Introducing the Bus!
by Matthew
October 24, 2021

In case you’ve been wondering…

The bus in this photo (the one we’ll be living in and driving approximately 25,000 miles on our tour) is a 24-foot school bus with a Thomas body, a Freightliner chassis, and a Caterpillar engine.

Standard school busses are 35 feet, and some can be as long as 45 feet! We don’t trust ourselves to drive something that large and unwieldy.

Our bus is surprisingly maneuverable, doesn’t require a commercial license to operate, and can fit into a standard-sized parking space as long as it’s backed up against the edge of a lot.

Decommissioned school busses can be purchased via auction, but you might be required to cover up the yellow paint before driving it away.

We have bug plans for our bus conversion, which is being done by our amazing friend Brian Thompson of Red Door Remodeling, who I’ll introduce properly in an upcoming post.

We’ll have a small kitchen with a sink, fridge, microwave, toaster oven, and induction cooktop. There will be a cozy dining area with two couch-style seats that convert into a bed for Robbi and me.

We we’re compensating for the lack of square footage by adding a pop-up sleeping compartment for the kids on the roof, accessible via internal hatch and ladder.

We’ll have a bank of six lockers, and every family member will be able to bring as many belongings as can fit inside.

There will be storage bins mounted to the undercarriage, an exterior awning, an on-board generator, and a backup camera for safety.

We won’t have a shower or flushing toilet. (There just isn’t space for one.) But there are plenty to be found at campgrounds and rest stops. And we’ll have a portable toilet for emergencies.

Before we hit the road, Robbi will be covering every inch with a glorious mural. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

If you want a school bus of your own, there are plenty to be had. Just go to the Google and type “skoolie.” Prepare to get lost for a while.

Apparently, if properly maintained, a school bus can drive a million miles.

We aim to test the theory.

There will be many more posts about the bus conversion in the days ahead. For now, we just wanted to give you the chance to say hello.

To learn more or buy a book for a kid: www.busloadofbooks.com

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The Busload of Books Tour is a year-long project to promote literacy and raise awareness of the challenges facing our nation’s public schools.

Author/illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr (that’s us) and our four kids will spend the 2022-2023 school year traveling the country in a school bus/tiny home, visiting Title I schools in all 50 states (plus DC), and giving away 25,000 hardcover books to students and teachers from underserved communities.

As we travel, we will be blogging, vlogging and posting frequently to social media. All of our content will be appropriate for bringing families and students along on our ultimate road trip.

The latest on Instagram:

The Daily Minute: 6.18.24
In which Robbi reports from a rainforest near Anchorage.
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And they’re off!
 
Robbi and the kids (the dogs) left home early afternoon yesterday. They flew to Seattle last night and caught an overnight flight to Anchorage, where they landed just after midnight Alaska time. To kill time during their 12-hour layover, they’re going to rent a car and drive down the Turnagain Arm to Portage. It’s a gorgeous stretch of road along the water.
 
Later today, they’ll catch a flight to King Salmon, a small tundra town which is the jumping-off point for many sport fishing adventures—and the place where the fishermen in our district catch the bush planes that take them to their various fishing camps.  
 
The whole trip will take about 36 hours, at which point Robbi and the kids will land on the beach and be greeted by Robbi’s brother in a pickup truck. They’ll drive to our compound, take the plywood off the windows, head to the spring to get water, hook up the solar panel, and then start setting up our fishing lines.
 
It’s so much work to get started every year, but they’ll be up and running by the time I reach the tundra late next Monday evening. It’s possible I’ll jump off the plane and straight into my waders. Once the fishing starts, it waits for no one.
 
PS - This illustration is from our picture book Sunrise Summer, which tells the story of Alden’s first season as a member of the fishing crew. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into our lives in Alaska.
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The Daily Minute: 6.17.24
In which we tape up the coolers, and Robbi’s hair proves tundra-ready.
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The Daily Minute: 6.16.24
In which Robbi leaves for Alaska tomorrow and the dogs are running free.
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Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

Our adventure is your adventure. Our country is your country, too. Follow along with us!