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Step 4: The Legal Legwork

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Posted on : 12:01 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

Today we got all the legal paperwork done. It takes a bit of doing to import a bus into Canada. The first thing you have to do is make sure they will allow the make and model of the bus to be imported. There are a few kinds that are allowed, but the only two that are allowed from any year are Blue Bird and Thomas. Otherwise you have to get quite a new bus which is also much more expensive.

You have to make sure you have all your ID for crossing the border. This means a valid passport and I would recommend any other ID for good measure like driver's license and birth certificate. Since John is flying one-way into Reno, he also needed to have a bill of sale from the seller to prove his story to the US border. You have to prove that you will leave the US and if you have a one-way ticket that's a bit more difficult.

To drive a bus with air brakes in BC you also have to have air brake certification. John took his required 20 hour class this weekend and today he is taking the test (right now as I write this). It's not very difficult and the test is only 25 questions so it's not something to worry about.

In order to take the bus out of the US you have to export it first. This means that the border crossing has to be notified 72 hours ahead of time that you will be taking a vehicle out of the country permanently. They need a copy of the title and bill of sale, and they have a little form to fill out. Surprisingly this was a very easy thing to do - we simply emailed the Blaine border crossing export office, they emailed the kit right away and then you can just email it back with the files if you can scan them. Out of all the government red tape to go through this was the easiest ever! We'll see when he gets to the border though, because he does have to stop and talk to them in person.

Coming across into Canada takes a little bit more work and it all has to be done at the border. You also have to have the original title, the bill of sale, etc. Plus there's an import fee and taxes. We estimate this to be about $200 CA.

The last thing is dealing with insurance and registration. Because John is not a resident of Nevada, and the seller gets to keep his plates, we have to get a Movement Permit to cross the state so we can eventually bring it to BC and register it here. He also has to cross California, Oregon and Washington. Oregon and Washington say that once you have a permit in one state they don't care if you drive through their state, but California is a little unclear on this point. It would be nice to only have to stand in line at the DMV once. We'll have to see when he gets there. As for insurance, he just had to go to ICBC and get a kind of temporary insurance to bring it here.

Now on Friday John just has to take the Greyhound bus back to Victoria and pick up his passport. We had to go there in person instead of our local Nanaimo office because it shaved 4 weeks off the waiting time down to 2 weeks. But you have to pick it up in person too. Then on Saturday after work he will be getting on a ferry to Vancouver and take a bus to the airport for his flight to Reno.

Whew! I can't believe we did all that in 2 weeks!

Step 3: Pinching a Penny

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Posted on : 12:28 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

It's been another wild week of planning and dreaming and holding bowls under the noses of puking children. Autumn got a bug of some kind that caused intense vomiting. Unfortunately that was her only symptom - no fever, no chills, no diarrhea. And it didn't go away for 3 days. On the fourth day we had to go to the ER to get her rehydrated again with an IV, and she and I and Rainn stayed the night in a very nice Pediatric ward on Friday night. We were home the next day with a very weak but much happier child.

So we were going to have a garage sale this weekend but life had other plans and that will have to happen next weekend when John is down in the States retrieving the bus. Because we are shifting our priorities even more dramatically than they've already shifted through the years, the television, stereos and video games all had to go, and we're just clearing out the stuff we don't need. This will have the added bonus of giving us just that much more cash to ensure that if anything goes wrong on his trip, we'll have some emergency money handy. It's so important to over-estimate the cost of everything, and then have even more in your pocket just in case.

It's also amazing how much money the garden saved us. We haven't had to buy any vegetables since the beginning of the season, as something has been ripe all the time. First it was lettuce, then spinach, then snow peas, then beans. Next we'll be getting some carrots and tomatoes, and by then our second batch of lettuce will sprouting. This month I haven't been that willing to cook big meals because of the heat, so we've had lots of chili in the crock pot (which we like to make into burritos), spinach omelettes, sandwiches, and scrambled-egg burritos and stir fries with potstickers. For breakfast its good ol' oatmeal and for snacks we eat apples and snow peas and peanut butter. Surprisingly while I haven't felt like I've scrimped that much, we've only spent $360 all month for a family of 4 and a baby, including things like toothpaste and disposable diapers when I've needed to use them.

In the meantime not having a car has been incredibly good for us. We've saved about $300 a month, and although we've borrowed some vehicles and put gas in them in return, that's still a huge difference. I've also not felt that I couldn't do the things I needed or wanted. I think I've actually gotten out more because it seems much easier to pop them in slings and strollers than to get them all in and out of car seats. They enjoy it more too. We've been to dragonboat races, the library, the grocery store, and the park on foot, and amazingly I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight (although I am not in the shape I was in, lol).

Anyway, that's been the process this week. Just putting together an emergency stash and drawing funny diagrams of buses.

Step 2: Passport and Making an Offer on the Bus

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Posted on : 10:13 AM | By : Nic | In : , , ,

So on Sunday I got everything sorted and priced for our garage sale next weekend, because we want to raise a little bit more money for this project. Then yesterday (Monday) John and I took the bus to Victoria to expedite his passport application. In order to cross the border into the U.S. we have to have that now, and he's flying on the 2nd or 3rd of August. We just had Rainn with us and she slept most of the time, we walked around the harbour and visited MEC where we looked at enamelware and baby backpacks and underwear. Then we had a smoothie and got back on the bus for Nanaimo.

One other good thing that happened is that we got some of the money back for the repair of the Range Rover. It's a long story but after we paid for new head gaskets it still spewed coolant and then they told us we needed an brand new engine. What!??? Needless to say we felt scammed since they told us they would fix it and took all of our savings to do so. We ended up giving them the Rover and getting about half of our head gasket money back, and I think we're pretty fed up with cars. We do have to borrow one this weekend for John's air brake class (you can't drive air brakes without a certificate) which he will write about later.

When we were in Victoria we made the offer on the bus we wanted. We looked at so many buses. Amazingly in Canada finding a used bus is next to impossible. Maybe it's just were we live, but even the ones we did find were over $10,000. That's way over our budget, so the next option was eBay. We originally were going to go to a bus auction in PIttsburgh, PA that was advertised on eBay to get an Amtran International bus for only $2500 US. But, we found out you can't import an Amtran into Canada. You can only import Blue Bird and Thomas buses, which is probably good because the engine on the Amtran was a Ford anyway. So we looked at their Blue Birds and they were very short... only 36 feet. Hmmm.... so then we looked at one that I originally wanted:



This one is 40 feet long, and was a customized as a skier transport at the Lake Tahoe ski resort. Not only does it have 4 more feet, it has half the mileage of a regular school bus and has some major parts replaced. One of the major benefits to me was that is is only 1400 miles away, rather than 4300 miles away. When you move a bus long distance you have to get a moving permit in every state you go through (I'm not sure if that is a Canadian thing or if its for everybody). From Pittsburgh he would have had to do that for 9 states, and from Tahoe it will be 3 states. The other trip took about 6 days, and this one take 3. Does it save us any money? Not really, because we spend more on the bus.

After picking up the bus and paying for it, we will already have spent about $7000 Canadian ($6300 US). Admittedly we now have some major appliances and sinks and a tub for the bus (plus whatever else we can salvage) out of the RV, a ladder, a compressor, jumper cables and we'll have a bus. Then we have budgeted about $5-8000 more for the conversion.

Some may wonder where all this money comes from. We are a young family and we really don't make a lot in the grand scheme of things. We just live very, very cheaply, with no debt. We supplement our rent by having people live with us, we have very few monthly bills (just utilities and internet and phone, no cable), no car payment, and now no insurance payment either. We still put money away into savings, and we eat healthy and without getting unnecessary snacks besides cheap vegetables and fruit. This allows us to have more money at the end of the month to do whatever we want with. It takes a lot of self-discipline but with a definite goal it becomes easier.

So that's the bus! Whohooo!

EDIT: The bus is 42 feet, giving me even more space than I thought.

EDIT AGAIN: Turns out the other bus was actually 34 feet, so I really have 8 extra feet. Also I goofed on my mileage/kilometers. Lake Tahoe is 1000 miles away (1600 km) and Pittsburgh is 2600 miles (4300 km). I think I was really, really excited when I wrote this, lol.

Phase 1: The RV

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Posted on : 10:35 AM | By : Nic | In : , , , , ,


The RV is now finally parked in front of our house. This monstrosity took quite a bit of effort to get here. I had to walk down to ICBC and get the temporary insurance (which can be quite a hike while wearing a baby and pushing two kids in a stroller with a combined weight of about 80 pounds + stroller). Then John went and bought a compressor, jumper cables and a ladder and him and his dad went off to see if it would start. Surprisingly, it did! Very easily. But all the tires were flat so it took a while to pump them up with the compressor enough to get to a gas station and fill them up properly. John drove it back and it chugged along swimmingly with a pop now and then. I am quite satisfied with our purchase.



I took an inventory today of the insides and we balanced out what the things in it are worth vs. the RV as a whole. Although they aren't much to look at (see the propane stove below), they really are worth more if we yank them out for the next step of our adventure. At a minimum, we will be able to pull out:
The awning
Propane stove
Propane fridge
A small bathtub
A bathroom and kitchen sink
Wood doors for cabinets
and possible two benches with seatbelts

There may be more if we decide that the heater and AC are worth it and can be powered with solar. Isn't that exciting?



We also solved our mobile internet problems by getting two iPhones. I now can have internet anywhere, and I can tether it to my laptop to provide internet relatively cheaply via satellite to my computer. It's also what I'm taking all the photos with. :)

Bigger and Crazier

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Posted on : 11:58 AM | By : Nic | In : ,



Remember how tiny the garden looked a month ago? Now it's huge! The spinach and lettuce are done and are being replanted, the peas and beans need to be picked daily, and the tomatoes and carrots and broccoli are swelling. What a satisfying feeling.

We will soon have the RV, but now there are even bigger plans in the works. For those of you who have been waiting for us to finally do something crazy, this is finally it. Prepare for photo documentation soon!

EDIT: Out of curiosity I did my Deliberate Life Footprint Calculator for after we do our big plan and it goes from 90 to a whopping 255! I am excited. :)

Book Review: Dwelling by River

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Posted on : 1:56 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Life is incredibly busy... going to school, gardening and raising three kids does that. I did add another book to my hippie book collection called Dwelling. It's by a lady named River, and it's about handmade illegal houses. It's a lovely book with lovely thoughts that made me feel that I hadn't truly lived until I'd built a house that way with my own two hands. It's available from Powell's and Amazon, and it's worth it.

I wish I could find a picture of the cover, and the camera battery is dead so oh well. It's been tough little while and I feel happy but I've been wondering why people choose the lives they choose and why it's so important to never settle.

Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things.
--T. S. Eliot