Uproxx’s Parker Hilton is on the road with his girl, his dog, and his surfboard in an ’80s-era van. The goal, theoretically, is for the couple to find the next city they want to live in… but he’s taking his sweet time about it.
As he travels, he’ll be posting dispatches for us — spinning yarns and sharing photos. Enjoy!
We’re gonna be hard pressed for a campsite tonight. That might be a problem. Us being this buzzed might be a bigger problem. To hop behind the wheel of our ’87 G20 now would be a bad move, but our parking is almost expired.
I kind of wish that the restauranteur couple that my girlfriend Jenelle has been chatting would stop ordering us Wicked Dolphin rum punches. I’m not opposed to excessive drinking and I’m certainly not complaining, but a decision needs to be made soon — our therapy-dog in disguise is getting hungry.
We’ll finish this round and cook dinner in the space we have outside, sober up a bit over some rice and beans and then find a spot for the night. We’ve been in this position — or one that closely resembles it — for the majority of nights this past month. This is what we should expect for hanging out in a place like The Rum Barrel.
I really can’t say we expected anything else coming to Key West.
A “campsite” at this point is a relative term for us. More often than not there is a fire service road or a pull off in the woods. We’re making an effort to avoid paying for formal camping and it’s working out all right.
Cities are trickier. Vans parked overnight are suspect to the local law enforcement wherever we go. A place known for its pirate-y inhabitants like Key West shouldn’t be a problem, but they did just pass a ordinance against sleeping in vehicles parked overnight… very un-pirate-y of them.
Such is the life of a newfound road-tripper in the states. We can hardly say we’re deep enough in the game to speak on the subject like weathered professionals. Plus or minus a few months off the road for personal and professional reasons, I’ve been lease-less for just over two years now. Jenelle has some very significant travel credentials to her name but is trying this extended road trip thing out for the first time.
Because the whole trip is based around the people we meet (like these new friends at the Rum Barrel), we’ve called our adventure Together We Roam (@togetherweroam). The name is meant to honor the fact that our greatest adventures, whether traveling abroad or through the states, were all made possible by the people we meet. The meals that we’ve shared with new friends, the couch or yard space that welcoming locals lent us — it’s a trip based way more in the “who” than the “where.”
Jenelle, Emma-Mae (the mini-Aussie), and I have been on the road now for just over a month — living in our 1987 Chevy G20 (dubbed Scarlet Jovanson). She doesn’t look like much from the outside but that’s by design. She has an interior that might put your living room to shame (unless you’re not cool with hardwood and crushed velvet).
I pieced together the layout with the scrap wood from my Dad’s garage. He passed away earlier this year, but for the last twenty years of his life he was a general contractor who made a point to never throw out a piece of wood that could potentially amount to anything. I’m infinitely grateful for the wood and know-how that he handed down.
The road south from our home-base in New Jersey took us along the Blue Ridge Parkway — where we became leafers for a week.
We also spent a night with locals in a backwoods bar in Virginia, discussing the talent and psychosis of Frank Zappa over glass after glass of moonshine. A few days later, we were invited into the home of a family in Black Mountain, N.C. and stayed up late playing board games until it was time to retire to the van (which the family had invited us to park in their driveway).
Our next major city was Charlestown, S.C. — a place significant to both Jenelle and my childhoods and viewed as a hotspot for embracing the Southern culinary and creative revival. A day exploring the town left us unsure as to what we should expect from the South… and also without any plans for where to stay.
While sitting on the tailgate of the van planning our next move, I was startled by a “how y’all doin?” and a “nice van.” A local from Folly Beach had spotted us and pegged us as van-goers. She and her husband had their own van trip in the works and wanted to pay into the favor bank early. Minutes before we planned on rolling out of South Carolina, Cat and her husband Chris invited us over for a night out in Folly Beach, a place we had never thought to go.
They offered up many shots of tequila and their driveway for us to sleep/park in. We sat up all night talking about travel, life, and surfing and left the next morning with plans to meet them in Mexico.
Soon, we hit Cumberland Island, Ga. — a place Jenelle has lusted after for almost a decade. Although our night of hammock-camping on the island was a rainy, sleepless one, we now know how to open our wine with a Leatherman tool and more about turn of the century Georgia than we ever imagined we would.
In New Smyrna, we found that being able to drive on the beaches and surf for a for a bit made the previous night’s mosquito swarm seem completely worthwhile.
The road ahead is sure to have plenty of missed turns and popped tires. By virtue of being a road trip, those mishaps are to be expected.
We know not everyone we meet will be good company but they’ll be company nonetheless. The sleepless bug filled nights, the cops who have to tell us to move on, the warm embraces, and the unbelievable array of culture this country holds are all going to be part of the grand adventure.
Our updates will be about finding our path and allowing that path to change. We’ll go to places we’ve never heard of, sit down for a drink, and start asking questions about what to do. The goal is to rattle our own cages a bit — just to see what happens.
We may not have a “campsite” tonight but the buzz has almost worn off and some van-goers on Instagram just gave us a heads-up on some promising parks we can call home till morning.
So the journey continues.
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There's an immediate unspoken connection that happens when you meet fellow van travelers. An exchange of simple recipes that can be created under the single light of a headlamp, the stories and acceptance of getting kicked out of "campsites" (namely a Key West parking lot at 2am), and the inspiration that you receive from one another flows for the entirety of your time together. @lisaapelts and @joe.brn have been traveling with their #moonfoxminivan for over a month now. He hails from Australia, she hails from Canada. They're on a journey from Ontario to Vancouver, by way of the U.S. The life together they're creating is a beautiful one. Their commitment to their relationship, their passion for life on the road and their openness to perpetually change was certainly an inspiration to us and our journey. Until our paths cross again, to the road ahead!