No turning back now...

The first morning in Portland I woke up early and headed to the hardware store to get the bare necessities to build out the back of the van before we hit the road. Parked out on the street and using some tools I borrowed from our friends, it was just enough to get the job done. I was able to knock it out right on time for happy hour and an amazing home cooked meal before we make our way to the coast. Now that the back is built out, we would be ready to hit the road first thing in the morning. Everything was off to a perfect start!

Just a little bit of van trouble...

The morning we were ready to hit the road to the coast, we had a little bit of a problem. The dealer I purchased the van from replaced all the lines, but failed to tighten the line for the coolant to the radiator. As we made our way out, the engine started to smoke inside the cab, smelling of burnt coolant fluid. The entire coolant tank of 21 liters had leaked out. Before we even made it out of Portland, I found myself becoming very familiar with the engine. After a couple hours refilling and making sure everything was fine, we eventually made it back on the road west. 

 

Hoping for the bestbut being prepared for the worst, became a very real thing at that point.  

With our spirits still high, we hit the road! 

 

What's down that gravel road?

Sometimes that random stop at a liquor store off a side road for some beer and ice can lead you to exactly where you want to be.  

With no real plan to stay at any specific camp or park, we needed to stop and grab a few things and figure out our first stop on the coast. The first spot we came across was a small liquor store with no store front sign. Just a florescent liquor store sign in the window saying open. Anxious to get to the water, we quickly grabbed some beer, ice, and whiskey for the night. As we were trying to figure out where we should set up for the night, the store own over heard us and made a suggestion that would put us exactly where we wanted to be. 

He told us to continue down the road behind his store and it would lead us to what we were looking for. He assured us that we needed to just go down the road and take a look.

 He was right... 

 

Might as well stay a few more days...

As soon as I laid my eyes on the wild coast of Oregon I knew I had to spend as much time as possible to breath it all in. I wanted to spend months out there, which would not be possible. Feeling like we needed to try and keep some kind of a timeline to head south, southeast, we decided that maybe we should head further south to the California state line, but then again maybe another day in Oregon wouldn't hurt.

Still not able to fully convince ourselves that we should go south and slowly keep making our way back. The decision was about to be made for us. Our friends called us from back in Portland to see how everything was going and wondering where we might be at this point. We told them that it was hard to leave and we were still just a few hours from them.  That was all they needed to hear to pack up and meet us just hours later for one more night together. 

So, might as well stay a few more days...

Golden Coast...

There is something about moving from one amazing place to the next. It is a hard feeling to describe. You don't want to leave what you have just discovered or say good bye to the people you wish you could take with you. Then you realize you can't stall any longer and you have to keep moving. Feeling torn to say good your byes but still so anxious to move on to the next breathtaking view and random meeting of new friends that feel like long lost ones.  

It just gets better and better with each turn of the wheel.

"I never drink wine but...whatever" -Aaron B.

When you hit wine country just before sunset, you have to stop and make the most of it!  

As we were making our way to San Fransisco, we started to drift into Napa Valley right as the sun was putting on a show, changing all the colors and making the shadows long as the sun dropped lower in this valley with some of the richest greens and some of the best wine this amazing planet has to offer. I turned and asked Aaron if he would be down to stop and check out the valley. Aaron turned and looked at me replying "I never drink wine but...whatever!". In other words, he's down!

It was a Sunday around 7pm and the likely hood of anything being open was slim to none. We jumped off the next exit with no set spot to find. As we drove around, we noticed everything appeared to be closed hours ago. No cars, no people and no one around to ask. We pulled into a random shop and a guy with his dog and a glass of wine came walking up asking "Whats that Big Blue Van thing anyway?". I gave him the short of it all and mentioned we were hoping to get to taste some wine and grab a few bottles.

He just happened to be the only guy out and the only guy we needed to see. He worked on a vineyard just up the hill and got us to meet with the owner for our own private tasting and all the views our eyes could drink in with no one else in site.

That random exit gave us exactly what we were looking for... 

Yosemite Valley...

We had nothing to say to each other except for, "look around, and take it all in."

As soon as we arrived we knew we would want to stay longer. We explored Yosemite throughout the day: riding our bikes, swimming the rivers and scrambling up to get as many vantage points as possible. When it can time to hit the road, we met some new friends who were with a group of climbers scaling El Capitan. These extreme outdoorsmen, endearingly referred to as "dirtbags," are dedicated to a life in the wilderness. We ended up staying a little longer to hang out with them, support their group, and watch the sunset. As the sun dropped, the climbing group's headlamps shone onto the wall and it began to twinkle, matching the stars in the sky.  

Almost getting sucked into the wonder of the valley, we realized we should hit the road. Our new friends did their best to keep us there with all the other wanderlust dirtbags in the valley, but we reluctantly walked toward our ride questioning if we should stay or if we should go. Just before we made it to the van, one person let out their loudest animal howl in the valley. So one by one, we all bellowed our loudest and proudest animal call. It was the best exit I've ever felt!    

Stranded in Death Valley for 18 hours...

By the time we made it into Death Valley, it was already 109 degrees with heat index of 120+. We have no AC, little-to-no insulation in the floor to keep the motor's heat from getting into the cab, and the wind alone burned our eyes with every gust. So yeah, it was hot.  

A couple of hours into the valley, I noticed the engine was running a little on the hot side. We pulled off to let it cool and I put in more coolant fluid, leaving the engine idle. After about 20 minutes of making sure everything was good, we got back on the road feeling confident. Thinking we might have dodged a bullet, we started talking about our next destination once we were almost out of Death Valley. By this time, the weather was at peak heat for the day and we were looking forward to nightfall. Yet, we still had quite a few hours before that. Just over 60 miles outside Las Vegas in the desert, on the outskirts of Death Valley, a sudden loud noise began clacking each time I pressed the accelerator. That noise, we came to learn, was the sound of our engine calling it quits. It was at this point we knew the next 18 hours were going to be interesting.

Heat waves emitted in every direction with the remaining hours of sunlight. With no one else around to help, it was time to get under the hood to try and see if there was anything I could fix to make it at least to Vegas. After taking everything out from under the hood and then putting it all back in,  I realized there was nothing we could do. I would be needing to get a whole new motor.  

Since we knew the truck wouldn't even limp out of the desert, we needed to get service and find a tow truck to get us out of there somehow. Able to have one bar of service, we made calls to line up a tow. Nothing seemed promising. The reality set in that it was going to be an all nighter with still no sign of getting help until the morning.

So, as with situations like these, you just have to make the best of it and roll on! That night, the stars came out to show us that we were far from alone. Even though we were trapped in the middle of Death Valley, I wouldn't have wanted to look at any other night sky than the one we sat under. 

The next day we were able to make it out after multiple no-shows with tow companies. Later that day, we finally made it out and reluctantly headed to the one place we were trying to avoid: Vegas. 

We were two dirty dudes with a dog checking into a Las Vegas casino hotel by the end of the day. Not what we had in mind. We went from being trapped in Death Valley's heat waves to sippin' margaritas in the roof top pool of a Las Vegas Casino Hotel.

Crazy what can happen in 24 hours!

From sand to snow...

Like I said, it’s crazy what can happen in 24 hours!

Not knowing exactly where we were going, and only knowing that the insurance company has arranged the tow driver to take us to the closest auto repair shop. We were dropped off right in the middle of two auto shops in the same parking lot. Still not knowing which shop we are going to, we get out of the tow truck, and as soon as we step out the truck a little greasy man carrying a clipboard approaches me. As I am trying to explain the situation, he seems more interested in telling us how great his shop is, and how terrible the other auto shop is. Not really knowing which shop the insurance company has sent us to, I’m a little confused as to why this guy is so set on selling me on his shop, and right as I’m thinking this, another man walks up that looks like a character from the “Guess Who” board game with thick framed glasses and large teeth. As the “Guess Who” guy walks up with a very similar clipboard, the little greasy man stops talking, and the man with the thick glasses and large teeth informs us that we are supposed to go to his shop. Not sure who to believe or trust, I'm not feeling very confident with either shop.  I turn and see the tow truck driver is already pulling away.  

I found myself standing in the middle of what felt like the biggest gambling bet I will ever have to make and I've only been in Vegas for 5 minutes. I ended up having to go with the "Guess Who" guy. When they took the van away,  the reality of our situation started to set in. Now the three of us were left standing in the middle of a busy boiling hot parking lot with people and cars passing by with no vehicle, no place to stay, and no idea when we will be able to get back on the road.

Suddenly the tribulations of the desert didn't seem too bad. 

It wasn't too long before I was given the news that I already knew but was hoping to not be true. I was going to need a whole new motor. Not only that, but it was going to take up to 10 days for them to get the parts in and complete the install. Refusing to let the house get us down with the cards we were dealt, we decided to make the best out of this unfortunate hand. So, we got ourselves a room at a Las Vegas Casino Hotel.

Now we are two dirty dudes and a dog checking into a Casino Hotel. Walking through the Casino floor we were surrounded by all the people and all the noise. Everything we were trying to stay away from, we were now right in the middle of it all. We needed to cool our bodies and clear our minds so the three of us headed up to the roof top pool for a couple drinks and some cool water.

Even though the sun was out in full force, we could still feel the dark clouds hanging over us from Death Valley claiming our van's engine, and the inevitable of what we will have to do.

Now knowing it was going to be 10 days before the van is ready, we couldn't allow ourselves to just sit and wait. Unfortunately this would mean that we would be losing our third amigo. Aaron would not be able to wait that long and would have to get a flight home the next morning, and I needed to find a way out of the desert for the next 10 days.

Funny how things play out. About 4 months prior we were in Puerto Rico where we met a couple that lives around the Denver, Colorado area. Looking at flights I found one that would take me to Denver and out of the desert. Not knowing if my new friends would even be able to meet up I was prepared to just fly out and wing it. I gave them a call asking them what they were doing that very next day, and as it turned out they were on the road headed northwest from Denver to get out for some adventures of their own. Accepting the fact that might not be an option, I asked if they had a key under the mat, and they quickly said "let me call you back!". Just a few minutes later they called back asking how early I could get in, and I replied "8:49am!". Not knowing they turned around deciding to save me from the clutches of Vegas, they just told me to get ready to see a lot of Colorado and pack for backpacking. It was perfect!

That next morning Zealand and I would lose our third amigo. It was a sad moment going from the solitude of the wilderness to parting ways in the madness of the Las Vegas airport. Aaron went east to go home as I continued west.  

Just hours later I was standing at 12,000 plus feet elevation reflecting on how we had just been 282 feet below sea level. Standing in the saddle of these beautiful Colorado mountains knowing these feet were just in the sands of Death Valley, and are now in the snow of the Rocky's I couldn't help but to think of how it's crazy with what can happen in 24 hours!               

Slow and steady we go...


Over the next month, Zealand and I would be slowly making our way back east. Once we made it back to Vegas, I was hoping to hit the road as soon as I got the keys back in my hands. I was not that lucky. The bus/van/truck, lets just call her Big Blue Betty Boo Boo. Once I started Big Blue, I knew that it was not ready and I'm glad I stopped to looked under the hood before I drove off for the next 2,500 miles to go. This auto shop had parts missing, parts not connected properly, and it sounded worse than when I dropped it off! Looks like I'll be staying in Vegas one more night.

That next morning Big Blue was as ready as she'd ever be to get back on the road. Zealand and I stocked up on supplies and hit the road once again hoping for the best and prepared for the worst. At this point I knew we had a very slow going trip from here on out. Top speed of 55mph keeping the doors open and paying close attention to every little sound in the engine. I figured that I could only drive four hours at a time and no more than eight hours total for a day. So for the next month, I would wake up to look at the map each morning to see what was 4 to 8 hours away and decide where to go next. A lot of those mornings I would just decide to stay another day or 4. From Vegas Zea and I headed to Grand Canyon National Park to catch the sunset. We pushed on after that and found some public land to set up that night.  

Full moon over Zion...


Zealand and I woke up and looked at the map to see which direction we should head. Should we go straight towards Colorado or head up towards Utah? Zion has always been a place I have been drawn to and would never forgive myself if I didn't at the very least spend a day there. So, I packed up breakfast and we headed to Zion. As soon as I rolled in, I knew one day was not going to be nearly enough to fully drink it in. So over the next 5 days, Zea and I hit every major trail, stopped and every shuttle stop, climbed as many boulders as I could but we were really looking for a place away from all the people which is a little harder than you'd think.

We finally found a spot along the river that was away from any road and any trail. We would escape there for the next three days. As amazing as the days were full, the night was beginning to show a fuller moon. Exploring the trails in Zion under the light of a full moon is an experience I will never forget.  

Durango, I do...


Waking up on the sixth morning in Zion, I knew once again I needed to get back on the road. Still no plan on the next stop, I opened my phone and saw that an old friend was just in Vegas and I sent a message saying I was just there and we missed each other. She replied, "Well, I'm in Durango now if you happen to be in the neighborhood". At this point, if it's a half a days drive then you're "in the neighborhood".  She was traveling/living out of her van at the time, staying at a friends house (using their driveway for camp) and they too were people that lived on the road. They said I was more than welcome to stay if I could make it up the mountain on the gravel road to there house. Thankfully we made it just a couple hours before sundown.

That night we sat out by the fire with our dogs, drinking our drink of choice, and trading stories from the road. Each of us just as excited to hear a story as we were to tell our own, we sat around painting pictures with our words. Our vehicles were parked together on the gravel drive behind us, sitting just outside the glow of the fire as if they were listening in on the stories they were all apart of. Each vehicle with the personality of its owner, I found you could learn a lot about someone just by looking in their van/truck, and I had a lot to learn from each of them. One of the guys worked and lived on the road out of his truck for two years, the others go off on trips weeks or months at a time with their home on wheels. Sharing something like this in common creates a respect and bond that not too many people understand. That was a great welcome to Durango and I just rolled in. 

No plan for the next day. So for the next couple days I contemplated...maybe I'll stay, or maybe I'll go. I guess I'll just wait to see what the day brings in the morning.

"Miles from nowhere, guess I'll take my time" -Cat Stevens

CO_night_mountain_line.JPG

Zealand and I spent about a month drifting around Colorado. Almost every morning I would wake up with the sun, and open the doors not really knowing what view I would have. I developed a habit of staying as long as possible everywhere I went. When I finally got on the road, I wouldn't make it to my next destination until late that night. So, when I woke up in the mornings I would find myself parked on the side of a mountain on some gravel road on public land. I would swing open the doors in anticipation, and see some of the most amazing views! 

I knew that once we made it east of Denver, it would be the last of our time in the mountains. This thought kept me out there for as long as I could possibly push it. It got to a point where I was getting messages from friends back home telling me that I needed to get back. That I have a business that I started and I'll be missing the peak season. I knew that, but I also knew that I might not get this opportunity again. So, I stayed as long as I could. They knew that if I was gone any longer, there was a good chance I would stay on the road for a very long time. Having no where to go and all day to get there is a very intoxicating thing! 

Being on the road with only yourself to answer to is an amazing experience. Doing a solo drift has its tribulations too. If something goes wrong and you have no service, and no one really knows where you are or where you are going, it's all on you to get yourself out. Those are the moments where self reliance is put to the test. For better or worse, I loved that. I think it is important to push yourself to see what you are made of and what you can overcome on your own. There were plenty of times I would have to pull over, and crawl under Big Blue and try to figure out what needs to be fixed. Like taking apart the entire muffler line and reset it because the Vegas auto shop didn't tighten any of the connections causing it to almost fall off while driving over the Monarch Mountain pass. That was fun. Never the less, I loved every second of it! 

Those are the moments that make it a real trip, a true adventure. Surfing off the Oregon coast, driving through the Sequoia National forrest draped in a thick fog at 2 in the morning, exploring trails, Yosemite sunsets,  being stranded in Death Valley, needing a whole new motor, unplanned flights to CO, Grand Canyon sunsets, full moon over Zion, building your own hot spring, climbing with friends, throwing the frisbee with a homeless guy that just appeared in the middle of the woods, mountain biking with old friends in the highland desserts, all the secret spots I found when I tried the road less traveled, and visiting the family on the home stretch. I wouldn't change a single moment!