It’s an unconventional story about home reno, dating and travelling NZ.
On a foggy Christchurch morning, Mary and Geoff are cosily seated in the living room of what once was a Ritchies school bus.
Geoff gets up to welcome me through the manual folding door and I’m immediately greeted by the warmth from inside.
The 11 metre vehicle is now home to Geoff, a luxury tour bus driver who has made it his mission to convert the 1986 Hino Blue Ribbon into a house bus fit for travel.
The border closures have left Geoff without work, but he’s chosen to see the silver lining. From touring with bus loads of people to now just two, Geoff says with time on his side, he is most looking forward to the freedom.
“Just the freedom to stop and explore,” Geoff says.
Travelling with him is companion Mary, a retired teacher of 53 years and Vice President of the Christchurch North Community Patrol, who says it will be nice to have some peace and quiet on the road.
“And yet I can still run the Patrol from the bus, that’s the funny thing about it,” Mary laughs.
Before we reveal how Builderscrack fits into this story, let’s rewind.
How Two Paths Crossed
Geoff and Mary met four and a half years ago – but not in the way you’d expect.
“We met on the internet,” Geoff says with a smile, anticipating my response.
“I was looking for somebody… and it was funny, I was speaking to Mary and I said, ‘I’m a tour driver – would you like some fruit?’ Because we get fruit from the orchards down there in Cromwell.
“And she said ‘Oh yes, I love apricots,’ – so I bought her a box of apricots, plucked up the courage, and went around to her place.”
A Home on Wheels
The desire to convert a bus into a home all began when Geoff lent a helping hand to a friend who was building two buses from scratch.
“And I thought, I would like to do one of these myself one day,” Geoff says, “but I was flat out working then.”
Geoff later purchased his bus, aptly renamed ‘My Caboose’, for $9,000 in 2012 and has since invested approximately $45,000.
“When I got it, it had all the seats – everything,” Geoff says.
“I yanked them all out – you can see where some of the handrails were,” Geoff points out.
“The initial part I did most of it myself, but I was trying to work at the same time. And thought if I don’t get someone to do some of this, I’m never going to get it done.”
While Geoff doesn’t have any photos of the original set up with the seats, he does have this progress pic
Over the years, Geoff has steadily improved his home. The most recent value-add is his recycled rimu dining table, custom made to house his motorised, retractable flat screen TV unit.
But with the opportunity of extended travel on the horizon, the finishing touches had to be – well, finished.
“It didn’t have any [carpet], it was right down to the blue, plastic floor,” Geoff says, as he shows me the old, non-slip surface.
Described as being cold, dirty and greasy, Mary explains the flooring had to be the last job completed.
“Otherwise the carpet would have ended up a mess before we got anywhere,” Mary says.
Mary – dubbed the tech-savvy one by Geoff – sourced the materials and the tradie for the job.
For the entrance and bedroom Mary was able to bag a bargain for high quality, end-of-line carpet; and for the kitchen, vinyl plank flooring.
Finding a good tradie for the job had been tricky for Geoff and Mary.
“Most of them run for cover when you say it’s a house bus,” Mary laughs.With her iPad on hand, Mary typed ‘carpet layers’ into Google and came across what would later be the solution to their flooring needs.
“I’d never heard of Builderscrack – it seemed a funny name to me,” Mary says with a bashful grin.
Both Geoff and Mary share how surprised they were when a Builderscrack tradesmen showed interest in their job. Danny of ADE Construct Limited replied within the hour to their job post, organised a site visit shortly after, and sent a quote in the next day.
“Sometimes you try to get in touch and you don’t hear back… but he was right on the ball,” Geoff says.
Danny of ADE Construct Limited
The carpet and flooring was completed in two days, with Danny mentioning how grateful he was for jobs inside like this one when the weather was wet and cold.
“This job is a tricky one – a small space with lots of cuttings,” Danny says.
Mary is quick to mention that Danny was very good at problem solving as it was a difficult job.
“There wasn’t enough clearance under the toilet door, so he took it off and cut it down,” Mary explains.
Both Geoff and Mary highly rate their flooring result.
“He did an excellent job, especially when you look at the bedroom, that’s perfect,” Mary says, looking toward the plush carpet.
Freshly laid flooring (next step: cleaning excess glue)
As Geoff makes tea and coffee for us in the kitchen, he ponders the question of whether he would do anything differently with his house bus.
“If anybody else were to have a go…” he begins.
“It took a long time coming up with this design and I just about went into every house bus I saw. And I could see faults with it – one guy had a small table coming out that far,” Geoff measures with his arms out wide.
“And I said no, that’s no good… So by looking around, and picking my friend’s brain of course, I came up with this design. And I still love this design – I have no regrets like everybody else did,” Geoff beams.
“I think we’re quite happy with things, aren’t we?” Mary adds.
Before and After
House Bus Features
- Two registered seats for travel
- Settee and rimu dining table
- Retractable flat screen TV
- Kitchen and pantry
- Storage cupboards
- Carpet and vinyl board flooring
- Diesel benchtop ceramic cooker
- Portable gas cooktop
- Combined fridge and freezer
- Washing machine and dryer
- Toilet and shower
- Double bed with storage
- 4,300 Watt inverter
- 550 Amp hours
- Diesel heating
- Solar panels
Thoughts on The Tradie
“Danny was prompt, very professional, knowledgeable, skillful – all of those, wasn’t he,” Mary remarks, with Geoff nodding in agreement as he carefully places our hot drinks and a packet of gingernuts on a placemat.
It turns out this is the first time dining at the shiny, rimu table.
Thoughts on Builderscrack
Geoff says he wishes he knew about BC sooner.
“I could have used it to do most of it, not all of it, but most of it,” Geoff says.
“I’ve got a few other little jobs coming up; a macerator switch, the toilet’s got to be fastened properly, and I’ve got a bit of maintenance to do.”
Mary tells me they had a hard job of finding good people at times, before they knew about BC.
“And you sort of had to put up with what you got.”
The format of tradespeople reaching out is what Mary liked most, and said it was easy to follow.
“It’s a great way to find tradesmen – give it a go,” she encourages other homeowners.
Travel on The Horizon
With no end date set for the border closures, Geoff is free to roam until he gets a call that the tours are starting up again.
And in a team effort, Mary and Geoff list the many South Island locations they want to explore; it’s clear now, that this is a trip of a lifetime that many people dream of.
“We’ll travel for six months I hope,” Geoff says.
With plenty of friends to visit on the road, Mary speaks fondly of a past student she remains in contact with and plans to visit in Richmond.
And as we finish our morning tea, I ask Geoff about the name of the bus, and with a smirk, he tells me:
“I picked the name before I even bought the bus… it just seemed fit for what I was going to use it for.”
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