If you have read my other stories you know that I live in my van about 20 days a month. Some more, some less. Lately I have been leaving my van all alone in Northern California while a couple of co-workers give me a ride to and from my “vacation home” where my family lives. It saves quite a bit of money on gas and maintenance for sure but takes a major part of “Vandwelling” out of the equation. Sure my room is mine and comfortable while I’m on the road. It’s mobile so I can still choose to have or not have neighbors. But the adventure of the drive and what can be seen on the way has been eliminated recently. I usually try to find a new route. A new place to stop and watch the sun rise while I wake up. A new view of something or somewhere I have never seen before. In a van any old parking spot can do but I’m always looking for that EPIC spot I’ve never seen before. National Parks are always a good bet. Sometimes it’s the same spot and one of Gods creatures walk by or stop to play. That can be even better. I’m excited to be home in my van again. Although I do miss the adventure part of my van life, I will be missing my family more. I think one more round trip without my “View Finder” (the name I gave my van) next week will be tough but worth the chance to make my family’s life amazing. Fall has sprung and I am missing the colors. Luckily my wife is beautiful enough to make up for everything I miss. As soon as I get my eyes on her again.
Perk 3. In a van adventure can happen at the drop of a hat when life becomes to mundane.
I’m now 20. Quite a bit less naïve and a lot more experienced in life. I’ve finally worked my way off my friends couch and rented the apartment next door. I work about 4 miles away at a steak house as a bus boy. I work until three or so in the morning then walk home. We don’t have air conditioning in our building and the days are hot. So I’ve pulled the hide-a-bed out and am dead a sleep. Windows to the front porch wide open. So is the front door. Mid day and hot. I hear someone in the apartment. I open my eyes and a strange man is standing in my front room staring at me. He says “oh sorry” and ducks down, dives through my window on to the front porch and ran away. Remember the front door is still wide open. Now I’m laying there in shock wondering what just happened. I get up and grab a drink. I walk the apartment to see if maybe my roommate had come home. And it’s empty. Nothing really seams disturbed. So I go sit on the front porch to kick back a bit before I get ready for work. I notice that my camcorder is not where I left it. It’s probably the only thing worth any value I own. The real thing that I was worried about was that I had been filming and documenting my life and now it was all gone. So I jumped up and ran down the stairs out down the ally to the front. I thought maybe this front building saw where he went. As I approached the front door it was open with the screen door shut. I looked in about to knock and no way! He was siting in the room! I didn’t knock I opened the screen door and stormed in. I was yelling and demanding my camcorder. I hear some clicking and look around. I find myself smack dab in the middle of a meeting being held by some Chicago bloods. I realize this as one grabs my shoulder and says you need to come out side with me right now. Guns are now out and being racked. I was furious but I wasn’t stupid. I stepped out. The man assured me that won’t be an issue again and let me know where my camera had gone. So with a little more cation this time I approached the apartment building down the street and found the unit. I knocked and a woman looking like a stripper opened the door. There were two more on the couch and a very fat man sitting without his shirt in between them. I see in his lap is a shotgun on the table is a pile of cocain and my camcorder. I tell him that is mine and step inside. The big man racks the shot gun and says ” not anymore. ” I got the point. And walked away alive but defeated. I also was smart enough to know that calling the cops was not a good idea. So I lost my camera with my life story along with it. Perk 2 when I don’t like my neighbors it’s easy to find new ones.
I want to start by thanking you all for reading. I have enjoyed this more then I expected. My last trip with the family, “Mason’s big adventure!”, is a rarity for me. It might be one of the first story’s you’ve read about but that’s simply by chance. Most of my travels are by myself. I named this blog “roadtovanlife” because along with living the Vanlife, how it came about is another story. I will jump back and forth telling my past story’s and current as well. I hope you don’t get to confused. Check out my first three blogs. “How a successful man comes to live in a van”, there are two parts And “Fast Forward”. They will set up this story a bit more. If your short on time read on and return again.
Let’s go back to when I was a fresh young man. I graduated high school in 1996. I was a good kid, great parents (2 Dads, 2 Moms), lucky life. I had the world in the palm of my hands. I had not done drugs not even a drink of alcohol. Hell I wouldn’t take aspirin or drink carbonation. My parents were not religious. My father (Brad) often telling me he belonged to the church of the Salmon River. They had plenty of grand parties. My Mom (Diana) would drink a bottle of wine with anyone who wanted too. My dad (Brad) was a recovered alcoholic. How he did it is beyond me. I worked construction/maintenance for the County Parks and Rec during the day and a camera man for the local news (Fox 13) by night. I had plenty of money still living at home and nothing to spend it on. Girls where all around and even though I’m not a shy person they still made me nervous. I was even a virgin still. So when I got the call from a friend asking me to meet her and her girl friend in a hotel. I freaked out! Every young boy dreams of the day but these girls where scary. They liked to bite and tie and I ran! All the way to my dad (Jim’s) house. He lived in a small town. A bit more religious but not strict by any means. I quit my jobs and started framing houses for my uncle. I was working twice as much and making no money. I took a road trip to Rexburg ID. To see a friend that I had liked for quite some time. After working all day, driving all night, young and dumb. I showed up in her dorm. I was surrounded by girls. Thees ones where a bit nicer. And liked to kiss. All of them. And they had no problems sharing. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much that next night either. I remember laying awake most the night holding my friend just thanking God. I left the next day late. I couldn’t peel my self away. I drove all night and arrived home just in time to get ready for work. We roofed a small detached garage that day in the hot sun. I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept in four days and three nights and just worked in the sun for 12 hrs. On the drive home staring into the sun I finally slept. Yes I was alone in the car. I drifted into oncoming traffic at 70 MPH over a bridge. Side swiped a small truck head on and some how we all lived. No one even seriously injured. My convertible was totaled but I was happy to still be alive and without killing someone. The police couldn’t figure out how I drove the car with complete control (after I woke up) to the side of the road. The driver side front wheel was gone! The GROOVE in the pavement from the Axle proved I had control. Somehow even off pavement onto the shoulder. The mirror busted through the side window and landed in the back seat. Somehow missing my face. Glass every where but where I was sitting. Another part the cops couldn’t figure out. The paramedics took my blood pressure and asked if I was high because my blood pressure was normal. I guess my heart should have been racing. I asked why should it be fast? No ones hurt. Why would I be upset? I’m happy, tired and I need sleep.
Perk 1: When your to tired to drive it’s nice to just stop and sleep. No need for a hotel or an RV park.
I start to stir a bit. The sun is awake. It is sneaking into my van. I slowly open my eyes and notice it has become day. We have been waking so early every day that it feels like 6:00 am is sleeping in. I am happy because I wake up next to my entire world. My loving wife. I spend half of my life away from home. So to have as much time as I have had on vacation with my family has been like a dream. I even start feeling a little guilty that I am not at work. Like I’m not doing what needs to be done. I just lay there for a bit enjoying the moment. I start to get up wondering if Aaron has awaken yet. I open the fridge and pull out the potatoes that I shredded the night before. Start the stove and begin cooking. I look out and Aaron is starting the BBQ. I bring him the bacon and he begins the pancakes as well. We are finishing the last of the food. We are impressed that even the last mornings food is still good. We have succeeded in keeping 10 people fed. Three or more meals a day. For eight days out of coolers and a mini fridge. We ate amazing too. Like this morning. Hash browns, bacon and pancakes. All our dinners have been incredible and the sandwiches for lunch were real dagowoods. Non of this Chinsey PBnJ junk. The rest of our clan starts moving around as the smell of breakfast fills the camp. Soon everyone is up and eating. Even the teens voluntarily wake before 7:00 am. Our goal has been reached. We were hoping to turn their schedules around since school starts 1 day after we finish our vacation. After everyone eats we clean up, pack up and we decide to take our time leaving Yellowstone but leave we must. Today we travel through Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Wyoming. By nights end we have to be home. It’s our last day away. Even though it has been an amazing time everyone has good reason to get home and are even a little antsy.
We are enjoying the slow pace as we drive and notice a lot of activity up ahead. We slow even more and to our surprise Tristen yells “it’s Wolves.” Amber looks out across the plains and says “I think he is right. Where are the binoculars?” She looks through and it is a wolf. It’s running along a little ridge then drops behind.
We park, get out and look everywhere for more. I suggest we drive over the null and see if we can see it on the other side. We load up and mosey to the other side. Sure enough three black wolves off in the distance about a mile out.
The have a kill and are loving life. All of a sudden the Yellowstone Safari tour shows up. They pull out every kind of spotting scope and binocular you could imagine. He is telling the group all about the wolves and how rare it is that we get to witness this activity. It rarely happens this close to the road where we get to enjoy it. I hear commotion coming from across the street behind us and see a white wolf running towards us. I tell my group and the tour group. We all watch as she runs right past us not 50 feet away towards the three black male wolves.
A little while passes and the tour guide invites us into his group for no charge offering the kids a chance to see the Cubs through his spotting scopes. The kids don’t even realize the chance they have just had. I tip the guide generously as he didn’t even ask for anything. He try’s to refuse but of course I insist. We didn’t pay for the tour yet he gave my kids an unforgettable experience anyway. Thank you Yellowstone Safari Tours. We hesitantly leave knowing we have a lot of ground to cover. In a daze we leave Yellowstone. And enter right into Grand Teton National Park.
What an amazing part of our country. One park after another. We enjoy our drive through Grand Teton.
Stopping for a restroom break and I notice my gray water tank is about to fall out from under my van. So again it’s Aaron to the rescue. After about a half an hour he has us back on the road. Because of the debacle we don’t have time for a hike but it is the closest park to our home. We know we will be back soon. We stop at the discovery center, browse for a while. It’s setup kind of like a small museum. We gather our kiddos and back on the road to Jackson. Stopping for BBQ then a walk on the boardwalks through the downtown area.
When all of a sudden it’s a real life showdown right in the center of town. Through the summer the town of Jackson puts on a shoot out every day at 6:00pm. And we got to witness it.
The kids loved it. After some more shopping and ice cream we decide it’s time to roll on. We fuel up as the sun has now set and and my wife finishes the drive home. We don’t arrive until 2:00 am. Every one terribly exhausted barely climbs out of there seats only enticed by the thought of their own beds. Finally we are home. And the feeling is incredible!
If you are like us and hate to see it all end. Follow my Instagram and Facebook for more pics. It’s time to bid this story farewell. But stay in touch for more adventures.