After getting “stuck” on Koh Lanta during the pandemic and spending more than a year and a half abroad it felt good to be finally home in the United States. I landed in Denver, sequestered myself at my brother’s house and immediately went to the pharmacy to get my first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The comfort of being back home lasted about 2 months, then I found myself yearning for life on Lanta and traveling to places unknown but that international wanderlust would have to wait nearly another year.
At least I returned home in time to catch the end of summer and while waiting for my second shot we had plenty of social distanced outdoor activities to enjoy. I’d come home with my toys from Thailand and thoroughly enjoyed stand up paddling and bicycling all over Colorado.
Not long after returning to Tyler’s house in the United States it was time to get my own home out of storage. I’d parked Terk the Truck Camper at my aunt and uncle’s house in Arizona in December of 2019 thinking it’d take a short break while I traveled to Bali. Fast forward a year and a half and it was time to break Terk out of long term storage to get him back on the road. Once rolling it felt good to be living on 4 wheels again, driving long hours down western highways, sleeping in parking lots and showering on the side of the road.
Coming home also opened up new opportunities as my buddy Luis Escobar called and asked if I was interested in becoming a Spartan Trail Race Director. With no reason to say no I signed on and quickly found myself doing course support at Spartan Atlanta, followed by Spartan Fayatteville, Arkansas and then Spartan Asheville where I ended up solo managing a 10K, Half Marathon and 50K race all on my own as the Race Director.
In addition to coming back for the COVID vaccine I wanted to see friends and family after nearly two years abroad. Tyler hosted the Clemens Family Thanksgiving at his new house in Golden, CO and we enjoyed brew pubs and way too much food.
As the year drew to a close I found myself doing something I told myself I’d never do again, rolling into Indiana for the winter. My reason for returning to the frozen tundra was the truck camper’s rotting roof. Before I left for Bali in 2019 I noticed the rear corner of the roof separating. Over the next year and a half I researched from Thailand and was fairly certain that the roof needed rebuilt. I wasn’t stoked but it needed to be done.
After quarantining in the sewing room on the family farm to get over a bout of COVID I pulled the camper off the truck and set to work fixing the roof. I’d been following several posts from people dealing with the same issue but there wasn’t a lot of information about how to do it. Tom and I started disassembling the camper and roof and the more we took apart the more daunting it became, but after a few weeks of work and a lot of cussing (by me) we had the camper back together and I was ready to hit the road.
Thank goodness, because in that time I’d experienced another -40 degree wind chill day. Indiana is cold!
While we were fixing the rotted roof we also added a bicycle rack to mount Hilux the Bike to the rig. Once everything was put back together I rushed to escape winter weather to warmer climes and pointed the rig west. After visiting Golden again I skipped down to the desert and camped outside of Las Vegas before meeting Tyler in town to watch the Super Bowl on the Strip.
After Las Vegas I made my way to Death Valley to tick something off my list that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. While driving out to a remote section of the park I crested a hill and saw a runner on the side of the road. As I passed I thought “crazy runner” and did a double take when I realized I knew that crazy runner! It was Maurico out for a self supported 100 mile run while pulling a trolly. I’d crewed him when he and Luis ran across Death Valley back in 2014 and we talked for a bit before he carried on and I continued driving out to his starting point, the famed Race Track Playa.
The Sailing Stones of Death Valley have been on my mind for nearly a decade. Hundreds of rocks from a few ounces to a few hundred pounds mysteriously leave long symmetrical tracks in the dirt, sometimes up to hundreds of feet long. Scientists finally figured out how this phenomenon happens in 2014, if you’re interested read more about it here. I’d watched so many videos and read so many articles about them that it was surreal to finally see the mysterious stone tracks in person. That being said, the 26 miles of washboard road wasn’t for the faint of heart so definitely do a bit of research before going!
After the valley of death I pointed my wheels toward the coast of life and rolled into my old home, Santa Barbara. Here I can settle down, unwind, work, camp in front of my client’s office at night and live a fairly standard (homeless) California life. I got a membership at my old gym to workout and shower, got back to my daily barefoot beach runs, and set out to explore the Santa Barbara Harbor with the inflatable paddle board that I brought home from Thailand.
After a few years away it was nice to get back to spending a week on a cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County for the Born To Run Ultramarathons Extravaganza. Every spring I show up early and help my buddy Luis mark the course and prepare the grounds for the weekend. This annual family gettogether is exactly that. Family. It’s always so nice to see friends from around the world and even more fun to have Tyler and Dad and Kathy on the ranch.
Following BTR I got back to work for Spartan and promptly flew off to Montana, followed by Big Bear, then Austin, Texas before returning home to get Terk and driving up to work my final Spartan race of the year in Monterrey. It was a busy work travel schedule, which I’m not used to, but I learned a lot and enjoyed working with the Spartan crew all over the US.
After Spartan Monterey I was free from work obligations and set my sights on fun. One of my favorite places in the world is Yosemite National Park and after watching for last minute cancelations and campsite openings I snagged two nights in Upper Pines. I really can’t put into words what it means to me to wake up in the crisp mountain air and step out of my camper under the towering pines and rugged cliffs with the faint smell of smouldering campfires. This place is truly magical!
While in Yosemite I decided to test my body and toys and set out to cover as many miles in 2.5 days as possible. I ran/hiked more than 37 miles up 13,500 feet of elevation, bicycled 40 miles and even paddled/floated 4 miles down the Merced after I nearly died in the rapids.
For the near death float I first I drove my rig down to Sentinel Beach, locked my bicycle to a tree and drove back up to my campsite. There I inflated my homemade DIY packraft and instead of following the recommendation to drop in at the bottom of Upper Pines I walked my gear up to Happy Isles Bridge and pushed off into some pretty volatile water. In the next quarter mile I ran some big rapids (for me!) and splashed through the whitewater while my boat half filled with water before I reached the calmer area that I should have started in.
After floating for several hours under the towering vistas of Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls I reached Sentinel Beach, packed the raft, strapped it to my bicycle and spun back to Curry Village to get a pizza and a beer. When I die I want my last memory to be sitting on the deck at Curry Village with a cold beer and friends after an epic day of exploring. That’s how much I love Yosemite.
Alas, one cannot stay in Yosemite forever, so I turned north and headed up to Tahoe to work as the Photographer’s Assistant for Luis at the Western States 100. The race is iconic and it was even better because my brother and several other BTR friends were there and after the race we all rented a pontoon boat and spent a day floating on Folsom Lake drinking beer and enjoying life.
After Western States I took off across Highway 50, the Loneliest Highway, in order to make it back to Tyler’s place in Golden for the 4th of July Festivities. Golden is an incredible place, especially in the summer, and we celebrated the holiday by floating down Clear Creek in tubes and visiting the local breweries.
While in Golden I got a text from Luis that read “Do you want to have an adventure?” I’ve learned over the years to always say yes when Luis suggests something because it ends up being incredible experiences like crewing him across Death Valley or photographing Scott Jurek breaking the FKT on the Appalachian Trial, but this one was going to be different.
I dusted off my passport after nearly a year of storage, packed my bags, and headed to the airport. For this adventure we were going high up into the Himalaya, and we were going to meet a King.