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Day 2: The Van Comes Good

Today was our first real day testing the van the way it was meant to be used.

The drive from Boise to the Sawtooth Range was beautiful. The entire route marched the Payette river, quickly descending the mountain we climbed. Its volume was abnormally high, blatantly lying that I could take a casual float six thousand feet down with nary a risk.

I did not take any great photos on the drive. I didn’t stop very often, and when I did, I struggled with my lens choices. I’m still getting used to my new camera (I switched from Micro 4/3 to Fuji X-Mount mere days before we left), and I haven’t yet figured out the math combining it with lens caching around the van.

The biggest miss was when we first rolled into the valley opening to the Sawtooth Ridge. We were so awed by the view that we blew by a rest area that would have been a perfect first survey point. It didn’t help that I really had to pee.

We were able to catch the next stop, getting a court-side view of the swollen river, and our first chance to build a triangle around the mountains and the family on the van’s rack. The platform on top is one of my pure conceits in its build, but I couldn’t be happier with the decision. Sitting up there with the villain, looking around at the mountains, seeing more of the river… it’s like traveling with the world’s biggest tripod.

Finally, we landed at our campsite, the Glacier View campground. We rolled into our secluded spot (we weren’t able to snag any spots next to the lake), and got to work. The awning came out for the first time, so new we had to strip the plastic from the legs. We carried the kitchen to the picnic table, and my back made it clear that Cindy would be literally carrying a lot of the load for a while. I started pulling bikes and setting up beds while Cindy cooked, and it all worked. The kid cots, the curtains, the pans, the dishes, the beer cozies, the roof as a magnetic draw to the kids… It was brilliant. The van came good.

There were flaws, as there always are. I deeply feel the miss on the bike trays. I had to deconstruct the area under the bed to get the bikes out, and it’s going to hurt getting them back in. I’m confident our next packing round will be better informed and thus better overall than this round, but it sucks to have to revisit the whole thing every time. The absent side cabinets under the bed just exacerbate the feeling of chaos; any structure would be appreciated at this point, but we’re obviously going to have to spend our two months with chaos rolling under us while we sleep.

We ate dinner, pulled the rest of the bikes, and went for a quick jaunt to explore the lake. My lens selection was unprepared for the fox we encountered, and my lens carrying capacity was even less up to the task of rotating between the fox and the snow-covered ridges, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Nothing teaches you a camera system like missing photo after photo. I mourn the loss of my Olympus’s in-body stabilization, but I adore the control system on my Fuji, and I start itching if the 16mm spends too long in my pocket instead of on the camera.

We ended the night making pseudo-s’mores with toasted marshmallows smashed between split mint Oreos, and it was glorious. Yes, that’s a thing, it’s not my fault you didn’t know. The 15 year old Bowmore didn’t hurt.

Vivian shocked us all by actually asking to go to bed (in the 16 years combined of the two kids, that’s maybe the third time one of our kids has ever voluntarily retired). Lillian finally wandered offi after poking the fire for a while longer, gently chastising her mom’s fire keeping skills as only the ignorant can.

Finally it was just me and Cindy around the fire, shocked at all the stars, mired in the details of the days but also appreciating the fact that we did it. We are on our two month tour, we can actually camp from our van, and we’re apparently not entirely screwed in this whole adventure. whew



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Luke Kanies

Luke Kanies

Founder, adviser, and strategist. Writing at lukekanies.com and second-publishing here.