In Which Our Tiny Home Emerges (A Glimpse Inside the Bus)
by Matthew
June 9, 2022

The bus exterior has been amply documented.

But in case you missed it, here it is, colorfully adorned with a literacy-themed mural, painted with love and persistence by Robbi and me and a bunch of our friends and a few hundred kids and community members.

“But what about the insides?” one might reasonably ask. “Don’t you plan to live in there?”

Yes, friends, we do. And since we plan to eat a meal or two in the course of our long year on the road, we asked Brian to make us a kitchen. I’m happy to report that progress has been made on that front.

Behold our mighty stack of appliances, countertop area, and vertical pantry.  If you hadn’t guessed, Robbi’s favorite color is cherry red. She is not happy that no cherry red toaster ovens were available but is so pleased with her fridge and microwave that she’s decided to focus on the positive. The countertop will eventually host a small bar sink that will attach to a fresh tank and gray tank mounted under the bus. And the pantry will be home to various drawers.

The counter will be covered with 50s-style formica and edged with the kind of silver rim you see in diners. Still debating whether the cabinets should be painted pale green or pale blue.

Something like this, maybe?

Or this?

We can’t wait to see the finished product.

When our meals are prepared, we’ll take them a few feet down the grand hallway to the dining area, which converts with astonishing ease into a queen-sized bed for Robbi and me. The table in this photo is a placeholder. The final will have to leaves that fold out, and the whole thing will be covered with the same material as the kitchen countertop. When we’re ready to sleep, the table folds down toward the floor. I’ll do a separate post to  show you how it works once the final table is in place. It’s incredibly gratifying.

“But what about storage?” you ask. “Where will you keep the many trappings of comfort and joy?”

The short answer is that we will leave as many trappings as possible at home. But for the things we must bring, Brian is building overhead bins that will run along the sides of the bus from front to back.

These will be good for storing coats and computers and first-aid kits and soccer balls and such. We need something a bit bigger and more organized for our clothes.

In keeping with the school theme of our journey, Brian found a bank of old lockers online. Note the cherry red doors. There is no length to which Brian will not go in the endless quest to please Robbi.

Part of the quest was removing the doors and creating this cabinet—to retain the locker feel while giving us a bit more space.

Inside are six drawers and a shelf on top. Each member of the family gets one drawer in which to place all clothing items. I can’t wait to see how this goes. Thank goodness the drawers are deep. Thank goodness our summers in Alaska have conditioned us all to wearing the same outfits day after day after day. Thank goodness Jasper is so easy to bribe. I anticipate leasing some of his cubic inches with promises of extra screen time.

We showed you where the children will cram their clothing. But where will they sleep? Let’s back up for a moment. The observant among you will have noticed the large, square hole in the ceiling just above the kitchen. And a man lurking. A man with a knee.

In a moment of pique, Brian cut a hole in the roof of the bus. That’s not quite true. He just repurposed the hole that was already there.

I know what you’re thinking. “But won’t that cause problems with rain and snow and well-fed pigeons?”

No friends. Brian thought of everything. To buy us an extra 60-square feet of living space, Brian found a place in Colorado that manufactures pop-ups for the roof of your sprinter van or school bus.

This is where the kids will sleep. Or hang out while I’m cooking dinner in our beautiful, tiny kitchen.

Note that only three of these kids are my kids. My non-kids were placed in this photo only to demonstrate how much space the rooftop pop-up allows for sitting side-by-side and grinning.

Here’s how the pop-up looks from the outside. Look how happy Robbi is! Look how well Brian is doing in the endless quest to please her!

And yet, all this above is only the beginning of Brian’s ingenuity. There is still so much to be done, but we can already tell how much we love this tiny rolling home of ours.

The footprint might be small, but there’s plenty of room for everything we need.

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Recently:

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 takes an early-morning drive along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.
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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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Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

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