Privacy. Something that many of us take for granted, living in homes with doors to lock and windows to curtain, resting easy that the people around us won’t be sticking their noses in our business. I have a certain amount of privacy in the van, when the doors are shut and my curtains drawn across the cab. But then I’m shut into a metal box, roughly 20 square feet with no windows except for the skylight and ceiling fan above. I debated putting in a window near the back, but it was expensive and I feared it would compromise my stealthy profile when parked in populated areas. I’ve given myself plenty of time to decide if having a view to the outside world is more important than looking anonymous, maybe waiting out the full turn of seasons to see how often I wish I had one. Once you do it, there’s no going back. But in the mean time, I find myself scouting for places to park where I can have my sliding door open (now that the weather is nicer) without anyone peering into my home. I also, due to said nice weather, have to scout for places that are shady as well. Level, shady, private. The golden combination.
This past week saw some major upgrades in the van, which have made things quite a bit more enjoyable. Alex finally carved out some time to finish the electrical system, giving up an entire Sunday working outside in periodic rain showers and cold to provide me with continual and renewable electricity. For this, I am eternally grateful. After finishing that project, I jetted down to my parents’ house and installed my new refrigerator, which is providing me with fresh, cold food 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Previously I’d used a fridge that plugged into the van’s electrical system, which would only work when the key was turned on. Throwing away food became a regular and frustrating occurrence. No longer! I also have electric lights connected to switches on the wall, plus AC power to connect my computer and other gear as well as a ceiling fan that pulls air out when I’m cooking and pulls air in when the van gets stuffy. Golden.
With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, I’m looking to plot a few trips. Maybe a few summer music festivals, and hopefully a jaunt northeast through Eastern Oregon Idaho, Montana, and maybe further. In the mean time, I’m doing what I can to get away for little jaunts here and there. Like last weekend, when I was able to spend a night parked on the Sonoma Coast before joining up with Megan for a day and night in Guerneville the next day. I drove out River Road to Jenner just as the sun was going down, scouting for a place to park that would give me a little bit of solitude and a nice view to wake up to. I eventually parked just north of Jenner in a pull-out overlooking the ocean. It was calm and beautiful and not too cold, and the sun setting behind the emerging curtains of fog was a delight to witness.
The next morning, I took a walk down to the beach below where harbor seals lounged on the shoreline and a lone photographer sat motionless on a stump staring out to sea. I walked around snapping a few photos and was making my way back to the car when the photographer whistled at me and motioned to hurry over. He said a whale had just surfaced less than 200 feet offshore and he was so excited he’d barely had the presence of mind to snap a photo. Of course, the beautiful and elusive sea creature never showed itself again, so I said my goodbyes to the ocean and the apologetic photographer and made my way back to the van.
I drove into Guerneville to work at Coffee Bazaar, a place I’d spent many a day back in ’96 when I’d escaped from the Bay Area and was staying with friends in Rio Nido while looking for work and trying to figure out what to do with my life. The café looks different now than I remember it, though I can't exactly remember what it looked like back then. As I sat drinking my coffee, I reflected on that time in my life and all the monumental changes that occurred. I’ll have to save the details for another time, but I’ve always thought of that time as the demarcation between my “old” life and the “new” one. And I still kinda think of myself as living that “new” life, even though it’s been 22 years.
I met up with Megan midday, and we spent the day together just relaxing and enjoying each others company. We checked into a hotel, and I have to say there’s nothing like staying in a clean and spacious room with a big soft bed, a bathroom with a large shower and a hot tub on the deck to put van living in perspective. I love both, and appreciate fully the opportunity and fortune to do both.
The evening brought an opportunity to spend time with some friends I haven’t seen in a very long time and wish I could see more frequently. Dan and Sherry have been friends for almost 20 years, and we’ve shared many memorable times and spiritual journeys together. The four of us spent Friday evening deep in drinks and conversation at a downtown Guerneville watering hole, catching up and talking shop (Dan is also a talented photographer and works for a well known photo gear company), then chowed down on tacos from a truck parked outside Safeway, where the guy who took my order periodically called out “Bobby my friend!!” throughout our brief stay outside his establishment. Funny guy. We eventually said our goodbyes and Megan and I finished off the night with a delightful hot tub soak before falling into bed exhausted but content.
The next day Megan and I decided to take a walk in Armstrong Woods before we had to part ways, which sounded like a wonderfully relaxing way to spend the morning. As we drove down the road that led to the woods, we found it lined with car after car after car, stretching more than a quarter mile from the entrance. Apparently there was a trail race going on, and the place was packed with people. We managed to have a nice walk anyway, but the sound of cheering and dodging the sweaty, huffing runners on the trail definitely altered the meditative silence that one usually enjoys in the redwood forests.
We parted ways and I headed to Rich’s house so we could put some more time into the van. We put the finished ceiling panels up and mounted one of the cabinets my dad and I made. This means my clothing no longer needs to be stuffed into a crate and can be organized and put away (!!). I love when things get organized.
I ventured over to west county where Travis and Lauren were hosting Taco Night with none other than Dan and Sherry attending (yay!). The delicious food abounded and the raucous laughs were plenty, and I had many moments of appreciation for the opportunity to spend time with these people that I love so much. We met as wild youths and now find ourselves definitively middle-aged, though none of us really feel middle aged. The drinks flowed as night fell, and Dan busted out his camera and tripod so we could run ourselves silly doing long-exposure light painting in the front yard. We were goofy, boisterous and sometimes quite immature in our light-painting subject matter, and in our exuberant reverence, the fact that we’re all middle aged was just about the furthest thing from our minds.