Three years ago, on my husband’s 52nd birthday, we drove down to Canton Massachusetts, and bought a 15-passenger van with a high top and long body that had been used as a school bus. It took Brian about two days to pull out the seats and all of the “school bus” accoutrements and another two months to fully convert the van into something we could live in while traveling around to see live music. We’d realized that in order to see a lot of music and attend summer music festivals, we had to find a way to do it less expensively than staying in motels and eating at restaurants. One bad night, sleeping in the bed of a truck, enlightened us to believe that there must be a better way.That was our motivation and the inspiration behind the Love Shack, our newly converted, rock ‘n’ roll, adventure-seeking, traveling van.
The first summer we had the van we stayed in New England and our longest trip was about five nights. It was on one of those starry, starry nights, that we planned our month-long Love Shack tour for the following June of 2015. The plan started on the back of an envelope. We outlined the areas we wanted to be in and the shows we wanted to see. As the fall turned into winter, we got more serious and bought an actual map, calculated miles and bought show tickets. Our 33-day journey began at the Mountain Jam Festival in Hunter Mountain, New York, and took us to Tennessee for the Bonnarroo Music Festival, down through New Orleans and up through Austin and over to Santa Fe. It ended with two nights at the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver. We drove back to Maine in four days – having touched on at least 26 states—and landed in our driveway about 12 hours before we had to be back to work.
Those 33 days on the road in the Love Shack did not cure our wanderlust, it only served to rev it up. Last summer, we started the season at the same Mountain Jam festival in June and had about two trips each month through October. And, here we are again, springtime in Maine, and as the last of the snow is melting, we are once again getting the van ready for a summer of music and as much time on the road as we can get.
The first thing we did was to buy our Mountain Jam passes and secure our camping spot in the limited “mountain top” camping area. Tickets went on sale in January and I’m pretty sure I bought them the first day. We also secured tickets to a Zac Brown show at Meadowbrook in New Hampshire and got our second favorite campsite at Gunstock Mountain for Memorial Day weekend. We’ll be back at Gunstock and Meadowbrook a few times this season, I’m sure. This year we are trying a new music festival, the Levitate Festival down in southern Massachusetts and we’ll stay at state park nearby. We’ve got a trip in the Love Shack planned about every two weeks, beginning May 6 and winding down in late September, at a festival in Burlington Vermont.
The novelty and excitement of getting in a van and just going has not worn off. Neither Brian nor I expected how much we’d enjoy it. It’s not just seeing a ton of music in an affordable fashion—while that’s great—we love just being outside, unplugged and disconnected, even if it’s just for one or two nights. We enjoy hiking and hanging by the campfire, seeing new and beautiful parts of the country and, of course, meeting lots of new and very interesting people along the way. We now have a few “festival” friends that we look forward to seeing again this year.
There isn’t much we need to do to the van to get it ready. We did buy a new mattress for the custom futon that we have; we’ve added a hammock to our accessories, along with a new French press coffee pot and a couple of other small items. Brian has been busy wiring new lights on his motorcycle shelf on the back of the van—we travel with a motorcycle on the back and at least two, sometimes four, dogs in the front. Life in the Love Shack is pretty simple, but very comfortable.
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Lee Hews, Publisher