Build Addicts: Dermot of @skidfrog
Name: Dermot Walshe
Spotify: Headed for Hobo
My name is Dermot......I was born and adopted in late 1962, moving from suburban Toronto in 1969 to a sheep farm north of the city. My adoptive parents were both university-educated from rural Ireland but with both an older brother and a younger sister I can definitely attest to the side of the argument that it's nature and not nurture that predestines us. Against all odds, I found my way as an artist and creative person and I am now thinking about transitioning to an even more creative time as an older artist.
What got you interested in this lifestyle? Where did it all begin?
I think my earliest sense of adventure related to buslife got planted when I read the original Wind in the Willows book. I really identified with the crazy Mr. Frog and his first gypsy caravan. I was probably about 10 years old then.
What made you take the leap into road life and go for it?
I think mostly I was getting sick of the repetitive nature of my career. I work in animation which sounds like a lot of fun....but often it feels like irresponsibly fabricating mindless mediocre distraction for kids rather than wise storytelling. I want to do some more valued work with a little more thought but I can't find the time unless I cut some major expenses from my life. Seeing the country in a bus seemed a far better option than another ten years in my dark basement office/studio. Maybe this could be the vacation I never had in 30 years of working.
If you’re converting a bus or van, how did you find it? What resources did you use?
I kept my eye on Kijiji for about a year/missed a couple of deals....so I knew this one was good when it came up.
How long have you been building and when do you think you’ll be finished?
I bought the bus ( it's a 2013 GMC 3500 6.0 L gas with only 26,000 km ) about 18 months ago. The dealer gutted the seats and lift out of it for me because I was working in Montreal at the time and they rustproofed it as well. I took it for a paint job right away......and after that was done, I arranged for a top and bumper deck since I was still in Montreal. Once I returned to my home in Oakville I did the floor with repurposed found pine. My buddy Joe is a contractor, but with COVID he was prohibited from working. That was my luck in terms of timing. So I dropped my bus in his driveway and he blocked in all of the cabinets and adapted my electrical. I presume I'll be fiddling with it forever but it's ready for basic road-tripping and camping now.
How did you come up with a layout and design for your home?
My main priority is a computer workstation. I have four old oak teachers desks so I had one sliced in half lengthwise. I also wanted my rear door to be accessible in case I really want to use it later......so we devised a modular bed/dinette/ box system that can be rearranged a number of ways. The rest is inspired by Giusseppe's amazing EDNA bus!
Some people find it hard to find a building location. Where are you building your rig?
My bus overhangs the sidewalk at the end of my driveway by about 18 inches. Only two $40
parking tickets thus far.
Did you have any relevant skills or experience that you thought would help with the build? How have those skills helped you?
My building skills are very basic. I've built a few very cozy toolsheds but simple is my motto. If the pain of using a simple water jug outweighs the pain of learning plumbing I figure I'll acquire that skill when needed.
What resources have you used to get information on how to build?
YouTube of course...it's basically a free bus-building college program......and skoolie.net is great for specific questions and other resources.
How many hours a day or week do you usually spend building? How do you balance work, building, and life?
I've been lucky that I can earn faster than I spend.....so for me, it's far cheaper to pay someone who does it for a living than to try it myself and make a mess of it. I am trying to reduce my work to something that travels well though. Usually, my work requires literally thousands of drawings and large files with great internet connections. In 2019 I started writing and selling script work though. A single 80 kb text file can sometimes pay the same as 5GB and 2500 detailed drawings with assembly instructions. That's preferable for a bus internet connection I think.
How will you power, get water for, and heat/cool your rig?
I'm going to try a couple of 4-gallon jugs, for now, and bottled water for drinking or cooking. I am postponing solar for now and using two deep cycle 12v RV batteries charged off the alternator with an isolator. I also have a generator for backup. For heat, I have a cubic mini that I picked up when I was living in Montreal, but for cooling, I have a max air fan and windows. If it's unbearable I will acquire new skills and install AC or work on a zen-like acceptance of things beyond my control haha.
What is one thing you would like to tell someone thinking about building a rig?
I actually think I've gone a bit too fancy too fast. If I was able to hit the road sooner I would have wanted to just throw in a mattress and a bucket and drive. As it is.....I have one daughter still in high school and my elderly mother is living with us. I can take day trips or weekends but the long road trip doesn't start for a while yet.
When you finish your build and move in, what will be your first destination?
My intention is just to see Canada at an extremely leisurely pace. So many people have told me “head EAST!”....and I do want to keep an eye on land prices while I travel so Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are going to get a good long look. Thereafter it will be more of “Hmmmm.......I wonder where this road goes ?”.