April 3, 2012

25 Thousand Miles

The windshield wipers slashed futily at the northwest’s signature rain as the Syncro hummed along at 63 mph up I-5 in southern Oregon.  Due to the limited top speed and my frequent breaks to take photos and refuel,  I had traveled just over 400 miles in 11 hours.    Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion on tape kept me occupied and I was in no rush to make it back to familiar sites.  Kicking off my shoes,  I turned up the heat and prepared myself for another chapter of Kesey’s novel.

Dusk faded into night as tales from a logging community somewhere to my west continued on.  I peered down from my blank gaze north. The gas gauge hovered just over 1/8th full, or 7/8ths empty.  Already?  Taking the next exit, I headed towards an Arco.  Filling the tank with premium and grabbing a cup of shitty coffee,  I leaned against the side of the Syncro and read emails on my iPhone.  The nozzle clunked, satisfied with 17 gallons. Locking the gas cap,  I hopped back into the van and reset the trip meter on the odometer.

Accessing the vital signs, oil pressure, coolant temperature…, before hitting the road again, I paused at the total mileage on the odometer.  Subtracting the existing mileage from what was on it when I picked her up nine months ago left me with just over 25,000 miles.  The Chrysler sedan waiting patiently behind me flashed its lights, reminding me that I was taking my sweet ass time.

Pulling back on to I-5, I opted for the best of Dire Straits over an audio book and reminisced over the last 25k miles.

I’ve filled up the Syncro over a hundred times since July. This was one of most harmful for the her heart.

I could live here.

Cold times surfing on the Oregon Coast.

Capturing the last bit of summer at Elk Lake in central Oregon.

Surfing at County Line near Malibu.

For the first time since moving to Maine in 2006, I saw the seasons change in the Pacific Northwest.

Weeks spent in Northern California.

Last fall, I worked on The Impossible Project for Urban Outfitters.  Check out this post for more info.

Exploring the Gunnison National Forrest.

US 50 cuts through one of the least populated parts of the lower 48.  Dan and I spent a few days exploring the surrounding area in September.

This van started me on my quest to document vans and other vehicles I come across on the road.

An unforgettable backpacking trip on the Lost Coast.

Working on the Burning House book in LA.

In Nevada, I ran into Nate Damn as he was closing in on the final stretch of his walk across America.

I saw and rode some beautiful waves in Santa Cruz.

Basin and Range regions often look similar.  Beautiful.

A baja buggy in Baja Mexico.

Summer run steelhead in the Columbia River Gorge.

A mentor of mine once told me that if you take the most fun, responsible option at every opportunity, you’ll live a fulfilling life.  I was back from New York on a long weekend and we had just split a bottle of wine. Although I didn’t think much of it at the time, I now look back to that as one of the moments that started me on the path I am now on.

The more I make decisions with this mantra, the easier it gets.  The first 12,000 miles were more hard fought than the last 13,000.   Momentum builds quickly.

Thank you for being a part of my travels.

Here are some more links,

25k Miles (Facebook).

January 3, 2012

Fire on the Mountain

A few cars parked on the shoulder made me take a second look as I rounded the bend on 101 heading north on the Oregon coast.  Seeing cliffs, ocean and foam though the sparse trees,  I deliberated.   If I head back to Portland now,  it will be dark by the time I get back.  No point in hurrying. Some few hundred feet past the pull out,  I turned around in a gap in traffic and headed back to investigate.

Turning off the ignition, I unplugged my iPhone from the stereo and kept Fire on the Mountain Cornell 77′ playing through the speaker phone.  An unseasonal south wind blew in warm air,  making January 1st feel like April and I left my sweater in the backseat.  “Blooop Blooop” my alarm sounded as I shoved  my phone in my breast pocket, and grabbed my camera.

Disregarding the family of four walking towards me on the trail,  I continued my air guitar solo and passed with a smile, hair still wet from a surf session at Short Sands.

“I wonder if they can guess which car is mine?” I chuckled to myself.

The sound of waves bashing against the cliffs beckoned.

Soon,  the trees and land stopped, abruptly,  a few hundred feet above the ocean.   From this vantage point, the swells’ dark shadows lined up towards the horizon. Hopping the fence,  I brushed some gravel off a ledge and sat. Fire on the Mountain wound down to some cheers from stoned college kids now in their 50s.  Being in no rush,  I pulled out the my phone and pushed repeat.

What if…

Pebble throwing,  idea jotting.

As far west as it gets.

Narrow.

An hour of daydreaming,  pebble throwing and wave watching passed.  Despite feeling like April,  January shadows reminded me of my hour and a half drive back to Portland.  Taking one last look,  I climbed back over the wire fence and walked back towards the pulloff.

Happy New Year.  Longer days are coming.

Here are some more links,

Scarlet/Fire on the Mountain (Cornell 77),

Out of Reception.

Facebook.

November 29, 2011

Rain Shadow

When people talk about the Northwest,  they most often refer to to a 100 mile section from the coast to the Cascades. The Cascade Mountains run from northern California to southern British Columbia, separating the area into two distinct sections.  The western part has the cultural centers, coastal climate, and the majority of the population. The eastern part falls in the rain shadow and takes up most of the real estate and houses most of the Republicans.  West of the Cascades, people drive hybrids with bike racks. East of the mountains  people drive lifted pickup trucks with gun racks.   Growing up I spent time between the two areas and have both pickup and hybrid in me.

Months in the desert and the California sun had made me soft, or so my family claimed, and  after two weeks of constant fog and rain, I had to get out.  Leaving Washougal,  I drove east on highway 14,  a two lane scenic route through the Columbia River Gorge.  Each mile east of Stevenson equates to one and half less inches of annual precipitation.  I kept driving.  Like clockwork, the clouds  opened up around Underwood.  I drove farther.  At Lyle the clouds were gone,  exposing sun.  Sunglasses.

A break in the clouds.

An aspen grove.

Running from the rain.

Tim on a hike.


Chinchillen’

Some times a little change in weather is all you need, or sometimes it just whets the appetite.  A little is rarely enough.

Here are some more links,

Running up the hill (Picasa),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).

November 22, 2011

First Snow

The front windshield was completely fogged, except for a pillow sized opening in the middle of the dash.  A wipe of my forearm exposed the winding gravel road for ten seconds before closing up.   Leaning forward, I peered through the gap in the fog.  Luckily,  the road was deserted and I steered the Syncro down middle of the road.  Thick snow flakes stuck to the window, melting after a few seconds.  I turned up the wipers.

“The defroster on this thing is a real gem.” my brother said, cracking his window with the manual crank.

“Yahh yahhh, the fan nob is broken.  I gotta get it fixed.”

As we marched up the mountain in second gear,  the snow dried out and the flakes shrunk.   Narrowly avoiding  the blunt nose of my Vanagon, they flew over and out of sight in some feat of aerodynamics known to a select few in Pasadena and Cambridge.  After seven miles on the gravel road,  we pulled over on the side of the road.

“This looks like the place.”

“Have you ever been here before?”

“No but this is what it looked like on Google maps.”

“Gotcha..”

We bundled up and headed out into the open field.

More so than any other weather event,  the arrival of snow  each year establishes the change of season.  Falling asleep one night in late fall , I woke up  the next morning squarely in winter to  a few inches of wet snow.  Loading into the Syncro that morning,  we headed up to the hills behind Mosier, Oregon in search of deeper snow and eager to enjoy the season’s first snow.

#vanlife

A dirt trail up the hill and into the clouds.

Lucy, my mom’s trusted companion. Full bred Irish Terrier, half breed pain in the ass.

Stopping to take a photo,  my mom and brother unsuspectingly walked ahead.  Four years of constant snow warfare in Maine taught me to always be vigilant.  Scraping snow off the ankle high grass,  I balled it into a lemon sized ball and waited.  I made up some of the distance between my brother and mom.  Sensing that something was wrong,  my mom’s dog spun around and barked.   My brother followed suit, catching a snowball on the nose.

Here are some more links,

Post (Picasa),

Mosier, OR (Out of Reception),

Hood River, OR (Out of Reception),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).