''Let's buy this 1981 Ford camper van for 2,000 bucks'', my girlfriend said. Neither one of us is at all apt in car mechanics. The frame of the truck is rusty and might collapse, sooner than later.
''Sure! Let's do it'' was my reply. Why not?
So we escaped Quebec's desolate winter right at the end of January to head directly to Arizona. We wanted to discover amazing places and ride our bikes. After five days of driving and sleeping in truck stops in subzero temperatures, we got there, east of Pheonix, at a place called Apache Junction, south enough to have good weather in February. Trailforks was how we chose this area since it was surrounded by bike trails.
The town itself was absolutely nothing interesting unless you count RV parks and men with bleached hair in tank tops driving badly customized pick up trucks interesting. The local McDonald's had a sign that said ''Free refills on the same visit only'' on the self-serve soda fountain, I think that draws the right picture for the spot. We had hooked up some couch surfing to have a place to park the van to sleep and a shower after riding under the desert's sun. Our host was amazing, a 70 years old kind man and total badass, retired police detective that would ride bikes, kayak or hike absolutely every day.
The Superstition Mountains offer plenty of eye candy
Fun riding in Usery mountain park
After a week of slaloming between cactuses, it was time to head north to Sedona. The capital of energy healing, aura reading, and precious crystals. Wow, I will have to watch not to spend all of my money up there… Not! Couchsurfing again, with the cream of the crop, crystal seller, magician, healer and single mom, here we come, Sedona experience!
Hard to keep the balance with a landscape like this
Funky crew vibes
The funky crew was fun and all but there's only so much chilling a man can handle. The real thing was out there. I mean, vortex or not, the landscape is just so amazing and breathtaking that yeah, there's energy, the energy of absolutely amazing earth being funky once more. Jeremy from Sedona Destination Adventures showed us around Hangover trail with his trusty Shy, an adorable Husky. What a ride!
Jeremy, Rebecca and Shy having a bite
Jeremy dropping in
Words cannot describe the feeling of being surrounded by such awesomeness
After a good week up there and some minor van problems, we headed to the legendary Moab. This time no couch surfing but a kickass hostel, very cheap and even nicer, the Lazy Lizard Hostel.
Vanlife set up at the Lazy Liz
View from Capt'n Ahab
After riding the legendary Captain Ahab, I got to know about a freeride area called ''Bartlett Wash'', a 6 km slick rock where you can just pick your line. We drove there, a couple miles from anybody, to camp by the spot.
Road to Bartlett Wash, can you believe this was only very lightly retouched?
Mushroom drop in Bartlett Wash
Overnight parking IS permitted here
Slick rock lines for days
Moab has the same number of bike shops as restaurants. This little town is an absolute Mecca for outdoor sports, it's just amazing. The Moab Brewery fastly became our favorite spot, with off-season 25 cents wings (big and tasty) and very good locally brewed beer. The western mood led us to hop on horses and trot through the desert, John Wayne style (the spot had actually been used for 2 of John Wayne's movies). If you ever get there, make sure to go to the Hauer Ranch, they are the best.
Madeline from Hauer Ranch leading the way
Now let's steer the ship West again, to Virgin, Utah. This place needs no introduction, and I was crazy stoked. We went back to the couch surfing roots, finding a spot in La Verkin, about 10 minutes drive from the Old Site, and 30 minutes from Zion NP. Good set-up.
La Verkin overlook
Getting to this place for the first time makes it hard to choose where to go. There seem to be lines everywhere, yet I wanted to figure out which ones would be best for me. After an hour and a half of scouting, I took out my bike and nervously rolled my tires on this legendary terrain. Some small rocks in the dirt are pretty sharp, so I traded the tank top for a flannel shirt. The soil is pretty loose but at the same time kind of grippy... Interesting! I got more comfortable pretty quick and was ready to give my NS bikes Snabb E something to chew on.
That. Was. Awesome. Nothing else to be said, except thanks to my girl for being ever so patient.
Ok, on the road again, this time west, to California.
Dinner with a view in Morrow Bay, Cali
California, surf bum paradise, the land of freedom and hippies in Westfalias, right? We would not need couch surfing since we could probably just park by the ocean, grill our food on a bonfire and sleep tight. Not. In Central Cali and every street has a very specific sign: "No Overnight Parking. No Sleeping in Vehicle." So I guess my assumptions about California might have been right, 30 years ago, but right now they sure did not stand. And after much trying we could not find any couch surfers to host us. So we used Trailforks again and aimed for the trailhead parking for some under the radar camping. We had three spots we would rotate in between for the week and would use the state camping shower. Worked out pretty good.
Next was Santa Cruz and Aptos. Turns out it is even harder to find a suitable place for the night, as every inch of the area is built and rich, and no couch surfers offering us a driveway either. After some bike problems and turning the van inside out, washing everything, after noticing some strange bites on my skin in the morning (yes, that was as sh***y as it sounds), we were pretty exhausted from washing dishes in Safeways, showering in public restrooms and trying to find spots to sleep. Shout out to Raymond George in Aptos for a proper shower. Also turns out you need some good contacts to lead you to the good spots as a lot are private and most are hidden. We skipped before knowing the right people and knowing the area really well because the daily life activities in that context were simply too much energy consuming, and a proper camping spot there is $80 USD/night. No, thank you.
Santa Cruz vibes
Spring started well and we were already two and a half months in, so we went straight to B.C. to have enough time to enjoy it up there before we would have to come back home in June. We had a place to stay for a month in Gibsons, right on the Sunshine Coast, fifteen minutes from Robert's Creek and half hour from Coast Gravity Park—yeah! The stoke was high, as I was also going to meet some friends I had made in Bali last year.
A week in, a slippery wooden bridge in Robert's Creek took me out. Broken collarbone, had surgery the next day. One of my first thought was ''I gotta come back'.
Oops, broken in two places, needed surgery
But the trip was far from over. Thanks to modern health care, the surgery performed on me made my arm functional right away. So after a couple days, I could hold a camera. Being at a friend's place for a month made my recovery way better than in a van, that's for sure. So I had a full month of picture-taking and hanging out with awesome people. Thanks to Dylan Dunkerton and Curtis Robinson for hanging out with my injured self during some building and shooting for MOTV film!
Hanging out the first week after surgery
At least my girlfriend got to ride CGP and I got to walk around and scout the trails for my next time out there. Also, I had loads of fun taking a couple pictures of the crew.
Mind Spark Cinema in action for MOTV film. There are worse ways to spend recovery time I guess.
Dunkertown with it's own version of home deco
Then on our way back, we stopped in Whistler, which even strengthened my desire to come back to B.C. So my girlfriend, who's been riding for less than a year, rode at CGP and Whistler Bike Park, and not me, which is kind of funny, in a way. Thanks to her for being amazing and helping me with all of these images. I am so stoked and grateful for all the amazing things I saw, places I got to ride, and the people I met. This trip is one of the best things I have done with my life. Thanks a lot to Lama Cycles for supporting me in this adventure and being awesome.
Until next time, we are off to Quebec. Thanks for reading. And thanks to the universe that made our van keep it up for 18,000 kilometers. Cheers!