First Stop - Arizona
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First Stop – Arizona

It was 5:00 PM on Friday, June 12, 2015. I closed my laptop, opened a cold beer, and exhaled. Ahhhh…I was finally…unemployed.  Well, self employed, but like my buddy Luis Escobar is fond of saying, “Self employed is just one step away from unemployed”.

I was following the dream I’d been chasing for the last 3 years. I was leaving the comfort and safety of a full time job to travel, work, and live on the open road.  With complete freedom of location, schedule, and time, the only question was where to first.

Arizona. My dad’s side of the family lives in Prescott, AZ and I saw this as an opportunity, like my 10 week vagabond trip the previous summer, to go spend time with my Grandpa.

But first, I had to drive through the Arizona desert, in the middle of a record breaking heat wave, in a van with no air conditioning. Can ya feel that? It’s FREEDOM!!! And, a dry heat…

Saturday, a little hung over from my farewell party, I headed south on the 101, only to turn back when I realized that I had left my laptop locked in my old office. I had to call a buddy to come let me in, and then, I was really on my way.

Chris Tarzan Clemens - Leaving Santa Barbara
Tarzan and Tantor – Locked and Loaded. Photo: Tracy York, after he left me back in the office.

The drive through the desert was…warm.  All of the windows were wide open, the van was traveling at a sluggish 59 miles per hour, and 115 degree heat was pouring into the 111 degree cabin. I sat in my running shorts and nothing else, letting the furnace air wick away the sweat while my yoga towel kept my seat dry. I was happy (a bit of an understatement) to arrive in Prescott and settle into my dad’s air conditioned house and sip a cold beer.

Monday rolled around and I didn’t have a job to go to. That’s not to say I didn’t have work to do, but I didn’t have a schedule, desk, office, cubical, boss, or anything telling me what to do. My friend Maria had Monday off so she drove up from Phoenix and we ran to the top of Granite Mountain. It was a great first day of FunEmployment.

Chris Tarzan Clemens - FunEmployment Day 1
Day 1 of FunEmployment = Run up Granite Mountain

The first week in Prescott I tried hard to balance my newfound freedom with work, but the scale tipped mostly to the freedom. I spent a lot of time running, reading, writing, and hanging out with family. Later that week I flew to Michigan for my best friend Kyle’s wedding in Petoskey. It was a great weekend hanging out with college friends and meeting new people. I got out and did some running around town during the day, and even tried to run home after the wedding party, only to admit defeat and wait barefoot in my suit for the only taxi in Petoskey to find me at 3:00 AM. The next day I rode with JD back to Chicago and hung out there for another day before returning to Arizona.

Chris Tarzan Clemens - McGuire Wedding
With Mr. and Mrs. McGuire in Michigan

Back at Grandpa’s I started getting a little freelance work done to pay the bills, but spent most of my time organizing, packaging, and listing our baseball card collection on eBay. I had originally thought that me, my brother, and my grandpa had 10,000 baseball cards each, but it turned out that our collection was much closer to 100,000 total cards. It was a big job, but a few weeks later, all of the cards were boxed, sold, and shipped.

Chris Tarzan Clemens - Baseball Cards
Too. Many. Baseball. Cards.

Never one for a sedentary lifestyle, and with incredible flexibility, I mentioned to my Uncle Jim that I wanted to run the 56 mile Prescott Circle Trail. He said he’d be willing to ride bike with me, and the wheels started turning. On a Thursday morning Aunt Karen dropped us off at the trailhead and we started. It turned out to be one of the hottest days of the summer. Twelve and a half hours and 56 miles later we were back at the starting point, glad to be done, and fairly sure we would never attempt that again during the summer.

Prescott Circle Trail - Jim and Chris at Finish
Jim and Chris at the end of the Prescott Circle Trail

While hanging out in Arizona, trying to get my work life in order, my friend Luis Escobar called and said, “Do you want to do something epic?” Crap…this would most definitely delay my productive self employment projects… “Yup!” I replied. I ended up flying to New England and trekking along with Luis for 10 days, photographing ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek as he broke the Appalachian Trail Speed Record.

Scott Jurek and Chris Clemens on Katahdin
Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Tarzan (NoBo 2012) and El Venado (NoBo 2015)

I flew back to Arizona and had a few days until I departed for more adventures. Karen and Jim had left for Breckenridge, CO and Grandpa went with them. I stayed behind at his condo to finish selling baseball cards, get some work done, and pack the van.

I had been FunEmployed for a month, but spent most of that time doing more fun than work. No matter, I had set the foundation for the following month, had several adventures, and made some epic stories. My last night in Prescott I packed the van and had dinner and drinks with Dad and Kathy. I enjoyed my time in Northern Arizona, but was ready to get back on the road, sleep in the van, and travel.

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