It was the mid-1990s when Zack Smith and I left our housekeeping jobs in Yosemite Valley, hit the road and headed south. First, it was a few months in Joshua Tree National Park in California, then Arizona and the Virgin River Gorge, followed by Utah and the crack climbing paradise of Indian Creek. That six-month trip was the first of many to come. Life on the road is a lifestyle, a dream, a way to see the world.
The friends I made during that first trip remain close ones to this day and the trip exposed me to some of the most beautiful places in the country—areas I continue to celebrate and visit whenever possible. These include Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Oregon’s Smith Rock and the amazing boulders found around Boone, North Carolina.
After that first trip where I took the top bunk on Zack’s tan VW bus, I got my own wheels, a third-hand Toyota pickup truck that I scored for $500 because it was covered in graffiti-style spray paint and had a Voltron hood ornament. I spent month after month in that thing, sleeping in the back over a stiff wooden board with my head butted up against a pile of climbing gear.
Then came a baby blue VW camper, which broke down after a few months and I could never get it running again. Later I lived in a 13-foot RV, which I sold off when I (temporarily) gave up the road life.
When I was without a vehicle (which was often), I resided in caves and ditches in the middle of nowhere. Those were the days—living off bean and garlic burritos, running around the desert with friends, and reading paperbacks by Tom Robbins.
A couple of years ago, after more than a decade living indoors, I moved into my late grandmother’s hand-me-down compact sedan, which was great for travel (as it was gas efficient and ran forever), and I could easily sleep in it by pulling the rear seats down and putting my legs in the trunk and torso in the back seat. By day my dog rode shotgun and by night he’d snuggle up next to my face. We traveled through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and British Columbia. Good times.
These days I’m back to living in a house, but I still love a good night out on the road; after 20-ish years of roadlife, I’ve learned a few things.