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An Almost Endless Summer 50 days in a sprinter

Two fellow van travelers took turns strumming on a guitar, confidently playing Led Zeppelin songs in the tiny park next to the deserted main street as the setting sun pushed the long shadow of the imposing mountains out on to the long lake. It was only 6:30pm and all the shops were closed, and we’d set up camp on the sidewalk. The Valhalla Pure sales clerk chatted with us briefly as he exited the shop with his SUP on his way down to the lake for an evening paddle.

Fresh from multiple dips in the waters of Lake Slocan, we were now spread out on the sidewalk like we owned it. Sitting on camp chairs and enjoying some beers, we were in no rush to head back to camp for dinner. “Miss BAVy”, our converted Sprinter van and home for the summer, rested patiently next to the curb as we took in this perfect moment. All seemed right in the world.

That’s not how it felt three hours earlier on this thirty-second day of our summer odyssey. Our daughter, Emma, drove Miss BAVy (Miss Big Ass Van’y) as I sat beside her, hunched over the map of British Columbia. I half-heartedly confirmed that we should be at our destination in just a couple more kilometers, but I wasn’t 100% certain. We’d discovered that maps were known to lie. Sometimes campgrounds were there, sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes we got good advice, sometimes we didn’t. After our recent bout of stealth camping with four people and a dog crammed into a van, we were hopeful we would find a campground to rest, spread out, and relax.

Now we were shooting from the hip. Several days and over 500 kilometers (310 miles) earlier, the huge wildfires around the town of Cache Creek caused us to dramatically change our initial course which included Cache Creek and Kamloops on our way to Revelstoke. We were now well south of our intended route and discovering day by day what this new course held for us.

“There it is!’ exclaimed Emma as she pointed at the tell-tale provincial campground sign. Whew! As long as it wasn’t full, we knew we had a place to park and a pit toilet to count on. Hours later we were enjoying our perfect moment and contemplating how to become expats living in New Denver full time. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening and yet it was all unplanned. We’d never even heard of this area known as the West Kootenay region until our plans changed and we drove through it.

Where’s our destination for today? Where are we sleeping tonight? Is there a place we can camp? Is there a place we can shower? Is there a place to get water? food? diesel?

These are the questions we faced every day. While a trip like this brings many questions, it also brings new discoveries. You never know what is around the next bend until you get there, and that’s the adventure of it. The anticipation we felt exploring new areas and wondering what lay ahead was a large part of the fun we experienced on such a free-flowing trip.

Laurie and I are not exactly the quintessential poster couple of #vanlife. We exited our twenties back in the late 1990s, but we’ve never wanted our age to define our actions.

While a busy career kept us from wandering around for months on end in a van, we now had the chance to take time off and explore. It took some forethought and almost a year of building out a Sprinter van, but by late Spring we were ready to go.

Our friends thought we were crazy to pack up into a van and hit the road for two months with our teenage daughter, the teenage son of a good friend, and our loyal cattle dog. The only member of the family we left behind was our cat. Yes, it not the optimum configuration for a van, but life moves by fast and there’s never a perfect time to get out and explore. Life always has a way of getting in the way of life.

We hit the road in June. We traveled to Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, and back to Utah. Where ever we found a crowd, we left it to them. We now had the luxury of time, as well as a home on wheels, and where we found our interests piqued, we stayed. We always love Bend, so we stayed there for five days, Squamish for four days to climb, Fernie for five days because it’s awesome, and finally we spent five days hanging around Bozeman and Big Sky.

The highlights of the trip were the little moments we couldn’t plan for, and it’s these moments that draw us back to planning our next trip (in fact, we were so used to being on the road that we took off for Maple Canyon to rock climb just two days after getting home). Maybe, one day we’ll see you out there on the road as we all get out there and “explore more.”

From June-August we drove through the western US and British Columbia in our converted Sprinter Van we named Miss BAV'y ("Big Ass Van"). Since our return we've been on a few smaller outings with our eye on planning our next big van adventure.

Chris Morgan is a filmmaker living in northern Utah who is also a ZEAL Optics ambassador. You can find him online at Two Sherpas and on Instagram: @chris_twosherpas.

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