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Aaron Barr and Lorena Estrada
October 30, 2022
240 views

Crafts and Travels - A 1975 MCI MC8 Crusader Bus Conversion

Like many others, part of our interest in living in a bus started after the COVID pandemic. We were living in Boston, Massachusetts at the time, and between the cold weather, the pandemic, the loss of family, the lockdown, and health issues, we were ready for a significant change. 

We used to watch videos on Instagram every night and when we saw bus conversions and travels, the idea of doing it ourselves grew on us. We could do this!! After all, we get along so nicely, we are an amazing team, and we love adventures. We are both in our 50s. Aaron works from home and Lorena is just starting her online coffee business - this is a perfect time!

We started looking for school buses to become part of the Skoolie community. There were so many cool designs and builds, but soon we came across the MCI-style buses, and right away we knew that type of bus was for us. We started the search, and as luck would have it, we found ours right where we wanted to do the build-out. 

This is a passenger bus designed to be on the road on long trips, 24/7/365 so it is easy to drive, spacious, and comfortable with lots of storage.  These were the main reasons we chose it over a traditional Skoolie conversion.

The bus was originally professionally converted in 1988, so it came with really good bones, but it was old so most of the interior and much of the house systems needed replacement or considerable work.  

We jumped in and bought it, and we could not be any happier! We took it to a reputable mechanic to check the engine, wiring, batteries, and all the technical and mechanical parts of the bus. We sold all our belongings and moved to Washington state to start remodeling what since then has been our home.

The living area before updating.
Bathroom before updating.
Bedroom before updating.
Stripping the interior.
Getting ready for painting.

The cabinets and the shower were the only things we left on the interior, but both required sanding and painting to become modern.  Lorena stripped the old couch down to wood and re-upholstered it while also creating cushions for our dinette.  The dinette can also be turned into a second couch or a bed for guests.  

Aaron built a craft table and craft cabinet for all of Lorena’s craft and art projects, also building a nice cat perch and a hidden litter box for Hoku the cat.  Lorena managed all the sewing, painting, staining, and decor for the bus, including some beautiful tile work in the kitchen and bathroom.  

The old black water tank was taken out along with the traditional toilet and replaced with a 125-gallon grey water tank and composting toilet.  The propane heater was also replaced.  We aim to be as independent as possible on the road, shooting for two weeks before we need to fill with fresh water, get food, dump grey water, etc.  This new system meets that goal.

Since our purchase in 2021, it has been remodeled again as our home on wheels. We are incredibly pleased living in it. Downsizing can be a challenging, even stressful process for some people, but with a bus as spacious as this one, it hasn’t been an issue. 

Our bus logo.

Naming something or someone is always special - you want the name to mean something! Once it has a name it feels like “yours”, it becomes special and it acquires a certain “personality”. We decided on “Crafts and Travels” because well, we want to travel, but also because we are quite crafty; we roast our own coffee, make our own soaps, detergents, almond milk, cheese, sewing projects, painting, sculpting, cooking… in other words; if it can be made at home, we can make it!

The living area after being remodeled.
Our dinette/sofa/bed combo and storage.
Kitchen remodeled.
New fridge, tiles, and cooking area.
Bathroom remodeled.
Bedroom remodeled.
The bus was decorated for Christmas.
New solar panels (2500 Watts).
Updated house power (400Ah Li).

One of the beautiful things about nomad bus life is that every vehicle depicts the personality and lifestyle of the owners, therefore each one is different and unique. If I had to describe our style, I’d say it’s simple, colorful, and a bit bohemian. 

Some of the unique builds we have made to our bus are an entrance shoe rack, a dinette that turns into another couch or a twin bed, a couch that turns into a full bed, a covered cat litter box that is also a bed/window lookout, a craft desk and a craft shelf with drawers. 

Other upgrades we have made to our home include 2550 watts in solar that works along with its original alternator to recharge the 400 Ah of lithium-Ion batteries; two tanks that hold 150 gallons of fresh water, a composting toilet, all LED lights, and a modern energy-efficient refrigerator. Aesthetically, all the wood has been painted white, the carpet has been replaced with new floors, new butcher block countertops, copper sinks, backsplashes, and a stove has been installed.

We can proudly say that we have done all the remodeling ourselves …even when it took many tries to get it right, LOL. It is a very personal (and financial) decision whether you want to do as much as you can yourself or pay for someone to do the remodeling. We have learned a LOT about the bus from all the projects we have done to it.

Crafts and Travels started its journey in November 2021 from Lake Tapps, Washington. Our goal is to travel the country and visit its natural wonders whilst avoiding extreme temperatures. So far this has been our journey…

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • California (Big Sur, Redwood National Forest, Mohave Desert)
  • Nevada (Valley of Fire)
  • Arizona (Grand Canyon, Sedona)
  • New Mexico (White Sands)
  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin 
  • Michigan
  • Wyoming (Grand Tetons, Yellowstone)
  • South Dakota (Badlands)
  • Montana
  • Idaho

Pictures From Crafts & Travels’ Bus Travels

Although it is hard to choose a “favorite” adventure because the U.S. is so vast, let’s begin by saying we LOVE NATURE and the outdoors! This lifestyle has allowed us to live many different experiences we only dreamt of; from the overwhelming Redwoods Forests or the scenic Pacific Coast Highway along the coasts of California to the still, quiet nights and clear skies of the Mojave Desert. 

We experienced “Skooliepalooza” in the Arizona desert where we met the most beautiful and free-spirited people. We have seen spectacular sunsets that looked like the skies had caught on fire in the desert; been woken up to the sound of birds in Alabama; gone to bed listening to coyotes in California and the sound of the ocean in Florida.  

We had the picturesque Grand Tetons as our backdrop, even the fields of farmlands throughout the Midwest have their beauty.  But hands down our favorite so far is Yellowstone.  To immerse yourself in the near untapped natural beauty of Yellowstone is something not to be missed.  From the otherworldly hot spring pools to the majestic and powerful waterfalls and rivers that dot the park, and of course the bears, bison, and elk oh my!

Skooliepalooza 2022.

We have learned to adapt, to enjoy life and each other, to slow down and appreciate each other and the company of new friends. We cherish more the opportunity to meet new people and to visit old friends. 

Hoku on the bus.

One of the things we are most grateful for is to be able to travel with our pets Conchita our (Coton de Tulear dog) and Hoku our (Handsome Tuxedo Cat), let me dare to say they enjoy our travels as much as we do. Not every person has the privilege of drinking their morning coffee looking at Mount Rainier, Devil's Tower, the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons, or Yellowstone …unless you live a life of travels like the one a bus life offers.

I like to say we live like turtles; we take our entire house with us wherever we go, and we love it!! We plan to keep traveling and enjoying our life, our home/bus, and each other (pets included). After all, to live is to have experiences and that is exactly what we are doing!  We will spend the next few months with family in the Pacific Northwest before starting our cycle all over again.  This next year we plan to spend some quality time in Colorado, Utah, and maybe southern Texas for the Winter before coming up the East Coast.  There is so much left to see!

Devil's Tower.

In the first year on the road, you learn so much about what works and what doesn’t, both with the bus, how we organize and plan our trips, and how fast we travel.  The first year seems like a break-in year.  As our first year on the road comes to a close, we have learned our pace, what we like and don’t like, and how best to use or continue to modify the bus to maximize our experiences.

But for specifics, read instructions before starting any projects LOL.  Slow down!  Most places aren’t going anywhere.  Take more time to be in each place. Keep a travel journal, because you are living such a full life on the road it’s hard to keep track of all your experiences.

Article written by Aaron Barr and Lorena Estrada

This 50s power couple is the kind of people you want with you on a deserted island!

Aaron is a biologist and full-on technology nerd that works from home. He can build anything, and figure out a solution to most challenges. Aaron takes care of the mechanical, technical, and planning parts of the bus life. Besides being the good-looking one, he is the motor that keeps everything running smoothly.

Lorena is the soul of the bus. Leave it to her to design, organize, decorate, paint, sew, finish wood, or simply cook from scratch a hearty meal (while singing and dancing with a bit of Latin flair). Former art teacher, she now sells top-quality coffee from Honduras - don’t be shy to ask to purchase or sample our coffee!!

Together there is virtually nothing they can’t build or make from scratch. They love to meet others on the road, so stop and say Hi.

In the meantime, follow the Crafts and Travels adventures on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.

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