Quick, do you know what a skoolie is?
I didn’t, either.
Skoolies, for readers unfamiliar with them, are school buses that have been converted into motor homes.
They are, according to a website about such things, “an example of upcycling at its best. Upcycling is the art of taking something that can no longer be used for its original purpose and transforming it for a different use.
“Once renovated, skoolies essentially become a cross between an RV and a tiny house on wheels. Like RVs, they don’t require a separate towing vehicle. The conversion process … makes them look and feel more like a tiny home on wheels.”
So why is this a subject of this column?
Because my granddaughter and her husband have spent the last year turning an old school bus into a skoolie. I saw them off recently on what I’ve come to call The Great Adventure, something I considered doing at their age but didn’t and still regret it. More about that later.
They left from our house for their adventure and, if all goes well, will be gone for about a year. Saying goodbye to them was bittersweet. I’m happy for them and, truth be told, am also a tad envious. While they’re free-wheeling it around the country on The Great Adventure, I’ll be home mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, cleaning the garage …
The adventurers sold their house, which they’d remodeled, and bought their new home, the skoolie, in Missouri. They found one there that they liked and was in their price range and drove it back to Idaho. It was just an old school bus then, with bench seats that once accommodated elementary school students now in college or the work force.
My grandaughter’s name is Kelsie. Her husband, Christian, is one of those people who can build or fix just about anything, and she’s become a skilled handywoman herself. They spent a year gutting the bus and building a new interior. It has a living room and a tiny kitchen, a bedroom and a tiny bathroom. It has a TV projector and roll-down screen. All the comforts of home.
Much of it is solar powered. It’s as much a home on wheels as many RVs are, and on the inside an attractive home at that. On the outside, it still looks like, well, a school bus.
The Great Adventure was a far cry from what we expected they’d be doing now. Kelsie graduated from BSU with a teaching degree, and Christian can do anything from rebuilding a car engine to building a house. We figured he’d have a jack-of-all-trades business and she’d be an elementary school teacher by now. Instead, they’re criss-crossing America in a blue bus.
They’re in New Mexico now and plan to be in New England in time to catch the fall colors. From there they’ll head south, chasing the warm weather. Kelsie will do some online teaching en route; Christian hopes to land some handyman jobs.
Their adventure put me in mind of one I envisioned, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I was their age. I’d finished two years of junior college and had spent several summers working for my father’s and and uncle’s business, installing lawn-sprinkling systems. It was hot, hard work, most of it on the end of a shovel, and I wanted to spend a summer traveling before leaving for active duty in the Navy.
My vehicle of choice was, or would have been, a motorcycle. That I didn’t own a motorcycle and had never driven one were irrelevant. I had money from the sprinkler company job and playing in a band. I could buy a motorcycle and learn to drive it. How hard could it be?
The idea was to drive the motorcycle, preferably a souped-up, glamorous looking one Like Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando would have owned, from Idaho to the east coast and back. I envisioned myself tooling across the plains and along the coastlines at breathtaking speed, free-wheeling without a care in the world.
The reality, of course, most likely would have been far different – driving rains and howling winds, breakdowns in godforsaken places and, worst case scenario, an accident that would have changed my life.
Or ended it.
Many years later, I came close to buying a scooter that a friend was selling. I had my checkbook out to pay him for it when he said the words that changed my mind:
“Just remember that you’re invisible and everybody’s trying to kill you.”
I didn’t buy the scooter and never did go on the motorcycle trip across the county. Instead I spent most of that summer digging ditches for the sprinkler company and, in August, left for the Navy.
You hear it said that when they reach the end of their lives, most people don’t regret things they did. They regret the things they didn’t do. Decades later, I still wish I’d have taken that motorcycle ride.
Kelsie and Christian have been on the road for about a month now. I’ll be calling them for occasional updates (while trying not to be too much of a pest), imagining things they might encounter along the way, and envying them the experience.
Their Great Adventure is my motorcycle ride. I’ll be living it by proxy, through them. And for them, the ones who are actually living it, here’s hoping it’s everything they dreamed it would be.
Tim Woodward’s column runs every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at email@example.com.