I’m going to start this post by giving away its ending: Bruno and I hit the road in one week from today! Next Monday, we plan to fully move into our Big Blue Bus and set out north, up through Arizona (for motorhome registration), quickly up through the United States (before our visa runs out) and into Canada.
I can think of practically nothing else, and with any free moment I am staring at maps and guide books, day-dreaming about the impending moment when Bruno and I are free! I don’t even care that our bus won’t be “truly” finished – it will be liveable and we will be able to cease this crazy full-time work schedule and begin to decompress and return to our regular selves. Jump for joy!!!!
Progress on our Bus Conversion
It’s taken a lot to get to this point, of course (find proof here). This month has been as frantic as the previous two, though in a different way. Rather than working non-stop inside the bus, Bruno has spent most of it at Pepe and Marco’s RV shop in Ensenada. As I mentioned in our last bus conversion update, we found a place in town that was willing to do a few projects for us that we couldn’t manage ourselves.
What we found out later was that they’d said yes to be nice, but that they neither had the time nor the experience to do the things we’d asked!
Progress has thus been slow.
Every morning, Bruno leaves the house by 7:15am, drives into town and spends the next 9-10 hours there, overseeing Adolpho as he installs our RV door, builds storage boxes on the sides of our chassis, and installs a bike rack in the back of the bus. Bruno manages to accomplish minor tasks inside – fixing the driver’s seat and fans, installing the curtain rods and closet rods, building walls as you walk into the bus – but because he’s parked on the side of the street and has one eye on Adolpho, progress inside our bus is just as slow as outside. (In the midst of all of this, Bruno had to deal with a pretty big diesel leak that took a few days to get under control. It was stressful to have precious diesel dripping out of the tank every time he drove, and he had no engine manual to help him figure out the problem, but after a couple tries, he changed the o-ring and we haven’t leaked since. Phew!)
Most days I stay home and deal with other types of tasks, like finding fabric and a tailor to sew window curtains, foam and an upholsterer for our dining room cushions, and keeping up with day-to-day tasks.. When Bruno arrives home, it’s become a sort of game to try to notice where progress has been made that day. It’s not easy to spot the day-to-day difference.
It is only when I compile a list here of what we’ve worked on this month that I can see what we have, in fact, accomplished. Between Adolpho and Bruno, we now have a fully-finished and insulated RV door. We have a bike rack installed behind the bus. And we are about two-thirds of the way finished with our four chassis boxes (which will store our propane tanks, grey water tank, spare tire, tools, and kerosene tank for our heater). These are all key tasks before our grand departure – if you recall, when we took our road trip from Tucson to Mexico, we had the RV door and bicycles inside, and we traveled without propane or a spare tire, none of which was at all practical.
Yesterday, Bruno finished installing our Eberspacher heater (which is great news because we hope to be in Yellowstone National Park in a few short weeks, and they’re still getting snow!) We were both quite amazed that the thing started on the first try because, not only is it a complicated electronic system, but Bruno had to redo a lot of wiring in order to complete this new installation. We turned the heater on this morning, just for fun!
Between the heater, the curtains and cushions, the work at Pepe and Marco’s RV Repair shop, and the carpentry work our HelpX volunteer, A.J., did for us earlier in the month, we’re sitting pretty for our grand departure. We won’t be finished Big Blue – there are still a few pieces of furniture to build, all the finishing work to do, and Bruno has quite a few more mechanical items on his list – but we’re much better off for this road trip than last month’s!
Being in Baja California
We arrived in Baja California at the end of March and are renting a villa at a resort and RV park along the coast south of Ensenada. Mona Lisa Beach was probably nice a couple decades ago, but it’s pretty run-down now. When we moved in, it was obvious no one had stayed here in a long time. The villa smelled of must and rat piss, the garden was overrun with weeds, and the furniture was rusty. Nonetheless, it was a vast improvement over the Air BnB where we were supposed to spend April, the price was less than half, and there was a big work space and parking space for our bus.
We’ve opted to continue sleeping inside the bus, which has sometimes proved challenging when we’ve created a cloud of dust over the course of the day’s work. But it’s been cozy and comfortable in the back of Big Blue, and I still can’t believe we have an actual bedroom in our new home-on-wheels!
Though most of our time has been spent working, it has been a refreshing change to be in a new country this month. We hadn’t been in a “developing” country in over a year – since Morocco – the longest I’ve gone since I started traveling over a decade ago. I’ve been practicing my Spanish (it’s really hilarious to listen to) and enjoying the local market, public buses, and taco stalls. I’ll write specifically about my impressions of and experiences in Ensenada and the surrounding area in a blog post soon. All I’ll mention today is that that being here in Mexico has substantially lowered our cost of living for the month (almost in half!). We also spent a lot less on the bus this month (we’d purchased 90% of the things we needed while in Tucson), which is great since we’re over budget for our bus conversion project.
This Month’s Statistics
Kms Driven: Only 288, all of them to Ensenada and back. It’s pretty astounding that, in so few miles, we already managed to have a diesel leak (that’s in addition to the transmission problem we had weeks after buying the bus in Phoenix!).
Countries Visited: 1, Mexico (if you can call what we’ve been doing “visiting”).
Highlight: Getting so many difficult and important projects done on the bus.
Biggest Challenge: Getting so many difficult and important projects done on the bus! No, but seriously, the biggest challenge was probably being a HelpX host, which is what I talked about in my previous post. A close second is being so close to the finish line and trying to find that last burst of energy and momentum to get to the end.
On the Cards Next Month
Let’s bring it back to what I mentioned at the beginning of this post – because, let’s face it, this is all I can think about these days: in May we are hitting the road!!!!!!!!! Our plan is to register our vehicle as a motorhome in Arizona mid-month, then take about two weeks to drive straight north toward Canada, hopefully hitting up a few national parks along the way, like the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone.
The idea of being camped in a national park, with no cares, no to-do list, no crazy schedule, no pressing needs is, without exaggerating, one of the most intoxicating thoughts I’ve ever had (no wonder it’s on constant replay). Now let’s cross our fingers that everything works out the way we hope!