Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Roadtreking - Us and Them, Then and Now

The young runner on the tree-strewn forest road is Chelsea Behymer, son Chris' girlfriend. She's running out of the sheer joy of being alive and thumbing her nose at minor obstacles such as hundreds of downed trees  en route to a trail we wanted to hike. But first we have to drive there, them in a self-converted Sprinter, us in our cushy Roadtrek Agile.

The tree-clogged road presented a challenge they wanted to tackle. To Paul and me, it was a no-brainer no-go from the get-go, even though we followed them.

A recent van camping trip with son Chris, whose primary sponsor, Eddie Bauer, features the Live Your Adventure brand, and his friend Chelsea, made clear the differences in our travel styles and our generations, including their propensity for risk and ours for scaling back in that department. For starters, we joined them by invitation. How cool is that? I loved my parents, but I don't recall at any time inviting them to ruin a jaunt with me and a romantic partner. That's just one little difference. (If you have a few minutes, check out those links above.) Maybe we're getting rewarded for all the camping trips we did with our sons when they were youngsters. 

PK and I are Baby Boomers, although I am officially one year too old. We worked hard, scraped by for a few decades, and raised two incredible sons. We were frugal because well, we couldn't afford not to be. Now well into retirement, we've reached a comfort level that enables road tripping in luxury, at least compared with son Chris, and also compared with our younger selves. (Keep reading.)

Ours is the sleek silver Roadtrek Agile van above. Theirs is a spirited red Sprinter he named nevervan. Maybe because he wanted one for so long but never thought he'd find one he could afford. 

Chris and Chelsea travel in true Millennial fashion equipped with rugged mountain bikes, kayaks, the latest electronics, propane stove, cooler, and a trowel. No heater, no AC, no running water, and no toilet. Not even a fan.

He snagged a deal on this used Sprinter a couple years ago, and between kayaking expeditions, he, with help first from his father, and later, from Chelsea, fashioned a simple custom interior from which he can work and play. Our home is his mailing address, but the Sprinter is his real home, which he often shares with Chelsea and her little mutt, Peanut.(Naturalist Chelsea has work that takes her to far places for weeks at a time.) 

Our van, on the other hand, is a lightly used 2010 Roadtrek Agile on a Sprinter chasis and, like Chris', boasts a Mercedes diesel engine. Let's not even talk about the price difference because it is, frankly, shocking. They're going Spartan, mostly, and we're, well, not! 

But there are some perks to getting old, right? For the record, our van, the same 21 ft. long as Chris', is decked out with: cherry wood cabinets, unbelievable storage space, a refrigerator/freezer, AC, a microwave/convection combo oven, a generator, a tiny toilet/shower closet, a queen-size bed, swivel seats, blinds, curtains, a retractable step, awning, outside shower, furnace and on it goes. We love it, love it. But we also paid our dues. 

                                    Photo above: Chris riding his bike about 25 years after the photo below was taken.
Korbulic family around 1989. Chris, 3, has the long shorts, Quinn, almost 13,  the cute pink ones. Paul's kayak is atop our trusty Toyota Landcruiser and my road bike is ready for my training ride that morning for Cycle Oregon. We car/tent camped from Oregon to South Dakota and back. One of our best family trips ever. 

About paying our dues. We progressed through the decades from rough and tough tent/river/car camping (30 + wonderful years, half of them with our two sons), to sleeping in the bed of our pick-up (a couple awkward years) to enjoying the hell out of our FourWheel pop--up camper beginning in 2010, to our current state of luxury.
We've never wanted a hulking RV, but something that parks as easily as a large pickup, doesn't require an RV site with hook-ups, and gets decent gas mileage. No wonder our Roadtrek is named "Agile." It satisfies  our keen desire to travel comfortably but nimbly as we pile on the years. And my, how those years are stacking up.

We kinda noticed those years during our enlightening camping caravan with Chris and Chelsea. We also noted some, umm, traveling style differences. This is to be expected, of course, since we are 40 years older.  But they indulged us, and probably didn't notice, as they were too busy making every minute count: running, biking, hiking, gathering firewood, gnawing roots and herbs, gazing into one another's eyes, organizing their van, doing push-ups on picnic tables, and washing up in snow-melt temperature lake water. And I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit.

A few key differences


Choosing a campsite
Us:  We love Forest Service campgrounds, $5 a night, senior rate, or county, state or national camps, between $15 and as much as $35. We have succumbed to private RV campgrounds under desperate circumstances, which can run between $35 and $55, depending upon size of RV and amenities needed. Not recommended! 
Them: Dispersed camping: free (AKA boondocking)
Note: They seemed comfortable with the Forest Service camps we used during our two nights out, but Chris later revealed that those were the only times they'd stayed in designated campgrounds. We treated them to the $10 per night fees. Our first night out, the four of us were alone in a lakeside campground with a spectacular view of Oregon's Mt. Thielson. We also had clean odorless toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and lots of wood for campfires.

I had to look up "dispersed camping," although we encountered it in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA, and in Death Valley. We didn't call it dispersed camping in our 20s, though, but 'finding a place to park and hide in the woods or wherever." The link above is an excellent guide, which I just discovered on the RoadTrekking Blog, which calls it boondocking. I was delighted to learn that many Roadtrek owners prefer boondocking. That's my kind of group!

As a person who grew up in the boondocks of North Dakota and has lived in Oregon boondocks for a few decades, I am pleased that remote terrain has come into fashion with owners of high-quality compact self-sufficient camping units. I'm excited to go boondocking along the East Coast. Is that even possible?

In the West, most ranger stations have behind-the-counter maps to how and where to camp free provided you can do without hook-ups. Of course, Chris and Chelsea don't need no stinkin' ranger advice. They've only been routed out of a "campsite" at 2 a.m. by law enforcement once. 
Mt. Thielson from a deserted Forest Service campground on Lemolo Lake in Southwestern Oregon, May 2016.
Settling into a campsite - Us and Them
Us: set up the camp chairs, pour some cabernet sauvignon and start thinking about appetizers.
Them: check the mountain bike tires, do a few calisthenics, hop on those babies and ride 45 minutes uphill over rocks, roots, and downed trees before returning to gather wood and assemble a campfire. 

PK may be wondering where the corkscrew is located as he watches the biking preparations "next door." Soon they'll be off and onto the same trail we'll hike tomorrow to Lemolo Falls. That's our Roadtrek Agile.

Dinner time
Us: Sometime between 7 pm and 8:30 pm, preferably during daylight. 
Them: Sometime before bed and after a bike ride or a hike, especially if they've had fewer than five or six hours of physical activity. Or maybe that should be seven or eight hours?

Plastic bags
Us: We're virtuous, we thought. We reuse purchased plastic ziplock bags until they fall apart, and take cloth bags shopping. We use the inevitable plastic disposable bags for trashcan liners and to hold  massive amounts of garden overproduction to drop at food banks and press into neighbors' hands. 
Them: No plastic bags. None. I've tried forcing ziplock bags on Chris to keep a hunk of cheese or a leftover from drying out. Nope. No plastic bags.
Upon encountering a road blocked by too many downed trees to count
Us: Complete agreement that the downed trees make the road a no-go. 

Them: (Who are in lead position) Let's get through by using the machete on the smaller trees and holding others up so the van(s) can pass under, and then just dodge around stuff. Destination: an up-close view of Lemolo Falls. We turned around, of course, with a bit of difficulty, perhaps a quarter mile down the pike, and took a log strewn hiking rail to the falls the next morning. But we followed them into  this obstacle course. It was, uh, instructive, to observe our differences.
Yes, this may be too many trees, they agree.  Below Chelsea bends another small tree for van passage.

Bathing (with environmentally acceptable soap, of course) in streams, lakes, oceans, ponds, snowdrifts etc.
Us: Unless the water temp is at least tolerable, we'll wait for a warm shower or take sponge baths.  
Them: Frigid water is not a problem!  It toughens then up, and I believe they actually like it. Plus after a few hours of running, mountain biking, vigorous hiking, rock climbing etc., rinsing off is imperative, icy water or not.

Leveling the van
Us: We use those orange plastic Lego-like thingies plus a cellphone leveling app for precision work. 

Them: Search around and you'll find the perfect rock or piece of wood.

The obvious difference between "them and us", of course, is that they're in the fullness of beautiful vigorous youth and PK and I are teetering on the edge of old age! 

We realize what's coming, but before it does, we'll be riding high, far and wide in the Roadtrek.

Warm Spring Falls is just a few miles off the beaten path near the North Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. The trail to it is maybe a half mile long. I think we should be able to get there again in 10 years, maybe even 20. When you're in the first third of a normal life span, you can't fathom the last third. But when that final third arrives, you know you must grab every bit of joy. Seeing waterfalls and wild birds, tending a garden, nurturing relationships, including with your adult children, all take on new meaning.  The "life is short" cliche becomes your reality. I need to get to bed and rest up. I very have important things to do tomorrow.


  1. I thought you were such a wild and free spirit, so daring and amazing. That short window of madness-culminating-in-apple-orchard-thunk was the only time in our lives I have spent time with you. Seems impossible. If I remember chronology correctly, the time PK was in Texas getting his Toyota was when you and I went camping on the old mining claim, hitch-hiking from Newport to Crescent City and then up to the Cave Junction area(?). I'd forgotten about the hepatitis. I don't think I ever realized how serious it was. Well, we were young and immortally invincible, right? You look very much the same as you did when you were 30. If you saw me now you would pass me on the street and never imagine I am the same person you knew back then. I am about to climb a ladder to the rooftops of our house and shed to clean off branches, pollen, maple starts and Douglas fir debris. In no way should I be doing this. I am too stiff and fat to be climbing on roofs. So, if, ya know, I don't make it, it was sure nice knowing you when you were a crazy 20-something. Loved the article. Chris and Chelsea make me feel tired. ha! But I love their enthusiastic idealism. May it last them a lifetime.

    1. Jeez, Grace. All those years ago you thought I was a "wild and free spirit, so daring and amazing." I thought you were an ethereal, spiritual, brainy, beautiful earth mother, filled with music, song and poetry, and yes, with grace, even though your name then was Diane. Let's both hold tight to what may remain of our youthful selves.

  2. P.S. If you show this program to Noel while you are here there is a very good possibility that he will be able to show you exactly how to use it with ease and accuracy. He is so good at teaching people techie stuff. Even me.

  3. Love love love it! Bravo for putting it all into words.

  4. as i was perusing national geographic extreme photos randomly this morning, i saw a picture of your son and cohorts kayaking off a glacier!! this reminded me that i had found your blog by accident while researching "uganda"a bit ago. i replied to one of those long ago blogs, but realized that you probably don't get responses that far back. in any case, i didn't know anyone who had been there and was trying to do some research before we left. we've come and gone - we had an incredible adventure trip as we spent our entire time there with pete m. needless to say, it was unforgettable!! would love to compare notes if you wish. fyi, my friend here, chris, is your good friend's s.i.l. you were both at some oregon gathering a while ago. . . small world! keep adventuring, sounds like you guys are having a blast!

    1. Thanks, Martha! Are you related to Mark F.?
      Did you safari with Pete M. in Uganda cuz you read about him on my blog? If so, I am thrilled! He and Leyla are the best.
      Please let me know, privately if you wish, to whom you're referring: "fyi, my friend here, chris, is your good friend's s.i.l. you were both at some oregon gathering a while ago. "
      my email is mkorbulic@gmail.com - assuming s.i.l. is sister-in-law? I am clueless!

      Thanks for your comment, Martha. It is so great to know that someone cares enough about what you've spilled out to take time to respond.

  5. Mary what a beautiful write up, I loved reading it!

  6. Thank you much, Sandy. Means a lot to hear from readers.

  7. I am Sandy Morans hubby. I as well really enjoyed the post. Having your son taking his own path via his own memories of family camping is precious. And a testament to your values and nurturing as parents. I recognized some of the places. Cave Creek OR. Not many people heard of this place. I worked in Grants Pass in the 80's and discovered the beauty of Southern OR and Northern CA.

    1. Thank you, Jim. Both of our sons are outdoors lovers, and the older one is now introducing his two young children to camping and exploring. Chris, the one in the blog post, actually makes his living adventuring. (expedition kayaker)
      We consider Grants Pass "our" city, although we live 8 miles away near the town of Rogue River. We were here in the 80s. If you haven't been to Grants Pass since then, consider returning to visit the area. You wouldn't believe how it is blossomed! You could boondock at our place.

  8. Hi Mary I am Tanner Chelsea's little bro☺️. Just wanted to to start to follow Chelsea and Chris on their adventures more! So I thought I would say hello look forward to hearing from you maybe you can help keep me updated on when I can contact them 😃. Have a good evening