KANSAS CITY, Mo. – She’s a magazine editor and graphic designer. He’s a retired computer consultant.
Three years ago, Wendy Crosby and Jim Wilkerson bought a 40-foot bus, which they have transformed into a stylish and comfortable traveling home with an eye-catching, custom-painted exterior.
The two met in Columbia, Mo., in the early 1970s and moved to Washington, D.C., in 1990. Since 1995, they have made Stilwell, Kan., their home base, but now that they have the bus …
Q: How did you end up with this bus?
Jim: Wendy wrote an article for Bus Conversion magazine and in the bio, said: “Jim and Wendy are looking for a bus.” A call from that led us to this bus. It was a tour bus in Las Vegas that used to take people from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and back.
Wendy: We bought it from a guy in Washington State. He had taken the seats out and put in a stove and sink. Nothing worked. But it does have a slide-out that adds 3 feet to the living room once you get where you are going.
Jim: I retired and took on a full-time job working on the bus. I did wiring, plumbing, cabinetry and flooring.
Q: And you’ve taken it on the road?
Wendy: In early summer we went to Michigan, Canada, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Delaware. The reason we got the bus is we have lots of friends, but they’re in different parts of the country. When we visit, we’re driveway guests rather than house guests. We have three cats we bring with us.
We also own land in Mexico on the beach. With the bus, we can take off when a hurricane comes.
Q: Tell me about how you furnished this.
Jim: For a couple years, we traveled with our patio furniture while we figured out what we wanted. We ended up getting Stressless recliners from House of Denmark; they’re easy to fall asleep in. We also got the dining chairs from House of Denmark.
Wendy: The rug is from the house. It was a big rug; we found a place that did carpet binding and had it cut to fit. Jim’s cousin recently made us a computer cabinet with a charging station inside the side counter.
Q: You even have artwork.
Jim: We really like Oaxacan animals; they’re hand-carved by Mexican artists and hand-painted. Those are Guatemalan pillows on the footstools, and we found that African wedding mask in an African shop in Florida. The wall hangings are from a local artist, Marg Higgins, who also does gorgeous quilts, including the one on our bed.
Q: It’s very cozy.
Jim: I tore the bedroom apart and insulated it and built in a clothes cupboard that doubles as a headboard. We have both 120- and 12-volt systems. When you’re plugged in or running the generator, you can run the 120-volt. I added drawers to the granite-topped nightstands on each side of the bed. There’s a built-in dresser, and also a closet.
Q: Nothing here is miniature.
Wendy: The bed is queen-size. In the bathroom, there’s a full-size shower, toilet and sink. The kitchen has a full-size refrigerator and granite counters. The cupboards are red oak with a chestnut stain. Jim built the adjacent pantry that has a slide-out kitty box on the bottom. The shelves are adjustable, and there’s a broom closet on the side.
Q: Tell me about the exterior, with the dragon on one side and the koi on the other.
Wendy: It was the ugliest color, a horrible brown, the paint was coming off, and we got the idea that we wanted a dragon. We were both born in the year of the dragon.
Jim said, “What if we found a graffiti artist?” One First Friday, the Kultured Chameleon (art gallery in Kansas City) had a graf-off, with two guys painting. One of them was Stormy Jackson, and he said he was interested in the job. He told us about the legend of the koi turning into a dragon, and we thought, “Both sides of the bus don’t have to be the same.”
We went to his studio and saw a big koi painted on a masonry wall and decided we also wanted a koi. Stormy did it with a tracing paper sketch in one hand and a can of spray paint in the other.
Q: And you’ve documented this entire bus adventure?
Wendy: It’s all on our blog, mightybus.wordpress.Com
Q: What’s the plan?
Wendy: Eventually, we’ll sell the house and live on the bus and find a home base in a progressive little community somewhere where it’s warm and bicycle friendly.