Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Bus build out

I've put in some carpet, and I'm installing a wood trim detail at the tops and bottoms of the windows so I can mount mini blinds. I'm working off a generator; a lovely Honda 2000ia. It purrs at 56db and runs my old Porter Cable power tools very nicely, including the 13amp circular saw. The other day, I set up in the parking lot of Home Depot, where I bought the blinds. I had my generator running, and I was drilling out some high strength rivets that had once held wheel chair restraints, and when I wore out a bit,...
I just went into the Home Depot and bought one. It was like that all day; when I needed a 1 x 2 or a dust broom, I just went in and got it. It was like having the largest imaginable supply room, except there were sales people and I had to pay for the stuff. While I was working, a few passers by asked a question or two, but most just took it in stride.

I got a mattress on line (staying with family in NC, right now, so I have a delivery address... so many things to work out!) I've designed a bed frame that will fold into a banquette. I'll get to that later,... for the moment, I'll just avoid building anything that will preclude it later. I've got carpet, blinds, bed and sleeping bag, generator, 3 gallon water jug, my propane grill and pots, a hundred camping incidentals, camera gear, motor scooter, and my vibraphone, so I'm about ready to cut loose of people I already know and head south to New Orleans, then points west in New Mexico and Arizona, and then north in the spring. The rest of the build out will be along the way, part of the adventure.


Starting to feel a glimmer of civilization... I've got mini blinds installed and today, I'm working on a bed platform. It will have storage below to hold my Vibraphone cases, and it will fold lengthwise to form a sofa of sorts. I'm making it out of some solid core doors from Home Depot. They were $50 each, which seemed impossibly cheap, but it turns out they are not lumber core but particle board inside... since I'm cutting them up quite a bit, I won't have solid wood at edges where I plan to screw things together. We'll see how it lasts!

Margareta, a relative with whom I'm staying and is now becoming a real friend, came by today to take pictures. (Thank you Margareta!) You can see them in a slide show if you click the pic in the right hand collumn)


  1. Hey Roy,

    So cool. I hope you're going to post photos of the build-out along the way. I'm dying to see.


  2. Hi Kate,

    Thanks, yes, pics to follow :-) How's the snow?

  3. I have a few thoughts. First of all, have you read Mad Monks On The Road? I think that you would find their several year road quest interesting as well as informative about some of the very practical concerns of this kind of living.

    On a related note, if you haven't yet, you might want to get in touch with some of your local "burners", which is to say Burning Man people. Many of them have done bus conversions of a staggering range of esthetics and degrees of technical sophistication. Some friends of mine took a bus rather like yours and rebuilt it in the spirit of a sandworm from Dune.

    If I understand correctly, you are currently in the New York City area. If so, you might want to get in touch with some of the folks at Umbrella House or who are part of Smackmellon down in DUMBO. James Hong has been a key part of both and he has done some wonderful work with reconfiguring spaces that you might find applicable.

    Lastly, have you looked at the recent books on microhomes from folks like Chelsea Green? You might find this to be yet another fruitful source of inspiration.

    As should be clear, this is a subject I've given some little thought to. Feel free to drop me a line if you want to discuss it. I'm an easy guy to find.

  4. ROY PERTCHIK, so another one bites the dust. I too had a thriving business (architect's office) mostly retail/grocery....anyway 2008 was wonderful for business, today I'm looking to close the doors.

    Getting a diesel bus is not a bad move, they last forever and you CAN convert them. Your trip sounds interesting, enjoy ever moment, things may turn around once you return unless you figure out your next profession or job.

    I am preparing for an expedition type of my own. Starting the day after Christmas we will be heading toward a small town outside of Salem, OR starting from Phoenix, AZ. We are looking to do more offroad traveling if possible. I'll check in from time to time, good travels to you!

  5. Thanks, Anonymous. Good luck on yor trip, too.