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Build Addicts: Bill and Julia of @wildflower_adventure_bus

Names: Bill and Julia Martinez

IG: @wildflower_adventure_bus

Our names are Julia and Bill Martinez and our beautiful daughter’s name is Selah. We are both in the medical field, Julia is an AEMT that provides emergency medical services at large scale events like concerts and sporting events and I am a full-time Firefighter and paramedic for a municipal fire department and transport service. We live in Albuquerque, New Mexico and love what this beautiful state has to offer, including the mountains, the lakes, the rivers, and the unlimited opportunity for adventure.

We first became interested in the idea of converting a school bus quite by accident. We were kicking around the idea of an RV or trailer to travel and to park on a piece of land while we built our home. The idea of a Skoolie came up in December of 2019 and by February we had found and bought our bus! We both love to travel and we enjoy doing everything together. It made the most sense to us to do it this way and seemed to be the most affordable way to make our dreams come true. My wife Julia is a research expert and found our bus (a 2001 GMC Bluebird Cowl Chassis with a 7.2 L 6 cylinder Caterpillar Diesel engine) from a private owner in Garden City, Kansas which is approximately 450 miles from where we live. We drove 7 hours to get there and fell in love with the bus the moment we saw it. We drove the bus home with no problems, and it ran immaculately.

We began the official deconstruction of the bus on February 27th. At the rate we are going our bus should be “road ready” by the end of June! We have worked on it just about every day that I am off work. I work 48 hours straight and then I am off for 96 hours (4 days). Each day we are at the bus we typically work anywhere from 5 to 8 hours. We have Julia’s family help with our daughter sometimes while we are working, but we have also developed a good system of taking turns doing the work and watching the baby. We do all of the work ourselves. Julia is becoming skilled with power tools and I am getting better at math and measuring. Each step of the build has been daunting but as we complete our objectives it becomes rewarding and motivating to move to the next step. We like to say that it isn’t hard work, it is just tedious and brutal. Nothing like tearing metal sheets from the ceiling or removing hundreds of rivets one at a time with an air chisel.

We named our bus “Wildflower Adventure Bus” for a handful of reasons. The first comes from the Bible verse Luke 12:27-28. The idea behind it is that if God takes care of the wildflowers and birds, He will certainly take care of us! We felt that verse gave us comfort for the leap we were taking! We also feel that wildflowers are the perfect illustration of living life fully: they bloom in the hardest of places, wherever they are planted, and add beauty wherever you find them. Of course, they are “wild,” and symbolize adventure! Lastly, Tom Petty’s song Wildflowers was one of the only things that would soothe our daughter, thus becoming our theme song! Julia designed the interior of the bus and I have designed or planned the electrical, plumbing, and gas. Some things have changed as they always do, but we just do what we feel makes the most sense. Sometimes watching YouTube videos of other builds can be quite confusing and frustrating so we mostly rely on what we know. I come from a construction background of painting residential homes and commercial buildings for over 10 years. This background helped me to understand building construction. My job as a firefighter has also taught me about building construction, automobile construction, and how to care for, maintain, and drive large vehicles like fire trucks and school buses.

My dad built his home from the ground up by himself from the time I was 5 years old until I was a young adult. As my father built our home I watched as he built things up and tore things down. I saw him use materials that he found or repurposed and even helped him make the bricks (adobe) from the ground that we built the house on. My dad was a big inspiration in this project and I always ponder how often he laid in bed; eyes wide open in the middle of the night, like I often do, thinking about what the next step in the build was going to be. We plan to incorporate some of my dad’s ideas into the build of our bus including using some of the leftover tiles from his home in our bus. We want to give the bus a New Mexico feel to it, but plan on keeping it current and updated for travel and functionality. Julia’s ability to research and think through challenges, as well as her willingness to use tools and to do the brutal and tedious work have been the key asset to making this dream come alive.

We have been fortunate to have most of the tools we need and borrow a few that we didn’t have. We recommend buying rechargeable or cordless tools for the majority of the work. I added an attachment to one of the busses air tanks to use for pneumatic tools. We have found an RV storage place approximately 7 miles from our home where we can work on our bus. The people at the storage place have been very helpful in accommodating us and have been super friendly and welcoming. So far the biggest challenge of the build has been trying to figure out how to build a functional home in such a small space, but it is a fun challenge! We plan on living in our bus while we work and travel until we find somewhere we want to settle down and build our home. It has all been a learning experience and it has so far been a grand adventure. Each step of the way makes us more anxious to finish and get on the road. Every second of youtube videos we have watched and every Skoolie on Instagram we have followed have been an inspiration. We plan on being road-ready soon and look forward to a long time of family learning and adventures!

If you want to hear about more bus life stories click here.

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