California road trip: south along the coast


And what's a road trip without days spent on the road? Meandering along the coast, spotting sunny surf spots, stopping for road side food, and taking in the sights. 

Unscheduled time on the road, south from Santa Cruz, led us to  Carmel-by-the-sea, watching the dolphins play in the surf,

Looking for ways to find shade from the sun,

and white sandy beach walks with Levon (and my belly!).

Driving further south along the coastline to Big Sur meant coastal vistas around every twist and turn...

Sometimes, the only thing to do was pull over and take it all in!

... and when someone tells you to get the burritos at the back of the Big Sur River Inn General store, you stop for burritos!

California road trip: Santa Cruz, oh you're not that far!

"Up in the North West, we got it good, Little soggy, but we've got it good
Can't help thinking that I wish i would, 
Move my ass down to Santa Cruz ... I got a feeling i don't want to lose, Pulling into Santa Cruz"

With the strict parking/camping laws in Santa Cruz, we kept it classy and stayed at New Brighton State Beach Campground (*if anyone has any van-sleeping tips for Santa Cruz, we'd love to hear them in the comments below...)

And when we weren't camping? We were surfing.

Paddling out at Pleasure Point and the Hook,

Watching big sets roll through during a contest at Steamers Lane,

Or just cruisin' at sunset.

Thanks for the waves... we can't wait to come back!

California road trip: San Francisco's calling us


"San Francisco, please make room for me. I’m going to San Francisco if I have to crawl on my knees.”

We left after work, taking the ferry and driving late into the night. As the sun set on the second day on the I-5, we were getting closer to our destination...

After another night at an interstate rest-stop, we got an early start on the road. Luckily we did, as we rounded the corner along Point Lobos Ave, pulling up to Ocean Beach in SanFrancisco... we saw this...

So, naturally, Darc suited up at Ocean Beach and hit the surf, while Levon and I took it all in from the beach. Welcome to San Francisco!

In the days that followed, we took our time - spending it on the beach, checking out the scenery and all the city has to offer!

And, of course, spent some time soaking up the view around the foggy iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

And with a rising swell and changing wind direction, led to a perfect afternoon surf session at that iconic landmark.

And that was only the beginning... although we spent time in other parts of the State (more of that to come!), "I left my heart in San Francisco."

Canoeing the Sayward Forest


In the spirit of minimalizing we made a pact with ourselves at the start of this year that if we didn't use our canoe this summer (for something more than going to the pub) we would sell it before moving to the Janion. 

As it turned out, we found ourselves with an unscheduled three day weekend in August, so we decided to strap 'Maverick' on top of the van and head up island to circumnavigate the Sayward Forest Canoe Circuit -- a 50km chain of lakes thats take about 3 days to paddle and portage-- just like the voyageurs... minus the pelts.


Since acquiring agathawagen last year we have spent a lot of time sleeping outside, but it has always been within the comfort of the van, (i.e. we had gotten soft). When we bought the van, we had pictured using it as basecamp a lot more, so it was satisfying to dust off all the outbound-trip gear we had acquired over the years to see if we still remembered how to use it, and if it was still functional (spoiler: we should have spent more time on the latter). 

We launched at Morton Lake and charted a counter clockwise route around the chain. It was a great trip in a muddy-sweaty-satisfying-struggle kind of way. Lots of nice quiet paddles on empty evergreen lakes, meandering swamp channel floats through the tall grass, and fun little moments when the rivers current dumps you out into a larger lake. We didn't encounter a single other canoe or vessel along the route and had the rustic paddle-in-campgrounds all to ourselves. There was some highway noise at the start, but once we got around the horn it was just the sound of our paddles and the loon calls. 

Of course, it did not go exactly as planned. It has been an exceptionally dry couple years out here on the island and this caused very low water levels. A few of the lakes and waterways shown on the map were all dried up, leaving long mucky (and hesitant -- "are we going the right way??") portages. Sometimes, one of us had to solo the canoe through a low water levels in a swamp channel, while the other portaged the gear.

Our visions of posting a good time evaporated like the lakes and rivers around us and we encountered tedious slogs requiring multiple trips on each portage -- our progress slowed to a snail's pace.

We ended up with the worst of both worlds so to speak. Despite the channels and rivers showing signs of drought, it was raining a lot while we were on the circuit -- the first time it rained in months! We had to bail our canoe on the regular, not from a leaky boat, but from the accumulated rain water. It made the trails slick and our clothes wet. It's all part of the fun though, right?!

Our ultimate (and avoidable) undoing was a broken water filter. We had a MSR gravity filter from a few years back, and the plastic piece which mated the filter tubing with the fill sack was leaky and no longer doing its job-- We switched to boiling our water along the way, but we were drinking faster than we could replenish and this slowed us down considerably.

With these set backs we ran out of time (day jobs to get back to) and we decided pull shoot and portage from Brewster Lake to Mohun Lake along Menzies Forest Service Road (about 5km and happy to have the canoe cart). We left the lower circuit to complete on another year. 

Despite the circumstances, we were still a little disappointed to have bailed out early on the circuit, but it didn't last long as we encountered fellow circuit goers driving their van along the Menzies FSR. They had chosen to go further south from Brewster Lake and they encountered fully dry and impassable river beds. They were a family and had to leave their two kids at a campspot on the river while they made the 10km walk back to their vehicle so that they could carry their stuff out (eek) After learning this we felt vindicated.

All in all a satisfying out trip, but if you plan to do it we suggest you go early in the year when there is still runoff and you check your filter functionality before you go! 


making a quick getaway


Sometimes it is just about the incremental. A quick getaway and take down can make the weekend longer. Here are some of the ways we make a clean break after work and fast clean-up afterwards.

Get out of town, I think I'll get out of town. I head for the sticks with my bus and friends. I follow the road, though I don't know where it ends.

  • Eat the same food you eat at home. Buy enough to have food for the weekend and whatever is in the fridge just take it with you. This one will really save you time as I find camping can sometimes inspire hours long trips to the grocery stores to gather ingredients you don't otherwise use 
  • Stock-up (gasoline, water, propane, firewood, canned beer) on your way home the weekend before. Gas is cheaper, lines are shorter, and your firewood will be dry(er) by the time the next weekend rolls around. 
  • Prep the night before. Charge all your electronics, load up your road trip music and podcasts, pack your books.
  • Pack incrementally throughout the week before. Better yet just leave it in the vehicle. If this isn't possible than at least keep your camping gear and clothes separate, packed, and portable. Try to avoid moving things twice, if you carry it out from the house, put it right in its place in your vehicle.
  • Keep your vehicle organized and things in their place. It's faster if you don't have to take all your gear out on the side of the road and reshuffle everything to set up your bed, or make dinner.
  • Team up and develop a routine. Divide and conquer. Eg. Someone gets the roof racks and surfboards while the other takes care of the dog and food
  • Recognize traffic patterns -- for me, a half an hour walk home from downtown on Friday night is faster than being picked up because of the summer tourist traffic.
  • Avoid ferries
  • Eat a homemade meal or make coffee on the side of the road. it is faster than fast food and you won't have to stop and run for the washroom after! Limit your pit stops on the way out of town - the more time you are moving the faster you will get there. 
  • Clean up as you go. Make your Sunday evening better. For instance, we tend to give the wetsuits a good cleaning at the beach after our last surf session of the weekend, then when we get home they just need to be hung dry. Dirty laundry goes directly from the van to washing machine.
  • Buy a camper van, seriously just do it! #vanlife

(still) learning while learning to surf

- Kate

Ever since moving to the west coast, I pictured myself sliding across the face of a wave; dancing graceful up and down my board with the wind in my hair; perfectly balanced in a nose ride.


In reality, it took me almost two years to get out of the white wash. I was unable to shake the feeling of anxiety, what could happen out there, and the fear of not being in control.

Playing in the wild-ness of the ocean is what makes surfing so special.

So, instead of working on controlling the tides, it was a matter of controlling my own thoughts - those deep self-conscious feelings (fears) about being in my 30’s and learning a new skill. 

It took a trip to the warm waters of Hawaii last summer to get me out of my head and back to the basics. First, I would sit out on the shoulder for entire sessions watching the waves; learning to manage my board and watching where/how the waves were breaking. Next, I just paddled for a wave and learned to read it; what was the 'best spot' to sit? How soon and how hard do I need to paddle? After that, I thought only of catching a wave on my belly and feeling the rhythm of the ocean. 

Learning something new gives you the opportunity to have a beginner mind without all those ingrained patterns of knowing and (bad) habits; it gets you back to the basics. This approach to surfing has taught me not to be afraid to fail or to fall. Failing and falling gives us knowledge and the opportunity to practice patience, self-acceptance and resilience (... try, try again!).

A year later, I still can’t nose ride… but I can slide across the face of a (small) wave on my feet. I can read the waves and the line up; I'm practicing to set rail on my belly so one day you'll see me trimming along in style. I may make the worst face while paddling my hardest into a wave, but I’m proud that I’ve stuck with it. I’m still learning and having a blast! There'll always be little groms out there surfing circles around me, but we’re all the same journey. I’m gained so many things from the ocean; new knowledge about the moon, tides, shifting sand banks, and a reinforced love of travel.

To me, surfing is fun for the fun of floating in the ocean on a giant piece of fiberglass and foam. Everything else is a bonus. 

Those occasional wave rides help, so do beautiful sunset surf sessions and weekends spent at the ocean with friends. And sometimes failed take offs and nose dives are just as exhilarating. So, if you see me out there, cheer me on as I paddle my hardest into a 2ft ankle buster. I’ll be the girl in the lineup with the smile on her face and some embarrassing wipeouts.

*this post is adapted from one that first appeared on