I spied a white, 28-foot bus dieseling about town with wings painted on the side. Also a sign: “Busie Living.” When I saw the old contraption parked in midtown, I pounded on the door.
No one was home. But there was a phone number. Soon I was talking to Alex Bradeis.
“I love living in the bus,” said Bradeis, 30, though he added, “I’m way too old to be doing this.”
A maintenance man at University of the Pacific, Bradeis got fed up with crappy rentals. One crawled with cockroaches. In another dump, the fence fell on the dog.
So, surfing eBay, Bradeis found a 2003 International 3800 bus for sale for $5,500 in Michigan. He had to wrestle it home — at 8 mpg that had to be painful — but once he got her the economics turned in his favor.
“When I was renting I was giving him (the landlord) half my income. Now I can spend it on whatever I want,” said Bradeis, who mentioned an occasional weekend in Tahoe, Big Bear or the beach. “Life is a lot more fulfilling.”
Parked outside Pacific, Bradeis can walk onto campus, the easiest of commutes. He can shower at Pacific (the bus is outfitted only with a sleeping mat). There's no homeowner's association — that’s a big one — and he pays no property tax.
There are drawbacks to Busie Living, too. “If it’s 100 outside it’s 105 inside,” said Bradeis, who sometimes retreats to a friend’s couch.
Another drawback is stereotyping: If you live on a bus, you must be a zonked-out stoner sitting in the lotus position around a bong while reading “The Autobiography of a Yogi.”
When someone suggested painting flowers on the side, Bradeis recoiled. “I was like, ‘No!’ I want to be portrayed as a progressive alternative rather than the hippie generation.”
Bradeis even set up a Busie Living Facebook page to counter any assumptions people may have.
Fortunately, Bradeis says, his girlfriend Andrea is open-minded. “I don’t think most people would put up with me,” he said. “I’m not too normal.”
So what? Rents in Stockton are rising ever higher. The bus seems like serviceable student housing. And it fits into Bradeis’ plan to overcome his modest means and gain a better life.
Pacific offers discounted tuition to employees after five years of service. Bradeis is three years in. His dream is to attend Pacific and earn an engineering degree.
“It's hard,” Bradeis said. “It’s frustrating at times. But it just gives me a hope that I didn’t have previously, to save money and create something different.”
Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or email@example.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/fitzgeraldblog and on Twitter@Stocktonopolis.