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Utah Family Prepares for Life on the Road in a Buffalo Bus

Raecale Stull
Stull Photography

  If you were to drive through Smithfield, you might see a 40-foot long, 8-foot wide crimson red bus, which a Utah family is converting into their mobile home.   

Brad, Raecale and their five children were looking for an extreme life change. One year ago, they found it in the form of a 40-foot long, 8-foot wide crimson red 1978 General Motors Buffalo Bus, which will become their mobile home in December.

“We just were looking to shed the material things that keep you in one place like the house and mortgage, just the stuff that seems to clutter the house, and we wanted to do this so that it was not what we were used to, sort of an extreme change so that we had to change,” said Raecale Stull, the mother of the family.

Raecale, a schooling mom, photographer and small business owner of Stull knits, along with her husband Brad, a general contractor,moved to Smithfield from Michigan ten years ago with their two oldest girls, Maizy and Hope. Since then they had three more children, Laik, Oedi and Ecco, and found themselves looking for a unique adventure.

In September 2014, Raecale and Maizy found a school bus for sale in Brigham City. When they pitched the idea of buying the bus and using it as a moving van, Brad, though initially skeptical, gave it a little bit of thought and then said yes.

"It was hands in and it was 'for adventure' real corny-like," Raecale said.

They bought the school bus, started to gut it, but realized later that the gas engine didn’t fit their needs. As they continued to research the idea of living in a bus they also realized there was a whole community of people, skoolies, living in buses.

The search for the right bus continued.Two months later they found a white 1978 General Motors Buffalo bus with a Detroit diesel engine for sale in Arkansas, and knew it was the one. For Christmas, they bought one-way plane tickets to Arkansas, bought the bus, and started to drive back to Utah.

During their 10-day drive home, they experienced a few stops and a breakdown outside of Albuquerque, which piqued their curiosity, as well as anxiety, fear and thirst for adventure.

“There’s so many different emotions, the excitement and fear and anxiety I suppose. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint I feel one way about because depending on the day you have different feelings about it," Brad said. “I think overall I’m just so excited for the adventure and to try something and let my family experience this and experience myself and just do something I never thought possible or was reasonable.”

And now, they’ve sold their home, so their dream is becoming a reality. The new owners are moving in on Dec. 16 so Brad and Raecale have been working hard to put some of the final touches to the bus.

Credit Katie Peikes / UPR
Brad uses a flesh cutting router bit to shape the windows.

“I have to get the bus, since I tore out the dash I have to rebuild the dash in the driver’s area to make sure we can actually pull the bus away," Brad said. "The order of importance is getting the bunk areas ready so we can use it as our glorified camper as we travel to Florida for the first leg of our trip until we finish the conversion.”

Brad said some of the finishing touches to the bus, including the paint job, won’t be finished until they reach Florida, where they plan to visit family and finish the conversion in the warm weather. Before they leave, they plan to fully enclose the bathroom, install a composting toilet, frame out the beds, and make sure everything is mechanically up and running.   

Right now, the top half of the bus is crimson red, while the bottom is silver. Raecale said they plan to paint it lemon yellow in Florida.When the Stulls bought the bus, originally white, they sanded off all of the paint and repainted it with a red rough stopper paint in order to keep the metal from being exposed and prevent it from rusting.

Credit Katie Peikes / UPR
The Stulls' 1978 General Motors Buffalo Bus sits mid-conversion in their front yard.

Raecale and Brad’s children, ages two to 15, are eager to take off on the adventure. Each were told they could have a suitcase, a drawer and a half to fill with their clothes and a tote for their toys and memories.

“I used to have this life-size 10-foot stuffed bear that you could just lay on. Obviously we’re not gonna have 10 feet of space for a big stuffed bear, so we had to get rid of it and we actually donated it to the library. But that was like one of the hardest days for me because I loved it so much, but I got over it," said Hope, 12.

I spoke with Maizy, Hope and Laik about what they are most excited for about the journey:

Credit Raecale Stull / Stull Photography
Stull Photography
Maizy and Ecco watch television on an ipad inside of the bus.

Hope, age 12: Mostly just traveling anywhere we want to and just seeing all the places we can.

Maizy, age 15: Exploring new cities and finding new things that you can’t usually do when you’re stuck down in a house for your whole life.

Laik, age 8: I really want to see new places that I’ve never seen before.

The Stulls leave Utah on Dec. 16, but it certainly won’t be the last time they see the state. Raecale said they will be back this spring to meet with solar solutions company Goal Zero, to consider installing solar panels on their mobile home.