December 15, 2011
I go through phases. Some last longer than others, but all benders are intense. As a rug rat I played with Legos 24/7 and drooled over the latest offerings in the Lego catalog. From there, I graduated into archery. I lost hundreds of arrows in the woods behind my house. As a teenager, all I wanted to do was snowboard. At 16, I rode over 100 days on Mt. Hood. Most recently, I have been on a van binge (most of you probably know this already). I often slam on the breaks while cruising down the road and double back to take a second look at a van or camper parked on the shoulder. When the waves are flat, I default to exploring the area I am in for vans parked in their natural habitat.
My interest in them isn’t a material fetish. They cost less than a new Honda and sure aren’t glamorous. It’s more philosophical. I am drawn to their embodiment of attainable adventure and self reliance. They have helped people travel to beautiful places for generations and served as base camps for countless activities. I gravitate towards this history and people continuing the same spirit today.
Visually, each van picks up dents, customizations and other anomalies on the road. No two are a like. They weren’t designed to be works of art, but have developed into them. Call it industrial beauty.
A very rare BMW powered Vixen in Big Sur. These things have Turbo Diesels and get 30 MPG’s. Some things were only schemed up in the 80’s.
Down by the tracks is way more gnarly than down by the river. Bingen, Washington.
A VW T3 Syncro Dako in Hood River, Oregon. Some day…
A limo-sized van in Santa Barbara, California.
There are more VW vans in Arcata, California than pot heads. Well maybe not, but its a close one.
A short bus camper just south of Santa Cruz.
A purple color-changing paint job on a dually camper in Portland, Oregon. Not for the weak of heart.
This isn’t uncharted territory. People have been into their vans for considerably longer than I have been around. All sorts of folks have spent time in vans and have photos of their experiences. To share these photos and my shots, I have been working recently on a new photo project called #vanlife. Check out the site and use the #vanlife tag on Instagram and Twitter. Bear with me, I think something good will come of this binge. It might even inspire someone to take a road trip.
Here are some more links,
December 13, 2011
The Impossible Project X Urban Outfitters X Yours Truly
A few months ago, Urban Outfitters and The Impossible Project got in touch with me about being part of a show in their NYC Space. As a child of the digital generation, especially with regards to photography, I have grown accustom to bracketing shots and filling up a few 16 gig flash cards on an outing. I’m a firm believer in doing new things outside of one’s habits, so I took them up on their offer. Equipped with a few hundred exposures of their 600 film and a few cameras, I documented two months on the road. Shooting with film forced me to slow down and consider each shot more. I really enjoyed it. Here are a handful of the shots I picked for the show.
Morning sesh in Malibu, CA.
OG Landcruiser, Eastern Columbia River Gorge, WA.
Rear view mirror.
Snow in Underwood, WA.
The Kern River, CA.
Tim reading in the back of the Syncro.
Shotgun in L.A.
The Klickitat River, Washington.
Wetsuits hanging to dry in Ventura, CA.
A toilet cleaner, as John calls it, in L.A.
The show will be at The Impossible Project Space, 425 Broadway 5th Floor New York New York 10013, from December 15 to January 11, with an opening reception this Thursday. I won’t be making the schlep back to New York for it, but if you’re in the area, stop by and have a look. I’m really pumped to be a part of it.
Here are some more links,
Impossible Project X Urban Outfitters,
A Restless Transplant (Facebook).
December 8, 2011
The alarm on my watch woke me from a deep sleep as the first rays of light lit up the eastern sky. At dark thirty places can look similar and for a few moments I peered through the windows of my van, trying to remember where I had parked the night before. The Large redwoods tipped it off. A 35-dollar-per-night campground in Big Sur, or so they charge if you check in and out during normal business hours.
Five more minutes? No I shouldn’t push it.
Leaving the comfort of my sleeping bag, I crawled to the front seat and fired up the Syncro’s 2.0L Audi engine. I motored out of the spot and followed arrows pinned to trees towards the exit in first gear. For what seemed like an eternity, the path wrapped around redwoods exposing RV’s and groups’ tents before ending at an unattended gate. “35 dollars the richer, ” I grinned to myself as I shifted into second. In 10 minutes, I emerged from the fog laden valley and pulled off Highway 1 at an appealing pull off with the false notion of falling back asleep for an hour or so.
Instead of crawling back into the fold-out bed, I sat in the driver’s seat and looked towards the east. The light increased and every few minutes. I turned my head and inspected the shadows retreating down the nearby hills. The occasional pickup sped by on its way to who-knows-where, rocking the van briefly. Time check: 7:03. I erected my two burner Coleman stove and opened a pack of bacon. In ten minutes or so the sun will begin to warm up the beach. Bacon or beach, decisions. Deliberation. Reaching for the bacon, I put it back in the cooler. “That can wait, sunrise cant.” Throwing on my Nike Free’s, I hopped the fence and headed towards the beach.
Last light at Andrew Molera State Park.
As a taxpayer and owner of multiple state parks passes, I take offense at paying shitty motel rates to park my van for a night. Ten dollars perhaps, but $35 is out of the question.
Jay Carroll. Splash.
Capturing the capturer.
I walked through waist high grass before reaching a well used trail. Snaking through a grove of eucalyptus trees, it ran a mile or so along a stream before ending up at small lagoon and sand bar. The sun lit up the top of the largest trees. I took this as a cue, and started jogging. I can make it there by sunrise. The sun was now on the hills some hundred feet away. Time to run. Breaking out onto the lagoon, I was just in time. Finding a seat on a rock I sat for twenty minutes. Shivers and the promise of bacon and eggs cooked on a cast iron pan finally lodged me from my perch. This time I walked.
People talk about Big Sur like it’s the first Star Wars, it changes their lives and is a constant reference point. Mention the place to anyone on the West Coast, and their eyes light up with a story, After exploring the area on a few trips, I now know why it lights up people’s eyes when discussed. It’s gorgeous and relatively accessible at two and half hours from San Francisco and six hours from LA. As drives go, it can’t be beat. Highway 1 wraps around countless points and hundred-foot plunges into the ocean, conjuring plenty of “what if” thoughts. As for the Coastline, take a look at the photos in this post. If you ever have the chance go to Big Sur, do it. Just don’t sneak in and out of campgrounds, or at least you didn’t hear it from me.
Here are some more links,
December 6, 2011
Getting ready to hit the road always takes longer than planned. Packing up, making last minute tweaks to the van, and saying the good bye put me half a day behind. Due to the short days, I decided to leave the next morning instead of driving 400 miles in the dark. Waking up before dawn, I scraped the frost off the windshield of the Syncro with a CD case, took a swig of orange juice from the fridge and motored out of my mom’s driveway. Taking the 11 hour option over the nine and half direct shot on I-5, I headed south on the east side of the Cascades through central Oregon and Northern California before crossing over through the Trinity Alps to the Humboldt Coast. When in doubt, take the prettier route.
A month in the Northwest working on the manuscript for the Burning House book and enjoying Thanksgiving had made me stir crazy. In addition to the angst that goes along with staying in any place for too long, I missed California’s warmer waters and longed to surf sans booties and gloves. On December 1st, I left Underwood, Washington and headed south towards Arcata, California on the northern Humboldt coast. These photos are in chronological order, from a solid 11 hour day of driving.
Sunrise on Mt. Hood.
Blocked on Highway 26 heading down from Mt. Hood into central Oregon.
An abandoned house outside of Madras Oregon. Everything was frosty.
I’m always on the lookout for vans for #Vanlife, I spotted this one in Madras. Scooby Doo.
“Welcome to California, any fruit or vegetables?”
Mt. Shasta from the north.
The sun set around 4:50 as I wound along Route 3 through the Trinity Alps. True to its name, the area feels worlds away from California. Snaking through a small valley, the two lane road made the Pacific Coastal Highway look straight. Stopping to take a piss at a turnout, the last rays of sun bounced around the small valley. “Just two more hours,” I grinned to myself. Hopping back into Syncro in shorts and barefoot, I didn’t need to crank the heater. Change is good.
Here are some more links,
Southbound Again (Picasa),
South Bound Again (Dire Straits).