On the border between Mexico and the US, in an area of West Texas just outside the Chisos Basin, there’s a natural hot springs pool that spills over a rock wall into the Rio Grande River. This certain wall lining the geo-thermal hot tub has a ledge on the back side of it, submerged into the river. Now, if you sit on this ledge with your back to the springs and your body in the river, you can be in the cool rushing current with the steaming spring water pouring over your shoulders. All the while, surrounded by palm trees and tall desert grasses, in the presence of giant mountains whose black silhouettes cut into the swirling canopy of planets and galaxies that so distinctly characterize the nights of the American southwest.
As Jess and Brian passed a joint back and forth, Danielle, Randy and I shared a flask of bourbon. “I can’t believe this is just here…like, why in the hell are we the only people out here?! This place is insane!” Danielle said, as she hopped over the rock wall to sit next to Jess in the river.
“I can’t believe this is just here…like, why in the hell are we the only people out here?! This place is insane!”
It’s funny how you can realize something like that in an incredible natural place. You simultaneously want to tell the rest of the world about how amazing it is while at the same exact moment, wanting to have it all to yourself, forever. Like the coolest clubhouse of all time for you and your friends, and no one else.
I stood up from the springs and limped back up the sandy banks of the Rio until I was almost out of earshot from my pals, who were still soaking in what is arguably the greatest swim spot on this Earth. Walking very slowly and carefully due to the ankle I had fractured 2 weeks earlier in Austin (BYOB roller rink, very bad idea), I found a small peninsula that juts out into the river and comes about 80 feet from the shores of Mexico. That’s when I sat down in the bright moonlight of the Chihuahuan Desert and started throwing small rocks into Mexico. I was transfixed by the action and by how profoundly it struck me.
There I was, in a land without time, 100 miles from any city, seeing a place as it was 10, 30, even 50,000 years ago. Untouched. Unfenced.
There I was, in a land without time, 100 miles from any city, seeing a place as it was 10, 30, even 50,000 years ago. Untouched. Unfenced. It wasn’t lit by any haze of light pollution from a nearby city, or rumbled by the sounds of any distant road. There were no visible borders of countries, no politics, culture, religion, no real signs of modern civilization at all. Just an incredibly small earthling, an existence that traverses a fraction of a fraction of a second in cosmic time, taking small pieces of Earth and throwing them onto another patch of Earth.
While sitting there in that amazing place, surrounded by Fan Palms and red rock mountains that were counter balanced in these hues of deep blue and purple light, I listened to the faint sounds of my close friends giggling and playing just down the river bank. And thenI realized that this particular moment in time, this short few hours of my short life, would be a snapshot of time that will live with me until the day I die. No questions. Hands down.
When friends or family ask why the hell I would sell everything I own and move into a school bus to travel full time, this is the story I tell them. Of course, not every day living the life of a dirtbag traveler is as amazing as this one. However, the days that are, and those days are frequent, make it the most fulfilling life I can imagine for a person.
When friends or family ask why the hell I would sell everything I own and move into a school bus to travel full time, this is the story I tell them. Of course, not every day living the life of a dirtbag traveler is as amazing as this one.
9 months prior, Jess and I got the first glimpse of our new home, parked on a farm in the middle of Indiana. The back window was smashed in and it’s red and gray paint, which had weathered over the years in the extreme seasons of the Midwest, was starting to chip and show the original ‘school bus yellow’ underneath. “We’ll take it” we said as we looked over the dry rotted tires and gravel beaten front end. “Its exactly what we’ve been looking for.”
The whole interior got stripped, and built out into a house on wheels with bunks, a kitchen area, and some space to lounge. Now none of us had ever driven anything larger than a standard car before, but after some practice rounds in a Walmart parking lot, there was nothing else to do but get on the road and try not to hit anyone.
The photos in this article chronicle 3 months of highs and lows experienced by a group of friends searching for the proverbial great American adventure. We found it in strange and extreme places, like the most expansive cave system on the continent. In a haunting and beautiful colony of abandoned homesteads deep in the mountains of Appalachia. On the highest peak in Texas and in the lowest place in the western hemisphere where the hottest temperatures on earth have been recorded. We hiked on fractured bones and blistered, bloody toes. We tattooed each other in hotel rooms and camped on an active missile range. We ate lunch 800 feet below ground and shot dice on the Colorado River, deep down at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Through rain, snow and sand storms, we snaked along the arteries of this crazy country in a 30ft long, 1989 school bus we call “Gramps.”