A friend of mine virtually introduced me to John a short while ago when he and his girlfriend Lucia were on their way back to San Diego from Alaska. Considering their highly talented artist backrounds, their amazing pictures is what came to my attention, therefore I decided to ask John a few questions about their trip. After reading this interview, I’m sure many of you will consider adding this road trip to your bucket list.
Which vessel are you driving and does it have a nickname?
We travel in (with) Alice. Alice is a 2002 Chevy Express work van I converted with scrap wood from my shop from January 2015 – May 2015. Once she was “done,” we hit the road and started heading north.
John & Alice.
How to convert a work van!
Can’t waste no space.
Tell us more about you and what goals are you pursuing in your trip?
Our only real goal was to surf at least one wave in Alaska. We just wanted to see it. We literally did not plan a single thing before we headed north. I have been traveling/camping my entire life, and I have a goal to drive through and camp in all 50 states before I’m 35, so I guess that coincided with it was well, but the only real goal was to get in the water in Alaska.
Sandy Beach, Sitka, AK
Why did you choose Alaska ?
I left my job back in January and started building the van then with the idea of traveling to Alaska to surf. My long term buddy is a sailor and has sailed around Alaska a bunch. He showed me some incredible spots and waves and it just looked so amazing I had to get in the water there. I worked on the van at my woodshop here in San Diego when I had time between jobs. I met Lucia on a snowboarding trip in February, about mid build. She was planning a trip with some friends last summer that never fell through so she decided to jump in and come along. I don’t know if I would have survived the first month without her!
Lucia cooking in the olympic peninsula, WA
Alice taking the day off, as we float down a river in Haines, AK.
Who did you meet so far that impressed you the most? Why?
We met a man (and now dear friend) Charlie in the water while surfing in Sitka, Alaska. I grew up in surfing in New York, and I live in San Diego now, so I’m not use to people being super friendly to newcomers in the water, but as soon as I paddled out Charlie was hooting me into waves. We were the only two in the lineup for hours. Charlie had us over for a dinner of fresh caught halibut the next night and offered up his extra bedroom and a hot shower for the night before we pushed up north. Charlie carries on the traditions of his native culture by carving totem poles, creating bronze and silver native jewelry and stitching his own head dresses for ceremonies. It was amazing to learn so much in such little time with someone I know I will be friends with for the rest of my life.
Charlie invited us for dinner and introduced us to some fascinating family traditions
Are you sleeping in RV parks or simply finding quiet spots to sleep over night?
When we left San Diego we stayed at a campsite or friends house for the first 3 weeks. As soon as we got north of Washington, I don’t think we paid for a single campsite. Once you get that far north, no one really cares as long as you’re respectful and clean. And we weren’t the only ones doing it. We would be at a spot in middle of nowhere places like the Yukon on the side of the road with a nice view and all of a sudden there were 3 other campers/cars/vans pulling up and joining the impromptu party!
We love to camp too! I want to camp in all of the 50 states…
Room with a view in Alaska.
When you were not camping, was it difficult to find spots?
We realized that since we were driving what looked like a work van (expect for the surfboards on the roof), that people wouldn’t suspect that we were poaching a roadside campsite, so we made a pact to not pay for a campsite for the rest of the trip! What we came to realize is that the campsites have the worst views around. All you see is other campers, which is nice and all, but a roadside turnout or a drive up a dirt road usually gave us a better view and nicer spot to park.
One afternoon while looking for a spot to park for the night in Homer, Alaska, we ran into a woman in a convenience store named Sue. Sue said we could park up in the backyard of her friends secluded and vacant log cabin property that she looked after. She gave us directions and we posted up for the night with two friends who were traveling with us at the time. All night we were just waiting for someone to show up, where we would then have to explain ourselves with “Sue said it was cool!”
We stopped at some friends house in Williams (OR) to recoop before heading back to Canada.
Can you give us your 5 favorite spots so far in the trip?
Wow, Singling it down to 5 spots is hard, but the best experiences and landscapes would have to be:
Big Sur, California – We got some fun waves on the first day of the trip and camped above the clouds that night. UNREAL sunset!
The Olympic Penninsula, WA – That place is literally out of a science fiction book. I didn’t feel like I was on this planet there.
Kodiak, Alaska – The most beautiful island in the world, hands down. Good fishing, waves, people. It looks like a mountainous version of Ireland. And the bears are HUGE!
The Cassiar Highway, BC – I come from a road-tripping family and that road has always been on my list. My father is very jealous!
Yellowstone National Park – That place is a real life wonderland. Alice, was literally in wonderland. And my sister came out to meet us there from Denver so that was a great ending to the trip!