LOUDONVILLE Tiny house dwellers have nothing on Bert MacQueen.
The village resident is living in his car – by choice.
Until recently MacQueen owned Beacon Habilitation Center. But that was another life.
The Loudonville businessman is ready for a new adventure. So he sold his company to embark on a less traditional career as owner of a website touting his travel escapades in a Toyota Prius.
With his dog, Reese, MacQueen is “hitting the road to see America.”
He’ll join about a million other people in the U.S. who have ditched their homes to opt for life on the road in an RV. It’s called nomading. And MacQueen is geared up for his new lifestyle.
“I have owned and truly loved my hybrid Prius for 10 years, and have learned that many Prius owners enjoy using these cars for both camping and travel,” he said. “I’ve developed a system to convert the back end of my Prius into a one-person camper, and use the Prius’ unique characteristics as a way to travel America for very little cost.”
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MacQueen said his objective is to demonstrate how the Prius can be utilized and to show how to use the space to “comfortably sleep a person up to 6-feet tall.”
He said the car’s hybrid-electric generation components can produce enough power for a person to live.
MacQueen plans to make videos in national parks that showcase the history of each stop and what makes the location unique.
Prius camping website highlights unique experience
The website – PriusCamping.com – will feature videos on how to convert a Prius into a functional year-round camper, MacQueen said, as well as describe what products are best for usage and storage. It will also showcase how to deal with situations like security, food prep, gathering and sterilizing water, setting up an entertainment system, interior and exterior lighting, soundproofing, modifications, and using solar energy to power appliances, as well as other traveling options.
“This has been a growing movement for the last few years. In fact, just a few weeks ago a movie called ‘Nomadland’ won an Oscar. The movie was about living in your car and traveling.”
A camper of the month will be highlighted on MacQueen’s website, which also will offer maps showing where Prius-friendly facilities are located, product reviews of camping equipment and accessories, information on storing food, security tips and best practices, and descriptions of different adventures Prius campers can experience.
The website will be funded through product sales featured on the site and other social media venues. A YouTube channel will feature MacQueen’s videos and explain how to build and prepare a Prius for camping.
Seeing America in a budget-friendly Prius
Prius camping has been a growing avocation for several years as owners have realized it serves as a great way to travel light.
Parking a lone car in a campground, or a parking lot, is much cheaper than parking a traditional camper, or renting a motel room or Airbnb.
According to the travel website BluePlanet.com, “being able to comfortably sleep anywhere you can safely park is an incredibly liberating way to travel. … With ‘Motel Prius,’ you can literally choose where and when to call it a night.”
That translates, Blue Planet estimates, to saving between $135-$450 on a three-day trip.
MacQueen, who founded the Beacon Habilitation Center in 2010, announced recently that he had sold the business to REM Ohio, an Akron-based provider of special services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
REM Ohio owns four group homes in Loudonville
REM Ohio is the owner of four group homes in Loudonville that care for people with intellectual disabilities.
“When we founded Beacon, it was designed to serve persons housed at Jac-Lin Manor, a facility owned by my family,” MacQueen said. “However, a change in state regulations regarding the number of persons who could be housed in one facility forced us to sell the 32 registered beds for this service to REM Ohio, which has built four group homes housing six persons each in Loudonville, effectively replacing the beds formerly at Jac-Lin.
“We continued to run Beacon for the next three years,” MacQueen said.
Prior to 2010, Jac-Lin bused residents to the Adult Day Workshop (Dale-Roy School) operated by the Ashland County Board of Developmental Disabilities. After studying that process, MacQueen created Beacon to offer services provided at the workshop locally.
“For the first year, we set up a temporary workshop in the Loudonville Lions Club building, and since then have leased a portion of the Amish Oak Furniture Warehouse on North Market Street,” MacQueen said. “We moved into the current facility in October of 2011. REM Ohio purchased the Jac-Lin beds three years ago.”
MacQueen said five workers plus himself will be impacted by the change in ownership.
Information online describes REM Ohio as a partner of The Mentor Network, a national network of local human service providers. Eastern Ohio headquarters are in Akron.
The Mentor Network, the website states, provides services in more than 30 states.