Ingrid informed me recently that it will be our 2 year anniversary on the road. The thought stirs a lot of memories, further provoked by scanning my own photos from now back to the beginning. Where do I begin? What can be said about leaving everything behind, consolidating your belongings and packing your basic necessities into a van and driving off into the sunset? In our case, it was a cold February evening around 7pm. Well past sunset in a New York winter.
We made a bunch of stops, I wanted to give a card to the the lady at the end of my street, we stopped at Jay and Michele’s to say goodbye, Cromer’s for something, Jo Flo’s to drop off a borrowed step-ladder, then to my friend Patrick’s place to drop of a drum machine. Super fun little toy, had a kick pedal and different beats to jam with. Patty made us some kind of tea made with roasted nuts I forget what it was, and gave us an item that we desperately needed, a road Atlas of North America. We laughed about it thinking that out of all the stuff we had in the van, we didn’t have an Atlas. Then on to Mick’s to drop off a final guitar. It was fun to see them all, it’s noteworthy to say there was more than a foot of snow on the ground, and it was freezing. The feeling of a new beginning was strong. Everything felt so fresh and new. Even after loading the van to the brim, it felt light on the road and was purring. We were elated and shocked to have finally left. The last few days seemed to take forever, and we were physically strained especially after having finished the installation and packing the van.
I remember waving goodbye to my father and Copper, his blessing on our trip as we left. Sitting in the driver seat, I felt like a King on his throne and the road was my kingdom. ‘Take us where ever we so shall please.’ Curious thought. What carries you more, the vehicle you're driving or the roads you choose to take? In our case we took the road to Brooklyn to crash with our friends Sam and Nate. I could go on about this, our first few days on the road were truly memorable, complete with a visit to Museum of Natural history, the MoMA, and two nights in the van on the village streets. Temps. well below freezing. But it really felt like it started when we drove through the Holland tunnel, and hooked a right onto I-95.
I’ll never forget this. That is a confusing section of crossroads, and a water pipe had burst creating a major detour. We, for some reason, thought that we could get those disposable green propane tanks filled again, and stopped at Home Depot, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. And they said, ‘sorry Charlie, no can do.’ I jokingly offered the girl at the counter a few dollars to just do it anyway, she looked at me like I had 3 heads. The situation was getting strenuous as we were jammed in traffic, trying to get back on track. At one point we were practically at each others throats, as I was driving and Ingrid was supposed to be navigating. On a side note, this had happened to us once before on our way to Cape Hatteras, and it was in the back of my mind as we were re-enacting the scene, but in a far more energetic fashion. Just as we came to the point of no return, we hit I-95 and the sun lit up the windshield as we made the left-turn and were finally heading south. It halted the conversation for a while. We were listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
From here on the trip became blissful. We didn’t stop until South Carolina, and then we didn’t stop until Georgia, where the snow finally disappeared. We stayed with a Peruvian girlfriend of Ingrid’s who lives with her boyfriend in Atlanta, they were so good to us. On to Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico, then Louisiana. I remember listening to music, Patty had given us some new ‘Patty Mixes’ which he’s famous for, and we were jamming old-school tunes, putting in the miles.
The U.S. is so incredibly scenic, it was a dream come true to finally see it unfold in front of us. The Beast, has hardly ever made a peep to this day, just powers out like a road warrior, always when you need it. I remember New Orleans and what a profound effect it had on me. We rolled into Austin with a light winter storm, I remember the leaves blowing around the street and the light rain falling as we searched for an appropriate parking space, which was easily found. Playing Hendrix for Stevie Ray at his statue and memorial across the river in the park, busking in the streets, Austin is a really happening city. We loved it. There’s vegan restaurants everywhere. I’ll never forget driving across Texas, and rolling into New Mexico in the dark. We found our first state park, Bottomless Lakes, just outside of Roswell, and parked for the night. When I woke up, I walked up the hill to take in our surroundings. The terrain had drastically changed. There was Cactus and desert shrubs all over. It looked so foreign and so familiar at the same time. It was like looking at a picture in a real life picture book. So incredibly amazing. Sleeping in parks is so peaceful, It was so dark and quiet. Borderline scary. There was hardly anyone there. New Mexico was mesmerizing from start to finish.
We went to the four corners for redirection, I highly recommend this to anybody. Any direction you choose is bound to take you somewhere that you wont forget. Thus started our exploration of a few of the Southwest’s many National Parks. I cannot express my sincere appreciation and admiration for these places. Hail to the local park rangers, they are true stewards of the earth.
Finally we crossed the Eastern Sierras and arrived in the promised land. California. So many feelings wash over you and overtake you, but never stronger than the moment you’re in and experiencing. All ranges and spectrums, learning van life from the best teacher, the road itself. So many people we met, so kind and accommodating, take you in like family without hardly knowing you. It really makes the trip last, as it’s hard to be away from your real family and friends. But the people on the road are one big family and this continues to be true even more so as we crossed the border. I’d like to shout out the Spielman’s, and the Hren’s, as they were family friends that we knew from back east that took care of us as we came into California as poor wayfaring strangers. California really is a special place, truly unique in it’s geographies and culture. The colors, rolling greens, golden yellows, rich earthy browns, skies in full blue, truly awe-inspiring. The Redwoods and Sequoia trees will leave you breathless. The wine flows like water. The fog rolls into the hills like a plush blanket, keeping everything wrapped up safe and sound. The people are so genuine, truly American in their hospitality and welcoming nature.
We went back to New York for the summer, it was a lot of hustling and long hours, but well worth it. Summer on long Island is beautiful, but it does get overrun with people as it is a long skinny island that is being rapidly developed, now more than ever. Going back has it’s pros and cons. That’s one thing that has stood out to me after life on the road for this long. There isn’t one scenario that’s better than another. Everything has it’s pro’s and cons. That’s it. You constantly weigh them out and make your decisions based on analysis.
Recapping the the time we’ve spent across the border could take another 3 pages, I’ll try to keep it to a minimum and focus on the feelings and emotions that overcame me. Crossing the border was like a vivid daydream, Mexico is like one giant evolving mural, painted by the great Mexican artists and people in collaboration. So fun to look at, entirely amusing to say the least.
Seeing the border from the Mexico side, menacing and demeaning. Imposing, and divisive, long and practically seamless. Cheap construction but visually effective, it was like a sore or an open wound in an otherwise beautiful and desolate landscape. Tijuana, much more organized and less chaotic than I imagined, the golden sunlight blaring into the landscape and Beast, like good loud concert music. We approached the coast and made our way south again.
The gratitude we felt after being taken in by a local family in Tecate who gave us a safe place to crash while our van was being worked on, purely cosmetic. The desolation of Baja, the feeling of being an ant or a shelled creature on the surface of the moon, or some distant planet. The empty space void of life, the only sign of civilization being the road that you’re driving on. The deserted landscape will stay with you long after you leave this blessed land. Southern Baja, mecca for any religion, or lack thereof. A real life sanctuary, will hold you and keep you warm and safe until you’re ready to leave. We would have stayed here forever, but we couldn’t resist the allure of Mainland after all the stories we’d heard, both good and bad. The feeling after it was all said and done, compared to potential scenarios I had schemed up, was overwhelming gratitude to Mexico as a whole and Mexicans for treating me like a brother and taking care of us throughout, complete with my rookie mistakes and blundering ignorance. Incredibly beautiful and inspiring country. Thank you Mexico, we are eternally grateful.
Guatemala was a flash of blinding fields of flowers on impassible mountainsides, pallets of vivid and natural colors, ungodly terrain, or holy Mountains, how ever you like. Chapines are a knowing people, ancient knowledge bestowed onto them by their Mayan ancestry. Once again the feeling after the fact compared to what I thought it could be like or what might happen were vastly different. 15 years after coming to Antigua with my father, I found the place just as quaint and charming as the first time, just a few more people and more farming on the volcano slopes. It even seemed smaller than the first time.
Lago Atitlan sucked us into it’s energetic whirlpool, and we drank it up. The place changes all the time visually, clouds of all shapes and sizes, squeezing over, up, around, and through the prehistoric landscape. The ever-changing light coaxing them along their way. The road in,(or should I say down) left the hair on the back of my neck standing on end for days afterward. The natural beauty of Guatemala is absolutely stand out and never lets up. We loved every minute, the black sand beaches much like Mexico, equipped with Coconut palms and Almendra trees, feels like home now. A textbook picture of what a beach in paradise looks like.
Crossing into El Salvador was a breeze, Ingrid does make border crossings super easy. Almost immediately we were into good surf and an epic camping spot, in a shady parking lot, a stones throw from a classic sand point set-up. Bathrooms, showers, restaurant, with a pool, two parrots and a full-grown iguana. You’ve got to meet this guy. His name is Paco, he’s yellowy orange, and enormous. If you want to meet him you’ll most likely have to wake him up as he’s sleeping all the time.
This country has been incredibly good to us, the people are more than nice, they’re like saviors. Always there to help you, answer questions, and just generally have a good time and are curious about the comings and goings of the various travelers that pass through their magnetic country. To date, this is the only place where we were able to drive into the crater of a volcano, and stay for days on end. It was so cool. Literally as it’s in the mountains and would get legitimately cold at night. Guarded with a locked gate, safe and secure, we slept like rocks, undisturbed till the morning light.
Life on the road has been a learning and rewarding experience. We live in the smallest space you could imagine two people living in, with paradise at our doorstep. Our scene changes all the time, we learn to adapt and make the best of every situation we come across. Living on the road forces you to look at every little thing that you carry, every piece of garbage that you make, the amount of water you consume, how much fuel you burn, and the money you spend, down to the last penny. It’s been interesting to see how much less water we consume in total compared to when we lived in an apartment. The beauty of moving as slow as we do is that you really get a feel for the places you’re visiting, and get familiar with the local way of life. Another great benefit from living on the road is I’m able to put more time into what I really care for, which is Ingrid, music, art, surfing, making coffee, setting up camp, lying in hammocks, and opening coconuts.
It was a hard decision to make, giving up the life that we were living for one seemingly far more risky and unpredictable, but my experiences on the road have only affirmed for the most part that we made the right decision. In our case, it was the best thing we could have done, and still is. Looking forward to what’s to come, we will greet it with open arms. If our recent past experience is telling of what we can expect, it will be a joy and a privilege to continue on into the unknown. Happy road anniversary Ingrid, I love you with all my heart. To our friends and family who have been with us and supported us from the beginning, we humbly salute you and look forward to filling you in with tales and images to come from the open road. Con much gusto!