Victor Pride Highway is a new series in which I detail my travels. You can think of it as the Victor Pride Travel Diary. This is the first edition.
Victor Pride Highway #1
8 pm – I'm making the long drive from Albuquerque to Los Angeles to clean out my storage space there. I stopped off for the night in Flagstaff, AZ, a nice little mountain town. The campground I wanted to stay at was excellent but it was totally booked.
I drove around for 45 minutes looking for a new place to camp for the night. I settled on a spot pretty far into the forest. At this campground I have no neighbors (except bugs) and I have no smartphone service (boo-hoo). I can hear the coyotes howling and some cattle or bigger game mooing.
I'm sleeping in my Chevy Tahoe tonight. I outfitted the back with a cot. This will be my first night sleeping in the Tahoe but it's not my first night sleeping in a vehicle. In my high school days I would sometimes sleep in my car after spending the day at the lake swimming with my friends.
Tonight I am alone with nothing but the bugs and the sounds of the many animals to keep me company. This will be the first night in so many years that I am not playing on the phone or the computer. So far so good.
It's 8 pm and I've been going to sleep around 12:30 am due to a mild case of insomnia. Right now I'm sitting outside in my chair with a headlamp, writing in my notebook. The bugs are all over me. I'd planned to sleep with the windows down to allow for a cool breeze, but with the bugs who knows. We'll see what happens.
For dinner I ate a buffalo steak. It cost $25 and 30 seconds after I put it in my frying pan, the portable cooker ran out of propane and stopped working. I'm at least an hour from town and it's dusk, the time between day and night, so buying more propane is out of the question. I got some charcoal and dowsed it with lighter fluid to start a small fire. I sat the frying pan directly on top of the burning coals to finish cooking my steak.
The method worked, but my $25 buffalo steak was not delicious. I like my steak seared over a roaring hot pan, I don't like slow cooked red meat and because the coals did not produce a big fire, slow cooked meat was what I got. The meal was filling but I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed it. It was merely alright, satisfactory to cure my hunger but not enough to cure my desire to eat something delicious.
On the drive from Albuquerque to Arizona, I noticed that I barely hit any bugs on my windshield. When I took road-trips 10 or 15 years ago, my windshield would be covered in bugs and I'd have to stop a few times to clean the windshield. Now? I barely hit any bugs and did not have to clean my windshield. As I was driving I asked myself where did all the bugs go? Writing this now, I guess all the bugs were waiting for me at the Coconino National Forest where I'd set up camp.
At 8 pm the stars are out and the moon is a bright orange. Tonight is a full moon. 28 days ago I was on top of a mountain in New Mexico looking at the full moon. I will not be sleeping in pitch black tonight like I had anticipated. The full moon has other plans for me, and I really hope I don't turn into a werewolf tonight. Just joking.
7:30 am – I woke up to the bright and hot sun at 7:30 am. Last night the moon was so bright I did not see any stars after nightfall. It was also perfectly quiet last night. The bugs did not bother me and the animals all went to sleep. But because of the bright moon I slept mediocre.
9 pm – Tonight was a real whirlwind. Let me start at the beginning. I packed up and left Flagstaff early this morning. It was a 7 hour car ride to my destination at the Angeles National Forest in California where I'd planned to camp for the night and then drive in to Los Angeles the next morning.
The drive from Arizona to California is mostly through the Mojave desert. In the desert it got as hot as 115 F/46 C and stayed between 108-112 F/42-44 C for 4 hours. My vents blew cold air so the heat was not a problem for me. The drive was not the best simply because of the barren and desolate landscape.
Not many people choose to live out in the desert and I cannot blame them. I went through several hours where I did not see any houses and few gas stations. There were also not many police patrolling this area, so I sped and made excellent time.
I got to the Angeles National Forest and found a campsite before 5pm. Since it was early, I decided to go check out some of the other campgrounds and run into town to pick up some ice and gasoline.
Driving up the mountain took an hour and a half and my gas tank was less than a quarter full by the time I got to the top and found a camping spot. I figured I'd easily drive down the other side of the mountain and get gas and ice.
On the drive down the mountain I was acutely aware that my gas tank was nearing empty. I'd need gas soon, very soon, and I thought it was a good idea to do it tonight instead of waiting to fill the tank in the morning. On the way down the mountain I ran into a sign that I did not like seeing.
It said “ROAD CLOSED” and led to a detour.
Uh oh, I thought. I'm at a point where I simply cannot drive back up the mountain because I will run out of gasoline for sure.
I had to take the chance of taking the detour down the mountain. And it took forever to get down the mountain, and each second that passed I could see my fuel gauge getting closer to E (empty).
The mountain road was an endless series of twists and turns and there were no gas stations whatsoever. My phone had no service so I could not search the map either. I had to simply guess which way to go because the detour road was not marked very well and showed no indication of which way I was going, other than down the mountain.
I drove down the mountain blind, hoping I'd make it into town before I ran out of gas. Thank God I was driving down the mountain and not up, I was able to conserve my gasoline by coasting down the many steep hills.
It took me a full hour and a half to get down the mountain with my gas tank nearly empty. It was quite an adventure and I did not know if I would make it down the mountain or if I would run out of gas on the mountain. But I eventually made it down the mountain and into town and filled up my gas tank.
It was a nice little California town called La Cañada Flintridge. In town I had phone service, so I took a look at the map. I was now closer to my final destination of Marina Del Rey, a beach suburb of Los Angeles, than I was to my camping spot in the Angeles National Forest. My camping spot was one and a half hours up the mountain and Marina Del Rey was only an hour away.
It was now 7 pm. I decided to make the run to Marina Del Rey to get my stuff out of storage. Then I'd see what could be done about sleeping. Perhaps I could make the drive back to the mountain or maybe I'd be able to find a spot near Marina Del Rey.
I got to the storage spot about 7:30 pm (I sped) and looked for my locker. The storage space had 3 floors and I walked all 3 floors looking for my storage locker, which I could not find.
Two years earlier I was in Phuket and decided I didn't want to return to the United States. I sent RedSteve, the then intern for Red Supplements, on a plane from Thailand to LAX (Los Angeles airport) to pack up my apartment and put some of my stuff in storage. There was a storage space one block from my old apartment and I'd simply assumed that's where my stuff was. But it wasn't.
I emailed RedSteve to get the information and it turns out my stuff was in a locker in El Segundo, about 20 minutes from Marina Del Rey. I went there, I found my locker, I put in the code to open the lock and … nothing. The lock would not open.
It was nearing 9 pm and I knew that there was no way I was going back to the mountain to camp. I decided to deal with the storage space in the morning. That would also give me some time to drive around my old stomping grounds and relive some memories.
I found a cheap local hotel, paid $137, and I spent the night there. In the hotel I ate a beef patty, cottage cheese, and sauerkraut, one of my new favorite meals.
7 pm – I’m back in the forest outside of flagstaff. Today I made the drive from Los Angeles back to Arizona. I found a very peaceful and serene campsite very far out from the other campers. It was free too.
I’m in a “dispersed camping” area which is free because it does not have any amenities. There are no picnic tables, no camp hosts to sell you firewood, no toilets, and no running water. I love it so far. I can hear the animals mooing and howling and it’s just 7 pm.
It’s nearing sunset and I’m writing this in the time between day and night. A fella could do alright living out of his vehicle in free campsites around the US. It’s usually a 14 day limit for camping, but if you just move between campsites you can basically live in nature in 14 day periods.
This morning I woke up at 8 am, I had my breakfast, and then I got to the storage space at 9:03 am and was able to open the lock and clear out all of my stuff. I was delighted to find my old boots in the locker. I’d been thinking about them since 2 years prior when I left Los Angeles.
Arriving in Marina Del Rey this morning, I was surprised to find a flood of memories return to me. I’d lived in the Los Angeles area for 16 months a couple of years prior. Driving into the city I was nearly instantly reminded it is my favorite city in the US.
Today, I was instantly transported back to that time where it felt that nothing was impossible and all you ever have to do is work for it. I’d loved living in Los Angeles, but I’d needed to leave.
When I left Los Angeles those years ago, I’d ended up in Phuket. It was in Phuket where I said aloud what I already knew in my heart: “I don’t want to go back to the US.”
So right then and there, I bought RedSteve a ticket to LAX to clean out my apartment, sell all my furniture and electronics, put my books in storage and get back out to Asia and get to work on building the business.
Today, I was reminded of how much I like Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. Los Angeles is full of energy and sex appeal. Nowhere else in the United States do I see pretty girls. I rarely see pretty girls in New Mexico or Texas or Kansas or Oklahoma. I always see pretty girls in Los Angeles.
One thing I never noticed during my 16 months in LA is the smog. Los Angeles has a thick haze of pollution covering it. To my younger eyes, I simply never noticed it. I thought LA just had a constant fog.
When I lived there it rained all the time so it’s not wild to believe it was often foggy. But today it was obvious that it wasn't fog. After driving in from Angeles National Forest, it’s impossible not to notice the thick haze of pollution that hovers over Los Angeles and the surrounding cities. The haze only went away about an hour outside of Los Angeles.
Now I'm out here in the forest with a notebook and a pen. It's so quiet here that the memories of leaving Los Angeles and arriving back in Asia all come flooding back to me. The forest background cleared up my thoughts and made everything clear.
I guess I don’t get the opportunity to think much when I’m in the hustle and bustle of the city. Out here in the forest, the memories are easy.
The drive from LA to Flagstaff is a pretty breezy 6-7 hours through the Mojave Desert. Though it isn’t a beautiful drive, it isn’t altogether unpleasant and it goes by quickly.
My Chevy Tahoe is filled up with the boxes from my storage unit. Sleeping in there tonight is going to be tight, but I’ll manage.
I have to admit, I slept well in the hotel last night. It was cold, fairly quiet except for a humming mini-fridge, and it was dark. Outside, when it’s in a tent or the Tahoe, I never seem to sleep well. We’ll see how it goes tonight.
It’s 7:45 pm and nearly dark. The sun is a deep orange under a light blue sky. I can hear the “moo” and “owwww” sounds of all the animals. My camping spot is remote. I have nobody that I can see near me. I drove to the very back of one of the designated dispersed campgrounds.
It’s just me and the crickets and the howling coyotes. I’ve got nothing but a flashlight, a notebook and a pen, and my memories to keep me company.
8 am – I slept well last night. The sun did not bother me in the morning and the bugs left me alone all night. The stars were incredible last night. They were so bright and vibrant. I never see the stars like that in the city. Now I will make the drive back to Albuquerque where I will plan my next trip.
This has been the first edition of Victor Pride Highway. Stay tuned for more.