The most unbelievable thing happened today – Bruno asked me to go for a walk along the nearby beach with him.
This most ordinary of requests is anything but ordinary in our household these days. For the past two-and-a-half months, we have been working 10-hour days seven days a week to convert the bus we purchased at the end of January. Our bus conversion project has felt like the perfect real-world example of biting off more than one can chew. Bruno’s strategy has been to plough ahead full-steam, despite what I can only describe as severe burn-out. I’m not exaggerating when I say he has not taken a single waking moment for himself in about eighty days.
Bruno himself hasn’t accomplished any major visible tasks on our bus conversion since our arrival in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. He’s placed a small 12-volt fan by the bucket of our composting toilet to aid with the drying and ventilating process, and a larger fan near the water heater to exhaust heat and gas fumes. He has fixed our bedside tables to the wall, and installed bedside reading lights to either side of the bed. He has placed small hardware into the inside of our bedroom drawers to prevent them from opening when driving (we still haven’t found the perfect solution for the kitchen cabinets), and he has more or less planned out and purchased the remaining materials for our eventual heater installation. There haven’t been too many photos taken to document the accomplishment of these small tasks.
This may beg the question: why, then, is Bruno suddenly taking a break, when history would show that he’s been incapable of relaxing with the stress of this project weighing upon him?
I think the answer is simple: we’ve finally had some good help.
Through the misfortune of our failed Air BnB experience, we made a helpful contact – a family shop in Ensenada town that renovates RVs. One of our first days in Mexico, we brought our bus to them, discussed a few projects we weren’t able to manage ourselves (generally involving welding and heavy metal power tools), and crossed our fingers that they could help. Their reaction was favourable, their quote was in our price range (as opposed to obscene hourly rates in the United States!), and they could begin the following week.
And so, three days last week, Bruno drove the bus into town, and work began. So far, we’ve managed to remove the old bus double door and install a used RV door we had purchased at an RV Salvage shop in Phoenix (and lugged all the way here – man, did that thing take up space!). This week, we’re due to begin building storage boxes on the side of the chassis and a bike rack behind the bus. These are pretty important tasks in order for the bus to become a functional living space, and we’re so relieved we’ve been able to find someone to help us with them!
Our other good help comes from the volunteer organization I’ve written about recently, HelpX. After having two questionably helpful HelpX experiences, I realized we needed a more skilled worker for our project. I found an American carpenter, A.J., who happened to want to visit the Baja Peninsula. I will likely speak more about the experience of hosting him in a future post, but today it’s enough to say that he was, indeed, a skilled worker and he was, indeed, able to help us with a number of small construction projects in the bus.
First, A.J. built us a few doors – one for the storage space behind the driver’s seat, and one for the bathroom. It was in the bathroom door construction that I saw his skills shine – he suggested building a folding door as a space-appropriate door in this tight hallway space. We’d never even thought to try building this because it seemed too complex, but he whipped up the frame and inner wall in a day or so. I am proud to say I planked the outside of the door myself!
Next up, A.J. took the remnants of our butcher block countertop and patch-worked a dining room table together. This was actually more challenging than it sounds because it involved us borrowing a circular saw to cut straight lines, chiselling down the edges so they’d meet as best as possible, using dowels to stick the pieces together (it was up to me to find the equipment necessary for this task, and it wasn’t simple, let me tell you!) and sanding the surface (also done by me) so that the four pieces would be as uniformly straight as possible. Then AJ fixed the table to the wall and rigged a makeshift foot onto its outer edge. The finishing aspects of the table aren’t completed yet, but at least we can finally eat breakfast in our bus!
A.J. also built us a few cabinets. Using an IKEA door, he built an upper kitchen cabinet, taking into account the curves of our bus. He built a long bookshelf (I can’t believe I get a bookshelf!) on the opposite side of the living space, and he built two mini closets on either side of our bed. Bruno was charged with the challenging task of securing each piece of furniture to the wall (no easy task when most the walls are mere fiberglass), but at least he didn’t have to build them, too. The curves and angles of the bus made the tasks just challenging enough that someone without carpentry experience would struggle with them. A.J. seemed to whip up these pieces of furniture with relative ease, and without having to measure and re-measure the space countless times, as we had done with our early pieces of furniture!
When I think of all the help we’ve received over the past two weeks on our bus conversion, it’s not so surprising that Bruno said to me at lunch: Let’s go for an afternoon stroll on the beach. What Bruno was really saying to me was that he was finally starting to get a handle on this project, that the stress of it all was beginning to melt away.
I feel it, too. We’re both seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. If all goes well, we’ll begin living full-time in our bus by the beginning of May, and we may even begin traveling again and finishing our conversion project on a more part-time basis while on the road. I’m so excited about this prospect that I’m beginning to dream – nightly – about all the adventures that await us.
As excited as I am about the prospect of traveling again, though, I’m more excited just to get to go for a walk with Bruno. Or to see him sit in the afternoon shade and read a book (which is what he did after our walk – I actually rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing properly). I’m excited to linger with him at breakfast, to spend an evening with him where his eyes aren’t half-closed, to share a relaxing happy hour drink while gazing romantically at the sunset.
I don’t think I’d be getting to get this excited if it weren’t for all the help we’ve received in the past two weeks. I’m oh-so grateful for that help.