The Nashville-based coach company Hemphill Brothers has leased its custom-built fleet of luxury buses to celebrities, often for music tours, for decades now. With event cancellations forced by the pandemic, the company has pivoted to renting more buses to the general public. Yes, that means you can stay on a bus that legends like Dolly Parton, Cher, and Madonna once rode on tour.
Normally, the company’s 115 buses are sold out, leaving no inventory to market to the public, brothers Trent and Joey Hemphill tell House Beautiful. But now that they have more availability, they took the opportunity to let families, business professionals, and anyone else who wants to see the country—or simply get across it without flying, staying in a hotel, or eating out—rent the buses.
“It’s kind of like a cruise ship on wheels—you can fall asleep in one town and wake up in the next,” Trent says. That’s typically what their celeb clients do while on tour, but the way you travel is truly up to you. The company can help make custom itineraries for the renter. People have taken anywhere from one-week to 37-day trips. Whether you want to travel at night, during the day, or stay at a campground for most of your trip, it’s your choice.
Better yet, the company comes to you. You don’t have to live near or travel to Nashville to begin your journey. “We can pick you up at your home, and then take you where you want to be,” Trent says.
Each of the buses comes with a driver or two, depending on your plans, so you can relax for the entire trip. These drivers are the same ones who operate the vehicles when celebrities lease them out, and so are highly experienced. The company can make plans for them to stay in hotels throughout your trip. It can also have them tested for COVID-19 before the trip and required to wear gloves and a mask during it. “There’s a door that closes off the driver that’s almost like a cockpit in an airplane,” Trent says. “You can really do this safely and see the whole United States.”
The buses themselves were originally bought as empty, incomplete vehicles, or what the Hemphill Brothers call “shells.” As Joey says, “We build them out and outfit them with all of the luxuries, so they basically become rolling homes.”
There are two types of buses: the crew bus and the star bus. The crew bus accommodates up to 12 people. It has bunks in the middle, rear and front lounges, and a small galley. The star bus can accommodate up to six people. It has bunks, a queen-size bed, a large bath with a shower, a half bath at the front, and a front lounge with more cooking capacity. Every bus comes with high-end furniture, electronics, and appliances. Some of the amenities include a convection oven, fridge, freezer, granite/quartz countertops, coffeemaker, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and a gaming system. Almost everything—doors, windows, shades—can be controlled with a tablet, and every bus has a strict cleaning regimen.
Pricing depends on the trip you plan to take. If you’re going to burn a lot of fuel and need two drivers, that will cost more than if you decide to stay at a park and camp on the bus for a few days. You can expect to pay from $1,200 to a couple grand per day. If you want, the company can add a car hauler to the back of the bus. That way, you can set up camp in the bus and take your car out for day trips. “We would say the more the merrier, not only for the fun of it but also for the expense,” Trent adds.
The brothers suggest taking this opportunity for everything from family bonding time to golf trips. “We may have some availability next year,” Trent says, “but what will happen sooner or later is we’ll go back to 90 percent sold-out, and then what we’ll be able to offer the general public will be limited.”
While the company has had some openings in the past, this is the first time they’ve experienced such broad availability. If you’re able to—whether you want to remotely work on it or take a safe mini vacay—rent a bus now while you still can!
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