Photos Featured The New American Dream: Vagabond imagery and tales from the road.

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#1
Greetings, STP fam!

While my website is in the process of a lengthy overhaul, I thought I'd share some of my experiences here.

My name is B and this is my new version of the "American dream".

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Nearly a year and a half prior to this post I had what some would call the "American dream". I was a certified conductor and engineer for a local railroad in California. If I wasn't throwing switches all day I was running a variety of locomotives from classic center-cab switchers and GP7's/GP9's to 2 million dollar Gensets, but lets be real; I got paid to bench and keep up on monikers. I drove a 2007 Toyota Tacoma and a 1975 Porsche 914. I lived in a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house on a 1/2 acre lot in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento. In my spare time I was a DJ. I had a cool $8-$10,000 in professional audio equipment accompanied by 300+ vinyl records. I was single. I had a credit score of 760+. As another hobby I'd review and pair various cigars to different whiskeys (still have a soft spot for a good maduro and a oaky scotch) much like a wine to a meal.


So fucking what!?


If you haven't gathered by now, most of what I had was money and "things". I was the type of guy that moved almost every 12 months, without ever leaving the Sacramento valley and kept a garage full of boxes that I just couldn't part with even though I couldn't tell you what was in them because they hadn't been opened in years. So how important could that shit be?

I can't remember what exactly it was that caused me to take a proverbial step back and further analyze things, but I found myself asking if I was happy with what 10+ years of full time work had gotten me. I'd had some awesome vacations, 4-wheel trips, road trips, parties and various other adventures, but the answer to the aforementioned question was simply: "no".

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I'd soon find myself going about day-to-day life immeasurably unfulfilled. Dreaming about hopping freight trains in lieu of running them. Contemplating the simplicity of a life without an agenda. I began to see the freedom that came with owning less, but doing more. I longed for change. Change I knew I was capable of facilitating assuming I could fight the voice in the back of my head that was constantly protesting.

"Don't quit your job. Don't sell your shit. Don't give up your home."

As you can probably imagine, I did quit my job. I did sell/give away my shit. I did give up my home.

I feel it's worth mentioning that much of this content is covered in my blog, but not with the intimacy that I intend to convey here. This is where I came before I quit my job. Before I made the leap. Before I had the confidence I have now. Before I could travel broke. Before I could be happily homeless. Before I realized that perusing this lifestyle was the best decision I'd ever made.

It took months to rid myself of all the possessions I'd accumulated and before you think I hit the road with a bunch of cash from my seemingly endless craigslist sales, it's important that you understand that I had two choices. 1: leave with money, but stay in debt. 2: pay off debt, leave with a few hundred bucks. I chose the latter.

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With everything except some art and records gone, my girlfriend and my ex-roommate would take me on a few day road trip through the sierras where they'd eventually leave me in Lone Pine, CA, never knowing when they'd see me again, so I could spend my first night (as a truly free human, completely alone) on the tallest mountain in the contiguous US.

Because why not? It's not like I had work the next day. :D

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Stay tuned for more and happy travels, my friends.
 
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Matt Derrick

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#2
Fuck yeah man... If there's one complaint I have about StP is that we don't have enough people coming back to us with the documentation of their adventures. Posts like yours above go a really long way towards inspiring others the same way StP inspired you.

Also, I get a lot of kudos and thanks for running StP, and I am wholeheartedly grateful for that, it's what keeps me going for sure. But the impact through reading it on a computer screen can dull the sensation somewhat, but hearing it along with seeing the proof in pictures really helps drive home that your life is changed for the infinitely better, and that just makes me swell up with pride man.

So thank you for sharing, I hope you post more of your travels here (and on your blog), keep on rockin!

Also, those are some damn epic pictures my friend. OH! and you should seriously consider coming out to the jamboree.
 

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#3
Phenomenal thread and thanks for sharing! btw love that first pic!!!
 
E

etpyh

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#4
I am alays astound on how "poor" so many seemingly richer people are when it comes down to absolute numbers. I mean I could get the same few hundred bucks you got, but probably can't afford a 1975 Porsche 914 in the next 20 years haha. I would have at least worked one more month after you sold everything though, with your pay this would probably mean enough money to travel relatively care free for a year the very least. ::greedy:: But I understand that you are travelling to get away from money, possesions etc.
Looking forward to read more about your adventure.
 
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HighballHighlife
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#5
Fuck yeah man... If there's one complaint I have about StP is that we don't have enough people coming back to us with the documentation of their adventures. Posts like yours above go a really long way towards inspiring others the same way StP inspired you.

Also, I get a lot of kudos and thanks for running StP, and I am wholeheartedly grateful for that, it's what keeps me going for sure. But the impact through reading it on a computer screen can dull the sensation somewhat, but hearing it along with seeing the proof in pictures really helps drive home that your life is changed for the infinitely better, and that just makes me swell up with pride man.

So thank you for sharing, I hope you post more of your travels here (and on your blog), keep on rockin!

Also, those are some damn epic pictures my friend. OH! and you should seriously consider coming out to the jamboree.
Phenomenal thread and thanks for sharing! btw love that first pic!!!
Thank you, kindly. I appreciate the positive feedback and I'm happy to contribute.
 
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HighballHighlife
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#6
Our journey towards Mt. Whitney would be filled with camping, exploring and heavy drinking. This was, after all, the last time the three of us would be together for who knows how long.

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Bodie, CA, a ghost town preserved in a state of arrested decay, is located just west of Mono Lake. Both Bodie and Mono are still some of my favorite places to explore. Bodie is such a fascinating glimpse of our past. When the mines dried up everyone packed up the bare essentials and left many of life's "luxuries" behind. Much like myself.

It wasn't all that long ago that our civilization was still remarkably nomadic.

Bodie, CA.jpg


Bodie, CA..jpg


Mono Lake is a wonderfully strange landscape that's home to equally strange life. The structures you see are called "tufas", a rare type of limestone. It's comparable to the Salton Sea (a lake in southern CA) where the water has an abnormally high alkali content creating a toxic environment for many life forms that would otherwise thrive in or near a lake.

Mono Lake.jpg

Mono Lake Tufas.jpg


If you've never visited California, particularly the north, highways 88 and 395 are not to be missed. These routes cut through some incredible scenery and are littered with small towns that seem eager to accommodate travelers.

Much of he 395 parallels the eastern sierras and has to be my favorite highway in California. It's a hitchhikers dream. Plenty of mountains, BLM land (free, legal camping) and some killer "mom and pop" restaurants often add to each towns unique character.


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Manzanar, one of many remaining Japanese internment camps, is also located immediately off the 395. With desert to the east and mountains to the west it's not hard to understand why the geography was favorable. If you did escape, you weren't likely to survive the elements.

The attack on Pearl Harbor instigated much of our nations aggression towards the Japanese. The following year the US government forcefully relocated over 110,000 US citizens due to their Japanese decent. Two thirds of Manzanar's 10,000 residents were under the age of 18 and 541 babies were born there. No one was every found guilty of spying/treason.

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After several days of exploring ghost towns, camping around lakes and pushing the limits of our livers it was time to continue south towards Whitney with a healthy dose of humility. The kind that can only come from personally experiencing that which has been intentionally left out of many textbooks.

With one night remaining we hadn't yet spoke about the fact that this trip would be a "last hurrah" of sorts before we would ultimately part ways. It was on each of our minds, but I think we were just having too much fun to bring it up. Though I knew I'd miss my current company when they'd have to return to the "rat race" that I'd had enough of, I was looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my life with the Christmas-like anticipation I once knew as a child.

Stay tuned and happy travels, my friends.
 
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#7
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After Manzanar, we'd settle down in the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, CA. Our last night was spent exploring this martian-like landscape and drinking cheap whiskey. No shortage of goofy selfies, but look at this place. It's magical.

They'd go back west in the morning leaving me in Lone Pine with just my backpack and no plans. After breaking down camp we ran into town for breakfast. Afterwards I asked, on a serious whim, if they'd drive me a couple miles to the interagency center so I could see if there was a permit available to climb Mt.Whitney. Which wasn't likely.

Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States (14,508ft) and offers many routes to it's summit. From the Whitney portal (east side) it's a 20+ mile hike to the summit and back. Coming from the west it's the last peak you'll encounter on the John Muir Trail (if you started in Yosemite) and also has a number of more technical climbing and mountaineering options.

It's also overwhelmingly gorgeous.

All considered it's an extremely popular mountain that has a rather strict lottery system for obtaining a permit. To my surprise, there was a cancellation/party reduction that left 1 multi night permit available last minute, but I'd have to be on the mountain THAT day. So much for not having any plans.

It was our last morning together and now the clock was ticking if I wanted to attempt Whitney. I'll spare you guys the mushy details, but there was a long emotional goodbye in a parking lot, but I was too stoked to hide my excitement.

This is what I'd been chasing. I feel like there is a better way to articulate how pivotal this day was than the slightly cliche "new chapter" notion, but when they drove away there was an undeniable sensation of accomplishment immediately followed by the excitement of a new beginning.

I'd accomplished downsizing what I owned to what fit in a backpack. I'd relived myself of all agendas and obligations. I was excited to live more independently and spontaneous than I ever had. One day at a time. On MY terms.

As soon as they left I scrambled to get my shit together. Re organized my pack, stashed the gear I didn't need to take up the mountain (laptop, radio scanner, excess clothing, etc) and rented the gear I didn't have, but definitely needed (poles, bear can etc) and hitchhiked to the trailhead. I'd hardly make it a mile up the trail before realizing how out of shape I was. I'd spent the last few days in the desert eating and drinking whatever I wanted because fuck it. It's not like I was planning on getting a permit for Whitney. I immediately felt the altitude and my poor diet. I prematurely felt short of breath and fatigued, but I had a multi night permit. I could take it slow, stay conservative and invest in the summit.

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I only made it 3.8 miles up the mountain (just over 2,000ft of elevation gain) before I had to call it a day. I started late in the day and was now feeling much worse. Altitude sickness was definitely in the cards, but when when I woke up that morning I had NO idea this is where I'd be that afternoon. I was spending my first night completely alone and perfectly free in a hammock on a mountain. It was a pretty amazing feeling.

The next day I went just over 2 more miles (1,600ft of elevation gain) before spending the bulk of the day trying to rest and acclimatize with the hopes of reaching the summit and descending the following day.

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Mt.Whitney.jpg


I'd set out around 5:00am the next morning to push for the summit. The sunrise from the switchbacks was a welcomed bit of optimism considering I wasn't feeling much better.

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(Photo from last years attempt. Missed the summit due to the threat of a lighting storm.)

After the 99 switchbacks come Trail Crest which is aprx 13,700ft and 2.8 miles from the summit. Home stretch!

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Then came the windows. A stretch of amazing pinnacles and new terrain.

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I still wasn't feeling great, but I think I was stoked enough to make it past Trail Crest (where I had to turn back on my last trip) to tough it out and push for the summit.

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Reaching the summit was amazing. I instantly felt better, though it's probably hard to tell and apart from making it down safely I had no particular plans again. This was arguably my 3rd day of "being on the road"....

What else could I do as a free man?

Side note: The real reason I look so grumpy in most photos is because I have a satirical instagram account called GRUMPYFACESAWESOMEPLACES. Feel free to participate ;)

Stay tuned and happy travels!
 
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#11
Man, this is inspiring stuff. Just been reading your travel blog... What camera do you use btw?
 
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#12
Oh man those are some beautiful pictures all the way through! It's so good to read about your adventures as a free man! Totally inspiring for anyone who would like to claim their independence and freedom!
 
E

etpyh

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#13
What camera do you use btw?
Looks like a combination of aNikon D810+ 85mm f1/1.8, a Nikon d90+16-85mm and a gopro Hero3 Black Edition to me!
Do you still carry the d810 with you? If so, do you have some kind of insurance?
 
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#14
Man, this is inspiring stuff. Just been reading your travel blog... What camera do you use btw?
Thank you! Apart from one image that was shot with a friends cell phone everything above was shot with a beat up Nikon D90 + 18-85 f/3.5-5.6 or a gopro hero 3.

Oh man those are some beautiful pictures all the way through! It's so good to read about your adventures as a free man! Totally inspiring for anyone who would like to claim their independence and freedom!
Thank you very much for the kind words. Feedback like yours helps motivate me to continue the story.

Looks like a combination of aNikon D810+ 85mm f1/1.8, a Nikon d90+16-85mm and a gopro Hero3 Black Edition to me!
Do you still carry the d810 with you? If so, do you have some kind of insurance?
Not sure what lead you to believe I had a D810 or such a specific lens, but at the time I certainly wish I did! That's a wonderful rig. Nailed it with the D90/Gopro, though.
 
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etpyh

I deleted myself
#15
Not sure what lead you to believe I had a D810 or such a specific lens, but at the time I certainly wish I did! That's a wonderful rig.
Well, the first two are shot with the d810, but maybe you just borrowed the cam from Jason?
 
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#17
Well, the first two are shot with the d810, but maybe you just borrowed the cam from Jason?
Aahhh yes. My buddy Jason has a D810. He was painting a mural and I stole his camera for a bit. I forgot he probably has different metadata settings written to his memory card. Good eye. I worked for a while on a farm and recently picked up a Sony A7ii which is absolutely incredible . Doubt I'll ever go back to a DSLR.
 
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#18
While were on the topic of camera gear I feel it's worth addressing how insignificant the equipment is. Yes I just got a fancy new, expensive camera. For me It's awesome, but the new doors it may open are minimal considering the cost.

If anyone, currently travelling or aspiring to do so wants to document their experiences, just do it. With the most economical and practical means. I was lucky enough to be given a decent camera. It was not a prerequisite to hitting the road.

You don't need fancy gear to help tell your story. It can actually be very inconvenient travelling with gear you're always "worried" about.

Moral of the story= CONTENT TRUMPS EVERYTHING.

A good camera won't mean you'll have a good time. That's mostly up to you.

Carry on and keep it fun :)::drinkingbuddy::
 
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#19
Well I might be MIA for awhile. Looks like I'm heading back to the California foothills to work on a farm for god knows how long. It's a wonderful outfit, but there is no internet or cellular service. Have to be packed and ready to live up there in a few hours.

I'll try to post a quick catch up/photo dump before I pack then I may not be active for over a month :(
 
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#20
Highway 89.jpg


With Whitney's summit in the bag I'd make a full descent the same day in what felt like record time. Still sick, I was aching for food that wasn't in a plastic wrapper. I'd make it to the trail head with plenty of day light to spare and hitchhike towards town.

A gentleman picked me up and got me down the rest of the mountain back to the Alabama Hills. He enthusiastically tried to pay my site fee for a crampground, but we were surrounded by public land that was legal to disperse camp on for free. I told him if he gave me the money I'd put in my pocket and leave the campground as soon as he drove away. I told him to keep it, thanked him kindly and he dropped me on the side of the road.

I'd find myself absolutely WRECKED from the mountain, pitching my tent near a water canal that paralleled the road, just under some trees. A lovely spot.

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The next morning I'd realize just how sick I was. A deep nights sleep offered little relief and the morning posed the challenge of returning rented gear to BOTH ends of town, on foot. I'd hoped to avoid several miles of walking with a 72lb pack after all I'd fought through on the mountain. Such was not the case. Half of the day was spent wandering Lone Pine returning and fetching gear feeling ABSOLUTELY awful.

Resting at a McDonalds I'd receive a message from my girlfriend who'd just stumbled into more time off and wanted to come back out to the mountains to see me for a few days. She was thrilled that I'd made the summit, a goal she's been trying to accomplish (with no success) since before we got together. She was also probably having a difficult time seeing me go.

The day after coming down the mountain I'd hitchhike BACK to Mono Lake to meet her at one of our favorite camp spots. It felt like I'd been gone for months. We'd spend a couple days exploring the lake and slot canyons before I'd eventually go back to Sacramento with her to try to get well.

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(One day after Whitney. Camp spot at Mono Lake. Still sick, waiting on homegirl.)

Mono Cattail.jpg


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(Black Point fissures, near Mono.)
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(Mono Lake.)

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(Highway 89.)

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(Highway 395)


After a week or so of trying to get well in Sac I'd soon find myself alone again, hitchhiking north out of Roseville, CA.

I'd spend time in Chico, Medford/Central Point and Portland before heading east and then south.

Happy travels my friends!


Here are some teaser photos. I'll try come back soon.

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Cannon Beach, OR #1.jpg
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