Have you ever thought about what it would be like to turn something unconventional into a house? How about a Metro Transit bus? That's exactly what a couple of friends from the Twin Cities did this summer before embarking on a journey in the retrofitted vehicle to San Francisco.
Kao Choua Vue was laid off earlier this year, and her friend Peter Kane was working on building a new startup business. Kane was also looking for a new place to call home, and he had his eye on the San Francisco Bay Area. Because of the high cost of rentals, he needed an alternative living space.
Kane stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for a retired Metro Transit bus. In June, Kane and Vue went to view it and “immediately fell in love." They purchased the bus from a private owner in St. Cloud and immediately got to work, spending day and night renovating it into a living space. They incorporated two mattresses and one couch, making room for about three people.
Kane and Vue decided on a Hmong name for the bus, Chao Moua, and later they both realized it rhymed with Vue’s name – Kao Choua.
A third friend would ride along with the pair to San Francisco - Tyler Hayes, who happens to be from Oakland, Calif. The group left the Twin Cities in early August.
Their 2,380-mile trip took them from the Twin Cities to Denver to Los Angeles and eventually San Francisco. The bus is now parked in Oakland, not far from Hayes’ home. Vue says that’s handy for taking showers, since the vehicle is not currently equipped to run any water.
“Driving Chao Moua was the best feeling, with a panoramic view of the open road and getting a perfect view of the sunset in the countryside, including the vast star-filled sky,” says Vue. “Almost every vehicle on the road with us would gaze with smiles while passing by Chao Moua. Whenever we gassed up along the way at the truck stops, Chao Moua was always the cool one.”
The bus needed some repairs when they hit Barstow, Calif., and the group was glad to leave the city’s 115-degree weather. But now that they’re settled in the San Francisco area, the bus has been a big hit.
“Nearing San Francisco and in the middle of their traffic, more than 10 drivers commented that we have a sweet ride. They love Chao Moua in San Francisco!” says Vue. “There's no one on the road that we saw that was as unique as Chao Moua and everyone noted that with glee.”
While many retired buses are sold for parts or acquired by private bus companies, others have been used for alternative spaces such as outbuildings, a petting zoo and gardens. Based on regional and federal guidelines, the regular service life of a transit bus is 12 years. To prepare the buses for auction, all ads, logos, the bike rack, the fare box and the equipment for the overhead signs are removed.