The best way to ring in the New Year is to run a beer mile with your closest friends at midnight! Well, I’m not sure if that’s actually the best way to do it, but that’s what we did at the Across The Years ultramarathon in Phoenix. Once the cerveza wore off I drove north and spent a weekend camping in a gorgeous spot just outside of Sedona, which may have actually been the best way to ring in the New Year!
The view from my front porch was pretty spectacular.
My final weekend in Arizona was the annual Buses By The Bridge event at Lake Havasu City. The Volkswagen festival brings together 400+ Volkswagen vans from the classic bus to the Vanagon and beyond. It also draws the whole spectrum of VW owners and I realized that I’m really not nearly as hippie as most of you think I am! Trust me, some of the original hippies who drove their hippie vans to Woodstock still have those hippie vans and still go to Volkswagen events clad in tie-dyed t-shirts and beads!
That being said, I had a blast at the festival and even did a polar plunge into Lake Havasu! At the end of the weekend I joined a few full time vandwellers for another night of camping on BLM land near Earp, California.
I’d met a guy named Keith at a hostel in Vilcabamba, Ecuador last year and I knew that he lived in a VW van in the States. The second day of Buses By The Bridge I woke up to a text from Keith asking if I was at the festival. I walked down the row of campsites and found Keith parked just a few vans away from me! One of the best parts of traveling is making friends along the way and randomly running into them when you least expect it!
After spending more than a month in Arizona I was ready to hit the road. I packed the van and drove to Southern California via Washington State. Well, I drove to LAX and flew to Washington, leaving Tantor in the warm weather.
In Washington I visited my friend Kate, who I’d also met at the same hostel in Ecuador. She’d told us how beautiful Chelan was, even in the winter, and since I had some extra time and available flight miles I booked a quick trip north. The only problem is that I really don’t do winter, so when I showed up in canvas shoes with no socks everyone laughed. Luckily Kate procured some winter layers for me and we enjoyed snowshoeing, beer tasting, and a rowdy round of bowling with friends before I flew back south to the land of warmth.
I spent the next few weeks around my old stompin’ grounds in Santa Barbara. Returning “home” gives me the opportunity to catch up with close friends as well as work with FoodTools, my main freelance client. At the office we test cut brownies, marshmallows, and cheesecakes and photographed several new machines for updated marketing materials. With friends I lounged at the beach, checked out some new breweries, ran around town, relaxed on rooftops, and competed in a Super Bowl Beer Mile, ugh…
I was invited to speak to the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara about my last few years of adventures. I called my presentation “AntiComfortable” and discussed why seeking discomfort has helped me create an incredible lifestyle. The presentation was such a hit that I was asked to give it again the following week at my past employer HG Data’s sales and marketing conference!
In early February I had to move on again. My South American trip was fast approaching and I needed to get my van into winter storage. I crossed back into Arizona and met my friend Anna for another weekend of van camping in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and hiking Palm Canyon, the only place in Arizona where native palm trees grow.
My mom flew into Arizona to purchase my Grandpa’s car and after a few days visiting him we loaded the Buick and I said goodbye to Tantor. Mom and I drove through Monument Valley and Moab on the way to spend a week with Tyler in Denver. Tyler and I hit up the Coors Brewery, ran in the mountains, endured a 6 mile snowstorm run to Living The Dream Brewing, and showed Mom around Denver.
After a week in Denver Mom and I continued east and made it home to Indiana. I had a few days to relax before I caught a flight to New York City to stay with my friend Matt and box up his touring bicycle to take with me to South America. I’ve never bike toured, let alone disassembled (or reassembled) a bicycle, so after riding the fully loaded rig for a test lap around Central Park I took the bike apart and packed it into a cardboard box, hoping that I’d be able to put it back together in Chile!
The day had finally arrived and I donned my backpack, picked up the overweight box, and limped it down to the subway station. Two hours, and a subway and bus ride later, I found myself at Newark Liberty Airport posting up for the night in a dark corner with my sleeping bag and bike. It was literally 5 years to the day from when I’d left Santa Barbara to begin my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, the adventure that changed my life. It was surreal to lie there on the airport floor looking back over the years and see how my life had transformed and led me to yet another adventure.