Rule #8: Always Find a Reason to Laugh




The wind was howling ferociously and water was dripping from every corner of the tent. There we each lay butt naked in our own sleeping bags. The final question of the night remained: should we crack open a can of Rainier? We all laughed at the absurdity of the situation at hand. We were drenched. We were freezing. We couldn’t fall asleep. I think we all wished we could rewind twelve hours when we were sitting in a co-op in Clallam Bay, Washington. We were cracking jokes with the cashier, probably breaking into a container of hummus, and relaxing with expresso in hand.


Shi Shi Beach was supposed to be the most picturesque, secluded beach on the entire Olympic peninsula. Few people make the trek up to this region of the United States and even fewer make their way to the Makah Reservation to hike two miles through puddles and swamps to see Shi Shi Beach. As we drove the winding roads through the reservation, we were second-guessing our decision. Reviews online told us not to park at the trailhead unless you wanted to return to your car resting on cinderblocks. We paid ten bucks to park in a random lady’s front lawn, packed our food in a dry bag, and started sloshing to the trail. A monstrous but fluffy dog named Bear began to walk with us from the parking spot acting as our guide/guard dog to Shi Shi. 

Take notice to the threadlike "rope" we trusted our life with.  

Take notice to the threadlike "rope" we trusted our life with.  

The rain was coming down in a drizzle at this stage of the game. After avoiding puddles for the first fifty yards, we soon realized soggy shoes and muddy pants were inevitable. Almost a mile into the trail (and three miles from his home), Bear was still hiking with us. Jake was turning around every thirty seconds to shoe him away. After Jake turned his back, Jess would motion for Bear to come back to our crew. He would pause, stare at us for a moment, and then run back to us every time. We laughed while wondering how this sopping wet dog was going to fit into our tent. As soon as we saw the beach, we knew it was going to be a memorable night. The rocks in the water resembled giant snaggleteeth, and the greyness of the sky added to the eerie vibes. The only thing separating us from setting up camp was a 60 to 70-degree vertical slope (rated a Class IV scramble at least or potentially a 5.5 according to Jake) and a sketchy old rope. We carefully descended one by one while trying to avoid plummeting to the sand a hundred feet below. 

We successfully made it to sea level. However, the intensity of the rain picked up, and daylight was dwindling. “Quick! You two set up the tents, and we’ll start making dinner!” Kate and Jess set up our Gear Tent to keep our packs dry and then assembled the Sleeping Tent. Jake and I lit the camp stove and grabbed a pot full of seawater to make Ocean Pasta (a nourishing and delicious meal satisfying our sodium intakes for the month). Tents were up. Dinner was ready. As we took our first bites of noodles and veggies, the rain came down even harder making it impossible to see anything more than ten feet away. Gusts of wind blew sand into our meal. We shoveled the pasta into our mouths in under two minutes. We all took turns stripping in the foyer of the tent before entering our sleeping bags. (This ordeal took us about ten minutes each due to the layers and layers of sopping wet clothes.)

“Did anyone check the tide levels?” We all busted out laughing picturing our tent getting slammed by waves in the middle of the night. We were squished into a three-person tent and drenched from head to toe.  It’s not very often that one could find themselves in the most miserable conditions with such an upbeat and optimistic group of people. You are almost guaranteed to have a good time when complaints are rare and spirits are high (and the Rainiers are plentiful). We didn’t have an extra dry pair of hiking socks or underwear, but we had each other. We jokingly proclaimed that the next day we would wake up to clear skies and temperatures in the seventies. After emerging from the tent to more rain and clouds, we all learned a fairly important rule of the road. It’s the friends that lay shivering and laughing next to you in a tent in the middle of nowhere who make the world less of a cold, harsh place.

Rule #7: The Team Comes First



Yosemite national park

I left the sleepy town in southeastern Idaho where I spent the summer living in a bat-infested cabin by myself, and I knew immediately that I was making the right decision.  Every mile I made West was bringing me closer to new places, uncertain adventures, and great people. 


The weeks that followed comprised of a pretty wonderful combination of spastic activity by day and campfire recuperation by night.  Our road trip team continued to grow, and so, by default, did its energy.  It can be a dangerous thing, though, a group of adventurers with youthful vivacity, quixotic idealism, and a burning determination to make continuous forward progress.  Particularly when paired with an unwavering distaste for anything resembling a formal plan.  In fact, the only way for an organization as frantic and whimsical as ours to accomplish anything at all was to constantly, and relentlessly put the team first.  


This meant biting your tongue and zipping your lip when someone suggested something that seemed astoundingly dumb.  It meant letting go of the unremitting frugality of the penniless vagabond to buy the unnecessary cookies, or beer, or thanksgiving turkey that you knew would revive the team’s slumping morale.  It meant sacrificing a chance to see the natural wonder you’ve been dreaming about so that your friend could spend one more night with their family. 


On our backpacking excursion in Yosemite it meant forgiving your teammate who insisted they knew where they were going, only to lead you on a meandering loop through the dark, damp, scary-as-fuck forest right back to where you were 45-minutes ago.  (Turns out, I was the guilty party on that little snafu.)  The blame-game wasn’t gonna get us anywhere, so we buried it and trudged on for the sake of team progress. 


We re-traced our steps and reached the stone-cut, switchbacking staircase—the whole trail had been uphill since we left the car, but this was a terrifyingly accurate recreation of The Winding Stair of Mordor.  We stomped and sweated our way up like aflock of goats with the weight of over 40 Buds smashed into our packs because we had two birthdays to celebrate during our three-day trip.  Extraneous?  Yeah, probably.  Purposeless?  No way.  Voluntary suffering for the sake of team spirit.  

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley


As we enjoyed the fruits of our labor around the communal fire ring, we got to know some of our neighbors in camp.  Their expressions of heartfelt gratitude at the offering of 12 fl. oz.’s of warm barley nectar reminded us that our team’s energy was growing still, even if we would never see these new friends again.  It may have cost us more effort for less personal vitamin B intake, but we were happy to bear the load and share the wealth for the sake of a collective team experience. 


Two weeks after hiking out, I was back home in Phoenix.  Having always been an introvert, a part of me was ready to be done with the road trip and return to a routine where the daily amount of chaos was fully under my own control.  I was sitting in the backyard relaxing into my newfound peace and quiet when all of the sudden, completely unannounced, the whole gang comes blasting through the gate like an entourage of party crashers.  I shot up and yelled something to the effect of “WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU GUYS DOING HERE?!?!”  A week later I was back in the mayhem and grinning like an idiot to be part of the unending journey once again. 


When camaraderie is contagious, peace and quiet be damned.  Pack your shit and follow your friends to the ends of the earth.  Because the team always, always comes first. 

Friendship on 3

Friendship on 3

Rule #6: Spend Your Whole Day Outside



Arch Cape, Oregon

When I was a kid my family had a dinner bell; a physical object whose entire existence was dedicated to beckoning small children inside from the outdoors. It reminded tiny reptilian brainstems that they could not in fact survive on running around all night, but needed sustenance in the form of food. Every summer night the bell tried so hard, stuck to the arm of my mom and rung helplessly beyond its recommended use, to get me to stop playing and come inside.  Eventually this method worked, but then there were those days…those beautiful days when I was too far away to hear the bell, or dinner was late, or something entirely too interesting was happening for me to listen.  Those were the days when you stopped playing street hockey, freeze tag, bike ramps, trampoline jumping, hide and seek, playground lava, or forts in the woods only because it got too dark to see. Exhausted yet bursting with the life of the earth itself, you find your way home, beaming with joy, because you sucked out every last second of your day. What could be more fun and fulfilling than that? 


October 5th, 2015 was one of those beautiful days.  It was a day of celebration, reunion of friends, and Mother Nature mysteriously gifting an unrivaled sunny and 70 to the Oregon coast in the middle of fall. The waves crashed, swimmers swam, surfers surfed, skinny dippers dipped, soccer goals were scored, and the sun began to set just as a game of volleyball began. All minds were so focused on the intense match up that nobody noticed their stomach gurgling with hunger or their muscles fatigued from jumping around in sand and water for hours (or running the Portland Marathon the day before). We could have played forever. But alas, the big ball of fire in the sky began to give way to the night as it sunk into the Pacific. As the sky darkened, we played until the bitter end; until no one could see the volleyball, the court lines in the sand, or even our own hands in front of us. Only then, did our game have to come to an end. Exhausted yet bursting with the life of the earth itself, we wandered back up the beach dunes to our home for the night, beaming with joy, because we sucked out every last second of our day.

Photo: Ellie Mango  October 5th, 2015

Photo: Ellie Mango

October 5th, 2015

Whenever given that kind of gift; take it, summon your inner second grader, stand up, walk out the door, grab a friend, go play until you can’t see, and SPEND YOUR WHOLE GOD DAMN DAY OUTSIDE!

Photo: Ellie Mango

Photo: Ellie Mango

Rule #5: No Plan is a Good Plan



West coast, usa

Day one. Ellie and I were on a southbound train, from Seattle to Portland. We were headed towards the commencement of our adventure, to convene with the rest of the crew who had already been exploring Washington for (a mere) three weeks.  Ellie, our resident cartophile, had purchased a map of the western US states.  We spread it out across our tray tables and dove in. She and I spent a couple hours line tracing and retracing, date marking and erasing, googling lesser known national parks ("Yeah this looks awesome, let's go here!"), till the perfect plan was composed. We knew it would never be followed to a T.  We used pencil for that reason. For the record, it was one hell of a plan, taking us down the west coast, back up through AZ, UT, ID, MT, WY, CO, IA, IL, then a big send all the way east to land us in NYC, perfectly timed with a birthday celebration grand finale. Lofty, I know. Ellie and I did make it to NYC, though we had to skip a few states along the way.

Photo: Braelynn Hawkins

Photo: Braelynn Hawkins

But what was gained in lieu of the plan and that elusive 'northern loop' was - as the entirety of the trip could be described - priceless.

Having no plan allows you to say "let's stay one more night" and then "okay, maybe two more nights!" when the Road Trip Gods bless you with a beachfront bungalow in Carlsbad, CA just yards from Pacific waves that could pummel.

Having no plan gives way to those impulsive Joshua Tree one-eighties that result in unforeseen afternoons at a stunning country club and the introduction of the World's Sweetest Grandmother (See Rule #3).

Having no plan, in fact, led to the trip's very conception. I think many of us ended up on the trip because of rule #5. We had no plans. Out of college, summer job recently ended...what better way to spend your unplanned time than on a road trip with 7 other adventurous souls?

Looking back, it was naive to draft that overly ambitious master plan. And those occasional group 'map meetings' were quite frankly, silly.  No matter what we had in mind, the road would lead us in another direction - and beautifully so.  Because in this society of nine to fives and schedules and budgets and bills, when can one truly live life unplanned?  Ah, on a road trip, but of course!

I guess what I am trying to say is this: It's good to have a plan, but you don't necessarily need to follow it. It's good to have a plan, but maybe not expectations. It's good to have a plan, but at the end of the road... No plan is the best plan.

Rule #4: Send it



Crater Lake, Oregon

Regardless of the lines on the map, your desired destination, wanders wondered, the “plan” (whatever that thing is), your natural inclinations to get “there” (wherever that might be), never fail to realize this: Spontaneous shenanigans are trip essentials.


Those shenanigans tend to involve a certain facing of self, the confrontation of your innermost fears, and a refusal to acknowledge probable dangers. If your mind is wired anything like mine, you often ask yourself, “Well, what is fun without the rush of risk?” Exactly. If I am not screaming “Holy Heck-a-bits” and “Frickety Frack” from the top of a rock face I reluctantly climbed, then who am I kidding? Okay. It may be the adrenaline that has gotten to my dome, but I know some of you will understand.


You know that certain feeling that arises when the road you are cruising down transforms itself into a concrete wave, lending its smooth streets to your sweet embrace? Well, that is when you grab the nearest board, something, anything with wheels, and make a run for it. You look to your friends for their approval. With eager eyes and proud smiles, they wait for your next move. You question yourself, then double back to the comfort of your friends’ faces. With starry vehemence, they shout, “SEND IT!” Bam. You go. Keep going. Speed gathers, courage abounds, trepidation dissipates. In the midst of movement, you find serenity in a state of euphoria. Like heroin, the elation consumes your being. This is that moment of defiance when limitations are no longer palpable perceptions of terror; you become entirely invincible. Unbounded, you are the master of your fate, the captain of your darn ship (skateboard).


You want to stop. So you do what it is within your will to stop. You leap off your board with such grace only to find yourself greeted by the cold hard concrete. Face first, battered body, you give way to the harshness of a mundane reality. Land ahoy, back to the ground, you become cognitively aware of how badass you are. The remnants of your courage keep you trembling. The adrenaline rushes through your veins reaching the wounded knees. Your overly prepared friends bolt to your rescue with seven different first-aid kits, but you are numb to the physical pain. Your road rash sanctifies your body, honouring itself for such valiance. You hop in the car (literally because of injuries), wearing your torn patagonia sweatshirt like a souvenir. As you drive away, you look in the rearview, and smile a cheeky little grin. The pain rouses and that endless wave behind you, the magical place where you got pitted, pummeled, and all sorts of shredded, kisses you goodbye. Before you fall asleep that night, you reminisce on that very moment when your lionhearted self did not wimp out, you sent it.


Rule #3: Go with your Gut



Phoenix, Arizona

For me, this rule was the only reason I ended up on the road trip.

Rewind back to September. Both of my jobs had ended. I had just moved into what seemed like a grown up apartment. And I basically spent all of my time in coffee shops and climbing.

Then I heard about this road trip. Details were very foggy and the people were somewhat unfamiliar. A close group of friends from DU. Possibly hanging out in National Parks, possibly running marathons, camping involved, car space limited.  A week before it was to commence I decided that I should join this road trip with these people I barely knew. I went back and forth a million times, but ultimately listened to that little, huge, overwhelmingly confusing gut feeling. I bought my first ever one-way ticket to Seattle with plans to stay just two weeks.

Seven weeks later, we had all just weathered a tremendously windy and oddly sandy night in Joshua Tree.  After one of the quickest camp take-downs ever (applying the “Fuck It” packing method), we sleepily made our way northeast towards Flagstaff. As I sat in the back of Michael Scott (the black Jeep Liberty), I couldn’t help studying the atlas.  Phoenix, my hometown, just seemed so close.

I suggested that a drive by might be fun. We discussed with Sunny (the white Ford Ranger) and decided it would mess up the plan. So we drove on towards the North exit.  But suddenly, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my family and showing these amazing new friends a place so close to my heart.

I yelled with decisiveness and the car came to a stop. As Sunny pulled up, I just smiled and said “We’re going to Phoenix.”

I was expecting doubtful faces or disappointed comments, but instead I got huge smiles and building excitement.  As we blasted music with windows down through the entirety of “The Josh”, I again thanked the glorious rule of “Go with your gut.”

The Josh

The Josh


We ended up staying two nights in Phoenix. Everyone got to meet my wonderful parents, Sally (my grandma), and funny Phil (brother). We even managed to surprise a fellow crew member who had recently left the trip. I showed them all my high school spots and favorite trail run. And we packed in my parents’ car, blared ridiculous tunes, and ran around like we were teenagers.


The RT girls with Sally, Kate's grandma. What a legend. 

The RT girls with Sally, Kate's grandma. What a legend. 

Thinking about that stop fills me with an energetic happiness and still puts a giant grin on my face. I guess that’s what I get for following the rules.

Rule #2: Don't Be a Weenie



crater lake, oregon

Water is, at its most daunting, at its least enticing, a living, raven substance; more closely resembling the frightened expulsion of a tentacled sea monster than the stuff of bathtubs and beer. Step toward the edge. Well, step is ambitious. Take quarter steps with your leading foot, scooting the other in skeptical pursuit, until you can look down upon this boiling inkwell. The wind is moving — west to east, yes, but up and down too, and at a ridiculous speed. You feel the way a birthday candle must when Peter, the snotty just-turned-eleven year-old, sneezes during the wishing and the extinguishing. If you are wearing shorts the wind will surely hike them into a rumpled diaper thing. Do not let this distract you. You are too close to what instinct warns is self-ruin and doom. The word instinct has a habit of seeming peripheral, like a third member of the Moral Shoulder Society. But at this edge, amidst the wind and the waves, instinct manifests itself in the belly. It turns like a centrifuge, hurling oatmeal and Clif Bars to the perimeter of your stomach, leaving the Busch Light to gyrate alone in the center. The temperature is forty degrees and the sun retreated from threatening clouds hours before you crept onto this otherwise awesome, but shitty, granite boulder. Sure, Crater Lake makes for a nice postcard in June, July, and August. But there is a reason why tourists don’t flock here in October. But you are here in October. And you are standing on this otherwise awesome, but shitty, granite boulder on the edge of the lake, 1,000 feet below the crater rim. The waves are now four feet tall and rhythmic. Your shirt is gone, maybe your shorts too. The wind has an exaggerated effect on your nipples. The centrifuge in your gut is wobbling in distress. The universe is telling you “find a down jacket, drink a beer, stay put.” And then you remember Rule of The Road #2: Don’t Be a Weenie.


Ty goes head first into the deepest lake in the country. No shirt, no shoes...Crater Lake DGAF's. All 1,946 feet.

Ty goes head first into the deepest lake in the country. No shirt, no shoes...Crater Lake DGAF's. All 1,946 feet.

Rule #1: Pet Every Dog



Port Townsend, Olympic Peninsula

It was 7:30 pm in Port Townsend, Washington, the first stop after our starting point in Seattle. Port Townsend sits on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula. Beautiful victorian buildings line the coast while art galleries, bead shops, and coffee houses fill the mile long main street. We fell in love with PT immediately but that didn't distract us from reality. 

Port Townsend

Port Townsend

We had no place to sleep and we were hungry. Free camping spots were few and far between on the OP and all the campgrounds were full by the time we arrived. The idea of squeezing four people into the back of the jeep, named Michael Scott, sounded impossible, but was becoming our only option as the sun disappeared. We walked into Waterfront pizza for a quick slice. Waiting in line, we talked about going door to door and asking to pitch our tent on someone- anyones lawn. I placed my order and went outside to a bench where a small straggly dog was tied. It was asking to be pet with wide eyes and what seemed like a smile. You could tell it was well cared for not by it’s appearance, but it’s personality. “Her name’s Lola” I quickly looked up to see Lola’s owner, “She’s friendly," he said with a smile. Vic ended up being pretty friendly too. I took an immediate liking to him- his shaggy white hair, worn in jeans, and ungroomed mustache. He was in town for a wooden boat festival that had wrapped up the previous weekend, but stuck around for a few days to enjoy the magic of Port Townsend. A Washington native, Vic grew up on the other side of the Puget Sound in Bellingham. Ten years ago he traded a traditional life for a wooden sailboat, a companion named Lola, and the freedom of being off the grid. He spends his time sailing between Washington and Southeast Alaska’s inside passage. It wasn’t long before realizing we knew some of the same people from the small town I work in during the summer.

He hinted that we spend the night on his boat if we hadn't already figured out where to stay. He probably didn't think we would take up his offer, but we did. We bought him a beer as a gesture of gratitude at a local pourhouse. Feeling as if a single beer wasn't enough, we offered him the six leftover PBR’s that had been marinating in our cooler for a few days- they were politely declined. Vic shuttled us in a small zodiac from the Port Townsend dock to his wooden yacht anchored a few hundred feet off shore. He showed us where we would sleep- in the wheelhouse above the main cabin he calls home, and then invited us inside. We entered Vic and Lola's world, and I could tell we were the first visitors in years. It smelled of coffee and wood. A couch, love seat and kitchen fit into fifty square feet. Different coffee mugs from all the places he had been hung on hooks below the kitchen cabinets. There was room for two of us to sit and two to stand while he showed us the wooden masks he carves. He explained how to go to the bathroom using the rusty coffee can that sat in the corner. Go in the can, throw the contents overboard. This was the only other option to hanging  your bare butt off the side of the boat, clutching onto the railing for dear life. We conversed about politics and the wonders of modern day technology. After awhile we began to fade and said goodnight.

Making our way up to the wheelhouse, I thought about the meaning of home. It isn't a house, a boat, or any particular place. I think it’s a feeling you get when you're surrounded by the right people. That night, Vic’s boat felt like home. We had each other and a new friend who openly welcomed us. Up in the wheelhouse we each cracked a warm PBR, cheersed to Vic, finding a place to sleep, and to Lola who started it all. 


Our Port Townsend Family: Vic and Lola. 

Our Port Townsend Family: Vic and Lola.