A cozy space for sleeping sits behind the cockpit of the bus, which was named Wayne by the previous owner.
Photo by Erica Sterling

Picture this: a group of friends who love adventure, four months on the road, 10,000 miles traveled and a school bus named Wayne.

No, this isn’t a plot for a movie at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a journey that four Gainesville locals will make this summer.

 Vlad Pascu, Nicholas Logel, Tara Kleemann and Jeff Depree are members of the Outdoor Adventure Recreation Club at the University of Florida and the masterminds of the trip. Whether it’s cave exploring in Haiti, crossing the Sahara desert or hiking Moroccan mountains, they’re down to travel.

So what gives with the bus?

“It’s been a running gag to buy a bus and go across the country,” said Jeff Depree, 30, one of the co-owners. “Starting May, we want to travel to communities and show the locals that being active and going on trips can be inexpensive and easily done by anyone.”

Depree said he and the rest of the group plan to take the people they meet on outdoor trips, much like the Outdoor Adventure Recreation Club. On the trips, they will show locals how to live minimally and preserve the natural ecosystem.

“You can find a trail down the street and hike with friends,” Depree said. “I want to break this idea of material things and having to set your castle in one spot.”

Depree came upon a newly renovated school bus on Craigslist for $2,500 and pooled money with Pascu, Logel and Kleemann to buy it.

The interior of the bus is decked out with linoleum flooring, a futon, two bunk beds, a massive beanbag chair and a lot of cabinet space for trip supplies, Depree said. There are hopes for a functioning kitchen, bathroom and even a dance floor on top of the roof.

The exterior looks like your typical school bus, but it is also getting a much-needed lift. Depree said the group plans to paint scenes on the school bus’ exterior to reflect the members’ active lifestyle.

“It was the idea of an artist,” Depree said. “But we would like the paintings to include our caving pictures, waterfall pictures and even a scene where we were hiking with wild ponies.”

Aside from the cosmetic improvements and the tires from 1971 that need replacement, the school bus is mechanically sound and ready for the road

But there’s always that chance that it might stall or break down, Depree said.

It could’ve been a difficult task to name a bus with so much character, but as the group discovered, it already has one.

Tara Kleemann, 23, one of the co-owners, said she stumbled upon a note in the bus from the previous owner. The note contained instructions for a girl who was asked to drive the bus to Florida.

“In the note, the owner called the bus Wayne and told the girl to ‘take Wayne to Florida,’” Kleemann said. “We think the girl drove the bus from Oregon or Washington, because we found plates from both states.”

Coincidentally, Depree said the group wants to travel in that northwest direction for 10,000 miles–specifically Wyoming, Montana, the Rockies and Canada. They’ll stop along the way to hike and mountaineer, and they’ll park in towns for sleep and travel breaks.

Depree said Gas will cost about $5,000. And as for food, Kleemann said the bus offers plenty of room for fresh fruits and veggies from grocery stores in the communities they stop in.

“The bus is a lot more spacious than what we’re used to,” she said. “Usually we’re jam-packed in our cars, and the food would get crushed.”

Kleemann said the group isn’t worried about creating friendships with people in the towns.

“If you have a bus, people will come right up to you,” she said.

The message of being active and living a sustainable life is not just for the folks they encounter but for anyone with basic computer access. To tell its story to the rest of the world, the group is creating a blog to document its experience on the road.

“We’ll include things such as where we are, what hikes we went on or even interactions with people we come across,” Kleemann said.

Kleemann said she wants the blog to combat the negative connotations that come with being green– that is, it’s not just for hippies.

“We’re going to be moving into a school bus, and as a working professional, I’m still going to do normal things,” she said. “It’s just that my house is now a bus.”

 The thought of downsizing to a bus doesn’t bother Depree or Kleemann in the least. In fact, Kleeman said it will be educational.

“You learn everything about your friends and especially how people act in extreme situations,” Kleemann said.  “You get to see a side of someone you might not usually see.”

Depree said he’s grown to love the communal style of living and living with several people. In fact, he wants to live in a commune in the future.

Another idea for the trip is letting additional people hop on for the ride.

So what should a person bring on a journey like this? Kleemann was quick to answer.

“The right attitude.”