Bus Living – Not Just for “Reality” TV


Like everyone else, I figured that the idea of “living in a bus” was mostly made up for the benefit of “reality ” TV.  Lesslye and Shawn couldn’t have set us more straight.  Lesslye, a former marketing executive and Shawn a HVAC and maintenance professional… we found them to be friendly, sincere, and normal people just like us. (Ha!  Well, if you consider us normal, that is!).  Like so many people, they found they had too much house and too little income at the end of each month.  Too many things.  Too many obligations.  Too little of the more important things in life.  They also felt that God was (and is) calling them to a freer and traveling lifestyle.

Two years and 72 bus seats un-bolted from the floor later, they’re starting this new adventure of living their dream on the road.  Their first adventure is far from their Texas roots, working seasonal jobs high in the Colorado Rockies.

What have they found the biggest challenges to be in converting to school bus living?  First, that it’s not RV living.  Storage and living spaces haven’t been carefully designed by a team of engineers, like they are in mass produced motorhomes.  With a bus, it’s up to you to plan and build that space yourself.  But on the flip side, that also means that you can tailor your new home to exactly how you want your living space to be.

Lesslye and Shawn are generous about opening their home to show (and hopefully inspire) others.  The response they get back isn’t always as kind, and is often judgmental. However, they are quick to admit that this style of living isn’t for everyone.  Another challenge has been managing the preconceived assumptions that others have about them and the kind of people they “must be.”

We’ve talked about some of their challenges.  What about their worries?  Making sure they’re able to save enough for gas money to get to the next seasonal workplace is a big worry, considering that the bus gets a whoppin’ 6 miles to the gallon when fully loaded.  Avoiding winter is another.  The bus is insulated and warm, but not suitable for winter camping at 9,000 feet above sea level.  Nor is this rear wheel drive vehicle an optimal choice for driving on snow and ice covered roads.

Their joy’s with this style of living? The freedom.  How do you explain the freedom that you feel when you can pick up your life, your home, your family and your pets and go anywhere that the road will lead?  Lesslye and Shawn have named their bus “Endless Possibilities” for a reason!  Also among their joys in this journey:  the sincere and interesting people that they’ve met thus far.

And their recommendations:  Buy yourself some piece of mind.  Lesslye & Shawn carry both AAA (for RV) and Good Sam travel assistance insurances.  The tires alone are $400 each (and there are eight of them!), not to mention what towing could be in the remote areas they love.  Thankfully they haven’t needed the travel insurance yet, but it provides some welcome reassurance just having it.


A joyful entrance to an amazing home!

Notice the porch lights, the bulletin board and clever storage pouches in the photo above!  This isn’t roughing it!  Cozy and practical elements everywhere make this bus comfortable and a home. They were able to save considerably on materials by repurposing them from construction projects that were discarding the old scrap.  Old doors from Habitat for Humanity made sturdy (and attractive) walls!


The main living area (as seen from the bus entrance), features a queen sized sofa bed, love seat, storage chest, dining table, and a kitchen mostly from ikea.  On the far side of the kitchen is a full sized fridge and shallow pantry.


Grandma’s antique dresser made into a custom bathroom sink.  Faux stained glass appliques on the windows provide privacy for the bathroom.


The shower, with drain area beneath the cedar floor boards.

Opposite of the bathroom is a set of bunkbeds, set up for the grandkids when they visit.

The rear of the bus has been converted into the master bedroom.  In order to make the most of their space, Shawn built the bed on a roller/pulley system that uses a remote control (similar to a garage door opener).  This allows the bed to be raised to the ceiling when not in use, opening up a sitting area with storage cubbies beneath.  When not in use, the bed is safely secured in place with pins that prevent the bed from falling and also reduce the strain on the pulley system.


The master bedroom, complete with sitting area and loft (lift) bed.


Looking back from the kitchen toward the entrance

Coin operated laundries are so expensive to use on a regular basis.  To save on laundry expenses, they also bring along their own washer/dryer combo machine.

What’s next for home improvements?  Perhaps removable stain glassed panels as sun lights in the emergency roof exits.  Or a sun-deck mounted on the roof.  Or… ?  Like most homes, there’s always a new project and the work is never done!

How to Cook & Eat Crawfish


Crayfish are easy to catch and are a great source of protein!

It couldn’t be easier to cook up a tasty batch of crawfish.  You can pay a premium for them at a fish market, or just invest in a $25 crawfish trap and catch them yourself.

How to cook Crayfish:

Once you have a fresh batch, here’s the simplest way to prepare them:

  1. Place the crawfish in a large container and rinse them with fresh water until the water runs clear.


    Wash the crayfish in clean water until the water’s clear

  2. Fill the container with water, and remove any crayfish that are floating.  (Their meat goes bad quickly when uncooked, which is why crawfish and lobster are cooked live.)
    ***Do not cook and eat any crawfish that were dead before you cooked them***
    Note:  as long as you’re cooking a fresh harvest, this won’t be an issue for you.  It really only matters when you’ve purchased crawfish that may not be as fresh, or have let your harvest sit a bit. (We keep ours on frozen “icees” in a cooler, and (so far) they’ve been fine for up to 36 hours.)
  3. Select a cooking pot that’s large enough to hold your harvest, with some room to spare.
  4. Place 4 or so inches of water in the bottom of the pot, add a little salt, and bring the pot to a rapid boil.
  5. Dump the crawfish quickly into the pot, reduce heat to a low boil, and cover the pot.
  6. Depending on how large the crawfish are, let the pot simmer for 8-15 minutes.  (overcooking them can make them tough and chewy though)
  7. Drain the water, and serve with melted butter.  Enjoy!

How to Eat Crawfish

How to eat crawfish, is a different matter.  It does require a bit of effort, and is messy… but worth it.  And, as long as you consider it entertainment and part of the fun, you’ll have a good experience!

  1. Have plenty of napkins available, and a bucket or bowl to place the scraps in.
  2. Select a cooked crayfish.
  3. Remove the tail by grasping the tail near where it joins the body.  Then just gently pull.  It’ll separate pretty easily.
  4. To get the meat out of the tail, just peel the shell off.  Dip the meat in butter and enjoy!  (if the “mustard” bothers you, you can always wipe that off)
  5. If large enough, you can also crack the shell and remove the meat from the claws.
  6. Toss the rest and the shell scraps into the bucket.
  7. Pick up another, and repeat!

If you have extra, you can refrigerate or freeze the cleaned meat.  Use the crayfish meat instead of shrimp or lobster in your favorite recipes.  Or, try some other crawfish recipe ideas that you might enjoy:

Crayfish Nutritional Value

There’s some good and some bad about eating crayfish.  The worst is that a single serving makes up 40% of the average daily recommended cholesterol allowance.

But on the positive side, they are surprisingly low on fat (1% of the average daily allowance).  They’re also a good source of protein (a 3 oz serving has 15g of protein).  The meat also contains potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and a high amount of vitamin B12.

Walmart Camping


Many 24-Hr Walmarts Allow Overnight Camping

While not peaceful or glamorous, it has certainly come in handy to know that most 24-hr Walmarts allow overnight camping.  Well, not really camping. Overnight parking is a better description. Still, when you’re tired from a day of traveling, it’s comforting to know that you have a place to rest where you won’t be bothered.  And while we certainly know folks that sleep in Walmart parking lots when traveling in their regular passenger vehicles, in our van, we’re not exactly roughing it.  We set up our little tv and dvd player, settle into bed, pull the curtains, and sleep more comfortably in our own bedding than we ever do in a hotel room.


A couple of vans overnight camping at Walmart

You’ll develop your own way of handling your travel planning, but here are some pointers that we employ when we’re traveling between destinations and will be looking for a place to “camp” overnight while on the road:

  1. We try to plan ahead, estimating a rough proximity of where we think we’ll be at the end of the day.   We research a little ahead of time to find 24-hour Walmarts in the area (other options are rest areas and truck stops.  We don’t just pick one to settle on.  We might have one we’d prefer as a target, but we try to have some in other towns on our route also on our list.  This way, we have choices if we’re:
    • behind schedule
    • ahead of schedule
    • not yet tired and want to travel further
    • overnight camping’s not allowed at the Walmart we wanted to stay at
    • the place doesn’t look so great once we actually see it

      Note:  There are several ways to find Walmarts.  You can search for Walmarts near (the town name) in google or your favorite search engine.  You can also check directories online for Walmart Camping.

      Some resources that are helpful:

      • Walmart Store Finder
      • A list of stores that don’t allow overnight parking:  http://www.walmartlocator.com/no-park-walmarts.
      • There are also Walmart atlas map books that show the locations of Walmarts and indicate which are 24 hour stores (although with easy internet access, these printed map books are getting a little bit harder to find these days).


  1. We check out the Walmart when we get there, to make sure that there are no “no overnight parking” signs* and that it seems to be in an area we feel safe in.  If it’s not a good fit, we move on to the next one on the list.
    *Just because there’s a sign posted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t park there overnight.  Please see note at bottom of article.
  2.  We don’t settle in for the night until it’s dark and we’re ready for sleep.  Walmarts are not a place to camp – just a place to sleep.  Don’t set up tents, tables, chairs, or such.
  3. As a courtesy (especially if we’re the only ones camping there), we let the manager on duty know that we’ll be overnight parking.  We then ask if there’s a specific location that they’d like us to park in.  They often have a particular corner of the parking lot that they like the overnight campers to park in.
  4. In the morning, once we’re up and about, we use the Walmart restrooms, do a little shopping for the day (as a thank you for letting us park there), and hit the road. We don’t dally or interfere with their regular shoppers.

* We recently stopped at a lovely little lakefront town in Wisconsin.  The Walmart there had signs up that no RV or truck overnight parking was allowed.  We were traveling in passenger vehicles.  Since we didn’t fit either of those options, we decided to ask the manager on duty.  We could’ve easily just parked there anyhow, but decided that 1) it was more respectful to ask and 2) we’d rather find out right away rather than have someone rap on the window in the middle of the night. He was very nice and mentioned that the signs were because of a local ordinance that didn’t want trucks idling or RV’s running their noisy air conditioners overnight, since they were so close to a residential section.  He told us that as long as we didn’t look like were camping, were quiet, and we parked over in the north-west corner of the parking lot, that it was unlikely that anyone would bother us.

I fully agree with the statement made on the subject at www.freshoffthegrid.com:  “Being allowed to stay overnight at Walmart is a very graciously offered privilege, and by no means a right. (From a liability standpoint, it would be way easier for Walmart to prohibit this activity, but they have decided extend a helping hand to travelers.)  So, be courteous. The general rule is to keep as low profile as possible. No tents, no chairs, no hibachi grills. Everything must be done within your vehicle. ”

Camping at Walmart’s a great resource that I’ve appreciated time and time again.  They don’t have to let us park overnight – it is a gift they’re giving the public.  By being respectful and courteous when “camping” at Walmart, you will help keep this privilege as one that we can all enjoy for a long time to come.

Disbursed Camping Near Steamboat Springs CO

Disbursed Camping Getaway – Steamboat Springs, CO

Living in a resort area, it probably sounds funny to have a “get-away.” But we’ve discovered that (at least for ourselves) with working and living on grounds, there’s little separation from work.  Not that you’re working all the time, but you’re immersed in a community, with no real space of your own.  For independent people, that time away can be a precious gift.

We decided to take a van-camping trip to Steamboat Springs.  It’s an area that hubby hadn’t seen, and was only 2 hours away.  Plus fall colors were still in full bloom.

The drive over was gorgeous.  We drove through a curious little town called Kremmling.  It’s a small town, with a huge natural rock tower that watches over it.  Actually, it looks more like a castle than a tower.

On either side of the town, the road is through wide open spaces with occasional antelope herds in the distance.

The funniest part of our drive though was when we got caught behind a cattle drive.  The ranch was using the state highway to move the cattle and was blocking traffic on both sides.  City-living would easily make a person frustrated with getting stuck behind the cattle drive.  But we just sat there and laughed.  After all, how many times in life does one have a chance to get stuck behind a cattle drive up in the mountains?

Once we made it to Steamboat, we stopped in at the National Forest Office.  We’d been in the US Forest Service’s office in Granby and had a good experience with the staff there. Steamboat was a bit of a different experience.  Seems the staff in that office is a product of the area there (it’s an affluent image-focused area).  After a little prodding and having received several scornful looks, the attendant produced a few maps of the designated “disbursed camping” areas.

With disbursed camping, you drive along designated remote roads until you find a cleared camping area that suits you.  The ones we’ve found so far have pull-offs, fire pits, and no plumbing of any kind.  Pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace.

We first went over to Strawberry Hot Springs.  What a peaceful and beautiful place.  Soaking all day in the natural mineral springs was so incredibly relaxing… calmly euphoric.  Well worth the drive.



Steamboat Springs – Strawberry Hot Springs CO


After soaking, we set off in search of a disbursed camping site.  The first road we tried from the forest service map took a little work to find.  It had been well-hidden by some neighbors that bordered the entrance to the road.   We did finally find it, but just a short way up the road became washed-out, narrow and steep.  We didn’t even try it.  It just wasn’t something our Ford E-150 van would be able to navigate.  So we got the map back out and went in search of another location.

As luck would have it, we ended up instead with an absolutely incredible camping spot. It was very remote, so we were completely by ourselves.  The camp site was so high up in the mountains that we got to enjoy a view that still takes my breath away thinking about it.  How wonderful that such an amazing place could be free and available as such a blessing for public use!

Just picture enjoying coffee at a morning campfire with this view (below).  I think that morning alone added years onto our lives!



View from our Disbursed Camping Site near Steamboat Springs CO


Lessons learned from this van camping outing:

  1. Make sure that you’ve picked a spot to park that is level!  We ended up on a bit of a grade.  It didn’t seem like much of a slant at first.  But sleeping on it was a different matter.  We ended up sliding across the bed over the night, so that we were smashed together up against the side of the van.  Then again, maybe that was hubby’s plan!  🙂
  2. Make sure the place you park is one that you can get easily out of, should it rain. Actually, in this case, the ground was frozen when we got there.  It was thawed when we left.  It took a bit of planning and careful navigation to exit the site without getting stuck in the mud. Thankfully, we’d backed in the night before.  That made it so much easier to exit the site the next day.
  3. Don’t wait until dark to find your camping spot.  You may have to investigate several camping sites, before finding one that you like.  Disbursed camping is rustic camping.  There are no street lights. There are steep drop offs and obstacles.  In fact, there’s barely even a road.  Trust me.  You don’t want to be trying to pick a camping site that you’ve never seen before in the dark.
  4. Have a backup plan.  Unless you set up camp right away, there’s no guarantee your camping spot will still be available when you come back to it later.  Have a 2nd and 3rd choice in mind, just in case.
  5. Take a shovel and garbage bags.  With disbursed camping, you’re expected to leave the site exactly as you found it.  Leave no trace.  That means you bury your potty “leavings” at least 6″ in the ground, and you pack your trash back out with you.

This disbursed camping was rustic camping at it’s best.  We thoroughly enjoyed it and will do more of it!

Free Things to Do at The Resort in Granby, CO

Enjoying Free Activities at Snow Mountain Ranch, CO

Besides the opportunity to live in an absolutely beautiful spot, we picked this resort in Grand County, CO for seasonal employment because of the plethora of free things to do.  As seasonal employees, we get to enjoy the same activities that the guests do!

For starters, the resort sits on 5,200 acres that borders the national forest.  Of course, there are hiking and mountain biking trails galore.  One of the favorite hikes is to the waterfall, a small but lovely waterfall in the woods.


The Waterfall Hike @ Snow Mountain Ranch

The resort is comprised of what were originally two homestead properties: The Just family ranch, and the Rawley homestead.  I’m always fascinated by how innovative the settlers were.  There was no researching and ordering items online.  They used whatever they had and figured out how to make it do what was needed.  I love practical frugalness.  Granted, they didn’t have much of a choice.


The Just Homestead, Granby CO

At the resort, there’s also a stables that provides complimentary trail-rides to the staff.  Our ride ended up being a decadently private ride with just hubby, myself and the wrangler.



View from Horseback @ The Resort

And of course, there’s always wildlife watching.  It was pretty common to see mule deer, moose, red fox, chipmunks, and an occasional bear or coyote.


Who’s watching who?

Some of the wildlife does and exceptional job of disguising itself. Like so many things in life, you have to be paying attention to see it!


Ptarmigan hiding in the grasses

Do you see the ptarmigan in the photo above?  They’re game birds, also known as “Prairie Chickens.”  Their feathers turn white in the winter to disguise them in the snow.

There are so many other things to do at the resort.   There’s really no reason for anyone to be bored. Essentially, all the activities that are available to the guests are available to the staff.  Most of them are free to guests and staff, but there are a few that are available for a small fee.  Other outdoor activities at the resort:  tubing hill, mini-golf, tennis, basketball, frisbee-golf, zip-line courses, and archery.  Indoor activities:  swimming pool, sauna, climbing wall, archery, yoga, and arts and crafts.



Disbursed Camping – Grand County CO

Our first disbursed camping experience:

We’d been reading up on disbursed camping, and were anxious to try it. Disbursed camping is basically “dry camping” in approved areas of the national forests, BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management), or other government managed lands.  Dry camping means that there are no facilities: No clean water source, no bath houses, etc.  You’re responsible for taking along whatever you’re going to need, and you’re responsible for packing it all back out (cleaning up after yourself).

With disbursed camping, your campsite is really just a roughly cleared area just off the bumpy  dirt road.  Often times they have stone fire pits, but that’s the extent of the amenities.

We wanted to make sure we understood the rules and where to go, so we stopped in at the local US Forest Service office (Arapaho National Forest).  They were very friendly and helpful.  They stocked us up with maps showing the designated disbursed camping areas, as well as a brochure with the disbursed camping guidelines.

We picked a general area that we wanted to try for our first disbursed camping outing:   Meadow Creek Reservoir in the Arapaho National Forest.  The disbursed camping was along the long and windy dirt road up to the reservoir.  It was actually only 15 miles or so from the resort, so hubby took a day to do some reconnaissance ahead of time.  It seemed safe enough, so we invited some friends (Mickey & Joy) to meet us there.

We couldn’t get there until that evening, so Mickey & Joy went ahead of us and picked a most excellent camping location.  The spot was in a nice flat area that bordered Meadow Creek, with a couple of lovely fishing pools cradled by beaver dams.  And it was such a quiet and peaceful spot, with no other campers in the nearby area.



Disbursed Camping in Colorado with Friends

It was a pretty chilly night, and we felt a little guilty.  Mickey and Joy were tent camping.  Meanwhile we were “roughing it” in our cozy, insulated van.  We even had heat!  Hubby had a catalytic heater that you fuel with campstove propane bottles.  It’s a flameless heater (no open flame), and has a safety feature that shuts the heater off if it tips over.  I didn’t smell any fumes, but just to be safe, we always crack a window when running that heater.  That little heater worked like a charm and we were toasty warm, despite the cold night.  (Hubby did have to change propane bottles about halfway through  the night though.  I imagine more expensive versions of the heater would last longer.)

We woke up to an amazing autumn morning up in the mountains.  The air was crisp and smelled like fall.  And we enjoyed a very decadent breakfast while sitting around the campfire with friends.

On our way out, we learned a lesson though. When you’re disbursed camping, you’re pretty much on your own. Make sure you’re picking a camping (parking) spot that you can easily get back out of.  Our spot was easy to get into with the van, but not quite as easy to back out of.  It wasn’t that we got stuck, it just was a little bit more challenging than we expected.  A good lesson.


Needing Some Space

So far, we’re enjoying our first seasonal employment gig.  I love the mix of people.  The team of staff here includes year round employees, seasonal employees like us, gap-year young adults, internationals on work -visas, and retirees as volunteers.  So many different people and different stories.

From what I hear from other seasonals, the living accommodations are better than average.  But it’s taking a bit of adjusting, on our part.  For starters, we’re living in a 10 x 15 foot hotel room.  That wouldn’t be bad, except that we still have way too much “stuff” from our old life.  We need to purge more, but aren’t quite sure what we need or don’t yet.  So, in the meanwhile, the room is packed to the max.  And the walls and ceiling are a bit thin.  You can hear people walking down the hallway, and your neighbors shutting their dresser drawers.

There are some good things about the room though.  We do have our own bathroom, which is lovely.  I give thanks everyday for that.  And for the seemingly unlimited supply of hot water.  I’m also thankful for the large 1970’s style bath tub.  We have a lovely view of the mountains outside our window.  And the window actually opens (not all hotel rooms have windows that open), so that we can get fresh air when we want.  Utilities are all paid for by the employer, so we have free heat, water, electricity, wifi.  And the building we’re staying in is attached to the main lobby building.  That means that when winter comes, I won’t even have to leave the building to go to work.

Our building is filled with older seasonals (45+ years old) and retiree volunteers.  There’s a pretty strong sense of community.  They gather frequently in the dorm’s rec room & watch TV or play board games together.

That’s pretty cool, and I enjoy the sense of community there.  But it also means that there’s no escaping the work community on your time off. The only way to really be away from work and to have some time to yourself, is to get off property.

That doesn’t seem to be something that’s important to most of the others there.  But hubby and I are so very independent.  We need that quiet time away.  Here’s where the van camping comes in as a huge blessing.  It gives us a way to get away without having to pay for hotel rooms.  We can camp in peaceful spots with the independence we crave.



Our Favorite Quick Camping Getaway


There are a zillion places to camp in the national forests around the area.  But our favorite spot is on the Colorado River, and is only about a half an hour away.  We like seeing new places, but there’s also comfort in having a familiar place as our default go-to place.


For us, even just a quick campout with an evening spent sitting around the campfire does wonders to refresh the spirit and quiet the soul.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that matter the most.