RPG Bus September 8 2018 Status Update & Expenses List

Additional status update, and expenses list, on the RPG Bus as of September 8th, 2018, 19:37.

Bought the bus about 19 months ago, I've been steadily working on it almost every week since.

I put almost all of my income from part time consulting hours this year for information security company Intrinium into the bus.

Reminder, I started making payments on the bus, buying it from one of our volunteers after his father passed away (his father had been living in it for years). It was a nasty mess. The next cheapest bus that was large enough and had a wheelchair lift, was around $8,000 to $14,000 for very run-down high mileage buses. I bought the bus for $200/mo over 10 months (total $2k USD). Meanwhile, I knew it would need a LOT of elbow grease and parts to become usable for our goals, a wheelchair accessible (at least 2 people in wheelchairs) mobile game room that can pull the RPG Trailer as a second game room, or as a stand alone game room for research and community programs for RPG Research.

See the previous updates for earlier details.

Status update on the power inverter:

The 3000 watt (6000 peak) modified sine wave PEAK power inverter  (PEAK Work Zone Mobile Power Outlet 3000 Model PKC0AW) doesn't work at all for the portable air conditioners. I tried both a lower end 7,000 BTU one and the 10,000 BTU, both just flicker lights on and off when plugged in, they don't even come close to running.  This is an expected problem for modified sine wave inverters, but it was something I had handy and had to try, the inverter was less than $300 USD.

As reported earlier, all of the shocks, the front coil springs, the main rear leaf springs were all replaced, and the other leaf springs reconditioned, and additional springs added by Pohl's Spring Foundry last week ($1,800 USD). It ride much better now, and doesn't sway on left hand turns as it did before (failed right-front coil spring). 

Unfortunately yesterday I started hearing some thunking sounds from the front suspension. I'm worries something has come loose. I'll try crawling under and see if I can see what is causing it. If I can, I'll take it back to Pohl's first thing Monday morning (7:30 am), and see if they can quickly find/fix it. I'm already scheduled for a third attempt at alignment at Gene's Alignment Monday 9:00 am.

Meanwhile, last week Lloyd's Automotive in Spokane Valley, found a few small gasket leaks (and fixed them), but found a hole in the rear air conditioning's evaporator. Nobody can find a replacement anywhere (old 1984 GMC bus with custom Trans Air A/C, in Thomas Bus Mighty Mite Bus).

It is looking pretty grim. I'm now over $2,200 into just the Air Conditioning alone, but it loses coolant within a day or two if used. (Already converted it from R-12 to 134). 

Last hope is if a company in Airway Heights / Medical Lake area can solder/weld the damaged evaporator. They said most of the time they are "unrepairable", but that sometimes they can be depending on the location and type of damage. They said they will charge a minimum of $160/hr just to look at it to even just tell me that it can't be fixed.  :-(

I'm scheduled to drop it off Monday afternoon so they can look at it Tuesday morning and let me know one way or the other.

Even if it can be fixed, with no one able to find the replacement expansion valve for the front A/C (so it doesn't work at idle or city traffic), I will still need some additional A/C.

We were planning next year, if we couldn't get the built-in A/C to work, to rip it out and install RV style air conditioning (like the RPG Trailer has). That is over $5,000 USD though!

So, since the 3k inverter I have didn't work, and we're going to need a power inverter for the RV A/C down the road, after doing research, I bit the bullet and bought a high end 4,000 true sine low frequency power inverter that should be able to handle possible two roll-in home air conditioners (that I own at home), and vent out the window(s). That cost me just under $1,000 USD, and should arrive Tuesday. These are the last desperate options left for air conditioning before the tour. 

It also turns out, as mentioned earlier, that Ulrick's didn't have the nuts for the bus's suspension even finger tight! Pohl's tried to fix that.

Also it appears that Ulrick's overfilled the automatic transmission fluid, I found this out when 2 weeks ago a puddle suddenly started appearing. When I checked transmission (running, hot), it was severely overfilled. <sigh>

Summary of expenses for the RPG Bus so far:

  • Bus purchase: $2,000 USD ($200/mo for 10 months), paid off. (Jacob)
  • Brake system overhaul, frozen calipers, rotors, pads, master cylinder, axle seals, etc. (as needed), $2,400.  (Ulrick's)
  • Front suspension bushings: $900 (Ulrick's)
  • Air Conditioning so far: $2,200 ($1,900 Ulrick's, $300 Lloyd's, ...)
  • Tune up (Hawke and youngest son did last year): distributor cap, rotor, wires, spark plugs,oil change: $250 (Napa Auto Parts, Hawke & Drake labor).
  • Radiator replaced: $400 (Ulrick's)
  • Entire exhaust system from "donuts back" (Ulrick's), $900.
  • Needs another tune up before this road trip, at least spark plugs and oil change/filter. ($60, Napa auto parts, Hawke labor).

Base costs total: $9,110

  • Artwork commissions (paid by Hawke to artists over Fiverr): $1,200
  • Wrap on both sides of bus, and URL on all 4 sides: $3,200 (Northwest Solar Protection).

Total so far: $13,510.

Upgrades / feature adds:

  • Power Inverter: $1,000 (Hawke)
  • Car stereo and speaker box & wiress (Kenwood bottom model stereo $160, installed by Hawke).
  • Add exterior deadbolt and padlock to bus doors to secure ($100 in parts, Hawke labor).

Total so far: $14,670


  • Wood flooring: ($250 from Costco, installed 90% by Hawke, and 10% by Brooke and her father).
  • Haul garbage and old carpet inside to dump (over 6,000 lbs!) $350.
  • Scrub interior with bleach (labor: Hawke, Danielle & her boyfriend, Drake)
  • Power wash floor to remove carpet glue (Hawke labor).
  • Touch up paint and remove rust with sander, priming, paint, and gloss coat (supplies $250, labor Hawke). Still more to do.
  • Replace broken tail light bulbs and covers, $50 (Hawke labor).
  • Replace rear door shattered lower window ($150, City Glass, pending September 17th appt).
  • 2x Bench seats, high weight capacity for heavy 400+lb gamers (500 lb capacity each, mounting over wheel wells and adding reinforcement to handle 1,000 lb each (labor: Hawke) (parts: $250)
  • Padded seats with vehicle upholstery, custom made by C&B upholstery (quoted, don't have yet) for both benches, total cost: $600.
  • Repair, re-pad, reupholster torn, worn out drivers seat, by C&B upholstery (quoted, don't have yet, $600, they did an excellent job on my Bronco seat years ago).

Still to do:

  • Fix air conditioning. minimum additional $160 Monday
  • Alignment: $80.
  • Fix small leaks in front windshield/roof (very difficult, Hawke, silicone).
  • Replace temperature sending unit and gauge.
  • Install CB, wires, coax, antenna mount(s) and antenna(e) (Hawke has lying around, all Hawke labor).
  • Ceiling mounted table
  • Cabinets and shelving to store books, dice, accessories, character sheets, etc.

Toward RV Air Conditioning:

  • Upgrade alternator to high capacity (for RV A/C next year): $800.
  • Add 2 deep cycle batteries to current battery ($400) (for RV A/C next year).
  • 2x Ceiling mounts curved roof to flat mount customization (Washington Auto Carriage, quote pending).
  • 2x 15k BTU roof mount A/C (Washington Auto carriage, quote pending).
  • Custom built housing for generator (Washington Auto Carriage, quote pending).
  • Quiet run, electric start, generator (Washington Auto Carriage, quote pending).

To put some of this in perspective, the stripped down car hauler trailer, new is $15,000, and the current RPG Trailer protoype Toy Hauler RV Trailer is $45,000. The Ideal Wheelchair Friendly RPG Trailer would be $65,000.

I''m sure I'm forgetting quote a few items, I will update this page as I remember.

* Note, I keep specifying that this is out of my own pocket (Hawke Robinson), to be clear to donors that we are not using RPG Research donor money for the RPG Bus or RPG Trailer. I hope some day to bequeath the bus and trailer to RPG Research, right now RPG Research does't have anywhere enough money (need to be to running at least at $1,000 USD per month (currently at just $100) between donors and private grants (we don't apply for government grants as part of our charter), so I cover all the costs out of pocket (though I'm not sure how much longer I can sustain this if we don't get RPG Research on its own feet soon). All donor money currently goes to cover just the cost of existing as an organization (state & federal fees, city business licenses, etc.), and if anything left after the local, state, & federal annual fees, we use for our community and research programs, including books, paper, pencils, music instrument maintenance, dice, etc. Part of our charter is that we never exceed 20% of funds in administrative costs, and we try to keep it in the single digits as much as possible (the higher number is just during growth/transition periods). Most non-profits are considered gold/platinum if they are below 30%.