I first saw Betty Yeti in the corner of some random acreage’s yard, a few miles off the Highway, East of the Nilsson Bros feedlot, on my way back from a run at Bridge Lake. I used to take different backroads to mix it up, and as chance would have it, my path that day took me by this absolute beauty. She sat in the yard with a FOR SALE sign in the window, elegant and powerful as a lioness at rest, and I could feel my heart beating faster — yes, you could say it was love at first sight.
I went back out and negotiated the sale with her owner. 78 GM Camper Van. Had to jiggle the keys and give her a pretty delicate touch with the gas to start her up, but when she did, man did she roar! She was mine, all mine! She had been owned by this old grandmother who used her for camping out at Slave Lake. Therefore her interior was decorated with a whole bunch of stuff like butterfly stickers and wooden ornaments of little kids fishing, and lame stuff about love and grandkids and kissing people good night. So my friend Forbesie and I smashed all that junk and threw it in the garbage. It was Dead Weight and I needed Betty Yeti to be fighting trim for some down and dirty road trips. I kept one picture of one of the old ladies relatives because I couldn’t resist the awesomeness of travelling around with a picture of some totally unknown person in a frame in my van. Luckily they never asked me who that was at the border. That would’ve been awkward.
The first road trip my buddy Forbesie and I took down to Jackson Hole Wyoming to do some skiing. When we were in Lethbridge she wouldn’t start and we needed a boost. A bit of a red flag but we ploughed on. After Great Falls, Forbesie took the wheel. I told him, test out the brakes and gas a bit while we are in town so you get a feel for how she handles. Soon after, we were approaching a traffic light going pretty quick, the light went yellow, Forbesie hit the brakes and we spun in a huge 180 right in the middle of the intersection, narrowly missing a few other cars, both of us yelling ‘AAAAAHHHH!!!’ Driving is different with an old hunk of junk with questionable tires, ancient suspension and no ABS brakes. Lesson learned. We powered on. Jackson Hole was epic. We had to get boosted a bunch of times and ultimately had to get the battery leads fixed up they were frayed and corroded. We made it back to Calgary in one piece after some sweet skiing and snowshoeing and a few pretty cold nights camping in Grand Teton NP. But that was just a taste of things to come.
In late April 2014 Betty Yeti and I headed South again, this time to LA to visit my most excellent cousin who lives down there. Ah, the open road! Day 1 we crossed the border. The Border guard asked me the usual questions, where I was going, LA, why, visit cousin, what I did for work… lawyer. He tried to give me some smart talk about lawyers not being called lawyers in Alberta but I shut him down, he was way out of his depth. I am generally conciliatory with people who can arrest me but there’s a limit. He asked what type of law, I said corporate/commercial, wills and estates. He said, what’s an estates lawyer doing in a crappy old van like this? I didn’t have a smart answer to that one. He asked to look around so I opened up the side door, and he poked his head in. He looked up at where Forbesie and I had patched a leak in the roof with duct tape. He said, how do I know you don’t have drugs taped up under there? I just shrugged. He shut the door and with something like disgust told me to get out of there. I took it as a good omen, and that night landed in Moscow Idaho. Day 2 took me through Lewiston then along the Salmon River, and through some Sam Peckinpah towns like Cambridge Idaho…
…All the way to Juntura Oregon, in the middle of nowhere, where I camped at a weird restaurant with some rv camping out back for $5. That night as the desert cooled, Betty Yeti’s body made some pretty loud pings. One of them woke me up, and I thought that someone was trying to break into the van. The drapes on the window were sagging in and in my dreamlike state I thought it was a persons face pressed through the window… watching me… I yelled ‘AAAAHHH’ at the top of my lungs, and sat in my sleeping bag, collecting myself. After a minute or so I said as calmly as possible ‘Step away from the van’. No movement. I slithered impossibly slowly over to my gear and got a big knife and my bearspray. After about twenty minutes motionless in my sleeping back, all senses on overload, when I was pretty sure nobody was there I got up, walked around the van fully armed and went back to bed. Boy, that was embarassing. The next day I filled up with gas in Burns and went South, mostly on gravel through some incredibly beautiful country. This route is some quiet road, and dips down into a forgotten corner of Northwest Nevada before coming back into Oregon. Mostly just open range.
Lucky for me I filled up in Burns as there was no gas in Denio, Nevada. There were lots of signs saying to watch out for wild antelope, burros, and horses but I didn’t see any. Next time. In a couple days I was in Shasta, that’s it’s own story, stay tuned.
After the most incredible day on Shasta, I was pretty bagged and had a strong urge to visit the ocean. I was looking to see if a hotel in Redding had a vacancy, when I smashed into a low beam they had over their entrance, BANG, it sure was loud and chunks of fibreglass and screws and stuff flew everywhere. I backed up, spat out some fibreglass, saw there was no damage to the beam which had a steel plate on it with a bunch of previous scrapes, but the fiberglass top of Betty Yeti was smashed up pretty good. I decided that place in Redding was probably not for me and it was best to head on out. I wound up staying in this weird little hotel in a little hamlet called French Gulch, tucked up in some holler off the main drag in the California hills. The room was in this hotel that had to be a hundred something years old, high old ceilings, scroll work. Sat in the bar and drank seven ups to keep cool. The next day I got some fibreglass patches and patched up ol Betty Yeti, to keep a little of that ol Pacific rain out.
Pt. 2 — On to the Pacific and down to Ventura to live in Jonny’s warehouse