While the proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss” traces its roots to the Roman Empire, it could have been penned for the Stone family. Spike and Liz Stone reside on “Green Bean the Bus” with their two young daughters, Pepper and Violet. This is no experience-vacation on rented wheels: the family lives on a 48-passenger school bus they converted into their own tiny-home sweet home. “Prior to building and moving our family onto the bus we lived in a traditional house in Providence’s south side,” says Spike, aka Chief Bus Officer.
If the notion of converting a school bus is new to you, you’re not alone, but neither are the Stones. Known as a “skoolie,” these are retired school buses gutted and refitted as living spaces. “It all happened so fast,” Spike recalls. “We had been talking about doing something like it for a year or two but it didn’t feel like the time was right and we weren’t quite sure how to make it work. But when COVID cancelled the kids’ school, work went completely remote, and the landlords decided to sell the house we were living in for twice the appraisal, we decided to go for it.” The couple bought the bus on June 1, 2020, and two months later took to the open road. “I remember clutching the enormous steering wheel and I couldn’t stop smiling for a couple hours as we rumbled northwest into upstate New York,” Spike fondly recalls.
Inside, the bus is a master class of efficiency and ingenuity. “We wanted it to kind of evoke a beach house feel, keeping everything light. We also took inspiration from Swedish design so everything folds and nests and stores. Keeping it recognizable as a bus was also important. I think the coolest part is that it’s a school bus,” says Liz, responsible for accents like vinyl stickers standing in as washable wallpaper to add warmth and graphic interest. Spike, a general contractor, built things like a sliding pocket table for the stairs, which the girls use as a desk, and a deck extension. Another clever hack was using climbing holds over a ladder for the bunk beds. “That idea came to me in a dream!” laughs Spike. “I just couldn’t figure out how to design a ladder into the bunk beds that I liked, and Pepper was climbing everything anyway.”
Together, the family has driven and parked around the country. They’ve hiked through the mountains of Santa Fe, soaked in a secluded hot spring in Taos, made bus friends at the Grand Canyon, strolled the redwood forest, skinny dipped in a snowmelt river in Montana, and smelled a thousand different roses in Portland. “Some of the most fun we had was also in completely random places like coincidentally parking at a cherry farm with another bus family and eating as many cherries as we possibly could.”
At press time, the Stones were excitedly awaiting the birth of a new little passenger. “We’re gonna need a bigger bus,” jokes Spike of baby number three. “It’s an incredible adventure and amazing experience for us and the kids but I don’t think it would be realistic to continue traveling at that pace for more than a few years,” he says, noting that long-term plans will always include travel, even if not full time. “There are some absolutely wild and amazing experiences you can have if you are willing to be a little uncomfortable.”
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