma

There's always tinyhouselistings.com. You probably wont get your money back out of it though.

hankbutitta38 karma

Are you trying to say the bus is underwater?

faleboat8 karma

once they spend the money on decent materials and systems (better than mine), and the necessary design/labor costs, they realize they'd rather just by a used RV.

Well, this is totally a basic economic problem. A one man project can never compete economically with a production line model. It's why production lines exist. If you are the one building, designing and tweaking the project, and no one else is assisting, you're going to have a hell of a time getting a decent return on labor investment.

Now, if you had a company that did this, and you got say, 50 a month rolling out, you could pretty quickly get to profitability. Of course, you'd just be competing in a more or less low line RV market.

hankbutitta7 karma

Exactly! It just wasn't an avenue I was interested in pursuing.

vernonholliday123 karma


hankbutitta35 karma

That is the part I regret most.

vernonholliday17 karma


hankbutitta17 karma

Best of luck to to your relative! Don't let them get too into the wild.

Orlandipo22 karma

Absolutely fascinating. First time I've heard about this and I'm amazed. Being from Florida, I see this as being miserable in the heat/warmer weather. Did you have any problems with keeping yourselves cool in hot areas?

Also did you have to run any extra power for plug/lighting?

Thank you!

hankbutitta19 karma

Vegas was the only place where it was so hot we were miserable, otherwise opening the windows helped us reach comfortable ambient temperatures most places.

We plugged in at campsites and friends houses along the way, we could usually get a couple days out of a full charge. Now that it's parked in the woods, we use a generator to charge batteries when we're around.

Sdnativepride15 karma

Are you going to sell a book of plans and techniques for finishing the inside of the bus? Please, take my money.

hankbutitta15 karma

In our kickstarter we're offering a digital package for $10 that includes drawings of the interior construction (floor, wall, ceiling) as well as all the built ins. It includes a 3D model (sketchup) of the bus interior, so all the individual parts are there for you to play with.

We've been asked for drawings a number of times, so we're finally preparing something that's cleaned up and easy to use.

Wambosi115 karma

Were there any scary moments in your journey?

hankbutitta34 karma

The whole experience was a bit overwhelming, especially when you consider how cumbersome a bus is. We took some narrow highways and coastal roads, and when you've got a newbie driver coming down a mountain trying to make those tight turns... yeah, you're a bit worried.

indiana_johns14 karma

I'm currently working on converting a Ford E250 to a tiny home to live in for the coming ski season. Seeing your bus gave me some very cool ideas for my van, like the LED strips for example!

What kind of wood did you use to finish everything, it looks great!

I can only imagine how much fun you've been having with this bus. The biggest challenges for my van will be keeping it warm (at high elevation in Canada in the winter) and storage for all my ski and climbing gear. What were the biggest challenges you ran into with this bus?

hankbutitta18 karma

This may surprise you, but all the plywood is just off the shelf from my local home depot, nothing fancy. I think it looks as nice as it does for a few reasons:

  1. I was very careful to design and construct so there are no visible fasteners. This gives it a very clean look.
  2. Everything is laid out on a modular system lining up with the window bays. This keeps it visually simple and organized.
  3. Because I turned the escape hatches into skylights and kept all the windows, the space gets fantastic light. It just glows :)

Winter is challenging, but the smaller the space, the easier it should hopefully be to keep warm. Stay safe out there! If you end up with a heater that burns fuel (propane, wood) make sure you get the CO detector!

The biggest challenges I faced were electrical. I am not an expert with that nonsense. Through a bunch of research and some help from friends/family I was able to learn enough about chargers/converters/inverters/batteries/AC/DC/splitters/alternators/generators to hack something together. (no, not that AC/DC) If you can get through that wizardy, the rest should seem straightforward!

doesntakethehighroad3 karma

Doesn't wood add a lot of weight?

hankbutitta14 karma

It does, but so does a load of 76 passengers, which is what the bus is rated for!

soxordie12 karma

What were the best and worst parts/aspects of your trip?

hankbutitta27 karma

The worst aspect was the lack of privacy. Not only is the bus one large open space (with only a small bathroom for privacy), but you're spending 24 hours a day with the same people for multiple weeks. It can become exhausting, even when you're getting along. Luckily we came out the other side as even closer friends.

The best part of the trip was the exhileration. It felt surreal. I own this bus? This is real life? Also the luxury of having your space travel with you. So much better than cramped car travel or having to pack a tent. Although the best perk was riding with your head out of the skylight when driving through the countryside; it's a totally unique view.

Enkayess11 karma

Are you aware that your last name is basically "butt-titty"?

hankbutitta2 karma

Now that you mention it...

letsreddittwice11 karma

This is really cool. Somebody could also do a short-bus idea and make that work too, I feel. Next time?

hankbutitta10 karma

Nah, man. Next time I wanna do a boxcar. That way I get pulled around the country and don't have to do any driving!

letsreddittwice7 karma

Now that's an idea. That's a very good idea, except for getting drunk on a weekend. Before you know it, you've missed your ride home, and your ride-home.

hankbutitta12 karma

Oh god, I forgot that it could move without me. That could be problematic. Maybe I bring a dirt bike to get me around town? That way when I miss the train I can catch up.

RoyPlotter8 karma

Hey! Thanks for doing this AMA. I saw your work on archdaily a while back and was really amazed by it.

My question is that do you see your project being part of the vernacular in places where housing is expensive or cramped?

hankbutitta8 karma


If housing is cramped, I don't think buses are going to be very helpful. They don't stack, they take up a lot of space on a street... it's just not the right option.

Where housing is expensive but there is space, any kind of DIY option will offer certain advantages, and I think there can be a lot of potential in retro-fitting a bus. I love that for 3k-5k you can reliably find a used bus which provides existing walls, floor, ceiling, doors, windows, and moves itself around. Brilliant.

Honestly, though, I wanted to show an extreme to demonstrate the the middle-ground is perfectly livable. People can survive with some amount of comfort in a tiny home, but it is work. I think 1,000-1,500sf homes might be a sweet spot for smaller families.

big_hungry_joe8 karma

can you afford rent? also, follow up question: do you still live on the bus?

hankbutitta15 karma

Can I afford rent? Barely ;)

I'm living in an apartment in Minneapolis with two roommates. I lease warehouse space nearby where I have a small woodworking shop, set up with my CNC. My primary income is through freelance design/fabrication, and I'm still figuring out how to turn it into a more stable living. (Even when I have a good month, I forget to save a bit for a bad month, and instead dump it straight into tools. gotta build the shop!) It's scary, but I'm glad I'm at least giving it a shot.

The bus is currently parked in the woods in central wisconsin, on 80 acres owned by my grandfather. My friends and I use it as a cabin, which was its original purpose.

MyBatmanUnderoos8 karma

Is your name pronounced "byoo-tee-tah," or "butt-eat-ah?"

hankbutitta6 karma

The first one. Fortunately.

Tuullii8 karma

Hi Hank! I'm a fellow Minnesotan who owns a bus (67 Chevy/Wayne). My husband and two little kids and I are about to head out on our own adventure in October. Any tips and tricks on bus living? We'll be full-timeing it for probably about a year.

hankbutitta7 karma

Did my response to this never go through? dammit.

Long story short, a year on a bus is well beyond my experience. We were essentially on vacation, and willing to live with the inconveniences of a small space with half-finished systems because we knew we'd be back in a house soon. Living on a bus for that long will challenge you at times, but if it helps you take control of your destiny it may very well be worth it! Best of luck to you!

inthemorning337 karma

I don't know if anyone will get this, but were the words, "you're either on the bus, or off the bus" uttered?

hankbutitta7 karma

Haha! I mentioned Ken Kesey a handful of times early in the semester. I was still figuring out how to present the work before there was anything really meaningful to show, and talked a lot about the perception of "bus life" in popular culture. The Osmonds, the mystery machine, and of course the acid trip. All the boomer professors knew what I was talking about. Some were amused. Some were not.

inthemorning334 karma

Awesome, I suppose you can't start a bus trip without at least knowing a bit about Kesey.

hankbutitta6 karma

If you don't know the past, you run the risk of repeating it. And I don't think my system could handle that.

mobung7 karma

A grey bus with translucent window coverings looks pretty suspicious. Have you thought about decorating or repainting it?

hankbutitta16 karma

I think it actually looks less suspicious this way! Most people assume it's a party bus or something and leave it alone. I call it urban camouflage.

uselubewithcondoms7 karma

What exactly will the $24k in kickstarter money be used for? I didn't see a cost breakdown...

hankbutitta10 karma

Hey there! A little more than half will go directly to printing and shipping of the book. We also have to pay the graphic designer who is helping us lay out the book. Then we have the printing and shipping of the other rewards. The few thousand left over are to cover unexpected costs, and to help us pay rent while we're working on the book instead of doing our regular freelance work. Any potential profit made above and beyond will be split between Justin and I, and help us continue to pursue creative endeavors. Personally, I would love to have a few thousand to put towards more equipment in my shop. I make a living as a freelance designer/fabricator, and after only being in business for a year, there isn't always extra cash at the end of the month to put towards growth.

gawag6 karma

Any advice you could offer to an undergrad in architecture? Work like yours inspires me and makes me feel great about this field.

Also, is there anything you'd say you learned from this architecturally? What did your peers/faculty at the school think?

hankbutitta6 karma

The best advice I can give is to do the work to push yourself, and not for the grade. I "did it for the grade" for far too long, and it really doesn't help you. When instructors and classmates see you coasting for the bulk of the project, and then pulling it together in the last few days, it doesn't really impress them. If you want these folks to hire and recommend you, you want to seem professional off the bat. Take care of yourself, present yourself well, and do work that will impress people.

I learned a lot from the bus, but I wouldn't say it was primarily "architectural" learning. I learned about taking risks, the education system, self-promotion, accountability... It was a real-life project, with actual consequences, and it helped convince me I was able to work independently and pursue more entrepreneurial endeavors.

Peers were on board from the start (partly because they thought it was funny), but the faculty was a mixed bag. Some saw potential, others were very skeptical and critical (one of my favorite instructors said "maybe you should have gone to technical school". I probably would have enjoyed tech school, but in the architecture program that's interpreted as an insult.) By the end of the semester, everyone was surprised at the progress. The final presentation focused less on the bus itself, and more on the value of tactile learning in architectural education. It went really well. Definitely a high point in my life :)

mr_fuzzy_face6 karma

Would you consider to a "Travels with Charlie" type book? Finding American and what not?

hankbutitta9 karma

The photo book we're putting together is our attempt to tell the story of our trip down the west coast and back, but I'm reluctant to compare it to steinbeck. (But it is full of pretty pictures, so that's nice)

I actually find writing challenging, not because I'm particularly bad at it, but because I find it emotionally draining. A lot of what I wrote for the blog/book digs into subjects that are very personal to me. Personal subjects can be difficult to express in words, and writing it can send me into a funk as get hung up on the subject. That's at least one reason why I don't think I'll ever be able to write a novel-length story.

mr_fuzzy_face3 karma

Gotcha. I saw some of the pictures, looks amazing. I think you posted the project on r/DIY a while ago right? The project looked amazing.

hankbutitta2 karma

I'm not actually sure if we posted it on DIY yet. I wish Justin had been around earlier in the process to take pictures while it was being built. I was too busy to think about documenting it well, and it might make for a haphazard post!

icouldbejamesbond6 karma

Hey Hank, it's really awesome that you're doing an AMA. Why a school bus? Why not pick something smaller or just different and use that?

hankbutitta8 karma

Because bigger is better! I wasn't really thinking about driving it around, I just wanted more square footage for my cabin in the woods.

Also, the reason I love buses is that they're easy to find for a good price (3k-5k) and they come with existing floor, walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and drive themselves around. It's just too sweet a deal to pass up when you're doing a small space on the cheap.

On the other hand, I have friends who have owned small little adventure vehicles (like VW vanagons) and I totally get that. If it were just for me and a friend to have a big adventure, small would be a better way to go. But for a group of people, or a mostly stationary cabin, the bus is where it's at!

Andrew1graves5 karma

I've been thinking about going to college and studying architecture. Could you give me some of the pros and cons of the area? I also think it's really cool what you did with the bus. I've always had dreams of traveling the country in an RV or camper. Thank you.

hankbutitta8 karma

Pros: It's a well-balanced profession in that it combines beauty and practicality. There is the opportunity to work on very fulfilling work as you get deeper into your career. And many people still hold it in high social standing.

Cons: Studio culture encourages late nights and overworking, and you learn to accept that as the norm, which can be unhealthy. Beware that you will feel like your time doesn't have value as you pour too much of yourself into drawings and models that will be dismissed during a short review by critics who don't really understand the premise of the project. (Make sure you value your time! No one else will do that for you.) Also, it can be very conceptual, to the point that you feel unprepared for "the real world". However "the real world" will train you if you prove yourself to be hard-working and reasonably talented (And network! Any chance you get! join the stupid club, volunteer for activities, join the mentorship program, etc. That's how you break into the community.)

Sorry that the pros seem so much shorter, but you already know what the pros are. You want to do architecture because you love problem solving and design, and I don't blame you. That's why I fell in love with it as well. You should also be aware that there are other design fields as well, though. Look into product design, industrial design, and related engineering fields. (here's the secret, many engineers get to design as well, they just favor function over aesthetic. And they're in higher demand, with higher pay.)

Best of luck with your future life in design!

KristiKreme4 karma

My husband showed me your website just a few weeks ago. I'll blame you for whatever comes of his love of your bus :P

He really would like to buy a bus, do a bit of a remodel kind of like yours, and spend some time living out of it while working from offices his company has in different cities. My question: what unexpected challenges did you come up against in the building process, and what suggestions would you have for us if we scrape together the cash?

hankbutitta2 karma

I'm not sure if anything jumps out as an unexpected challenge, because we expected a lot of challenges. I guess not really realizing how difficult it is to find a place to park a bus until you have to do it. It's big. And neighbors often don't like it. And some residential roads were not designed to accommodate the turning or parking of a bus. So beware that finding somewhere to put it, in the short or long term, can be a real challenge. Best of luck!

JamesTheJerk4 karma

Have you ever lived on a bus while doing a lengthy road trip?

hankbutitta5 karma


JamesTheJerk3 karma

While you weren't on your road trip, did you happen to cross into Canada, and if so were there any problems with border guards finding your custom bus suspicious?

hankbutitta3 karma

We didn't make it to Canada! Which is a shame, because Vancouver is pretty high on my list right now. I don't think the bus would be seen as more suspicious than any other RV, but I may be biased. We'd probably pass inspection either way?

hoodyupload3 karma

But can you afford rent now that you bought the school bus ?

hankbutitta3 karma

Rent was always part of the equation. Thankfully I live in Minneapolis, which is a bit more affordable than some of my other favorite cities.

hoodyupload3 karma

Do you still live in your school bus apartment ?

hankbutitta6 karma

Sorry, to clarify: I only lived on the bus during the trip. Since then it has been functioning as a cabin deep in the woods. I live in a house in the city.

sadwer3 karma

Why does your master's thesis need a living space?

hankbutitta5 karma

My masters is in architecture. I was interested in a project that existed in the physical world and not simply on paper. This is one of the few projects that was small enough to be physically built with my time and resources, and have the added benefit of being useful to me after graduation. It didn't really need a living space, but it was a challenge I wanted to take on.

Seraphus3 karma

So what grade did you get? :)

hankbutitta4 karma

Funny thing is, there's no grade for thesis. You pass or you don't. I passed :)

bender423 karma

How did you lose your virginity?

hankbutitta30 karma

with my dingaling

MasterFubar3 karma

Why so much seating space? One would imagine that sleeping space could double up as seating space, since you wouldn't be sleeping and seating at the same time.

hankbutitta2 karma

While designing the space, the primary usage that I was planning for was a long weekend in the woods with a few close friends. With the two tables in use, there's room for four people to comfortably socialize while still playing card games, drinking, etc. With the tables down, the seating area is large enough for four people to sleep on the bus without anyone blocking the aisle (two on the beds, two on the benches.) With the extra beds rolled/folded out. We can sleep 6 comfortably.

I was initially going to have less seating space, but I'm extremely pleased with the current layout. It's great for socializing.

RubbInns3 karma

Did you save up enough to pay rent now?

hankbutitta3 karma


umami23 karma

How much $ in gas to drive around the US in a bus?

hankbutitta3 karma

I think we spent around $2k in gas to do 5000 miles... I forgot the exact numbers though.

DWPerry3 karma

I recently bought a 95 GMC 3500 Cutaway (mini-bus - cost me $1300) that I've been converting into an RV. It's a work-in-progress, though I've been living in it since June. What do you recommend for insulation?

hankbutitta3 karma

As much as you can fit!

Really, though. The less fuel you have to burn to keep you warm, the better. Your biggest constraint is space, so stack that stuff up until you don't feel like sacrificing any more room. I used pink rigid foam where I could (I have a lot of flat surfaces) and filled cracks with expanding foam. Also, if you seal that thing up tight, make sure you get a CO detector!


I haven't seen anyone ask about risk of theft yet so...how do you deal with knowing if you leave your bus somewhere in a strange city that someone could either steal all your belongings or even the bus itself?

Love the kickstarter. Checking out more of the site now.

hankbutitta3 karma


As for theft, there is no exterior handle on the front door, so that's relatively secure, and we rigged up a padlock for the back door. When we left the bus in a populated area, we always put up the privacy panels so you couldn't see inside. From the exterior it looks like any old party bus, so we felt pretty confident it wasn't worth the hassle to anyone and would be left alone.

Once I left the bus parked on a dead-end street in minneapolis for 3 weeks before it was towed. Showing up and finding and empty spot was pretty scary, but a quick call to the city lot cleared that up quickly. It was spendy ($260) but a relief... and cheaper than leasing storage space for the 5 months it had been on the streets :)

ObesesPieces3 karma

Why did you choose to paint your massive mobile canvas grey? Were you afraid that living in a bus AND a massive mural on the side of it would cost credibility and cause people to think that you were just a stereotypical hippie?

hankbutitta5 karma

The bus was actually already gray when I bought it. Previous guy used it as a party bus, and legally he had to change the color (can't be yellow if it's not a school bus). I didn't have time, resources, or really the need to change it. And somehow the gray grew on me. I call it urban camouflage. Keeps us under the radar :)

anonymau53 karma

Hey Tom great ama. How did Colin announce to you that he wanted to be an actor too? Where you happy about his choice? Big fan

kleancut3 karma

Such nice conversion, but I would imagine you would have a real rv toilet?

hankbutitta3 karma

Thanks! Before we left on our trip, I didn't really have the time or finances to do a proper plumbing setup with freshwater and blackwater tanks, pumps, etc. We use a portable toilet that is basically a comfortable bucket (that seals shut nicely and flushes).

TheSpinsterJones2 karma

What model is the bus? Trying to find some listings to see if it's really possible to get one for 3-5k

hankbutitta3 karma

It's a 95 chevy bluebird. 200k miles. 76 passenger. A bit of rust. Here's one near me I would have loved to start with. I really wanted a flat-nose. More room on the interior, and better set up for highway travel. http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/dak/cto/4669419769.html

tacol00t3 karma

That's a steal right there too. 5.9 cummins and that Allison transmission, as a truck guy I wish I could find a Dodge Ram with that kinda mileage for that price...

hankbutitta2 karma

There's a reason I don't hunt for buses on craigslist anymore, it's dangerous!

tacol00t1 karma

I mean you couldn't afford it anyway right?

hankbutitta3 karma

Right now? Hell no. But I also have a thing for Eames furniture, and every once and a while a shell chair will pop up at a sweet price, and I have to decide if I want to pay rent on time, or fill that corner spot in the living room. Craigslist is just dangerous in general. (Oh, and tools! I currently share a shop, but fantasize about moving into my own space. Sometimes I see tools I don't really "need" yet, but I have trouble closing the tab...)

SteveTheViking2 karma

This sounds crazy! Good luck on your kickstarter, by the way.

Anyways, I was wondering if you've ever heard of the Vandog Traveller? Was the work you did on your bus similar to what this guy did?

hankbutitta2 karma

Cool conversion! Hadn't seen that before. It's difficult to describe the differences between his and mine, but one of the big ones is that I had the ability to machine my furniture pieces on a CNC. That gave me the opportunity to do more complex stuff, and have it all fit together nice and clean.

SayceGards2 karma

/r/tinyhouses, even though this is surprisingly bigger than most houses on there.

What are the biggest drawbacks of the bus, besides temperatures and gas guzzling? If you could redsign it, would you do any th ing differently?

hankbutitta3 karma

I think the biggest drawbacks (aside from those two) would be the same as owning anything else. Maintenance. Something could always use improving, things often need to be fixed and improvised, you gotta insure it, find a place to put it... It's kinda like a boat i guess. It's fun, but sometimes you wish it belonged to your friends so you didn't have to take care of it. (Except my friends. They're awesome, and have put a bunch of work into the bus with me.)

If I could redesign it, there are a few small things I would switch around, but I really love how the space looks and functions. I just wish I'd had more money to throw at it so I could have started with a bus that was in better shape, and invest in better systems to instal. But as it stands, it's still pretty great to spend time in :)

flashbackburger2 karma

what kind of music did you listen to on your journey?

hankbutitta5 karma

For some reason there were a few songs that were stuck in my head for the whole journey. New Slang (shins), and Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel). I think it was that spoof "Shining" parody trailer that made me associate that song with road trips. And now I can't get it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e6d_gzaDgk

flashbackburger2 karma

haha thanks for the link! whenever I hear about Peter Gabriel, I think of vampire weekend's song cape cod kwassa kwassa

hankbutitta1 karma

Never heard that before, catchy tune!

JamesTheJerk2 karma

What does the inside of the bus smell like?

hankbutitta2 karma

On a good day? A fresh breeze with a hint of lemon cleaner. On a stale day, it smells a bit more like a cabin :)

theRealChiliPalmer1 karma

How much ganja did you consume while on the trip?

hankbutitta7 karma

Sorry to disappoint, but I can not handle that stuff. I get super anxious. So instead I made up for it with beer. We sampled the local wares everywhere we went. So much sampling.

romulusnr1 karma

for some reason the world thinks I can't afford rent and live on the bus.

But why wouldn't you live on the bus? That place looks awesome. Tight for four, but for one, even two who don't intend to stay inside all the time, it seems pretty damn cozy.

hankbutitta1 karma

Part of the reason is that I want to live in the city, and there's not really a good place to keep it here. On the street I'd need to keep moving or I'd get ticketed/towed. And I don't know any driveways that friendly. Plus winter is outrageous!

pman821 karma

Is your trust fund ok?

hankbutitta1 karma

I put about 12k into the bus. To pay for it, I didn't pay the school for that semester, and briefly went to collections before I worked out a payment plan. So while my family has my back and I'll never be homeless, I wouldn't call it a trust fund.

pman821 karma

First world self-created kinda-problems.

hankbutitta1 karma

Yup, it's tough to complain too much.

prodigy9041 karma

Did you put any insulation in the walls? How did you heat or cool the bus? Would this work as year-round housing in northern environments? Finally, what's the mpg on this beast? I love the idea of being able to pick up and go anywhere, but the thought of dropping $500 to fill a tank scares me.

hankbutitta3 karma

Yeah, theres' some insulation in the walls. but there's only 1" below the floor and 1/2" above the ceiling, mostly because the ceiling is already low. So it holds some heat, but not much.

There's no way this would work through a midwest winter. There would have to be much more consideration for the window insulation, and it would need a powerful little heater to keep up with the losses.

It's actually about $200/tank. And we get about 10mpg. But it's still scary to pay for if you're not splitting it with a few friends!


why are you so poor?

did you both pitch and catch?

tell us about smellz?

hankbutitta1 karma

Uh... username relevant?