WYWU Road Report: Down By The River In A Van

This article originally appeared on ProSoundWeb.

So I recently found myself, literally, down by the river in a van. I spent a few days across the Hudson from New York City for the 147th Annual AES Convention, taking the opportunity for a road trip to work out the bugs in a rolling podcast studio.

I went back and forth between AES and NAB events to sit in on a few sessions and see what the word is on podcasting with a few choice educational sessions.

This trip was also about capturing some epic face-to-face interviews with folks from all sides of the industry for the WYWU podcast, which officially launched in July at Summer NAMM 2019.

I’ve been tracking down unsuspecting experts and asking for insights into career development for moving the next generation of professionals into place. We hit the jackpot and found great interviews at both AES and NAB including Bob Clearmountain, John Storyk, Gabe Herman and almost a dozen more. All the conversations were recorded in-person and on location, so expect to hear the sounds of the venue in the background.

Along the way I dropped in on Church Sound University’s debut live training event at Heritage Fellowship in Reston, Virginia and talked with the CSU team. I also interviewed the crickets in the church parking lot at 4 am, but that’s another story.

The view of the Statue of Liberty from the campground

I’d honestly gotten tired of going to the trade shows. I’ve been going for years and it’s mostly walking around the same convention centers and having the same conversations. Now, visiting these shows in this alternative manner is giving me a fresh opportunity to use this time in a way that’s more useful and effective (at least to me). I’m onsite to interview industry experts and pick up some career advice for folks aspiring towards similar disciplines.

Now I’ll ramble about the van for a bit…

If you want to hit the New York City shows on the cheap next year, I’ll spill the beans. I was camping in New Jersey and riding the PATH trains under the Hudson River. I was the only one renting a campsite at Liberty Harbor and I never even set up a tent. I didn’t need anything except the parking space and bathrooms. The van sleeps fine and I woke up to a beautiful view of the yacht harbor each morning.

No, I’m not making this stuff up. And yes, it was a blast.

I’m also throwing my best shot at modifying this van along the way to be as utilitarian as possible with no drastic visual modifications to the interior. The patina is growing on me. The interior made the van just too amazing to pass up.

I know enough to be dangerous with a whole lot of different things. Making this van into something a bit more comfortable and user-friendly challenges most of those things. I was sure enough of my plan to drop cash and hit the road, but it’s going to take some work along the way to pull this plan off.

Since I first got into the publishing through blogging, I’m kinda going back to the beginning here. Podcasting isn’t much different than blogging, but it takes some specific tools like mics and gear for recording and editing. I’ve built a decent rig that fits in a backpack and edits in a short-body camper van. If you’re interested I’ll give you the story behind the podcasting recording and editing system I use to work from an old camper van in a future post. It’s a cheap and easy way into podcasting, so I expect this next part to be really interesting to some, and useless to others.

I make a few bucks as an Amazon affiliate, so these links help pay for more parts. I’m only linking to the components I’d personally recommend, not the junk. If you’re considering the mobile podcasting route I’ve saved you some research time. You’re welcome. Moving on…

The first round of van mods included those fancy LED battery charge indicators that, unbelievably, will drain the primary battery by themselves eventually. I’ve added a simple 12-volt auxiliary system since it was cheap enough to see if it actually works. Walmart’s largest marine battery is tucked under the seat with an isolator and trickle charger. I’ve wired in a bunch of 12-volt outlets for charging the billion stupid gadgets I use on the road. The simple auxiliary power system also runs my five-star professional-grade trucker’s oven and an electric cooler, which I left in the garage anyway.

To convert a classic van into a mobile podcasting studio/homeless shelter, I’ll be considering the changes it still needs while I’m making do which the stuff I already missed. Since I’m planning to keep this going for a while, I thought sharing the details of the journey might inspire conversations with the others in the PSW audience to share their stories of road-doggin’ it and maybe offer some advice or helpful tips.

That groovy table.

The original center table with the four fancy cup holders ties right in with rest of the interior is cool for the first three minutes inside, then I repeatedly talk myself out of flinging it out the window. The next modification is a table that serves as a podcasting desk without blocking much more door space or the kitchen. In a perfect world it ties in as an extension of the kitchen.

The kitchen.

This entire thing on the wall houses my water system and hides my survival goodies. I need to be able to get into all of it from the new desk and the front seats. I’ve already dropped an old camper sink and a pair of five-gallon jugs with a rechargeable electric pump. It all works pretty well unless you’re stuck somewhere with the front end up in the air. Then it’s there’s a puddle of crud on the other end of the sink almost immediately.

Storage.

I’m a minimalist-in-training and I already know there’s still too much stuff in here. What I noticed within days of launching this “podcasting studio in a van” challenge is what ends up on the floor. I figure that’s where everything that doesn’t have a place eventually lands. As expected, it’s been laundry, bedding, bags of trash and size 12 shoes. Well, if it’s on the floor it’s on the list for storage.

Finding a rear tire carrier will eventually give me back that half-acre of real estate under the sofa and hopefully solve a few of these storage issues.

The bed.

I’m approximately 74-inches tall and the current bed configuration is around 68-inches long, so we have a situation here too. In the fetal position it sleeps better as a sofa than a bed. But, since Geri (my wife, photographer, personal chef, best friend, soul-mate and favorite human in general) will be accompanying me in January for the NAMM Show in California, I have to make it better.

So that’s the plan: Podcasting from the road and finding some wisdom along the way while improving the utility of a fairly impractical road van. Stay tuned for the latest…

(All of the Working Your Way Up podcast episodes captured at 2019 AES, NAB, WFX and Church Sound University events are being posted here on PSW as soon as they’re produced. Sign up for the PSW Daily Newsletter on ProSoundWeb.com to keep up with new episodes as we post them. Also find us on Twitter @prosoundweb.)

Purchasing any item from my links provides us a small commission from each sale at no cost to you. If you’d like to support the show and site without purchasing podcasting gear or camper van accessories, just click here and send us a gift through PayPal. Thank you.

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