For North Platte resident and former Menards manager Lars Paulsen, the time was now to turn a dream into a reality by turning a school bus into a fully functional recreational vehicle.
Paulsen knew he wanted an RV, but seeing a school bus turned into an RV on the interstate and watching YouTube videos convinced him to reconstruct a school bus.
His own health scares and the loss of his wife, Lori, at age 52 in a motorcycle accident also convinced him that it was time to do the project.
After his wife died, he had a triple aortic rupture, which he said has a 10% survival rate. He had a major stroke a couple of months later and was flown during a blizzard to Denver. His heart later gave out, causing him to have a triple bypass surgery and have an internal defibrillator put in.
Paulsen said he used to talk his wife’s ear off about wanting an RV, and after she died he knew that it was time to put his plans into action. So he bought a bus, and he and his friend Richard Jepsen put together the RV from February till now, spending $5,300, which included the price of the bus. Paulsen said this was cheaper than buying an RV or a camper and an expensive truck to pull it.
Paulsen said that Jepsen’s help was instrumental in construction of the RV.
“He is family and knows that he can take the bus any time he wants,” Paulsen said of Jepsen, who was on the motorcycle trip where Paulsen’s wife died.
One of the first things Paulsen did was paint the bus green. The bus could not be school bus yellow if used as an RV, and green was the color of the motorcycle his wife had cherished.
When Paulsen gutted everything in the bus, he reminded himself he could make mistakes.
“If I mess something up, who cares — it is a school bus,” Paulsen said
Turning a school bus into a RV has become a trend. Paulsen said he got help from a community online and social media groups of other people who had converted school buses into RVs.
“Any time I have had a question, I had an answer within 20 minutes,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen said he was impressed with the space available to him when he gutted out the seats. He took that room and made a living room, kitchen with a functional stove, bathroom and bedroom.
The bathroom is still a work in process, an example of what Paulsen said will always be an ongoing project as he thinks of additions.
The bus has a wooden ceiling, a couple of sofas and a stovetop where Paulsen says he can cook chili, among other things, while he is camping. Paulsen said that everything he used was either given to him by friends who had leftover materials or was bought at Menards.
Paulsen said the construction has to be creative because of the small space — like storing a water tank under his bed.
“You have to think outside of the box when you are working with a bus,” Paulsen said.
The bus has two water tanks and a water heater so he can run hot or cold water at any time, even when the RV isn’t hooked up to water at a campsite.
A couple of quirks make Paulsen’s bus unique.
One is a white line all around the outside that he wants to fill up with bumper stickers, license plates or other souvenirs from each destination, eventually going all the way around the bus.
The bus also has a name — Himlen, which draws from Paulsen’s memory of a sign in his house when he was a kid. “Himlen” is Swedish for “heaven.”
“This bus is like heaven that you can take everywhere,” Paulsen said.