In March, my husband Brian and I (both baby boomers) bought a school bus. Actually, we bought a 15-passenger Ford extended van that had been used as a school bus. We had a vision of converting the van to a “camper” that we could use to sleep in when we travel to see music. We both love going to live music shows and festivals, and through the past several years, we’ve traveled quite a bit to do this. Often we would stay in hotels, which can be pricey, and ultimately this limited the number of shows we could see.
It all started about a year ago when we were going to a show at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, in Gilford, N.H. We couldn’t find a hotel for less than $200 a night within a cab ride to the venue, so we decided we would camp at Gunstock Mountain for the night. The show was on a Saturday night, and as it turned out my husband had to be back in town very early on Sunday to drive fast cars (another of his passions), so we figured we would be at the campground for about five hours total. We kidded about sleeping in the back of the pickup truck at first, but that’s exactly what we ended up doing. We put a tent over the back of the truck and slid an air mattress in – it was fine, not perfect by any means, but it served the purpose. This trip is what set us on the path to find the “Love Shack.”
When we got our new school bus van home from the dealership in Canton, Mass., Brian got right to work, and had the seats ripped out by the end of the afternoon. Without getting too involved in the “stripping” process, I would estimate that it took about a month or so to get the van ready to be transformed into our Love Shack camper. We spent many hours on Pinterest looking at other conversion van projects, reading blogs and searching the web for ideas. We bought books, looked at plans, sketched it out, and soon we were shopping and Brian was building. We set our priorities: We needed a comfortable bed; we wanted a kitchen and bathroom area; storage (storage is the key to happiness); and room for our three dogs to travel with us.
Two months passed and some time on most every day was devoted to getting the Love Shack ready for its maiden voyage, set for Memorial Day weekend. We set out for Burlington, Vt., where we would connect with friends and see a show on Sunday night. One of the very cool things about the Love Shack is that we can park it anywhere – it’s “stealth.” Brian tinted all the windows so no one can see in, allowing us to pull into a parking space just about anywhere. With this in mind, we didn’t make a reservation for our first night out, but booked a campsite for the second two nights.
We had a blast. And more importantly, the Love Shack served us well. We were able to visit with friends, cooking and hanging outside. We did some nice hiking with the dogs, I got a few hours at North Beach in Burlington, and we saw some great music. The dogs did fine, though the double bed was a little crowded, and training them (with the help of a squirt bottle of water) not to bark at all the other four-legged campers was a slight challenge. And, most importantly, we got to just “be.” No agenda, no real schedule, no electronic interruptions, no stress. It was great.
Since that trip we have used the Love Shack on three or four more weekends and we are getting ready for three nights at the end of July and six nights at the end of August (we have a lot of tickets to shows throughout New England). Each time we go, we find something that we can “tweak” or improve upon. And, each time we go, we are a little more relaxed and tackle the little chores of small-space living with greater ease. We stayed a couple of nights at Wells State Park in Sturbridge, Mass., a few weeks ago, when we had a show in Boston on a Saturday night. We were able to make the hour drive into the city from our campsite. We found a parking spot in a shaded lot across the street from the venue and walked the dogs before and after the show. Because the shows we see are at night, and we can leave windows open for the dogs, it’s easy for them to travel with us. But, we are going to get a small space air conditioner, just in case.
For this trip, we also brought a Clam Screen House that is very simple to set up and easy to store in our shower while we travel. This allowed us to sit out late into the evening playing music without swatting mosquitos. I would highly recommend something like this if you are doing more deep-woods camping.
Love Shack travel may not be for everyone, but we are totally enjoying it. There is a fair amount of planning involved in terms of packing (clothes and food), and I think you really have to like your partner and enjoy being outside. We have electric, water, cooking and cooling options, and good music everywhere we go. There is a porta-potty for emergencies (which I try desperately to avoid), and plenty of open roads to travel on. And, there is always more music to see and hear.
Meanwhile, enjoy this travel-and-leisure-themed issue of My Generation.
– Lee Hews, Publisher
On the road again, Chad Harper keeps a paw on his friend Brian, just in case.Measure twice, cut once. There are no straight lines in the van. Brian is building the bench with great storage under the seat. We used burlap coffee bags to cover the doors. Georgia Ray is ready to ride. “Boon Dogging” (back-woods camping) in Cape Elizabeth in the Love Shack. It’s great to wake up to the sound of nature and nothing else.