I tend to be a bit of an optimist with almost every planned project of mine, which translates to underestimating difficulty and the amount of time it will take to complete a task. The bus project is no different! I researched thoroughly (er, perhaps to the point of being a little obsessive), reading every blog post or forum surrounding the subject, and made my plan accordingly. I could have researched until my eyes fell out, but nothing could quite prepare me for the confrontation with the seats.
Day 1, April 15, 2017:
Robert and I rose early on a Saturday morning and headed to the bus, with newly rented angle grinders in hand and a borrowed 250 lb. generator in tow. I was channelling my inner Chip Gaines and shouting “It’s DEMO DAYYYYY” the entire way there. Chomping at the bit, we attacked the rusted bolts that held the seats in place. We wanted those seats out in one day!
Only, we didn’t get them out in one day. The sparks coming from our grinders were quite the fireworks show, but they didn’t work as quickly as we thought. At the end of the day, we had a little over half the seats detached from the interior.
Boom. Kerpow! We had to leave the seats inside the bus to keep our work area tidy, but this is what we accomplished on Day 1: one half removed, plus a couple on the other side.
Here’s how we did it:
Every bus is different, and there are many different ways to “skin the cat.” After about an hour or two of trial and error, what we found worked best for our bus was to cut the two supporting legs on a bus seat and use a wrench to remove the two bolts that were attached the seat to the wall or “chair rail” by hand. The feet of our bus seats (the part that is bolted to the floor) were not flat, instead they were curved up around the heads of each bolt and required that we grind down the metal feet as well, which took FOR – EH – VUR (Sandlot, anyone?). As of right now, the feet are still bolted to the floor and we will have to deal with them soon.
A few things we were surprised about from Day 1:
- The friction from the angle grinders generated so much heat! No touchy.
- The weight of the grinders and the grip strength needed to control them made my hands very, very tired and sore.
- We were covered in dirt. It was in our ears. In. Our. Ears.
- There were hot air balloons in the sky that flew right over us! Those people were probably wondering, “What in the world…” as they flew over us. We are getting used to that.
- Lastly, we ate SO MUCH at lunch time. We had Moe’s and the entire cup of queso and bag of chips were gone in 5 minutes, along with our tacos.
Day 2, April 22, 2017:
A week went by and we were at it again, hoping to complete this monumental first step in the skoolie conversion process. We rented one big, ol’ honkin’ angle grinder (7″) instead of the two we rented last week. When this baby is busy cutting or grinding metal, you better hope you are on the opposite end of the bus, because those sparks can fly.
We had a much better sense of what to do the second time around. Robert made a few cuts in places we couldn’t fit a wrench and he almost finished cutting all the chair legs when the cutting wheel broke. Welp. He had to go to a work day at school, so I decided I would just use my wrench and pliers to remove as many seats as I could. I got all of them out except two, which will need to be cut out.
I used the rest of my time to remove the cushions from the seats. The seat cushions easily popped off after turning a latch underneath the cushion, and I dismantled the back cushions by using a box cutter and a tub of elbow grease.
The look on Robert’s face when he came back was absolutely priceless, since I had finished dismantling and sorting everything! I had the metal seats stacked, the cushions stacked, and the foam + fabric in a pile. It was time for an adventure: taking the metal seats to the scrap yard!
Pictured above: An exhausted, yet happy Catherine.
I drove my car and led Robert, who was driving the bus, across town and to Asheville Metal Recycling Center. I parked my car as Robert drove the bus into a large breezeway that was in the middle of a massive warehouse. I walked in behind the bus and let my eyes adjust to the surprisingly dim workshop. Metal clanged around me, machines purred at the end of the building, and a never-ending sorted pile of aluminum, steel, and who knows what else filled the warehouse.
The workers were incredibly friendly to us and it was fun to watch them as the arrival of the bus sparked their imaginations, followed immediately by a broadening curiosity in their eyes, causing work to slowly come to a halt. As we unloaded the seats from the bus, I began to notice we had a small audience forming. One by one, the workers congregated on the driver’s side, arms folded, checking out this 40-foot wonder. It felt great to see strangers enjoy and embrace our crazy project. Our friends and family have been so very supportive, and we are extremely grateful for them! But, for once, strangers were smiling at Buddy, not staring in disbelief or frowning.
Yes, it is a privately owned school bus that we have to fill with Diesel at the local gas station. Yes, we have to take up quite a few parking spaces if we go anywhere with it. And yes, we might be just a tad crazy. But what’s the fun in not being a little crazy?
In the end, we got $40 for recycling our metal, all 710 pounds of it! I couldn’t help but think to myself that we each lifted 710 pounds at least twice that day, perhaps close to three times! No wonder I had noodle arms the next day.
The moral of the story: It takes twice as long as you think to complete something when you are doing it yourself for the first time. Patience, young Padawan.
Until next time,
Catherine and Robert