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Help Steer Michael to His ‘Off the Grid’ Dream

1 Dec

by Roger White

 

When I was a young lad (translation: Kennedy Administration), I had dreams of living off the grid when I grew up. I don’t think “off the grid” was even a term then, but I had visions of a simple, cozy existence. My fantasy was to buy a small Quonset hut or used airplane hangar, refurbish it with shag carpet, cedar paneling, and black lights, grow fat tomatoes and skinny goats out back, and write Mickey Spillane crime novels for a living.

quonset home

Although none of the above came to pass (well, I do have the black light), I was recently taken back to those dreamy days by the daring brainstorm of one young Michael Talley. Michael’s going to live in a bus.

Talley, son of Austin musician Woot Talley, cobbled together $2,400 in April to buy a used Austin ISD school bus at public auction. Even though he was the sole bidder to show up and give the buses the once-over before the auction, he almost lost out. “I was the only one to go examine the buses at the open house,” said the 24-year-old Talley. “They auctioned 10 buses, and one man bought the other nine—and tried to buy this one, as well.”

Talley held his own, however, and came away from the auction the proud owner of a 1997 International 3800 full-length yellow school bus, mileage approximately 200,000—give or take a few rural routes. The auctioneer claimed it was gently driven only to and from school by a little old lady who never pushed it above 25 miles per hour. OK, I made up that last part.

For Talley, the auction was the easy part. “Oh, I’ve worked on it after work and on weekends since May,” he said, “but I picked the worst year to do something like this, with all the ridiculous weather Central Texas has been having.”

Though Talley has tall plans for a total makeover inside and out of this 72-passenger behemoth, his first order of business—after removing every one of the seats—was to raise the roof. Literally. Talley, just like his talented dad, is what you’d call not short. As in 6’ 6”. As soon as he brought the bus home, it hit him. Literally. “I couldn’t stand up.”

187d. Bus Photo 2

So Talley recruited a few friends to build a scaffolding rig inside the bus, cut the bus in half, and employ leveling jacks to extend the ceiling. “We raised the roof nearly 18 inches,” he said. “It took four guys, but in the end it wasn’t as difficult as you would think. The hardest part was the sleepless nights leading up to it, worrying about all the things that could go wrong.”

So far so good. But the kid’s got a long way to go. I asked him what he envisioned as the finished product. The Talley Transporter (my name, not his—more on this later) will include, and I quote, “a 27-inch iMac, 24-inch external monitor, home entertainment system, spacious kitchen, shower, composting toilet, heating/AC system, manual washing machine, water purification system, onboard 50-gallon fresh-water storage tank, cedar interiors, hardwood floors, and LED lighting.”

187f. Michael the ManTalley spent a lot of time studying ultra-compact living spaces, and he’s keen on avoiding the pitfalls. “Most people who design a tiny house try to take advantage of every nook and cranny, often resulting in a very cramped living space,” he said. “I wanted my bus to feel more open, so my kitchen is larger than most tiny-house kitchens. My bathroom isn’t as cramped—and by sacrificing a dining table, I was able to accomplish all of that, as well as install a large desk in my workspace.”

Will there be a generator for power, I queried? Nope. Talley, a graphic designer by trade, envisions “a 720-watt solar system, with state-of-the-art 3,000-watt/50-amp inverter/charger system, and six six-volt rechargeable batteries.” Aha! No noisy generator required. “This is key,” Talley stressed. “If I invest in this system, then I’ll save lots of money down the road by avoiding costly hookup fees at RV parks and state parks.”

And speaking of money, this is where you, the gentle reader, may come in. The labor Talley can do; he’s a strong, ambitious sort. The dinero, however, is another story. Talley, like most twenty-somethings, pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck, and his ambition of living in his magic bus won’t run on play money. He figures he needs about $4,760 to finish the job. You can take a look at his progress at www.gofundme.com/TalleyBus. If you want to help out, by all means. For a $10 donation, you can be an honorary bus passenger; for $20, you’re a crossing guard—for $100, you’re a driver! Actually, the soft-spoken Talley will take any amount that can send him a little farther down to road to his dream. He’ll even reciprocate with graphic design work, if you’d like.

Talley may be young, but he’s no dilettante dreamer. He’s dedicated to seeing this through. In fact, he’s living in the bus shell now. It’s parked on a small farm in Manor. “I got rid of all my belongings, with the exception of my books and my records,” he said. “I want to explore the country and explore myself. Read all those books I own that I keep telling myself I’ll get around to, maybe learn a few new skills, hike every day.”

Talley noted that everyone—well, almost everyone—around him has given him tremendous assistance and encouragement. “My family has been super supportive; my friends think it’s great. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t too keen on the whole idea, though. Living in a school bus certainly isn’t for everyone.”

Oh, and about the name. Does the magic bus have a name? “Ahhh, not yet,” he said. “For a donation of $1,000, I’ll name her whatever you want, though.” There you go. Pony up, and you can be immortalized as the namesake of a sweet-looking homemade RV with state-of-the-art composting toilet. Keep the dream alive, Michael!

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely female spouse, two precocious offspring units, a very obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

 187e. Bus 3D Model

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