This is a conversation about a family coming together after a tragic accident and the DIY spirit of Alex Scribner. Alex became a diesel mechanic in order to learn how to work on the bus that she converted and then ultimately went on to convert a skoolie that had special features for her brother who was the victim of an accident that left him a quadriplegic. It’s an incredibly uplifting story and a fascinating look at how tiny houses can solve so many unique problems.
In This Episode:
- How Sam’s accident helped them realize their tiny living dream
- Going back to school as a diesel mechanic and how it helped her build out their bus
- Features that make the bus comfortably accessible
- More important than budget: putting the right things in the right places
- Making sure you have the right bus for your needs
Links and Resources:
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Engage
Tiny House Engage brings together tiny house hopefuls and DIYers to share plans and resources, learn from each other’s challenges and mistakes, and celebrate our successes so that we can feel less alone while we build faster, safer, smarter, cheaper homes and embrace the tiny house lifestyle. Whether you’re a tiny house dreamer who is still figuring out all the systems, plans, and everything you need to go into your tiny house, or if you’re actively building, Tiny House Engage has the resources for you. There are professional contractors in the community here to answer your questions about plumbing, electricity, and ventilation, and there’s also plenty of interaction between members. If you need some encouragement or just need to know how someone else solved a problem, you’ll get those answers in Tiny House Engage. I’m also very active in the community, answering questions and keeping an eye on things, so if you want to interact with me, this is a great way to do it. To learn more and register for Tiny House Engage, go to .
Insulating the bus
Alex had some experience driving trucks and pulling trailers before driving the bus
Lower countertops make food prep from a wheelchair possible
There is enough room that Alex can provide assistance while Sam showers if needed
They've made a few trips in the bus, but have yet to take a very long one together
The bathroom is necessarily larger than most you'd find in a skoolie
The lift needs to be in the middle of the bus
They were more focused on putting the right things in the right places than they were on the budget
Diesel mechanic training helped Alex understand what to look for in their bus
All the comforts of home on the road
Alex Scribner 0:00
I think so many people, regardless of what type of rig you're in, really mystify this idea of, "We're just going to take it to the mechanic." And they almost make it seem as though the mechanic has this wand that they like wave over their rig and oh, they said that it's good to drive for another, you know, 5000 miles and we're good to go.
Ethan Waldman 0:18
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan bbuild and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 195 with Alex Scribner. This is a conversation about a family coming together after a tragic injury and the do it yourself attitude of Alex Scribner who became a diesel mechanic, in order to learn how to work on the bus that she converted, and then ultimately went on to convert a skoolie that had special features for her brother who was the victim of a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic. It's a really uplifting story and just a fascinating look at how tiny houses can solve so many unique problems. I do hope you stick around.
But first, I'd like to tell you about the sponsor for today's episode Tiny House Engage. Have you been working on planning or building your tiny house and feel like you want to connect with other people, get your questions answered and just support each other along the way? Well, Tiny House Engage is the community for you. Tiny House Engage brings together tiny house hopefuls and DIYers to share plans and resources, learn from each other's challenges and mistakes, and celebrate our successes so that we can feel less alone while we build faster, safer, smarter and cheaper tiny homes to embrace the tiny house lifestyle. Whether you're a tiny dreamer, who is still figuring out all the systems plans and everything you need to go into your tiny house, or if you're actively building, Tiny House Engage has the resources and members to connect with for you. There are professional contractors in the community here to answer your questions about plumbing, electricity and ventilation. And there's also plenty of interaction between members. If you need some encouragement or just need to know how someone else solved a particular problem. You'll get those answers in Tiny House Engage. I'm also very personally active in the community answering questions and keeping an eye on things. So if you want to interact with me, this is a great place to do it. To learn more and register for Tiny House Engage, go to thetinyhouse.net/engage registration is open through January 4th and then the doors close again for the next s6-8 weeks. So don't delay, head over to thetinyhouse.net/engage to learn more and join today. See you in Tiny House Engage.
Alright, I am here with Alex Scribner. Alex is a solo female traveler who built a 36 foot Bluebird school bus while working as a full time caregiver to her quadriplegic brother, in addition to attending diesel mechanic school, is now living on the road and working as a marketing agent for her own small media agency. Alex Scribner, welcome to the show.
Alex Scribner 3:34
Hi, thanks so much for having me.
Ethan Waldman 3:36
You're very welcome. Thanks for being here. Can you expand on on your story? When did you decide that you wanted to to build out a skoolie and and why did you choose a skoolie over other tiny house options like a van or tiny house on wheels?
Alex Scribner 3:52
Yeah, sure. So we say we my younger brother and I, we had a lot of friends that were in vans. So we were pretty familiar with just tiny living in general. And we kind of romanticized it as everyone does and thought, you know, that would be fantastic. But, you know, again, as everyone does, you're committed to a job, you're committed to responsibilities and things like that. So we kind of always shoved it off and thought that, you know, that's not something that we could do. We would love to do, but we just can't make it happen.
So, in April of 2016, I received a phone call from my mother. It was a Saturday morning and I got a phone call from my mom saying that my brother had been in an accident and that he had fallen from a hammock of all things and was never - the doctors were saying that he was never gonna walk again. So, you know, before this, Sam was a very adventurous able-bodied person. He's five years younger than me. And we were all obviously devastated. So he spent three months in the hospital. And a lot of that time was just kind of rallying as a family and trying to figure out, you know, how we were going to live this new lifestyle. So with tragedy, you know, comes a lot of perspective, right? So I was working, I had spent quite a few years working as a professional horseback rider, and really loved my job. But, you know, it got it got really easy to apply that perspective and understand that there were a lot of small things that were big to some people that really in the grand scheme of things, I felt like they weren't that big. And ultimately, I just kind of felt like I wasn't serving a purpose.
So kind of circling back to tiny living more of like a nomadic lifestyle traveling a little bit more, really just enjoying the time that we have. We circled back around to vans initially. But obviously with Sam now being in a wheelchair full time, it just was going to be too close, too tight, too difficult. So we started, I started doing some more research, not really knowing what to expect and found school buses. And really the, the initial allure was the fact that we could have more square footage, and then we could have a lift, a wheelchair lift. So started looking and yeah, I just never really looked back from there.
Ethan Waldman 6:29
Wow. First, I'm so sorry that that happened to Sam and to your family. That's really awful and tragic.
Alex Scribner 6:37
Yeah, no, it's a it's a weird thing. I tell everybody that I'd never wish something like that on anybody. But the perspective that we have gained individually and as a family, you know, it's not, it's not something that that everybody really gets to experience. So, you know, in most ways, it's been very difficult, but in a lot of ways, it's been really rewarding as well.
Ethan Waldman 7:03
Yeah, so I've heard skoolie folks joke that you need to be a diesel mechanic in order to live in a skoolie. Were you already in diesel mechanic school? Or did you start because of the skoolie?
Alex Scribner 7:18
I started because of the skoolie. Because of my horse background, I've driven trucks and trailers and had, you know, some experience and whatnot. But obviously, nothing that I felt like was really enough. Maybe I tell everyone that I was stubborn enough, but also dominant to really commit to all of this. So I knew that I needed to kind of have a, a bag of tricks, a bag of tools, right. So
Ethan Waldman 7:46
Alex Scribner 7:47
I, I joked about it for a little bit. And thought, you know, wouldn't that be funny? And I'm just the type of person that enjoys irony and enjoys a certain shock value, I guess. So. Yeah. So Sam, actually, after the accident, he found he's into photography and video production. So he found a tech school that had a program. And then as his caregiver, it was my responsibility to take him down there every day. So I thought, "Well, this is silly. If I'm going to take you down here every day, then, you know, I might as well try and get something out of it." And, you know, oddly enough, they had a diesel mechanic program. And I thought, "What the hell?"
Ethan Waldman 8:26
Yeah. So have you since completed that program?
Alex Scribner 8:29
Yeah. So it was about a year long program. And I am almost 33. And so there was quite a gap between being in school originally and going back to school.
Ethan Waldman 8:40
Alex Scribner 8:41
And I was surrounded by a lot of like, young kids that were fresh out of high school that were just kind of walking into this program. And I think just mentally checked out over the idea of school. So yeah, you know, not very interested. And then I was there like, I would drive the bus down to school a couple times a week. And I was very aggressive about like, "I need to learn this. I have you know, only so much time and guidance and everything." The teachers were awesome, the guys I went to school with they were all awesome. So, but yeah, no, it was it was a cool experience.
Ethan Waldman 9:11
I'm sure they appreciated having somebody who was really hungry to learn and had like a test you like brought a like standardized patient with you every day. Yeah.
Alex Scribner 9:23
Yeah, no, it's uh, it took probably the first like month or two to explain like, I'm taking all the seats out. I'm building it into like know, like showing lots of pictures and things like that, but that's kind of across the board for everybody.
Ethan Waldman 9:36
So yeah, yeah. Well, as a as a diesel mechanic now, are there are the things that you've learned that you maybe would ... like, what advice would you give yourself when you are shopping for this bus or to other people who are kind of shopping for a bus now that you've completed this training?
Alex Scribner 9:59
Well, two things. The first thing we were really fortunate in that we had. So the bus that we're currently in is our second bus, the first bus, we met somebody else who was in a chair, she was looking for a bus. And, you know, she needed to get into something. And so we ended up passing along our first bus.
Ethan Waldman 10:16
Alex Scribner 10:17
So I was about 75% of the way through school when it came time to purchase a second bus. So there were a lot of things that we learned from the first pass, but a lot of things I learned from school that I was able to apply. And a lot of it was like, you know, maybe not trivial things, but like engine specs and things like that. But what I tell people about, you know, making that decision, or really just kind of from the mechanic perspective, I think so many people, regardless of what type of rig you're in, really mystify this idea of, "Well, we're just going to take it to the mechanic." And they almost make it seem as though the mechanic has this wand that they like, wave over their rig. And oh, they said that it's good to drive for another, you know, 5000 miles, and we're good to go. And coming from somebody that's been on the other side and knows what they're doing. There's no one, you know, there's no mystery or anything like that. And so I always felt like the knowledge, whether it was building the bus like carpentry or the electrical system, or even just the mechanics of everything, I started just to view that knowledge and that information as like a tangible thing. And I didn't really want to give that up, right. Like, I didn't want to, if somebody was going to be doing it, if somebody was going to be learning it, why wasn't it me? Right? So I think everybody has the power and you know, the time to learn those things, whatever it is, whatever type of system you're learning.
Ethan Waldman 11:48
Yeah. So it sounds like the skoolie and and your brother's accident really changed the course of your life? Not just personally, but professionally.
Alex Scribner 12:00
Yeah, I know for sure. I think like everybody, there's a point that you get to, and I wouldn't say that I was really miserable in my job. I think that, you know, the biggest thing for me was that I would tell people that I rode horses professionally and everybody that was met with such shock and awe right that was met with such like, that's, that's an incredible job. That's so wonderful. And I kind of became numb to that. Right? So I I was like, "Well, yeah, it is cool. But like, there's other parts that aren't so cool." And I wasn't as excited about it as I felt like I needed to be it. So it really wasn't, you know, wasn't the textbook response of, I was miserable in my cubicle and things like that. I just kind of started questioning, like, what purpose is this serving?
So yeah, yeah. So you did two builds? What, what would you say are maybe some of the differences between them? Or how did how did the second build differ from the first?
Kind of like one and a half builds, I would say. The biggest difference was the and I would, like, the current build isn't even completely done. And, you know, who knows if it'll ever be completely done. But the first build, we got about a third of the way done. So I got it, stripped, gutted, insulated, essentially ready for Jordan, the girl who took it to build it out, however she needed to. And then this build, we went into a little bit of a smaller bus. You know, there were a couple specs, like instead of having two wheel wells, in the first pass, we had four. And with Sam being in a wheelchair, we had to be really strategic about what we put over those because obviously, he can't get over them. You know, just little things like that. And there was definitely a period in the beginning of the second bus where I was like, "I'm so good at this." Because I had done all of it before. So I was like flying through things with the second bus, and I, you know, I was like, I would love to continue doing this. This is so much fun. And then you hit that point where I had, like, I caught up to everything. And I now was like, right back to square one where like, I hadn't done those things before. And you know, it was a quick reminder, thatthis is not for the faint of heart.
Ethan Waldman 14:15
Yeah, you so where are you on the second bus, in terms of the build?
Alex Scribner 14:19
So I'm living in it. The only thing I have left to do so I'm living in it solo right now, Sam is not with me. But I have to build out his bed which is also the couch and then like a dinette area. It's mainly just, you know, framing and finishing, I got an opportunity to come out to Colorado for the summer. And I had spent the last two and a half summers in Florida. So I jumped at the opportunity and headed out here. So yeah, I had spent about three years building between the first bus and the second bus. So I needed to kind of like recenter and remember what all of this was for.
Ethan Waldman 14:58
And it sounds like you're now doing marketing work?
Alex Scribner 15:03
Yeah. So I just kind of again with that recenter it was questioning, what's the next step? And you know, I love buses and I love what I did with it and obviously I think everybody probably questions "Could I turn this into something?", whether it's a business or you know, a hobby, or whatever it is, and I enjoyed it, but I also really enjoy taking a break from it. So I started to, I was really looking for a mobile job, right, everybody wants to be working on the road and supporting it. And it's difficult, everybody, everybody's looking for mobile work right now. So I had a really hard time finding something that was along lines of what I was looking for, and available and interested in me. So I finally said, you know, why not just give this whole thing a shot for myself?
Ethan Waldman 15:51
Awesome. And how's it going?
Alex Scribner 15:53
So far, so good. It's, I you know, this is all kind of triggered, who knows, when it's triggered by if it was Sam's accident, building out the bus, you know, being unhappy at in my previous career? Who knows. But I think that, you know, I'm very grateful for the opportunity and the space. Once you take away you know, all of your tangible things, all of your, you know, real responsibilities when it comes to like living in an apartment or making a car payment or things like that, once you really relieve yourself of those things, you really can find a space that you can thrive in. Luckily, the business has been really successful in the last couple months.
Ethan Waldman 16:32
Alex Scribner 16:32
And I'm really happy with it.
Ethan Waldman 16:34
So awesome. What kind of what, what specifically are you doing in terms of marketing work?
Alex Scribner 16:40
So I circled back around horses. I think that you know, at the root, I started riding horses when I was seven years old. So at the root, I really enjoy being around the horses. I think when you get into certain aspects, certain corners of the industry, it's challenging, but because I'm working for myself, I'm able to really enjoy it. So I do photography and videography with kind of a focus in marketing. So, you know, web design, graphic design, things like that for small equestrian businesses looking to grow.
Ethan Waldman 17:12
Nice, awesome. Yeah, it's a good, it's a good niche. Yeah. So back to the skoolie a so your whole kind of online presence is Special Skoolie. And that's referring to the fact that the skoolie has special features that make it accessible, right?
Alex Scribner 17:17
So we just played on the idea of a special bus, right? So we, but there were a lot of opportunities that came to us when we first started this and you know, one of the largest was being able to pass the first bus along to Jordan, the girl who currently has it. And we were able to do that in under a year. So Sam and I had talked about, you know, this would be a great opportunity for him. But we also wanted people to understand that the hardest part about any sort of tragedy, but I can say specifically, Sam's diagnosis, his spinal cord injury was that as collectively as a family unit, we felt like our lives were over, right, we felt like that there was going to be this seismic shift in everybody's life that, you know, we were never going to be able to go back to whatever normal was. So to be able to, to build this bus to take Sam on a trip trips, whatever he was able to do, and show to so so many people that a diagnosis like this an injury, like this is not a death sentence. You know, it's really just kind of a change in the path. And, you know, you learned to cope and we kind of rallied and like a hard left turn, but you know, it's been fun so far. So yeah, to have that. Optimism did not come lightly, did not come easily. But, you know, we're stoked on it now. And it's, it's almost six years after the accident. So you know, it's it doesn't come quickly, but you know, it can come so.
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, the lift, that's something that you searched for a bus that already had a wheelchair lift, right?
So with the first bus, the lift was our first priority, we said that, you know, it has to have not only a lift but a lift in a specific location. So with school buses, they come in three locations, you can either get it where most most people most of the time you see it in the back, you can get it in the middle or get it in the front. And we knew for layout purposes, needed to have my bed in the back so we couldn't have a lift in the back. So a lot of people don't see a middle or front lift on the road. So we were you know, super again, going back to everything was so mystified in the beginning for us that you know, we have to find this, this unicorn bus. So we took the first thing we found, and it came out of Michigan, and there was a ton of rust on the bottom of the bus. And we thought, you know, that's just the name of the game, we have to have this lift. And that's what we have to do, which ultimately translated in a lot of work for me, you know, a lot of fabrication, a lot of things that I had no idea what I was doing.
And, you know, ultimately, in hindsight, I'm glad that I learned those things. But moving forward to the second bus, the lift wasn't important. I felt like - and Sam called me crazy the whole way - I felt like I had done enough fabrication work that I was like, "Well, let's find a bus that's in better condition that has a bigger engine that is a little bit more catered to what we need mechanically." And then I was like, "We'll just cut a lift into it." And Sam was like, "You're an idiot. We can't do that." And luckily, we found what I felt like was our dream bus. And as I was flipping through pictures, I found that it had a middle lift, and it was perfect. So we bought it..
Ethan Waldman 21:09
I'd like to tell you a little bit more about Tiny House Engage. Tiny House Engage members are also able to listen live as I record these podcasts and interviews and ask questions of our guests. So if you're a big fan of the show, it's a great way to get an inside look at the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, and get access to episodes weeks or even months before they go live on the feed. To learn more and register for Tiny House Engage, go to thetinyhouse.net/engage. Registration is open through January 4. And then the doors close again for the next 6-8 weeks. So don't delay, head over to thetinyhouse.net/engage to learn more and join today. See you in Tiny House Engage.
Yeah, I would imagine that that putting in a lift like that would be quite a bit of work.
Alex Scribner 21:56
Yeah, no, I was high on like the, you know, the successes of other things. And I was just like, "Well, it'll you know, it'll take us like a day and a half." And Sam was like, "Yeah, you're an idiot."
Ethan Waldman 22:05
Famous last words, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So So what are some other features inside the bus that make it, you know, accessible for Sam?
Alex Scribner 22:17
So the biggest, most obvious one is our bathroom or bathroom setup. So we did a walk through roll through shower. So our bathroom takes up the entire width of the bus. And it's between two wheel wells. So on top of the one wheel, well, we have a DIY composting toilet. On the other side, we have a bathroom sink, and then I have like a little area that is open space that, you know, when Sam showering, if he needs any assistance or anything like that, somebody else was able to be in there.
Ethan Waldman 22:53
Alex Scribner 22:53
And then in between the two wheel wells as all tiled and that is shower space.
Ethan Waldman 22:58
Alex Scribner 22:59
So he uses a special shower chair that fits in perfectly right there.
Ethan Waldman 23:04
Alex Scribner 23:06
Selfishly, that gives me a giant luxurious bathroom, which is really nice, but also serves as a very nice bathroom that is accessible for him. So yeah, that in addition to we just did like some lowered counter spaces for him to be able to get underneath to either work on or, you know, do some food prep, his bed will have a mechanical arm on it so that he's able to raise and lower himself in the bed. Little things like that, you know, obviously, it was always designed with the intention to me, for me to live in full time. But, you know, with him being my younger brother, if he ever wanted to go somewhere travel or something like that. He's able to do it without, you know, the stress of, of being uncomfortable.
Ethan Waldman 23:52
Right? Yeah. Because so much of our world is not hospitable, not accessible, even though there are laws that say that it's supposed to be, I can imagine that having your own lodging and transportation that works for him and it's comfortable. Just makes traveling so much easier.
Alex Scribner 24:17
Yeah, so and that was really the biggest thing behind everything was that, you know, we Sam was in the hospital one night and I was sitting next to his bedside and you know, it's, it's, it's very grim in the hospital, you know, living in the ICU and, you know, having to face this new reality. And I remember just kind of searching for the words to tell him that, you know, it's going to be okay. And I remember telling him I was like, "We're going to go on a road trip. I don't know how it's gonna happen. I don't know what it's gonna look like. We're gonna go on a road trip."
Ethan Waldman 24:45
Alex Scribner 24:46
And, you know, following up with that intention, you start to kind of see that hopping on an airplane is not easy with a wheelchair. You know, there's there's so many things that go into it. He can't fly in his wheelchair. He has to fly In an airline seat, you know, when we get somewhere he can't hop in an Uber and head to the Airbnb, we have to get a handicap accessible hotel room, we have to get a handicap accessible van. Things like that, that we never anticipated. And so that was kind of also what steered us in that direction. Okay, we can either spend thousands of dollars to go on a weekend trip somewhere, or we can take everything we need with us, right? We can we can make it to where he's comfortable. And it's like, we picked up the house, and we just moved it.
Ethan Waldman 25:33
So yeah, lovely. Definitely. Yeah. How, if you don't mind me asking, financially, like, how much are you in to this second build?
Alex Scribner 25:45
So it's kind of a weird question for us, because we never, maybe foolishly so we never really set a budget, because we knew that, you know, this is something that we want you to do. We purchased the bus, we purchased this bus for $6,000. And then we were really fortunate to to have a lot of help along the way we were a lot of there were a lot of people that heard the story. And were obviously very touched by it and wanted to support us. So whether that was our GoFundMe, one of the biggest donors to our project was Home Depot. So they, essentially we were maybe two thirds of the way done, and they came in, and they really just kind of stepped up and helped us finish. And I say that, you know, we wouldn't have the amenities and we wouldn't have been done as quickly as we were, had it not been for Home Depot really kind of stepping up and supporting us. So that being said, I tell people that, you know, we're in about 40 grand. So, but I was, you know, it was almost nauseating, to count the numbers, like we just, we were like whatever we want it to be. We wanted to be comfortable. We want it to last, you know, I had gone through mechanic school. At that point, I had been working in the equine industry for a lot of people that were, you know, constantly trying to cut cut corners and things like that. So I knew and building it that taking a little bit more time to put in the right stuff, put it in the right spots, things like that. That was really important. So it was probably best that we didn't count the receipts.
Ethan Waldman 27:18
Yeah, and it's hard to translate that number, the dollar sign number two, what it provides, you know, the kind of the intangible stuff.
Alex Scribner 27:30
Yeah, and this was never really anticipated to be a project that we moved on from this was something that, you know, if we were going to do it for Sam, we were going to do it once I wasn't going to, you know, continue this thing. In the you know, we were flipping buses and things like that this was kind of going to be our home. So we really kept that in mind when we were doing everything so,
Ethan Waldman 27:53
So is home for Sam Florida?
Alex Scribner 27:56
Sam is in Florida. So right before I left, I'm in Colorado currently and right before I left, I he actually got a job doing video editing. So he works in Florida doing that. And then before the accident, he was big into surfing and skating. So he picked up photography and videography for that reason. It was a way for him to really kind of stay connected with his friends. So he does, he has his own small business as well. And he does surf photography, skate photography, some videography, things like that. And then again, yeah, it's just a way for him to stay connected in the scene. He lives with my parents at the beach, and you know, they really help him he's got a caregiver now that really kind of helps to facilitate a working lifestyle.
Ethan Waldman 28:50
So nice. And are you living in the bus in Colorado?
Alex Scribner 28:55
Yeah, so this is not the bus, currently I'm house sitting. But yeah, so I am parked in kind of a little bit south of Denver, and I found a spot in the woods and it's perfect for the bus. And, you know, it's really quiet and I can look out the window and see 30 deer walking past me and beautiful.
Ethan Waldman 29:18
Will this be your first winter in the bus?
Alex Scribner 29:21
It will but I'm actually headed back to Florida for that reason. So it's getting cold. The bus stays warm. It was never intended to be like, you know, like everybody else. We wanted to chase the seasons, right? So we sure we really romanticize this idea that we were going to be in 75 degrees and sunny all the time. And there's been a couple nights that have been a little brisk. But you know, for the most part, you find a way to adapt to it. I think that's been the most insightful thing for me on this trip specifically is it's amazing to see how quickly somebody really adapts to their surroundings. I didn't have like a tabletop to work On or to eat out or anything like that, you know, you just find a way to make it work.
Ethan Waldman 30:04
So, yeah, yeah. And when you have the handy skills to which you now have from building and diesel mechanic school, you can you can modify your your environment.
Alex Scribner 30:15
Yeah. So right now actually, it's funny you say that. I have a butcher block tabletop and I bought with the intention of building my like dinette space, but with work and everything, haven't had the time. So it's currently sitting on top of Tupperware is full of like tools and equipment and everything and works wonderfully. But again, like you, you find a way to, if this is the lifestyle that makes you happy, right, you're going to find a way to really exist in it and make it work. And, you know, some days are a little bit colder than others. But if that's the worst of my problems, then I'm doing okay.
Ethan Waldman 30:49
Yeah. So Yeah. And how, how is the bus heated and cooled?
Alex Scribner 30:53
So we did an air conditioning, we did a mini split. And so again, for Sam's sake, he, in the accident, he lost his ability to regulate his body temperature. So he stays cold, essentially all the time. So we did a diesel powered heater that is located under his bed under the couch. And then we did a mini split in the back because I'm hot all the time. So I have the air conditioning back there. And then he's got the heater essentially, like right in this space if he needs it. So. But again, you know, we're hoping to really kind of use our surroundings to really control everything.
Ethan Waldman 31:35
Yeah, definitely. And that's, of course, the benefit of being on wheels is that you can chase that 75 degrees and sunny. Yeah. In theory, in theory, it can get cold in the summer in a lot of different places.
Alex Scribner 31:47
Oh, for sure. Yeah, no, I, when I came out to Colorado, I didn't expect that I was going to be here this long. Because of starting the business things have kind of slowed down a little bit as far as like being mobile. But yeah, those first few those first few cold snaps in Denver, you kind of are like, "Oh, I wasn't really planning on this." So but you know, it's again, it's worked out pretty perfectly so nice.
Ethan Waldman 32:11
Have you have you had any, any mechanical repairs that you've needed to do unexpectedly?
Alex Scribner 32:18
A couple. There's definitely, it's this, this like process of like, when the light first goes off, or, you know, you first hear that beep or something like that. I thought after going to school, like all of that anxiety would be gone. And it's not, you know, there's there's that initial like heart sank of, oh, God, what's happening? And then it kind of rolls into this is a learning experience. And you know, I'll know this information going forward. Fortunately, for us, the majority have any sort of mechanical issues or whatnot. There hasn't really been much, but if they had happened, they were in a place where we were parked. And, you know, I could really address them correctly, slowly, methodically, things like that. So but yeah, no, we've been really fortunate. And a lot of that came into making sure that the engine was in good shape that, you know, we went with a bigger engine, just because I didn't want to be underpowered.
Ethan Waldman 33:17
What is the size of that bigger engine and what was in your old bus?
Alex Scribner 33:21
In the old bus, we had a, we had a 7.2 liter engine. The old bus was a cat engine. And the new bus is a Cummins engine, and it's an 8.3 liter.
Ethan Waldman 33:34
Alex Scribner 33:36
I was a little, uh, I guess, egotistical. I don't know, we there were two Cummins engines. And I knew I wanted to go with Cummins. And it was either the smaller five, nine, or the larger eight, three. And I was like, "Well, we're not going to be underpowered, we need the big engine." So, which, you know, come to find out that there's lots of people that feel that way, too. You know, we load these buses with a lot of beautiful, glamorous things now. So to be able to make sure that it's being powered up a hill, you know, that's, that's a lot of peace of mind right there.
Ethan Waldman 34:07
Right. And also, I've I've interviewed people in the past and who have spoken to the importance of of finding a bus with the right transmission, and that some buses are not geared to go fast. And some buses are not geared to go up steep hills.
Alex Scribner 34:25
Yeah, yeah. No, the interesting thing that we we started to come to find out about buses pretty early on in shopping, I think even for the first bus was that these these vehicles are built so custom to the school system that, you know, one bus is, is typically not the same to the next. So yeah, you're right, getting something that's geared correctly because you can get something that's geared to go up mountains, but then you start talking about driving it across the country on you know, wide open 70. When you know you're you're trying to Oh, 65-70 miles an hour. And it's just not geared to go up to high speeds like that. So, there yeah, there, there are a lot of different specs that go into these buses that a lot of people don't even know about. And you know, to try and get that unicorn of a bus for you is difficult, though,
Ethan Waldman 35:18
Have you and Sam takienthat road trip?
Alex Scribner 35:22
So we traveled a little bit while we were building the bus doing stuff, you know, really just to kind of make sure like, "Okay, does this make sense here? Are you comfortable here? Should we put this somewhere else?" Things like that. And we did like some quick overnight stuff, without it being built out completely, it was difficult, still is difficult, just because he has such a high level of, you know, really just needs that he has to be comfortable. And we have to make sure that you know, he has everything that he needs. So we've done small stuff, we did go to some, like festivals and things like that. And that's always really fun to, to see everybody that you know, that you've been building with, but to also show people that are at these festivals that you know, this is an attainable dream, this is something that, you know, if if do idiots from Florida can do this, then anybody can do it.
Ethan Waldman 36:18
Have you started consulting with others who also want to build accessible buses?
Alex Scribner 36:26
A little bit. Yeah, we we have a lot of people that will reach out to us and say, ironic, ironically, a lot of family members. So it's a lot of people that I can really empathize with that are sitting in a hospital room with a good friend or a family member that are thinking, you know, "How do I fix this? How do I, you know, these are the cards that were dealt, how do we get to the other side here?" So it's a lot of people that reach out and say, "I can't wait to, to show this to my friend, I can't wait to show this to my brother in and have them see that." You know, like I said, it isn't a death sentence. It isn't, you know, it's just a shift.
Ethan Waldman 37:03
Alex Scribner 37:04
So and that and that's always insanely rewarding, right? Like anybody that's able because for Sam and I, we always talk about, especially the social media aspect, this is such a double edged sword for us, because this was always intended to just be our trip, right? This was always intended to just be something that, you know, we I wanted to show him places he wanted to experience places, let's go do it. It was never meant to be really publicized. But then we started to get these responses back from people and you know, it is a little rattling that like, hey, you know, we this message should be shared this message should be broadcasted a little bit that it's not impossible. It's not, you know, unattainable. It's, it's exciting.
Ethan Waldman 37:54
Yeah, it is. And do you have you connected with other people who are handicapped who are travelling in buses like this?
Alex Scribner 38:01
Yeah. So one of the people that we met really early on who is actually out in Colorado. He is a solo van lifer. And he's a quadriplegic injury, but pretty similar to Sam's and we met on through Instagram, we chatted for a while, you know, he has a van. So he just kind of was a sounding board for us that, you know, kind of cheering us on from Colorado. And then once I got up here, him and I were able to meet in person and his name is Kirk. And he's, he's been really fantastic. super supportive.
Ethan Waldman 38:35
Alex Scribner 38:37
But, yeah, there's a lot of people that are slowly out there doing it, there's, there's a family in California who their son is in a wheelchair, and you know, they've been building out a beautiful bus. And so it, it is kind of a little sub community within the community, right. And it's been really fun to, to be to be cheered on by people in the beginning when we were starting, but to now turn around and return that favor to so many people that are doing this.
Ethan Waldman 39:03
Awesome, awesome. But one thing that I like to ask all my guests is, are there two or three resources you can recommend for our listeners, it could be books, or YouTube videos, or even just people, just anything that helped you along the way.
Alex Scribner 39:20
So I would say you two, I would say lots of YouTube. Yeah, no, I think that. For me, it was an interesting process and that I spent a lot of time on YouTube. I was so excited. I was so eager about everything in the beginning that I was watching a lot of these YouTube videos. And they weren't really resonating because I wasn't at that point yet. But I kind of like file that away back in my mind. And then when I got to, you know, installing plumbing or electricity or something like that, and there was something that I didn't really pay much attention to a tiny little detail. I would circle back to those videos. So I think it's good to always kind of like immerse yourself in that and then it
As far as people, I don't know if this is a right answer, but we, there were, there were a handful of people that were really helpful to us along the way. And by helpful, I think that they just kind of showed up, they just responded to messages. They were our cheerleaders. So it's been really important to me to return that favor within the community. And you know, if there are questions, if they're, you know, how to questions if there's just, you know, why questions, whatever, we try to be as open as possible about all of us, but, you know, while still being supportive and realistic, that a lot of this wasn't easy, but, you know, send us a DM with your questions or whatever. And, you know, I always try to make sure that I'm there to, to respond as thoroughly and as accurately as possible.
Ethan Waldman 40:48
Awesome. Well, I will link to all of your various social media channels and website on the show notes for this episode. Alex Scribner, thank you so much for being a guest today. I really enjoyed this conversation.
Alex Scribner 41:00
Absolutely. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you guys having me.
Ethan Waldman 41:05
Thank you so much to Alex Scribner for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including photos of Alex's skoolies and links to their website and more at thetinyhouse.net/195. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/195.
Also, don't forget to check out Tiny House Engage, my exclusive online tiny house community. You can learn more and register for access at thetinyhouse.net/engage. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/engage.
Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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