Saturday, November 26, 2011

Art Bus: High Class

Note: After this blog, we are going to scale back to writing something approaching weekly so that we can do more and spend less time writing about it. We'll still be communicative, though, just get in touch with us.

11/22, 11:10 PM

As I reach down to lay the bottle full of urine down in the “bathroom” area of the bus, my head hits against the cast iron woodstove. I look around at the impenetrable mess of art supplies, tools, spilled oats, clothes, boxes of food, unwashed bowls, half eaten soggy pasta, and finally up at Pete. A giggle emerges, which rises to a chortle, and soon enough sheets and waves of laughter emerge, engulfing our small piece of post-apocalyptic squalor in the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot in an unknown New Jersey town.

14 Hours Earlier: 9:10 AM
Alarm goes off. Game plan: Cut out carpet for the entryway of the bus, eat something, finish laundry, clean the house, pack bus, and head out for New Jersey by noon so that we can arrive at Bubbe’s house by 6:00. Bubbe is what we call my 90 year old grandmother. You will hear more about her soon.

10:10 AM

While giving us the rundown of the house cleaning needed before the house is vacated, Judith gestures towards a large pile in the middle of the floor and says, “Make sure to clean up all of the stuff in Pete’s Corner.”
Pete’s Corner is the name of the pile of stuff by the couch that Judith is done with and would like to give us. Included in Pete’s Corner are sweaters, two large pieces of Styrofoam, toothpaste, ties, a household contraption that we can only speculate went on the bathtub, and more.

11:10 AM
The laundry is done and house cleanup has begun.

12:10 PM
“Hi Mom, this is Ari. Just in case you had any illusions that we’d get there on time, we won’t. We’ll leave sometime within the next two hours”
Pete cuts carpet for the entryway of the bus

1:10 PM
“What are we going to do with all the stuff we need to get into the bus?”

2:10 PM
“So, leave in half an hour, OK?”

3:10 PM
Pete: “Just let me send one quick email”

4:10 PM
It’s getting dark. We decide to depart even though we don’t have everything completely secured down.
“On the road again! Wooah woah wo woah, On the road again!”

5:10 PM
The directions said to go on I-84. The GPS hasn’t sent us anywhere near I-84. There are loud crashes every time we go over bumps as things plummet to the floor. We scramble to pick them up.

6:10 PM
Lesson #1: When driving a bus, you need to already know the route down pat before you ever drive it. We miss the turnoff for route 7. The GPS says that we should turn left. We’re on the interstate and there is no way to turn left. By the time we become skeptical of this fact, there is not enough time to change lanes in a big green school bus. In a smaller car, we could shift quickly, but in a bus we are huge and clunky. We get off the highway, turn around, and eventually make it onto route 7. We’re supposed to turn onto I-91, but then we see the “No Commercial Vehicles” sign. It is raining. More things crash to the floor.

7:10 PM
We take a break in the DMV office parking lot at the top of route 7 to navigate. Our bathroom isn’t completely set up and is more a backup for when we can’t go other places. There’s not a good option around, so we pee in bottles.

8:10 PM
We are supposed to turn on the parkway. There is a sign that says “No Trucks”. We think this might include us. We drive around a bit, call my mom. She thinks we can go on the parkway. It is raining. We are hungry. Things crash to the floor. We stop picking them up.
The art desk got disheveled

Lots of things fell


9:10 PM
We turn onto the parkway after my mom’s research says that we can. We are looking for  a rest area where we can stay for the night. We don’t see any signs for one. We set the GPS for a Wal-Mart, one of the spots that will let motor homes and RVs (and converted busses) stay the night for free. We pull in and survey the situation.
We are exhausted, but want a hot meal. We boil noodles and put them in our bowls with a slotted spoon, and this leaves them sort of soggy. We throw into our bowls some curry paste from a cardboard box that Pete has had for the past year.

10:10 PM
We take more soggy noodles (the ones that the curry sauce didn’t cover) and put in salt and hot sauce. They are about half eaten when I decide to run through the rain to the Wal-Mart. The night workers eye me warily with their shrunken faces. As I bolt for the restroom, one of them mumbles, “It’s closed.” As much as I protest, they won’t let me use it. And so…

11:10 PM (where this entry started)
Through a combination of inexperience, systems that haven’t been worked out, and dumb luck, we come to this moment, the epitome of squalor. For some reason, it’s about the most fun we’ve had yet. We are so classy. 


Saturday, November 19, 2011


A Neighbor Child delights in the bus
Hello all! Reporting live from our temporary home base of Jamestown, Rhode Island, where we will be for the next few days. We've been here since last Sunday evening, visiting my step mother Judy and step sister Sofia. We've been getting the bus organized and have been focusing on getting the bus blog up and running. We still have work to finish before we can take off for Thanksgiving with Ari's g-ma in NJ. Friday, I gave a tour of the bus to the neighbors and their two sons. They all loved it! The magnetic ceiling car was a big hit. Later that evening, my friend Shawn called me up and told me that her two piece band Super Bonheur was playing in Providence at The Witch Club, an underground show space/artist collective that was unfortunately soon to be vacated as the building had been sold. Ari and I borrowed a car and took off for the show at around 9:30. When we got there we instantly met up with Nick, the other half of SB, Jules (another friend from VT). We all went out for wieners and grilled cheese at a local greasy spatula joint down the street. Awesome. I talked to Eli! One of Nick and Shawn's friends about how he owned and lived in a converted school bus too. At the moment he is in providence, but around February he might be in Tucson, and if I am too, I can give him a lift to the next leg of his journey.

Nick and Shawn of Super Bonheur
We also went on errands with Judy and Sofia to an enormous mall. Coming from Vermont, we felt incredibly fish out of water. The mall had five stories of florescent lights and escalators, four blocks of things to BUY, an attached parking garage, a sea of humans, and had more stores than the entirety of what we call cities in Vermont (also they were all box stores). I'm proud to report that we made it out alive four terrifying hours later, and did not get consumed or suffocated.
The Ginormous Mall



Ari's first underground show:
While I’m honestly not a fan of punk musically, I loved the spirit behind the show. Of the four acts, none were professional musicians, but they were engaging in the act of creation, and it was clear that they were throwing themselves fully into it. The show had a wonderful homemade feel. There were examples of DIY ingenuity everywhere. Pete’s friends, Nick and Shawn, (who were infectiously fun during their portion of the show) had gerry-rigged a toy microphone and a ukulele through lots of distortion. The venue had a kitchen attached, and all the music for sale was all on cassette tapes. My comfort zone is the traditional/contradancing subculture, but I found this new and different subculture to have lots of wonderful elements.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Introduction

Welcome to the Art Bus. I'm Ari, the first mate.

The bus started in March 2010 when Pete Talbot, the mad genius behind all this madness, purchased an old school bus. He was then compelled to take out the seats, put in floors, a bed, a kitchen, a diner booth, a fireplace and lots of art supplies. Pete is a wonderful artist who makes adorably grotesque monster creations and prints. You should all buy a lot of his art. Check it out at

An example of Pete's art      

     One fateful day about a month ago, I got a phone call from Pete asking if I wanted to accompany him on the first bus excursion.  After about zero seconds of thought, I agreed. I will be accompanying Pete until February.
Now the bus is finally roadworthy, decked out, comfortable, and a great home. This week begins the bus' first road trip.
The plan for the bus is to have it function as a vehicle both literally and metaphorically, for adventures, art creation and selling, music making, making people happy, getting funny looks, and more. We have a over a jillion more ideas (we counted) for projects, and hope in the future to bring in more community involvement. All these ideas may come to pass in the future, but for now we are focusing on organizing the bus, i.e.making the walking space not involve dodging comic books, clothes, and miniature zombies.
     This first bus excursion will last until around May. The plan is to head south, then head west along the bottom part of the country, then north, and back to Vermont. In Georgia we will convert the bus to run on waste vegetable oil and make other improvements. I have to bail in February, probably around Louisiana. Pete will continue on, picking up other companions along the way.

Check in daily for updates, photos, videos and stories.

- Ari

                         Captain Pete Talbot                                          First Mate Ari Erlbaum

Home base...bus.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Machetes and group hugs.

I built two small pantry storage shelves under each of the booth seats. Beans, peanut butter and pasta!

One of the last nights in Burlington.

Burlington, VT to Montpelier, VT.
(The black dot in the upper part of the photo is a Howl's moving castle key chain.)

Road ready.

My wonderful Montpelier family! Dan, me, Mom and Dylan. 
Lucia was still at Middlebury college unfortunately and couldn't be there to say guhbuh.


Not sure what happened, but for some reason I woke up Monday morning with inky black stuff on my chest. Weirdness. I can only assume that it had something to do with my squid-fighting dream crossing over into reality.

View of the bus from my step Mom's house in RI.



Ari, my travel buddy, is the author of "Of Cabages and Kings
about a machete wielding king. It's awesome, and so is he:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wakey wakey, eggs and space travel.

This is the first morning after driving to Rhode Island 
to visit my step mom Judy and step sister Sofia.          


Whistling Whilst Working

Here's a video of the inside while on I-89 to Burlington.

This was a solution I used for the back door lock, super simple and easy to instal, 
just your basic door deadbolt.

Here's the work area that I used outside of the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in Burlington, VT
Lots of hours spent cutting boards and plywood...

...while TONS of slugs oozed around on the ground.

 My friend Nick and I glued down the 25psi per square inch rigid foam board insulation to the rustoleum-painted metal floor. Then, over that, I glued the 3/4 inch plywood.

 Here's the amount of head room that I was just realizing I now have withe the addition of 3 inches of flooring. None.

This is the studio space that I was sharing with my friend Laura. She was amazingly nice and tolerant of my insane amounts of bus junk. Thank you Laura!!!!

Here I am with friends Leah and Callie, cutting and organizing the butternut floorboards that I got from a friends barn-attic. They were gross, old, and smelly from a nice spattering of cat pee, but, again, Laura was incredible and helped me clean all 140ish boards for hours.

Gluing down the boards after being cut to size, then screwing them in place.


Here's the first time I slept in the newly floorboarded bus. I used bubble insulation to block traffic's view of my hiny.


It was fun! That's my foot.


My air mattress and the rest of the boards in the back.

Here's my solution to needing a front curtain, while following the curvature of the ceiling. Split tube, beads, wire, and cloth. It's working so far!


Here's the sander that I ended up using for the majority of the floor. I was using the belt sander in the background...until it lit on fire.

3 hours of sanding.

Me realizing that this was going to take forever.

16 hours later

Wood glue and sawdust makes a wonderful wood filler that I used to plug up the screw holes.

At my friend Karl's suggestion, I used boiled linseed oil to tone the floor. Good one Karl!

I polyurethaned the floor with 4 coats. Unfortunately I used the wrong kind of roller for the last 2 coats and there was tons of fuzzy lintyness all in the top coat. So, waited for it to cure, then I sanded it down and re-applied the poly with the right kind of roller. So much work, but so worth it.

Time to class it up! Amy helped me with picking paint colors and ratios, and Laura helped paint the bus during the week of warm weather we witnessed in late September.

Duke and Mojo, two of the sweetest junkyard dogs you'll ever meet.


I started to move large furniture in once the poly was cured...It's staring to feel like home!

With the perfect advice from my friend Shawn, I started building the loft bed. She and Nick lived in a converted shuttle bus for over a year.

These little burs were EVERYWHERE...all the time.

Cutting boards for bed slats. Thanks college kids!

There's my scooter Riva Mcentire.

I made cardboard basic versions of every major area that I planned to build. This way I was able to tell how much space I'd have, and whether or not I would feel claustrophobic or not.

This is the bathroom mock up.

Here's the real bathroom. The bucket is representative of whatever toilet solution is chosen. So far, it's been public bathrooms, but in case of emergency, I'll need something close to home.

3 attached folding walls temporarily create a large bathroom, or showering space.

Here's the cardboard art desk area.

Tons of plywood and building materials donated to me by my friend Hillary's mom. Thanks! The sink was purchased along with the countertop (hard to see) at Rebuild, the recycled building materials yard on Pine street in Burlington. I couldn't have done it without them!


Installed the sink

I decided the art desk needed storage, the two walls to the right will have 4 shelves 
to store lots of my materials.

I boosted the little fainting couch up to provide storage underneath.

Here's the start to the kitchen counter frame.

I installed fire board all around the wood stove, and in the window insert that holds the pipe. Then I added aluminum flashing, then tin spaced an inch off of the wall.

Super toasty!

Here are the first book shelves!

The kitchen. The white things on the ceiling are magnetic spice containers. That's my kitchen stove, a coleman cook stove that works great! 5 bucks at a yard sale. The shelves now have bike tubing to keep the materials from falling off.