Finally Spring

April 2017

Sunrise over Lake James

Man.Earth.Machine.

Big East Fork trail with Ron and Rachel

Muchas fresas

Man.Earth.Machine

John Rock loop with Emily

Ron and Rachel’s tiny house. They’ve been working on the project for nearly two years

Root veggies

Installing the new door with Ron

Beginners luck.

Bella hiding from the commotion

The countertop frenzy

Blastin’ cans with Ron

Post dinner farm exploration

Milky mornings at the tiny house

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A North Carolina Surf Trip

February 2017

In early January, I sketched out a picture of the North Carolina coast putting a star next to all the best surf spots. For a few months, I’d been gnawing on this idea of road tripping from the Outer Banks to Fort Fisher. It was just a loose plan; at least it was, until I showed the sketch to my buddy Jackson. Within a week, plans were solidifying for a North Carolina surf trip.

North Carolina Surf Trip

I rolled over in my tangled sleeping bag, pushing a surfboard off my chest and searching blindly for my phone. The screen lit up, illuminating the condensation on the single pane camper shell windows. 5am. Jackson was still passed out in the front seat, next to the jacket he’d jerry-rigged over the window as a shade. Still constricted by the surfboard, I knocked on the cab, jolting Jackson to a groggy attention. Laughing, I motioned for him to let me out of the back of the truck.

We had arrived in Nag’s Head at 2am. Exhausted from the drive, we found the closest Walmart parking lot to call home for the night. After buying a few groceries that morning, we went North on Highway 12 until the pavement turned to sand in Currituck and busted a U-turn. From there, we would spend the next week driving and surfing our way down to Fort Fisher. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Reaping the benefits of the off-season.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Our nightly ritual included beer and swell info.

North Carolina Surf Trip

‘The tailgate technique.’

North Carolina Surf Trip

Exploding gear in the parking lot on the reg.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Mid-day session at Cape Hatteras.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Sunset on the Outer Banks

North Carolina Surf Trip

Rise and shine

North Carolina Surf Trip

During one of our days in Hatteras, we were lucky enough to catch a mullet run. For 6 hours, we surfed just feet away from hundreds of Dolphins.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Making roots hummus wraps for lunch.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Arguably the best day of surf we had at Kill Devils Hill.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Wringing out every last drop at Frisco Pier.

North Carolina Surf Trip

Most campgrounds were closed, but we managed to score this beach front KOA camping space for $30 per night. It made for a perfect halfway point between Northern and Southern OBX.

North Carolina Surf Trip

While taking the ferry to Ocracoke Island, a local woman shared stories with us about the abundant spooky history of the Outer Banks. “Well boys, they don’t call it ‘The Graveyard of the Atlantic’ for nothing.”

North Carolina Surf Trip

Hoping rainbows lead to good surf rather than gold

North Carolina Surf Trip

We weren’t able to stay on Ocracoke long because of how we scheduled our ferries, but we did eat the best fish sandwiches on the island at Gaffer’s Sports Pub. A must if you’re ever passing through.

North Carolina Surf Trip

By the time we made it South the surf gods were smiling on us. A big swell had come in and all the reports were reading overhead for the next three days. It’s safe to say we didn’t spend much time out of the water.

North Carolina Surf Trip

By the end of the week, the swell had diminished. We spent our last morning catching mushy knee highs and couldn’t have been more content.

Waterlogged and hungry, it only seemed right to end the trip with a feast of Wake n Bake Donuts for breakfast.

We downed our last sugary bites of jelly donut, high-fived, and followed signs for I-40 West.

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It was the trip of a lifetime, only to be made more rad by the support from amazing sponsors. Huge thanks to all of you!

Here are FB links. Please support these awesome local brands:

Boojum Brewing, Roots Hummus, Eno Hammocks, Troy & Sons Whiskey, Astral, Simple Shot Shooting Sports, Farm to Feet, Icemule coolers, Lookout Brewing, Solo Stove, Gnarcissist Gear

My Friends Bought A 1985 Toyota Sunrader

January 2017

I’ve know Spencer and Carson for a few years now. Since we met, they’ve been taking about investing in an adventure mobile. Something that they could use to explore, camp, and potentially travel the US. Obviously, I recommended the truck camping option, but since they would be traveling with their pup, Rhett, that wouldn’t work.

The search for the perfect machine had been going on months and was proving to be a fruitless effort. Just as they were starting to lose hope.. well, the 1985 Toyota Sunrader came along.

1985 Toyota Sunrader

Me: Wow, this thing is rad. So how did you find it?

Spencer: Thanks dude. Well we found it on Craigslist. Initially, we had planned on buying a sweet, 4-wheel drive Chinook; but over the course of a few months, that whole deal fell apart. So we scrapped that plan and started looking again. We found the ad for this one on craigslist about twelve hours after it had been posted and immediately went for it…

Carson: The whole thing seriously happened in less than 24 hours. We just made the decision to do it.. wired the guy the money.. and went to pick it up.

Spencer: Haha yeah, it was super fast. We picked it up in Tennessee and drove 150 miles back… not a single mechanical issue. The things a tank.

1985 Toyota Sunrader

Me: How much did you guys pay for it?

Spencer: Man, this is the best part. We got it for $2,500!

Me: Heck yeah! That’s a steal.

Spencer: Oh it was! So it’s an 85′ but the things only got 95,000 on the original motor. It’s made by a company called Monterey Leisure, and they made the Sunrader.. but here’s the cool part, for a couple years they made about 50 Sunrader ‘Adventures’ and it was a similar model to this but it had a pop top. But this is actually the prequel to that model, ‘The Sun Chaser’, and they made less than 50 of these. So the thing is super rare.

Me: Well that’s awesome man. Does it need any mechanical work before hitting the road?

Spencer: Oh for sure! I haven’t dived into it to much yet, but I’m definitely planning on replacing all the hoses, belts, spark plugs, wires, distributer cap, and changing the oil. Annnnd, It was puking coolant this morning, so I might need a new water pump or fan.. but shit man, it’s 31 years old! It’s bound to need the basic tune-up.

1985 Toyota Sunrader
Me: So once you got it, was it everything that you imagined it would be?

Carson: Haha We love it, but I will say there’s one thing we weren’t expecting. From the pictures on craigslist we had assumed that we’d be able to stand up in it. Haha but aside from that little spot next to the sink, no standing up is going to happen. But other than that, I’d say it’s definitely everything we hoped it would be.

1985 Toyota Sunrader

Me: So I noticed your sound system earlier.

Carson: Ohhh the sound system.. and please also note the 30 year old, mustard yellow, shag carpet. We’ve had to keep an open mind; whenever you buy a vehicle this old, the amount of work you’re faced with can be jarring. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

1985 Toyota Sunrader

Me: Speaking of that, what’s the plan for the interior?

Spencer: We’re gutting the entire thing down to the fiberglass and rebuilding it. The good news is that all the wiring and plumbing is done so we don’t have to cut too many holes.  I’m also planning on putting in some insulation and doing some fiberglass patch-work on a small crack in the cab. No doubt about it, we have our work cut out for us in here.

1985 Toyota Sunrader

Me: Right on. Do you guys have any advice for other people interested in the mobile lifestyle?

Carson: Well, as cliche as it sounds, the biggest thing I learned is that you just have to just do it; take the leap of faith. These things sell so fast, and we watched so many of them slip away. It can be disheartening to miss one, but you’ve just gotta be ready when the right one comes along.

Spencer: I totally agree, when the deal went south with the Chinook, we were incredibly bummed. Then, only two days later, we stumbled onto this one, which was cheaper, required less interior work, and had less miles on the engine. Just like that, we got our freedom vessel!

Me: Freedom vessel. Love it. How can people follow along with the process?

Carson: We actually just started an instagram page! The handle is @thesunrader, check it out! We’ll be updating it on a regular basis.

Spencer: Annnnd if anybody out there want to help us build, holler at us on instagram. There’s a ton to be done. If your good with mechanics or woodworking or just want to help, drop us a line. We’re in western North Carolina.

Carson: We can provide beer!

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@thesunrader on instagram

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Bikes, Fires, and Hobos: Pisgah Camping

December 2016

Pisgah Camping

The flames had died down just enough that I was beginning to feel a draft of cold air through the front my jacket. I set another log on the fire and, with a sigh of gratitude, leaned back into my creaky lawn chair.

Sore and tired from a full day of mountain biking, the three of us sat quietly.

“Whiskey?” Steve handed me a tin shot glass.

It hit me right in the chest, and I felt the warmth spread to my ears. The fire popped, sending an ember spiraling into the clear night sky. My mind flooded with nostalgia.

A dark figure called from the far end of our campsite. “Hey, ya’ll need some extra wood?”

“Hell, sure, if you’re not going to use it. Thanks, man.”

A shadow approached the flicker of our fire. He had a wiry, lanky build; wearing oversized denim cargo pants, a stained grey hoodie, and glasses, missing an earpiece, set precariously on his nose. Wasting no time, he threw down three large logs on our wood pile. “My name’s Porter! My buddy and I are at the site next door. Ya’ll mind if we come over to hang out?” he asked with enthusiasm.

“Not at all. Come on!” Steve quickly replied.

pisgah camping

Hoofing it on the river rocks.

man earth machine

Mach speed.

A much needed breather down at the lake.

We stoked the fire for a few hours longer and got to know our new compadres. As it turned out, Porter and his friend were permanent residents in the forest. He explained that they had been jumping from campsite to campsite for months. “The forest service don’t bug ya if ya move every two weeks.” Porter explained.

No job, no money, just trying to ‘figure out life’ they said.

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DIY Truck Camper

January 2017

The DIY Truck Camper

DIY Truck Camper

In 2013, after watching hundreds of surfing and rock climbing films, I started day dreaming about buying a old Volkswagon Westfalia. But with my college student budget, there was no way. Eventually, I figured out an alternative. While a DIY truck camper isn’t exactly as glamorous as #vanlife, it’s the cheapest, most time-tested, and reliable way of ‘getting out there’; which is the primary goal after all.

Pictured on the left was my first truck camper build.

My current build is in the back of access cab Toyota Tacoma with a six foot bed. I went with an A.R.E. MX camper top because it has a little more head room than the traditional cab level topper. If you have an older truck, you can find toppers all over craigslist for dirt cheap.

Before starting I spent a lot of time looking at examples on google and searching the forums on Tacoma World. I went with a modular build because it was the sturdiest and lightest option.

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STEP 1: BUILDING THE BOX

DIY Truck Camper

The base was made using 3/8 in. plywood and the walls of the box are 3/4 in. blond plywood. The center spine is doubled (2x 3/4 in. ply). Glued and screwed on all joints. A pocket hole jig kit is helpful here as well. Two or three coats of polyurethane is necessary to help protect the wood from any moisture absorption.

DIY Truck Camper

Initially, I was going to make full length drawers, but after doing some research on drawer slides, shorter ones made more sense. I split the storage right in the middle; going with two 3ft drawers and two 3ft storage compartments towards the cab.

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STEP 2: FACEPLATE, TOPS, AND LIFT-OUT LIDS

DIY Truck Camper

The faceplate is Cherry wood sealed with two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane. It’s assembled with wood glue, screwed together using the pocket hole jig, and dadoed to fit flush against the box.

DIY Truck Camper

The top plywood pieces are cut into four separate units in order to fit flush against the sides of the truck bed (overhanging the wheel wells). Once again using 3/4 in. blonde plywood.

DIY Truck Camper

For the storage compartments, we made a template out of scrap wood and traced it onto the plywood. Holes were cut out using a jigsaw and then routered to bevel the edges. For the caps, the template was traced onto a separate piece of plywood. The plywood was cut as closely as possible to match the template and then belt sanded to round the corners. Lastly, the caps where routered.

Scrap 3/8 in. ply was glued and stapled underneath the main plywood to hold the caps in place.

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STEP 3: DRAWERS

DIY Truck Camper

The drawers are made using the same materials as the box. (3/8in ply base & 3/4in ply walls). Drawers are by far the trickiest part of the build but there is tons of good literature on the web about drawer construction. Try this article.

DIY Truck Camper

I recommend not skimping on the drawer slides. They are an important and slightly expensive consideration but they’ll make all the difference in the longevity of your build.

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Running With Bulls

December 2016

Waynesville, NC

man earth machine

“You guys are idiots.” Jackson’s girlfriend blurted, half laughing. “Who the hell goes hiking at 1 am?”

Kirk shot a playful smile back while clanging through the fridge and loading assorted beverages into his pack. “Well fellas, I figure we can make it to the top of the mountain in an hours time.”

Jackson and I had come out to Kirk’s farm earlier in the day to help him with a winter wood supply. Fast forward a few drinks and taco dinner; here we were. We threw on our warmest jackets and followed Kirk out the door with rosy cheeks and boozed face grins.

We lumbered, merrily, down the gravel road towards the far end of the farm. Then, looking to the empty sky, eyes squinted, kirk said “Alright guys, there’s only two.. eerr three things you gotta be worried about on this hike.”

“Haha worried about?”

“Yea.. number one: we’re going to be crossing my neighbor’s pasture; cranky old man, hell of shot though.. and he doesn’t take kindly to strangers. Especially at 1 am. We’ll move fast.”

Jackson and I laughed. “Oh christ, we’re going to get shot going for a hike.”

man earth machine

“Number two: Some of the fences are electric; won’t kill ya, but it’ll put a damper on your night.”

“Oh great. So what’s number three?”

Kirk turned to us; with wide glassy eyes and a pursed lip grin, he said, “The Bulls.”

Buzzing wood.

Adventure gear.

Exploring the farm.

Kirk’s partner in crime, Scooter pup.

After hopping the electric fence with surprising agility, we high tailed it across the pasture. In a hunkered down sprint and fighting the urge to laugh, we did our best to mimic mission impossible. However, the mood changed quickly as we crested the top of the field.

There, standing right in front of us, was a full grown bull. The three us of halted immediately. Moonlight sparkled off of the bull’s jet-black eyes. We were frozen, waiting on a cue from Kirk. The bull snorted and stomped it’s hoof against the frozen dirt.

Kirk calmy whispered, “Hike’s over guys. Back. Away. As slowly. As possible.” The bull snorted and stomped again. “Okay, run.”

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Rumbling Bald Climbing

December 2016

Rumbling Bald Climbing

Rumbling Bald climbing

“Jackson! Hey man, where the hell is the parking lot for this place?” I had passed Lake Lure 30 min earlier.

“You… ju.. gott.. on.. mountain.. parkin.. ot.” broken chatter; my service was shit down in the valley.

I busted a u-turn and headed back up the winding road. Ah ha, it was on the right (clearly labeled). I had missed it the first time due to a chicken match with a mail truck. Rumbling Bald was open again for the first time since the wildfires in October.

rumbling bald climbing

Grabbed my camera, pack, and jacket; we were meeting at the boulder field. To my surprise, the burn hadn’t done nearly the damage I was expecting. The brush was charred but the canopy seemed to have made it through unscathed.

rumbling bald climbing

By the time I reached the boulders I was down to my t-shirt and sweating profusely.

“YE, YE!!” I heard Jackson holler from the rock face.

Up at the climb site Danny asked, “So where do you guys want to go today?”

Danny taping up to lead a crack climb.

“GRRRRRAAAA” – The man’s firm believer in the ‘power grunt’.

Jackson’s turn.

Precarious moves.

rumbling bald climbing

“Guys, whatever you do… don’t crush my kettle chips.” Danny warned us at the beginning of the day.

Cleaning the route.

Notoriously loose and crumbly. Just a typical approach in South East.

“Solid day. Let’s get some beers.”

Here are some links:

The Guide Book

Rumbling Bald via Mountain Project

 

Colors of Fall: Mountains, Lakes, and Wildfires

November 2016

Colors of Fall in North Carolina

looking glass rock pisgah

The transition was gentle this year. A few days hanging around mid-60’s with nights that dip into the 30’s; and, for better or worse, not a drop of rain in sight. It was hospitable weather, ideal for truck camping, climbing, or just about anything else you wanted to do. The color of the foliage changed and the humidity dissipated. The flood of summer camps and tourists trickled away. Fall had arrived.

colors of fall

After an unfortunate event (I’d rather not talk about) rendered my surfboard indefinitely out of commission, I left the coast. By the beginning of November, I was back in the mountians full-time.

colors of fall

Truck camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Late night slack lining, rigged up to a tree and trailer hitch of Spencer’s old Toyota.

colors of fall

Smoke from wildfires, aggravated by the lack of rain, cast a orange-pink haze over Lake James.

colors of fall

Wool sock weather.

Braving the frigid river temps for a quick (very quick) swim.

The view of Looking Glass from John Rock.

colors of fall

Smoke on the water while driving over Lake James.

colors of fall

Making coffee down in Wilson’s creek.

colors of fall

By Thanksgiving it was getting dark around 6pm. The air smelled like winter and nights were dropping into the 20’s. “Gotta get a warmer sleeping bag” I thought, after waking up to frost on the single pane camper shell window.

Here are some links:

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The Great American Road Trip

January 2015

7 Lessons From The Great American Road Trip

The great american road trip

An open road. For some, including myself, this notion represents the ultimate freedom. Maybe I’m romanticizing a little here, but what I can tell you is that my first cross country road trip did not fall short of life changing. In January 2015, freshly graduated from college, I left my east coast home with my girlfriend, Erin, and set out for Oregon. The adventure taught me many lessons which I’m now grateful to share with you. Enjoy, and safe travels, friend.

Lesson ONE

Lesson TWO

Lesson THREE

Lesson FOUR

Lesson FIVE

Lesson SIX

Lesson SEVEN

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Farewell to Summer: North Carolina Surfing

October 2016

North Carolina Surfing

north carolina surfing

“Damn.. it’s chilly,” I blurted to no one in particular; picking up my board and heading for the truck. Mid-October in North Carolina and I was still surfing in nothing but board shorts. However, this evening felt different. The sand was cold against my toes and the wind pricked my skin.

north carolina surfing

I threw on a hoodie, some socks, and grabbed my camera. In the wake of hurricane Mathew, conditions were good; aside from the water having the color tinge of coca cola, the swell was great.

north carolina surfing

I snapped a few shots as the moon rose over painted skies.

north carolina surfing

Black and white memories

north carolina surfing

As the color faded from the skies, one by one, surfers came to shore.

north carolina surfing

Turning in for the evening.

north carolina surfing

Farewell to summer. Until next year.

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