On the Road

The constant zing and whrrr harmonizing with the chugging of the big rig parked at the rest stop on Hwy 299 was not exactly the idyllic vision I had for my trip. But after some hiccups, I was on the road.

A decently scenic rest stop

After frantically packing all clothes, kitchen supplies, food, toiletries, more food, which I could have done over the last week, but had procrastinated instead—leading me to hit the road at 4:30 in the afternoon.


The packed Mendeleev
Everything snugly fit in

Those packages which were supposed to arrive Wednesday at 10:30am finally showed up at 2:30pm, the UPS man was really apologetic saying his packer had put it in the middle of the truck and he had tried to get it in the morning, but couldn’t find it. After making sure the cooler and the bins of belonging and the cot actually fit in the Mendeleev, I hit the road.

I hit the toll booth on the other side of San Francisco just as the sun was glowing red setting behind the mountains, I almost found a viewpoint to get a shot of it.

Cruising up I-5, I was planning on making it almost to Shasta, but with leaving late and then the new fire that cropped up just passed Redding and closed down I-5 put those plans to rest. So I hopped on freecampsites.net to find another stopping point. A rest stop on 299…perfect…arrive around midnight, not great, but it would get me close enough for less driving the next day.

So I pulled up to a rest stop at 12:30am, tried to get all my windows covered, unraveled the foam sleeping pad, which didn’t get it’s full 24 hour inflation

time, so was more of a lumpy towel than the 3.9in of inflated foam I was hoping for. And the duct tape I’d grabbed had deteriorated sitting in my garage, so I spent 10 minutes futilely sitting in car trying to cover the back window, just to have it fall off over and over. I was too tired to realize I had clothes pins that would have done the trick right under the cot.

Not only does it not stick, it also leaves a crumbly mess everywhere

About 300 miles in 6 hours down, 5 hours of sleep gotten, next stop Corvallis.

Shipping Woes

Amazon is a blessing and a curse. It’s been so easy to be spoiled by almost guaranteed 2 day shipping when it doesn’t work, it’s like the whole world is falling apart, or at least it’s really inconvenient. 

Packages and Boxes
One of the many set of packages I’ve gotten.

 I ordered a couple of things I needed for the trip, small stuff—storage containers and big stuff—cooler and sleeping pad. I get home Friday at 1:30, refresh the tracking number—”Delivered, 1:22”, sweet they must have quietly left everything right after I got home. I check the door…nothing. Maybe it’s just an error log, I get home that evening still nothing. Terrible.

I emailed,  OnTrac, the shipping company,  they say it was delivered and the driver no longer has any information, and to contact the company who sent me things. I have a tricky front door to get to, even when people have my address I still get calls asking where I live… I’ve had a different shipping company actually call asking where exactly the address was. So at this point I’m thinking either the packages were stolen, lost, or just mindlessly given to the wrong address.

I email both places that were supposed to get me things, Home Depot did a great job of customer service, immediately gave me a refund, and that was that. Backcountry, first told me they give a 3 business day leniency before filing any claims…at this point 3 business days was 1 day after I am planning on leaving…. After some frustration, they settle to overnight my things the next business day Tuesday, just in time for it to arrive and me to pack it up Wednesday, not ideal but it’ll work.

Update: The home depot packages were found in a neighbor’s yard and they brought them over on Saturday, still nothing on the original set of packages. 

Prepping Down In Monterey

Quite the day, spent some time at the coffee shop this morning, perusing more camping gear and locations.

Had a pleasant trip to the BLM field office at Ford Ord. I had no idea Fort Ord was that large, I guess it was a military base…

 And then a long trip over at REI. Walking around the store and having the same guy ask you if you need any help begins to feel a little bothersome. It was also entertaining to try out the sleeping pads, and I almost got a picture of me lounging around, but didn’t quite have the guts to ask the kid hiding in the sleeping bags next to me if he could take a picture.

I ended up leaving there with a shower bag (I have no idea if I’ll use it, but thought it would good to have?), a nice set of binoculars that could fit in a day pack, some paracord, and a nice big bottle of Dr. Brommer’s.

I was able to go have dinner with Darrell and Valentine and the kids, and not only go to see some sweet motorized lego action, but also got some pointers from their trip to the Yellowstone and the surrounding area. I wasn’t sure about Yellowstone, but they got me sold on it—also slightly terrified of the cold and the whole bear thing. This prompted a trip back to REI on the way home to pick up some cozy wool long underwear.  I also bit the bullet and ordered a Yeti Cooler for that choice—another long term investment, but also excited to not stress about getting ice constantly and my keeping my perishables safe and sound…or cold and fresh.


Completed Cot

Very precise and neat plans and measurements…

After an hour or so of sitting in the Mendeleev (the name of my element) and fiddling with the seat, some measuring tape and whatever I could find to sit on to simulate the height of my sleeping pad (A hard cover copy of On the Origin of the Species work great), I think I figured out the height where I can store some bins underneath, but still be able to comfortably sit upright on it. 

After I figured out all the sizing, I actually got to building the cot! Well I got the wood cut and brackets rescrewed in…

Huge thanks to Jamal for helping me out with the equipment, and ideas. The dimensions ended up being 42inx24in and 18×24. It’s just the right size I can store both pieces in the “trunk” of the car, but also  I still need to cut the posts to size to actually try it out, I think it’ll work. It’s going to be small and simple. Once I get sleeping bad/mattress set up, that’ll give me a better feel for how it’ll actually be to sleep on, and if I want to change my plans or try something else.

Thanks Jamal for the pictures (and guidance and tool use)!


Measure twice cut once?

Finished product!

A Day for Santa Cruz

I ran early up through Pogonip to UCSC to Wilder—most of it was by myself, which was a neat experience of just being out in upper campus and Wilder running through the thick fog. Was both eerie at 7:00am, with the slightly irrational fear of the mountain lions just waiting for me (although alleviated with the sight of the wild turkeys and rabbits roaming about, definitely a better meal than a distance runner). But it was also meditative to just be out there by myself; I’m looking forward to what that’ll be like in some new places.

Upper Campus at UCSC—Nothing eery about this at all.



Got to check out the Run by the Sea Race after, a fun race, and got to see a lot of local athletes out there who did quite well.

The sites of West Cliff in the afternoon was equally awe inspiring as the foggy redwoods in the morning; in its own special way of course.

Just another afternoon on West Cliff

For the trip I just ordered the Suaoki 400  battery pack/charger for my phone/laptop/lights, it seems like there’s a few out there—and I don’t know if this will be actually what I need, but I’ll give it a shot. It’s definitely more expensive than the DIY route which I was also thinking of, but there’s so many things I’m trying to get done, I’m willing to pay the convenience fee for a device I know will work.

I did spend some time getting lost in youtube (mostly for Honda Element conversions and travel ideas):

  • Phil Chan—Lived with his wife out of a van while abroad and then in an Element currently, while in school
  • Element Van Life—A guy who lives and travels out of his Element
  • Sage Roddy—A man and his dog, who travel in a converted Element, he has a really cozy set up I like

Getting a little closer

The car still works so that’s a plus, still taking it in to a local mechanic next week just to make sure everything is good to go. The last thing I need is for something to break and get stranded without a car…and then also home. (I did upgrade my AAA so I have the 100 mile tow, I wonder if I can use it to just to drive me around if I get lost in the wilderness hiking…)

I did finally bite the bullet and get a new sleeping bag took advantage of the sale at REI and went for the long term investment and got the Magma 10. It was on the high end of cost, it’s going to last and can be used for a while. The amount of time lost in the depths of blogs, review sites, backpacking wilderness channels— I get trapped in this limbo of having 2-3 great options I falter between the two and end up with nothing.

Finally I had some time to pick up some buildout materials for my sleeping situation from Kevin that he had for his CRV. Once I started playing around with it, it was tough to figure what I wanted because there are so many options: take out both seats? Take out one seat? Leave both seats? Build the cot higher? Lower? No cot and sleep on the ground (or on the seats)? It’ll be something to figure out another day.