First Road Trip

First Road Trip

I am a Washingtonian. I love cloudy days, cold rain, and a perpetual temperature of around 75 degrees fahrenheit. The Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful place in the country. I haven’t been to Alaska or Hawaii, but I’ve been pretty much everywhere else.

JC and I decided to spend our first weekend in the van driving to Spokane, WA to visit my step-sister for her birthday. It was one of the hardest battles I have ever had on the road. 410 miles one way through twisty one lane roads and I84, a giant wind tunnel of a highway. I was always told that driving the van would come with some challenges. Semis (18 Wheelers) passed us at every opportunity. You can’t go fast in a vanagon. These vans are top heavy boxes, basically sails, so when a truck passes you the van will waiver. At night cars would ride the back bumper and completely fill the inside of the van with their bright headlights as if their presences could make the ’81 Tin Can move any faster uphill.

Oh the temptation to ease the gas and let them hit our bumper. No, no! That’s the old road rage talking there. Since getting the van my road rage has been in a state of flux. It’s hard to have it when you know that you literally can’t drive fast even if you try. But those headlights – that was something else.

JC is making the windshield clean and bug free. You pick up a lot of bugs on those backroads. I couldn’t do this adventure without her, she’s perfect!

That’s what Vanlife is like on the highway. If you can take country roads do it. Do it at all costs! We’ve been passed by impatient cars on double yellows on the highway. We’ve watched cars race to pass us and almost get into an accident as they barely made it back over before oncoming traffic made a mess of the road. When you take life Vanlife slow, you see that the rest of the world is truly in a rush. 

We are all going the same direction. We will all make it there in time. There just isn’t any need to cross lanes illegally, cut off other vehicles, or ride the bumpers of other cars. In the end you will gain minutes from this kind of driving and this is coming from someone who did all of those things once upon a time. Life truly is better when it’s slow. So, why do it?

9 hours, that’s why. The trip to Spokane was only suppose to be 6 hours but with the slowness of the van and the battles with the wind in the Columbia River Gorge our drive took about 3 additional hours. By the time we made it to Spokane it was 2 AM and everyone we were set to meet that Friday was asleep. We ended up street parking in front of their house for the night.

And then, at 6 AM – “Surprise! Happy Birthday! Also, we slept in the van in front of your house in this REALLY nice neighborhood. I mean, our sleep was interrupted a lot because we were both paranoid that this neighborhood had some kind of Watch or paid security guard that walked around to keep everything H.O.A. approved, and I think your neighbors hate you now because we look like bums, but its ok because this is a damn fine neighborhood. So good to see you! Can we get coffee?”

On this visit we met other adults in our age range, all with kids and stable households. They looked at the van casually but seemed to need to go above and beyond to state why they couldn’t live their life in a van. Their reasons varied but none of them were compliments to Vanlife, and none of them were asked for. I encountered this a lot when I joined the Peace Corps. I would tell people I was joining and people wouldn’t respond with, “That’s great!” but with, “I couldn’t do that because…” JC and I were almost re-energized after the encounter. We saw what future we didn’t want, at least not right now, and took comfort that people were impressed enough to go out of their way to say why they couldn’t, as if there was a pull to the road and they had to qualify why they weren’t doing it.

Happy Vanlifing!



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