In Which Brian and Matthew Plug In the Bus and Push the Envelope
by Matthew
August 5, 2022

Yesterday, Brian and I headed out in the bus.

Our goal: to test the systems and troubleshoot before Robbi and I hit the road at the end of the month.

We started out tired. Brian has been working on the bus around the clock. I have been managing non-mechanical tour preparation. Brian uses power tools. I type things. Both activities are equally exhausting and masculine.

We grabbed some food and headed for Rock Hall, Maryland, a little town about twenty minutes from Chestertown. Brian’s friend Meagan Wick, co-owner of the beautiful Bay Shore Campground had comped us a site for the night, so we could see how the bus performed in a real-live RV park.

By the time we arrived, the weather had dramatically turned. As the clouds rolled in and whitecaps appeared on the Bay, I was surprised in a good way. The weather matched the drama of the moment. It felt ordained.

Sensing we would soon be wet, Brian and I hurried to plug in the bus. Our site offered a spigot for water, a series of outlets offering a variety of voltage options, and a place to get rid of the wonderful stuff that comes out of your toilet or sink. Brian had filled up our water tank before we left Chestertown, we have no toilet, and our gray water tank is not yet ready for dumping, so we focused on the power plug.

Because he is knowledgable, thoughtful, and forward-thinking, Brian acquired a 30-Volt surge protector, which is the blue thing in the photo. Its job is to protect the bus in the event of a power surge from the campground’s power supply.

The next step was plugging in the bus itself. Brian, who believes in me, encouraged me to give it a try.

But I did not believe in me. The prongs were so strangely shaped. And there were three (3!) of them.

Nevertheless, lifted by Brian’s encouragement, I pressed on. And pressed in.

Did I rise to the challenge? Friends, I did.

The plug inserted and twisted until it clicked, I then spun the ring that locks it in place, and suddenly, there was light!

Light inside, that is. Outside, all heck was breaking loose. Not only was there wind and rain, but there was lightning. Hours of it.

Brian and I opened the windows and welcomed the cool breeze ate and exhaled with relief as the storm sent the heat away.

After dinner, we tested the various systems. We turned on the oven. We tried the microwave. We tried the oven and the microwave simultaneously. And then, in pursuit of that special thrill that can only result from pushing the envelope, we also turned on the air conditioner—daring the bus to over-exert itself and the circuit breaker to live up to its name.

I am happy to report this did not happen. We reveled in the successful simultaneity. But only for a moment. Because no one wants the oven on in the summer.

Soon it was dark. We cranked up the pop top and set up Brian’s bed.

We collapsed the rear table and converted the jackknife couches and soon I had a place to sleep, too.

It was the first voyage for my brand new “restless sleeper” sleeping bag that Robbi got me. I was very excited to give it a try.

Before turning in, we risked the rain and went outside to appreciate the beauty of the lights.

I can’t wait to see this bus in the heart of forests, in the open sweep of deserts, on the tops of mountain passes. But it was already beautiful on a patch of gravel just down the road as the rain fell.

Brian and I tucked into our respective beds and said good night, Waltons style.

My plan was to prove my mettle by sleeping like a confident baby for ten straight restorative hours.

That isn’t what happened. Perhaps it was the heat or the humidity or the army of affectionate bugs that came in when the windows were down or the extremely strong mid-afternoon coffee drink I had or the excitement of the moment or the utter complexity of the multi-featured “restless sleeper” sleeping bag, but I had trouble falling asleep and woke up far too early.

But the morning was so lovely when it came.

I will learn to only open the windows with screens. I will not drink so much coffee. I will get to know my sleeping bag.  I will not always feel the restless excitement of the first night sleeping on the bus.

In fact, I will never get to feel it again.

But what a first night it was. My thanks to Mother Nature for making it so interesting, and to Brian for building us this gorgeous rolling palace in the first place.

Much more will be said about the gratitude I feel for this person, but for now, I’ll just say there’s no one I’d rather have shared this milestone with.






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!