Sask. couple spent pandemic turning bus into a home on wheels to travel North America

A couple in Saskatoon spent the past several months on a pandemic project: renovating a school bus to travel across Canada and beyond.

Shanny Kirby and Karlen Janvier have been chasing dream of 'freedom to roam'

Shanny Kirby, left, and Karlen Janvier, right, bought the 2002 Bluebird for a little more than $5,000. It will soon be a home on wheels for the couple. (Dayne Patterson/CBC)

Even before they met, a Saskatchewan couple had a shared dream of renovating a bus and travelling across North America.

Then they met, and they've spent their time at home during the pandemic manifesting it.  

Shanny Kirby and Karlen Janvier have put more hours than they can count into outfitting their 2002 Bluebird passenger bus, called the Muss Bus. It originally had seating for 36 kids when they bought it in December of last year for $5,250, but by the end their "tiny home," currently parked in Saskatoon, will fit themselves and their two dogs.

Kirby and Janvier have been building the bus almost as long as they've been a couple, chasing the "freedom to roam," Janvier said.    

"We started talking about it, and at first I thought he was just telling me what I wanted to hear," Kirby laughed. "But then we got to know each other better and realized that it actually was a true dream of both of ours." 

Janvier has been looking after the electrical and carpentry work, while the plumbing and esthetics fall to Kirby's artsy eye. 

The pair said that adding a compostable toilet and solar panels were a necessity, both because it's environmentally friendly and for trips off the grid where power isn't available. (Dayne Patterson/CBC)

"Without her, this thing would look like a … dudemobile," Janvier joked. "She definitely gave it the homey touch."

Both love art and are planning to express that inside with their own unique touches. 

But the renovation hasn't been without its detours.

The curved roof is a speed bump, Janvier says. Temperatures have made the bus a difficult workspace at times, and the soaring price of lumber is an almost unspeakable topic in the presence of the Muss Bus.

But they say their pandemic project has been an experience. 

"It's been really fun and it's been an amazing project to have during lockdown," Kirby said. "You can't go out and do a lot of things, but we can be here laughing and listening to music and working on this."

But they've still got work to do. They plan to add solar power, a fully compostable toilet, a deck on the back with an outdoor shower and a projector, among the items on a list that only got longer the more they thought about it.

Janvier and Kirby don't have exact travel plans, but when asked where they could see themselves travelling, they said South America is in consideration as well. (Dayne Patterson/CBC)

Logistically, the two also have to have the vehicle safetied and registered with Saskatchewan Government Insurance.

They said the bus will need to meet certain criteria to make it roadworthy, including a paint job — Kirby envisions the bus as a big Creamsicle with soft whites and oranges — removal of items that distinguish it as a school bus, and adding items that allow them to register it as an RV, like a bed. 

Kirby and Janvier are expecting to finish the bus by September and begin their journey. The plans are tentative — maybe travelling to Canada's East Coast if weather allows, or down the west coast of the United States if restrictions ease.

That is, as long as the build holds up. 

"We joke that this thing is just going to break down on us in [Prince Albert]," Kirby said, sharing a laugh with her partner.