Buying a 40 Foot Long 2001 Thomas School Bus in Portland, OR

This is the story of us buying a retired school bus.

It involves a flight from Sacramento to Salt Lake City. Then Salt Lake City to Portland. Our friend Jonah helped us drive around the city to go to the bank and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Finally, after jumping through some loops, we had the legal requirements organized and the story goes on from there.

A Little About the Bus

So this one is a 40′ 2001 Thomas School Bus.

We plan to convert it to what is commonly known as a tiny house. It could be used for a million things, but we plan to make it a comfortable little place to live and work out of while we travel around the United States.

The project is a physical one, which is something I’ve been interested in for a while. As we do most of our work on the computers and the internets, I find myself wishing I had physical projects to work on. This bus is a big, physical project.

The bus was taken out of service at the end of class in the year 2016. It was previously owned and operated by Forest Grove School District.

It has a 5.9L Cummins engine. So it’s basically a giant, unstoppable beast.

Managing the Fear

So basically, I’m scared of this project. I am a believer that it’s often a good idea to do the things that make people

Anyways, this is the first in a series of School Bus conversion videos. It’s going to be remarkable.

Adventure Ideas – River Scuttle – Emerald Pools to Washington City, CA

These are plans for a very hardcore river scuttle. Do you know what a river scuttle is?

A river scuttle is a journey in which you carry nothing but a waterproof bag. That waterproof bag is carried either slung around your arm and shoulder or it floats alongside you while you swim. The idea is that you are 100% prepared to be aquatic, but carrying everything you need to survive in your waterproof bag.

This journey described in the above image is an eleven mile trip. That means those doing the journey are doing nothing but cliff jumping, swimming, rock climbing and hiking the entire distance along the river.

Waterproof bags will need to have space for sleeping bags and shelter. This will be a 2-3 day trip.

This is a big journey. I’ve never met anyone who has undertaken it.

There are a lot of safety values. It’s dangerous, but not perilous.

Let me know if you want to go in the comments. I’m thinking that we head out in late June.

Bus Prospect Number One

In a few days, we fly up to Portland, Oregon to check out the bus that we think will work best for our bus conversion. Here are some pictures of it:

I’m not going to lie. This is a scary thing to undertake. It’s a good chunk of money and a big time commitment. And it’s going to be alot of really hard work.

But it’s such a big, empty, powerful canvas to use to create something amazing.

Look at all those mirrors.

That swinging yellow bar will have to go.

I’ve read that the flat nose buses have much better turning radiuses.

If we get this bus, those seats are dust.

I count 24 seats. Is that what you got?

It’s a bit dusty, but everything looks in order.

If we get this bus, that seat will have to go too.

We’ll need something that can swivel.

Maybe I could convert it into a swivel chair….

Mucho dust. No mucho miles.

These busses are built to do 500,000 miles.

Apparently this bus weighs 30,000 pounds which is a challenge for the regulators. According to the rules, V  will have to get a class A drivers license with the State of Nevada in order to drive this beast.

Researching the Bus Situation

  • AD2000 Transmission – Documentation
  • Massive Safety Test Done on a Trolley with the same motor as our bus- Documentation
  • Non Commercial Class A, B and J Endorsements for the State of Nevada (Documentation)

History Lesson of the Thomas Bus Company

Ok so this is a Thomas Bus. Thomas Intl. is a company based in North Carolina and is the oldest surviving American bus company.

They were founded in 1916. That’s 101 years in business.

Thomas A. Perley was an excellent craftsman and his first employer lost him to the Southern Car Company who hired him away as their chief engineer and draftsman. But the Southern Car Company folded in 1916 which made it so that Thomas A. Perley was officially laid off.

That didn’t wipe him out though. He received a contract with the Southern Public Utilities Company to help them improve their rail cars. A year later, he started a company called Perley A. Thomas Car Works. They went on to become famous for their streetcars.

You could find the Perley A. Thomas Car Works’s street cars all over the world in places like Detroit, Michigan, New York City, Miami, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico. They were known everywhere. In fact, if it weren’t for Perley A. Thomas Car Works, there may have never been a play set in New Orleans. You might have heard of it, it was called A Streetcar Named Desire.


In 1936, Thomas came to the realization that the future of the transportation industry would lay in buses. Later they changed the companies name to Thomas Built Buses, Inc., and grew into one of the the three largest bus building companies in the United States of America.

Thomas Built Buses, Inc. stopped building busses during World War 2. Their building capacities were put towards creating trucks for soldiers. Thomas Built Buses, Inc. was put to work building trucks like these:


Perley A. Thomas may have died in 1958, but his company lives on. To this day, Thomas Built Buses, Inc. is the oldest surviving American bus manufacturing company.

Though the bus we found in Portland was built in 2001, we plan to breath new life into this vehicle which is a symbol of American design and ingenuity.


Today we purchased tickets from Sacramento (SMF) to Portland (PDX). We arrive to Portland late Tuesday evening, to have a look at the beast Wednesday morning. Providing all the details that the seller has provided are accurate, we plan to drive the bus from Portland back to our woods cabin in Grass Valley, California. It should take us 1 full day if all goes to plan. Then we’ll begin converting the bus into the greatest school bus conversion tiny home that the world has ever known.

First off, we need to get some rest. Speak to you soon. Thank you for reading.


I’m really enjoying living in the forest.

John Muir

If you’d like to learn more about John Muir and what he did to preserve forest lands on the west coast, learn about him on wikipedia here or you can go deep and read the biography.

john muir forest quote

t6r – Twitter Spam Hack Reactor Founders With Their Own Random Quotes

Getting stuck is the hardest thing about learning computer programming.

While working my way through Free Code Camp, I was stuck on the Random Quote Generator project. It’s part of their intermediate front end development certification.

Luckily, I had been applying to Hack Reactor and was conditionally accepted as soon as I completed the Pre-course Accept (PCA) program. While working through the PCA program with a big group of Hack Reactor people, we had the same project as Free Code Camp. We were to build a random quote generator.

So I used their random JavaScript algorithm to display random quotes at the click of a button. Very basic jQuery.

Heres the thing… the quotes are really funny. How could this be more useful?

It’s pretty clear that the random quotes were crafted by people who started the schools. The folks who came up with the first Hack Reactor curriculum.

So I wrote a short click to tweet algorithm and generated the quotes so they were easily shared on twitter. Now, anyone who wants to spam the founders of hack reactor with random quotes can do it with ease.

This is just for fun of course. A little mischievous fun on the internets. Despite the fact that I didn’t end up attending Hack Reactor, my experience learning with them for the PCA portion of the bootcamp was excellent.

Anyways, here’s how it turned out:

Drone Experiment One – Shots of the Truckee River and Nevada County Forest

Ariel drone photography is problematic for those seeking to make great movies for the internet. Here’s my thinking:

Shooting video with a drone is extra fun. The person driving the camera is generally having the time of their lives, so they love the footage they get.

The problem is that those shots are far more interesting for the person who shot it than it is for the person who watches it.

A post shared by Ian Robinson (@independentian) on

The problem with the footage is that it needs to tie in with a story or a pattern that keeps people interested.

I haven’t figured that part out yet, but I’m seeking ideas.

Unboxing a DJI Mavic Pro

Unboxing a DJI Mavic Pro is a lot of fun. It’s like unwrapping a private aircraft. This is a quick blog and a video about my experience. I’m trying to keep it short and interesting.

Unboxing a DJI Mavic Pro

So the unboxing is great. They package the drone well. Packaging is fine, but the thing that I like the most is the ability to take a camera from the box and use it 10 minutes later. The DJI Mavic Pro scores pretty well on this scale.

unboxing dji mavic pro - Box

At the end of the day, it’s a really complex device. The fact that they sent me a box and I was able to fly a drone and take 4k video from the sky is pretty amazing.

unboxing dji mavic pro - Controller

Setting it up is not the most intuitive thing ever. It took a bit of focus and I actually had to glance at the instructions for a few minutes to understand how to charge the thing.

unboxing dji mavic pro - Blades

As you can see by the end of the video that it takes a little bit of time to set up once I connect my phone to the remote control. This is annoying because they force you to register for an account with the DJI application. That’s a bit annoying, but at the end of the day, it’s a minor inconvenience.

unboxing dji mavic pro First Flight

Once you get it in the air… wow.

These things are a lot of fun. I’d say it’s easy to fly. Many people warned me that I should practice flying before I use the Mavic Pro. They warned me that I risked crashing it if I didn’t have experience flying a drone. At the end of the day, those warnings were warrantless.

It’s an easy thing to fly. I don’t think anyone needs to practice. Just take off and learn on the fly.

unboxing dji mavic pro Landscape 1

If you’re inspired to get one, Amazon will ship it to you quickly. I mean, you only live once right. Get it here.

How to Apply Grout – Another Maker Series by Ian Robinson

This is a tutorial on how to apply grout.

How to Apply Grout 3

Specifically, I’m using 1-Quart Simple Premium Grout which is pre-mixed so I don’t have to mix it myself. This is most useful for when applying grout to a small area. This project is about a 4 square foot area, so it’s a very simple application.

Equipment Needed to Apply Grout

  • PreMixed Grout –

How to Apply Grout 1

  • Grout float –

How to Apply Grout 3

  • Soft Grout Sponge –
How to Apply Grout 2
Sorry this photo is out of focus

How to Apply Grout – Just the Steps

  • Get all your pieces together.
  • Set the tiles using ready set cement and spacers.
  • Take the grout from the quart container and push it into the spaces between the tiles. Do this for about 1-3 square feet.
  • Use a sponge to wipe the unnecessary grout away. Try to keep the sponge as dry as possible. Only sponge the grout once or twice, then rinse and squeeze dry your sponge.
  • Change water often. As the water gets dirty, you’ll be less effective in cleaning up the tile.
  • Repeat across all surface area that you want to be grouted.
  • Once you have the project covered, wait four hours for the grout to cure.
  • Once grout is cured, go back over the whole project and clean up all the unnecessary grout. Especially make sure to wipe off the haze on your pretty tiles.
  • That’s it. Once you clean it up for the final time, let the grout sit for 48 hours. Then you’re done.

How to Apply Grout - Grouting is Fun

Overall Thoughts on the Product

This grout isn’t excellent. I’ve noticed a bit of chipping since installing the floor. Because we put corrugated steel siding behind the stove, we had to stand on the tile to get the steel working. Maybe if we had waited another day the grout would have hardened up better.

Also, the wood to tile joints don’t seem to be quite as strong as the tile to tile joints.

I like the simplicity of just opening up the container and grouting. That is far easier than doing it the traditional way. Traditionally, you mix up grouting dirt with water using a drill with a mixer attachment on it. That requires more tools, more focus and more experience. This pre-mixed grout is far more approachable, especially if you’re new to grouting.

Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you find this useful. If you have any questions leave a comment down below.

How to Apply Grout 4