I am sitting in a coffee shop in Portland, where I am staying with an old college buddy for the next two days before I reach Vancouver, where I will shred some gnarly powder on the slopes of Whistler and drink deep from the cultural keg of our maple leafed neighbors to the North. On The evening of January 1st I left from San Diego around 6 p.m. and by 2 a.m. I had reached Shasta City, CA 750 miles to the North. The next morning I woke up around 10 a.m. and did some work from my car with Mount Shasta dominating the view out my windshield.
At 2 p.m. I gave into the call of the wild and strapped on my snowboard boots, broke out my new split snowboard and stepped onto the snow which covered all the terrain around me except for the cleared road from the town and a parking area with bathrooms. The road goes higher, but is not maintained in winter and has become a well-trodden trail packed tight with snow and very crusty. This road serves as a southwestern boundary line to guide backcountry descenders down to their cars. The snowboard splits vertically into cross country skis and allows a backcountry snowboarder to ascend without the need to carry their board, boots and bindings.
By 3:30 p.m. I had gained approximately 1500 feet of elevation over about two miles. Turning back to look down the western foothill slope of Mount Shasta, I admired the Trinity Alps, which span to the western horizon. My position above tree line afforded me a view all the way East to Lassen Peak, which is another Volcano in the lush southern cascades of Northern California. I felt a little rusty maneuvering through the pines and firs over crusty snow
which makes sudden turns difficultbut I had incredible fun and am extremely happy with my new and now beloved gear. The splitboard has potential to become the new MVG (most valued gear) in my ever expanding quiver of backcountry toys.
After sliding all the way back to my car, I cooked myself some mashed potatoes and beef jerky and hopped back behind the wheel for a 350 mile push up to Portland, which would allow me to spend the night in a bed rather than the back of my car. DiCicco, my friend from college, greeted me in the light rain and chill that I have come to associate with the Pacific Northwest.
My decision to drive from San Diego to Canada was the end product of myriad calculations, both practical and romantic. Based on current gas prices, driving the approximately 3500 miles roundtrip costs little more, if not the same price as a plane ticket. Then there is the comfort of having my car and all my gear that I can bring. There is also the fact that I can do my job from anywhere granted I have Internet and telephone access. But the main reasons for driving rather than flying stem from the many facets of a wanderlust that has characterized my life for the past several years.
Driving all over the United States is like slowly running your hands across the bare skin of a lover. There is an intense satisfaction in getting to know the rise and fall of the land, the transition from arid desert to lush forest and back again gives one the sense that real travel is at hand. Going from wide open rural country to bustling metropolis alerts one to a domestic war that has been raging in the minds of mankind throughout modern history. That is the war between city and country, between a life of rugged individualism and societal conformation. Whether ‘tis nobler to survive by reaping the fruits of the land itself or to pave the earth with modern society, convenience, and the inherent stress that accumulates alongside the grit and grime of large cities and satellite suburbs. Avoiding the latter is becoming an increasingly futile task, requiring an active resistance to the octopus of material agents whose survival depends on our submission to and immersion into its world of shameless consumption and disposal. Modern society has stripped humans of the instincts and resolve required to live off the land and has installed in place a clumsy and innocent reliance on the very things that took away our survival skills in the first place.
Fear and desire continuously conspire against a gut feeling to abandon the trappings of this material world, including the car I am traveling in, the computer on which I write these words, the coffee shop I am sitting in, and the lattice of fiber optics and invisible waves that allow me to express these ideas to you instantaneously. I will probably never completely turn my back on cities and technology, for the simple reason that I am afraid. I am afraid by doing so I might lose touch with friends and family, with current events, with certain comforts that are ingrained in my life and appear necessary to my survival. So I must live with this internal battle between two completely different notions of a simple life. It is the necessary war.