Old Vans and New Plans

Friends near and far, thanks so much for your healing wishes. Easing back into the shop next week for some cleaning and cutting. A local music buddy asked if there was anything heavy I needed moved… “Time.” Rewind me six months and stand back. But the leg’s feeling better, I’m getting around better, and whether it’s 100% again or not I’ll be fine. But I have a lot of people in line for my best work and I’m the one tool that can’t go down… so it’s a balance. Stay tuned for bass progress shots next week! I’m very excited to get back to the benches, watching these instruments come together in front of me.

This week let’s talk shop schedule, trip, and truck.

For 2019 there will definitely be another break mid-year – exactly when and how long, my body will let me know and I’ll pass it along right here. And the Christmas / New Years break will begin December 1st. Looking at the build order sheets on the clipboards, I’m just about booked for 2019. BUT I’m working in some inventory builds with every batch, so watch this news page, the builds page, and the inventory page to see what surprises we’ll be cooking up. I wish I could make everyone super happy really quickly, but there’s no way – I can only offer the super happy. Time… time has its own rhythm and it’s only mine to push and bend and be as efficient with as I can, but I ultimately flow at its pace. It sent me a warning shot to remind me of this, and I’m grateful to it – for it – and for your patience with the process.

The trip… let’s back up a bit. I might be Scott the Birdsong guy now, but I once was VanDweller… I self published some crudely crafted, less than perfectly edited books about living in vehicles back in the late ‘90s. Over the years let’s just say I’ve spent a fair amount of time in vans. They’ve carried me to and through chapters, and there have been a fair number of chapters. So deep inside me is still a well of wanderlust that never goes away, just gets emptied for a time. You can take a roadman off the road, but you never get the road out of the man. It goes deep. I was in with a few early online groups of school bus converters and housetruckers and those of the tribe. I was into vans. I’m van sized and my life was van sized. So now and again, given the chance, I still like to put it out on the highway. Most folks have hobbies or head out to the woods or something to recharge, but I live those as my life – that became my world, what I do and where I do it. Who I am. So I’d go start up the old Econoline van, “Highway Song” and drive for a couple of weeks. Stop in and see folks. Maybe catch a beach. But really just spend time on wheels out wandering on the road. A little van you live out of; something bigger, you live IN…

This past break I knew I had bought myself a little time, built myself a great rig OVER time, and was also kind of facing an unknown as to the leg and what my new normal was going to be – or allow me to do in times coming. So what would any slightly crusty Captain with the sea in his soul do? Right. Exactly. Highway Song sat this one out. Maiden voyage for the good ship Moondancer was 2600 miles, we went over to south Florida and back. Not as long a journey as I wanted, but perhaps those will come. I had a great time – hand delivering basses to clients, visiting dear friends, spending Christmas with the last of the old Sicilians. They don’t see themselves that way, and I see them as I have known them my whole life; but time moves on and tide rolls in to reshape the shore. One day you look down and the generations, those rows of others standing between you and that great mystery… well, you look down and those feet at the shoreline are yours. And time becomes very precious. And good times - and good food, and good wine, with good people - they taste like ceremony. And a time and ceremony was had! My family is a hoot. It was good to see them.

My ceremony is the road itself. Hang time. “In-between” as the rubber-tire hobos call it. “I’m in-between right now.” In between situations, home bases, etc. More settled in this chapter’s context, I see it as in-between what happened yesterday and whatever is to come tomorrow. That time thing again. I see it as time. And being out there, riding the interstates at night with the trucks, flashing lights to let them know they’re safely past you and they again have the right lane if they want it, and they pull in and flash you back… listening to jazz or some long Grateful Dead jam or Tonight’s The Night, basking in the soft glow of the dashboard, static from the CB radio down low, just part of the soundtrack. The machinery in motion. Yellow post-it on the metal dash with the next few potential stopping points from the dog-eared pocket guide to truck stops and rest areas, with your own notes in the margins and favorite spots along the way. East, west, it doesn’t matter. No clock, not sure what day it is, forget what date… knowing you can go anywhere, self contained for a week at a time in a rolling womb with a view. Alive and in the moment. Life as ceremony. Rest areas, parking lots, truck stops. On the side. I go to pull myself out of context and just BE. Me, the road, and my machine.

And what a machine, this Moondancer. 10 years ago I knew I would need another housetruck. If you want to see the wild origins of that (as opposed to just having an RV or camper), check out the Jane Lidz book “Rolling Homes” and also look up Gypsy wagons. I prefer box trucks and step vans a bit milder on the outside, and so this clean, low-mileage ex-Coca Cola 1982 Chevrolet P20 was found and rumbled home. For you car folk it has a 350, turbo 400 trans, 3.73 gears. A P20 was deliberately sought out for this build because of its size, it’s a Chevy so parts & folks to fix it are everywhere, and it’s a fleet-designed truck so it’s easy to work on and TOUGH. A step van has tons of room, square and straight walls, and this one is aluminum. With help it was half-ass converted, took a couple of epic road trips in 2009, then Birdsong got REALLY busy… and the transmission went out. So it was parked for a future chapter and I just vanned shorter journeys. Over the last couple of years it was resurrected, rebuilt, and I remodeled it inside. Building a camper conversion is a lot of fun, and this thing is WAY stronger than a motorhome… and simpler, and much wilder inside. It’s an adventure mobile! It’s slow but sturdy and I absolutely had the time of my road life in it, surrounded by blue and black, cedar and aluminum and etched mirror, with pieces of my old builds built in and talismans everywhere and every dawn’s new light shining through the stained glass porthole by the galley. Hey, if you’re going to be fringe – be fringe with style.

It was redone and renamed from its earlier version, and while it slept I crossed over into a different chapter of life. So this was the first trip as we are now, and it did great on its new maiden voyage. Any ship returns to port with a list of things to check and reconfigure and patch up, and that’ll happen. Sometimes same goes for the Captain. But let me tell you… VanDweller would be very proud. What of him is left inside of me is very happy. And he will keep himself busy now with writing while the rest of me gets back to being the music man for a bit longer.

Next weekwood! A gift, Spanish cedar, words on paper, and working pics. For now from the nest, we – and Moondancer – salute you and thank you and wish you well.

Listening to: Lots of Grateful Dead “Just the jams” montages on YouTube.