December 22, 2012

BC or Bust Part 1

Keeping my eyes on the empty 101,  I retrieved my iPhone from my camera bag and tapped the top button, illuminating the screen.  10:13.

“How are you guys doing?” I asked Jeremy Koreski and Trevor Gordon.  “I’m pretty spent.”

Waking from a doze,  Trevor spoke over the syncro’s highway noise, “How far are we from Crescent City?”

“Hhmm,  maybe four hours?  We just passed Garbville,  the pot capital of the world, and we’re still a few hours from the coast.”

“Yah, lets call it,” Jeremy agreed.

“Cool, I’ll look for a place.  We are in National Forrest now, gods country.”  I turned down the heater, in attempt to keep me from nodding off at the wheel.

A few miles a head,  I spotted a gravel road heading off the highway on the right.  Down shifting, I breaked and prepared to take the gravel road at speed.

“Shit..Is everything okay?” Startled, Jeremy moaned from the backseat.

“Don’t worry,  this is not my first rodeo,” I laughed as we bounced up the steep grade, coasting down from 60 to 35mph.

“You sure this is Kosher?  What kind of road is this?”

“Ehh it looks like a logging road.  It’s in really good condition,” I surmised looking at the well worn tire tracks. For a mile or two, we rumbled up the steep grade in second.  Along the way, we passed a few drive ways with gates and “No trespassing” signs.  This raised some redflags, but I kept my mouth shut.  In northern California,  these signs, when coupled with large gates on dead end access roads, often indicated a thriving local economy.  Marijuana cultivation.  They proprietors are notoriously paranoid and often chase people away from their property with friendly serving of rocksalt courteous a 12 gage shotgun.   I wanted none of this but after a full day of surfing Ocean Beach in San Francisco, I could have fallen asleep at an Insane Clown Possie concert.

Spotting a large shoulder out on the right, I pulled over.

“This should be good,” I told Trevor and Jeremy as well as myself.  Rocking between first and reverse, I found a level spot and turned off the van.

Crawling over camer bags,  surfboards and food for three for a week, I cleared space for three on the folding bed.

“It’s going to be real cozzie tonight,”  Jeremy laughed.

“Sure is, either that or one of us sets up a tent, and it sure as fuck wont be me.”

No one volunteered and within a few moments, the three of us were laying down.  Pillow talk was scarce and in a few minutes all over us were snoring.

Trevor on the six string early one morning.

Equipped to rip!

Trevor and Joe Curren checking waves on the Northern California Coast.


Joe searching for steelhead in Oregon.

Coffee stand.

Kanoa Zimmerman removing a stick from his truck at Ocean Beach.

Laying it out plain and simple.

Howling off shore somewhere on the southern Oregon Coast.

Unmuffled engine breaking started down the logging road before sunrise.  Rapping a fleece around my head like bandana, I prolonged the inevitable  separation from my sleeping bag.

“Rise and shine, its buttwhipping time!”  I announced to Trevor and Jeremy.

 Grumbling, we emerged from our sleeping bags and set t he van up for transport.  Firing up engine, we headed down the gravel road towards the 101.

“We’ll be in Arcata by lunch.”

Here are some links,

BC or Bust (Cleanest Line).

December 12, 2012

A Fellow Van Dweller

The sun sagged in the west as I rounded a bend near Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. Up ahead, a handful of rented RV’s and cars filled to the brim with backpacks and climbing gear dotted a large parking lot.  At 9,000 feet,  the Syncro’s engine labored at 5,000 RPM’s in second gear.  Fifteen miles of this climb up from the Valley had warmed the oil up.  Shifting into neutral,  I coasted into the lot and pulled into a parking space.   A lone Vanagon with a hand-painted mural stood a few hundred feet away.

Grabbing a down jacket,  I locked up the Syncro and checked out the Vanagon.  It was an early 80’s aircooled hard top that, based on the bike, curtains and artwork, was most likely someone’s home. Scanning the parking lot, I saw no likely candidates.

I turned on some Pink Floyd on my iPhone and shoved it into my breast pocket,  as I often do when alone. Marching to the tunes of Wish You Were Here, I followed the setting sun’s rays up the hill.  Following no defined path,  I saw a group of Teva wearing, DSLR brandishing hikers heading down the hill.

“Certainly not van dwellers…RV’ers for sure..” I mumbled to myself and continued up the hill.  My sea legs, and lungs, were burning by the time I finally made it to the top.  Scanning around the 360 degree view, the last rays of light bounced off the granite.  Picking a ledge, I sat down and turned up the volume on my phone.

The sun lowered over the sheer granite faces.  Zoning out,  the Pink Floyd songs meshed together.  Slowly, I realized that I wasn’t the only one on top of the mountain listening to my playlist.  Sometimes you can sense it.  Turning around, I saw a man in his late forties sitting a hundred feet behind me watching the sunset.  He sat calmly and without  the anxiousness of a most tourists on a weekend trip.  He had been traveling for a while and was very familiar with spending time by himself.   He didn’t fidget or fire away blindly with a digital camera.  Instead, he sat with watching the sunset over Yosemite Valley as if he does this every evening.

“He must be the van dweller…” I thought to myself.

For a moment, I felt like breaching the silence and starting a conversation.  For a song or two, I debated in my head.  A certain type of person is drawn to traveling by themselves and that type of person, although often lonely, values solitude.

I kept to myself.

Back in the parking lot, I fired up the Syncro and blasted on the heat.  The late October evening was chilly, and according to a Park Ranger,  Tioga Pass would soon be closed for the season. Backing out of the space,  I rolled down the parking lot towards the exit.   The lone man from the  hill was just getting back to his yellow Vanagon.  Rolling past, I waved in approval and respect.

He nodded in return with a smile.

Here are some more links,

Vanlife (Tumblr).

December 5, 2012

The Burning House Book

I started the Burning House project in late April of 2011.  At the time,  I was living and working in New York City.  The idea quickly grew from a day dream on a subway ride home from a party to a tumblr site a few weeks later.  The blog grew quickly and a month later,  I signed a contract with !t Books to turn the idea into a book and an online series with Anthropologie.  In August of 2011, I took this money,  I bought a van, put in my notice in at Polo and left New York to work on the project from the road.

As much as being something nice to look at, my hope for the Burning House Project, and the book in particular, is to prompt a discussion on materialism.  For the next four months,  I traversed the western US looking for people that wouldn’t normally see the Tumblr.  I talked to a hermit in southern Colorado, a retired postal worker on the central coast of California and a weed trimmer in Humboldt County.  Heading out on the road and meeting people to photograph let me focus on expanding the point of view represented in the book as well as get back to surfing and camping. With a whirlwind finish that included five days straight at a coffee shop in Hood River Oregon,  I turned in the manuscript on time in the middle of November.

The book came out on July 10th, or a 14 months to the day after the tumblr launched.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work on this project and am thrilled with people’s response. The Burning House is available at a brick and mortar stores like Boarders, Urban Outfitters and Powells books in portland and online on Amazon.  Thank you for all of your support.

Here are some more links,

The Burning House (ART).
The Burning House (tumblr),
The Burning house (Amazon).

November 21, 2012

Local Wild Life

A few dozen flies buzzed around the tent early one afternoon in Kamchatka, Russia.  The potential annoyance of one landing on my face kept me from dozing off.   Reaching for a fleece,  I covered my head and rolled over.  The tide wouldn’t switch for another three hours and I was dead set on following my breakfast coma down the rabbit hole.  Shoving my face into my makeshift pillow, I laid still.

For a few minutes,  my technique kept the flies at bay.   Slowly however,  the constant buzz intensified until it inevitably landed  on my ear.

“Fucking flies.”  I swatted my ear, dislodging the culprit.

Sitting up, I noticed that Cyrus had, much to the chagrin of the flies, synched the hood of his knapsack tight around his face so just his nose and mouth were exposed.  Stifling my curses,  I kicked off my sleeping bag and unzipped the tent.

Crawling out through the opening,  I quickly zipped the screen shut behind me.  Standing up and stretching, I looked around our camp.  A dozen Russian 4×4’s dotted the beach.  The uncommonly warm fall day lured hundreds out from the closest city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, to enjoy their weekend.

“Jesus Christ.  It’s like Pismo Beach out here,”  I yelled to Chris, a staff Photographer at Surfer from the central coast of California, sitting on the grass watching Keith and Dane play guitar.

“Yeah, but I’ve never seen that at Pismo,”  Keith said motioning over my shoulder.

Everyone fixed their gaze on a family of three standing around an Izuzu SUV some fifty yards away.  The man, presumably the husband, was shirtless and brandishing a handgun.  The woman, wearing a bra and sweat pants, stood a few feet away with a young girl.  Resting the gun on the hood of the SUV,  the man reached through the driver’s window and retrieved a handful of glass bottles.  Chucking the bottles one at a time into the sand he grabbed the handgun from the hood of the car, pulled the slide back and handed it to the daughter.  As if she had done this hundreds of times before,  she eagerly took the pistol from her dad’s hand and pointed it in the direction where he had thrown the bottles. For a few moments she steadied the the pistol with both hands, then a pop, and a glass bottle broke.  A small plume of CO2 floated out of the barrel.

“No fucking way…It’s a pellet gun,” I laughed.

The girl quickly followed up with another shot and continued until she emptied the clip.  Eager to take part in the violence and stimulated by the warm day,  the mother,  without warning, kicked off her flip flops and stripped off her sweat pants.

“A G-Banger!!! Yes.”

“You have got to be fucking kidding me.  Is that  neon?”

“Sure looks like it.”

Two fresh-caught silver salmon by Keith.

Trevor Gordon is putting together a zine on the trip.  I’ll post about it when it’s out.

An active Volcano.

A local salmon poacher enjoying a mid morning swig of vodka and a cigarette.

Dane and Trevor debating whether to head back out.

An empty coastline.

A fisherman lives in this house by himself from April until October each year.

Trevor heading out for a session.

A remote cabin accessible by helicopter in the summer and snowmobile in the winter.  That stream is filled with geothermal hot water.

Ghetto bird.

Chris Burkard and Ben Weiland have an article coming out in the December Issue of Surfer Magazine.

A salmon poacher’s vodka, waders and dog at a river mouth.

Keith in transit on the helicopter.

Hand done camo on a micro 4×4 vehicle.

Local wild life.

By this time,  everyone, including Serge, our Russian guide, had gathered around watching the spectacle unfold.   Taking the gun from the daughter,  the mother marched into position and took aim.  The husband interrupted her with an inaudible sentence and reached back into the driver’s window and grabbed a few more glass bottles.  With the new targets in place,  she opened fire.

Sensing our gaze,  the daughter turned and looked towards seven Americans and a shirtless Russian with Binoculars.  Ducking behind a tent, we laughed like middle-school boys.

Here are some more links,

#Kamshaka (Instagram),

“Do Not Frustrate…” (ART).