Jess Noon is a locum doctor (it’s like freelance doctor-ing!) and avid adventurer, and mum to the bright yellow bus, Gertie. Jess tells us about the process of finding, painting and fixing up the bus herself. She shares where they’ve been together and where they’re off to next.
As Covid-19 restrictions continue to shift in Australia and overseas travel is off the cards, her story is a reminder of the beauty and expansiveness of Australia – making us itch to hit the road!
Jess was one of the first Seljak Brand customers, buying a Seljak Original shortly after we launched in 2016.
We caught up with Jess on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, where she’s currently living on her parents’ 100 acre property (they’re ex-cattle farmers) to hear about Gertie’s transformation.
How did you find Gertie the bus, and what made you want to buy it?
I found the bus in 2018 down some leafy road near Obi Obi Creek in the Sunny Coast hinterland. The adventure to go and inspect it was a real family affair. I remember we had mum, dad, granny, the dogs and I all driving down this bumpy dirt road with the radio blasting. It seemed like too much fun to be legal! Back then the bus was white with a blue roof.
What kind of adventures has Gertie been on?
Gertie’s first adventure was from Maleny up to Darwin (where I was living and working at the time), which proved to me that roadside assistance is the best investment one can make. RACQ basically followed me all the way to the Northern Territory border!
The bus has had many adventures to some incredibly beautiful spots... Little weekend road trips to waterfalls like Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park when I was based in Darwin were frequent.
A three month adventure from the NT all the way down to Tasmania was incredible and involved being push-started all the way from Darwin to Alice Springs. We made many willing and strong friends along the way!
Gertie visits the Devil’s Marbles in the Northern Territory
A big highlight was putting her on the Spirit of Tasmania and cruising around Tassie for a month in 2018. She’s also been to her fair share of festivals and loves to host an impromptu late night party. Together we’ve been to Rainbow Serpent, Golden Plains, Earth Frequency, and Woodford (x 2).
Jess at Rainbow Serpent 2019
Gertie stationed at a lookout in Coolum beach, Queensland. We spy a Seljak Brand Original blanket!
The bus used to be white and it’s now the happiest of yellows. You painted it yourself and took the opportunity to update the fit-out. Can you tell us about the process of Gertie’s transformation?
The coronavirus lockdown had me working far less than expected and gave me a rare opportunity to actually do what I had been dreaming and talking about for almost two years: paint the bus yellow. I felt like a happy, sunny yellow suited her disposition. After much research and lengthy discussions with car painters and panel beaters I started to realise that I may have bitten off more than I could chew... but I had no excuse with all the time in the world.
Luckily I had my dad to help and a very handy helicopter pilot and family friend, Pagie, who built his own house and solar system! Pagie became my sanding and bus-painting guru. I was introduced to a whole new world of orbital sanders and angle grinders. I learnt that the most important part of the whole job was the preparation.
Dad inspecting the scope of the work
The sanding took me a lot longer than expected. Pagie came to inspect the job and informed me I had another week of sanding to go... He even flew over in his chopper one day and leaned out the window waving at me before texting “keep sanding''. I eventually lost the thumbprint on my right hand and my phone stopped recognising my passcode!
This is what a sanded bus looks like
Sounds like a real community effort. How did everyone help?
Aside from lots of help from my dad (with lots of swearing), our German neighbours would pop in at least once daily to check on the progress and offer their assistance. Steve from next door gave me an enormous solar panel to put on the roof. Mum painted the seat covers and granny upholstered them.
Granny upholstering the front seats of the bus with mum’s awesome paint job
Most of all, help came from the bus guru Pagie who completely rewired the bus and installed a new solar system and solar regulator. My favourite part is that he wired the radio to run off the deep cycle battery, so now Gertie can party into the night without awkward jump-starting headaches the next day because we’ve run the battery low!
The bus is a mostly self-sufficient being! What systems does it run and how?
There’s a solar and deep cycle battery which runs a little 12 volt fridge, lights, fans and sound system. There’s a 200 litre water tank with hot water which circulates beside the motor whilst driving to heat it up! That services the kitchen. And there’s a great bookshelf and storage for hiking gear, a bicycle and surfboard ready for any adventure.
The last week was a mad dash to finish off the project. In just two days I managed to visit Bunnings, Mitre 10, Trade Tools, Jaycar, Supercheap Auto, Battery World, and Autobarn.
We had a mustard-themed neighbourhood send-off to celebrate before I set off on my latest adventure. It was an all-ages affair with representees from 3 to 83 years old!
Mustard party to celebrate Gertie’s new lewk and new community!
Have a feeling Jess will inspire the next gen of boss women
I felt so fortunate and loved to be part of such a generous and skilled community of family and friends. It was an opportunity to spend time with people who are special to me but also to learn a diverse new set of skills!
Gertie looking pretty fresh and ready to hit the road
What’s next for you, Gertie and the open road?
Gertie and I are currently on a working holiday, slowly making our way down the northern NSW coast. I’m working in various emergency departments as a locum doctor. I'm spending my days off drinking coffee in the sun (with my Seljak blanket!), surfing and catching up with old and new friends. I feel super lucky to be on the road adventuring and doing work that I love!
Jess and Gertie at a friend’s property near Bellingen. We’re all for domestic travel if it means DIY and road trips!