Traveling like we do, living on the road, every day is different. Individual and unique. You wake up in one mood and then your day changes and you’ve forgotten all about it – whatever is next on the menu has completely overtaken your attention. You never know where you’ll end up by the end of the day. That’s what make every single day an adventure.
A free camp spot is always awesome
It is pouring. Drenching. We have found a pretty awesome free camp spot for the night, directly on the beach near Coos Bay, Oregon. At least I think it’s awesome. I can’t take a good look, because we got here in the dark, and I am doing my best not to go outside. Except to pee, and to clip a plastic bag over our leaky window. The rain pounds against Big Emma’s top. There is no way we could or should pop it in this weather. I don’t think we’ve ever had a storm this bad. We are directly on the beach; we could even drive onto the sand, or pitch a tent, if we were so inclined, but who knows how high the tide will come in. The wind shakes the Bus and we consider if it would be prudent to drive away to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed by the coastal storm. But where? We would have to drive at least an hour to get to another sure free camp spot. No, we will stay here and not go outside. It is pitch black outside, but inside the Bus is glowing with our new LED string lights, giving our home a pleasantly warm glow, like a lighthouse in the middle of the gusting winds.
The best view is through the sliding door
I am brushing my teeth. “Oh, look, the Aurora!” exclaims our friend, as we all step out of the Bus through the sliding door and turn our heads toward the sky. We look, and see green, ghostly shadows start to waltz through the night. But only to the East; the West is still lit, at nearly midnight, with the last lonely rays of the twilight sun. We are just South of the Arctic Circle, at the top of a ridge overlooking miles of desert-like wilderness, of small bushes and scraggling trees. I watch the sky, an amazing sight. I have never seen the Aurora before. It is cold, and I’ve been tired for hours, so I finish brushing my teeth and climb into bed. But we leave the sliding door open, so I can watch the sky as it pulses with light and when it starts to fade, I close my eyes.
Call us inconspicuous?
The Bus is dark, the curtains are closed. We are trying not to move around too much as we attempt to eat a cold dinner. We hadn’t realized that National Parks in Canada are so expensive. Ten dollars a day per person. And it only gets cheaper if you stay more than seven days, which we didn’t have time for. And you were required to stay in official campgrounds, not just in the wilderness like in a lot of other spots. No free camping. So here we were, parked on the road in front of a house, eating cheese and bread for dinner because we didn’t want to use the stove and add to our inconspicuousness. We try to be quiet, don’t move too much when cars drive by. We really don’t want to get woken up by the cops, but we got here late and if we want to stay to explore tomorrow, this is our best option. So we stealth-camp. And I really, really hope I do not have to pee in the middle of the night.
All that damn water
It feels like the thousandth time we’ve done this. We take the clip that is magneted to the inside of the Bus behind behind the passenger headrest, and take the rags. I hand one to Sven and he starts to wipe away the condensation that has built up on our windshield over the night; I do the same to my side. And on the windows of the door. And then again, because the damn water just won’t stay away, and Sven can barely see anything out the windows. But the only real solution is to drive. Air is pushed through the car when we drive, it’s how our defrost works. So we wipe, we drive, and after about ten perilous minutes, we can finally see something and find our way out of this unnamed Oregonian forest.
So freaking cold
I hurry and shake as I search for the warmest clothes I have, sitting in the middle of our Big Emma bed as I force myself to get dressed. Sven opens the sliding door, and more cold air penetrates the inside of the Bus. I’m tired, I’m cold, and it is way too early. The other cars in our host’s driveway are covered in early-morning layers of frost and I am reminded: we need to leave Alaska, soon. The second week of September in Fairbanks is getting too cold to be comfortable sleeping in a vehicle that has no heat. I manage to get dressed and shiver as we skip coffee and breakfast and load five tires into the car. Our appointment to get them put on the Bus is in 30 minutes. And I am still just freaking cold.
I just sand and sand and sand
I have been sanding away for hours. Back and forth and back and forth. And back and forth. I switch hands, my right hand is tired. My left hand doesn’t have such a good angle to scrape effectively, but it’s better than just taking a break. It is hot, everywhere. The sun beats down on my back and I sweat and take a sip of water. And then I keep sanding. The Denver sun doesn’t cast shade on the front rotor that I am working away at, millimeter by millimeter. I curse and wish it wasn’t so damn hot, that I didn’t have to sit sweating on the dirty, dusty floor. But it is important that we fix our Bus. Seriously? I think for the thousandth time, We really broke down after only one week on the road? How could we have been so stupid? So I continue to sand. I sand, and sand, and sand, and wonder if it will ever end.
You never know what will hit you in the darkness
We are walking back to Big Emma, which is parked in our host’s driveway for the night in this tiny, tiny town. We decided to splurge tonight, and walk to the town’s only bar for a beer. Despite this being such a small place, their bar is pretty famous, and we happened to know it makes a hell of a good beer. 49th State Brewing in Healy, Alaska also has the replica Into the Wild bus in front of it, and is a pretty hot tourist spot. We decided that despite the costs of in-house beer, we would go for the experience anyways. We went, drank the fantastic beer, and started to walk home. Stupidly, I realize that we forgot our bear spray back at the bus, which makes me a little nervous but it is only a ten minute walk. A car turns onto our road and drives slowly towards us from behind, as we hear a loud THUNK and it slows to a stop immediately next to us. Strange, we think. This is weird, and what the hell fell off their car back there? We keep walking, and the car makes a U-turn and drives back away from us. This is weird, we keep walking. And then, out of the shadows, comes a man, a big man. Like really tall. And as he comes closer we realize – holy shit! – it’s a moose, and a very unhappy one. We know moose can get violent, so we opt for the lesser of two possible evils and head for the car, which is parked a bit down the road with the headlights blazing. We ask if we can hop in, get a ride home – it’s just down the road, and there’s an angry moose outside – before our new chauffeur replies, “Well, sure, but it’s gonna be a while. I have to stay here, I just hit two baby moose”. I look out past the headlights to sad animals, sprawled in pain in unnatural directions. Oh shit. Sorry we asked. We’ll walk instead, take a big circle around the moose, it’s alright. As we approach Big Emma, a few minutes later, we hear one gunshot ring out into the night, and then another.
It’s time to move on
This will be our last weekend in the Pacific North West. We are in southern Oregon. We were waiting for this weekend, so we could spend it with our friends before we head south for a long, long time. We have some cool friends, who actually rented a cabin for the week and invited us to come over. It has been very cold in the Bus at night, and really really rainy. But here we sleep inside, the snow falling in soft, fat flakes outside and we watch the Bus get covered with it. I enjoy the luxuries of a fireplace, an oven, an indoor bathroom, and relaxing company. It is peaceful. And a log cabin, wood and nature surrounding you even here. The fire is warm, and I sit and write as I think about how much we have liked the rainy, jungly PNW. But it is time to move on, time to head to California, time to live in our Bus again through highs and lows and whatever the road has to offer us. Time to run away from winter once more. We’ll start on that tomorrow. Or the next day.
If you like reading Snapshots, take a look at the next installment of the series, Snapshots: Some Moments Don’t Need Words.