Reinvigorating my appetite for adventure in the Pacific Northwest

Confession: Lately, I haven’t been loving the adventure. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling constantly rushed, dirty beyond my usual threshold, overwhelmed and frustrated by my inability to stay connected while traveling, and worst of all – I just don’t even have a strong desire to climb. It’s been like living in opposite day, for days on end. 

After five months of blissfully living on the road, I really can’t be too surprised that I’ve hit a mental roadblock in my road trip attitude, but it certainly wasn’t very pleasant. Thankfully, I was able to take a quick break from the adventure to spend a weekend with my family in New York City for my cousin’s wedding, and when I returned back to San Francisco (and my big yellow van), everything changed. 

One of our closest friends, Mcgoo, decided to take a much-needed break from his daily life to join us for two weeks of adventuring in the Pacific Northwest. He had never seen the Pacific Ocean before, so to make it a trip to truly remember, we decided to travel up US-1 and the 101 from Half Moon Bay to Seattle. Epic.
Niko and I enjoying our first sunset on the Pacific Ocean during our latest Simply Adventure journey.

The journey began with a pitstop in Sunny Vale for a dinner party hosted by Russ Beebe. Aside from the incredible homemade fare and mint juleps, he delighted me with a surprise appearance from one of my favorite ladies in the outdoor industry, Amy Jurries of TheGearcaster.com. I also got to meet one of the lovely ladies from the new Omniten crew, along with Rebecca from the original Omniten, and my Overland Expo pal, David Croyle. It was a splendid night, and the perfect way to toast the beginning of a new adventure.

We officially began the coastal adventure the next day with a pitstop to feast on my favorite burrito in the entire world at Tres Amigos in Half Moon Bay, CA – conveniently located right on the 1. After the monumental lunchtime gorging, we walked down the road to the coast, where Mcgoo finally touched the Pacific for the first time. Then we promptly loaded up in the van, and hauled north along the slow, winding shoreline.

Not a bad place to spend the day.Since our first day, we’ve traveled over the Golden Gate Bridge, past rolling hillsides teeming with cows, along steep clifflines, and through thickets of redwoods. I’ve still been struggling to find connectivity during our remote adventuring, but the scenery has offered great solace from my woes. It’s hard to gripe about e-mails when you’re hiking past banana slugs in Redwood National Park, or searching for starfish in tide pools.

As we continue on towards Portland, the connectivity promises to improve, and with a freshly charged computer I’ll be able to catch up on all the writing I’ve held hostage in my mind. I’m still a bit weary about all the catching up I feel like I need to do, but at the end of the day, I continue to remind myself of where I am, and what I’m doing. Not being able to update my blog as much as I’d like to is really quite a small price to pay for the experience of spending a year traveling around the United States in my big beautiful van.

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

How to save money on gas and food while traveling

There are two absolute expenses during any road trip: fuel and food. Most other factors can be fudged, but there’s no denying the need to continually fill your belly and your gas tank. While these expenditures are inevitable, there are a few ways to finagle savings and discounts.

Saving Money on Food

Fresh, cheap food is easily found at local farmers markets.Minimizing food costs while traveling boils down to one essential rule: make your own meals. The expenses of eating at restaurants too frequently will create a huge dent in a tight budget, so limit your amount of culinary splurging. Focus on experiencing local food by stocking up on produce and meat from outdoor markets and vendors. Cook veggies and meat with cheap staple foods like rice and ramen noodles (which make a great alternative to pasta if you don’t use that icky flavor packet).

Not sure where to find a farmers market in the area you’re visiting? LocalHarvest.org has a great database where you can locate the nearest farmers market using the area zip code, and find out what days its open, what they usually offer, etc.

While grocery shopping, you can often take advantage of great food offered at a discounted price due to things like dents in cans, approaching expiration dates, and damaged packaging. Our favorite experience thus far has been the “Manager’s Special,” where we got a two-day old rosemary olive oil loaf from the bakery for $1.49, and a bag of fancy sea salt and pepper chips for 89¢ because the packaging had gotten messed up. We’ve also snagged organic yogurt with honey for a few cents, milk that wasn’t expiring for another week, and even totally fresh meat through the whole Manager’s Special shtick. I totally dig it.

Oreo and butterfinger donuts at the Food Ranch in Orangeville, UT.

At smaller establishments that serve made-daily hot foods and baked goods, visiting towards the end of the day could deliver discounts on foods that would otherwise end up in the trash. Best example: The Food Ranch at Joe’s Valley. Like clockwork, every day sees a new wave of ½ off price changes on things like breakfast burritos and warm pizza sticks. The best discount to be had at the Food Ranch is on their world famous donuts: around 5:30-6:00, you can snag an entire dozen for about $2.50. I’m talkin’ butterfinger, oreo, maple with coconut, and the doughiest sugar-raised donuts this side of the Colorado River – if they haven’t sold out already.

Saving Money on Gas

The GasBuddy.com app is a lifesaver for finding cheap gas.When it comes to keeping the van chuggin’, I’ve found there to be far fewer methods of creatively obtaining cheaper gas – but it’s still possible. The first tip is to avoid gas stations located directly off the highway. If you drive a mile or two away from a major thoroughfare, you’re likely to see a significant drop in prices. Another option is to download a gas locator app like Gas Buddy, which uses crowd-sourcing to present updated prices for all the gas stations around your current location.

We also have a City Market card from our visits to stock up on groceries in Moab, which also works at Kroger, King Soopers, Fry’s, and a few other supermarket chains. This loyalty card accumulates points for every dollar spent at any of the franchises, and certain point levels qualify for 10¢ per/gallon discounts on a fill-up at the on-site gas stations. Filling up the van easily costs $100 each time, so every penny we can save on gas makes a difference.

Living on the road may seem like an expensive affair, but being mindful of your spending and seeking savings can make extended travel an entirely manageable lifestyle.

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Dirtbag Beta: 5 Essential Items for Life on the Road

I must admit, adjusting to living in a van has been a much easier process than I ever imagined. Reducing my belongings to fit within a Sprinter wasn’t nearly as painful as expected, and falling into a daily groove happened practically overnight. After nearly three months of living on the road, I’ve discovered a handful of products that have made my day-to-day van life musings much easier. From solar-powered speakers to a cozy sleeping pad, here are five items I’m currently digging, and would highly suggest for anyone planning extended adventures:

The GSI Camp Kitchen Set, provided to us by our sponsor, TheGearHouse.1. GSI Kitchen Set

When packing for my yearlong trip, I set aside many of my used kitchen utensils to sacrifice for van cooking – which seemed like a great idea until TheGearHouse sent me the GSI Camp Kitchen Set, and totally rocked my world. The hard-sided zip-case includes an expandable plastic spatula and ladle spoon, a miniature metal grater, one plastic cutting board, two travel sized containers (ideal for something like olive oil), a dual salt-and-pepper container, a felt dish towel, and a small sponge.

The retractable spatula, ladle, and small cutting boards proved to be useful tools we now use on a daily basis, which all earn bonus points for not taking up a lot of space in the van. My favorite item by far is the small grater – Niko and I have used it for everything from carrots to cheddar cheese. My only complaint about the GSI Kitchen Set is that the sponge is rather flimsy. Without ever using it, the scrubber top totally came off from the soft sponge piece – but a sponge is the kind of item you’d only use a few times before replacing anyways.

Overall, I would recommend the GSI Kitchen Set for anyone planning on spending a lot of time cooking without a kitchen. Ideal for the camper who likes to eat more than just canned spaghetti, this compact case full of practical utensils allows adventurers to whip up nearly any meal your appetite desires. We’ve made cauliflower and pepper omelets, salmon with roasted pears, steak and egg breakfast burritos, and countless other meals in our van using our GSI Kitchen Set. This specific kitchen set is no longer available from TheGearHouse, but you can check out a variety of similar camp cooking utensils here.

2. Goal Zero Rock Out Speakers

The Goal Zero Rock Out speakers, jammin' in the van.When we bought our big yellow van, there was one “small” issue that ended up being a pretty critical problem for long nights of driving: all of the speakers are blown. Fortunately, Goal Zero solved our silent drives by providing us with two Rock Out speakers – which can be tethered together for optimal sound. Our two speakers have become our primary source of entertainment while traversing the great American roads, and we’ve encountered many folks out at climbing areas who love their Rock Out speakers. Remember that these speakers are quite small, so there’s a limit on what they can do. Blasting dubstep on full blast in the woods won’t work out very well – but that’s 100% unnecessary to begin with.

I’m not a fan of the zipped style of the speaker – you have to unzip it to turn it on/off, and also to connect it to your iPod – but y’all ought to keep an eye out for Goal Zero’s upcoming new solar speaker that totally squashes that issue. I got a sneak peak of the new speakers while visiting the Goal Zero headquarters a few weeks ago, and the sound quality of the new speakers is incredible.

3. ClimbOn’s Bast Apotheke Deodorant

Let’s face it: living in a van is an undeniably stinky affair. Unless you’re shacked up in an RV with a sweet shower set-up, you’ll likely be going long stretches between proper bathing. Niko and I can get a particularly foul funk going when we’ve been out adventuring for too long, and the Old Spice deodorant we previously used just wasn’t getting the job done – but to be honest, I had doubts that the dainty-looking natural deodorant ClimbOn sent me from their Bast Apotheke line would cure my stank either. (I was so wrong.)

ClimbOn's Bast Apotheke deodorant is my FAVORITE.We received two varieties of the Bast Apotheka deodorant, jasmine and eucalyptus. Frankly, they both smell like jasmine to me, but it’s my favorite scent so I was thrilled. We slathered our pits with the creamy bar, and put it straight to the test during a week of climbing at Hueco Tanks. To my surprise, it worked – not just well, but fantastically. This stuff keeps your pits smelling like flowers all day, and it’s made from nothing but the good stuff. No worries about funky cancer-causing metals or chemicals seeping through your sweat – ClimbOn’s deodorant is climber-tested, hippie-approved perfectionNiko and I are about to run out, and we are seriously in panic mode.

4. Teton Sports Sleeping Pad

Teton Sports velcro sleeping pads.While constructing the bed in our van, we planned to simply use a big of leftover foam from our local rock gym to provide us with a good night’s sleep. However, we quickly realized that the three-inch foam was not enough to cushion our aching climber bodies. We considered splurging on Tempurpedic memory foam – but decided to try out our Teton Sports sleeping pads first. The pads served us well while camping in a tent, and became a permanent fixture of our van bedding.

I love my Teton Sports ComfortLite sleeping pad, period. They’re the perfect size for Niko and I (and come in multiple lengths for campers of all shapes), inflate relatively easily, provide plentiful support while sleeping, and stay inflated. I haven’t re-inflated mine in weeks, and it still provides me with a sturdy yet cozy sleep every night.

Whether you’re snoozing in a tent, on a cot, or in the comfort of a big yellow Sprinter van, the Teton Sports sleeping pads will keep your body warm and cushioned throughout the night.

5. Joby GorillaTorch Tripod Light

The Joby Gorilla light, a wonderful accessory for living on the road.You’ve already heard me rave about my preferred method of illuminating the van, Goal Zero’s Light-A-Life lanterns – but sometimes we find ourselves needing a more versatile light source that’s easier to move around. Niko received the Joby GorillaTorch Tripod Light as a graduation gift, and it ended up being a fantastic tool for the van. Three magnetic feet at the bottom of each leg easily stick to any metal surface on the van interior, and the light’s swivel head and adjustable dimmer enable us to get light in hard to reach places. We’ve even stuck it out on the exterior of the van while cooking or rearranging gear.

Really, I wish Goal Zero made a solar-powered version of this product, but the Joby Tripod Light uses AA batteries, so I can just power it from my Goal Zero Guide 10 battery pack anyways.

There you have it, folks. Five items I’d be a rather unsatisfied van-dweller without. Living in a van comes with a few basic requirements: facilitation for proper cooking, good jams during stretches between climbing destinations, tools for addressing our unbearable stench, and a cozy place to rest after a long day of adventuring – and these five products satisfy all of the above.

Stay tuned for next month’s gear round up,
which will spotlight five of my favorite pieces of climbing gear!

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Happy Van-aversary! Reflections from Two Months of Living in a Van

Today is an anniversary of sorts: Niko and I have officially been living in our big yellow Sprinter van for two months. Officially longer than any other journey we’ve embarked on together, I’m proud of how easy has been to live on the road – and impressed that we still actually want to cuddle every night. Throughout our eight initial weeks of the Simply Adventure journey, we’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and began to appreciate all that we have (and things that we don’t, but our friends do – like showers).

Here's the Simply Adventure route this far: from Florida to Utah! Here’s a little recap of our journey thus far:

  • We have traveled over 3,991 miles in 60 days.
  • The van has visited 10 states, including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah.
  • 37 days have been spent climbing (minus a few for me due to a tendon injury). We’ve visited Reimer’s Ranch, Hueco Tanks, Joshua Tree, Red Rocks, Moe’s Valley, Joe’s Valley, and American Fork Canyon.
  • Our National Parks adventures have taken us to Saguaro National Park in Arizona, Joshua Tree in California, and Zion and Kolob Canyons in Utah.
  • I’ve managed to badly sprain an ankle (which still hurts), partially tear a tendon, and get miserable food poisoning.

The Craggin' Wagon perched on the side of the road outside of Hueco Tanks, Texas.It has truly been an incredible journey so far. There have been undeniable moments of frustration, but all have been greatly outweighed by moments of victory, love, and new discoveries. We’ve made it through blasting sandstorms in the desert, everything freezing on a nightly basis in the van, mountainous driving in white-out snow conditions, and the worst situation of all: running out of fresh avocados.

One of my favorite climbs of the trip thus far, Self Service (V5) at Joe's Valley in Utah.Living on the road teaches you to simplify everything in life, from the collection of “stuff” you need to be happy to the amount of water you need to wash a sink full of dishes. It has made us stronger in spirit, better climbers overall, more aware of our impact on the earth, and closer as a couple.

So what do the next two months have in store for our yearlong van-dwelling adventure? Well, we’re not exactly sure. We’ve hit a lull in our itinerary – after we leave Joe’s Valley and head to Rifle next week, our agenda is completely blank until we hit Yosemite at the end of May. We’ll likely just cruise around Colorado and Utah, following crisp climbing conditions. Got any suggestions?

Thank you to everyone who has been following the adventure online, offered us warm beds and hot showers, sponsored us with incredible gear that has changed our capabilities in the van, and to my mom, for insisting on sending me an Easter basket while I’m out climbing in Utah. I can’t wait to share the next adventures the big yellow van will lead me to – and I count my blessings every day for being able to experience all of this.

Want more from our trip? 

During these first two months, we’ve had a few interesting opportunities to spread the Simply Adventure love.
Check out this video of the van from Joshua Tree, and our interview with GrindTV.com!

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Caught Red-Handed in a J-Tree Parking Lot: The First Simply Adventure Video

I still owe you a ton of updates from our time in Hueco Tanks and Arizona, but I couldn’t resist sharing this ridiculous video of Niko and I. Before you watch, here’s a backstory on how this little film came to be:

So after a very windy day of climbing at Joshua Tree National Park, Niko and I retreated back to van in a relatively deserted parking lot. As we were packing up, a curious chick came clamoring towards the van with all sorts of questions about who we were, what we were doing, and how we had outfitted our van. After a few quick introductions, we ended up spending over an hour cooped in the van talking about our trip.

This photo by Alexandra Klos (KlosUpPictures.com) perfectly captures the essence of my dirtbaggery.

The chick ended up being this awesome photographer who was visiting two friends in Los Angeles hoping to discover exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She had spent the entire week raving to her two friends about the idea of buying a vehicle to live in while she traveled the country to photograph the outdoors – and totally took our chance encounter as a sign. By the end of our little chat, she was convinced that fate was telling her to just do it.

Stoked on our trip, she asked if she could film a little and take some photos of the van – and this is what she ended up with:

*Warning: I look like a TOTAL dirtbag bum. It ain’t pretty, folks.

[vimeo clip_id=”60238062″]

Big thanks to Alexandra Klos for putting this sweet video together on the fly, it was definitely a much appreciated ego-boost to hear y’all tell us we were “iconic,” however untrue that may be! If you want to check out more from Klos Up Pictures, visit her Vimeo page, or head over to the Klos Up Pictures website , which is currently under construction, but I’m sure will soon be exploding with incredible photography.

But seriously. I look like such a bum. If it makes anyone feel better, the day after this photo, Niko and I rented a cheap motel room and I totally showered. I promise.

PS: Alexandra, we better see you out on the road living in your own van soon!
You’ve go the spirit and the guts to make it happen, and we hope you follow your dreams!

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Your questions about the Simply Adventure trip, answered!

Seriously, ask us anything about our yearlong Simply Adventure climbing trip! Whenever we talk to folks about our Simply Adventure trip, everyone seems to be bursting with questions about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and why we decided to spend a year living in a van together to travel the country. We appreciate all the curiosity and support, so we reached out and asked people to send us their questions. Here’s what you wanted to know:

Where do you plan to go?

Everywhere. We plan on hitting up basically every state within the continental United States – except for Kansas and Oklahoma, because really, those states are no fun for climbers who have already driven through them a dozen times.

Here’s a very rough idea of it: on Thursday, we’ll drive until we cross out of Florida – finally! We’ll stop in New Orleans for lunch, since Niko has never been, and then we’ll move on to Houston and Hueco. After a few weeks of climbing in Hueco Tanks, we’ll move on to Taos, then J-Tree, then up to Salt Lake City and Moab in mid-March. After that, the plans are less ironclad, but we’ll pass through Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, travel up the pacific coast from San Fransico to Washington State.

After exploring the pacific northwest, we’ll trek through Montana and Idaho before heading back to Salt Lake City. Then we’ll visit Wyoming, Colorado, and head up to the Dakotas before journeying along the border states like Wisconsin and Minnesota. We’ll be at Red River Gorge in September, North Carolina for the Hound Ears competition in October, and then up the northeast for fall.

Did you ever name the van?

Yes! When we first got the van, we asked readers to come up with some potential names for it; Mike from Mike Off The Map came up with “Craggin’ Wagon,” and we loved the name.

Who drives better?

Niko says, “Obviously, I do.” But really, we’re pretty even. Niko is better at parking, tricky maneuvering, and driving at night (I hate driving in the dark), but he also tends to get a little distracted and fed up with driving. I can go for long hauls and am a bit steadier on the road.

How do you each plan to have your own space (in or out of the van)?

Niko sits proudly atop our new yellow home.

At least once a week, we’ll be taking solo hikes/adventures. To give each other a little breathing room, we’ll take some space for a few hours to do our own thing.

In the van, there isn’t much personal space – but we’ve divided up shelves and drawers. We also have two fabric bins we’ll use as a “catch-all,” so we can dump each other’s junk in our respective boxes when we’re sick of it being strewn all over the van.

It’s going to be a BIG learning experience for our relationship. We definitely want to end this yearlong trip still wanting to be together, so we’re putting a priority on keeping our relationship healthy and balanced.

Are you planning to post inside pictures of the van before and after the trip?

Yes! We’ve been doing before-during-after photos of the van retrofit, but we love the idea of taking a picture of the van on the first day, and another one of it one our last day of the trip.

Where are you going to use the bathroom and shower?

We got this question a lot during our going away party in Miami – some of my Cuban family didn’t quite jive with the whole “living in the woods” concept, haha! The answer? The bathroom is right outside the van door, and the shower is down the trail in the nearest river. The van is stocked with an arsenal of baby wipes and dry shampoo to help keep us clean in between proper showers.

We’ll also be stopping occasionally at truck stops with showers (haven’t tried that yet, we’ll see how it turns out), staying a night or so at campgrounds with showers, etc.

What’s your plan for accessing the internet?

Staying connected is a non-negotiable requirement for me, so I’ve been thinking about wi-fi since the beginning of our planning process. The current plan is to use my iPhone as a tethered hotspot, but if that doesn’t meet my internet needs we’ll invest in an air card.

Bonus: Spending an afternoon holed up at a little coffee shop to use their free wi-fi doubles as a great little escape from van life.

Where do you plan to camp/park each night?

The costs of paying for campgrounds each night would add up astronomically, so we’re planning to minimize our lodging expenses as much as possible by finding free places to spend the evening.

We are seasoned pros at spending evenings camping in Walmart parking lots, but we’re really looking forward to checking out BLM areas once we get out west.

My smelly old coffee container has now been replaced with a sweet new mug from The Crash Pad!

How do you get power to make coffee in the morning?

Our trip is being powered by Goal Zero Solar – and so is Niko’s addiction to coffee. We’ll have a french press to brew coffee each morning, and will use a combination of our solar power and a gas-powered stove to heat up the water.

The only foreseeable coffee-issue is that Niko could down an entire french press of coffee by himself – so it’s a good thing I like to drink tea sometimes!

How did you get the funding to do this? Are you living off savings?

Saving enough money to support this trip has been a yearlong process. We are both planning to live off our life savings, and I moved back to Florida from Denver to save money while I was working with LivingSocial. We have enough money to support our adventure on just the basics, but I plan on using my freelancing work to help us with “luxuries.” Niko will be picking up temporary jobs when he can, like working at Miguel’s in Red River Gorge.

We are also incredibly blessed to have the support of our sponsors, who are supplying us with everything from solar gear to camping food.

How did you decide what was a reasonable amount of money to save?

Honestly, we just saved as much as we could. We calculated some basic costs, gathered support from gear sponsors, and limited our spending (and traveling) during the year before our trip. We won’t be living lavishly during 2013, but we’ll have enough to get by.

A very rough map of our trip outline so far.How long was the planning process?

The Simply Adventure trip has been in the works for over a year. We came up with the idea for a yearlong trip last winter in late 2011, and throughout the year it evolved into a more defined experience with a strong mission. In March of 2012, I left Denver to move back to Florida and begin the saving and preparation for the trip. We bought the van in October 2012, and once we had the van, the trip planning went into major overhaul.

How did you decide what to bring/not to bring?

Niko has always been a minimalist, but I’m admittedly a bit of a hoarder. My purging process has been going on since I moved back to Florida from Denver, but I somehow constantly accumulate stuff. We limited our clothing to last about two weeks in between visits to laundromats, and pre-packed gear for the various seasons to be shipped to us during the trip.

Will you be at summer OR?

We will absolutely be at Summer OR show. We had to miss the winter market due to trip preparations, but we wouldn’t miss the summer gathering at Salt Lake City for anything. See you all there!

Got more questions for us? Leave ’em  in the comments!

 

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Packing Up, Leaving Our House, and Embracing The Adventure of “Homelessness”

It’s official: We no longer reside in a proper four-walled home, nor will we until 2014. I’m not sure that the reality of my newfound lifestyle has truly hit me yet, but I’m enjoying this phase of transition to van-dwelling. It’s different, it’s lacking insulation, and it’s quite generous with cold temperatures.

Our van all packed up with climbing gear, camping equipment, and mismatched belongings.We’ve reduced our belongings as much as possible before our final “dump” next week in Miami, and our last few meals have all included canned food – but it ain’t too shabby. This morning was our first day waking up with no kitchen to cook breakfast in, but it turned out to be one of the most pleasant mornings.

After brewing some strong coffee, we baked sliced potatoes in our small toaster oven, and accessorized it with melted cheese, fresh chives, and diced avocados – delicious. Our meager bounty was enjoyed out on a picnic table, where we formulated a game plan for the day.

I could get used to this.

Admittedly, there are a few things about “traditional” living that I miss already. I miss having a big kitchen for cooking meals from scratch, I miss the convenience of warm water to wash my face, and I miss the comfort of knowing a shower is available anytime I feel particularly dirty.

The most difficult change is a sudden lack of proper workspace or daily routine. My need to quickly adapt and catch up on all my beckoning work is undeniable, so I’m looking forward to a few mornings spent holed up at our local coffee shop, All Saints Café.

But other than that, the idea and process of living a drastically simplified life is treating me quite well. In the spirit of sharing my experience and working to inspire others to get out there and do what I’m doing, I wanted to open myself up to a little project:

Seriously, ask us anything about our yearlong Simply Adventure climbing trip! I’ll be posting a Simply Adventure Q&A next week,

so comment/e-mail/tweet me ANY question you have

about my trip, the planning process, my lifestyle, etc.

I’m excited to see what y’all come up with for the Q&A session.
Feel free to ask me (or Niko!) ANYTHING you’ve been wondering about our Simply Adventure trip.

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

Simply Adventure Update: Van Renovations and Upcoming Surprises

At first, it seemed like this trip was years away – but we’ve officially surpassed the two-month countdown to our Simply Adventure departure! With the clocking ticking noisily in our minds, Niko and I have kicked preparations and planning into overdrive. Where have we spent most of our energy (and quickly dwindling savings)? Renovating the van, baby! 

 

After painstakingly cutting metal and sawing wood for the past week, Niko has finally finished his handcrafted bed frame for the rear of the Sprinter. He used a metal base to create a strong, reinforced frame, and then spruced up the appearance of the bare metal by adding a layer of blonde wood on top (which also added some rigidity and extra strength to the frame). He shaped wood sheets to create the platform, and voila, we have a bed! All that is missing is the foam topper, and a storage system beneath.

We also completed the staining of the kitchen cabinets (which we snagged for 20% off at Home Depot, score). Niko did the first few coats, and I finished it off with the final layer. We still need to install the countertop, but it felt like a huge victory when we finally hoisted the cabinets back into the van and admired our handiwork. We also very victoriously removed the enormous, and difficult, partition that divided the passenger area from the cargo section of the van. It feels so roomy now!


Here’s a little sneak peak at what the Sprinter is lookin’ like right now (stay tuned for a more detailed photo shoot next week!):

Continue reading

Follow, like, share, spread the love!

The story of how a giant yellow Sprinter van became my home

From the moment Niko and I declared 2013 as our road trip year, we began dreaming of the vehicle that would serve as our home during our adventure. Living in a car is no simple subject, so naturally we explored multiple options.

The first “that’s the one!” idea was a Honda Element equipped with Ursa Minor’s E-Camper pop-up extension. It turned a standard adventure mobile into a livable space – perfect. I was able to play in the Jeep version during Overland Expo, and felt pretty smitten with the concept of turning it into my home for a year. But the price tag proved a bit too reachy.

And more importantly, we realized we needed some space. Niko and I are great at living together and sharing everything, but the idea of residing in a small car for an entire year started to feel a bit suffocating. I quickly realized that the more space we had, the higher the likelihood of us not wanting to throw each other off a cliff within the first two months of our Simply Adventure trip.

After storming up new ideas, being haunted by Niko’s proposal of living in his pick-up truck, and many conversations with Beth from 3Up Adventures, the choice was clear: We needed a Sprinter van.

Big, boxy, and good on gas mileage, the Dodge Sprinter is truly an ideal vehicle for the adventure lifestyle. The cargo set-up allowed us to create a functional space designed for our needs, but the diesel van still drives (relatively) easy. We agreed on the Sprinter, and quickly began our search.

Months of scouring the internet and local dealerships for used Sprinters led to two weeks in Miami to complete the search and purchase. After a handful of disappointing van visits, my father and I hopped on a one-way flight to Tampa, then drove out to Palm Harbor, to check out a big, yellow Sprinter that Niko had discovered in an eBay auction.

It was love at first sight.

Never mind that yellow is my absolutely favorite color of all time, or that I have an unusual tendency to affectionately personify inanimate objects – this Sprinter was the one. The dealership was closed during our initial visit, so we creeped on the van, and eagerly awaited the next day to (hopefully) finalize the purchase.

The waiting, haggling, and inspection process were absolutely agonizing.

We test drove the Sprinter first thing in the morning, and decided we liked what we saw. The next step was taking it to a mechanic at the Jerry Ulm Dodge dealership to get the lowdown on the van. I will forever be grateful for the extraordinary efforts by Brian Cummings to help me with my van buying process. He spent hours talking to us, offering honest advice, and ultimately suggesting that we should go for it and buy the van (even though it wasn’t being sold by his dealership). Brian, thank you a thousand times, you are absolutely wonderful!

Fast forward through some unsuccessful haggling, a “looks like we’ll have to walk away from the van” moment, a phone call saying “come back, we’ll take your offer,” and lots of paperwork – and suddenly I was driving my new yellow van from Tampa to Miami. Ain’t it a beauty?

Since purchasing my new home, we’ve driven from Tampa to Miami, and Miami to Tallahassee. This weekend we’re heading up to the Atlanta area for our first trail day with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition at Boat Rock – our first official Simply Adventure journey.

In the coming weeks, I’ll keep you updated as we outfit the Sprinter and transform it into a veritable home. It may have a shabby paint job, blown speakers, broken AC vents, and a busted headlight – but it’s our first home together, and we’re smitten. We’ve already gutted the interior; next up is tearing down the partition.

Soon, the blank interior space will be filled with a custom built bed, kitchen area, storage, and more. We can’t wait to show you our handiwork, so stay tuned! We’re also going to be holding a van naming contest soon, so start thinkin’ up some snazzy names for our glorious yellow van!

Want to help us make the Simply Adventure dream a reality? Check out our fundraiser, and DONATE to our mission to spread the good tidings of conservation, outdoor recreation, and climbing love across the country! 

Follow, like, share, spread the love!