Three Weeks on the Road – A Recap

This trip, like most, is comprised of snippets of awesome, wide swaths of normal life logistics and work, periods of discomfort, and peaks of hilarity and loving life. I’ve found it hard to fit in writing, photography, working, adventuring, and spending more time with Chelsea – all priorities for this trip – and so the quick update posts have lagged.

There are certain images from the last few weeks of travel that stick with me, however, and here they are. No particular order, just a brain dump with some photos to help tell the story.

  • Sunset and morning walks on beaches watching seals and birds frolic in the surf. Given the late season, we are so lucky to have had almost entirely blue skies to explore the beaches and forests of Oregon and Northern California.

    Exploring the beach.

    Exploring the beach. (Cape Blanco State Park)

  • Listening to Chelsea giggle hysterically – one of the best sounds in the world – when I pick her up by the elbow and help her skip on the beach.
  • Searching for great food amid the greasy spoon cafes and $$$-on-Yelp seafood restaurants. We are so spoiled by amazing cuisine in Portland. Bandon had some amazing grub (The Loft and Edgewaters), Trinidad had some great vegan food (The Lighthouse Cafe), Ft. Bragg had a great vegan breakfast cafe (Cafe 1), and Mendocino’s Good Life Cafe & Bakery with the best pecan pie everrrrrr, and a lifesaver on a cold rainy day.
  • Running solo on the Avenue of Giants through the redwoods on silent trails with just the sound of my breath puffing in the cold air.

    This one's for Margi. Stretching: an imperative part of anyone's exercise routine.

    This one’s for Margi. Stretching: an imperative part of anyone’s exercise routine.

  • Chelsea making me stop the van to help herd a frog out of the way. Me: “He’ll move.” “No he won’t. DON’T drive!” (At least it was in a campground and not on a highway…geez she loves animals.)
  • Reading a good book by a crackling fire with the wind howling outside. Loving the iPad and ebooks for this trip.

    On the beach near Crescent City.

    On the beach near Crescent City.

  • Getting a knock on the van door while parked at a visitor center in the redwoods. Why hello, Park Ranger. “Sorry to wake you.” (Huh? It’s 11:30 am. Is my hair that bad?) “We got a report that you’ve been camped out here a couple days.” Me: “Oh, we actually move at night. This is the only place in this park where I get reception for my wifi hotspot since I’m working from the road.” Problem solved – she was super nice.
  • Late-night dinner of mashed potatoes in a waffle cone in Trinidad, a tiny little town north of Arcata. That’s a new one!
  • A morning paddle in a canoe on a light work day. Slicing quietly through the water watching geese and then hiking through sand dunes to the ocean.

    Chelsea, the intrepid explorer.

    Chelsea, the intrepid explorer. (Point Arenas)

  • Freezing our butts (and fingers and toes) off. Mostly outside, but it is definitely tougher to keep a van warm when it’s 26 at night, even with a heater and insulation. Hooray for heating pads and a lofty comforter. We’re gonna make it!

    Chelsea knows how to stay warm in an ice age.

    Chelsea knows how to stay warm in an ice age.

  • With all the driving, plus no longer working at a standing desk, I can already feel my hamstrings and hip flexors contracting me into a Gollum-esque pose.
  • To combat the above, a candlelit evening yoga in Arcata for a welcome retreat from the cold rain outside.
  • Working from some seriously random locations. In no particular order: a rest stop, the passenger seat of the van going down I-5 while Chelsea drives, a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, a laundromat, the western-most point in the U.S., next to a 10-foot-tall seagull made from found plastic beach trash, on a dock, from a streambed in the middle of the redwoods, from an estuary watching cascading ripples of shore birds… Technology is a wonderful and empowering thing in some ways.

    Morning frost at the beach.

    Morning frost at the beach. (MacKerricher State Park)

  • Waking up every morning in the cozy cocoon of our van, often taking a second to recenter my compass and figure out where we are!
  • Driving at night on twisty coastal highways, yellow dashed lines rolling off into the distance. Deer grazing on the sides of the road, mice skittering across.

    Night driving.

    Night driving somewhere in the redwoods.

  • Overnight parking anywhere and everywhere. Our van looks more like a surveillance vehicle than an RV and it is easy to sneak incognito into a neighborhood, drop the blackout curtains and kick back in our house on wheels. As Chelsea’s mom innocently asked the other day when we mentioned all the vagrants and panhandlers in Arcata, “So, you just park on the street with all the other vagrants.” Yes, yes we do Linda. You must be so proud.

    From the 1930s, a 11-foot-diameter hollowed out redwood made into a camper van. Our Sprinter has nothing on this.

    From the 1930s, a 11-foot-diameter windfall redwood donated and made into a camper van by a guy who used the rig to spread the preservation message. Our Sprinter has nothing on this.

  • Listening to nature outside the van: crashing waves, rain on the roof (infrequent so far!), wind in the trees, ravens croaking, squirrels duking it out. It feels very up close and personal in a van. Not quite the exposure of a tent, but certainly not the protective moat feeling of a house.

    Hiking in the redwoods.

    In the redwoods prehistoric jungle. (Tall Trees Grove, Prairie Creek State Park)

  • Similar to above, connection to nature: instant access outside our van to hiking, biking, and exploring. This was a big part of our reason to travel in a van, as it saves the trip to get TO nature. Trade-offs, of course, since we don’t have the amenities of the city, but so far a very good exchange.

    Hiking in Tall Trees grove.

    Hiking in Tall Trees grove.

  • Tossing a football on the beach with a young kid from Kansas. I always run a receiving pattern when I see somebody with a football to see if they’ll throw it to me. Often, they do, though sometimes all I get is a wide-eyed “what are you doing?” stare.
  • Finding surprisingly great co-ops down the coast. Lots of bulk food without packaging, which is always hard to find in small towns.

    No packaging party in Crescent City, CA.

    No-packaging party in Crescent City, CA.

  • Silence: Turns out there is nobody around on the NorCal coast in the winter. Most hikes we do are totally alone. Quick story about solitude. Budget reductions in place, the road is closed to Tall Trees Grove in the redwoods. We grab mountain bikes and head out for the seven miles. No big deal. STRAIGHT down the mountain…down down down. It’s bad when you are dreading the ride up before you even start back up. Halfway down, a big black bear runs across the road in front of me. I crank on the brakes so hard hydraulic fluid sprays in my eyes. Or was that adrenaline?
    The hike is totally amazing, with tiny mushrooms sprouting everywhere and 300+ foot redwoods towering over us with a bed of dewy ferns and moss. Not a person to be seen with our wide-eyed stares of gratitude to have this scene to ourselves. The much-feared bike ride isn’t so bad – slow and steady out before it is totally dark. For  me, a  bad day outside in nature is better than a great one inside working on a computer. 

    We'll get outta here even if we have to leapfrog our way.

    We’ll get outta here even if we have to leapfrog our way. (Founders Grove, Humboldt Redwoods)

  • Only a few days into our trip, finding serious inspiration in the project and staying around to work on the project and getting to know the founder. They invited us to use their awesome cabin in the woods for three nights, a marvelous retreat. Thanks Angela and Frank!

    Puffin made entirely of plastic trash.

    Puffin made entirely of plastic trash picked up on the beach by volunteers. (Bandon, OR)

  • Talking to a 23 year old engineer above the beach in Bandon. He’s parked with the rear hatch of his Subaru open, dreadlocked hair waving, playing an electric guitar to the ocean. He’s there in the morning, and later when we bike through, and still there when we drive up for the sunset. “Dude, made $44 bucks today playing up here!” He graduated in June, packed his car and drove to Oregon. Two engineering jobs, both quick – “I can’t settle down man, not yet” – and just doing his thing. Homeless, with a world full of options. Nathan, I wish you well on your journey, wherever that takes you.
  • Getting up before dark to write while Chelsea slumbers away. Screen glowing in the quiet van, tick tick tick. My pen pal friend Pam challenged me to write more – she did 1,000 words per day for awhile – so I’m trying!Learning how to write.

I’m finishing up this post, which I started a week ago in the redwoods, from our cozy van in the Bodega Bay Dunes Campground. Clear, cold night, Modest Mouse on the stereo. Got a great run in earlier and then we posted up overlooking a rocky beach and I took a nap while Chelsea read. Saturday afternoons rock! We are headed to the Bay Area later this week to see some friends from college, which I’m excited about.

Contemplative moments abound.

Contemplative moments abound. (Cape Blanco, southern Oregon)

Be well and stay warm out there, wherever you are.