Moments of Purpose
By the end of October, we had made it almost as far across the country as possible, to the very edge of the Oregon coast. The month of November was framed by a few commitments, but we intentionally left much of it open-ended. We set off down the Pacific Coast highway towards California, excited to explore the Redwoods and soak up the scenic drive.
What followed was a time of meandering down the highway, stopping where we’d like for hiking or running or eating or camping, and a breather from rushing around from spot to spot. We were able to camp (almost) on the beach one night after getting stuck in the sand and being pulled out by a local, take a four mile trail run through the heart of the Redwoods, and swim buck naked in the Pacific Ocean. Initially we thought we would make it down to Joshua Tree for climbing, but instead had to cut east towards southern Utah to see a friend in Boulder, Utah. As the excitement of being on the road transformed from pure ecstasy to our normal routine, we noticed our relationship (and new marriage) was quickly being put to the test. I like the way Brandon has said it a couple of times now: “If you want to put your marriage on the hot seat, immediately move into an 80 square foot apartment on wheels.”
When we get into an argument, there are no doors to slam other than the ones that lead outside to a curb to sit on. There are no other rooms to sulk in. There are no other vehicles to drive off in to carry an angry fury elsewhere. There are only four walls and an argument to settle, right then and there. This van is too tiny to house any resentments, and if we try, they end up spilling over into every French-pressed coffee cup we pour. We each have to give grace to each other constantly, even when Brandon is being edgy and sarcastic and I’m being brutally passive aggressive and avoidant. We have to argue, fight, talk it out, and then let it go with forgiveness. Otherwise, living in a van with someone else (and two, large 60 pound dogs for that matter) would be impossible.
On the way to Utah, we intentionally stopped in Bishop, California for two days. Bishop is a destination climbing spot, and we spent both days in Owen’s River Gorge. The approach was long, and the number of climbs seemed endless. We climbed at “Bell Tower” the first day and “Banana Peel” the second with the dogs in tow, picking out various 9s and 10s to get on. Like so many other places we’ve visited, it was if we were living within a postcard, staring in awe at the beauty before us.
Since our journey has no specific timeline, we have been secondarily searching for an area to spend some time in. We don’t know how long exactly, but we’ve discussed “setting up shop” in a town we love for a couple of months and finding some work. As we’ve been traveling, we’ve been keeping our ears open for a town to call our name. Bishop was one of those places for us, but we continued east.
After a day of bouldering in Red Rock, Nevada, right outside of Las Vegas, we set off towards Saint George, Utah and climbed in Sunset Alley for a day at a crag named, “The Alley.” I sent my first 10a since dislocating my shoulder named “Shits and Giggles,” with an on-sight to boot. Brandon worked a 10b and 10c and we decided we’d be back for more.
Next stop was Boulder, Utah to visit friend Sylas and family. Boulder is a tiny town with only 200 residents, right down the road from the Grand Staircase in Escalante National Forest. Locals are hoping this beautiful spot doesn’t become a tourist trap, and I’m surprised it hasn’t already. It’s one of those towns we never would have stopped in without having a friend to visit since it’s only a speck on a map, but we were able to take a rest from driving, having those conversations you can only have over campfires, and hiking in some of the most remarkably chiseled mountains.
Being in southern Utah always feels spiritual to me. No wonder the Mormons settled there; whatever you call “God” is visible at every vantage point. Sometime between making it from the west coast to this sleepy little town swathed in some sort of mysterious divinity, van life questioned, “What is your purpose?”
You know, I feel like I got duped. That word, “purpose,” was advertised to me in such a way that if I didn’t find mine quickly enough or well enough, I’d be left behind, destitute in corporate America. “Get a good, well-paying job you don’t hate, put in your 40 hours a week for at least 40 years, and save desperately for retirement while you do it.” That always sounded like a bad deal to me, but I tried it out anyways. I’ve miserably searched for a career path with no success and for years I’ve felt like a failure. Maybe what we’re doing right now, living like vagabonds in rolling tin box, is to realize our purpose. It seems like purpose is not this monumental “thing” I’ve built it up to be, but rather a state of being. Maybe each moment has a purpose and I’ve been missing out on what the point was all along.
With motive in mind, we continued on to Joe’s Valley for a bouldering trip with friends Ryan, Tyler, and Steven. They take an annual trip there and since we skipped it last year to go to Red River Gorge, we were excited to finally have made it out there with them. We spent three of the four days remembering how tough bouldering is on your body, losing skin on our fingertips, and for me, sending my very first V3.
We left Joe’s with just enough time to make the drive back to Denver, CO for an appointment to have work done on the van. The transit is only an F150 and our whole lives are packed inside, so we decided to have extra leaf springs put on to avoid problems in the future. Plus, we had planned to spend Thanksgiving with old friends Sara and Shannon that we had visited in October.
Our intention was to spend the last couple of days of November in Denver and then head south to warmer weather. Somehow though, Denver keeps creating reasons for us to stay, so we’ve decided to take each day at a time. November also forged a new conversation about working on the road. We’ve been lucky enough to be unemployed so far, but we’re almost ready for employment again. You can only have so many days in which you make to-do lists that include “play with dogs” before you know you need some structured productivity.
By, Trice Sweet