Truck Stop Showers & Walmart Bathrooms — Vans Warped Tour
Since the age of eleven, I, without fail, came home from my date of the Vans Warped Tour every summer with sweat-soaked hair, freckled cheeks, smeared mascara, burnt-to-a-crisp shoulders, dirt covered ankles, ringing ears, and lightly bruised legs. I would beeline it straight to my shower to scrub off the full day of photo-pit hopping and circle pit stints, but most of the time it would take about two showers and a soak in an epsom salt filled-bath to actually bring my body back to life. When I got hired for the tour I wondered how I would survive living that gruesome, disgusting (but fun, of course) day every day for eight weeks, without the comfort of a nice shower or bathtub waiting for me at the end of the day.
For those who have never attended Warped Tour, you spend the entire day (10am to 7pm-ish) watching bands under the blazing sun with little to no relief or shade, on pavement, sweating profusely next to 18,000 other just as sweaty humans. The viral tweet about the post-Warped Tour shower, that I also blissfully describe above, is no joke.
While I was definitely the sweatiest I have ever been in my entire life, the experience definitely wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Here are a few of my health, beauty, and hygiene-related tales from the road:
I will never talk badly about Walmart ever again.
After brushing my teeth and getting ready in Walmart bathrooms all across America for eight weeks, I don't think I can ever say something bad about the store ever again and I will admit I've talked some serious smack about the establishment over the years... My bad.
Grandma's shopping with their grandchildren early in the morning, stopping in to use the restroom found me standing there in my pajamas with frizzy, slept-on french braids and a mouth full of minty foam, spitting into the communal sink and scrubbing my retainer.
I avoided porta potties at all costs.
If you didn't read my previous blog you need to know that we didn't have a working bathroom on our bus. I made it my mission, every single morning, to find a bathroom on-site at the venue that wasn't a porta potty. I pretty much always found one, even if there were only porta-potties advertised/available to the workers and attendees. Usually there was one near catering or the production offices, but when there wasn't I still found one. Finding it usually entailed asking around to a few security guards who would end up pointing me in the direction to one that was alllllllllll the way on the other side of a venue, private/in a secret office, across a highway, etc. At Holmdel, my hometown show, I had to use a porta-potty in the parking lot at 2am because the venue closed and we couldn't get back in. That was super rough since that porta-potty had been out :) cooking :) in :) the :) sun :) all :) day :) and :) was :) very :) full :) I'll stop there because I think you can visualize the grotesque-ness of that situation enough on your own. But, overall, I barely had to use porta-potties. Big relief. And, because I'm a nice person, I would drop a pin to our tour group chat with the location of the best/nicest bathrooms/showers :)
I got left at a dilapidated Gas Station in the middle of Texas.
Since we had no bathroom on our bus, it was important to take the opportunity to use the bathroom whenever we stopped for food or gas. We had been driving through the night and when I woke up at 7am I looked out my bunk window and saw we were stopped at a gas station. I hopped out of my bunk to run in to use the bathroom but I couldn't find our driver to tell him I had left the bus (he was either getting gas or also using the bathroom) so I shot him a precautionary text message that said, "I'm running in to use the bathroom - don't leave without me!" I went into the market part of the gas station which had barbed wired, metal bars on the windows, and dust heavily coating the floor tiles... kinda crusty. Moments later, I exited the gas station only to see my bus pulling out of the parking lot... leaving without me!!!!! My precautionary text had not been seen. I frantically called my bus driver who answered (thank GOD) and he said, "Please don't tell me you got off the RV and went into the gas station... Ok hold on, I'll turn around." So there I stood, in my pajamas (which consisted of an oversized Led Zeppelin t-shirt, no bra), Old Navy flip flops, glasses, pretty severe bed head, blanket marks on my face, and my clunky retainer in my mouth (CUTE.) While I waited for my bus to come back for me, I looked around at the corners of the gas station parking lot, watching tumbleweeds roll by and a man wearing cowboy boots pacing back and forth next to his truck. No. JOKE. My bus driver called me and said he wasn't going to be able to turn around for many miles and that it was a one way road, so I would have to walk to the bus. So... I walked down the side of the highway, at 7am in the middle-of-nowhere Texas, in my pajamas, to the bus. Luckily he hadn't gotten too far but wow, imagine if i didn't have my phone with me? I would've been left at the gas station for god knows how long until the rest of my bus had woken up and realized I was missing. Yikes. So, big tour, and maybe even life, tip: MAKE IT VERY KNOWN WHEN YOU LEAVE THE BUS / ALWAYS BRING YOUR PHONE WITH YOU. And maybe take your retainer out and put a bra on or something.
I showered in the San Antonio Spurs locker room.
When I got word that I was officially working on the 2018 Vans Warped Tour I reached out to Sam Metz for some tips and advice. She was incredibly helpful and told me the most amazing thing in the entire world: I would have access to a shower every day. When I had interviewed bands or talked to friends who were on Warped Tour before, they would always tell me that they "hadn't showered in days" and that they used baby wipes to freshen up daily, so I just assumed from the information I had gathered over the years that I wouldn't have many opportunities to shower while on the tour... Not the case. There was always a shower available to any of the staff on the Vans Warped Tour. Sometimes it was two rusty shower stalls with no doors in a backstage green room, a communal shower room, private showers with their own toilets and vanities, or an off-site shower that you had to hop on a shuttle bus to get to it. Sometimes they were great, sometimes they were bad, sometimes the lines were so long and they ran out of hot water. But no matter what, a shower was available. When the tour was in San Antonio we were allowed to use the San Antonio Spurs locker rooms and showers. I found these to be the nicest showers on the whole tour because they were big, private, and there were multiple rooms so there was never too long of line. I even got to blow dry my hair (!!) and not rush (!!)
I also experienced TRUCK STOP SHOWERS while on the road. You're probably thinking, "Oh god NO. Please do not tell us that you actually took a SHOWER at a truck stop, Jess!" But I DID. A few times, actually! And it was great! I wore shower flip flops, relax. At truck stops like Pilot, Flying J, and TA you pay $12 to get your own bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink, vanity, towels, soap, etc. for an hour. And obviously you can bring in your own towels/toiletries. It's basically like a hotel room bathroom. Sometimes we had to use these on days when we didn't have enough time to wait for the venue showers, or we had a few days off in between show dates. 10/10 would recommend using a truck stop shower if you ever need to, very clean and not gross.
Shout out to Amanda + Jason, Emily Norton, and Victoria Piering.
To the people who let me crash at their air conditioned apartments and take over their bathrooms for luxurious showers: thank you. While in Arizona, the Cool Suppliers crew got to stay with Amanda and Jason in Tempe. Our off day was spent at their pool (which was delightful) and we all got to sleep and shower at their apartment. While in Nashville, I got to stay with my cousin Emily at her apartment and she was kind enough to let me sleep in her CLOUD of a bed, which was heavenly after sleeping in a bunk for weeks. She even squeezed in time to show me around Music Row/Broadway AND take me to the grocery store for some provisions to take back to the bus. She's the BEST. I got to experience my TWO favorite things in one day, Warped Tour + Disney, with Victoria. She came to Warped Tour for the day and then we went to Disney Springs to have Blaze Pizza for dinner (delish.) She even french braided my hair at 1am before I took an Uber back to the tour busses at the venue. All of you know the length my hair was while on tour... braids are not an easy task. All of you made my life easier, a lot more comfortable, and less gross, so thank you!
"How do you feel? / What's your condition? You are alive but are you living?" - The Maine ("How Do You Feel?")
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