September 2, 2013
“This seems pretty level, don’t you think?” I asked Tucker as I shifted into neutral and let my foot off the break. The truck rocked back and forth before settling.
“Feels like it,” Tucker said with a level of empathy brought about by a day of eating, drinking and smoking. ”I’m going to crash under the stars though. The stars are In-Sane.”
Nodding in approval, I pushed the stick into reverse, and backed up over the knoll. The truck leveled off a bit but still favored the right side. Looking over to the left, I watched Dan do the same thing in his Vanagon.
“That’s nowhere close to level.”
“What? Dan’s van?”
“Yah look at that. Total newb parking job.” Turning off the truck, I searched for my flip flops under my feet with my big toes. Rotating to the left, I hung my feet out of the open door and looked west. The last remnants of sunlight from the day before lined the horizon like the flames from a dying camp stove. It was 10:15.
I jumped down from my seat and landed on the field with a soft thud. Some fifty feet off a gravel road, we were parked on a hill overlooking the Lost Coast Trail and the Mouth of the Matole. National news coverage of an escaped serial killer holed up in the area kept the local campsites empty, despite being the middle of summer.
“Where are you going to lay it down? I have an extra sleeping pad if you want to borrow it,” I asked Tucker as we walked back towards the truck.
“Sure. I’m going to crash over there. I found a flat spot.”
I groped the cup holder for a headlamp and found one tangled in a nest of coins, fin keys and iPhone headphone cords. Shoving it in my back pocket, I walked over towards Dan’s van to say goodnight. Tired from a day of looking for waves, cooking food and shooting the shit, I maybe had thirty minutes in me before I’d pass out. That realistically meant that I had 10 minutes, I reasoned. There’s no way I could make it to midnight.
Dan and Tucker checking waves.
Long days don’t last.
Dan’s Subaru powered Vanagon.
Tucker and Greg cooking dinner.
Jay Nelson’s OG quiver.
Death by powerslide.
Neil Young on repeat.
The road to Patrolia.
The propane stove in an off-grid cabin on the Lost Coast.
A rolling home on the 1.
Turning on my headlamp, I inspected the ground around my truck. All though very low to the ground, the oily leaves and small branches were unmistakable.
“Motherfucker. Do you guys see this?” We are camping in a field of Poisson Oak,” I yelled.
Here are some more links,
Special Opz (Tumblr),
Lost (A Restless Transplant Post from 2 years ago).
July 30, 2013
Fort Collins to Carpinteria
I leaned forward and stuck my head out of the Jeep Comanches fiberglass canopy. Resting on my elbows, I looked around the Valley in the Eastern Sierra that we were camped. The nearest big city, Fresno, was a few hundred miles to the southwest, leaving the night’s sky unmolested by light pollution. There wasn’t a could in site and the stars shined bright, casting just enough light to see the beaver pond that we had backed up to just before dark the night before. Despite being early summer, the air was still cold, and by my best guess, in the low 40s. Retreating back into the truck Canopy, I rearranged my pillows, checked the valve on my thermarest to make sure it was tight, laid down and pulled my sleeping bag up around my face.
I couldn’t sleep. Rolling over on to my stomach and propping up on my elbows, I took a swig from my water bottle and stashed it under my pillow. Twenty minutes passed, maybe thirty and I wasn’t any closer to falling asleep. Frustrated, I kicked off my sleeping bag and crawled out of the Canopy. Finding my flip flops in the dark, I walked twenty feet away form the truck and took a piss. The night was quite, save for the constant hissing of wind running down the aspen trees in the valley floor off towards the basin some three thousand feet bellow. I was forcing it. I didn’t really need to pee but was searching for anything possible barrier between me and waking up next to a stream in the Sierras. Finally, after swaying with the trees for a few moments, I heard the familiar sound of pee splattering off river rocks.
Five days before, Trevor and I flew to Denver to pick up a Jeep Comanche he found on Craigslist. After spending the night at my college roommates place in Denver, the truck checked out as promised and we were off. Taking the 14 through northern Colorado into Utah, we camped by night in BLM land. The Comanche ran like a dream.
Pellet gun target practice.
Sunrise in the high Sierra.
Hot springs changing room.
Along the way, I shot a look book for Patagonia’s upcoming 40th Anniversary Collection.
Flicking the fly.
“People still use that shit?” referring to an atlas.
Chili, Avocado and a tortilla. Dinner
Fifteen miles off the 50 on a one track road, somewhere in Nevada.
The last remnants of winter.
Trevor’s 1991 Jeep Comanche.
Wake up in Utah.
Evening entertainment curtsy of Bureau of Land Management.
Staring up at the sky, I searched for a satellite. After a few seconds, I spotted one and followed its slow track across the sky. It was just before 3:30, and I had been awake for an hour and a half. Memories of sleepless nights laying in my apartment in New York listening to sound of sirens and the occasional subway getting increasingly anxious for a meeting the next morning brought me back to reality. Walking back to the truck, I reached for my sleeping bag and pad and pulled it out of the bed.
After finding a level place, I kicked out a half covered rock and set my pad down. Obstructed by the valley walls and a few aspen trees, I yawned and resumed my search for satellites.
Here are some more links,
40th Anniversary Collection (Patagonia),
Trevor Gordon ARTS (Facebook).
July 17, 2013
Big Sur Con Todos
Our caravan of three trucks pulled off the 1 and into the small parking lot. The marine layer masked the sun’s orientation in the sky, giving the vague feeling that it could be anytime from 8am to 8pm. The parking lot was relatively empty, save for a GMC van with South Dakota plates. In the world of road trippers, the South Dakota, or SoDAk, licenses plates are a dead give away that the owner resides full time in their camper. Pulling up to an open spot, I left my door unlocked and walked towards the rocks overlooking Big Sur’s rocky coast line.
The south swell that filled the beaches of Southern California like a Slim Aarons photo was marching north along the coast. The waves weren’t as good, but that didn’t matter. It was well worth avoiding the crowds.
“Oooh that looks, fun…Look at that left!” Trevor said pointing to a mediocre, waist high wave breaking off of a few rocks and then crumbling left for 25 yards before closing out on a shore break.
“Frickin’ Teahupoo out there right now…”
“If we don’t surf now, what are we going to do all day. It’s…. 11:32,” I said pausing to check my phone.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m out there…” Trevor said, turning and walking back to his truck, leaving Spencer (Trevor’s younger brother) and Alex Yoder to deliberate about the wave.
“The lulls are pretty long.”
“So we will just wait…Didn’t Lopez say, “you can wait on the beach or you can wait in the ocean?”
“Something like that.”
With a hoot, Trevor ran past, holding his fish in one hand. “You guys are blowing it.”
Alex’s rolling home.
Alex and his travel companion, Lucy.
Big Sur backroads.
The inside of Chris’ Econoline Van.
Running back to the parking lot, I grabbed my wet wetsuit and pulled the legs and arms through. No time for a towel, I reasoned, kicking off my jeans. Just then, a bleached white mini van pulled into the lot, stopping awkwardly in handicap parking spot. A family of European tourist piled out, brandishing DSLR’s and iPads. Caught with my pants down, I wrenched the suit over my heal and wiggled up to my waste line. Well seasoned to similar acts of liberated self expression on their native beaches, the Germans (by now I had overheard a few harsh-sounding sentences), didn’t bat an eye and were gone within seconds after snapping a photo of the coastline. With the dregs of a bar of wax, I added to the dirty wax job on my Mini Simmons and headed towards the trail.
“Give the tourists a view of the natural wildlife?”
“Sure did. Unfortunately they were more psyched on photographing the bridge.”
Chuckles were exchanged at my expense and we headed down the beach to join Trevor.
Here are some more links,
Square State (Alex Yoder’s Tumblr),
Tearevor (Trevor Gordon’s Tumlbr).
June 18, 2013
Rolling over, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked out through the dust covered sliding window. The stars were gone from the predawn sky save for a handful of planets and the crescent moon. My bladder swelled against my jeans’ waist band, courtesy of a few Tecates the night before. There was no point in putting it off any more. Unzipping my sleeping bag I crawled out of the hinged door. The cold Dip-N-Dots-sized rocks of the high desert stuck to my clammy feet as I walked towards an outcropping. The splatter cut through the calm morning air; announcing my relief and the start of my day to a dozen or so slumbering lizards nestled away in cracks in the rocks.
The rest of our camp kept sleeping despite my yawns and the occasional groan when I stepped on a sharp rock with my bare feet. The last memories of the fire from the night before glowed in tiny embers in our makeshift fire ring. Pushing the coals together into a pile with one of the remaining logs, I sat down and watched the fire run its course. Slowly the log started smoking. Leaning forward, I took a breath of fresh air and blew on the coals. Smoke gave way to small flames. Other than the squeaking of a nearby Blue Jay, camp was dead quiet. I glanced at my watch. It was 5:51.
There’s a few week stretch each spring before the start of Day Light Saving time , when I feel like a morning person. By most accounts, I wake up early, between 6:00 and 7:00. Living in your car and spending the majority of your time outside shifts waking hours earlier. During those few weeks before the clocks jump forward, I wake up at times that would make 70-year old retired man proud. In high school I woke up early and go skateboard at Burnside. While living in New York, I’d go for runs during the quietest time of the day in my futile attempt to make it as a New Yorker. Regardless of the place, there’s something about being up long before everyone wakes up and for the two weeks, it stays novel. Part of you wants some company, but as soon as another person wakes up, the day starts, and that feeling of detached observation and introspection leaves.
Hot springs shrapnel.
Jeff having some coffee.
Dan starting his day.
View from the bedroom.
The search for a level place is an essential vanlife skill.
Hot springs walk way
Looking towards the east, the sun flirted with the hills, accentuating its rolling saddles. To the west, the summit of 14,000 foot Mt. Whitney was already coated in pink light. The sun tracked down the Sierras like a tractor tire on a runaway death course. Watching it accelerate, I sat by the fire, pocking at it with a hatchet. The shadows had now retreated to the valley floor. Any minute now, the sun would breach the hills, casting light on our camp and waking up the rest of the crew.
Jeff’s door slid up with a hiss courtisoy of nearly a decade of heavy mountain and beach use. ”AAyyy Fosterrr,” Jeff whispered in a faux Australian accent. ”Do you want some coffee?”
Here are some more links,
Out of Reception (Tumblr).