A16vanlife - Utah to Tennessee

Posted by Adventure 16 | 06.26.2018



vanlife header


Beep Beep!


:: A few weeks ago I put the idea out there that I would like to combine my Adventure 16 design / photography gig with roaming around in my adventure van. A few days later I pitched the plan to my Marketing Director and the President of A16. After tweaking the initial idea a bit, They both agreed that I do indeed need to get out there. I’m happy to announce that I will be roaming for 6 weeks promoting Adventure 16 as a designer / photographer / ambassador.


Get in the van, buckle up and follow along. Take notes, there might be a quiz later…


Week 6: Final week – Nashville to San Diego


jimmy and me
The one and only…Jimmy!  photo: Carol W.


:: This my buddy Jimmy. I’ve know him for 6 years now. We met because of a Patagonia Fleece I was wearing. He commented on it, saying he loved the brand and used to sell them when he worked in the Outdoor Industry. What?! Yes, he managed Blue Ridge Outdoor back in the day. They even bought products from Adventure 16’s Wholesale Dept. A small world indeed. I’ve spent at least 2-1/2 months total living in the exact spot pictured, Jimmy’s driveway in Tennessee. My first visit four years ago was cut short after a month when Carol, his wife, hinted that if I had any free time, I should cut the grass. I left the next day…


Nathan Belt and The Buckles
Nathan Belt and The Buckles. Honky Tonkin’ in Nashville.  photo: olas creative


The midpoint cafe sign
The midpoint cafe sign, route 66.  photo: olas creative


Santa Rosa State Park, New Mexico
Santa Rosa Lake State Park, New Mexico.  photo: olas creative


:: Rollin’ West on I-40 for the 5th day in a row. I knew this week would be difficult – working and driving the 2000 miles from Nashville to San Diego. It was. Thursday I had a 30 mph head wind. I could only drive for 3 hours. The big-rigs were dancing all over the freeway. A few close calls and it was too stressful for me. I had to stop and plug-in for the night.


Back at my ocean front spot in San Diego
Back at my ocean front spot in San Diego.  photo: olas creative


:: What a trip!! 6,921 miles total. Six weeks of amazing, wonderful, crazy adventure. Exploring National Parks, cities and small towns. Visiting family and friends. Finding cool, funky road-side gems. 13 days of free camping on BLM and Forest Service land. 14 days of driveway surfing with family and friends. I have experienced more in the last six weeks than I have in the last two years working from my office in San Diego. This six week trial of working from the road is in the books. I think it was a success. 


Working for Adventure 16, a great outdoor clothing and gear company, I was able to outfit myself & the van with gear to make working and living on the road easier. Goal Zero, Eagle Creek, Jetboil, Yeti, Patagonia, Cliff Bar, Nalgene, Black Diamond and MPowerd are a few of the brands that I use while drifting around the country in my van. Living and working on the road suits me and Adventure 16’s advertising deadlines where met. Happy happy.


“If you are lucky enough to find a lifestyle you love, you must then find the courage to live it.” Words I have been sticking to for six years now. I am lucky. Get out there. Go. Meet you at the next spot. Peace & taco grease… Jay




Week 5: Hometown visit


ghost sign on building
Old hand-painted advertising.  photo: olas creative


:: Most Midwestern towns were established in the mid-1800’s. Their downtowns are full of old red brick buildings. Many of them still have decades-old painted Ghost Signs on them. Advertising pre-billboard. I love to see them and think of all the small companies they promoted.


A bump in the road.  photo: olas creative


:: I pride myself on my common sense and being an independent person. That matches well with van living. Life on the road. Know yourself, assess the environment and make the proper decision. Easy peasy. While visiting family in my home town, I had out patient surgery. Having a support group is key. The surgery went great and I’ll be here for a few more years to bring you some funky, crazy roadside goodness.


My list while in my home town was getting my work done, visiting with family and friends, eating at all of my favorite joints, and addressing my health issue. Check, check, check and check.


:: That wraps up week five of my #A16vanlife adventure. I'll visit friends in Nashville before making a u-turn and pointing the van West. See you out there!






Week 4: Rolling East, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa


:: I left Pagosa Springs, CO @ 9am on Friday. The stress was running high, Wolf Creek Pass was waiting for me. Heading East, my route pointed me up & hopefully over the pass. The stress monster was my co-pilot. Highway 160 East from Pagosa Springs takes you through rolling hills dotted with horse ranches lining both sides of the road. It lulls you into dreaming of being a cowboy and life on the range. Snap back to reality, Wolf Creek Pass was waiting for me.


My Van is only four months old, 8000 miles. I’m still getting to know it. It’s a 7-mile climb to the summit of the Pass. Most of it 30 - 45 mph. The stressful part was the sound of the engine working hard in low gear, 4800 rpms. It sounded like it was about to explode. Seven miles at 40 mph, this went on for about 15 - 20 minutes climbing to 10,800’. I’m still getting to know the van. Stressful. I made up and over with no mechanical issues. The van performed normally, no problem. Me, I was still stressed! But now I was over and it was all down hill from there. (yes, bad pun intended)


By the time I reached the first town on the Eastern slope I was ready to take a break. As you know, I love funky, weird, cool roadside America. As I rolled through South Fork, CO, something caught my eye. A split second later I was making a u-turn to go back and check out what I thought I saw. Yep, it was cool, I’m so glad I turned around.


Cool Road-side Coffee shop
The coolest roadside coffee shop ever!  photo: olas creative


Road-side food truck
Rachel's Food Truck sits next the her Coffee Shop.  photo: olas creative


:: This is Rachel. She’s 4th generation living on her family’s ranch in South Fork. She has a great artistic flair, built and owns the coffee joint & food truck and more. There’s a shaded area in back to enjoy your food / beverage. Afterwards you can test your skill at putt-putt golf. A wonderful break from driving over Wolf Creek Pass. She made me a Americano coffee that had me buzzing for the next 200 miles!


When you get out on the road and experience new things, you find gems like this. Working from my office in San Diego, I wouldn’t have met Rachel and be able to tell you this story. Get out there. Go. Get.


Jetboil Flash Cooking System
My morning setup, making coffee to go.  photo: olas creative


:: Most days I’m not getting Coffee from cool little roadside shops. For this trip I’ve been testing the Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System. It is compact and lightweight, perfect for the van. It also has a insulating cozy with a color-changing heat indicator. What?! How cool is that? Boils water in under a minute. Bam! Coffee goes into my Yeti Rambler 10 oz Lowball Cup and I’m back on the road for the day.


Midwestern Windmill
Midwestern Wind Mill on a stormy day.  photo: olas creative


:: If you have spent any time in the midwest, you know the landscape is full of windmills and old weathered barns. (and in the Spring, a storm chasing you down the road.) The windmills you see are used to pump water out of wells for livestock, mostly cattle. I’ll try to get you a photo of a sweet old barn while I’m here too.


:: That wraps up week four of my #A16vanlife adventure. I might venture on to Tennessee next. See you out there!





Week 3: South Western Colorado


VW van for sale
Sweet Westy for sale. 10 miles East of Durango on Hwy. 160  photo: olas creative


:: So, you’re thinking about vanlife. There are many different “levels” of vans available to start your new lifestyle. Old beater VW. Cargo Van with camping gear chucked in. Self-built high-roof Sprinter Van. Tricked out 4x4 Westy Van. Pro-built Adventure Van. Class B Van. These are some of your choices when you decide to hit the road in a van. Depending on your needs, all are fine options. For me, I started with a VW Weekender Van. Traded it in for a Class C RV. Traded that for my Class B Van. It’s a mini house on wheels and I love it. Perfect size for me with all the right features. If you are thinking about vanlife, it’s time to jump in!


Eagle Creek Duffel
My Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel holds all my extra gear and doesn't take up valuble space in the van   photo: olas creative


Mesa Verde N P
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park  photo: olas creative


:: Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America, Mesa Verde National Park. The people who built and inhabited these cliff dwellings, from 1190 to 1300 went to extreme measures for safety and comfort in the challenging landscape of South Western Colorado. As I viewed them, the clean lines of mid-century architecture came to mind.


Trout Fishing on the San Juan River
Trout Fishing on the San Juan River  photo: olas creative


:: That wraps up week three of my #A16vanlife adventure. Heading over Wolf Creek Pass to the flat lands next. See you out there!





Week 2: Moab & Telluride


two vans dispersed camping

Josh and his sweet van  |  My Kelty Sun Shade setup    photos: olas creative


:: Josh, is a computer programer and a climber. We were both camping on BLM land North of Moab, UT. Once I saw his 2’ dreadlocks, I had to meet him. He’s been a vanlifer for 9 months now, mostly living in the Moab area. He built out his Ford Transit Van himself with a cordless drill and a hammer. The key feature of the van is the solar power setup, four 100 watt solar panels on the roof, sweet! Super cool dude, we shared a drink and talked about vans, BLM camping spots and working remotely. Good on ya mate!


Climbers in Arches National Park
Climbers on Owl Rock.  photo: olas creative


:: Is it possible to visit Arches National Park and not have a photo of an Arch? Yes, yes it is. How many climbers do you see?


Roadside attraction in Colorado
Found a great location for an Adventure 16 Field Office / Taco & Beer Joint. Half way between Moab & Telluride.  photo: olas creative


telluride colorado
Oh Telluride, you are so funky hippy high.  photos: olas creative

:: It’s great to live in my some of my favorite towns for a few days on this adventure. Moab, Telluride and next, Durango. Easy to feel at home. I see like-minded people everywhere I go.


Priest Lake Colorado

Priest Lake, CO  |  Vanlife at 9000'  photos: olas creative


:: At a thrift store in Telluride this week, the lady at the register asked me if I lived somewhere that Bears ate fish. (What? Oh yeah, I had on my “eat local” Patagonia hat, bear eating a fish art) I replied, tonight I will be, I’m camping at Priest Lake. “Be careful, it’s bear season. They’re just waking up and are hungry.” she replied. Great. I’m always a little spooked about the unknown wildlife when I’m at a new spot.


I drive up the remote Forest Service Road and find the free camping spots. Cool, there are two other campers there. A truck and tent campers. The people in the truck where walking their dogs, not camping. I asked the old boy driving about bears in the area. He said he hadn’t seen a bear, but he did see bear scat down by the little cabin. He said not to worry, I’d be fine, before driving away.


Great. Well at least there are tent campers here. People in sleeping bags are like burritos to a bear. All wrapped up nice and neat. A tasty meal. I’ll be fine, I’m not the first choice on the menu. An hour later the tent campers pack up and leave. WHAT! Now it’s only me sitting in the forest at 9,000’. In what might as well be A FOOD TRUCK. Hey bear, come check out the menu. Open 24 hours.


I actually MOVED THE VAN from the spot you see in the photo to one closer to the FS Road. Pointed in the correct direction for a fast getaway. I’m always a little spooked about the unknown wildlife when I’m at a new spot.


About an hour before sundown, an SUV pulls into the camping area. What is this? Yes! Tent campers. I go back to feeling calm and enjoy the evening.



:: That wraps up week two of my #A16vanlife adventure. Heading to Durango next. See you out there!






Week 1: Arizona & Utah


Van with Goal Zero Solar setup

:: Solar setup out in the wild.  photo: olas creative


:: Stop #1 was South of Flagstaff, AZ. Dispersed camping on Forrest Service Land for two days. I’m using my Goal Zero Boulder 100 Solar Panel Briefcase to charge the Adventure 16 demo Goal Zero Yeti 400. This setup is all I need to keep my Macbook Pro and 4G Hotspot going for this adventure – because, you know, I am working from the van. The van also has a 100 watt solar panel on the roof powering 2 deep cycle batteries. Let the sun shine!


Zion National Park

:: My 1st time in Zion. Photos cannot show the enormous scale of Zion National Park.  photos: olas creative

Fun fact: the trails, the stone pillars at the entrances and campgrounds were built with a government program (CCC) designed to put men back to work during the Great Depression in the 1930’s


photographer in Bryce Canyon NP

:: Photographer shooting in Bryce Canyon N.P.  photos: olas creative


:: This week visiting Utah’s National Parks has made it clear to me that I’m not a landscape photographer. Trying to capture the grand scale you see and feel while standing in the Parks is very challenging. Hats off to all the amazing photographers who capture that feeling in their photos. Me, I’m a photojournalist - lifestyle and events all day long.


Bryce Canyon National Park

:: This is Bryce Canyon National Park. Wednesday’s office location!  photo: olas creative

NOLS Group at the river

:: Worked in Green River, Utah today. Green River State Park. (yes, down by the river)  photo: olas creative


:: I met this group of 16 students gearing up to launch from the park on a canoe trip. While talking with the leader/guide I found out they are from NOLS, a Wilderness Education School in Landers WY. They are at the tail end of a nine day trip, climbing, hiking, canyoneering and canoeing around Utah and Nevada. I told him about Adventure 16 and my trip. He was stoked as I handed him A16 coupons for the group. 


:: That wraps up week one of my #A16vanlife adventure. Heading to Moab next. See you out there!



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