Thursday, December 19, 2019

Dec 2019 update

JOY is home and now all cleaned out. The last owner donated a bunch of materials that we had to remove, sort and store. Now the bus is clean and empty.
I finally got to be inside the bus and really feel the space. I haven't taken exact measurements but have created the latest layout option.

Just to recap: my absolute requirements for this space are:
* separate sleeping spaces for me and the driver
* long work counter
* fridge, sink and kitchen counter with moveable induction cooktop
* deep bathtub
* recliner
* composting toilet
* washer / dryer
* independent way to get in and out of bus
* ceiling fans

For a long time I've been stumped about where to put the bathtub and second bed. Once I got into the bus, I realized that the front wheel wells provide a nice defined area that with a curtain can be a semi-private space for the driver. I plan to add a really comfortable driver's seat on a swivel.

So glad to finally have a layout I like. Of course, once I get in and measure everything and consult with the experts things will inevitably change. But for now, I am happy with how it looks.

Equipment on and off grid

I made some equipment decisions and still have some to go. Here's my current list. Dec. 18, 2019

EQUIPMENT TO HAVE and use ON grid (i.e. with power)

cooking - 2 induction burners
baking - no, though a future possibility might be a toaster oven
fridge - 3-4 cu ft fridge mounted 20" above the ground

washer/dryer - the LG 4 washer/dryer combo
bathtub - repurposed industrial tub - 24" wide x 48" long x 24" deep
water heater
water pump

diesel heat system

bed warmer - Electrowarmth half-bed pad
Sleep number bed (requires minimal power to keep inflated)

cell phone
wifi booster

Handcycle lithium battery charging

LED lights (overhead)
task light - OTT clamp light

EQUIPMENT  - NO power needed
toilet - urine-diverting compost - either a C-Head or homemade version
sink - 16"x16-18"
bed - platform bed with mattress and Hypervent Aire-Flow Moisture Barrier

under bed
under work table
under kitchen counter
under bus storage compartments
end of bed closet (12"w x 66" tall x 38" deep)

Sewing machine

Superarm wheelchair lift

OFF-Grid equipment to power
cooking - 2 induction burners
fridge - 3-4 cu ft fridge mounted 20" above the ground
cooler - Dometic

bed warmer - Electrowarmth half-bed pad OR USB Hot Water Bottle
Sleep number bed (requires minimal power to keep inflated) 

LED lights (overhead)
task light - OTT clamp light

cell phone
wifi booster

Superarm wheelchair lift

Handcycle lithium battery charging 

Getting in and out of the Bus

One of my priorities is to be able to get in and out of the bus by myself.

I traveled across the country in a bus with a standard bus lift. While it was reliable, to use it required turning on the engine. Diesel engines in old buses are noisy at 7am and did not make my camping neighbors happy.

To make it work, someone else had to start the engine so the battery wouldn't run down while I used the lift. Then they had to open the lift door. Then pass me the lift controls.  When I was down, they had to put it all back up.

A bus lift requires at least 7-9 feet of clearance. 4-5 feet for the lift itself then at least 3 more feet for my wheelchair to get off the front of the lift.

I always felt a bit trapped so for this bus I want a completely independent system. I have good use of my arms and hands so I figure it's possible.


I went looking for existing lifts and the only one that matches some of my needs is the Superarm lift especially the 129 Basement Motorhome model which works for 34-52" ground to vehicle floor distance.

But the Superarm lift has a weight limit of 600 lbs but that weight limit is too low for today's power chairs.

When I got my first power chair, the amazing Quickie P-200, it weighed 250 lbs empty.  The newer chairs, such as the Permobil M-300 preferred by my friends, weighs 450 lbs empty. With add-ons a power chair can go up over 500 lbs empty. So the Superarm won't work for them.

The weight limit seems fine for a manual chair. Here's a video of it being used by a manual wheelchair user getting into an RV.

The other problem with the Superarm is that it does not swivel. 

On the bus I need a lift to both get in and out of the bus but also out of the bathtub.  My most recent layout has the lift arm between the lift door and the bathtub.

Finally the cost is very high. For the motorhome model it's well over $8,000 new.


I began to look at devices that can lift up to 1,000 lbs, can swivel and are reliable enough for daily use.

I started to look at small industrial cranes like this Jib Crane. This one swivels 360 degrees, can be bolted down to the floor of the bus, lifts 1000 lbs and the arm can be extended.

Screen Shot 2019-07-26 at 5.09.41 PM.png

This particular model doesn't work because you have to hand pump it. But there are tons of variations on this idea where I can have the crane frame and add a small electric motor and straps.

The price of the cranes are so much cheaper than the Superarm - like cranes are in the hundreds and Superarm is in the thousands.

Hoping to get some bright brains working on this problem. I'll post as new ideas emerge.

JOY's First Logo

Some days a nice thing happens to make your day brighter.

Today my friend Marilyn Wann (of Fat!So?) brought me this beautiful gift.

Mercedes Straham made this by pressing into tin and then adding colors.

This 10" round logo has two concentric circles. Green flowing leaves swirl through the inner circle of blue with critters swimming around. The outer circle top contains the text "Rolling Joy" in calligraphy lettering and the bottom half shows a dark blue sky with golden stars.

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