“On the road, you are stripped of so many outside filters and your intuition is your best, most vital gift. We are in love with the breadth and diversity we’ve encountered on the road. We adore high mountains and warm oceans, the cultural delights in big cities and the slow charm of small towns, deep forests and vast deserts so life on the road suits us quite well, wherever that may be.”
Such is our travel story….!!! We are 25-year-old psychology graduates originally met at Arcata, CA; our post-graduation plans were not so scheduled, so we decided of knowing some more of USA and it is probably this thirst of wanderlust that brought us together. “Home” is not a place where one settles with his family; for us “home” is that great feeling where we could really connect our peace of mind with nature.
We had undergone our brief backpack trip at the Siskiyou Mountains, the Emerald Lake, the Yosemite National Park…indeed we had hit 4 states on our way to Canada and camped in 8 incredible places every night. We were ready to take our backpack trips to a brief sojourn and eventually the 1992 Ford Econoline 150 became our soulmate as we decided of starting our exploration through a vanlife.
Customizing a conversion van is challenging because these vans were equipped with lots of unnecessary features, including a plethora of wiring and electronics that are really difficult to remove. We made necessary ridges at places required, we had scrubbed rust with sandpaper, we had done polyiso rigid foam insulation, we glued puzzle pieces to the floor in the grooves, filled gaps with spray foam insulation, we measured and cut the plywoods ourselves to give the van a proper structure capable of bearing road-life inhabitation.
After a lot of trial and error methods for a month and a half, we succeeded in remodelling the Ford Econoline and officially the van was ready for the journey on 7th June 2018.
During our remodelling process, we had encountered short trips at Humboldt. We had visited Mono Lake Tufa State National Reserve, Port Oxford at Oregon, Petrolia and Irvine in California, Redwoods in Humboldt and finally we started off for our actual vanlife trip.
During 1st 2 days of their trip, we visited the Joshua Tree National Park featuring funky shaped Joshua trees and cacti. The temperature was extremely high yet the desert park captivated us with its own beauty. With the intention of visiting more such deserts, our van proceeded to Nevada.
On our way, we faced van issues as it could not move forward and we realised our cell phones are out of service. However, we managed to get a signal and towed to the nearest town: Caliente, Nevada. But when we come to know that the only 2 mechanics available, and there are visiting off-road races and hence can not visit them before Sunday, a man called Lynn came up to our help. He allowed us to stay for a couple of days and even worked on our van with the tools to make it move again. At the time while lying under the car to work on the machine parts, he got gasoline poured on his face including his eye. But it didn’t trouble him much, and only paying $20, we were again in our way back to the road.
We didn’t really plan for our next spot, and that’s what made the Cathedral George State Park unique. A lake that existed millions of years ago but then dried due to humidity, has metamorphosed to form gorges with narrow caves.
At Caliente the other day, our van again broke down and we were struck at the place of Seven Magic Mountains, where there was absolutely no scope of cell reception. After walking a few miles, we met a couple from Utah at some campground who helped us in fixing our problem. Rollin had our van tied to his small truck and towed it off to the coast down the 6 miles to the bottom. We waited at Baker Nevada for the only transmission shop in cedar, Utah to open, so that we can be towed there. Patty and Rollin stayed with us while we were figuring out things, the couple even invited us to rest at their place a few days.
Even we received financial help from Greg’s father to carry on with our new transmission rebuild. At Cedar, Utah we were allowed to sleep in the van with wi-fi available there, and daytime, we would take a few brief trips to near-about places.
And once again we were back to the road with our ecstatic vanlife and we started our trip with desert spots. The Bryce Canyon National park, The Zion National Park, the Horseshoe Bend at Grand Canyon fascinated our hearts and we even stopped there for camping, expecting some cougar encounters. Sedona at Arizona was the centre of energy vortexes, and we spent hours sitting there enjoying the peaceful enchanting trances.
At Bandelier National Monument we had to chalk out new plans for continuing our trip since we were running out of money. We decided to move from New Mexico to Colorado, then Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon and back down through California. This time we were unable to make for the east but we prefer keeping it for our upcoming trip. For this time we planned to peace out desert, thereby moving further to experience pristine mountain lakes.
On the way, we checked out at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve at Colorado featuring the tallest sand dunes of North America surrounded by tall, green mountains on all sides with highly salted lakes in between. At Rocky Mountain National Park, we could see 5 moose, 30 elks including 2 babies and the temperature there at 8500 feet was nearly 40 degrees cooler than that in the desert.
New Mexico, a state rich in history, culture and art features the ruins of cave-dwelling preserved in mountains near Santa Fe. The Puebloans lived happily there inside for about 400 years.
The Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park contains highest cliffs in Colorado, carved by the river below, later widened by the wind. We faced strong wind rush camping there at night, however, we consider ourselves lucky enough to have experienced that.
At Arches National Park, we faced 2 different clouds..one by side, the other directly in front of the van. Initially, Mahsa panicked but then we were all okay as the cloud cleared.
As we finished seeing the Salt Lake City in Utah, the Swan Valley at Idaho, the Grand Teton National Park at Wyoming, we were completing our visits to 8 states in 40 days travelling 5121 miles.
Walking up to geysers just as we begin to go off, seeing mesmerising rainbows, experiencing the hypnotizing colours of geothermal pools at Yellowstone National Park; the Taggart Lake on their way to Glacier National Park all have our fantastic variant scenic beauty. The Glacier National Park was one of our most favourite to-visit spot, where we saw tons of baby mountain goats with their mothers.
The milky turquoise colour at Cracker Lake added with the accidental spotting of grizzly and her 2 cubs acted as tokens before going to North Cascades National Park in Washington. The dense, damp tree cover in the early morning and the sticky cold air, the hanging fog let us feel like Humboldt.
As we reached Cathedral Rock, we had completed vanlife of 2 months covering 7870 miles, visiting 10 states after breaking with van issues 3 times.
The free admission at Diablo Lake, our first stepping to the coastline at Del Rey Beach State Recreation Site within these 2 months, the Cape Kiwanda State Park at Oregon, the Cape Perpetua, the Siuslaw National Forest, the night sky view during camping at Port Oxford in Oregon,the massive Redwoods at Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, moving on to Trinidad in California revising our memories there throughout years. We spent some time soaking and swimming through the shallow waters of a secret cove in Lake Tahoe.
As we moved on through California, our van life and camping nights were interrupted by police knocking in there, on account of unambiguously camping in non-camping zones.
At Santa Cruz, California we had afforded for expensive camping in a legalised camping area, however, our peaceful sleep really worth it, Greg said. After visiting Big Sur, the Grand Teton National Park, the Montana De Oro State Park, the Shell Beach, Cambria in California we must say that California has a variety of every landscape in a nutshell.
Now that we really need some abundant resources to continue with our trip and vanlife, we are settling down temporarily along the Central Coast, even our van needs some serious repairs for further trips.
So far we have been on road for 3 months visiting 11 states covering 10,000 miles, experiencing sunrise and sunsets, acquainted with calm naps with doors of the van open, swimming in ice-cold water on a summer day, finding shower after being coated in dirt and sweat for days, reading a book in the hammock under the shade of a tree, watching birds going zig-zag above our heads while curling into each other’s arms… thereby connecting with our home we like to term as Nature.
Our vanlife had imposed many problems in the journey which were overcome with the keen lust of knowing our country more, and we are presently working in order to continue our nomadic life and van trips.