We needed a distraction. We had been furloughed, slow at work, etc. We had a Montana trip planned around July and August, but we didn’t know what it would look like yet. At the start, we didn’t know if we were just going to fish or to film as well. During a call with the fellas, the idea of buying a short bus for the trip came up.
Buying something big just for a trip wasn’t a new concept for us… a few years ago we wanted to go fish an area and didn’t have the right boat. So we did what anyone would do. We hopped on Craigslist and bought a boat on the way into town, and sold it on the way out of town. Another time in Montana, we decided we needed a bigger boat while we were on the river. We hopped out and took some pics and posted it on Craigslist, by the time we got off we had a buyer lined up and had found a raft that was 2’ longer. We met the new buyer and seller in the same parking lot and made a deal. So the idea of grabbing a bus for this trip wasn’t a novel concept to us.
We didn’t know what it would turn into. After a few more phone conversations, the film Short Bus Diaries was taking shape. We would buy a short bus, convert it to a camper van, and take it on our trip while filming the shenanigans.
Below are some steps we outlined for filming Volume 1 of the Short Bus Diaries.
Step 1: Find a Short Bus.
Like many of you reading this, I wasn’t up to date on the short bus market. How much was this idea going to actually cost us? Within 24 hours I’d located a suitable short bus at an auction. It sold for way, WAY more than we were expecting a short bus to sell for. Looked like this could cost more than we hoped. But in another 24 hours, I had located another short bus on Craigslist. This thing looked like it would fit the part and the price was right. After a quick test drive, a walkthrough (and crawl under), and a trip to a bank, it was in my driveway the next day.
Step 2: Now what???
Well…..We were the proud owners of a New 2U Short Bus. I went to work pricing out repairs and parts that it needed. After many more brainstorming conversations with the boys, an idea of the bus really started to take shape. We did the routine maintenance and checked all fluids, discovering leaks. We fixed a coolant leak, which I fixed for $7 thanks to the help of some J-B Weld (if you’re reading this J-B Weld, we need to talk about sponsorship because this bus is mostly your product).
After the repairs and maintenance were complete, it was time to get on the camper conversion work. One of the biggest issues I found was that nobody makes a trailer hitch for a 1993 short bus. I know, surprising right? So after some interesting phone calls that went something like: “Hey, can y’all make a trailer hitch for a 1993 short bus?” *Silence* or “click…. Dial tone,” I located a fella who would weld one up.
This guy did a fantastic job for us and we were lucky to have him so close. After the bus itself was ready for our maiden voyage, we got to work gutting and rebuilding the interior. Sleeping, fly tying, cooking, and storage were all on the checklist. We built some bunk beds with storage lockers. We put astroturf in the living room and found a suitable futon. Located some storage bins that would fit perfectly. Fixed some foam mattresses to go on the bunk beds, it was pretty much set for its first run.
Step 3: “And, uhhhh, holy cow, it’s slow”
It was finally time to run this thing up to Idaho for a trial run. I normally make this drive in 3.5-4 hours. In the bus, it took about 6, thanks to a max speed of 55 and a gas stop every 2 hours, but we finally made it. The weather forecast was bleak and since it was the first time using the bus, we decided we ought to bring my truck along just in case.
Step 4: Fish.
Shout out to the folks making the weather reports in Idaho because it was spot on. The weather was generally crappy most of the time. But we managed to embarrass some good fish. The first day, all fish were on streamers and nymphs.
The second day, it snowed all morning, turned to rain in the afternoon, and never let up all day. But despite the weather, we caught some good fish on streamers and nymphs again.
On day 3 the weather finally relented and allowed us to chase some big bugs (salmon flies). And boy did they produce. It was one of the best days fishing dries any of us have ever had. When we put on the water it was still cold out so we rigged up some nymphing and streamer rigs to start as the salmonflies weren’t out yet. Shortly after launching, we started having fish come eat our indicators…. Ding ding ding.
After a quick pit stop to tie on some big foamy dries, we were rolling. Scottie pinged the first bow, a pretty big one, out of some weird water and it was on like Donkey Kong the rest of the day.
Day 4 was a repeat of Day 3 but we added a fifth crew member for a day, a buddy from the area who we met in Canada while filming the Northern Native series.
Step 5: All good things have to come to an end sometime.
We had to leave fishing bliss earlier than normal because the bus is so slow. From the inaugural Short Bus run, we found some things that need to be changed, adjusted, and fixed. I’m currently taking a quick break from installing solar power in the bus to write this for you.
Hopefully you enjoyed hearing about it, and we look forward to showing you the full film from it and the upcoming Montana trip with the bus. If you would like to stay up to date with the bus and see behind the scenes from the trip follow @shortbusdiaries on Instagram.
There’s not a single person following the Short Bus Diaries who is having even half as much fun following us as we are making these for you. We can’t thank y’all enough for the support. See you soon.