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.

Shakas, Bra

“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.

No AC.

Trevor’s 1991 Jeep Comanche.

Beaver damns.

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.

South Swell

Drying rack.

Big Sur backroads.

The inside of Chris’ Econoline Van.

Triple decker.

T-Pee building.


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

Alabama Hills

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.

Hotsprings etiquette.

Smoked clams.

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.

Cowboy salad.

Hot springs shrapnel.

Jeff having some coffee.

Dan starting his day.

Outdoor Kitchen.

View from the bedroom.


Breakfast Supplies.

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).

May 28, 2013

Matt and his Honda Trail 110

“Have you ever had your shit stolen?”

“Three times,” Matt said casually, as if discussing how many times per year he cuts his hair. “Last time I was in Mexico, banditos showed up in the middle of the night with assault rifles and took everything.”

“Even your passport?”

“No, they let us keep those,” Matt said,  grabbing his sleeping bag from a dry bag.

“Well at least they were considerate,” I joked. “How has the ride down from BC been?”

“The CT’s been great.  Oregon and Washington were a little brutal,” Matt said in a thick Australian accent. “I drove through Oregon in a day and a half.”

To my untrained ear, it sounded like Irish.  That combined with his short stature reminded me uncontrovertibly of a leprechaun. “I’m sure,” I interjected.  “I grew up in Portland.  I would have gotten the fuck out of there too.”

“Well I did.  The rain was crazy.”

“If you ever have the chance, you should check it out in late summer.  Its pretty special.”

Matt works in stints in construction or as a plumber back home in Australia.  When he gets fed up,  he travels and surfs until he runs out of money.   He’s been in this pattern for the last 15 years.  It’s taken him all over the world.  I first heard about Matt’s travels through my friend Cyrus Sutton.  A few years back, Cy and Matt went on a trip to Iceland.  Cy often speaks of Matt’s commitment to the traveling life and ability to make it with very little resources. Matt is a rare breed.

By most accounts, Cy’s and myself included, Matt’s travels are that of character from a Krackauer book.  He relinquishes the culture expectations yet has a deep seated trust in the people he meets.  Talking with him left me with the sense that I could be roughing it a lot more than I am.  My life in my camper felt safe and calculated compared to his travels on his Honda.

I wished him safe travels on his trip through Baja.  I told him that with any luck, he’ll catch that last Northern Hemisphere swell of the season.  A week later, I was in San Diego with Cyrus when we got word that he had everything stolen from by some banditos in Northern Baja.  I wasn’t surprised or scared for him.  Out of anyone I know, he could handle being trapped in the desert with nothing to his name.

Here are some more links,

A Few Sketchy Moments (Blog),

Matt is on Instagram too,

Matt Whitehead (Korduroy TV).