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Build Addicts: Lindsay and AJ of @bellethebluebird

Names: Lindsay and AJ Updyke

Instagram: @bellethebluebird

About Us:

Hi! We are Lindsay and AJ Updyke, we have been together 10 years and we got married in May 2018 at a campground that we deemed: “Camp Updyke”. A day after our one-year anniversary, we purchased our bus, Belle. We actually spent our 1 Year Anniversary driving 6 ½ hours from Michigan to Iowa, giddy with excitement to go check her out :). We have two pups and a cat, and we all love new adventures. Check out the rest of our bus build and our adventures in Belle at @bellethebluebird on Instagram.

What got you interested in this lifestyle? Where did it all begin?

A few years back, Lindsay stumbled across some Skoolie’s on Instagram and loved the uniqueness of creating our own camper. The fact that we could make it EXACTLY how we wanted and not get another cookie-cutter RV, was very appealing. After getting more into the Skoolie community, we quickly realized how GREAT this community truly is. Everyone is so helpful and encouraging throughout that we know we made the right choice :).

If you’re converting a bus or van, how did you find it? What resources did you use?

We found our bus (2000 GMC Bluebird) on Facebook Marketplace. We had looked at auction sites in Michigan and Marketplace mostly. We searched for about five months before finding the one we thought was right. We only physically looked at one other bus before Belle.

How long have you been building and when do you think you’ll be finished?

We got Belle in May 2019, and we are close to being done. Maybe in the next month or so she will be completed. Well, we aren’t sure that we will ever truly be “finished” but at least enough to hit the open road!

How did you come up with a layout and design for your home?

We searched a TON on Instagram and YouTube. We created a specific Google photos folder for Skoolie ideas that we found and wanted to try and incorporate. We used graphing paper to draw different layouts and also taped the floor inside the bus before we started building out. We also have a notebook where we wrote down the items we wanted.

Has your design or layout changed since you started?

Slightly. We came up with a few different layouts before finally landing on the one we thought would be best for us.

What are some features about your build that you think are unique?

  • We built a swivel table out of galvanized pipe

  • We put a “hidden” toilet under the co-pilot seat up front

  • Lindsay’s Dad hand made the countertops from trees that he cut down himself on his property

  • Lindsay made some pinecone cabinet pulls using resin

Some people find it hard to find a building location. Where are you building your rig?

We are lucky and started the first half of the build (the demo) at Lindsay’s Dad’s and then moved the bus to AJ’s Dad’s for the second half of the build (building out most things).

Did you have any relevant skills or experience that you thought would help with the build? How have those skills helped you?

AJ has always been mechanically inclined and has a good working knowledge of most tools. He has also worked jobs that gave him experience working in construction. Lindsay brought the ideas for the build -- sometimes too many :).

What resources have you used to get information on how to build?

Skoolie groups on Facebook, messaging other Skoolie owners on Instagram and/or Facebook. Also -- our Dad’s have helped out so much with their expertise and knowledge in construction/plumbing/electrical/etc.

How many hours a day or week do you usually spend building? How do you balance work, building, and life?

We both work full-time jobs and have been doing this mostly on weekends and some nights. I would say maybe 15-20 hours a week are spent on the bus. During the Winter and holidays, we had some weeks where we didn’t work on her at all. We knew from the start that we did not want to stress ourselves out building the bus. We had no timeline or date that we had to be finished so we took it slow, worked when we could, and tried to enjoy the process. We actually wanted to be done in two years so finishing in a little over a year makes us super happy.

What tools and equipment are you using to build? How did you go about obtaining tools?

The most common tools we used were a circular saw, table saw, drills, and other basic hand tools. Between the two of our Dad’s, they had most of the tools that we needed. As you can tell, we are very fortunate to have them!

How will you power, get water for, and heat/cool your rig?

We have a very small solar system to start: a 150-watt panel, 100AH battery, and a 400-watt inverter. Our electrical need at this time is small since we are just using it for camping. We know that we can always add to it in the future -- get a bigger inverter, a second battery, more panels, etc. We also have a 30 amp shore power to plug in when available. For water, we have a 30-gallon freshwater tank and a 21-gallon greywater tank. Plus, we can hook up at campgrounds if available as well. At this time, for cooling the rig will be 6x6x55 (6 windows down on each side, 55 mph -- DAD JOKE!). Really though, we do not have any air conditioning or heating at this time. We may get a small propane heater and/or a mini-split for AC but at this time, we are going to see how it goes without these things.

What is the most important part of the build for you?

AJ - Having an “open” interior (no full walls)

Lindsay - Having a bed we do not have to convert from a couch to a bed

What has been your favorite part of the build so far? Why?

In the beginning, coming up with the layout was a lot of fun as we were trying to come up with creative solutions for our build. Also, being able to work with our family and friends throughout this process has been amazing. We have had so much help along the way and everyone has been very supportive.

Which part of the build are you looking forward to most? Why?

AJ - Working on the electrical (this is now completed but is something AJ has always enjoyed doing).

Lindsay - Adding a rooftop deck. I can’t wait to hang out with friends up there, read, look at the stars, the list goes on and on!

What has been your least favorite part of the build? Why?

AJ - The demo because it was hot out and taking up the old flooring/removing all the glue, prepping the floor, etc was just a lot.

Lindsay - All the paint prep (especially taking the reflective stickers off!!). This was a lot of tedious work that I do not have the patience for.

What has been your biggest challenge throughout the build? Why?

Figuring out the solar was probably our biggest challenge because neither of us (or those around us) had ever worked with solar before. We spent hours researching but with the help of some other Skoolie people, we were able to figure it all out!

What is one thing you would like to tell someone thinking about building a rig?

AJ - JUST DO IT - all the hard work pays off in the end.

Lindsay - Research, research, research. Use the people and the community around you and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Everyone has been there at one point in time.

When you finish your build and move in, what will be your first destination?

We will take some small trips around Michigan first to make sure that everything is in working order and that we do not need to change anything. Then come Christmas time, we hope to take her down to Tennessee for a family Christmas!! Eventually, we want to travel West :).

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