van life: red rock canyon (video tour)

we left portland at 9pm on thursday, april 12th with red rock canyon, las vegas, nevada set in our google maps. we were so excited to hit the road and sleep our first night in the van, that we didn’t even care that we would only drive about three hours before needing to pull over and go to sleep. so excited, that we totally didn’t even think about the fact that the pass over mt. hood might have snow… which it did.

despite the chain requirement warning, we slowly pushed through the pass and safely found our way to the redmond, oregon wal-mart, our first home away from home.

it was freezing. we didn’t think about the whole snow thing at all. we curled up close in our new cozy bed, too lazy to unpack our extra sleeping bags.

in the morning, we woke up and hit the road again. i worked for 10 hours while ryan drove for 10 hours. and then, we arrived in vegas. our first climbing destination.

we met up with some friends who were in town from hawaii and were treated to a true las vegas luxury dinner (from a famous chef that i can’t remember the name of) after a full day of exploring red rock canyon state park. it was so great to share our home with some good company. plenty of space for four… thanks nate and nancy!

after a few days of climbing and a few nights camped out in a casino parking lot, we met up with some other friends and moved out to campsite closer to the canyon.

it’s been almost two weeks since we landed in vegas and since we moved in our new van life. these first couple weeks have been full of learning. learning what works, learning what doesn’t, learning what we’re missing, and learning what we love.

life is pretty great. i am so proud of ryan and the home he has built us. it is cozy and has everything we need for the life we love to live. it is a blessing to wake up every day and look around at the beautiful creativity of my partner. thank you ryan.

and now, what you’ve all been waiting for… a super awkward video tour of the final product!

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beginning van life: week 8-10

so it turns out that ryan isn’t great at documenting a van build… since i was working full time (and overtime) while we were stationed in portland for the past two months, i could not help get footage of the amazing process ryan underwent to produce our new home.

since my last blog post, we have completed the van!!!

it took about 4-5 weeks of full time work, and i am still totaling the expenses, but probably around $8,000 for everything including the vehicle. more details on expense breakdown to come soon.

in the final weeks of the van build, a lot of things came together…

ryan framed the kitchen and modified a piece of bamboo donated by my boss for the counter top and pull out table/desk.

he built out the cupboards and drawers. complete with soft close hinges! and then, he gave them all a couple coats of oil to protect the wood and make the grain pop. our van is majorly cedar, including these beautiful cupboards.

 

as everything came together, some of the last details were finished up. we added a vent fan over the bed to draw air from the front windows throwout the van, and ryan finished up all the electrical.

the sink was custom made from a bowl to minimize depth and allow space for our pull out table/desk.

 

and then there was the one thing that i contributed to the van… the curtains. i will admit that i cannot even take full credit for them since a friend of mine did assist with the sewing. thanks elana!

and then, we unpacked our storage unit into the van and moved in…

now, to hit the road…

beginning van life: week 1-7

the number one question from everyone these days has been, “how’s the van coming?” so, i guess it is finally time to do our first update on the pending #vanlife chapter of our lives.

it has been seven weeks since we arrived in portland, and we have been super busy. ryan thought he would have all the free time in the world while on a break from work, but he was very wrong.

our first three weeks here were pretty mellow. lots of craigslist searching and alert setting, checking out various vans, and daydreaming about creating our new home. since ryan was not working full time like me, there was also a lot of boredom and anxiety to get started on this next adventure. that boy does not like to sit still for more than a day or two at a time…

we joined a climbing gym in portland, which gave him something to do while we continued to scour the internet for our perfect van. we needed to get back in shape anyways. our forearms and fingertips were definitely not up to climbing road trip status. but, after seven weeks, they are starting to get there.

after about two weeks, an alert popped up in my inbox: 2004 chevy express 2500, 164,000 miles. i forwarded the info to ryan, and he went to suss out if this could be our glass slipper.

turns out that it was. but it also turned into a hilarious example of a craigslist fiasco…

after getting the van home and getting ready to register it, we realized that we had the wrong title. what?! for the next several hours, my brain thought about every possible scenario. was this a stolen van? did we just get swindled? it turns out the answer was no. we bought the van off an electrical company that was selling off a couple vans from their fleet; we just had another van’s title.

during this time, ryan also realized that the transmission could use a little work. lucky for us, the owner had to meet us to exchange the titles. when we picked up the new title, we learned that the vehicle we had purchased was actually a 2003, not a 2004.

this was used to our advantage as i tapped into my schneider debate skills and negotiated a partial refund due to the less than perfect transmission and older than expected vehicle. threatening legal action (without actually knowing anything about the laws surrounding craigslist purchases and bill of sale stipulations), we got them to agree to a partial refund.

with the actual title now in hand, we registered the van in our name and dropped it off at the transmission shop for a makeover while we headed down to lake tahoe for a little snowboarding fun with friends for week four.

we returned to portland in early march, and ryan got straight to work. he joined a community workshop space, so he had access to all the tools he would need. and now what you’ve all been waiting for…

week five:

  • removing the stickers from the outside
  • stripping the inside of shelving and cage divider
  • insulating the walls and floor
  • sanding the wood wall panels
  • waterproofing the wood wall panels (the only thing i have done to contribute thus far)
  • starting to install wood wall panels

 

 

 

week six:

after endless hours researching and unsuccessfully finding a van bubble topper for a decent rate and reasonable turnaround time, we abandoned the idea of adding a higher roof onto our van. at least for now. standing up in the van is definitely a very exciting luxury, but in an effort to save time and money, this part of our plan has been postponed.

  • finishing installation of all wood wall paneling
  • insulating the roof
  • installing wood ceiling boards
  • wiring the van for our ceiling lighting and mood lighting
  • online research and ordering of parts

week seven:

  • installing LED mood lighting
  • prepping holes for ceiling lights
  • building bed frame
  • oiling wood wall panels “to make the grain pop”
  • designing (and arguing about) under the bed storage compartments
  • designing and planning out the kitchen
  • more online research and ordering of parts

and there you have it! three weeks of hard work and ryan has already created an amazing new home for us. i can’t wait to see what else he has in store for _______! (we are taking name suggestions. “rowdy” has been suggested as a throwback to the previous owner’s company “gowdy electric” but we’re still open to ideas…)

mahalo.

with the amount of adventures we’ve undertaken in the past two years, you’d think that my blog would be filled with endless entries. but since we moved to hawaii at the beginning of february 2016, the weekly excursions never found their way to the page. and now that we are gone, i feel like i have so many stories to tell. as i scroll through my hawaii folder of photos, i am overwhelmed by this life we live and the love that follows us wherever we go.

what started as a way for ryan and me to live together in the same place for more than three months at a time, has ended with a place we will always call home.

our last weekend was filled with socializing and saying goodbye for now to the wonderful friends we have created over the past two years.

the friends who slacklined with us until the sun set over waikiki beach. the friends who hosted “sunday suppers” complete with homemade pizza, sushi, and other utterly messy food creations. the friends who made absurd mock reality tv show intro videos. the friends who are smart enough to get us out of an escape room in under an hour.

the friends who taught us how sharp volcanic rock is and tried to turn us into boulderers. the friends who almost swigged a bottle of tequila full of dead fruit flies. the friends who made me feel extremely tall and pale and loved. the friends who supported and amplified my rockstar karaoke dreams.

the friends who saved me from drowning at rockpiles when my surfboard leash broke. the friends who know the seriousness of spike ball. the friends who love taking massive group photos touching each other’s butts. the friends who know how to light up a dance floor (even in costumes). the friends who know how to reap the benefits of a fishing trip.

the friends who lived across the pond. the friends who fed us way too much european wine and delicious food. the friends who embraced the full moon’s excitement. the friends who took us to hidden tide pools and unpopulated waterfalls.

and of course, the friends who started as family. ❤

yes, hawaii is awesome. yes, we did a lot of epic shit. no, i didn’t lay on the beach everyday. no, i don’t have a killer tan. but, yes, we have made some amazing friendships on these little islands in the middle of the pacific. and yes, i now own an obscene amount of bikinis and rashguards.

for now, that is all. but don’t worry, i am sure as the nostalgia sets in even harder, our stories of hawaii will come to fruition, and we can relive the memories together. mahalo.

i pledge allegiance.

i said the pledge of allegiance today for the first time in a long time. i actually cannot remember the last time i recited the pledge. as the maui county council chair asked everyone to stand and recite it, my heartbeat quickened in fear that i might have forgotten the words, and i’d have to brand myself a shitty american for the rest of my life. but as i put my right hand across my chest, the many years of daily repetition paid off and muscle memory moved my mouth to form all the correct sounds.

i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

i cannot remember the last time i voiced these words. i cannot remember any time where i have actually thought about the words i was voicing.

but today, i heard my voice.

i sat in the maui county council chambers surrounded by women and men there to honor maui resident teresa shook (the women responsible for igniting the women’s march), and i heard my words loud and clear.

img_1101

just as it would often hit me unexpectedly while dissecting one of the many great poems in my intro to poetry course in college, the words transformed from merely words into actual meaning. especially there in that moment, standing with my palm pressed over my heart in a room full of local government officials and everyday people truly wanting the kind of nation our forefathers pledged.

we are all united. we cannot be divided. we will fight for liberty and justice for all. i pledge my allegiance to this. i have pledged my allegiance to this subconsciously since kindergarten.

but today, i actually took the pledge. and i will take it here again:

i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

img_1102and then i sat back down in my chair and listened to maui county’s councilmen, local residents, and even a german tourist, give their testimonies celebrating teresa shook, celebrating the fact that one facebook post from a retired attorney from a tiny island in the middle of the pacific, could spark a movement. i watched as women and men wiped tears from their eyes, inspired by the powerful stance our nation took when its appointed leader challenged our unity. we are indivisible.

i am the product of a hardworking father with a creative and charismatic personality and a hyper-driven mother who is an extraordinary example of independence and intelligence. the values they consciously (or unconsciouly) instilled in me encouraged understanding, acceptance, growth, and love. through their actions, i saw that fear could be conquered, that perseverance leads to results, and that perfection is a daily practice.

and today, as i made my pledge of allegiance to our flag and the nation it represents, i celebrated those lessons…

our nation can conquer fear.
our perseverance leads to results.
our perfection is a daily practice.

12 signs you were born and raised in the Chicago suburbs

In honor of heading home for the holidays… 12 signs you were born and raised in the Chicago suburbs:

1. You have a photo of yourself being knighted at Medieval Times.

Or crowned princess on your birthday, in my case. Nothing like slipping back in time and investigating ancient torture methods before cheering on the black and white checkered knight as he conquered the evil green knight in an epic jousting match. Let’s not forget the whole eating with your hands element, either.

2. The last Metra train determined when you had to close out your tab. 

And missing that last train meant a very expensive cab ride home from the city. You also knew that open containers were totally cool aboard the train, and necessary since Chicago cocktails were triple the price of your local Main Street bar. Let the train pre-game begin!

3. All your major life events were celebrated at Colonial. 

Or whatever your local diner happened to be. Dance recitals, school musicals, graduations, etc. all ended with a Kitchen Sink at Colonial. Not only did you get to celebrate your accomplishments with a 6-scoop ice cream sundae served in a miniature kitchen sink, you also got to walk away with a bumper sticker to prove you’re a fat ass.

4. You have at least one photo of yourself crying at Six Flags Great America. 

All right, maybe not every Chicago suburbanite hates walking around amusement parks in drenched denim as much as I do, but they definitely have made the trek to Gurnee at some point in their lives. One ride on the Viper’s 25-year-old wooden track (forward or backward) and you’ll be doubting your sanity for years to come.

See the rest of this article on Matador Network!

 

24 reasons illinois is the most underrated state

in case all my friends and family from back home have grown sick of reading my stories about australia, here is some homegrown content you can enjoy! check out my latest article on matador network and be sure to share, like, and comment on the original blog post.

1. It has Chicago.

Let’s just get it out of the way first since it’s the most obvious reason Illinois is awesome. Although it is not the official state capital, as most foreigners think, Chicago is the epicenter of culture for the Midwest. From Shedd Aquarium and Sears Tower (yes, we will forever call it that) to the Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza, the Windy City will always give New York and Los Angeles a run for their money.

2. And Chicago gave you deep dish pizza.

Let’s not forget this very important fact. A piping hot, cheesy pie from Lou’s is just what you need after a long night on Division, so thank goodness Chicago invented it.

3. The historic Route 66 starts in Illinois.

It doesn’t start in Michigan or Indiana or any other Midwest state, it starts in Illinois, just one block SE of this Adams Street sign. The 301 miles covered in Illinois offer some of the best when it comes to Americana icons, like the oldest usable service station — Soulsby Service Station.

4. The Land of Lincoln was the first state to abolish slavery.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified by Illinois on February 1, 1865 before any other states. Way to go, Illinois (and you, too, Lincoln).

5. There is 26 miles of salt-free beachfront.

That’s right. No spitting every five seconds. No burning eyes. No layer of dried salt on your skin when you get out. Just crisp, fresh water allowing you to wakeboard without the lingering fear of getting eaten by a shark. And if you ignore the fact that you know geography, you can imagine that Lake Michigan goes on forever.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE OTHER 19 REASONS!