Annndddd we're back!

Well, after about 8 days on the shelf, we are back and the brakes are working to perfection!  The brakes no longer lose air pressure in stop and go traffic and the brake chambers even fill up with air faster upon the initial engine start up.  It takes approx. 3-4 min to get the tank full of air, when it would previously take about 8-10 min to completely fill with the necessary amount of air. 

Now its time to take it out on the town again!  This time I am trying to get more of a feel for a what an actual night out on the town will be like.  So more bar hopping and hitting up different areas of town as opposed to the video shoot night when we were mainly in the Downtown and Midtown area.  

Since it seems as though a lot of people are busy this weekend, I am going to set the next ride up for next Saturday, August 20th.   Thinking we will hit up Kay's Lounge one last time before they shut down the legendary Houston establishment and the iconic Texas-shaped wooden table will be no more. 

Just when I thought I'll get out...they pull me back in!

Just when I thought all was good with the bus, another repair popped up that needed to be taken care of.  

Last time I dropped the bus off at DI Performance to address a situation with the brakes, I was under the impression that it was fixed.  Apparently, after they fixed that issue, this new issue popped up and now I had to get that fixed.  

The issue being that the air brakes would lose air pressure the more and more I was in stop and go traffic.  In fact, on the way home prior to our filming of the promo video a couple weeks ago, the bus actually locked up on me as I was sitting in the lovely Houston rush hour traffic around 5pm.  Luckily we didnt have any other issues that night, but I knew that I would need to get that fixed ASAP before I did another ride. 

The issue is that one of my air valves was leaking along with the brake chambers, my slack adjusters were worn and the air dryer was leaking.  So I have turned it back over to DI Performance for yet another repair.  

I can tell you this much, when it comes time to by my next bus, I will be looking for something a little newer than a 1994 school bus.  So, now I wait and see how long the repair will take.  Stay tuned! 

Promo Video Night Out

Tonight we worked with Golden Arm Media out of Austin, TX to film our Cool Bus promotional video and at first glance, I'd have to say it was a success!!!  

We started off by filming a time lapse video with the bus in front of the skyline as the sun was setting over Houston.  We found a great location just outside of downtown on Memorial Pkwy that was perfect!  We did this for about an hour before we went to pick up our "models".  

Cool Bus Houston Video Shoot

We finally arrived at our meeting location by 9:00 PM and were on the road by 9:30 PM after a few shots of the bus pulling up and the group boarding.  We took off around town with the music bumping and lights a flashing.  Our photographer wanted to get some shots outside of the bus as it was driving around town so one of my buddies, Matt Kogler, helped out by driving his car and following the bus around while the photographer got some footage.  

We drove around downtown and decided to drive by Minute Maid Park to get a few shots in front of the ballpark and it just so happened that they were conducting their post game Friday Night Fireworks show after the Houston Astros game.  We were able to get some great shots of the bus driving in front of Minute Maid Park while the fireworks were going off!

After all of our exterior shots of the bus, the photographer boarded the bus and started filming shots of our crew signing and dancing around the bus as we drove through Midtown and Downtown Houston.  As we were waiting on our photographer to get the cameras set up on the bus, our crew made a quick pit stop at the legendary Sunny's Bar.  

Once everyone was back on board and after driving around for about 45 minutes, we made our final stop at Irish Cowboy in Midtown.  As everyone got off the bus, our photographer joined them and was able to get some shots inside the bar as well.  

We finally returned home around 1:30 AM and just when I thought we were finished, the photographer asked to get a few more shots of the interior of the bus with out people in it.  So we went back to our original location of filming the time lapse to finish the last few shots.  

Once it was all said and done, my night ended around 3:30 AM.  I was le tired.  But I am very glad I was finally able get the video filmed and can't wait to see the finished product! 

FINALLY!!!

The Cool Bus has officially been completed!!!  WAAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

And it only took 8 months!  

8 months of repairs, maintenance, design, getting quotes, custom fabrication, paint jobs...and a lot of patience.  A lot of patience.  

The exterior graphics are finally complete and I have to say I'm very happy with the way it all came out.  I did feel like I would never get it back as the completion kept getting delayed and moved back, but as much as I wanted to pressure them to complete it, I knew that I should not rush them and allow them to do everything correctly.  

 

 

In addition to the exterior paint and graphics, I also was able to get the inside handrails installed across the roof.  It is actually only 1 really long handrail that is on the passenger side of the bus.  We installed it on this side because it allows for the handrail to go from the front to the back of the bus along with the seating.  The drivers side has the cooler/trash can compartment, so that might not have made as much sense.  

This Friday night we will actually be filming a promotional video for The Cool Bus.  This will be a 45 sec promotional video to be used on the website and all of my social media channels.  I am still working on confirming the route and bars we will visit, but it should be a fun night no matter where we go.  Stay tuned for the video in the coming weeks....coming soon to a YouTube channel near you! 

 

Got a new paint job!!!

he exterior is finally starting to look like what I envisioned all this time.  Last week we completed the exterior paint job and it looks awesome! 

The painters first started off by sanding the exterior of the bus down and removing some the old blue paint that was peeling/chipping away.  Then they had to remove all the light covers, front grill and tape up all the windows before they could begin applying the paint.  They finally covered the bus in a single stage black paint.   Looks pretty sharp if you ask me.

The next step is to add the vinyl for graphics.  Apparently they had to wait a while for the paint to settle before they could apply the graphics.  Therefore, I had to add another week to my timeline and wait just a little longer to get the bus back. 

But they assure me that the bus will be completed this week, either Thursday, 6/30, or Friday, 7/1…just in time for the 4th of July weekend!  I’ll probably drive it a couple of days over the weekend with friends aboard or just cruise it around H-town in high-traffic areas to get the word out. 

I plan on using the next month for a lot of test runs, marketing opportunities and perfecting the operational side of things before I officially open my doors come August. 

First thing I need to do once the bus is complete though, is get some high quality pics of the bus up on the website.   Right now, I just have pictures of what the bus looked like when I bought it simply acting as a place holder. 

I also got some Cool Bus swag recently produced – koozies and women’s tank tops.  I have not yet made a men’s tank top, but those will be coming soon.  I also have my business cards arriving soon and looking forward to having something to start passing out to potential clients to get the word out. 

It’s crazy to think that it’s all coming together and will be here before you know it.  

More repairs and interior work

The repairs have been made after replacing the air compressor and a couple of valves in the air brakes, and I am hoping that this is the last time I have to get it repaired for a while.  It took about a week to complete everything.  

Once it was done, I coordinated with Eric Gavina to enlist some of his welding skills again.  I had the A/C installed a few weeks back, but needed to provide it with power since it wasn't running through the buses batteries.  Eric and I came up with the idea to install a frame/box on the back of the bus to house the generators that would power the A/C.  

Cool Bus Houston

It took about a week to fabricate and install and Thursday, 5/26,  I finally dropped the bus off to start the exterior paint job.  Harbros Inc, the same company that did the interior is going to do all the paint as well.  Over the course of the paint job, they will also install the handrails across the roof inside the bus.  The handrails are the only thing left to do on the interior.  

The bus will be painted black and then I will add the green decals on top of the paint.  With the way we designed the exterior, painting first, and then adding the decals made more sense and is more cost effective than if I were to do a full vehicle graphic wrap.  

Its getting exciting over the recent weeks because as each day passes I am 1 more day closer to having the bus ready to go and open for business.  

Interior work, A/C install and yet another issue...

After 3 1/2 weeks of waiting, I finally got a phone call saying that the interior of the bus would be ready.  Well, at least most of the interior would be complete.  The guys working on the bus said that they were going out of town for a week and said I could pick up the bus if I wanted.  This worked out perfectly because I was able to get the A/C installed during this time.  

The work that was completed on the interior to-date was:

  • Paint the interior black
  • Add lighting above the seats
  • Install new upholstery
  • Install security cameras and rear view backup camera
  • Hookup new radio with Bluetooth and USB charging outlets

They still need to install the handrails, connect the cameras to the DVR, and add lighting under the seats.  But that should only take a day or 2 at most.  

I picked the bus up on Wednesday, 4/20 and dropped the bus off to get the A/C installed Friday, 4/22 at Camping World of Houston. 

But another hiccup would be revealed on the way to get the A/C installed.  As I was heading down I-10 to Camping World, where I would get the A/C from, about 10 minutes from my destination, I started to smell something from the engine and my brake light came on.  In addition, the pressure in my air brakes had dropped significantly.  All of the sudden, my brakes locked up and forced me to pull over on the side of the road.  After shutting off the engine, I let the bus rest for about 45 min. I started it back up and the pressure rose back to sufficient level as I was able to drop the bus off to get the A/C worked on.  

I picked the bus back up Tuesday and immediately dropped it off at DI Performance for an inspection.  A few days later, I got the call that the air compressor was faulty and there were multiple leaks in the lines.  They estimated that the repair will take about a week.  

As frustrating as it has been for issue after issue to pop up, I am glad that I am identifying these now as opposed to when I have customers.  I just have to keep delaying the start date of The Cool Bus, so now it looks like the bus won't be ready till Memorial Day weekend, depending on how long the paint job takes.  

As the repairs and fabrication work have been taking place over the past few weeks, I have also gone through DOT (Department of Transportation) training.  I have learned quite a bit of information that will allow me to properly operate under the federal and state rules/regulations as a commercial motor vehicle.  I knew that there would be a lot of information to consume, but I didn't realize how much I would be responsible for as I am running this business in the coming weeks, months and years.  

A wise man once said, "Patience is a virtue"

It has now been 3 weeks since I dropped the bus off to get the interior customized.  They say it should be complete this week, so I'm crossing my fingers.  

One thing I have learned in this whole process, is that when you are dealing with another trade and they give you an estimated timeline for the job completion, go ahead and tack on another week to their estimation.  

I don't want to rush any of these trades that are working on the bus, because I want to make sure that the work they are doing is being done correctly.  But it is a little frustrating that it took 5 weeks for the engine to get fixed and now 3 weeks for the interior.  But like I said, patience is a virtue. 

While I have been waiting, patiently, for this work to finish, I have been taking care of a few other things in the meantime.  

  1.  I have confirmed where I will be getting the exterior of the bus painted.  The same company doing the interior renovation will actually be able to get the bus painted as well.  This will save me the hassle of moving to/from another location and they can just keep it at their shop to begin the paint job.
  2. I am also working on my DOT Certification.  There has been some paperwork and other items I've had to fill out that I wasn't aware of, but are essential to getting the bus up and running as a commercial business.  There are a few online forms and a couple of training sessions that I will need to complete to make sure I am in compliance of the necessary law and regulations.  
  3. Finalizing the design and order for some promotional items - ladies tank tops, koozies and of course, the sunglasses.  
  4. Continuing to get quotes on the graphics.  Now that I have decided to paint the exterior first, the quotes that I received initially from companies in regards to wrapping the full exterior of the bus, are no longer applicable.  I will need new quotes on just adding the graphics as if it were a decal.  For future buses, depending on the condition of the paint job, I should be able to get them wrapped.  

I am hoping to have some pictures of the newly renovated interior by next week that I can post on the site.  

Finally, the fun stuff starts

After 5 weeks of being in the shop, the bus has finally been fixed!  DI Performance did the repair, and after driving it around for a couple of days, so far, so good!  I was able to pick the bus up Monday and I was able to turn the engine off/on with out any issues. 

Now the "fun" work can begin!  I dropped the bus off with Harbros Inc, who specializes in party bus customization on Wednesday.  

They will begin the process of customizing the interior of the bus.  The items we discussed to be completed over the next 2-3 weeks will be:

  1. Install new upholstery with lime green and black vinyl
  2. Install of LED lights under the seats and above the seats that will shine on the interior roof
  3. Paint the interior black.  They will cover up all the blue areas and any other area that hadn't been painted yet
  4. Re-position and installation of new radio with Bluetooth, USB and Aux outlet capabilities.  Radio will be moved closer towards the middle of the bus by the trash can/cooler. 
  5. Installation of 4 cameras and DVR for security purposes.  The cameras will be in position of a dash cam, camera facing the driver, camera facing the cab where passengers will be and a rearview camera to also help in the assistance when moving the bus in reverse
  6. Fabrication and install of handrails across the roof inside the bus
  7. Install of a 110 outlet by the driver seat for phone charging usage
  8. Find and fix the leaks coming from the roof of the bus causing water to get inside

I am very excited that this type of work is finally happening and we are a few more steps closer to seeing the finished product.  

The company will be taking pictures throughout the process and sending them over, so I will eventually be able to post those pictures on the site to see the conversion from start to finish.  

Timing is everything...

Well after close to 4 weeks of the bus being in the shop, the mechanics have finally started making progress on the repair.  They had to replace the lift pump and rebuild the injection pump.  I spoke with the technicians yesterday and they said that the injection pump was in bad shape once they started to rebuild it so it took longer than expected on the repair.  

This should fix the issues that we encountered a few weeks ago when it just died on us when we were driving around one night.  The same issue also caused the engine not to turn over once we shut it off and tried to crank it back up again with in a few minutes.  

They think it will be ready to go by the end of the week.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, its been good timing for this to happen now while the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is taking place.  Since I am heavily involved with the Rodeo, unfortunately a few things with the bus have been put on the back burner over the past couple of weeks.  

So while I would've liked to have the bus up and running, I know it would've been difficult to do any kind of test runs with friends trying to find time in my own personal schedule.  

The good thing is though that with Rodeo taking place, I am able to spread the word about the bus to a lot of people I only see this time of the year.  The friends and peers that I have told are all really excited about it and already want to book rides.  

I have a feeling that once I do "officially" open my doors for business and start utilizing social media in a more meaningful way, things will pick up very quickly.  I am going to have to get used to saying "no" to things that's for sure! 

 

Playing the waiting game...

Well it has now been 2 weeks since I dropped the bus off to get repaired and I am still waiting to get it back.

The diagnosis is that I need to replace the lift pump and the injection pump.  The problem is that the shop I dropped it off at, Diesel Innovations, is having a hard time finding the parts.  They said that it should take about 3-4 days to complete the repairs once the parts have arrived.  Now they just need to get here.  

Since I would be going to diesel mechanics from time to time, I figured it would be a good idea to have someone on my side with thorough knowledge of diesel engines.  Mainly to help me understand the various issues that would come up and also help me confirm or deny the things the mechanics were telling me was wrong with the bus.  

I turned to one of my good buddies, John Boerstler for some assistance in finding such a resource.  John is the Executive Director of NextOp, an organization that serves our nation’s hardworking veterans by providing job placement assistance, mentorship and support. 

He sent me a couple of resumes and I was able to make contact with a former Army sergeant, Steven Beattie.  We discussed my plan and took a look at the bus while at the shop and visited with the technician working on the bus.  

Steven was able to confirm the diagnosis of what was causing my issue and also validate the repair shops suggested plan of action to correct the issue.  He also researched online and found out there were actually a few recalls on this particular bus which helped us to identify other issues.  

I am looking forward to my continued relationship with Steven.  Just based on the communication we have had and the information he has shared, he will be a valuable asset to the company and will hopefully help me save a lot of money on repairs by not letting mechanics take advantage of my lack of knowledge on engines.  

As soon as this repair is completed, I will be immediately taking it to a one-stop shop for party bus customization's.  They will eventually do all of the following:

  • Reupholster the seating
  • Paint the interior black
  • Install handrails on the roof of the interior
  • Install a new radio with Bluetooth capabilities and change the location of the radio
  • Install cameras for security - Over the hood, facing the driver, facing the interior, and at the rear to be used as a backup camera
  • Install LED lighting beneath the seats and on the ceiling

While these all sound fun and I can't wait till this type of stuff is taking place, I need the engine parts ASAP!!!

More high's and low's...

This past week was one of highs and lows.  Lets start with the highs and get off on a good note.  

Step 1 of my cosmetic work was started and completed this week.  I converted the area that was originally set up as an ice well (the area that looked like a sink) to be used as a cooler and trash can.  Eric Gavina helped me with the framing and metal fabrication with his expert welding skills.   I dropped if off on Thursday afternoon and picked it up Saturday morning before I drove to College Station for an annual get together with buddies and the Texas A&M vs. Kentucky Men's Basketball game...which A&M won in OT on a basket at the buzzer!  Whoop!

Eric said he spent about 10 hours total on the bus.  Not only did he work on the steel frame inside the bus, but he was able to cut off the black steel grate that was attached to the hitch at the rear of the bus.  I was trying to remove it myself, but the key for the Master lock was broken off in the lock and therefore, I could not.  He removed it and replaced it in a way that if I wanted to remove it in the future, it wouldn't be an issue.  However, I don't think I will be doing that since I will need a place to hold the external generator for the air conditioning that will eventually be installed.  

Personally, I think it looks awesome!  

Now, on to the lows...

Like I mentioned in my previous post, the bus stalled on us as I drove some friends around town last Friday night, 2/12, and I wound up getting it started back up and parking it in front of my apartment. 

From that time, I had been in contact with a mobile mechanic who helped me previously with some maintenance and work on the brakes.  I thought he was going to be someone I could count on and use on  a regular basis.  

I was able to set up a meeting at the bus with him Tuesday morning and he confirmed his initial analysis that it was my fuel solenoid that was causing the issue.  I told him I wanted it fixed ASAP.  He called me later that afternoon to tell me that he needed to go back to the bus to get a part number so he could order a replacement.  

I have not heard from him since.  He wont return my calls or texts.  

The bus stills runs but the engine keeps stalling if it runs for an extended period of time.  I knew this before we left for College Station, TX Saturday morning.  

We left Houston at approx. 10:15am and pulled in to College Station around 11:15am.  We were making good time.   That is until I pulled up to the light at 2818 and Texas and the problem arose yet again.  The bus stalled as I was in the turn lane, so the only thing left to do at that point was to sit and wait for the engine to cool off.  

After waiting for about 45 min, the bus finally turned over and we were on the road again.  We headed to Northgate to meet our buddies for lunch and parked the bus for a few hours before I moved it to our hotel parking lot for the remainder of the evening.  

Sunday, the bus started up and we took off back to Houston.  I knew what was going to happen when I came to a light, so I wound up shifting in to Neutral and keeping my foot on the gas so the engine wouldn't idle.  This worked to perfection. 

I was able to drop my buddy off at his car after going through a couple of lights without the bus dying before finally arriving back at my office to leave it for the night.  It was timed perfect as I was trying to position the bus for final parking location, when, yes, you guessed it....the bus stalled.   

I've taken it to a new mechanic and am hoping to have the issue fixed over the next couple of days.  

I've also met with a company that solely does custom party bus renovations.  I am hoping that they can be a one-stop shop for all the items I am looking at adding on the bus - lighting, handrails, upholstery, etc.  

You win some, you lose some

Well, what would a new business be with out a few bumps and bruises along the way?  

This past Friday I asked invited some friends to join me on a ride around town in the Cool Bus.  I have been trying to do a few test runs over the past month or so to get the hang of driving the bus with people in it and Friday was a perfect night. 

I wound up having about 16 people on board and things started off smoothly.  We all met at the Target at I-10/Taylor and then drove to Upper Kirby area to pick up a few other people.  We made our way to The Heights afterwards to make 2 more stops before we made our way to the 1st bar of the night, Lei Low.   

We stayed there for about 20 min while people went in for a drink and a few stayed on the bus to hangout.  I even had some random people come up and ask me about how they could rent the bus.  I told them that it wasn't operating yet, but gave them my business card (**Which reminds me, I need to go ahead and get some made for The Cool Bus).  

Once we were done at Lei Low, we were on our way to pick up some more folks when we hit a bit of a snag.  While stopped at the light at Shepherd and 610, I pulled the bus to a complete stop and without warning, the engine died.  

My buddies on the bus were very helpful as they all got off and helped push the bus to a parking lot to get out of harm's way.  I called my mobile mechanic about what he thought the issue was and he thought it happened to be the fuel solenoid.  He thinks that it might have just gone bad as this particular time.  

After about 20-30 min of waiting and allowing the engine to cool down, I tried to crank it up again and...SUCCESS!! The bus turned over and we were back up and running.  The mechanic said that it would be best if I didn't keep driving around though because he thought the problem would rear its ugly head once again.  

So I drove to White Oak, dropped my friends off in front of Christian's Tailgate and retired the bus for the night on White Oak Dr in front of the Park at White Oak Condos.   My mechanic said that he will be able to address the issue Monday afternoon, so hopefully it will be ready to  go early next week.  

Upcoming schedule over the next few days once it gets fixed - Customize the metal ice well to fit a cooler and a trash can, take it to College Station on Saturday and then drop it off to get painted by next Monday, 2/22.  

Let's get this party started...kind of..

It's...About...To go....Down! 

The Cool Bus has been a dream of mine since 2008.  And now it's finally happening! 

I purchased the bus back in November 2015 and have been making repairs and adjustments to it since then.  As soon as I bought it, I took it to get some electrical work done to Ronny's Auto Repair.  On the way to the repair shop, I could not have been more scared driving the bus.  I had no idea how close I was to other cars when I was switching lanes and how far back they were in my rear view mirror.  But I made it safely...whew!  

Upon completion of that maintenance and repairs, I took it to Heitman Truck Repair to get the suspension and shocks repaired.  Still a little scared while driving, there was a little more comfort as I was behind the wheel.  

Heitman called a few days later to tell me the work was completed and it was time to take this bad boy out on its own.  I went and picked it up and drove it from the east side of town all the way up to Jersey Village...in rush hour traffic, which took about 2 hours.  While I was going at a glacial pace for the majority of the time, there were moments when I was able to cruise around the 50 mph range for a few minutes and I noticeable felt much more at ease while driving.  

Over the past few weeks, I have been taking the bus to/from various businesses to get quotes on things like a vehicle graphic wrap, new paint job, interior lighting, upholstery, and the most important thing if I want to be operating in Houston any time between March and October...Air conditioning.  

I am hoping that things will be wrapped up by the end of March/early April.