Bus Conversion: 2008 Conversion Pictures

2008 was a year of immense changes for us.  We spent the majority of the year working towards an adoption of children out of the Minnesota Waiting Child Program.  In amongst all this work we spent time camping with Hilary’s family in May, working on the bus, vacationing out west, and breathing coal dust and fumes at the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher’s Reunion in Rollag, MN.  Our year ended with the placement of our daughters, Breann and Hannah, in our home on November 20th!

This dresser was our kitchen cabinet.  Amazing how much you can do with just a little bit of space.

This picture shows the “to be” dinning area of the bus.  We had the dresser in this area since we did our first steel tent camping trip.  It was very strange to have the dresser gone as it was now completely unloaded into the kitchen cabinets.

Here is a picture of the completed kitchen cabinets right after I put the last door front on.

This is a more recent picture (as of November, 2009) taken to show a few more items completed – outlet on the right end, thermostat for the coleman basement unit, thermostat for the webasto for the front zone, and switches for various functions including the water pump and front lights.  I also show the relationship of the dinette in the room.  The dinette pictures are in the 2009 page (not yet uploaded).


The following picture was taken somewhere on Hwy 14 in western South Dakota on our annual “out west” vacation trip.

Devil’s tower … our second time here and just as much fun as the first time.  We enjoyed one full day of hiking all around the base – both the lower and the upper trails.  We saw deer, turkey, and turkey vultures.

A nice couple offered to take our picture for us.  This is on the west side of the tower.

On our way to from Devil’s Tower to the Thunder Basin National Grassland we came across “Diehl’s Super Market”!!  This is where HWY 15 and I90 intersect in Moorcroft, WY.  We were so surprised to find this we had to snap a picture.

In the Thunder Basin National Grassland we found a great place to park right off HWY 14.  From there we were able to take the Jeep and head up into the hills.  There were literally miles upon miles of offroad trails for motorcycles, ATVs and 4 wheel drive vehicles.  I also enjoyed an hour of biking the motorcycle trails.  What a fabulous day!

We happened to be up on the ridgeline to the west of our “camping” location for sunset.  This was taken just after the sun had dipped below the horizon.

The next day we left the grasslands and went into Gillette, WY to meet up with Sean and Louise.  Sean and Louise were at an “Escapees” rally due to some RedCross training they were going to be doing.  They were kind enough to make time in their day for a couple of hours of visiting with us.  We enjoyed some wonderful visiting time together and were blessed with a tour of their fine coach.  Here is a link to their website:  Sean & Louis – Our Odyssey Blob


This year we again went up into the Big Horn mountains for a few days of rest and relaxation.  We go west on US Hwy 16 out of Buffalo, Wyoming.  The climb up and out of the low lands exceeds 7% grades and culminates at the Powder River pass at 9,600+ feet.  We came up this grade two years back with the orginal 6v92 powertrain.  We had to climb the beginning portion of the grade in 1st gear at about 19 mph.  This time, with the Cummins we were able to climb the grade in 7th gear at 38 mph!  What an amazing difference in power and climbing ability.  This picture is taken right below the pass on the east side of the grade.  There are several great areas to stop here and camp in dispersed National Forest camping areas.  We had hail, snow, and rain every afternoon while we were here this year.  Spring seamed to be about two to three weeks behind.

While resting up in the Big Horn mountains we usually go forge a new trail to a mountain peak of interest.  This year we crossed over a valley and went up the rock peak on the east side of the valley.  Along the way we encountered this huge patch of snow.  Our dog, Ruby, LOVES snow and found herself in doggy heaven!  She was absolutely nutty and wild for at least 15 minutes before she had enough playing in the snow and was ready to continue on with the hike.

Just down the fire trail from where we were staying we came across this elk “nursery”.  All the little dots are babies and the bigger dots are the adults.  Fantastic!

The lupine were excellent this year.

We took some time to go offroading in the jeep.  We found a forest service trail called “Crazy Woman Road”.  Along the way we ran across an amazing water fall and took the time to enjoy a snack while listening to the thundering water.  We were the only ones in sight!

Further down the trail we came across this fawn and her mother (upper left corner of the picture).  The fawn is beautiful in the lupines!

After leaving the Big Horn mountains we decided we wanted to drive through Yellowstone on the way out to Boise.   So, once again, we did a crazy one day drive through the park.  Here we are stuck in the obligatory bison road jam.  It took over 1/2 hour just to get through.  EVERYONE had to have a BUNCH of pictures.  You’d think they had never seen a bison before.

After leaving Yellowstone we made it over to Craters of the Moon National Monument the next day.  This is a fabulous park!  We parked the bus at the visitor’s center and rode our bikes around the park loop.  It was in the low 90s this day and the wind was blowing like crazy.  We were tired, happy bikers/hikers at the end of this tour.  We got to go to the top of inferno cone and down into the freezing cold depths of one of the lava tubes.  Talk about extremes!

Beautiful flowers growing where you would not expect any flowers to be able to live.

Here is the trail head to “inferno cone”.  An excellent hike!

Yes, we really did make it to the top and there was even a tree growing on the top (behind the person taking this picture).

We also checked out the Big Ice Cave in Custer National Forest in north central Wyoming.  These pictures were taken on July 16th.  The air temperature was in the 80s outside and upper 30s (estimated) inside the cave.  There are several caves in the western mountains where the cave has no natural air flow and therefore becomes an cold air trap.  This traps the cold air from the winter and keeps the interior of the cave cold throughout the entire summer.  Cool!

After arriving home from our summer vacation I decided the air wipers HAD to go.  I was not taking another trip with them.  So, I fabricated up a replacement using the wiper motor from the freightliner that was the donor for the ISM.  A little crude, but effective!  One motor is able to easily drive both wipers.  The motor had no problem even in the slush and ice we encountered in April of 2009 during our trip out to Moab, UT.  I’m happy and I now have intermittent wipers!  This effectively decreased the cost of my repower by over $200.  Yeah, I know, doesn’t really count, but I feel better getting some other value out of the effort.

The motor is on the driver side and the passenger side is driven by the crossover arm.

This is the view of the passenger side installed.

When I installed the ISM I put it in the same plane of depth as the 6v92.  The goal was to keep the crank shaft in the same relative position as the 6v92 was in.  Consequently, this truck oil pan stuck down real far.  I was always afraid I was going to catch it on something and rip a hole in it – or worse.

During the fall I made a few calls around and found out ABC in Fraibault, MN had a junked ISM motor from an engine compartment burn with an aluminum bus oil pan.  I was not going to pay Cummins $1100 for a new pan and was very happy to find one at ABC.  However, the pan had been used by a forklift to lift the motor while dumping it into a trash bin.  Since the pan was cracked I was simply charge $20!  There were 3 very serious cracks in the pan.  A friend who welded my aluminum pieces for the motor welded up the cracks in the pan.  The very first time I put oil in the pan 2 cracks leaked.  I pulled the pan and had my friend re-weld them.  This time when I filled the pan I had no leaks.  Unfortunately, the first time the oil got hot it started leaking through the 3rd crack.  I decided to leave the pan on and live with the leak as it only leaks when the oil is hot.  The leakage you see in the picture is 9,000+ miles worth of leakage.  Replacing the old oil pan with the aluminum pan cost me less than $90 in total.

Every labor day weekend in Rollag, MN the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher’s Reunion is held.  This was the first we time we went and boy did we have a blast!  So much old machinery to see!  We dry camp on the grounds and spend the days and nights enjoying the show.  Everything imaginable is here and working!  Check the show out at:  WMSTR.

At night they hold a “sparking” show.  They load up a steam engine (tractor in this case) with a proprietary mix of “stuff” and then hook it up to a prony brake.  Under load the sound and light show is fantastic!  This was remarked by many members in the crowd as one of the better “sparker” shows put on in a long time.

One of the nice Avery tractors.

Real steam shovels at work (okay, play!).  I can’t imagine digging up the panama canal with a machine like this.

Fred Thomson held on to a site for us – even though site reserving is forbidden – so we could enjoy a morning coffee and evening refreshments conversing and shooting the breeze together.

I also put new L.E.D. tail lights on the bus.  The old O.E.M. taillights had all but lost their effectiveness.  If the sun was shining you couldn’t even tell the blinkers were on.  I added the L.E.D. light bars on the radiator access panels as additional turn and stop lamp indicators.  This way when towing or hauling bikes on the back others can always see what my intentions are even if they aren’t paying attention.  The L.E.D. lights are amazingly bright, even in full sunlight.  I connected the lights to the TOAD tail light converter box Craig Shepard made for me.  It has worked out perfectly!  The only “funky” wiring I had to do was wire the backup lights in series since they are 12v and I did not have a 24v -> 12v converter in place and neither did I want to wire in a relay.  If you would like one of Craig’s tail light converters go here.