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Steamboat Magazine

Wheels Up

05/17/2022 01:05PM ● By Suzi Mitchell
Steamboat Springs, CO - A hammock is not an average guest bed. But then again, when you go to visit friends who live in a bus, it makes perfect sense. A few years ago, Steamboat Springs native Nathan DePuy and his girlfriend, Molly Phannenstiel, chose to make a 12-seat school bus their home. The couple, who met on their first day at the University of Colorado Boulder, enjoy a shared curiosity for van life. 

“I used to have a folder on my computer in high school titled ‘life goals,’ and it was filled with photos and stories of other people’s nomadic life,” DePuy says. Phannenstiel was the same. After the duo graduated, they were tired of paying rent and set out to search for a potential dwelling on wheels. They found “Blue the Bus” at a large vehicle dealership in Kearney, Nebraska, took it for a test drive and drove it home the same day to Steamboat. 

The pandemic was in full force, and time was on their side. Over the course of seven months, they gutted the 25-foot-long vehicle and with the help of Molly’s grandfather Hale Moore – a hobby woodworker in Vail – they had a rent-free place to call home. 

Nathan tries out a hammock made by his own company, Emerald Mountain Outfitters LLC. The hammock makes the perfect stop for overnight guests.


The couple carted flooring, insulation and six rows of seats to a recycling location in Gypsum that accepts bus parts. They installed walls, framing and insulation, along with plumbing and extensive electrical work. “We have 400 watts of solar power on the roof, so we can be off the grid as long as it doesn’t snow for a whole week,” DePuy says. A one-by-one-foot wood stove heats the bus in winter and presents the perfect spot for warming tortillas and soup. 

“We have a stove and an oven, so we can cook anything we want,” Phannenstiel says. A small tailgate to the rear houses a propane tank, which also heats water for the outdoor Joolca shower. Plumbing consists of a 38-gallon freshwater tank and no hot water. “Plumbing can often go wrong, and we didn’t want the risk of pipes freezing in our Colorado winters,” DePuy says. 

The couple fit a lot into 117-square-feet of living space, including a sitting area, 32-inch flat screen television, kitchen, bathroom with composting toilet and queen-size bed with curtains to allow separation. A Trex-covered rooftop deck offers an outdoor living room, and a projector and screen afford fireside viewing of movies and sports games. 

The 117 square feet of living space include a bathroom and composting toilet, kitchen and queen-sized bed.


“It’s cozy but we love it,” Phannenstiel says. The couple landed marketing jobs with Outdoorsy, which connects private owners of RVs with renters. They work together and must travel, which is ideal for a couple whose house is on wheels. 

Follow Nathan and Molly on Instagram: @Bluethebus