Jun 1, 2008 -

One Door Wide Open

I was asked for an update on the bus situation. I’m really not convinced that a 1979 Wanderlodge is going to suit my needs. It’s a sturdy product, but it is 30 years old, with steel springs instead of an air ride suspensions (which brings back nasty memories of bouncing around in a school bus) and it has a cat 3208 engine that could make those BC mountains feel like Everest as I try climb them. There are so many cons that I’m not certain that ‘It’s a Wanderlodge!’ makes up for them. Add to that the dismal cosmetics and I’m getting less and less enchanted the more I think about it.

That said, I have another candidate in mind! This one’s not a bus, and it’s not even diesel, but it’s made by Tiffin motorcoaches, which also have a fabulous reputation. This coach is a ’94, is in near perfect mechanical condition (minor things need updating, but they could wait), and the interior is gorgeous and spacious. It even has a full size tub! The only things I’d want to upgrade immediately would be the flooring (replace carpet with laminate) and to install a bookcase in the livingroom. Soon as I saw this coach, I want ‘ah ha!’ It’s exactly the sort of space I see myself living in. The price is excellent, too, and I plan to make a rather lowball offer to see if I can knock even more money off. Yup, I think I’ve found my new home! I’ve contacted to seller to make arrangements to view it. The fact that it’s located in Ottawa and was just recently safety checked are huge bonuses. The first fact means that I don’t have to travel to see it (more $$$) and the latter means that I don’t need to have another mechanical inspection done in order to purchase.

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May 31, 2008 -

Bus Plans

Well, June has come. Or, rather, by Monday June will have come. June was my deadline for moving to Manitoba in a ‘traditional’ way; ie. packing up my stuff, finding a place there, taking on a steady job, etc.

I haven’t heard back about the job I interviewed for and I now realise that I don’t want the position at this time! As time crept on, I began to wonder what more amazing plans the gods have in store for me, and they finally became clear this week.

After much prodding, I managed to speak with someone in human resources at work about taking a leave of absence. The terms are amazing–my current position is guaranteed for a year, I can keep paying into my pension and health benefits, and I can take on any number of short term assignments with other employers and without losing my sabbatical privileges.

This helped me formulate an amazing plan for the next year, or, rather, cemented the loose plan I’ve been working on. I’m having difficulty committing to it without having in hand the rejection letter from the job in Winnipeg, but I’m still taking baby steps.

What’s this plan, you wonder?

Well, it sure doesn’t involved freezing my tookus off in Winnipeg next winter.

I’m going back with my original plan of buying a bus conversion motorhome by the fall. I’ll then take two or three weeks and drive to British Columbia with it. BC has the mildest climate in Canada, with some areas having very easy winters. Lots of RV parks are open year round. I’m thinking of making Kelowna my very final destination, after spending perhaps a couple of weeks each in Victoria and Vancouver, but that’ll depend on part two of the plan.

Part two hinges on making successful contact with a placement agency willing to help me find short term assignments (up to 3 weeks, ideally) so that I can have money coming in throughout my sabbatical.

I’d like to stay in BC for four months, October to the end of February, and stay in a few different places if I can get sufficient work. Then, I’d like to spend March and April in Alberta and Saskatchewan doing the same thing. I might stay in Alberta longer since there are so many jobs there, even for unskilled labour. Then, I’d do something I’ve wanted to do since I was three apples high–spend several months touring the Territories.

Come fall of ’09, I’d have the option of going to Winnipeg to settle down with a real job, a house, etc. and be a grown up, or, if the whole traveling and working thing is working out for me, I could keep traveling for another four years.

The idea of taking a year off is so appealing…. Ideally, I’d like to find a balance between assignments and/or part-time jobs and working on developing my web business. Taking a year to breathe, to see new things, to do new things, to get out of this rut I keep spinning myself into…. Oh, yes, what an amazing year it could end up being.

I’ve already got a bus in mind. It’s a lot older than what I thought I’d end up considering, same age as me, in fact. It’s a 1979, but a Blue Bird Wanderlodge, which is considered to be the cream of the crop. Even a Bird that old is worth getting. The one I’m eyeing seems to be in good shape, even though the only slightly updated 1970’s decor is making me flashback to my mobile house (yellow sink, tub, and toilet; ‘wood’ laminate’, plastic door handles, etc.). I’ve gotten some advice from other Wanderlodge owners and the consensus is that it’s priced way too high, but if I can get the price down to NADA levels, then I would be making a solid investment in a good, sound bus with an excellent reputation, lots of available parts, lots of support from other owners, etc. For a first time owner who is short on time and doesn’t want to import from the US, I probably could not do better than this bus.

It’s a 35’er; shorter than what I’d been looking at (40′), but when I consider that I’d be hauling my car, too, it’s a more reasonable length. Even though I’d want to update the interior (PAINT), replace the dinette and couches with furniture I would actually use, add solar panels and more heaters, etc. I could end up with a really good bus under 20K, provided the current owner is willing to see that his price is not realistic.

What sold me on the Wanderlodges is the cockpit; filled with tons of dials and gauges enabling the owner to monitor all systems as they work, rather than waiting for a light to tell them there’s a problem that is probably beyond an easy fix. I also like that the Wanderlodges were built in the Blue Bird factory on an assembly line, so their systems are all the same. If I got a bus that was converted privately, chances are no one could help me muddle through any problems I’d have. The 1970’s decor would be a small trade off.

I’m tempted to recontact the owner and tell him that I’m interested, but that NADA values are X and seeing his response.

Before I do, that, though, I really should investigate the following things:

-how much it’ll cost me to import this bus into Quebec and plate it;
-how much the insurance would be (for the bus, liability, contents, etc. since this would be my full-time home at some point);
-if there are any ‘seasonal’ spots left at any of the local campgrounds or if a storage facility would let me take the bus out on weekends to go to campgrounds (the latter would probably be cheaper)

And that’s not counting getting the towing accessories, any mechanical fixes that need to be done immediately, etc.

I’m already working on finding someone who could do a cursory mechanical inspection for me before I drive 20 hours round trip to view the bus in person.

Financing? One call to the bank and a couple of signatures later and that’s already been taken care of. It was my first step to committing to this plan. 🙂

I’ll let the owner sweat a few more days as I continue to research this bus.

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Buying Miranda, Itineraries, Personal, Technical, Travel, Why I Do This    No Comments
Mar 28, 2008 -

Tired of Packing…

I love to travel. I hate to pack and unpack. It feels that I’ve spent most of my life packing or unpacking a suitcase.

My parents separated when I was young, so I went back and forth between them. I left a lot of items at my dad’s, but not clothes. I’d pack Friday evening, unpack Friday evening, repack on Sunday and unpack again Sunday. Twice a month.

Through high school and cégep, I packed and unpacked to go to dad’s, to work (where I often would spend the weekend), to travel.

In university and college, I’d pack and unpack to visit my folks and my friends. Same thing since I started to work full-time.

Then I started to travel again.

Pack. Unpack. Repack. Reunpack.

I always check my packing list, but it’s a crutch. I don’t need one, just reminders of unusual items I need to bring.

It will be so nice to have a house on wheels, to be at home wherever I go, to put away the suitcase and bags for a while, to spend more time seeing and doing than sitting on a suitcase filled with all the stuff I might or might not need for the traveling I’m doing while praying that it’ll zip shut without bursting.

Tired of packing, but oh-so-not tired of traveling.

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Personal, Why I Do This    No Comments