Our First Two Months on the Road
Our first two months of life in the bus are in the books!
We left Boulder, Colorado on October 16, 2020 Friends and family sent us off with tiny bottles of champagne, lots of hugs and just a few tears. It’s a weird thing to finally complete something you’ve been working on for the better part of two years. In some ways it feels abrupt, unceremonious and a little anticlimactic. In other ways, seeing Boulder in the rearview mirror felt exciting, adventurous, and delightful. It also felt big, a little melancholic, and nostalgic even though it was our reality only moments before.
We headed into the mountains, with Spotify’s Happy Folk playlist (one of only a few that Andy and I both enjoy) blaring through the speakers. We were on our way! Our first stop was Coney Island in Bailey, a giant lath and plaster hot dog out of which hot dogs are served. We got some lunch, and chatted with the sweet local guy who runs the gift shop next door to the giant hot dog–taffy was on sale…we refrained. He was stoked about our bus, and encouraged us to stay in touch and send lots of pictures his way. He assured us they would make it onto the gift shop’s Facebook page. This may seem inconsequential, but one of the coolest things about buslife is how much your lifestyle excites other people. Everyone is constantly curious about the bus, how long it took, how long we’ve been on the road etc. Even in these weird times where conversations with strangers happen through 2 pieces of cloth and 6 feet of distance, there is something about the connection Sweet Bea creates that I really love.
We ate our mediocre hot dogs and headed on our way. Our first destination was San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area, a spot that Andy had scouted out in late August while I was on the Colorado Trail. We pulled in a little after dark, found a spot and poured ourselves some stiff gin drinks to celebrate. That first night was really special. It’s perhaps the only time I’ve seen a smile plastered on Andy’s face. We were both just stoked. We had worked so long to make this lifestyle our reality, and we had done it! For those of you who have been along for the ride, you know that it was a bumpy road for us to make it to this point. We’ve faced quite a few setbacks in our pursuit of living on the road. But that first night, it all became real. Life came into focus, and it looked beautiful.
We stayed at San Luis Lakes for about a week. A few mornings, Andy went hunting for rabbits while I read or hung out in bed. And mostly, our days consisted of exercising, meditating and working on our projects. Rooftop happy hours happened most days, and Sweet Bea even hosted her very first dance party, thanks to a dear friend Tela for making that happen!
From San Luis, we drove down to Durango to meet up with our first buslife friends, Aaron and Cat of @stu.the.bus. We started following each other on Instagram about a year ago when we realized we had both built practically the same bus, at least on the outside. Aaron and Cat have been on the road for over 2.5 years now, and it was incredibly helpful to get some advice from them about life on the road, and check out their rig! Turns out, when you choose a similar lifestyle and build similar buses, you have quite a bit in common. We partied, shared delicious meals (thanks to Andy and Cat), and decided that we’d better travel together for a little while. I anticipate that our paths will continue to cross quite a bit in the coming months.
From Durango we headed towards Sedona, AZ. It was a bit of a trek, so we stopped for one night at a rest stop in Lupton, AZ. As far as campsites go, rest stops sure do leave a lot to be desired, but we did find that many in AZ have free water, and some even have recycling cans, so we’d call that a win! Andy and I got up early to head to Petrified Forest National Park. Not too much to write home about, in my opinion if you’ve seen one piece of petrified wood…you’ve seen them all. It’s more of a “see it once if you’re in the area” type of park–I’m sure some of you will disagree. We met up with Aaron and Cat in Flagstaff at the Cracker Barrel, and caravanned on to Sedona.
We made it just after dark, and found a campsite. Sedona really is amazing, so we spent a full two weeks bopping around different sites in the area. I feel at home, and a sense of peace when I’m surrounded by red desert rocks. Something about the sandstone rising in the distance feels ancient, grounding and awe-some. I have learned a few things about what I love in a landscape over the last two months, and I would say hoodoos are a pretty good indication that I will fall in love with a place.
Aaron, being the incredibly talented extrovert that he is, introduced us to our second and third sets of buslife friends in Sedona: Jace and Anne of @dontforgetyoursunscreen, and Jonnie and Charlie of @ensothebus. There were more dance parties, more delicious meals, and more rooftop happy hours! We even had a double-feature spooky movie night outside on Halloween with the full moon rising over Sedona’s red rocks.
Election day came, and with it came Andy’s friend Dan who drove down from Boulder. It had been a long time since we had seen Dan so the beers, tequila and stories flowed for quite some time. We spent the days exploring, hiking around camp and checking out Slide Rock State Park. The desert near Sedona is pretty fun to bop around in: canyon walls come out of nowhere, and the views from the highpoints around camp left us speechless. Mostly, we just had more dance parties, ate more delicious food, thanks to Andy, and enjoyed ourselves–there’s certainly a theme here.
After a few weeks living in our respective green buses, Aaron and Cat headed for Prescott, while Andy, Dan and I made our way up towards the Grand Canyon. I had never been before, and early November was a pretty awesome time to see it. We camped in the Kaibab National Forest only two miles from the South Rim Entrance, and headed into the park one day around 3:00. We hiked on the rim trail for a while before finding a solid spot to watch the sunset. Rooftop cocktails and a sunset over the Grand Canyon are hard to beat, and this was certainly one of my favorite days on the road thus far.
As it got chillier near the canyon, we decided to head further south in AZ towards Prescott. Prescott National Forest was home for a few nights before heading farther down the road. We stopped at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park near Yarnell on our way to Quartzsite. Along the hike at the state park, there are plaques to commemorate each of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives on the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013. We took the 6 mile hike to the lunch spot overlook where we had a view of the ranch and the memorial at the deployment site. I would definitely recommend watching the movie “Only The Brave” if you haven’t seen it, or don’t remember too much of the story surrounding the Yarnell Hill Fire. Andy has said that the film is the most accurate representation of fire culture he has seen come out of Hollywood. The hike is intense, and the memorial is quite powerful. I would certainly recommend making the stop if you’re in the area.
From Yarnell we drove to Quartzsite, AZ where we stayed for one night before heading to the Hippie Hole. While in Sedona an old couple pulled up to the bus and was chatting with Aaron and I about buslife and all of the places we had to see in the area. I will admit that after about a minute and a half of recommendations my eyes began to glaze, and my methodical nodding and mhmmms took over. But somewhere…somewhere in the jumble of campsites nearby and the must sees I heard the words Hippie Hole. If you know anything about me you’re probably not surprised that these were the words that somehow stuck. Whilst searching for a campsite next to water in the Quartzsite area we came across the Hippie Hole, and without a second thought, it was decided. We would head for the Hippie Hole of legend the following day.
To be fair, and to that sweet, older man’s credit, the Hippie Hole is perhaps the most magical place we have stayed thus far. It overlooks a lagoon on one side, and the Colorado River on the other side. We pulled the bus up right alongside the water. Morning dips in the river gave way to sunbathing, and frisbee tossing on the sand–it felt like a real beach vacation (not that we’ve really been in need of a vacation lately). Evening dips in the river to wash the day off of us, and campfires right on the sand made for a spectacular few days. Three days at the Hippie Hole went by way too fast, but as we headed for a Friendsgiving near Joshua Tree we swore we would visit the Hippie Hole again soon.
We pulled into a campsite on BLM south of J-tree all the way at the end of a long, bumpy dirt road. The landscape was straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Everything was just a little spikey and inhospitable. Teddy Bear Chollas speckled the site, and the one tree that dared grow in the middle of our campsite had thorns all over it. The bottoms of our shoes, our feet, and Tori didn’t love this spot too much. The puggle explores her surroundings primarily with her snoot, and these surroundings were barbed and unforgiving. Despite the general spiney nature of this particular desert, the sunsets were beautiful and it made a fine home for a few days.
After a few nights south of the park, we drove through J-tree and found Cat and Aaron to start prepping for Friendsgiving. A friend of mine, Jess, who lives in Borrego Springs, drove up to join us as well. Andy prepared an AMAZING Thanksgiving feast all on the stovetop including a turkey roast, the famous Forget family mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin crème brulee. Cat and Aaron made stuffing and cranberry sauce, and Dan whipped up some awesome brussels sprouts! I did a lot of dishes, and made sure Andy’s wineglass was never empty, a real noble job. Our team effort produced an awesome meal, and a fond memory of our first Thanksgiving on the road.
Since then, things have been pretty low key. We haven’t been traveling around quite as much, and it seems like the weeks are flying by. We stayed on a dry lakebed north of Joshua Tree for some time, and then decided to head to Jess’s place outside of Borrego Springs. With California going into a pretty intense lockdown, it seemed wise to have a homebase we could count on for a while. We cancelled our trip home for the holidays on account of COVID, so Cali will be home for a while. Jess has some projects she’d like to get done on her land this winter, and we hope to help her out with some building and planning for her land. The skills we acquired building the bus ought to come in handy in the construction of her off grid set-up.
It’s hard to believe that it has already been two months of full-time living on the road. It’s hard to believe that it’s December 15th and I’m sitting in a tank top in the sunshine of Palm Springs writing this. It’s hard to believe that the life that Andy and I worked hard to create over the last two years is our reality now. 2020 has been hard for so many people, and for so many reasons. We’re living through a global pandemic, we’re living through social unrest unlike any that I’ve known in my lifetime, we’re living through unprecedented economic uncertainty, but we’re living. I’m so thankful that we have the bus, that both Andy and I are working hard towards goals and careers that are meaningful to us, and that we have each other to snuggle through the freezing nights.
We will be spending Christmas and New Years on the banks of the Hippie Hole, taking chilly dips in the Colorado River, and huddling by bonfires on the sand. We hope that you too find some magic and beauty this holiday season. Sending so much love to you all, near and far!
Ayana & Andy