Categories: California, Smith River, Highway 211, Westport, Los Gatos, San Francisco, Big Sur, Cambria


Ready to Move on

Posted by admin on 01/13/12  ~  Posted in: Westport

Well it?s been something like three weeks since my last post so lots to catch up on.  Life continues to be a whirlwind of activities keeping us busy constantly; writing, regretfully, has been on the back burner.  We had a great Christmas, making the traditional D?Onofrio feast of Ravioli, this year gluten and dairy free.  We also gorged on way-too-much animal product for breakfast which included, fried potatoes, eggs, bacon, turkey sausage, fried tomatoes and toast.  Delicious and certainly not sustainable ? bellies very full indeed.  My parents came to visit just after Christmas for several days.  We all had a wonderful time checking out the sights in Mendocino County, strolling the beaches, just hanging out.  They?re departure hit both Shan and I hard; it was the first time we?ve seen friends or family alike since our departure.  After spending nearly a week with them, it was back to just the two of us.

For me, it was also a plunge into a short bout of despair ? my parents had left, we had a van on the verge of undriveable breakdown in need of some $450 in repair work, and we had no money.  Things weren?t looking up.  I spent the next day or two with a dark cloud over my head; what the hell were we going to do?  It was then that Shannon really helped lift me out of the pits and remind me that we were ok, that our needs would be met, one way or another.  And sure as shit, they were.  In fact, the 180 degree turn I experienced has left my head spinning, and my heart open and light.  Let me explain.

Just as Shan?s words of encouragement were starting to settle in, as I let go of the fear, we went to the post office to get our mail.  Low and behold, Shan?s mom had sent us a check for a significant amount of money for Christmas ? WAY more than we could have imagined.  We immediately called her in astonished disbelief; there must be some mistake.  But no, there was no mistake.  Talona had simply found it in her heart to just add an extra zero at the end of the check, it was God?s will, she said.  Shan and I just sat and looked at each other for a while, trying to let the relief permeate our (mostly my) hardened crust of fear and anxiety.  As it did, I felt the weight of the world lift.  Not because of the check itself, but because Shan was right, things would, and always will be ok.  The universe provides.  A fear that has been with me all my life began to dissipate, the fear of scarcity, going without.  I began to realize that I would always have enough, always.

That afternoon, as we walked down the beach, my heart open and happy, we bumped into a couple fishermen and chatted for a few.  They seemed like good chaps, in their autumn years and wise beyond their age.  We met them back at the parking lot and shared a drink.  As it turns out, one of them was a noteworthy environmentalist, having served the UN, travelled the world extensively, worked with the likes of David Suzuki and Mother Teresa, and earned three Emmys for his numerous nature shows spanning a decade or so.  We talked for a couple hours and learned about each other?s existence on this planet, from the profound to the mundane, although more the former than the latter.  Finally, after some great conversation, they headed back home to Huntington Beach, some eight hours south.  We agreed to keep in touch and knew we be talking again.

One thing that really sunk in during our conversation was this gentleman?s insistence that in life, we must ask for what we want.  I?ll get into this more at a later date, but I bring this up because we had to find a mechanic to work on our van, without charging us American currency and I intended to ask for just that.

Long story short, we found the best mechanic in town, Trevor of Mendocino Coast European, specializing in, among other makes, VWs.  He had in fact, travelled the country with his wife in a VW van years ago.  Trevor, like any truly great mechanic, not only knows his stuff forwards and backwards, he?s also a downright great guy.  We told him what we wanted; him, to fix our van, in exchange for work of some sort.  He agreed that if I could get the engine ripped apart (using some of his tools, catchment tanks, etc.) he would drill out the broken bolt in the engine block and rethread it, in exchange for some work around his shop.  Shan and I came back several days later with bolts and gaskets, motor oil and work clothes in hand, and spent the day outside his shop dismantling, drilling, and reassembling the van.  It was finally back together, oil changed, and coolant bled just before 10 PM, in time to eat the delicious Indian food Shannon had prepared, and go to sleep.  We were exhausted.

We woke early and began cleaning Trevor?s shop around 8:00.  We spent a few hours scrubbing grease off barrels, tanks, walls and floors.  Shannon had also cleaned the bathroom the day before, which now glistened as I?m sure it hasn?t, and won?t again, for some time.  When a decent chunk of work had been done, oil drums glistening with a slick sheen of crude in the sunlight, we all agreed our debt had been repaid.  We spent some time chatting with Trevor and his wife Angela, and meeting their two-year-old daughter Mya.  A great family for sure, we could have spent hours conversing.  Alas we all had places to be so we parted ways with a handshake and a smile.  Thanks Trevor, we won?t forget you and we really appreciate all the hard work ? it?s easy to understand why you?re slammed, I wouldn?t take my car anywhere else either.

So now, our time has come to leave this place.  We?re waiting on one last item Shannon ordered online to arrive at the post office, then we?ll be heading south, to meet up with the gentleman we met on the beach, a dinner penciled in for ?whenever we get there?.  What fate holds for us is, as always, completely unknown.  But one thing is certain, I?m learning what it means to have faith.  We?re calling forth our future, and we?re shedding our fears.  Money is becoming less and less important, our fulfillment more and more frequent.  We?re learning rapidly.  We?re breaking out.  We?re preparing for liftoff.  We?re getting what we want.  Oh, and we?ve got a sizeable project in the works with huge progress already made.  Stay tuned.


Broken stuff and grandma?s brownies

Posted by admin on 12/23/11  ~  Posted in: Ethan's Thoughts, Westport

Well, a lot?s happened since my last post ? life in the van continues to be eventful and full of craziness, some good, some not so good.

We?ve found a great spot along the Mendocino County coast that has treated us wonderfully.  We?ve been going to sleep to the waves and waking up to the sunrise over the Pacific for a few weeks now.  We?ve found numerous places to stay at night within minutes of state parks, amenities, etc.  We?ve been spending our days walking the beach, working, and living life as Westfalians.  The beauty here is unrelenting, yielding new and changing scenery with every weather change, every tide.  We?ve driven up and down the coast, checking out beaches, collecting shells, enjoying the constant sun.  All said, life is good.

Unfortunately, not everything is rainbows and gluten-free donuts though.  We?ve had numerous curve balls thrown our way in the last few weeks that have tested our patience with the van, each other, and ourselves.  Let?s go down the list.  First; every time we filled our gas tank we were getting leaking from several fuel lines that are part of apparently unneeded expansion tanks (or something like that), causing a fair bit of gas to drip from the bottom of the van at the full tank ? not good.  We took care of this which required a few feet of fuel line, some hose clamps, a bunch of tools, and the jacking up and removal of both front tires in the middle of a field.  Yeah, real fun.  Nonetheless, the problem appears to be solved.  Second; our speedometer just crapped out on us.  ?I guess I?m going about 55, I?m at the top end of 3rd??  Not good.  That?s on the list.  Third, our sink faucet, which had been giving us some trouble finally died.  Replaced it.  Turned out not only was it bad but so was the pump.  Ordered a new pump.  Waited several days while using a Dr. Pepper bottle with holes drilled in the lid for our ?faucet?.  Major pain in the ass.  Dishes ? not so fun.  Finally, new pump arrived.  Installed.  Defective.  Crap.  It?s Friday night before the Christmas weekend ? I guess we?re back to the Dr. Pepper bottle for another five days ? this will be fun, especially with my parents joining us next week.  Hmmm.  Ok, what?s next??  Oh yeah, the HDMI cable that allows us to play video from my phone, as well as slideshows and video from Shan?s camera got yanked accidentally and busted the end of the cable?AND the brand new LCD monitor.  Called Asus ? closed for the holiday.  So much for movies next week.  Could be worse.  Shipping?s going to be a blast.  We live in a van?forgot to pack the flat panel box and tape gun.  The belt has been slipping on the engine and getting super noisy, kind of like stepping on a flying fox with golf cleats every time we step on the gas.  Gotta tighten the alternator.  Put it on the list.  Tomorrow?hopefully.

Then, to top it all off, yesterday I go to back out of my parking spot and CRUNCH, I back right into a truck that had parked behind me in the aisle.  Bad place to park.  Shouldn?t have backed up without double checking.  Lots of stupid all around.  I get out to look and realize he?s parked in the aisle because he?s just run into someone else and is exchanging insurance info.  Nice.  His truck appears to be fine (at least from the 2nd accident) and he?s eager to send us on our way - I?m guessing two insurance claims in one day would probably not be good for his rates.  Our bike rack is totally hosed.  All bent up like crazy, bolts twisted and such.  We string it together the best we can with some bungees and beat it down to the hardware store.  Ace Hardware sucks but at least they?re everywhere.  Hardware Sales, I miss you so bad it hurts.  We proceed to buy some nuts and bolts then drill, file, bend and twist our bike rack back into shape.  Good as new?sort of.

Well, I think that?s about where we?re at.  Sam got sprayed by a skunk.  Shan and I got in a huge fight.  We?re running precariously low on funds but hey, we?re here, parked next to the beach, listening to the waves.  We?ve just gorged ourselves on Grandma the Great?s gluten free chocolate fudge brownies, which followed Shannon?s meal of crazy delicious bacon, garlic, basil, Portobello, olive oil, handmade pasta, which followed an amazing sunset, which followed a day that started with us waking to the waves crashing into shore.  We bought all sorts of unhealthy food to feast on for Christmas (WWJD indeed) - and tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Like I said, lots of stuff, some good, some not so good.  Lots of stuff to deal with.  Lots of broken stuff.  But any day that ends with us eating grandma?s brownies on the beach is alright with me.

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, we finally got my fishing-without-a-license ticket in the mail today.  $406.  Seriously.

Time for another brownie.  Thanks G?ma!


Fear and Loathing in California

Posted by admin on 12/06/11  ~  Posted in: Highway 211

Today things really started to sink in.  We have no home.  We?re not welcome in most places.  We have to pay to be left alone.  Sanctuary only comes to those with money.

The day started off well enough; we woke to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, our window view was the expanse of the Pacific Ocean meeting North America as far as one could see from left to right.  Then as we were laying in bed enjoying all this, taking in the moment, this jackass comes to a skidding halt in front of our van, backs up right in front of it, begins laying on his horn, gets out and starts shouting ?IS ANYONE IN THERE?!  HELLOOOOO!!?  I unzip the window and respond that yes, there is in fact someone in here to which he shouts ?YOU CAN?T OVERNIGHT PARK HERE, ALL THIS LAND ALONG HERE IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND OWNED BY PEOPLE, I SAW YOU HERE LAST NIGHT!?  ?Alright?, I say ?well we?ll be moving along today.?  Away he storms and takes off down the road.

First of all, there were absolutely no signs denoting anything whatsoever about private property, trespassing, no parking, no camping ? in fact, there were no signs at all.  There were signs across the street along a fenced-in property on the hillside, but we had turned off the road toward the shore, into a large gravel pullout, away from this land on the far side of the road.  Second, I got the impression, by the way he said ?owned by people? that it wasn?t even his land that was across the street ? in fact, I?m sure of it.  After he left it occurred to me that this guy had some serious issues.  We were in our van, which is completely self-contained, parked along a very remote stretch of the California coast, and this guy felt compelled to spoil our enjoyment.  What?s your deal dude?!

This event then launched a long conversation with Shan about property rights and how corrupt our system is that awards some people huge tracts of land while others are given literally nothing.  And ironically, the ones who are given very little tend to be the biggest contributors to society vs. the ones sitting on eight bajillion acres of beachfront trading stocks all day.  But that?s another conversation altogether?

So anyway, we made some breakfast and enjoyed the view from the beachfront gravel turnout we were in, and a hour or so later the guy comes back, skids to a halt behind our van then apparently sits there to write our license plate number down, then skids away.  Whatever.  Ass.

We spent the next hour or so driving the very windy, very rough 211 down the coast to ?town? after ?town? (more like outposts), only one of which had unleaded gas (not premium, which our westy requires) for $4.75 a gallon.  We decided to head back up to the 101 to find some real gas.  At one point, we had to pull over and siphon pump our reserve gas tank into our main tank to ensure we wouldn?t run out entirely.  This was a bit of a pain, but certainly less so than actually running dry.  Thanks Randy for that gas can ? saved our butts!

Finally we ended up in Garberville, a quaint, potentially charming little town if it weren?t for the high population of whacked-out-on-drugs-or-what-have-you-type-folk who were lingering everywhere.  Seriously, it looked sort of like a Stephen King setting, a bit scary and depressing as hell.  It was here that I attempted to purchase a fishing license.  Here comes another rant.

The California fishing situation is like some sort of exercise in just how asinine and convoluted bureaucracy can get.  This may be true with many other states but it?s particularly absurd in California.  For a non-resident annual fishing license it runs about $120.  Ok, a bit steep, but ok.  Certainly better than a $44, 10-day pass.  Or a $250+ fishing-without-a-license ticket.  Oh, plus you have to buy cards to fill out what you catch (as if I?d know a steelhead from a hammerhead shark).  That will run you another $12 or so.  BUT, and here?s the punch line folks, THE ANNUAL CARD IS ONLY GOOD FOR THE CALENDAR YEAR, NOT FROM WHEN YOU BUY IT!  So here it is, December 6th, I don?t know how much longer I?m going to be in the state, we?re passing beautiful rivers every day, and I?m given a choice of a $44, 10-day pass, a $120 annual pass good for the next three weeks, or simply not fishing.  Oh, and to add to this, just because you have a license doesn?t mean you can actually fish.  You have to call the ?fishing hotline? and find out what rivers are open, what rivers closed, for what types of fish, and for what kind of tackle.  So if you?ve got a license and are caught fishing the wrong kind of fish, or with the wrong kind of hook, you can still be fined!

How did we come to this place folks?!  There was a time, not that long ago, when a person could walk, ride or drive across the country, fishing the rivers and lakes, pitching his tent on any flat ground he could find, and wake up to the sun, not an asshole in a pickup truck with nothing better to do than harass passersby.  There was a time, when every piece of land wasn?t privately owned.  There was a time before every river was managed and taxed (and ironically, simultaneously polluted).  There was a time when travelers could travel freely, unafraid of persecution and harassment, reliant only on themselves and their abilities, and those of their travelling partners.  There was a time when things made more sense.

Every parking lot has a price, every campsite a fee.  Every river has a warden, every lake a regulation.  Every tree along every drive has a ?NO TRESPASSING? sign, every overlook a ?NO OVERNIGHT PARKING? sign.  Every transaction has paperwork, every dollar passed, a tax.  There is no free.  If you want to be free in this country, you?d better have a LOT of money.  Freedom doesn?t exist.  We are never free.  We are simply given more choices by an ever smaller, more elite group at the top of the pyramid.  Do you want this microwave meal or that one?  Do you want ESPN or FOX.  Do you want the $25 county park or the $35 state park.  This isn?t freedom, this is the illusion of freedom.  We?re only as free as our purchasing power allows us to be.  If I were in the 1% I wouldn?t want to give it up either.  I?m sure the freedoms they enjoy are very nice indeed.

So here we are, in Mendocino County sitting next to the beach.  We ?stealth camped? last night, a hundred yards down the road from the county park, in a gravel pullout across the street from the ocean.  We rose early, moved the van across the street to the day-use area (NO PARKING 10 P.M. TO 5 A.M.?) and are enjoying the freedoms that we do have.  We can travel, as long as we can pay for gas, food, parts, repairs, campgrounds, permits, taxes, etc.  We can write, as long as our laptops keep running.  We can run and breathe, absorb the sun and the salty air.  We can sit for hours and discuss philosophy and the possibilities for the future, and the future beyond that.  We can contemplate our existence, our individual power and our interconnected nature.  We can be one with the universe, with everything, with everyone.  We can live in the moment.

We just have to stop and leave at 10 P.M?or pay $20.


Reality Check

Posted by Shan on 11/20/11  ~  Posted in: Smith River

One thing I like about living in the van is how often our reality changes. It is almost like travelling in a time machine or something like as each time we open the sliding door there is a new world to experience. If we don't like our reality, we change it. I am not yet sure if this is good or bad, if we'll get used to simply moving on when things are unpleasant, but for the moment I am enjoying the luxury of it. If we don't like our reality we change it by moving elsewhere, by pressing on down the road believing there is the possibility of something better around the bend. I am sure that as time goes by the allure of the open road will become even more persuasive, addicting. The freedom every next turn offers is exciting to say the least. To travel as we are ensures a modicum of comfort while allowing for constant change.

Even though we have every need accounted for we are still greatly aware of our environment and its impact on every facet of our life. Because the cabin of the van pops up into a tent we can feel, hear and smell most things outside of it. Sound is odd as its reverberations are sometimes deceiving. Often are the times I will swear I heard something to the right and it will be to the left, or vice versa. It is often impossible to tell where a sound is coming from.  The weather is another factor which greatly affects us. We feel the cold distinctly (we've yet to feel hot in the van). When the rain sets in everything  inside starts to condense and rivulets of water form everywhere.












When the sky clears in the lower temps we begin to see our breath as we sit working or eating or what have you. Here in Oregon especially the weather feels almost foreign. Most of the time same grey skies, rain like we are used to, but from 2-4pm especially on the coast a cold sets in, only for those hours it seems but so far like clockwork. We will notice ourselves getting colder then look at the clock and sure enough, day after day it'll be around that time. Thankfully it seems to lift and return to milder temperatures most days. Our average temps each day range from the 40's to the 50's with nights dipping into the low 30's at times.

Last night we slept under the cover of nearby redwoods and I swear it was warmer under the blanket of their branches. This morning Ethan suggested we move the van from their shadows into the sun along the bank of the river. So now I sit with my back bathed in sun as I type.












Glorious sun! We've spread our linens, rainfly, etc out on the rocks to dry in the sun. And just like that, coldish, wet in the shade to dry roasty toasty in the sun. Having a home that moves is brilliant in my opinion. If we don't like what we are experiencing we simply change it!

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