November 14, 2012

Closed for the Season

The campground looked empty from the road.   Rolling past the welcome sign, I cranked down my dirty window and stuck my head out,  scanning for a dollar sign.  $15 per night.  I let off the clutch and continued on the dirt road.  Avoiding the chilly breeze,  I rolled up the window.

“Might as well be free,” I chuckled to myself.  The afternoon sun was dropping quickly and the north side of the adjacent hills was already clocked in shade.  Driving around the perimeter of the campground,  I looked for familiar sights.

 Sixteen years before,  my family rented an RV and explored the eastern Sierra for a month in early fall.  Although somewhat hazy,  the trip stands out as a highlight of my childhood.  Motivated by a sense of restlessness brought about by lack of surf and nostalgia,  I cut out from the coast the week before and headed up 395 towards the Tioga Pass area.

Basing my plans on a few calls with my parents,  I bounced around the Tioga Pass area for a week in late October.  During the week,  I headed over towards Yosemite, and as as the crowds picked up, I retreated back towards the Mono Lake area.  In passing and without cause, some of the sights touched on memories from my first trip.

Boarded up for the winter.

Those dots in the middle of the wall are two groups of climbers bivvying for the night.

Home is where you park it!  I also run a site called Vanlife.

Sunset at 9000 feet.

Looking back through Tioga Pass.

Chains required.

Half Dome, in Yosemite Valley.

I wonder if they will keep the sign in the spring?

Aspen groves.

Custom Camper on a 1967 Dodge PowerWagon.  This baby has 600k miles on it, and has run over a cow.

These mountains are now covered in snow.

Wish you were here.

Looking east towards through Tioga Pass.

Traveling alone affords you the time and flexibility to linger in some areas and pass through others.  The Tioga Pass region is one I advise lingering in,  especially in the off season.  My weeks spent there 16 years ago and last month are highlights of different eras of my life.  Somethings don’t change.

Here are some more links,

Out Of Reception (Tumblr),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).

October 30, 2012

The Dog Days are Over

The sun hung over the distant hills.   Standing in a dirt road berefoot in shorts, I searched for rocks the size of a finger tip.  Gathering a handful of choice specimens,  I stood up and removed my wrist rocket from my back pocket.  Selecting a the pick of the litter,  I pulled the pouch back  to my cheek and aimed towards a can some 20 feet away.  Letting go, the rock whirred towards the upright can, and missed by a few inches.  With a hiss, the rock ricocheted off a patch of hard dirt, emitting a sound familiar to a Sergio Leone film.   Searching in my back pocket,  I picked the runner up in terms of size and shape, and placed it in the pouch.  Brushing a fly off my shoulder,  I pulled the pouch back, let out a breath and released the rock.

It was early fall on the central coast of California.

It’s a bit ambiguous when the summer ends and the fall begins.  The temperature stays about the same; hovering in the sixties at night and highs in the 70s during the day.  As a surfer,  the season change is evident by the switching of predominate swell direction from the southern hemisphere to the northern.  During this transitional time, the swell tends to die down and the section of coast protected by Channel Islands turns into a lake.  Hours stretch on. The dog days are over but the foggy days of “winter” haven’t arrived yet.

Dan Malloy’s bike set up for his Slow is Fast Bike Tour.

Heading to Lompoc.

Early morning shakas.

Campfire vibes.

Emma Wood is up to no good.

Rough Feet.

Jason Fraizer’s Studio.

A view from 7000 feet in the Los Padres National Forrest.

The pace of time slows and my sense of urgency backs off.  Sometimes you just have to wait.  I’ve never been good at it.

Grabbing another rock from my back pocket,  I carefully centered it in the middle of the leather pouch.   Keeping my gaze fixed on the can,  I drew the rock back and released.   The can jumped a foot in the air with a hollow ting.

Here are some more links,

The Dog Days are Over (Florence and the Machine),

Out of Reception (Tumblr).

October 16, 2012

West Wind

A statue honoring the Veterans of the Korean War stood watch over a lone Dodge at the county park.  Across from the empty jungle gym, unidentifiable country music from a Central Oregon radio station hummed through the ‘lowered windows.  The west wind bent the top of the pine trees and wafted over-heated coolant from the front grill of the truck.   A girl’s legs  hung from the passenger window and a shirtless teenager slouched in the bench seat.  It was late summer 2012 in The Dalles.

“Should we tell them their engine overheated?” My mom said,  leading her Irish Terrier, Lucy, down the sidewalk.

“No, Mom…  let them be,” I said, taking the leash from my mom’s hand and continuing along.

It’s hard to predict which moments come to identify a specific place or time,  often it’s the most seemingly trivial ones that capture my imagination and spark my sense of nostalgia.

Here are some more links,

West Wind (Facebook).

October 9, 2012

“Do Not Frustrate…”

Our empty plane banked right over a sea of clouds.  Sensing a shift in motion, I lifted my head from lying across an empty row and looked out through the port window. Two snow-capped volcanoes marked the center of our compass as the plane continued in a holding pattern.  Leaning back down on my makeshift pillow, I closed my eyes and dozed back to sleep.

Sometime later,  I moved from my semiconscious state and looked out the window again.  The volcanoes were in the same place at the center of our holding pattern.

Keith, siting behind me,  “We’ve been circling for 45 minutes,  I bet we’re going to have to land somewhere and refuel.”

Tired from 20 hours of travel,  I grunted in disapproval and lied back down on the empty row.

A thick accent blurted out over the loudspeaker,  waking me from my slumber, “Do not Frustrate… our flight need refueling and we must head to Magadan.  We will be back in Petropavlosk-Kamchatksi in… 3.75 hours.” Following this announcement, he offered the handful of Russian nationals on the flight the same story in their native tongue.  Spread through a half dozen rows,  our crew, composed of Trevor Gordon, Cyrus Sutton, Ben Weiland, Dane Gaudauskus, Keith Malloy and Chris Burkard, perked up and sat to attention.

“Is that Siberia?” Trevor asked rubbing his eyes.

“It must be , that’s the closest airport,  either that or we land in North Korea,” Cyrus chuckled.

As predicted by the pilot, we were on the ground in Kamchatka four hours later, marking our total flight time from Anchorage at a hair over 10 hours. The airport, a relic from the Cold War,  resembled a mid 90’s documentary on the History Channel, sporting a full squadron of long range strategic bombers,  tanks, helicopters and the occasional German Sheppard.  The custom officials ushered us and the thirty or so fifty year olds dead set on either catching boatfuls of rainbow trout or hunting for the region’s three types of native sheep, never breaking from a mechanic demeanor.

Keith’s beard posed a problem at immigration.  His ten-year-old passport picture presented him with long hair and scruff, (he now has short hair and a Poseidon-like beard).  That difference in appearance, combined with enough stamps and Visas to make James Bond blush prompted the immigration official to call over a gun-wielding security guard for a second opinion.  After twenty minutes of displaying multiple forms of ID’s and offering to shave it off, Keith made it through beard intact.

Cyrus and Keith catching some cosmic rays after a session.

Trevor and his a symmetrical finless Rabbit’s Foot.

Volcano cones.

Cy fresh off the plane.

Sunrise session.

After the clouds broke.

Keith’s bodysurfing setup.

Trevor chasing Silver Salmon.

Cy warming up his feet after a sunrise session.

After gathering our boards,  pelican cases and dry bags, we congregated in the parking lot.  Volcanoes dotted the horizon in every direction.  The weather was in the mid 70’s, and felt more like Central America than a remote sub-arctic peninsula known for its fishing and grizzly bears.  Waiting impatiently for our ride, we heard the low rumble of the 6×6 diesel engine long before we could see it.   After 36 hours of travel from Southern California,  we were finally in Kamchatka.

Here are some more links,

#Kamshaka (Instagram),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).