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).

May 8, 2013

Not the First or Last

“Has anyone seen the shit shovel and TP?” I asked, hunting around our camp.

“Dan took it and the Lambo (Dan’s shitty mountain bike with Lamborghini badges) ten minutes ago and headed out for his morning routine.”

My small cup of freshly percolated coffee  was kicking in, bringing the mid morning stroll into the desert for a scenic shit from casual to imminent.

“Fuck.” This is not the answer I was hoping to hear. I scoured our camp of three tents, Dan’s Vanagon, Johnny’s pickup and a dozen or so surfboards for an unmolested roll of toilet paper.  Finding one by the camp fire, I left with purpose.

“Those fifteen tacos you ate yesterday coming back to haunt you?”

“Hardly dude,” I responding with wavering confidence , still believing the hubris that my stomach could support the onslaught of a dozen street tacos in Ensenada with no delayed after affects.

 My brisk walk turned in to a slow jog and eventual settled at a dead sprint down the dirt road leading towards the desert and undefined outhouse zone behind the row of camps.  Looking back, our camp and half a dozen other surfers slowly shrank behind me. “I can make it,” I groaned to myself. A hundred yards in front of me,  Dan crested the small hill walking his bike and holding the TP and shovel in one hand.  We moved with a different sense of urgency.

“Give me that fucking shovel,”  I yelled,  doing my best to mimic Usain Bolt at the Beijing Olympics.

“Oooooh, Taco Greed?”  Dan bent over laughing.  Holding the shovel out in his left hand,  I grabbed the baton and kept on my path.

My situation was quickly deteriorating. Perhaps if, I walked slowly I could control myself?  No time for that. The shovel would be used as a clean up operation not to dig a premeditated, shallow grave digging tool as I had hoped when I left camp a minute before.

Avoiding cactus and other foot fuckers that could compromise my chances of making it out of this unscathed and unsoiled,  I left the trail and set out over the hard ground of the Baja Desert.  Dan’s laughs faded as I crested the small hill.  Glancing behind me, Dan’s head was still visible but the camp behind him was blocked.

I spun around, dropping the shovel and TP in one motion. Frantically, I fidgeted with my belt.  Despite my sprinting and efforts, the dike broke as I unbuttoned my jeans.  Inches from the finish line, I crashed.

Nap time.

Home is where you park it!

Suiting up.

Restocking on produce at a local grocery store.

Local transportation.

Erin attending to the morning dishes.

Everything you need,  nothing you don’t.

Tide pool exploration.

Siesta Time.

Kitchen for six.

A luxury.

Shred sticks.

Halibut beware.

Right by the beach.

Let there be light.

Dan’s Subaru powered Vanagon.

Shred sleds.

Ryan heading out to shred a few.

Banana boat.


Changing room.

Going through the roll of toilet paper like a ten year old through Fruit Stripe Gum,  I  cleaned up the mess as well as I could.  Periodically, I paused to burn the mountain of paper collecting in front of me.  As the sun ross behind me,  the off shore wind picked up.  The swell, that we chased down from Santa Barbara two days before, was showing up.  Lines, groomed by the wind,  were bending in around the point.  A few of the old time Baja guys were already out on their fun boards catching the best ones, showing their hard earned knowledge of the finicky wave.

Removing my boxers, I put my jeans back on and started my bowlegged retreat back to camp.

My boxers flapped from my index finger like a flag of defeat.  I considered berrying the boxers along with the mountain of rejected tacos in a shallow grave.  Coyotees would get it in no time and leave them discarded along the beach and I opted to burn them.  Thankfully, the off shore wind kept the shit smell at bay.  I walked slowly,  watching the waves break a hundred yards out from our camp.

“I’m not the first person or the last one to shit myself in Baja,” I reassured to myself. “It’s a cost of doing business.”

Here are some more links,

Fun and Dusted (Korduroy TV),

Old Clothes (Johnny McCann).