During the past week, we’ve been parked in Huntington Beach, CA. We migrated up here from San Diego after the new Mini Countryman got it’s base plate installed (that’s what makes it possible for us to tow the car behind the bus.) We’re parked right on the beach with a view of the water and the pier. Not too shabby!

It’s been a pretty jam-packed week, especially when it comes to lifestyle research. And what does that mean? Well to start, I’ll say this: The current bus we live on will soon be swapped out for my vintage bus, which is being completely restored and remodelled. Once it’s complete, we plan to live on it for several years, touring the country just like we currently do in my 40′ bus. In the more distant future, I would like to live on a boat at some point. I’ve had my eye on a brand of trawler style boat called a Nordhavn. These boats are high quality and extremely sea-worthy. Let this be the intro/precurser to the meat of this blog post…

Craig and I search for wood veneers for the vintage bus.

Vintage Bus Shopping

Right now, my vintage bus is located in Fort Worth, TX where it is getting its engine, transmission and body work done. This leg of the restoration is nearing completion and the bus will be ready to get its new interior installed. For the interior, the bus will move from TX to Nova Scotia, to Craig Dorsey’s shop. Craig owns a company called Vintage Vacations and does an incredible job restoring old trailers and motorhomes. From a style standpoint, he is the best person in the country to handle this job. He truly GETS the look I’m going for, which is a streamline design style mixed with high tech elements.

It turns out that Craig is currently in Los Angeles, spending a few months working on a restoration job in the area. This is perfect because we were able to meet up, talk about the project and go shopping for the interior fixtures, textures, etc.

One morning, Karen and I met Craig at the place he’s staying right outside L.A. He had researched a bunch of places in the area and we didn’t waste any time getting to them.

Our first stop of the shopping day was focused specifically on curves.

The first stop was a shop that specialized in curves, meaning the kinds of wall and cabinet elements that would intersect in a curved angle. As I mentioned before, the vintage bus is going to be very streamlined in the inside, and I don’t want a lot of abrupt corners. Rather, I want the walls and cabinet corners to be nice and curved. The photo above may give you a better idea of what I mean. After pulling out the 3D diagram of the bus on my Mac, we figured out how many curves we would need, and how they would fit in.

Our next stop was a wood veneer place. The walls of the vintage bus are going to be covered in a wood veneer and we had to pick out what we wanted. This task was a little more daunting than I anticipated. There were so many veneers, and it was hard to judge how they would look once finished. Luckily, they had some finished samples that gave us somewhat of an idea, but it was still tough. What we do know is that Karen and I both like a darker cherry finish with little to no contrast in the wood grain. Simple and sleek is good. We didn’t come to a final decision on this, but narrowed it down to two or three different veneers. Considering there were dozens to choose from, we definitely made progress. You can see us debating on veneers in the first photo of this post.

The leather store where we found the hides for the sofa, booth and drivers seat.

For the sofa on the bus, as well as the booth seating and driver’s seat, I decided to go with leather. Since leather is usually crazy expensive, Craig did a lot of research to find a place that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. When we first pulled up to this place, Karen took one look at it and gave me the hairy eyeball. I couldn’t blame her. From the outside, it didn’t look like much… at all. However, I trust Craig, so we went in. Luckily we were all pleasantly surprised. It was a no-frills kind of store, but the hides were high quality, and there was a lot to choose from. Call this place a little gem that will go into my mental roladex. We spent about 15 minutes searching around until Karen came up with a hide that was without a doubt the right one for the bus. It’s a nice dark brown with a hint of red mixed in, and it’s a soft, matte leather. We weren’t into anything hard or shiny. Luckily, the place had plenty of it, and I ended up buying the equivalent to five hides. This should be more than enough for my project.

The leather store didn’t look like much from the outside, but it sure did house some high-quality hides.

I want the vintage bus to have a lot of unique accents, so we went to a funky antique hardware store that was loaded with fixtures… everything from light switches to chandeliers, to toilet paper holders. You name it. It was here. I ended up buying a sleek little chrome handle with a red stripe going down the middle. This will go on the outside of the sliding bathroom door. I also got a funky little door, about 3″ wide and 9″ tall, that has a vintage “Sparton” logo on it. I have no idea what I’ll use it for, but I’d love to build it in somewhere. It’s just fun and unique.

Craig and I search for fixtures at a funky antiques place.

Our last stop was a linoleum place. I am considering using this for countertops, inside drawers, etc. To be honest, nothing really jumped out at me here, and we’re considering using stainless steel counters, wood tables and other textures in place of linoleum. We’ll see how things go before I make any decisions there.

Planning ahead for life on the water

Jim steers the boat out of the marina as I watch and take in the scenery.

As I mentioned earlier, after I’m done living on the road, I would like to live on the water. Since a boat would be a very serious (and expensive) undertaking, I want to start planning, preparing and feeling out the lifestyle early. Even with the vintage bus project still in the works, I’ve been doing a lot of boat reasearch for the future. After looking at a lot of options, one of the major contenders for me, when it comes to boat brands, is Nordhavn. They make extremely high quality trawlers that are not only beautiful but extremely seaworthy. These are some of the only small powerboats in the world capable of crossing oceans.

While we were parked in San Diego, I had been communicating with my friend Jim, who lives in Dana Point. I had met Jim during a few recent photography workshops and had recently started talking boats with him. He owns a 47′ Nordhavn and offered to take us out on it. Karen and I were totally psyched about this, and the 47′ is the size I find to be ideal for me.

Jim and I, in front of his Nordhavn trawler.

We met Jim and his wife Linda at the marina one night. They gave us a nice tour of the boat and we shared drinks & snacks while we chatted about boating. It was great to talk with folks who have been doing it for a while and have really spent a lot of time on the water. Jim and Linda frequent Mexico and most recently spent several months up in Alaska. We loved hearing their stories!

Karen takes in some sun after we dock back at the marina.

On Friday morning, we met them back at the marina again, and they took us out on the boat for several hours. It was excellent! Karen and I both had a blast, and I have to say it probably fueled our desire for one of these boats even more. The weather was beautiful and the ocean was rolling a bit. When we were heading back to Dana Point, a half-dozen porpoises found us and started riding the current at the hull of the boat! We all got a kick out of this, and it just added a little sugar coating to an already perfect morning.

So as you can tell, we’ve had a lot of wheels turning, and have a lot to think about in the future… both in regards to the vintage bus (near future) and the boating lifestyle (distant future).

Karen, Kyle and myself at a place called 25 degrees in Huntington Beach.

As if this week weren’t full enough, I was really thrilled to also be able to meet up with my friend Kyle. It had been at least two years since I’d seen him last, but when I remembered that he works in Huntington Beach, we made a point to get together and catch up. I first met Kyle at a workshop I was teaching at in Hawaii. It’s a funny coincidence that I’ll be heading back to Hawaii to teach in a few weeks! We met at one of my favorite places in town, 25 degrees. This place has a good happy hour and some of the best burgers I’ve ever had… ever.

Tomorrow, we leave Huntington Beach and head toward Las Vegas, where we will be spending a lot of time with dear friends and preparing for a two week trip to Hawaii (for both work AND pleasure!)