Better With Friends

As we are still fine-tuning details on working remotely in order to travel for longer periods of time, our trips of late have been quickies to close-by natural areas. On our 2nd trip we, along with two great couples, camped at Cedar Ridge on Lake Belton in Texas. Bustachio arrived first, and we backed into a lovely lakeside spot. Our friends arrived just a little later. Their trailer RV’s are quite different. One is an efficiency model for sure, everything you need with no wasted space. The other is extra large with pop-outs and recliners and way more space. We felt we had all body types represented, as well as varying decors. It was fun to see how others managed their spaces and we each gleaned a little intel on dos and don’ts that had worked in the past.

We chatted, we hiked, we ate, we laughed, but there’s something about a campfire that melts away our everyday masks, and we allow ourselves to be real and vulnerable. Or maybe it was just the spirits? Who knows? We do know that conversation flows more readily around dancing flames, and it was heartwarming to share our hopes, dreams, and fears. We all felt it. We learned a lot more about each other and realized that we had even more in common than we previously knew.  As the sharing slowly turned to silence, we knew it was time for bed. The weather report let us down, and the unanticipated dampness and chilly winds sent us inside to put on our flannels and get some rest.

Waking up with coffee and a full breakfast waiting to be devoured is always a plus. When you camp with friends, it’s always a good idea to divvy up the cooking responsibilities. It makes the whole meal prep thing easier and more enjoyable. Since the wind was still blowing, we ate in our friends’ extra large RV and did our best to leave no food behind.

Some out-of-state friends of ours were coming through our area of Texas to see us and another set of their friends. We invited them to visit us and Bustachio while at Cedar Ridge but wondered where they needed to go to visit the other friends. As a weird coincidence, the other set of friends were also camping at Cedar Ridge, just a few sites away, to attend a Mother Earth News presentation that we had no idea was happening. So their other friends became our friends, and our other friends became their friends, and we all left with a larger circle than when we arrived.

Take the time to get away, if even for one night. The benefits of removing yourself from your usual surroundings far outweigh any anxiety prep. You’ll come home relaxed and renewed and ready to see your usual world in a whole new way. As we like to say, “Flip the switch.”

The Author with the Bus

Hey there, Sheri here. Recently I had the privilege to speak at a local elementary school in a neighboring town. Specifically, I talked about the writing process and read my bestseller Silly Milly the Dane to 120 delightful third graders.  I also made my sister (developer of The Brighter Rewriter Teachers Pay Teachers store) tag along and help me work the crowd. She was a third-grade teacher for many, many years and she passed on some tips and tricks to engage the students. They were so inquisitive and asked everything from “What made you want to write books?” to “Are you scared of Milly” and horrifyingly, “How old are you?” Props to the dad of the little boy who responded with “But you look thirty!” when I hesitantly answered the age question.  I’m pretty sure they enjoyed hearing the book and reciting one of the repeating lines along with me. The teachers appreciated that I mirrored the same writing process steps that they teach, so it was a wonderful practical application lesson for their kids. By far though, the most popular part of the presentation was the slideshow of the real Milly and all the photographs I used for inspiring many lines of the book.

What the heck does this have to do with the bus? So, this was all possible because my husband attended a Cars and Coffee meeting in our city a month or so ago. I was out of town, the Facebook post said, “any vehicle with wheels welcome,” so Marty decided to go! The car owners were just a tad surprised when our pistachio-colored bus rolled into the parking lot. If they didn’t notice Bustacho then, they definitely noticed him backing into his parking spot. That reverse beeping borders on annoying, though I know it is an important, essential safety feature that we won’t disconnect.

Once settled, visitors started trickling in to tour the bus. We keep a guest book in Bustachio so we can collect names and emails and well wishes to stay connected with all our new friends. One sweet family that walked in started chatting with Marty beyond the usual skoolie conversion questions. They were discussing occupations, and when the mom stated “I’m a third-grade teacher,” Marty mentioned I was an author of several children’s books. A few business card and email exchanges later, and my presentation was on the calendar at her school for “Read Across America Day!”

It was such a meaningful experience to interact with those students. And, it was all because of Bustachio (and Marty) as I am very hesitant to put myself out there to mix and mingle. I’m looking forward to attending the next Cars and Coffee. Who knows who I will meet...

Bustachio's Bistro

Love to eat? Us too. Traveling, and especially camping, sets the expectations high for Flavortown. At least in our minds. When we did the Tiny House & Simple Living Jamboree in Austin, TX in August 2018, we did some really easy prep meals. People were going to be ogling Bustachio, so we didn’t want to have a lot of extra dishes to wash and put away. Plus it was HOT outside and we didn’t need that extra heat from cooking inside the bus. Now though, on our first “real” weekend getaway, we were going to eat well, and we were going to officially christen our Camp Chef stove.

First up, breakfast.  After some delish pour-over coffee, we got to work making scrambled fresh-from-our-own-chickens eggs, organic chicken maple sausages, and gluten-free gingerbread pancakes. If you’ve ever had the big-as-your-face pancakes at the original Kerby Lane in Austin, then you understand how delish these can be. The convenient mix was easy to prep and we weren’t disappointed. Add some berries and heated real maple syrup (set the bottle in some boiling water) and we dug in.

After hiking and still full from the above, we had grapes, hummus, almond crackers, cheese, and some Moscato for an afternoon snack. Earlier, we met some great folks on the trail, and they stopped by to tour the bus just as we started munching. We offered to share, but they said they were full on goldfish and Texas-shaped tortilla chips with salsa, so they mostly just admittedly coveted our snacks in their minds.

We were hungry after biking and power napping, so it was time for dinner! We love salmon and especially love the convenience of the flavored salmon patties from our local H.E.B. These had some jalapenos and onions and were super easy to saute on the stove. Roasted veggies are another fav, and we picked asparagus as the prep and cooking time is minimal. With a good quality olive oil, sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper covering the little spears, in the oven they went.

Dessert, yes please. Snickerdoodle cookies with some 86% dark chocolate squares broken up and smashed into the dough were just what we needed to satisfy our sweet tooth.

And that was just day one!!! But you get the idea. All in all, we were extremely pleased of the functionality of our Camp Chef stove, the utensils and cookware we stocked the bus with, not to mention the magnificent dining table our good friend gifted to us. We did take notes and put a few items on our wish list that would improve the efficiency in our meal prep. But that is a post for another day.

Debut Details - by Sheri

When Marty and I started our skoolie conversion, our goal was to be ready to show at the Austin, TX National Tiny House Jamboree DIY Village.  With just minutes to spare, we made the check-in deadline at our destination for the weekend.  I had envisioned a leisurely Friday morning before our departure - a big breakfast, pedicures with my nails painted to match Bustachio’s exterior, lots of contented exhales and warm fuzzies of accomplishment shared between us.  Didn’t happen. We barely got showers and everything loaded inside before heading into Austin traffic. The ride there was uneventful. I got used to the gentle, rhythmic bouncing and let my mind wander to my elementary school bus-riding days.  Marty did a terrific job handling Bustachio in traffic and enjoyed returning waves and smiles to passersby.

Once we parallel parked into our designated spot in the DIY Village, we took a few deep breaths and headed over to our mandatory exhibitors' meeting.  Everyone was so warm (literally) and friendly as if they’d known us all their lives. Many of us were followers of each other’s Instagram accounts and have been watching the projects and journeys leading up to this date for a while.  After all the must-dos were done, some cold drinks and adult beverages appeared, laughter and story-telling ensued, and a good night’s sleep was had by all.

Ten o’clock in the morning seemed to arrive at seven.  Even though the heat and humidity were already uncomfortable, guests arrived in a steady stream.  Some were just thinking about “going tiny” and were trying to decide between a home, skoolie, or a van.  Some were in the throws of their own builds and came in search of ideas and inspiration. Some were skeptics who were pleasantly surprised.  Our family delivered P.Terry’s burgers for lunch, and many dear friends came by to see us and Bustachio. At times it was a bit overwhelming, but with comments in our guestbook like these, we couldn’t help but keep going.

“Gorgeous. Love the ideas.  Thank you for sharing!” “Beautiful home.  Congrats!” “Inspiring and Lovely!” “Great job. Love the name.” “Brilliant design!”

As the tour closed to the public on Saturday, the DIYers traded funny anecdotes and comments from visitors, relaxed in our folding chairs, and relaxed in our folding chairs.  Did I mention we relaxed in our folding chairs? Hunger finally took over and those that were able shared a dish or two for a delicious potluck dinner. Drones, electric skateboards, guitars, and reckless golf cart rides brought the evening to a close.

Sunday wasn’t quite as steamy, but our curious and complimentary company just kept coming! It was very rewarding to be able to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds and give them tips, encouragement, pointers, and a smile.  That’s what the growing tiny living community is all about. Folks helping folks. We not only served our guests, we DIYers helped each other in the form of food, supplies, showers, muscle, information, and open hearts in general. It was genuinely organic, instinctive almost, and refreshingly uplifting in a down-home kind of way.

As we headed home that evening, we were “good tired.” Overall, our first event was an extremely positive experience. Our new friends felt like old friends, and we can’t wait to see them “on the road again.”    


A unicorn and a shopper enter a store… - by Sheri

I love to shop!  Well, bargain hunt would be more of an accurate term.  Bargain hunting happened to be a valuable skill when decorating and stocking Bustachio.  Thankfully our current financial situation is stable, but I still like to watch my dollars and sense, if you know what I mean.  During this process though, I have uttered one four-letter word more than any other - ROSS. Ross is a heavenly dreamland filled with enchanting overstock, deals, and steals that one doesn’t know they want - no NEED - until they spy the mystical treasures on the seemingly mundane shelves.  I’ve even seen a unicorn trot through the aisles, leaping effortlessly over shopping carts in its path! Truth. Once I decided on a color scheme, I was able to start accumulating purchases, spreading out the expense over a period of months.  As of this writing, my home office is stacked with Bustachio’s goodies just waiting to be put into place. To be fair, I also scored some savings at Target, Hobby Lobby, Marshall’s, and Kirkland’s (all unicorn-worthy as well).  I rotate through all these fine establishments’ sales and clearance sections, keep each of their apps updated, and hang on to my receipts in case something doesn’t work or fit, or I change my mind.  As a bonus, I am now officially old enough to qualify for a Senior Discount. Ten percent savings is still savings! Yes, I realize it’s important that our bus runs, and is safe and road-ready (blah, blah, blah), but that’s Marty’s department.  


Rejects, Sighs, and Taking Shape - by Sheri

By far, my absolute favorite interior feature of Bustachio is the look of the vertically paneled pallet wall in the kitchen area.  Marty, who I’ve been known to call a hoarder behind his back, would travel through local construction areas and collect the abandoned pallets stacked in the debris piles.  I even helped in this endeavor a time or two, guiding the pallets onto our trailer and then acting casually when a car would drive by so as not to appear to be stealing. The pallets made their way to our home, stacked behind our garage out of my sightline and out of my mind.  Marty said, “I’m going to use these for something someday.” I responded with an eye roll. And a deep sigh. And most likely another eye roll. Long story short (‘cuz I can’t get through a too long blog post either), I’ve had to eat my words and steady my eyes. After planing and staining, these pallet boards are amazingly fantastic!  Sure Chip and Joanna made shiplap siding popular again, but these TLC’d pallet boards, with their organic “from the earth” warmth and character, are just the thing our big sturdy metal bus needed.  


True Confessions AND Concessions - by Sheri

There is not an adventurous bone in my body.  Not. One. I’ve spent my life mostly in the confines of my self-made bubble to appear somewhat in control.  Early childhood bullying does that to a person - just sayin’. Self-protection = safe, vulnerability = scary.  Over the years, when asked if I’m competitive, my canned response is always, “Sure, I’m competitive when I’m certain I can win.”  Not sure why that was relevant, but it was funny right? Anyway, I did no research about converting a school bus into a skoolie. I didn’t listen to any podcasts.  I didn’t read any of the fabulous blog posts that I just found today when I googled “Skoolie living.” I had watched some reality TV shows about bus life though. All those people were younger, hip, fearless types that didn’t seem to give a hoot (not the word I really want to use) about what other people might think.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think a few months later, Marty and I would be putting the finishing touches on our own school bus conversion and embarking on our new journey.

Now Marty has done his due diligence.  He watched YouTube, listened to podcasts, read important stuff.  He was ready. Marty looks at challenges as opportunities and is always optimistic.  I figure he’s been leading our family whole heartedly for 34 years, so who am I to question his sanity now?  Secretly, I’m excited and ready to give Bustachio a try. Can I survive without an indoor shower? Is the diesel engine going to be too loud when we’re driving?  Will the dry flush toilet be completely odorless?  But those discussions are for another day.  As for now, adventure awaits.